For three years now, I have been interviewing people, taking pictures and writing down some of my thoughts and experiences about Tottenham, the place I grew up in. To state that Tottenham is undergoing major changes would be an understatement. Last year I was writing about why campaigners are trying to halt proposed plans to demolish and rebuild large parts of the borough. The project is referred to as the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) – a 50/50 partnership between the Council and a private developer. But this is not another story about my perceptions of developments in the northeast London area. This is about my project, marigoldroadblog.
Initially I think I was motivated to practice different mediums for storytelling, and I liked blogging. It was a way to document my emotions, small joys, discoveries and, at times, disappointments. In the process of writing about random projects in Tottenham, trying to be funny (and failing), and working with different groups, I created a journal of sorts in the form of interviews, recordings, blog posts and images. Before I knew it, I had plenty of content and I had no idea what to do with it all. It was presented as a long list, in chronological order, on a WordPress site. It was no design marvel. Yet I cared about the change that had taken place in the area in a very short time – and a change had also taken place in me.
The speed of developments in the last three years triggered something that I found hard to articulate. There were, on the one hand, what I call the visible ‘signs’ of change in the form of new openings plus funding for some community groups. But on the other hand, there were still many, if not the majority, who could not afford to be part of the visible changes and whose homes were now under threat. It was difficult not to question some of the plans when I realised that, in reality, many of the new schemes were not for existing residents. Many of the proposals were not addressing the needs of the locals who needed it most.
The plans to regenerate Tottenham felt like a drive not to enhance the lives of existing locals but rather to push them out, and I took it personally because, despite the good and the bad, Tottenham will always be home. Three years ago, I was enthusiastically interviewing start-ups and creative managers. My project captures that, along with the shift in my morale. I saw this shift in a local mother, who went from her community work to resident meetings, to running a weekly cook-up for local people. She’s now part of a community resistance group campaigning for homes in the area. But it was after I photographed a borough-wide demonstration against the proposed HDV to ‘regenerate’ that I found a place to stop, and it was then that I started to see a story emerge on my blog.
Some of the buildings I took pictures of have already disappeared, some of the shops have closed down and some of the buildings and spaces are in council plans to be redeveloped. I realised then that marigoldroadblog was a snapshot of this moment and an account of my journey. This project brought me to a place of clarity: I believe that if regeneration doesn’t reach, affect and stimulate existing residents, if it doesn’t provide more for working-class groups who already live in the area, then it’s wrong. Developers should be made to prove how they can achieve that before any plans are approved.
In 2016, I embarked on a postgraduate degree that focused on contemporary culture. It was in the process of a focused time researching that I discovered a way to explore many difficult questions surrounding social issues, my identity and class. Photography as a medium to document social change has been a valuable tool for me, although I still have a lot to learn. It has led me to sensitively consider and re-evaluate redevelopment plans in the area I grew up in.
Places in Tottenham
A selection of images from this project is on show at Bruce Castle Museum until the end of March 2018. Following the run, the images will be included in the permanent archive collection.
Other venues to see the exhibition:
Coombes Croft Library, Tottenham (site-specific images)
Loven Presents, Restaurant/Art Space N15 & N17