Woodberry Down

In around 2014 whilst exploring my new neighbourhood, I found what appeared to be a ghost town. Empty looking monolithic buildings, deserted houses, abandoned streets. One house had a barbecue in the back garden with food still on it. I went back to visit this place some weeks later with my camera but found myself walking in circles unable to find it. It was gone.

And so began my interest in Woodberry Down, once one of the largest housing estates in Europe, now under redevelopment by Berkeley.
As new buildings shot up and whole roads disappeared I found myself questioning if this place or that had ever existed. What’s more, I found that not all of these buildings were empty, some were fully occupied, some – as you can tell by night – had only one resident.

In some ways for me, documenting Woodberry Down estate became a tale of twin ghost towns.

The Old Ghost Town, abandoned, evicted, neglected to make way for the new.

The New Ghost Town, awaiting their new occupants, or in some cases purchased as investment for wealthy foreign interest and so also empty.

I found myself almost compulsively documenting a place in a state of flux, before it disappeared and was swallowed for good. To make sure it was remembered, if not by me then by the camera.

I still think about this place a lot and what it stirs in me.
A sense of loss and mourning for a place and community.
An altered sense of space and how we exist in it.
A sense of injustice as the poor who live here but can’t afford it are moved to make way for the rich don’t live here and can.
The duality of a place that is at once both old and new, rich and poor.
And the möbius loop of history repeating itself as an estate, once invented by government with the intent to design a community, now reinvented with the individual at its heart.

It should be noted that Berkeley have agreed and are contracted to provide at least the same amount of social or affordable homes, but that many of these homes won’t be built until the final phases of development at the end of a 15-20 year process.

In response to this photographic project, Hackney Council reached out to state:

“Every tenant has a Right to Return to a newly-built home on the estate; every leaseholder can be supported by the Council to own a newly-built home on the estate”