Shoreditch Park Project

Exploring the recent history of a neighbourhood of factory built prefabricated homes, and the design of daily life in east London.

"It was ever so poor, when we was young. Very poor, wasn't it? Our mothers used to come out shopping every single day, because not like today, you can go in and fill your basket, you couldn't do that, your money didn't go to that. That money was every week lotted out each day, It was life."

"...its geographical location is accidentally based on what was dropped from above. It's not where you would put a park ideally..."

Shoreditch Park Mix

Josh: How long have you guys lived in the area?

Sarah: All our lives. I was born in a street down there called Drysdale Street. And that's where I was born down there, and I only live opposite now. I haven't moved far.

Dustin: How, how has the neighbourhood changed over the years?

Lucy: Oh I think it's beyond description, really, innit?

Sarah: It was ever so poor, when we was young. Very poor, wasn't it? Our mothers used to come out shopping every single day, because not like today, you can go in and fill your basket, you couldn't do that, your money didn't go to that. That money was every week lotted out each day, It was life.

Lucy: [laughs]

Sarah: And then of course the war came along and ruined everything.

"The City Of London had its first concentrated aerial bombardment, the first of many which were to continue for the next four and a half years. One third of the City's Square Mile was destroyed, much of it by fire, which raged through the narrow streets and courts which intersected the City."

Josh: Do you have any memories of this park, um, before-?

Perry: I used to play in it when I was a kid, this was a bombed ruin. These were ruins, this wasn't here, this park has only been here, I dunno, twenty years maybe. Before that it was, it was just - there was a road going through the middle and a road going along the side and then there was a wall all the way round it, and you looked over the wall and it was about a ten foot drop to ruins where they pulled all the houses down from the bombings from the war. We used to play int he rubble, build bonfires every year. There was a lot of prefabs made out of asbestos, so they had to pull them down, once they found asbestos

Josh: Oh really, what were the prefabs like?

Perry: They were just like, er, little bungalows, just like, obviously just whacked up quickly after the war for people to stay.

Josh: Do you know anything about Shoredicth Park and the prefab homes that used to be there?

Julian: Erm, I've seen pictures of them, and I was involved with the consultation on how the park might be redeveloped. Its, its geographical location is accidentally based on what was dropped from above. It's not where you would put a park ideally, it's too much on the edge of Hoxton and the Shepherdess Walk area, if you like. And I was very keen that the north-south track of the road should be maintained through the park, as, if you like, as a memory of that time, when prefabs were there.

"Tell me, what is prefabrication exactly? "

"Well of course a lot of people confuse it with gerry building, but it's very far from the truth,"

"Yes,"

"The only way it differs from a normal house is that the component parts are built in the factory, and sent to the site for erection-"

"I see,"

"Whereas the normal house is usually completely built on the site. Well naturally you can see all the advantages of prefabrication. The factory is already geared for mass production, and able to turn out the parts a lot quicker than those built on the individual sites."

[music]

"Wall sections are insulated even before the sheathing is added. They've devised hundreds of such methods of eliminating waste of time, labour and materials. The company operates like this through most of the year, turning out the components of a whole house every seven minutes."

[music]

"Hmm it's very interesting. You know, I'd like to see one of these for myself."

"Well, why not go to the experimental site and see the first of these permanent houses?"

"Ah yes, I'd like to"

"Take your girlfriend too, she may offer some advice"

"It's about all she's offered me. May I?"

"Certainly, go ahead"

"I'd like to put a call through to London please."

[phone rings]

Elisabeth: They appointed different companies to do them, the prefabs here. Er, but all of them had to have the same heart unit, you call it, so the same er fitted kitchen, the kitchen fitted the same way. And the other interesting thing is the, what they call the utility furniture. So it's the same - people had ration tickets, they were rationed for a long time after the war, they had tickets for food and they had tickets for furniture. So you got the same sort of furniture in prefabs - chairs, tables - someone called, the designer was called Gordon Russell, I think, it's called utility furniture. So I found it fascinating, it's very close to a sort of socialism, of communism, you know everybody's got kind of the same level, you know, you've got your tickets, you get the same food, you get the same, um, clothes, you get the same furniture. One very important thing, it created all those little prefabs put together created communities, erm, with young children, so the children played together, the parents, you know, socialised together, they've got similar houses, so they will try to do nice, their garden nice, so the neighbour is going to do the same, and they're going to grow some vegetables, and they're going to make like competition with their garden, get some [??]. So there's all this community thing which I found interesting, not only from the background for people were coming from, but also by the way um estates were designed, the layout of the estate is very interesting as well.

First impression you've got, it's cosy, you've got a lot of light. You know, especially in this country where people were used to living in slums really. I heard stories like, there were seven in the same room, and you had outside toilets. And then suddenly they've got this kind of square, rectangle house, very well designed. They were nicknamed castles or palaces for working class people.

Sarah: the prefabs, we would have all liked one. Cos what, they had better amenities. They even had an ironing board that come out the wall to come down to do your ironing on, and then it went back into the wall! And the people that did live em, live in them, when they was going to be taken all away, they all got up, especially over Bethnal Green, they wouldn't move! they boarded it all up, they wouldn't have touch em, because they all had little gardens all round as well. They was all growing little bits of vegetables and flowers - the women was doing the flowers, the men ha

Irene: Yeah, well, our prefabs were the first one - the first lot to go up after the war, because our house got bombed. You didn't have to lock none of your doors or your windows and you could just go out and leave it and you know, all the people were all friendly and everybody knew everybody else, not like these days, I mean half of em. Where I live now in a block of flats, I don't know most of them!

Dustin: Who did you live with?

Irene: Me mum and me dad and me young brother. I remember taking him out in the pushchair to one of the shops in Pitfield Street, used to be all shops along there. And, er, I left him, I got back home and I'd left him outside the shop! [laughs]. My mum said, "Where's Alan?", I said "outside", she said "he's not"! I'd been shopping for her and left him out there. Forgot all about it. He was in the pram [laughs]. I said, you couldn't do that these days, you, somebody would walk off with them, wouldn't they?

"Children are completely safe. There are playgrounds specially for them, and all the courts are traffic free. They can be compared to individual pieces in a vast and highly complex jigsaw puzzle, which, when finished, will eventually make up the complete picture".

To find a bathroom inside was magic. Just put a switch on, and you had hot water, constant hot water It was luxury. I wouldn't swap my prefab for Buckingham Palace, even if they included the Queen.

Josh: So have you seen the neighbourhood change a lot in the last twenty five years?

Julian: I've see - yes. One of the reliefs is that it hasn't changed as much as, erm, Broadway Market or parts of Islington. Because the anchorage of the community with the public housing underpinning it, is very, erm, means you have an unmobile population, which is good for building a community. And so, three generations since the war have grown up here, and you see that's evident in the street. Er, I mean there are 55 languages spoken in the street, so, erm, you know, we have an incoming population of great variety and interest and so on. But thank goodness we haven't become middle class.

I think it would be a good idea for people that know a lot of homelessness to make prefabs again. And oh I tell you another thing that, erm, upsets me really - that people that lived in the flats and they was able to buy, you know we was talking about Mrs Thatcher, giving people their rights to buy their own flats, that's broke up communities. So I think it's about, out of my block, there might be five people left that I know - all the rest are strangers. I just wish people would get to know one another a bit more.

Charlotte: What I don't get is how we talk about how expensive London is, but none ever stops to sort of say, it's actually not right that we, everyone charges this much rent. Honestly, I think, like, there needs to be some sort of erm, legal, statutory enforcement on rents, like, it just. I mean, I'm a, I'd be considered a fairly well paid professional, yet I still struggle to pay rent in London. Like how on earth do most people, who earn the national average, survive? You know, how do people who are coming here to work on £6.50, like, where is the sense of needing to help them come into the city, like, it just, nothing's done, people are just left to kind of, eke it out

Josh: Do you guys remember the Shoreditch Park and the prefab homes that used to be -

Sylvia (Mrs Harvey): Yeah I lived in one

Mr Harvey: Yeah she used to live on there!

Josh: Did you!

Sylvia: We moved in there when I was 8. So it goes a long way [laughs]

Mr Harvey H: Yeah, going back a long way [laughs]

S: Oh it was lovely. I loved living in a prefab, I'd have one of those today if I could have one, really would, I loved it, yeah. You had the Gainsborough Studios just up the, as I lived on the third one, coming from New North Road coming down I was in the last one, Gainsborough Studios was halfway down, and when they used to shout so and so is coming today, we'd all go and sit up there, wait for the film stars to come.

Josh: Wow!

Sylvia: Yeah it was good.

Mr Harvey: -Alfred Hitchcock?

Sylvia: James Mason was one of the most rudest ones I knew out of all of them.

Josh: Really?

Sylvia: Mmm. You know like, when you're kids, "can we have your autograph?" "ugh, go away" [laughs]

"Loving and hating with deadly passion"

"You don't know what it feels like to be strangled, do you, my lady?"

"You wouldn't!"

[music]

Sarah: I've got to say, we don't go without today. We're better off, money-wise, aren't we?

Lucy: Oh yeah, yeah

S: I mean, we go and get our pension every week.

L: But this market used to be pretty full all the week -

S: Oh, every day -

L: - didn't it? with all the different stalls

S: - people came down and got their shopping

L: But there's no, nothing here now other than the couple of supermarkets and that

S: That's right

L: And do you know who I was just thinking of, do you remember Mrs Brown, in -?

S: Yeah

L: She used to have what , they used to call her the rabbit lady

S: Yeah, the rabbits

L: Cos her stall was out every day

S: There was a lot of stalls with food on it. Pigs tails!

L: That's it.

S: And you know what, there used to be a pub, just, just on the c- where the library is, and that's where her stall was, opposite the library there.

L: Yeah

S: And they used to go in and have a Guinness -

L: [laughs]

S: - and you'd be standing outside with a pig's tail in your hand, eating a pig's-

L: Pigs' trotters!

S: And trotters! Pigs trotters!

J: [laughs]

L: The tail [??]

S: And my brother'd come along and say where'd you get that from, and he'd break it off, he'd walk off with the last bit of the tail, you know, whatever it was! [laughs] Well I can't tell you any more, I want to go home and get my vegetables until I overcook my dinner

Excalibur living prefab

Dustin: So, how long have you lived here?

Four years.

D: Four years?

Yeah and I've updated it myself, done it all out myself, you know,

D: Oh ok

Brought it up to the standard, like, you know

D: Where did you live before?

I lived in, er, Greenwich

D: Greenwich

SE10. It's on the…

D: And what brought you here, what did you like about…?

I like it because, er, you've got close communi- communication amongst your community, the local community. I mean, we all stick together like, you know, we look out for each other. And we've got very close community. And I've got nobody on top of me, nobody around me, I've got my own bit of freedom, you know. And, er it's nice. 

D: Yeah

You just can't buy that, can you? [laughs] That's worth all the money in the world to me, you know, er

[cuts]

Yeah this is the front room, yeah. This the bathroom and that yeah, right. And they're quite nice, they're quite easy to maintain, you know, nice and cosy

[students chatter and laugh]

Student: It's a lot warmer in this one, it's nice

Pardon?

Student: It's a lot warmer in this one, than the one

Much better

[laughter]

It's freezing in some of them, I can tell you. You know. But they're quite nice and cosy, you know? The bedrooms are about the same size, and the bathroom, bathroom's in there, nice big bathroom with a shower and everything, and er, the dining room, you know, quite nice aren't they? Do you want to have a look, Les?

Dustin: Do you know who lived here before you?

Yes, it was er, a black, a nice black fella, lovely man he was, bless him he died of cancer. He was here for about 20 odd years you know. And er, I took over from him, and of course, when I moved in, I had to strip the whole place, cos you know, his being elderly and you know, and I had to renovate it myself, you know. And I stripped it and decorated it, cos I am a decorator anyway, so, you know, that's what-

Dustin: Talking about the space here, what do you, what are some of the features of your bungalow that you like most, about it?

I like it because it's ar-, if you look at it it's artistic, it is, because you ain't going to get anywhere else, you know. It's something that's er, it will never happen again. I mean these were built as you know in the 19-, just after the war, by the prisoners of war. And er it's something,  part of our history, innit, really innit?  

Yeah, yeah

And, it's part of our history. And I love it, you know, to be amongst it, to live in it and so cosy and so cheap to maintain. And I'd rather live here than live in a bleeding house, to be honest about it. And, cos the community is very close, and we all get on together, don't we?

Oh yes

Very close community. And you won't get that in a block of flats, will ya? You could be living in a block of flats and you wouldn't know your neighbour for the next ten years, you wouldn't see them hardly.

[laughter]

No it's true, I'm telling ya. But here I know everybody. I know everybody in this estate, there's 186 there were here, weren't they, living here, now it's dropped down a bit, to about 140, innit

Er, yeah, it's about 139, I think, 139, 140

And, er, I've never met so many people to talk to. You're never alone, put it that way. They always call in and say, oh, if you're not about, and they don't see you for a few days, you'll say, oh I haven't seen Roger whatever, for the last few, I'd better call in and see how he is, but you could be living in a block of flats and nobody would care whether you were dead or not, you know [laughs]

The prisoners of war Gerry's mentioned didn't want to go home when they completed this project here

Yeah, oh yes

Because they were actually building here after the war completed. Er, I think, 194-, October 1945 was the last bungalow that was erected, but, the prisoners, the German and Italian prisoners that helped build this, and some of them were engineers, didn't want to go home, they wanted to stay in England, but of course, er, they had homes to go to, they did, so they were asked to, asked to leave the country and go back to where they, er, where they originated. People couldn't wait, once the word got out about the bungalows, everyone wanted a bungalow. The facilities in the bungalow, which of course an [American?] idea, everything was contained in one low level building, and er, the government were requested to build more, but of course, it was, there was only a limited amount of bungalows throughout the country, to house the most needy, er

[cuts]

At the moment, as you know, we've been fighting with Lewisham, over the decanting, because they're not going through the proper stages. And what they're doing is they're moving people out, without even notifying them that they can come back. I mean they're giving them all these promises, tell them that they can come back, move in, and I know for a fact now they're telling people that those who have moved out can't move back. Which is all wrong.

Hmm.

Sad, I sad to see people in here, I've see them, I've see em, some old people in here, and they're so stressed out over having to move on, and they're forcing them. There was a man called Mr Brown who lived on the corner of [M?] Road, number 2, and they did everything they could, they even went packed his stuff for him, give him this, give him that, and in the end he got so fed up with the bittering and arguing over it, he just moved out, they forced him into a corner, he just couldn't stand it no more, you know, the poor man, he was 80 odd, he was 80 odd years of age, you know, and he said I don't want to be moving at my time of life, I want to finish off my last few days what I got left here, know know, but they don't look at it like that

Excalibur estate empty prefab

[traffic]

Right as you can see, since London Borough of Lewisham decided to regenerate the area, a lot of the bungalows on this side of the estate are now vacant, they're void, they have no occupants, the occupants were moved on in the last 18 months, er, but you, hopefully you'll get the general set up of how it originally looked, because it has been unchanged since 1945, the only thing that has changed of course is the occupants over the last 67 years. If I take you up to a er, a vacant bungalow, erm, just up here, you'll get the idea of the interior, as well, er, as the general look.

The bungalows themselves are a structure of, erm, er, asbestos panels, which is mostly what you can see on the outside, including the interior, and the government decided, or the local government decided, that was unfit for human habitation, being that they were outdated, and they were originally made as or constructed as a er, emergency measure, to house people that were bombed out in this area back in the 1940s

This was a mark 2, this building, this was built near the end of 1945. Where I live is actually a mark 1 prefab, and er

Dustin: What's, what's the difference?

Well it's basically, the mark 1s have the central door, doorway, and the mark 2's have a side door, so the inside of the bungalow is slightly differently configured.

Right, the construction to these bungalows is basically what we know as flat pack. They came along on a large, er large area trucks and simply unloaded from the trucks and placed on their concrete platforms. We're standing on a, erm, a concrete platform, which distributes the weight of the bungalow to stop it from subsiding. I've lived on the estate for about 18 years, and the bungalow I live in has moved about two or three inches, I think east, as the ground's moving around underneath. It's quite swampy. And it was originally, erm, decided that no building should take place on this particular area. We're surrounded by what's known as the Downham[?] Estate which was completed in about 1927. And the local lord at that time owned all that land and he gave over bits of land as building was required but left this particular land because it's quite marshy, ok. But this is basically what we call a mark 2, erm, bungalow and they were built by the end of 1945, which is slightly different to some of the other bungalows you'll see on the estate. But it has got worse during the last two years, since they started moving people off the estate. We have, er, unfortunately it encourages fly tipping and other, er, social activities that we wouldn't normally, erm, experience has, has become, er, quite, er, a normal thing now. This particular bungalow's been empty for about a year. Lord Foster immediately gave over this land so that the bungalows could be built to house, er, families that had been bombed out during the second world war. They were living in er church halls, er tents, until these places were built. And of course when they moved in - and they actually had a choice, and they was, erm, invited to come onto the estate, you could take any bungalow you liked. You could just walk on and say I'd like to live there, or, I'd like to live there. There wasn't a list for you to, you wasn't given a bungalow, you could simply walk around the bungalow once they were built, and you choose your bungalow where you wanted to live. Er, and that was a process then in the late 1940s. And yes I would say these were quite luxurious compared with where people used to live. Er, you can imagine the faces of demobbed soldiers from the second world war, coming to a place to where, before they used to go outside to the toilet, to come to a building like this where everything was internal - because it was American, American-Canadian - you got inside toilet, inside bathroom, and it was, it was quite, quite luxurious for the time. And a lot of us here still like the bungalow, erm, a lot of us here don't actually want to leave the area we're living in. But unfortunately fighting local government, we lost, and they decided to go for regeneration. And just before you arrived, we was discussing the fact that the ground here is unstable for any substantial building -

Dustin: Right, so doesn't that negate the whole effort

it does

Dustin: of moving everyone out of here?

Of moving - it would have been actually more cost effective to refit the bungalows. They're going to have to remove thirty feet of topsoil over a two year period, and then refill it with a more stable ground

Brian's friend caught fire

I was born down here, sixty year ago

Josh: What's your name sir?

Brian.

J: Brian. So you've seen the area change a lot?

Brian: Cor, haven't much. I was [??], six days a week. My great uncle Edgar, he used to own most of the stalls down here at one time.

J: Really?

B: In the forties and fifties, I'm going back.

J: I was wondering, do you remember the prefab homes that used to be on Shoreditch,er, Park

B: Yeah, yeah, I remember them, yeah

J: What was, what were they like?

B: I had a couple of mates there, yeah some of them were quite nice

J: Do you use the park at all now?

B: Nah, not really. That was a ruin at one time. A mate of mine blew hisself over there, put a match in a petrol tank that had been dumped, a car that had been dumped, and he blew hisself up

J: Jesus

B: Heh

J: Wow

B: Badly burnt his hand was.

J: But he was alright in the end

B: He's ok now, yeah, thank god, but at the time, [??] he was just like badly scarred

J: Was that because it was just a wasteland up there, or

B: It was yeah, we were playing truant from school at the time, four of us, and one of them turned round and said go on, put a match in the petrol tank and see if there's any petrol. And [??] suddenly put his face right to it. It was the fumes and that. And the flame really roared out, you know, roared back and out, his head caught the full blast of it, he was running around screaming. We had to kick him over and get him into the hospital

J: Wow, jesus

Charlotte talks about rent


Charlotte: What I don't get is how we talk about how expensive London is, but none ever stops to sort of say, it's actually not right that we, everyone charges this much rent. Honestly, I think, like, there needs to be some sort of erm, legal, statutory enforcement on rents, like, it just. I mean, I'm a, I'd be considered a fairly well paid professional, like, I get paid 27 grand a year, which is, anywhere else, like where I'm from, is amazing, yet I still struggle to pay rent in London. Like how on earth do most people, who earn the national average, survive? You know, how do people who are coming here to work on £6.50, like, where is the sense of needing to help them come into the city, like, it just, nothing's done, people are just left to kind of, eke it out-

Dustin: So this distinction between renter and landlords, you think is like a really critical distinction

Charlotte: Yeah, it's such a them and us

Irene Petit and her friend discuss "togetherness"


Well I've only been - I'm sorta newish to the neighbourhood - I've only been there thirty four years

[laughter]

Probably older than you both

Yeah!

But I imagine Irene will have been here donkey's years, ain't you?

Irene: No, no, I haven't been here for donkey's years, no, since 19…54

Hmm

But it is creeping back to being togetherness. 

Yes.

Togetherness.

Yeah, that's a nice word

Yes!

Yeah, yeah

Because for a little while there was no togetherness, you were all over the place, now the residents are coming more together, er, banding together like they used to, in the old days.

You know, like, it feels like a village.

Right. And you know what, even if I won a million pounds, I still like to live here because of, of the area and the people you know.

Yeah. 

About the prefab homes

Oh yes, I didn't live in them, but another lady who I know, she used to live in the prefab homes, when they houses got bombed, because a lot of bombing round this area. I do definitely think people did really like em and they didn't like em, they didn't like it when they had to move out. I think it would be a good idea for people that know a lot of homelessness to make prefabs again. And oh I tell you another thing that, erm, upsets me really - that people that lived in the flats and they was able to buy, you know we was talking about Mrs Thatcher, giving people their rights to buy their own flats, that's broke up communities. So I think it's about, out of my block, there might be five people left that I know - all the rest are strangers. I just wish people would get to know one another a bit more.

Be more open, maybe, to each other..

Yes, yes, yes

Irene sitting in the park, lived in a prefab


Josh: What's you name, my dear?

Irene.

Josh: Hello Irene.

Um, Irene, what do you do for fun.

What do I do for fun?! Well I don't do much at the moment. Quizzes and crosswords and all the things out the newspapers. But apart from that I don't do much [laughs]

What does it mean to be a real Hoxton person?

Well I dunno, I've never been anywhere else. I've only ever lived round here. And I lived in a prefab!

Oh did you! oooh

See I mentioned the prefabs to them last week.

This is what we really - we want to find out as much as possible about the prefabs - so anything you remember, tell us your story.

Irene: Yeah, well, our prefabs were the first one - the first lot to go up after the war, because our house got bombed. And erm, we didn't have a bathroom, all you had was a big square, erm, hut, but, and they divided it into two bedrooms and a sort of a big square bit where you could put a table and chairs and a little, little kitchenette sort of thing and that was it. But you got a - what did we have? - an electric cooker, and the sink, the toilet was outside with a coal shed next door [laughs] but we did have a garden. And, er, that was about it. Oh yeah. But, er, used to go to the school over by the park. That, er, Whitmore school. Used to go there. And that's about it, I think!

Was there a good community in the, er, prefabs in Shoreditch Park? Was there, was it a nice place to live, was it-?

Irene: Well yeah, everybody, you didn't have to lock none of your doors or your windows [Irene laughs] and you could just go out and leave it and you know, all the people were all friendly and you, everybody else was erm, you know, they were sort of, erm, everybody knew everybody else, not like these days, I mean half of em. Where I live now in a block of flats, I don't know most of them!

Dustin: Who did you live with?

Irene: Me mum and me dad and me young brother. I remember taking him out in the pushchair to one of the shops in Pitfield Street, used to be all shops along there. And, er, I left him, I got back home and I'd left him outside the shop! [laughs] My mum said, "Where's Alan?", I said "outside", she said "he's not"!

I'd been shopping for her and left him out there. Forgot all about it. He was in the pram [laughs] I said, you couldn't do that these days, you, somebody would walk off with them, wouldn't they? I, I wouldn't like to live anywhere else now, I'm too old, you know. You hear of some elderly ladies and they move, and the next minute you're hearing they've all died, so I though no, I'll stay where I am. I've been in my flat sixty years. 

Really?!

Yeah [laughs]

Wow

Yeah!

Amazing

Moved there in 1953, sixty years this year


Julian talks about the park, its design, and social housing


What's your name by the way?

Yeah, what's your-?

Julian.

Julian. What do you do for fun, Julian?

What do I do for fun? Do you mean what my - what is your recreation?

Yes, yeah, yes.

Sailing small boats.

Oh really, lasers, or? [laughs]

No, I sail cruising boats at the moment.

Really?

Yes. But I've done it since childhood cos I grew up at Gravesend on the river, and so we'd bunk off at lunchtime and go rowing instead of having school dinners, so it's well ingrained.

It's in you, it's your blood. I grew up in Cornwall so I spent a lot of time in the ocean.

Well you know what the temptations are then. School versus water.

Oh, there's no comparison!

No no [laughs] as you say, there's no contest.

How long have you been in this area for then?

About twenty five years.

Twenty five years. Do you consider yourself to be, er, embedded in Hoxton, do you think there's a kind of Hoxton person, do you think there's-?

Erm, I think I'm a guest in Hoxton really, a tolerant, tolerated umm, person who's joined a community really. Because the community was largely created after, after the decimation in the war, with the new flats, as they were then, which are now rather old flats, and they're being refurbished and so on.

Josh: Do you, I mean, I wonder, I don't know if, do you know anything about Shoreditch Park and the prefab homes that used to be there?

Julian: Erm, I've seen pictures of them, and I was involved with the consultation on how the park might be redeveloped. And I was very keen that the North-South track of the road should be maintained through the park, as if you like, as a memory of that time, when prefabs were there.

Josh: Yep.

Julian: Its, its geographical location is accidentally based on what was dropped from above. It's not where you would put a park ideally, it's too much on the edge of Hoxton and the Shepherdess Walk area, if you like.

Josh: So have you seen the neighbourhood change a lot in the last twenty five years?

Julian: I've see - yes. One of the reliefs is that it hasn't changed as much as, erm, Broadway Market or parts of Islington. Because the anchorage of the community with the public housing underpinning it, is very, erm, means you have an unmobile population, which is good for building a community. And so, three generations since the war have grown up here, and you see that's evident in the street. Er, I mean there are 55 languages spoken in the street, so, erm, you know, we have an incoming population of great variety and interest and so on. But thank goodness we haven't become middle class.



The mystery woman talks about living in a prefab


What's you name?

No, I'm not giving names, I'm fed up with all that.

Ok, no names! I'll call you, er

The mystery woman! [laughs]

The mystery woman

[laughs] Fucking 'ell

Ok, what do you do for fun, mystery woman?

For fun?! Come down here, have a cup of tea and a meal, and enjoy

Meet a friend, drive the caff owner mad

What do you think it means to be a real Hoxton person then?

They;re the salt of the earth, and I don't mean me, personally, the whole people. I'm talking about years ago, in what you call olden days, you should have -

Do you remember about the prefab homes, was it a nice place to live, what were they like?

Very good.

Yeah?

Yeah. It's a shame they ever knocked them down, but there you go.

You lived in one?

With my parents, of course! yeah.

And they had a little garden, didn't they?

They did, cos a friend of mine came to dig the garden and he thought he'd dig a lump out of my toe [laughs]

How long did you live there, quite a few years?

Well tip my poor mum died. What we knew is gone.


Mr Mrs Harvey living i a prefab and talk about Gainsborough Studio


Josh: Um, do you, have you lived in the area for long?

Mr Harvey: Ever since I've been married

J: How long has that been?

MH: 1956.

J: Wow!

MH: Wow [laughs] we've been married 57 years.

J: Amazing. What's your name, sorry?

MH: Mr Harvey.

J: Mr Harvey. Do you guys remember the Shoreditch Park and the prefab homes that used to be -

Sylvia: Yeah I lived in one

MH: Yeah she used to live on there! 38 Paul Street

J: Did you! what was your name, sorry?

S: Mrs - Sylvia. Mrs Harvey. 

J: Mrs Harvey. 

S: Can I just go out the sun, sorry?

J: Yeah yeah, absolutely, sorry to stop you guys

MH: Tell them about the Gainsborough Studios.


S: Alright, wait a minute. We moved in there when I was 8. So it goes a long way [laughs]

MH: Yeah, going back a long way [laughs]

S: Oh it was lovely. I loved living in a prefab, I'd have one of those today if I could have one, really would, I loved it, yeah. You had the Gainsborough Studios just up the, as I lived on the third one, coming from New North Road coming down I was in the last one, Gainsborough Studios was halfway down, and when they used to shout so and so is coming today, we'd all go and sit up there, wait for the film stars to come.

J: Wow!

S: Yeah it was good. 

MH: -Alfred Hitchcock?

S: James Mason was one of the most rudest ones I knew out of all of them. 

J: Really? 

S: Mmm. You know like, when you're kids, "can we have your autograph?" "ugh, go away" [laughs]

MH: [??] John as the mermaid girl

S: Yeah she was alright yeah, she was alright yeah. Yeah t was nice down there. Then we would have an annual fair, where out prefabs ended they'd also been bombed there, but I don't know why, they didn't do no building there. And then we used to have the annual fair once a year, you know, come round

J: When was that, in the summer or?

S: In the summer yeah, well, September, like

I can't see anyone that would say they didn't like living in a prefab. Cause you had your own garden, did what you like. Yeah really good. I'd have one of them back tomorrow [laughs]


Perry played in the ruins


Josh: What's your name sir?


Perry.

J: Perry. Pleased to meet you Perry. What do you do for fun, Perry, first?

P: What do I do for fun? 

J: Yeah.

P: Erm, now, my age, fishing.

J: Fishing? Nice, river or sea?

P: Anything, anywhere where there's fish.

J: Nice. How long have you lived in the area?

P: Er, 54 years. It's where your roots are, innit. I mean, I've had opportunities - I moved out for a little while, couple of years, but I moved back because I missed it.

J: Yeah.

P: Yeah I mean it's all changed round here, obviously, everything, there's all the pubs, that pub was a bit of a pub, my pal's pub over there...it's just changed, I dunno. Pubs have changed, pubs have had it, pubs have gone. It's all now bistros, restaurants.

J: Trendy...

P: My kids go out and enjoy them all so yeah, it's not my cup of tea.

J: Ha. Do you have any memories of this park, um, before-?

P: I used to play in it when I was a kid, this was a bombed ruin. These were ruins, this wasn't here, this park has only been here, I dunno, twenty years maybe. Before that it was, it was just - there was a road going through the middle and a road going along the side and then there was a wall all the way round it, and you looked over the wall and it was about a ten foot drop to ruins where they pulled all the houses down from the bombings from the war.

J: Wow. You used to play in the rubble?

P: We used to play int he rubble, build bonfires every year. There was a lot of prefabs made out of asbestos, so they had to pull them down, once they found asbestos

J: Oh really, what were the prefabs like?

P: They were just like, er, little bungalows, just like, obviously just whacked up quickly after the war for people to stay. When they decided to turn the park, of course, there was big holes, ten twenty foot deep, for about a year it was a rubbish fill, so all the rubbish from Hackney, they just kept filling it up, filling it up, filling it up, and when they got it to a certain level they just put the top soil on, so if you dug down anywhere round here, you'd come into waste.

J: Wow, that's amazing.


Sarah and Lucy are much better off


Josh: What's your name, my dear?

What?

J: What's your name?

My name's Sarah.

J: Hello Sarah, I'm Josh and this is Dustin.

S: Oh right, Jo- oh posh names now, innit! [laughs]

Dustin: And what's your name?

Lucy!

J: Hello Lucy, hello Sarah.

S: Lucy! Well see, we're old, but we've still got nice names!

J: Yeah lovely names!

S: Yeah, yeah!

J: How long have you guys lived in the area?

S: All our lives. I was born in a street down there called Drysdale Street. And that's where I was born down there, and I only live opposite now. I haven't moved far.

D: How, how has the neighbourhood changed over the years?

L: Oh I think it's beyond description, really, innit?

S: It was ever so poor, when we was young. Very poor, wasn't it? Our mothers used to come out shopping every single day, because not like today, you can go in and fill your basket, you couldn't do that, your money didn't go to that. That money was every week lotted out each day, It was life.

L: [laughs]

S: And then of course the war came along and ruined everything.

D: So do you have any memories of the prefab homes that used to be up in the-?

S: Prefabs? There was some at the top of Hoxton, wasn't they?

L: I don't know, I can't remember prefabs

S: Yeah, they was up, where, er -

J: Shoreditch Park

S: Shoreditch Park there was, and this street here, Ivy Street, there was prefabs down there, just past the school, cos my two children went to school up there, and as you went by there was prefabs. And the only people I knew lived in them was a fella who came out the army, going to have a land fit for heroes, he lived in a prefab. It shows ya. I tell you what, the prefabs, we would have all liked one. Cos what, they had better amenities. They even had an ironing board that come out the wall to come down to do your ironing on, and then it went back into the wall! [both laugh]. They were built, they were nice. And the people that did live em, live in them, when they was going to be taken all away, they all got up, especially over Bethnal Green, they wouldn't move! they boarded it all up, they wouldn't have touch em, because they all had little gardens all round as well. They was all growing little bits of vegetables and flowers - the women was doing the flowers, the men had their little bit of vegetable patch at the back. It was quite, it was like, it was a community, wasn't it? I've got to say, we don't go without today. We're better off, money-wise, aren't we?

L: Oh yeah, yeah

S: I mean, we go and get our pension every week.

L: But this market used to be pretty full all the week -

S: Oh, every day -

L:  - didn't it? with all the different stalls

S: - people came down and got their shopping

L: But there's no, nothing here now other than the couple of supermarkets and that

S: That's right

L: And do you know who I was just thinking of, do you remember Mrs Brown, in -?

S: Yeah

L: She used to have what , they used to call her the rabbit lady

S: Yeah, the rabbits

L: Cos her stall was out every day

S: There was a lot of stalls with food on it. Pigs tails!

L: That's it.

S: And you know what, there used to be a pub, just, just on the c- where the library is, and that's where her stall was, opposite the library there. 

L: Yeah

S: And they used to go in and have a Guinness -

L: [laughs]

S: - and you'd be standing outside with a pig's tail in your hand, eating a pig's-

L: Pigs' trotters!

S: And trotters! Pigs trotters!

J: [laughs]

L: The tail [??]

S: And my brother'd come along and say where'd you get that from, and he'd break it off, he'd walk off with the last bit of the tail, you know, whatever it was! [laughs] Well I can't tell you any more, I want to go home and get my vegetables until I overcook my dinner

Elisabeth Blanchet discusses her work

Dustin: So Elizabeth, how long have you been documenting prefab homes?

Elisabeth: Erm, almost 12 years, almost, yes, since I've been in this country, 12 years

D: And can you tell us a little bit about how you came to start documenting prefab homes

E: I was talking to a friend - I used to be a teacher at a French school - and I was talking to a friend, er, asking her, if she knew, um, of kind of, home parks, because I wanted to document people who live in mobile homes, if there were some quite close to central London. And she said to me well where I live down in Peckham, I have noticed some strange sort of houses, they look like mobile homes but I don't think they are, I don't know exactly what they are but the best thing is you come and have a look. So I went with her, and um, I saw my first prefab, English prefab, and I thought ooh yes, that's… So I just knocked on the door and there was a nice man opening the door, and I told him I was coming from Normandy and I was interested in his house, because to my knowledge there were not many left in Normandy where people were still living in, and er, he said "well, you know, my home is not the only one, there are still plenty in the UK", he let me in his prefab, we started having a cup of tea, and, because he liked the fact I was from Normandy, he had been in Normandy for D-Day, so we started to chat about Normandy, and he started to tell me that there were still hundreds of them in the UK, still very well lived in and loved. Because at the beginning I didn't really know where I was going, I just did it because I enjoyed it, first of all, like, talking to people and finding, you know, being into their home and they welcomed me. And people started to contact me because I put online a bit of the work I had done in London, so I thought yeah, I should go, and look at what is going on there, so I took some pictures, and then found out more, and the same with Redditch, in the Midlands, where someone called me once and said 'oh I've seen your work, you come and have look at our prefabs, we want to save them and maybe your work is going to help saving them' - so I thought oh, yep, there is something else there, they are under threat. They were supposed to last ten years, they lasted much longer, and now people want to keep them. So, I started to get interest in that, those campaigns to save prefabs. I kind of became a bit obsessed actually with recording them, knowing that they were going to disappear. Like in south, not in Catfor, but in Peckham, Dulwich and Nunhead, I photographed all of them, like, as if, you know, they're going to disappear, so I must keep track of them and photograph them before they go.

And then after that, my work starred to be in magazines like Time Out, focussing on the London prefabs, and um, I had an exhibition in 2006 in a gallery. And then I kind of stopped a bit, you know, for a few years, I didn't do many pictures of prefabs because I was working on other projects, And then in 2009 I started again, going down to Catford, take more pictures, um, really I wanted to see what was the situation there, if they had managed to save them so far. And at the time they were kind of rebuilding a big campaign to save them, til 2011 when they decided to do a ballot, to vote for or against the regeneration of the estate. And what happened, is um, 5?% of the people on the estate voted for regeneration, which means demolition actually, so that was the end of the fight of the people who wanted to save the prefabs in Catford. So I just, in 2012, I decided this is the time to do it now, like, record on film, still on stills, on photography, but as well to do a proper documentary about them because it's the end, this is the end of the last big estate - Catford is the biggest estate of prefabs in the UK - this one is going to disappear, up north there are a lot that are being demolished as well, at the same time, Newport doesn't exist any more, so I thought this is the time to do a documentary about the last kind of surviving pockets of lived in prefabs.

Elisabeth Blanchet talks about family connection to prefabs

Elisabeth: I went through some photographs with my grandmother in Normandy, before she went to the ?? because I wanted her to tell me about her war memories, of D-Day, and how they lived all that, they survived all the occupation and everything. And the idea I had was to go though the pictures with her, the family pictures, and there is, there are no pictures during the war, they are before and after. And one of the first family album - the first family album I find - one of the first pictures is my father, as, like, maybe two years old, so maybe '46, in front of a prefab [laughs]. And I said to my grandmother, what is it , what is it behind? [laughs]. And she says to me, 'oh, it's a' - we call them baraquements in French - 'it's a baraque, you know we, the pharmacy' - they used to have a pharmacy, which was bombed during the war, all the high street shops, poom, bombed by the Americans, so they, the Americans gave them some prefabs. So all the main square of the town in Normandy was covered with prefabs for years, and my grandparents' pharmacy was in a prefab. [laughs]. And my father's picture in front of that prefab - and I said unbelievable, you wouldn't believe what I'm doing at the moment, I'm working on a project on prefabs. She said, really? [laughs]. And the other thing that is a really nice story about those prefabs in Normandy is that, er, the mayor of the city - the town, it's not a city - allocated the prefabs, we don't know exactly how, you know, like, maybe this guy is privileged to have one that is well located, and the other one - not very fair process, so my grandparents ended up having a prefab which was not very well located compared to the other, for business. So my grandmother, she has very strong voice and opinion and thing, so she just went to see him and said, 'where is the democracy in your process of allocating the prefabs, why do we get this one which is, you know, at the end of the row?' and er, she said I'm going to make a scandal, because I know how you do things! And the guy says oh, ok ok! [laughs] we're going to redo the process, you know you've got a hat, and you put numbers in the hat, and everybody is going to pick a number, and the number is where the prefab is allocated. A fair process. And er, he said to her, well, because you came and asked, you're gonna, you made people come around, and you're going to be the first one to pick up a number. So she does it, and she pick ups number one, which is the best located. [laughs]. So that's - our life has been like that, always been lucky.

Elisabeth Blanchet discusses prefab homes

Elisabeth: They appointed different companies to do them, the prefabs here. Er, but all of them had to have the same heart unit, you call it, so the same er fitted kitchen, the kitchen fitted the same way. And the other interesting thing is the, what they call the utility furniture. So it's the same - people had ration tickets, they were rationed for a long time after the war, they had tickets for food and they had tickets for furniture. So you got the same sort of furniture in prefabs - chairs, tables - someone called, the designer was called Gordon Russell, I think, it's called utility furniture. So I found it fascinating, it's very close to a sort of socialism, of communism, you know everybody's got kind of the same level, you know, you've got your tickets, you get the same food, you get the same, um, clothes, you get the same furniture. One very important thing, it created all those little prefabs put together created communities, and I've always been interested in communities, how they, where do they come from, why do they work as a community. And what happened is, you had people from similar backgrounds together, with young children, so the children played together, the parents, you know, socialised together, they've got similar houses, so they will try to do nice, their garden nice, so the neighbour is going to do the same, and they're going to grow some vegetables, and they're going to make like competition with their garden, get some [??]. So there's all this community thing which I found interesting, not only from the background for people were coming from, but also by the way um estates were designed, the layout of the estate is very interesting as well, er little paths, footpaths, so you had a feeling you were, on lot of estates, still now, there are a few surviving in the north, and you have the feeling you are in a holiday village

Elisabeth Blanchet discusses the launch of the prefab programme

Elisabeth: Lord, Lord P[??] was the Minister of Works, I think, because there was a Ministry of Works dealing with those things at the time, and erm, he launched the prototypes called the P?? prototypes, after his name, at the date, yeah, in '45 I think?

First impression you've got, it's cosy, you've got a lot of light. You know, especially in this country where people were used to living in slums really. I heard stories like, there were seven in the same room, and you had outside toilets. And then suddenly they've got this kind of square, rectangle house, very well designed. They were nicknamed castles or palaces for working class people.