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31 August 2012

Heygate heaven

A sound tribute to a south London estate scheduled for demolition.

By Chris Wood

Southwark is a London borough in transition. The past 15 years have seen the opening of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern art gallery on the river. The Millenium Bridge provides pedestrian access directly from St Paul’s Cathedral and now the rise of the Shard, the tallest building in western Europe has taken hold of London Bridge. Southwark Council see this as an attempt to fundamentally re-orientate Southwark from a South London borough into a Central London borough. Further south at the Elephant and Castle, a £1.5 billion regeneration project is underway, due for completion in 2025.

Heygate Heaven is a programme is about that regeneration and its effects on the built environment, the people who live there and the people who have already been moved out. It looks at who is driving these changes and who stands to benefit from them. The Heygate Estate is at the heart of this situation. Completed in 1974 and previously containing 1100 homes, now only two leaseholders remain. The estate sits monolithic and largely empty, windows sealed with metal sheeting and electricity disconnected. Much of it is still open to the public, however and a visit will show you allotments which local residents have carved out of the open spaces, free runners climbing the concrete walkways and ruin tourists taking pictures on high-end DSLRs.

Heygate Heaven is composed from the soundscape of the area and the voices of former and current residents of the estate, the original architect, a former leader of Southwark Council, the head planner for the Elephant and Castle regeneration, academics and researchers. It was produced by Chris Wood during the spring and summer of 2012.

To listen to the programme, click here.

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