Hey! was performed on part of the demolished Heygate Estate, South London – a vast area of social housing built in the 1970s that is currently being ‘redeveloped’. Hey! featured three performers, a set of specially designed props and printed fabrics, and a backdrop of pre-existing site hoardings and rubble; it was watched by an invited audience. The performers and the props were designed to resemble a scaled-down model of the estate. A set of rituals and gestures were enacted that referred to the history of the site, its decline, and the ambiguous place of art in that history.
In 2013, Laura Eldret had heard a local councillor on a radio programme talk about the need of Elephant and Castle to ‘turn to face the City’, an image that suggests buildings literally turning to face another direction. She also imagined what it would turn its back on: social welfare, communities and independence? Hey! engaged with the estate as both a real site and a metaphorical one to animate ideas about place-making and people’s sense of where they live. It aimed to create a sense of occasion, collective action, contemplation and reflection – almost a contemporary Greek tragedy, a form originally intended to conjure a holistic catharsis in order to create ‘better citizens’.
‘… turn to face the City.’
Member of Southwark council heard by Laura Eldret on radio, May 2013
‘Home ownership stimulates the attitudes of independence and self-reliance that are the bedrock of a free society’.
Michael Heseltine, Environment Secretary, 1975
And, you know, there is no such thing as society.
Margaret Thatcher in Women’s Own magazine, 31 October 1987
‘We owe it to the fields that our houses will not be the inferiors of the virgin land they have replaced. We owe it to the worms and the trees that the building we cover them with will stand as promises of the highest and most intelligent kinds of happiness’.
Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness, 2006
‘Windows are the soul …’
Kevin McCloud, Grand Designs, tx 10 September 2014
‘Given the extent of the social engineering which will follow the redevelopment of Heygate site, perhaps the erection of a pyramid will present a clear, cultural and artistic representation of who has won and lost from the scheme.’
Anon., letter to planners as quoted in The Guardian, 12 December 2013
‘I will not envy the postman’s job though. Trying to follow the signposts around the estate and find a particular flat makes you feel like a sore-footed mouse in a maze.’
Anon., South London Press, 25 October 1974
– Performers: Evangelia Kolyra, Harriet Lambert, Emily Bee.
– Assistance from Frankie Wray and Li Williams. With thanks to those who have generously contributed to the crowd fund campaign and therefore made this possible.
– Part of ArtLicks Weekend
– Photos: Dan Weill