This photographic display explores Thamesmead, an estate built by the Greater London Council (GLC) on the southeast bank of the Thames. Initially hailed as a futuristic ‘town for the 21st century’, construction of Thamesmead began in 1968. Despite this early promise, it quickly gained a reputation for crime, no-go areas and poor transport links; an image reinforced and immortalised by its portrayal in Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 dystopian crime feature A Clockwork Orange. Today, Thamesmead is undergoing an extensive regeneration project by Britain’s oldest housing association Peabody, which promises new homes and improved community facilities.
Here, archival images of Thamesmeadby Tony Ray Jones selected from the RIBA’s Collections are shown alongside contemporary photographs of the estate’s residents by artist Nina Manandhar for a project commissioned by Peabody and NOW Gallery.
Amid celebrations of its 50th anniversary, this display revisit the original architectural ambitions and its current day occupation in anticipation of the next phase of Thamesmead, renewing its promise to yet again become a town for the 21st century.
Artist Nina Manandhar on Thamesmead
Thamesmead Estate is famous in the public imagination for its use as a location for both Clockwork Orange and Misfits, but what about it’s place in the imagination of its residents? What began as portrait commission to document the residents of Thamesmead ahead of the large scale regeneration has become a wider photographic exploration into everyday expressions of cultural activity which already exist, with a focus on how creativity is manifested through elements of personalisation. Since 2017 I have been working closely with the residents to explore how they re-imagine the landscape, and create their own spaces, behind the Brutalist facade. From the boots of Anthony Okin, the 90 year old ‘Thamesmead Cowboy’, the Bharatnatyam performances of young dancers Neha and Ruhi, to the wheels of Dave Dashwood’s 8 classic cars, to the Sunday attire of the local Fathers House Community Choir, to the customised Tudor frontages – all reflect individuals attempts to make their mark on the landscape. With additional styling by Siobhan Lyons.