Yesterday, the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham announced ‘Becontree Forever’ – a programme of art, architecture and new infrastructure to mark 100 years of the Becontree Estate.
The Becontree Estate is the biggest council estate in the UK and the most ambitious of the country’s interwar housing estates. The first of 27,000 houses for returning war heroes and working families were built on the four square-mile estate in November 1921, with the ‘Garden City’ houses and iconic ‘Banjo’ closes recognised across the world.
The council is working with residents, and organisations and funders such as Create London, Wellcome Trust, Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), Arts Council England, The Mayor of London, Sports England and local partners such as the schools on the estate, Arc Theatre, Barking & Dagenham Youth Dance, Studio 3 Arts, Green Shoes Arts and others, to deliver an expansive programme across the centenary.
Among the centenary projects announced today are new playgrounds by artists Eva Rothschild and Yinka Ilori, exhibitions and collaborations with the Serpentine Gallery, Focal Point Gallery, Royal Institute of British Architecture (RIBA), Love Music Hate Racism and the EDF London Jazz Festival and sustained investment in estate buildings such as The White House and Kingsley Hall through council programmes such as New Town Culture and the Strategic Community Infrastructure Levy.
Details of the full programme are available at: www.becontreeforever.uk<http://www.becontreeforever.uk>
The centenary is not only an opportunity to celebrate the estate’s ground-breaking and radical past, but also to reimagine Becontree’s future. The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham is committing to rebuilding the estate for current residents and future generations, starting with major investment in retrofitting, parks and transport and in extending Kingsley Hall (the estate’s first community centre) and purchasing Dagenham Heathway (a 1.3-hectare eighties-built shopping centre on the estate).
Councillor Darren Rodwell, Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council, said: “Having lived in the borough all my life – most of it on the Becontree Estate – this project is one that is close to my heart.
“The programme is about celebrating the beginnings of this ground-breaking estate and about reimagining its future. We’re starting this year with these incredible art and architecture projects and, as a council, we’re also committing to rebuilding the estate’s infrastructure for current residents and future generations.”
Councillor Saima Ashraf, Deputy Leader of Barking and Dagenham Council and Cabinet Member for Community Leadership and Engagement, said: “Here in Barking and Dagenham – a borough steeped in history, the Becontree estate is a big part of our heritage. Celebrating the estate’s centenary and the community spirit over the last 100 years, is something I have been looking forward to. We want to celebrate the importance of the Becontree estate – not just for our borough, but the entire country. The wonderful programme of events taking place and the various commissioned projects, will do just that.”
Artist Eva Rothschild said: I am delighted to be working with LBBD and Create London to produce a sculptural playground for Becontree Forever. I have increasingly been expanding my practice to find ways of involving the public directly with sculpture and the commission for Parsloes Park is the perfect opportunity to do this. Creating a permanent sculptural playground in a public park is the most experiential, active and open engagement between sculpture and the community an artist could ever hope for.
Artist Yinka Ilori said: “I am humbled and honoured to have won the commission to design a new playground for the Becontree Estate. This area is so full of history and heritage and, for me, it’s very important to celebrate this with the community. The playground will create a vibrant collection of new, accessible play equipment with a focus on collaborative play and immersion in the outdoors. The design celebrates the estate with unique, joyful play equipment that draws on resident memories of the estate and that will create new, shared memories for the next generation. It’s only right to celebrate the centenary with something really impactful and long-lasting and makes the people who live there feel appreciated and have their voices amplified.”
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