The new council homes recently unveiled on former car parking space at the edge of Southwark’s Kipling estate exemplify a fruitful relationship between estate residents’ organisations, Bermondsey’s tenant management organisation (Leathermarket JMB) and Southwark Council. But there is far more to the collaboration, with much of the day-to-day work among local people rarely recognised beyond those who participate or immediately benefit.
The 45 minute documentary embedded below, made by writer and film-maker John Rogers, enables more of us to know and appreciate the work done and lives led in this patch of South London, where the tensions arising from rapid growth and dramatic change can be particularly acute and, for some, unsettling. It is impressive in many ways, not least by being respectful without being sentimental: feelings of lasting attachment to a neighbourhood and reminiscences about how dull life could be in a more isolated Bermondsey of the past are woven into the same fabric, along with much else to enlighten and enjoy.
The film also conveys extremely well what a subtle and complex process true community engagement is, with estate residents grappling with their own conflicts between continuity and change, just as so much of London as a whole must in different ways and on a larger scale. It also implicitly serves as a quiet but eloquent corrective to the denigration of council housing tenants that has been such an ugly feature of political discourse in recent times. So please do set aside a little time and watch the film from beginning to end.
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