William Durden

Richmond’s Dr Nicola Mann publishes article in Writing Visual Culture

Writing Visual Culture, Volume 6,

Between Texts and Cities
guest-edited by Dr Daniel Marques Sampaio and Michael Heilgemeir 

WRITING VISUAL CULTURE (WVC) is an international peer-reviewed journal for research in visual culture.

“A Disconnected Community? (Re)visioning the Heygate Council Estate through Digital Activism”


From the wailing police sirens in The Bill (1984-2010), to the gun-toting bad boys in Top Boy (2011-2013), during the late 20th and early 21st century, London’s Heygate council estate was a stage on which to enact terrifying anxieties about crime and social deviance. As if in answer to these visualizations, in 2010 the government announced a £1.5 billion regeneration project that will transform the area into a “brand-new town centre” over the next fifteen years. By demolishing the Heygate and replacing it with mixed-income accommodations, the council aim to counteract the area’s association with concentrated poverty, organized crime and dependency on benefits. I propose that the dystopian vision of the Heygate in popular visual texts contributed to its notoriety in the nation’s visual imagination, and consequently helped to influence its socio-spatial restructure.

This article considers the visual activism of residents who respond to the dominant visualizations of their homes with counter-narratives centred on an attachment to place. I focus primarily on the website, Southwark Notes, a dynamic and malleable digital text that facilitates and makes visible citizen action and a sense of creative ownership over the rapidly changing urban landscape in Southwark. The site is a practical manifestation of what I call usable memory––a place where residents reminisce about their deeply rooted past, utilizing this historical attachment to place to unite and prevent the uprooting of community landmarks in the future.

View the full piece here