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.