Tag: Hyson Green

Review: Charlie Phillips captures a forgotten Notting Hill

Jamaican-born photographer Charlie Phillips, whose Urban Eye exhibition is currently showing at the New Art Exchange in Hyson Green, worked as a paparazzo for many years and lived by the code ‘shoot now, ask questions later’. His naturalistic portraits depict people going about their daily lives, occasionally stopping to peer into the onlooker’s camera.

Phillips captures life in post-war Notting Hill when immigrants from around the Commonwealth arrived in Britain hoping to make a new life for themselves. The Notting Hill they inhabited is a world away from the gentrified version we know today. Here, buildings stood in ruins and the bleak, urban landscape was one that was all too familiar in a city that was still feeling the effects of Hitler’s Blitzkrieg.

The newly-arrived immigrants injected a sense of vitality into war-battered, monochrome Britain. In Crowd Scene, Notting Hill Carnival, Phillips captures the moment when people of all backgrounds get together for a joyous celebration while in Kebab Shop Dandy, a gentleman dons his finest clothes and poses outside a rough-and-ready looking takeaway. There were the places where different communities would all congregate, notably the ‘Piss House Pub’ which Phillips says was ‘a meeting place for different working class people, both black and white, Caribbean and Irish’.

It is impossible to separate Phillips’ highly personal portraits from the socio-political movements taking place in London at this time. In Notting Hill Couple (pictured above), a young black man and a young white woman stare directly into the camera and their defiance is startling, reminding us that not so long ago a relationship like this would have been out of the ordinary. In this community, racism – both casual and institutional – simmered away and when coupled with the grinding poverty faced by many people, it proved to be the catalyst which led to the eruption of the notorious riots of 1958.

Charlie Phillips: The Urban Eye runs until 7th July.

Read More

If these walls could talk: On the Hyson Green flats

The flats in Hyson Green were built with a huge amount of optimism – and yet somewhere along the line, they became unfit for purpose and were brought to the ground with little remorse from the authorities.

The rabbit warren-like complex, which was where Asda now stands, has been the subject of a local history project called On the Flats (see my earlier post) which is currently being shown as an exhibition at Nottingham’s Brewhouse Yard.

These post-War flats were assembled using a Bison frame structure. Vast sheets of concrete meant they were built quickly to house the growing population. Bombed-out streets and dilapidated houses were cleared to make way for affordable, modern flats, just like the ones people in continental Europe had been living in for decades.

The complex included balconies, courtyards and walkways and for many of the residents – who had lived in slum housing with outdoor toilets and tin baths – they were the height of modernity.

But the flats, along with countless others across the UK, did not live up to  expectations. Planned communities and social housing soon meant neglected ghettos; as one former resident of the flats points out, there were no projects or business opportunities that could have made the community more sustainable.

By the time they were demolished in 1988, they had a reputation for temperamental heating, damp and rubbish piling up which led to infestations of rats and insects.

This exhibition also sheds light on some of the broader social issues of the time. Poverty and racial tension proved a catalyst for the violence that erupted in 1981. One of the inhabitants remembers seeing a mum with a young baby tearing off pieces of her skirt and handing them over to a man who used the fabric to make petrol bombs.

But the flats were also known for their strong community spirit which continues to thrive in Hyson Green today. Residents host blues parties when you could wander along the balconies and turn up at any number of gatherings.

Strong bonds formed between neighbours but many people lost touch when the flats were finally pulled down. The On the Flats project has been a great opportunity for them to catch up with old friends, as well as giving us a unique insight into a part of our recent social history.

The exhibition runs until 15th January.

Read More

Relive your memories of Hyson Green flats at Museum of Nottingham Life at Brewhouse Yard

The Hyson Green flats did not last long but during their brief lifetime, they become something of an urban landmark in the city and home to a thriving community. Built in 1965, the complex included 593 individual flats and maisonettes and its distinctive modernist design meant that it stood out in an area that is largely made up of Victorian terraces.

The flats were demolished in 1988 to make way for Asda but many former residents look back on their time there with great fondness.

There will be an opportunity to discover more about life in the Hyson Green flats at a new exhibition which opens at Museum of Nottingham Life at Brewhouse Yard on Saturday.

On the Flats is a local history project run by the Partnership Council, a charity working in Hyson Green. More than 40 volunteers have spoken to ex-residents to find out more about their memories of the flats and the exhibition also includes a film with interviews and archive footage such as old television news clips of events surrounding the flats.

Residents have contributed a host of items to the exhibition, for example a slab of concrete and a street sign which were salvaged when the flats were demolished. The exhibition also details the role the flats played in the Nottingham riots in 1981, as well as the impromptu blues parties that were held.

The exhibition runs until 15th January.

Read More