What’s really inside London’s dreaded housing estates?

What’s really inside London’s dreaded housing estates?

I dirtied up my spotless trainers to ensure that they didn’t look appealing enough to steal, before daring to set foot into the tower block estate. I was in for quite a surprise…

It might not be politically correct to admit this, but when I realised that my house was on the boundary line of one of London’s biggest and most dangerous housing estates I was quite concerned. The term “housing commission” does not have positive connotations in my part of Australia, and the horror stories about London estates were legion.

For almost a year, I had managed to avoid setting foot on the estate. Although it covers around 23 hectares, there was relatively little need to wander into the maze of dilapidated tower blocks. However, I eventually found myself needing to use the London Overground more than ever before. That meant one thing – having to brave the estate.

I mentally prepared myself before setting off into the previously unknown territory. I dirtied up my spotless trainers to ensure that they didn’t look appealing enough to steal, I threw on an old hoodie and practiced my impression of Vinnie Jones. I thrust my hands firmly in my pockets, adopted a hunch, and stepped over that imaginary line that had always stopped me from going any further.

It turns out that the dilapidated towers marking the border of the estate were actually the last to be remodeled as part of a large-scale gentrification project. The rest of the estate looked far better maintained than half of the posh neighbourhoods that I regularly found myself in. Far from being intimidating, the people on the estate were exceptionally cheerful as they walked their dogs and ushered their children to school. In short, just like everyone else.

This is my apology to the people of my local estate: I misjudged you. I listened to the hype and the scare campaigns, and I let it get to me. I will not make the same mistake again. I am not suggesting you go to a council estate just to sight-see… but you shouldn’t be afraid when you come across one either.

TOP IMAGE: London tower block. (By Coombesy/Pixabay)

Paul Bleakley

Paul Bleakley

Paul Bleakley is a journalist and academic raised on Queensland's Gold Coast. After graduating with a Bachelor of Journalism, he went on to teach high school English and History in his hometown. Paul's work on democratic revolutions is featured in the book 'The Cultivation of Peace'. He loves reality TV, wandering aimlessly and wearing thongs (flip flops) on cold days.


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