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Creating a More Sustainable Elephant

Heygate Cinema Celebrates Opening Night

Following last year’s attempts by Southwark Council to prosecute remaining residents involved in Better Elephant’s interim use programme, this year Better Elephant decided to create a pop-up cinema which can be popped up and then quickly popped down again.

Heygate Pop-up Cinema

Around 50 people attended the opening night of the 'pop-up' cinema last Saturday 22 Sep, for the premiere screening of the film ‘Doreen’ made by film-makers David Reeve & Patrick Steel.

In the film, Doreen Gee - former Chair of the Tenants & Residents Association - reminisces about the culture of the estate and what went wrong with the regeneration.

The evening was curated by Jerry Flynn, former estate resident and local campaigner (www.35percent.org). Doreen and both of the film-makers attended the event, which was followed by an animated discussion around the regeneration and wider housing issues. The audience included a number of former Heygate residents and residents from the neighbouring Aylesbury estate, who were treated to a bowl of hot soup and refreshments following the lively discussion.

During the discussion, Doreen - who had originally been a strong propenent of the regeneration - spoke about the broken promises of new homes for residents of the estate and how many were forced into unsuitable accommodation much further afield. She also claimed she had been victimised after speaking out against the regeneration.

The film was accompanied by a number of newsclips about the estate and an excerpt from the film-makers’ new feature-length documentary about the regeneration of the estate (Larry & Janet). Film-makers David Reeve and Patrick Steel from Kingchain Productions have been filming on the estate since the decant started, and have inspired the confidence of residents past and present. They are due to release a feature length documentary about the estate in Autumn 2013. 

Three days after the event, four council officers turned up - including Graffiti afficionado Andrew Ashaye - to deliver the notice pictured below.

Heygate cinema removal notice

Fortunately, the Better Elephant group was able to hastily pop-down the pop-up cinema on Wednesday evening before any harm came to it. The cinema will now be 'popped up' on an ad-hoc unannounced basis when it is least expected. The next film to be screened is Michael Wadleigh's 1981 film - 'Wolfen': a cautionary metaphor about real estate speculation, urban gentrification, homeless displacement and all the disturbing human-caused destruction that threatens people’s communities and the ecosystems we all share.


Meanwhile, ‘developer-compliant’ interim uses on other parts of the estate continue with the council's full backing: Elefest's annual festival is set to take place on the estate during 5th, 6th and 7th October. This marks the opening of the Heygate's new 'Hotel Elephant' - the former doctor’s surgery and TRA clubroom which have been handed over to Hotel Elephant (at nil cost) to be let out (for profit) as artist studios. Now that the feckless undesirables have been removed from the ‘unpopular social housing’ estate, the drab interiors of the former community centre are being converted to plush artist studios for a far more deserving new gentrified community.  

Dave Ware from Southwark Regeneration 400 300The studios' will open on the 6th October with a performance by a gas-powered firebreathing robotic dragon.

Hotel Elephant’s Director Reuben Powell (centre left)






Meanwhile two of the remaining households on the estate - about to be forcibly displaced - include pensioners in their seventies & eighties. Since the council switched their heating off in 2010, the Mustafa family and the Tilki family have been sat at home covered in blankets huddled around a portable electric fan heater - whilst artists and revellers gather around the spectacle of a fire-breathing dragon in the estate’s former community hall.
Welcome to London’s least equitable regeneration scheme and most brazen example of Gentrification in action. 

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