What was the year that you moved into
Ellingfort Road and what was your first impression of it?
I moved to Ellingfort Road in 1983, I was meant
to move to Martello Street but when I went there someone had squatted
the house so I was then put on to Ellingfort Rd. At the time, I can
remember liking the garden and I can remember being traumatised by
moving from Westgate Street because I had really liked the house.
I came round here and realised that it was the only option that I
had and I can remember going outside to the garden and it was really
sunny and thinking, oh this is alright its South facing. The first
thing I did when I first moved in was unpack the plants from Westagte
Street ( before the boxes).It was a strange street, it was the largest
street that I've lived on for some time and it was the first street
for a long time where I felt that you actually made contact with your
neighbours.It was full of shortr life housing associations and a variety
of people, some very odd people. I remember there was a house that
had been allocated for people with mental problems, there was another
house where the man had lived all his life, he was now widowed and
had a dog that he used to swear at a lot.Number 23, Mr Sawyer! He
progressively became more out of it and would run up the street trying
to find his wife. He used to like accosting you in the street and
showing you how he could bring his knees up to his chin, and that
he must be a footballer.
Was it in a bad state this house?
It was ok and I discovered that the person who
had been in it before me was a squatter and that she had been moved
out of here and she went around the corner and squatted the house
I was meant to move into in Martello Street.The plumbing and the roofing
were problems and still are, most of the money went into the plumbing.
Did you get a renovation grant?
Yes from the Arts Council, they were excellent
The properties were for two years initially from 1983 I think?
I remember being told it would be one to two years, and then early
1984 a newsletter came roundfrom the council planning committee under
Brian Marsh and we went along to the meeting. I remember the woman
there from Holly Street Estate wringing the condensation from her
bed sheets out on to the floor.
What was the scheme called to redevelop?
I can't remember but the plans for the area
were published and put on display in Broadway market.Spring of 1983?
It then became clear that the council was going
to build Industrial Units on Ellingfort Road?
Yes The newsletter was to consult people about
By 1985/86 I think the Council had sort of decided that this was a
kind of no go area at that time and they had the opportunity to develop
something in Shoreditch so the emphasis movewd there.
The next thing that I became aware of was the 92 UDP inquiry. What
happened was that I had mety someone who is now a councillor but who
certainly wasnt then overin the Lady Di pub.He had plonked himself
next to me in the pub nd started going on about squatters in the area.
I suppose what had happened between 86 and then was that all the short
life housing associations in the area had gradually moved out. In
this street number 43 was sold toi the council, no 7 was eventually
auctioned, Tom with his 11 kids are still there there is no original
person left.Gaps occurred in the street and then the squatting started.So
I met this guy who is now a councillor and we started to argue about
the street.About three months after that meeting he came round and
told me that there was a UDP at the Town Hall in Hackney and that
what had happened was that the government had come down on Hackney
Housing to ask them what they had done with the money that they had
been given to develop this area. So as he put it this was our last
chance to be there as a body representing the community because there
had been another inquiry and no-one had found out about it, it had
remained a tiny insert in the back of the Hackney Gazette.So there
was this extraordinary meeting where one or two of us were allowed
to say things about what was happening on the street. I have all that
paperwork.We were allowed to speak at this meeting but it was only
a token gesture. There was this government person there and a government
inspector who was going to come round, it prompted everyone to clean
up the street and form this group that called itself ELFCAG, East
London Fields Community Action Group.So, there was a big panic for
a while and then it all subsided. Then eventually in I suppose 1993
this person who is now a councillor approached me again and said that
he really wanted to think about ways to develop the area. He had a
bee in his bonnet and at the time was a thorn in the side of Hackney
Council, he was someone who had lived in the community for years and
who was just this constant agitant. He was involved in the Graham
Road Neighbourhood Association, with London Fields Users Group and
was generally a sort of Council nuisance.
So who is the Councillor?
What is are the most recent developments with
Well initially Pete Snell formed a group which
was initially formed of mainly artists and people not living in the
area. There was Tim & Amanda, Jeff who had history of the housing,
Jo who has a bike shop on Mare street and myself from the street,
the rest were not.There was a lot of publicity and the group called
itself The London Fields Renewal Partnership and that gradually worked
from 93 onwards. There were various points in time when the council
tried to go ahead with their plans that they were sticking to.
Were they still in trouble with the government?
We never ever heard about that it was brushed
aside and suddenly they were getting their act together.
Was that part of the post Thatcher urban regeneration
scheme with small workshop units?
Yes there was this man called Don Kemmal. Tom
Hunter was making his model, there was stuff in the Hackney Gazette.
What happened eventually was the London Fields Renewal Partnership
handed over to London Fields Solutions which was the people on the
street and what has happened now is that they have negotiated the
council into the position whereby they have to raise funding within
a year to buy the houses.
Is that all houses in the street?
No we had to give up eight, and they are going
to demolish the property and build live/work units.
So you get this end of the street?
Yes, it was a bargaining situation. London Fields
Solutions got involved with Buildings for Change in Manchester.There
were various plan options.The issue is where the money comes from.
We have to raise £15000 to be allowed to have the property to develop
within five years. The problem is that no-one in this community can
afford that sort of money
Interview with Jeff Marson
with Brian Marsh
Other Educated Persons
Artists and Art Organisations in the East End of London 1972 to present