What does a social landlord have to do with making films? You might be thinking: absolutely nothing. If so, that is because you have yet to meet the young people involved in two very different social housing-funded projects.
Inside Housing spoke to the social landlords involved, and some of the filmmakers, to find out more.
Our first stop is in Ladbroke Grove, where housing association Octavia has been funding a film project since 2008. The Reed community center is a short walk from some of west London’s wealthiest neighbourhoods. It is an area of stark contrast. Extreme poverty sits uncomfortably alongside extreme privilege.
It is a vibrant and buzzing purpose-built space, with a day center for older people and a digital youth club. It is also home to a unique film project.
“It’s not the most diverse of places, and the project was meant to make the area something that teenagers could connect to”
Octavia has a history of filmmaking, explains Tommy Edwards, its digital media project manager. In 2008, the housing foundation used Lottery Heritage funding to help eight local young people make a documentary tracing the historical and social evolution of Ladbroke Grove from the 1958 race riots to the present day.
“The documentary, Grove Roots, really gives context to the history of the area,” says Mr Edwards. Following its premiere at the Electric Cinema on Portobello Road, the film went on to win the best film category at the Portobello Film Festival in 2009.
Film and theater projects followed, including Waking the Dead (exploring aspects of the heritage of the local area) and in 2019-20 ‘The Birth of Cool’, a heritage project looking at the fashion movement connected to the King’s Road. “It’s not the most diverse of places, and the project was meant to make the area something that teenagers could connect to,” says Mr Edwards.
Half of Octavia’s staff are from Black and minority ethnic communities. Its head office and many of its properties are located in North Kensington, where many in the Windrush generation settled. Against this backdrop, the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in 2020, it became a huge topic of conversation among staff and residents.