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Supporting communities, preventing social exclusion and tackling need

Supporting communities, preventing social exclusion and tackling need: a report to Hammersmith United Charities on four low income estates in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham by LSE Housing

Laura Lane and Anne Power, LSE Housing

June 2009

8. Vignettes

Six pen portraits give a very strong idea of how it is to live on the three estates. There is one younger and one older person from each estate which helps give an accurate picture of life on the estates.

Edward Woods: Theo and Mary


Theo is 22, Black-British and lives with his partner in the Edward Woods estate, where he has lived all his life. He rents a flat in a tower block from the council. He is in part-time employment. He definitely would not recommend Edward Woods as somewhere to move to, as “there’s no care of the area and the high-rises look industrial; there’s no light into the estate, it’s too closed in. I know they hold a lot of people but I think it could be done differently; people feel better if they’re more open.” Theo sees the “new estate” at the north end of Edward Woods as much better, “you can see for miles there and the housing is better.” He does like some parts of the estate, such as the football pitch which he uses and which he sees as “good for all ages, although it could also have a tennis court and maybe some areas to relax.” The football pitch is the only facility Theo uses, but he listed a number of others – large and small parks, old and new play areas, the community centre, including its weekly night for under-18s, and a cafe.

In his opinion, even these facilities offer less than they could. The community centre “is not as good as it was” and has become too limited. “The community centre should be exactly that, for all of the community, but I’m not sure it’s got much on. The old one had loads, even a football area.” Theo believes that the parks are not very clean nor especially inviting; he commented that the small garden area “is not very relaxing ‘cos it’s boxed in with this high fence”. Given that there is quite a large amount of open space, he thinks that the parks could have more in them, for example “tennis might be more suitable for older people”.

If Theo was in charge of Edward Woods he would make the estate open plan, “so you can see what’s here”. He would also spend money on the shopping parade, both on the stores and on cleaning up the surrounding pavements and roads. His funding priority would be “something that can make the community centre apply to all age groups. It should be there especially for under-18s as I’m not sure there’s much on for them – they need more than one night a week at the centre.”

His three priorities for Edward Woods are: ‘community centres/community cafes’; ‘play areas and spaces for children’, as most of the equipment on the main estate is now fairly old and needs updating like the ‘new estate’s’ play area; ‘better security/more policing’. He does not think that “help for young parents” should be a priority for the potential funders (HUC) as “care or help for young parents or older people should be something that is compulsory, it should be properly government-funded.”

Theo sees Edward Woods as part of both Holland Park and Shepherd’s Bush. Comparing it with other local places he observed that “it’s not as good as two streets away, but the new bit is good.” There’s nothing that he specifically dislikes about the local area. He thinks that the Westway Sports Centre and Lancaster Youth Club both make a significant contribution to the local area. Theo said that Lancaster Youth Club especially “plays a big role in keeping kids occupied – the 11 to 13 year-olds – the borough [Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea] is great for that.”


Mary is 68, White British and lives alone on the Edward Woods estate, which she defines as her local area. She has lived on the estate for 12 years and rents her home from the local authority. She would recommend the estate to others as she thinks that it has improved a lot; she concedes, however, that first impressions are bad. Mary likes the people in the local area: “Everyone is very friendly and there is quite a good community spirit.” She feels that the estate is safe because there are “CCTV cameras everywhere so I feel very safe, even at night“.

Mary mainly uses the Evergreen Club (for residents over 50), the tenants and residents association and the estate’s shops, cafe and hairdresser: “we’ve got everything we need here really. There are things for everyone, including a supermarket”. She thinks the Evergreen Club is good because it has a garden, and you can sign up for trips and events; it also has a sheltered housing manager in there who can give general advice to older people. Mary thinks that the post office is too small (a larger one closed down in the past) but is otherwise pretty content with the facilities around the estate.

Mary would prioritise improving the integration of different communities within the estate to deal with isolation and acknowledged that “language barriers are an issue, especially for many women”. She would also like to improve security and provide more facilities and play space for children to help young mothers. Mary mentioned that she was already active in trying to improve the area “I’m already on a campaign to improve maintenance with the local authority and Notting Hill [the local housing association] – the local authority is better and seems to be improving since we got on to the Chief Executive!” If Mary was in charge she would fund a variety of things for youth to do, “not just the same old activities”, and use money to provide for new activities to attract more young people.

White City: Zoe and George


Zoe is 16, White British and has lived on the White City estate all her life. She lives with her parents and younger brother and sister at one edge of the estate, near her aunt and cousins. She is proud of her area but observes that it has a poor reputation: “all my friends call it Shepherd’s Bush; they say it sounds better”. She wouldn’t recommend it as a place to move into, “but I wouldn’t move though”. Her reasons for staying include her family in the estate and “I know everyone”, but also her detailed knowledge of the area; not only is she used to it, but she knows what to avoid. She sees White City and the local area as having high levels of crime and violence, and appears to know a lot about recent high profile incidents, but is confident that she will not be a victim. She credits her parents’ delineation of boundaries (specifically where and when their children go out) with helping her to avoid the “trouble” she sees other young people getting involved in: “You see those kids [three girls, 8-12 years old], their parents shouldn’t let them out late alone – I bet they don’t even know where they are.”

Zoe does not go to school in the area, and meets friends at their houses or outside the estate. “There’s nothing for us here – the rubber [the Astroturf pitches just outside the estate] is over-run by men, and there’s only one goalpost anyway. There’s nothing in the park either. There’s two youth clubs but they’re not much good.” Zoe would like the main youth club to have “better trips and facilities, not just a ping-pong table, computers and art and crafts.” She thinks that the estate has plenty of places for young children, “There’s an under-5’s place, the Adventure Playground, a holiday project and parks nearby”, but little for older children and young teenagers like her 14 year-old brother. “There’s youth clubs but they’re rubbish, and now they’re used as a play centre and a holiday scheme for younger kids… My brother and his friends don’t have anywhere to go, not even anywhere to play football; if they go on the grass here the neighbours complain so they play on the street here which is not a good idea ‘cos of the traffic.”

Like many interviewed in White City, Zoe misses the old swimming pool complex which was demolished in 2003 and rebuilt in 2006 on a smaller site adjacent to the secondary school, just outside the estate. “The old pool was great; it had a diving board, badminton, taekwondo, and a gym.” She thinks that a major leisure complex would improve the area, maybe something similar to the bowling lanes at Queensway. She also suggested that the water feature in the ‘BBC park’ (Hammersmith Park) is “sorted out into something more productive for our ages, maybe something like an Astroturf for 5-a-side.”

If Zoe was in charge of White City, she would focus on improving housing maintenance and security, as well as creating more space for young people. She was clear that youth facilities are the funding priority: “Definitely make something more for the older kids, definitely.” However, she said, “[the issue] is not just places to go, it’s also parents who let their kids go out late alone.” Her top three priorities for the area are: ‘facilities for young people’; ‘better security/more policing’, specifically more cameras “because there aren’t any at all!” and more police; and ‘courses and training for adults’, “maybe ICT and English”. In her opinion, ‘play areas and spaces for children’ should not be prioritised as “there’s enough already, there’s loads around here.”

Zoe views White City as part of Shepherd’s Bush. When asked about this wider area, she said she likes the Westfield centre –“although you need loads of money” – but really dislikes ‘the drunks and the druggies and people coming up to you on the Green’. Indeed, she said that “with all the drinkers and drugs in Shepherd’s Bush I think White City is actually better, it’s similar to Hammersmith, it’s ok.”


George is 72, White British and lives on the White City estate where he has been for over 40 years. He is retired and lives with his daughter and her family in a local authority rented home. He is unsure about whether he would recommend White City to others “It depends what you’re looking for. For people who’ve got nowhere else it’s ok, and they [the Council] are upgrading it a lot.” He says that he is a well-known figure in the community “I have respect for people and they have respect for me”. He likes most things about the area but accepts that there have been some “muggings and things over the years’.

George believes there are quite a few facilities on the estate, with pubs for adults, a parent and child group (the 1 o’clock club), and the kids club and adventure playground. He thinks that the school (Phoenix High School) is well-run “the Head has been knighted!” However, he mentions that there used to be a community centre but it has closed down, the Nubian centre is also temporarily closed, there isn’t much on for children outside school and a lunch club for older people is no longer happening. He feels there is not much which helps people on the estate “except for kids and young people at the school, they have some after-school activities there.”

George would like people on the estate to be more proactive and engaged. “People don’t seem to come forward and volunteer themselves to do things – I know they have to go to work but I still think some self-help would help.” George would prioritise more play space for children, some organised community cafes and work-oriented activities for young people which may help them into jobs. He says that the housing in the estate has already been improved but thinks that better use should be made of vacant properties. George, like others in White City, regrets the loss of the old swimming pool “It closed five years ago, despite being excellent – there was a wave machine, cafe and private parties held there.” He believes there are plans to redevelop the site of the old pool into a new Health Centre but “I’ve no idea when they’ll get going on it.”

Overall George felt the estate “compares quite favourably” with other local areas “it used to get lots of trouble but it’s better now.”

Old Oak: Aïsha and Leonard


Aïsha is in her late forties, originally from Jordan, and lives with her husband and children in a privately-rented house in the Old Oak estate formerly a Council home. They moved to the estate from Tower Hamlets just over a year ago. Although they originally knew no-one in the local area, Aïsha now knows many people in the estate and surrounding area. Indeed she has found that “there are many Arab people here, many Muslims so I feel comfortable.” She would encourage people to move to the estate because it is so multicultural. Despite her enthusiasm for the estate’s diversity, she is critical of its crime levels, environmental disorder and lack of facilities. – There is the Community Centre but it is shut now, and it has been most of the time we’ve been here.” Aïsha’s friend, another Arab woman who lives just outside the estate, added that “The Community Centre used to be good; it had gardening, sewing classes and aerobics.” Neither seemed to be aware that the centre will reopen later this year.

Aïsha would like to see more facilities in the area, both for adults – “especially fitness classes for the women like me!” – and for young people and children. “There’s no activities for kids, they need to have activities in the holiday especially.” If she was in charge of the estate, she would focus on cleaning the streets and green areas, “they definitely need to clean up the streets, clear up the dog dirt and rubbish on the street.” She thinks that this should be a funding priority, along with activities for children: “it’s very important to clean up the streets, and to do children’s activities in the holidays.” Her top priorities for the estate are: ‘other’, “clearing up the dog dirt and rubbish”; ‘play areas and spaces for children’; and ‘better security/more policing’, specifically to tackle burglaries. “I was burgled last year, when we were away in Jordan; it made me very afraid. Now it’s ok for me as I’ve got better security but it’s still a well known problem – it’s very well known as a problem for this area. There are lots of teenage thieves”. She would not prioritise ‘better maintenance and repairs’, “because it is already good.”

Aïsha sees Old Oak as part of both Shepherd’s Bush and Acton: “I get letters with both”. She thinks that the estate and local area are both very multi-cultural, and she dislikes only their dirty streets. Shepherd’s Bush is, Aïsha says, better than where she used to live in Tower Hamlets, despite both being very multi-cultural. “It’s better than where I was in East London – I asked to come here, I wanted to move and I’m glad that I did.”


Leonard is 55 and White British. He lives on the Old Oak estate with his partner and children in a housing association house. He has lived on the estate for 13 years and says that he would recommend it to others, although he observes that it is different in other areas “It’s different, even down the road. Along here it’s an established community – many of them have been here for 30-40 years and we look out for each other, especially for the older ones who live on their own. It is generally OK but I wouldn’t want to be further into the estate – people from some parts are wanting to get out.”

Leonard likes the Scrubs common, but he thinks there are few facilities on the estate itself. In particular, he believes that, whilst the local community looks after the older people, there is nothing on the estate for young people. Leonard mentioned that the community centre had courses for adults in the past, and he expects that when it reopens it will offer more courses and other provision. However, he doubts if this is the right thing for young people as courses need to be “tailored to practical interests for young people, especially as they don’t stick at school stuff, for example painting and decorating courses”. Leonard and his family tend to look outside the area to meet their own needs “Nothing really in the estate – we go off the estate for what we need.”

If Leonard was in charge he would provide more police and better security “Police need to be around more often; they’re hardly ever here now – although they were two years ago and one year ago, they used to make an effort.” He would also introduce more activities for young people, specifically more structured provision, as well as community cafes and spaces.

The pen portraits reflect what the survey suggests:

  • the estates all have positive and negative features;
  • they all lack adequate provision for young people; and
  • youth problems and youth need are a major preoccupation of the residents of all ages, from 16 year old Zoe to 72 year old George.

The pen portraits add, from our perspective, depth and conviction to what we learnt and what we conclude

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