Have any of you been watching the brilliant BBC programme The 70′s? A really thought provoking series that came home for me quite literally, when they featured Hyson Green’s ‘streets in the sky’ in Nottingham. Why? Well, my mum grew up there in the early 60′s just as these social experiments in housing were being built. She saw first hand its decline into the ‘ghetto’ with the highest crime rate in England.
Grim film footage held by the Media Archive for Central England (MACE) gives a fascinating insight into how society breaks down in a world without trees. With nowhere to experience nature it was a bleak and unloved place. People too scared to leave their homes because children of 10 and 11 years old ran in gangs. A conversation with the Curate of the Parish – an ex-con with a big heart for people struggling to survive – makes the valuable point: over 700 flats had no access to gardens! He explains that children were given ‘concrete to play in’. As the camera pans across the estate you spot a few dead trees – that’s it!
Digging deep into MACE’s interview archives you will discover the people forced to live there repeating the question – why are we made to live in a place with no garden?
Hyson Green, Nottingham 1978 - News Footage ATV
It is worth remembering that this was England only 40 years ago. And that it doesn’t look that different to the image I blogged about a few months ago in North Korea. We cannot be complacent when it comes to planning and the value of our green places and spaces. To climb a tree or sit beneath its branches for a natter with your mates should be a given. The recent report by RIBA (Royal Institute for British Architects) reiterates this.
20 years later this estate was razed to the ground and is now a supermarket. This final picture shows not a single space across the landscape for a tree to be planted. We must never, ever go back to this.