Good Things: A Video History of Rectory Gardens is a live research project curated by Rectory Gardens Video Archive Group that forms part of Unearthed: Collective Histories.
The exhibition presents an archive of video recordings, alongside ephemera and research which centres on the history of Rectory Gardens – a squat-turned-housing-cooperative in Clapham’s Old Town, which began life in the 1970s – as well as wider campaigns to save local streets and areas from being compulsorily purchased, charting the changes in Clapham over the last thirty years. The exhibition forms a collective memory of Rectory Gardens, emphasising the sense of community and cultural contributions of this unique place – one of London's last remaining squats.
Rectory Gardens is a street of houses in Clapham’s Old Town, less than a mile from Studio Voltaire, that was severely damaged by bombing during WWII and renovated by squatters in the 1970s. Until the eviction in 2014, the street hosted an industrious community of artists, musicians, poets and unconventional ‘free thinkers’.
Interviews with former residents chronicle a self-made oasis where time stopped, and children were free to roam and play, revelling in its enduring freedom and community spirit – a space created 'for the people by the people.' Contemporary interviews with Vivienne Westwood and Maggie Hambling exploring housing, gentrification and culture are contrasted with housing demonstrations, the tranquillity of the street and its gardens.
The exhibition includes film footage, interviews, campaign posters, photographs, and archive ephemera dating from 1970–2023. All items have been selected by the Rectory Gardens Video Archive Project including former and current residents and people interested in the housing crisis and alternative forms of living.
Good Things asks fundamental questions about how we live and how we relate to other people in society. Visitors are invited to contribute their own memories of Rectory Gardens and Clapham.
Good Things is produced in partnership with Spectacle Media and forms part of Unearthed: Collective Histories - a twelve-month pilot programme of commissions, workshops and events uncovering the overlooked 20th Century histories of Studio Voltaire’s locality supported by Historic England.