Good Things

A Video History of Rectory Gardens

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.

Supported by Historic England and Hartfield Foundation.
Studio Voltaire’s Programmes are core funded by The Studio Voltaire Council. With kind assistance from Raven Row, London.

  1. Growing out of Spectacle’s decades of pioneering participatory video practice, Spectacle Media is a non-profit Community Interest Company specifically championing community uses of digital media. Spectacle Media uses new technologies to empower groups and individuals through learning video-making skills, working collaboratively on community-led media production and engaging with online participatory filmmaking and editing.

    Spectacle Media also has access to Spectacle’s production equipment and thousands of hours of Spectacle’s unique video archive on themes including urbanism, human rights, social justice, utopianism, alternative media, top-down vs. bottom-up regeneration, housing and more. Spectacle Media aims to develop projects to open and explore the video archive with communities interested in its content.

  2. Unearthed: Collective Histories is a twelve-month pilot programme of commissions, workshops and events uncovering the overlooked 20th Century histories of Studio Voltaire’s locality.

    This programme will see the creation of a public programme of events, learning programme, and a project curated by a new resident-led research group, ‘Unearthed Collective’ – as part of Lambeth Heritage Festival 2023.

    In the first phase of the project, we are partnering with several Lambeth-based archives, local schools, community groups, residents and artists to investigate two local landmarks linked by a shared history of WWII bomb damage: Rectory Gardens and Clapham South Shelter.

    Unearthed: Collective Histories is supported by Historic England’s ‘Everyday Heritage Grants: Celebrating Working Class History’ and Hartfield Foundation.

  3. Good Things: A Video History of Rectory Gardens, Installation View, Studio Voltaire, 2023. Images courtesy Studio Voltaire. Photography by Zoë Maxwell.

Studio Voltaire
1A Nelsons Row
London SW4 7JR

Open Wednesday–Sunday, 10 am–5 pm.

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