Barbicania

Our second issue each year is always in June and this summer we are celebrating the 50th birthday of the first Residents moving onto the Estate, but before I start with all that – a toast – here’s to a Goldilocks summer; not too hot to scorch the lawns again, but just the right amount of heat to make autumn something that we start looking forward to.

We began prepping this special 50th birthday celebration issue at the end of last year so that we allowed enough time to interview our longer-term Residents.  Thanks to my trusty recorder (which we purchased in order to quantify tube rumble for the TfL noise campaign), I didn’t have to rely on my flimsy memory and could transcribe at leisure.  I’m grateful that many of our early Residents are either still here on the Estate or come back to visit regularly because I didn’t have to leave the compound and suffer Square Mile withdrawal!

To those Residents who bore the brunt of our interviews, I salute you!  Val Healey, Allan Lee, Stuart and Carole Morganstein from Defoe, Alan Newman from Thomas More, Janet Patterson from John Trundle and Kate Wood from Brandon Mews.  Special thanks also go to Nadine Waddell who, when I asked for a few sentences, presented me a few lifetimes – none of which we could bear to part with.

My offering this issue is a summary timeline of the Estate’s construction.  If you know the publishing business, then you will also appreciate how complex it can become to seek permission to use old photos in a print publication (I fired off an awful lot of emails and sat listening to myriad qualities of ‘please wait’ voice robots).  I’ve done what I could to bring you a few special moment snaps.  There are some fascinating photographs I would have loved to extract from the original Barbican Redevelopment Report from Chamberlin, Powell & Bon.  Many thanks go out to Polly Powell, who is the daughter of Geoffry Powell, and runs Batsford/Pavilion Books, publisher of Stefi Orazi’s recent Barbican Estate book. Polly thought that I’d be safe to use anything in the report and gave her permission, but officials in the Arts Centre and Corporation of London were just not 100% sure who owned the copyright, so I stayed safe and left those out.  Surfing addict that I am, I followed links galore – a rich chain of articles, publications, photos and videos; I’ll post them on the website for you to wander.

And here they are:

Old film on the Barbican (from the London Metropolitan Archives)

Trade Union and Construction

The Opening of the Barbican

Urban Maze

The Thought Show

A Poet in London

We wanted to squeeze in as many memories as we could, so we also have a few pages (and some gorgeous photos) reviewing the last 50 years from the wildlife lover’s perspective thanks to Allison Parkes who is a volunteer in our Barbican Wildlife Garden.

In the interest of fairness, this issue’s Alternative Voices is the ‘other side of the coin’ on the Culture Mile opinion piece we featured last time.  Culture Mile Manager Tim Jones lays out the project in a more positive light for us.  A community workshop is planned for mid-June and a feedback project for August.  The Culture Mile transformation project is ambitious and a shiny thing; perhaps we just need patience to let them see it through before we judge the dividends.  The practical person inside me just needs a few ‘quick fixes’ done as soon as possible, please, while we wait for that joyous conclusion;  ‘cycling’ signs with the red diagonal ‘no’ still visible would be a good start!

Our next issue in September is already in the planning stage.  I’m looking for more opinions to share and debates to begin, so do get in touch if you’d like to put something out there in our Alternative Voices section.

The Barbican Estate is a much admired work of architecture and a great place to live. As we reflect on how special our Estate is to us, campaigns are afoot to ensure that it is still flourishing in another fifty years’ time.  By September, we should have more news on that, and we will also be further down the line with the school expansion project.  In our next issue, we will take stock of the celebrations and campaigns and we’ll also be taking a closer look at the resurgence of private clubs in London and the City.

Warm wishes for a wonderful summer from all of us on Team Barbican Life!