One Below the Queen:
Rowley Way Speaks for Itself
Between November 2009 and April 2010 a group of residents living on the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate (often know as Rowley Way) in NW London worked with the arts and education charity digital:works to make a documentary film about their estate. The incredible Grade II* listed building features frequently in TV dramas and architecture journals and the intention of the film was to give residents themselves the opportunity to explore the ideas behind the estate and how it works. They met and interviewed the architect Neave Brown to discuss his ideas, hopes and intentions when he designed the estate and also to get a sense of the culture and politics of the time it was designed and built. They also met and interviewed landscape architect Janet Jack and chief engineer Max Fordham. After this they interviewed numerous fellow residents to examine people's actual experience living on the estate.
Resident Matthew Rosenberg and his colleague Sav Kyriacou, both participation workers with digital:works, set up and coordinated the project working with 11 fellow residents to make the film. digital:works ran workshops in which the group discussed and decided on the direction of the project and then learnt practical film making skills, operating the camera and sound, and also interview techniques. Over the following 12 weeks the group broke up into smaller units and went out and interviewed 35 fellow residents across the estate aged 3 to 103 as well as Neave Brown, Janet Jack and Max Fordham.
These interviews are all included in the film, along with scenes of the estate. The soundtrack is also from the estate, composed and recorded by a resident musician, Huck Whitney.
The result is an exploration of the estate, by people living on it. "Rowley Way Speaks for Itself!".
You can read more about the project and see lots of photos on the Project Diary. Below you can also watch the film
Some of the film group
Marcel Braithwaite, Seamus Deichunty, Ann Franklin, Abdullahi Hassan, Stephen Herman, Jack Kelly, Tiffany McGee, Phil Oman, Doreen Parker, Amin Saatchi.
Please note! The estate is officially known as the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate. Rowley Way is actually just one section of the estate, and many people incorrectly call the whole estate by this name. When discussing the name for the project, the film makers felt that because many local people know the estate as Rowley Way it would be okay, and a catchier title, to call it Rowley Way Speaks for itself. So apologies to those of you who are irritated that the estate is constantly referred to incorrectly! And journalists and architects please take note.
A big thank-you to the many many residents who responded so enthusiastically to the idea of the film and to all those who agreed to be interviewed.
The film was launched at the Tricycle Cinema on Saturday 15th May and the whole estate was invited. 230 people came and participated in a Q&A with the film makers and architect. Following this, a DVD of the film along with a booklet with images and a history of the estate were delivered to each household of the listed buildings.
News Update (September 2015)
In 2012/13 a group of residents put together a bid to the Heritage Lottery for funds to bring the park back to it's former glory. This involved lots of hard work but it paid off as the bid was successful and residents have raised over £2 million for the park. Work has recently been completed and the park looks beautiful. It's open to the public and the estate is accessible so do feel free to go and have a look around.
The Tenants Hall, which was underused at the time the film was made, is now in constant use by the community with yoga classes, table tennis clubs, a fresh fruit and vegetable food coop, parties, meetings and more. Residents also recently spearheaded a move to improve the garages which are now much better lit, patrolled and used. So the community itself has become increasingly active and engaged. Find out more by visiting the estate website.
We kept a diary of the project which you can see here along with some additional interviews with Neave Brown not included in the film.Project Diary
Residents on the Alexandra and Ainsworth Estate have built their own website with information about the estate. It contains a gallery, history as well as information on what is going on there. Click here to see it.
Press and Feedback
"Sometimes an Indie film lands in my DVD player whose strengths are apparent
but hard to define. I had such an experience this week after watching One
Below The Queen: Rowley Way Speaks. It includes interviews with Camden Council’s
architect Neave Brown, who built many of the borough’s much-loved social
housing projects, and tenants. It is truthful about life on the estate,
full of praise as well as never being afraid to hide from the issues. It
is beautifully shot by resident Matthew Rosenberg and other people who live
there. But above all it left me with a sense of what it means to be part
of a community in 2010, and somehow has touched on so many of the facets
that subconsciously make up our city today. It is inspiring. See next
week’s Review for a full feature on this incredible project"
Dan Carrier, Camden New Journal. May 20th 2010
"The film is the exhibition's highlight. It splices candid residents interviews with footage of the estate. One
is left with a vital impression of hanging gardens and light filled interiors, the nightmare car access but cheek-by-jowl neighbourliness, the
grey concrete and poor sound transmission, yet a sense of stability and comfort."
David Kohn, Building Design (www.bdonline.co.uk), 5th November 2010. (Reviewing the exhibition, "Cooks Camden" at the New London Architecture Gallery)
"I just wanted to say how fantastic I thought the film was. I went to the film showing at Kilburn and found it incredibly
moving as well as informative and interesting. I was really blown away by it. And it's great to have the dvd."
Penny Wiles. Resident, Rowley Way.
"Thank you so much for inviting us yesterday to the Rowley Way film. I will watch it again on the TV but it was really worth seeing it on a big screen and seeing all the faces in the film in the audience. It was genuinely overwhelmingly moving. The film is perfect. The sort of thing that restores your faith in human nature. It made me laugh and cry but was never schmaltzy. Brilliant! I also absolutely think it should be a legal reqirement for anyone going into architecture/interior design to watch it." Jenny, Kensington & Chelsea College
"The launch event of the film was an amazing experience. Really happy and positive. It was really good to be surrounded by people who live on Rowley Way and to see them up on screen too. It made me feel proud to live here." Resident
"The film really made me want to get more active in our community, to get involved with people and fight to make it better" ResidentHam & High 20th May 2010