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Photography students mark 100 years of the Becontree Estate in exhibition

BA (Hons) Photography student, Ruby Chapman Barking & Dagenham College

Photography students are marking 100 years of the Becontree Estate by creating a public exhibition.

Students at Barking and Dagenham College have created 100 displays in various venues including shop windows, noticeboards and parks in the area.

Photos capture life on the estate, which has around 100,000 residents and was the largest in the world when it was built in 1921.

In total, 100 locations have been chosen to mark each of the 100 years the estate has existed.

The first of 27,000 houses for returning war heroes and working families were built on the four square-mile estate in November 1921, with the ‘Garden City’ houses and iconic ‘Banjo’ closes recognised across the world.

Programme Leader for photography at the college, David Bennett said: “It’s not just an estate, it was the world’s largest estate. It was a model that town planners and developers used as a guinea pig to build future estates across the country.

“This was the world’s largest one and to live on the world’s largest one was very special.”

“Alot of students on the course were born and brought up in the estate. They had no idea before this project started that they lived on an estate. 

“They had no idea of the history of it and thought they were just living on a normal terraced street.”

BA (Hons) Photography student, Ruby Chapman said: “I don’t think I really realised how much space the estate actually covers and how much history is on your doorstep without even realising really.

“So much thought was obviously been put into it when it was being built- it’s fascinating. It’s right on your doorstep and you don’t even know.”

Topics explored include growing up black in Becontree, LGBTQ+ in Becontree, churches, pubs, allotments, front gardens, housing, movement of people, immigration and migration, energy, amongst many others.

Photo by Ruby Chapman

The 23-year-old focused her project on scrap and vintage cars.

“The opening of Dagenham’s Ford plant in 1931 created many automotive-related jobs in the area and brought many cars into the Becontree Estate,” said Ruby.

“90 years after its opening, the area is still home to many car enthusiasts as can be seen through my collection of images of Becontree’s old cars scattered throughout the estate. ”

She continued: “I noticed there was a large amount of scrap, classic and vintage cards on people’s driveways but they were derelict and decaying.”

“They’d been left for years so I tried to focus my project on those. I kept snapping them whenever I saw one so me and another student drove up and down every road of the estate.”

Student at Barking & Dagenham College, Jacob Schwar

Another BA (Hons) Photography student, Jacob Schwar, 21, said: “It has been a very challenging yet inspiring year working on this project, with Covid lockdowns forcing me to change everything; I had to really persevere to get anything done.

“However, it has taught me how to adapt and continue in times of adversity and to even produce some of my best work yet.”

The photos are on display until Tuesday, 31 August.

For more on this story, and the latest on our other local and national news, listen to Time 107.5FM


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