THE STONEBRIDGE PEOPLE LIBRARY
- Breathing Lights -
2016 | London, UK
Stonebridge Estate, Harlesden, London, is an area that falls within the lowest 5% of urban deprivation across the whole UK, and typifies the disconnection and rise of loneliness found across London.
It was also here that the body of isolated pensioner John Sheppard was discovered in 1993, four years after he had died, his hallway jammed full of unopened letters, bills and final demands. In the last 30 years this area has undergone three complete physical rebuilds and each time these reinventions have failed to address persistent social problems and inspire the community to unite. In fact, the latest Estate design has no public spaces, shops or dwell spaces making it appear as if opportunities for connection between residents have been deliberately ‘designed out’.
Working with Hyde Housing and alongside their front line housing officers I began to meet and gain the trust of several of the elderly individuals that Hyde were concerned about. With their help and suggestions, I created an estate-wide art installation using light to raise awareness within the estate of the issues of social isolation. This was done by linking the breathing patterns of some of the elderly residents to lamps that stood their windows around the estate, breathing ‘light’ up and down in brightness, to show that someone was there behind the window.
A new public meeting place was created within the Hyde Housing Office and people started to come together to meet and re-meet each other. The Stonebridge People Library was created through a photography project inspired by the film, designed to visually replace residents back in to their estate. I was able to leave this new awareness and the momentum it had created with the people it had energised on the estate.