Lives Of (#Norwich) Council Estate Residents Documented In New Book
Getting on your bike to look for work, once encouraged by Norman Tebbit and now by Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, has always been a feature of working-class life, yet the perception remains that people living on council estates are both “stuck” in their communities and hostile to incomers. A new book, Moving Histories of Class and Community, debunks these myths while examining the deep attachment to place shown by residents of three Norwich estates.
“The movement to council estates is one of the biggest mass migrations that has taken place,” says Taylor. The poet Paul Farley has compared the building of massive estates on the periphery of British cities, to which millions of former inner-city dwellers moved between the 1920s and 1970s, to the Highland clearances of the 18th and 19th centuries. One way in which people coped with their new surroundings was to form fierce attachments to them, which were broken by further state-assisted migrations into national service or on to work programmes.
Other families were fragmented, in body if not in spirit, by individual members’ emigrations to Australia and Canada; yet even what Taylor terms “micro-migrations” of a few streets, deeply troubled some interviewees. What emerges is a collective sense of tension between the safety and belonging felt by those who have grown up and lived their lives on the three estates and their often precarious circumstances as a result of living there.
Residents are aware that all three estates carry a bad reputation within Norwich, yet on the whole care less about outside perceptions than about maintaining privacy, esteem and respectability as individuals in their local area – qualities Taylor hopes that she and Rogaly have preserved. “One woman we interviewed told us that she really feels [the book] has affirmed what she felt and gave her a voice. To capture something that people knew they felt, but hadn’t put into words before, that is key.”
- Moving Histories of Class and Community: Identity, Place and Belonging in Contemporary England (Identity Studies in the Social Sciences)
- by Ben Rogaly, Becky Taylor
- Buy it from the Guardian bookshop