The largest council estate in Britain and home to over 85,000 residents, The Becontree Estate is a place of national and international significance. The building of the estate was an unprecedented feat of local and National government planning. Becontree embodies the many changes and challenges that communities across Britain have undergone over the course of the past century. Issues of migration, equal rights, industrialisation, unemployment and refuge have played out across this sprawling neighbourhood over the past 100 years, and the centenary presents an opportunity to tell this story.
Becontree is a success in many ways and has shown resilience in the face of many challenges over the decades. It is also acknowledged that work, investment and new energy is needed to revitalise the estate, improving the lives of its many residents and to meet the original ambitions for this special place. The centenary is a moment to share the lessons of Becontree’s journey and help chart a positive path for its next 100 years.
- Living Together – a major commission led by artist Verity-Jane Keefe which includes making a new archive of life on the estate, the Becontree Collection, involving hundreds of local residents, past and present. A particular emphasis will be placed on filling gaps in the post-municipal era from 1970 to 2021. The Becontree Collection will form part of an exhibition at the Royal institute of British Architects with touring potential to RIBA North.
- The Becontree Group – an active forum of local residents will help shape and inform the programme as a whole. A Youth Group will also be formed and offered support and grants to help young people participate.
- The restoration and public opening of a Becontree Home, once belonging to Alderman Fred Jones, a former Mayor of Dagenham. The house will be a community meeting point, a site of learning, and an outpost to the RIBA exhibition.
- A year-long public programme will include film screenings, guided walks, live music gigs, discos, coffee mornings, and public talks.
- Writers and academics will be invited to take part in residencies in Becontree during the year, in partnership with Kingston University and will contribute texts to talks and public conversations.
- The production of a new documentary film in collaboration with filmmaker Grace Harper and These New Puritans. A training and skills development programme will be delivered by Create Jobs alongside the production of the film, aimed at local young people aged 18-24.
- A new radio broadcast exploring the history of the estate will be made.
- A Learning Programme with local schools in collaboration with RIBA and the Barbican will reach and involve primary and secondary school children in Becontree.
- A youth exchange project with young people based in Dagenham, and Halewood in Liverpool to explore shared experiences of living on the estates in the context of built environment.
- An estate-wide gardening competition will be reactivated, as a way to promote and celebrate the green spaces of the estate, and highlight the changing role of the front garden. To be accompanied by a Becontree Estate edition of BBC Gardeners’ Question Time.
- A special edition Centenary drink created by Company Drinks with Becontree residents through a local foraging and making programme.
- A project website will be both an online repository for the project, and the process, including commissioned essays, documentation of the public programme, work in progress, online portal for the Becontree Group and a place to find out what is happening, where and when.
- Artists and architects will be commissioned to carry out a series of major public realm projects across Becontree. These include:
- A project to improve green spaces and local ecologies
- Reimagining and redesign of municipal signage across the estate
- A new public lighting project in a park.
- Site-specific street furniture
- Commemorative plaques for residents past and present.
- A new playground
The Becontree Centenary is generously supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and London Borough of Barking and Dagenham’s Strategic Community Infrastructure Levy.