The Vandal Factory theatre company are based in York/Leeds and consist of Natalie Quatermass and Henry Raby. They have just finished a week of research and development on a new show, English Dirt about the history of land-ownership. They are holding a work-in-progress sharing in Leeds on Saturday 14th September:
What: English Dirt is a performance collaboration between Flora Greysteel and Vandal Factory. This is a 40 minute, script in hand, work-in-progress performance. It explores the history of English land ownership and relates it to current crises such as climate, housing and nationalism.
Where: Middle Floor Wharf Chamber, Leeds LS2 7EQ
When: 14th September. Doors 17:00, Joe Solo support act 17.30, English Dirt 18:00
50% the proceeds will go to the Land Justice Network and 50% of the proceeds will go to launching English Dirt’s Kick-starter.
Accessibility: Unfortunately the space is not yet wheelchair accessible, however it was our only affordable option at this time and we will be seeking more accessible spaces in the future. This is something the venue is seeking to address as soon as possible. We are very sorry if this means you are unable to attend and we can provide a recording of the live performance.
The next stage of development: We are looking to make a 75 minute performance of English Dirt in 2020. In order for this to happen, we need partners, collaborators and funding. We hope that this event will act as a means of instigating those conversations as well as us gathering some vital feedback from a friendly, critical audience.
This post discusses a research project and accompanying exhibition examining land ownership and new purpose built student accommodation in Newcastle upon Tyne. Written by Julia Heslop.
Shieldfield is an estate on the outskirts of Newcastle city centre which has seen increasing development pressures, with a 467 per cent increase in student housing numbers between 2011 and 2015 which has affected the character and social mix of the area. After years of fighting developments residents feel distant from institutions of power, ignored and disempowered, as one resident explains, ‘We feel as if we’ve been left behind. I’m passionate about Shieldfield […] I’ve always lived here and I’ve seen all the changes. But it’s so sad, the decline in the community, and the spirit’s gone. We’ve been promised different things so many times and we’ve been let down’. Residents are increasingly worried about the long term future of the area, fearing that the close proximity of the estate to the city centre will create continuing development pressures which could displace existing residents.
The artwork and research project One Hundred and Thirty Million Pounds of Earth, on display at Shieldfield Art Works, was made in response to the dramatic rise in new developments. A collaboration between community group Dwellbeing and Newcastle University Planning students, the work traces the value and ownership of the new student residences. The work tells a story of a neighbourhood caught in the middle of a global land and development market. After the 2008 financial crisis, student housing was seen as a ‘sure profit’ for developers and investors alike, and this created a boom in the student accommodation market which has been replicated around the UK. For some residents, the estate of Shieldfield has become an island, leaving people feeling ‘hemmed in’ by new developments that are physically and socially disconnected from the wider neighbourhood.
The land titles for all twenty student accommodation blocks were bought, tracing the owner, their location, how much they paid for the land and the date of purchase. This was mapped and then each of the new student accommodation buildings was recreated for the exhibition using handmade bricks, made by residents, local children and artists. The size of each model corresponds to the amount paid for the land, with each brick worth £250,000. But land values vary hugely, depending on the market conditions at the time it was bought. For example the student accommodation block Camden Court (owned by BAE Systems Pension Funds) was bought for more than £23 million in 2011, whilst in comparison the building The Shield (owned by Property GP1 Ltd, registered in Guernsey), was purchased for a mere £1 million in 2015. This money, totalling over £130 million, ‘invested’ into the area to build the new developments is international in nature, over 50% of it lying offshore, and has little relationship to the local or regional economy. As a result the work lays bare the vast sums of money flowing through the neighbourhood – money that barely touches the estate.
One Hundred and Thirty Million Pounds of Earth highlights the uneven value of land transactions in the area and prompts questions about the role of international capital in local development: who decides how the value of land is calculated? Who has a say in urban planning and development processes? What is the true value of the land beneath our feet?
This work was made as part of Dwellbeing, a group of people that live or work in Shieldfield who have come together in response to the impacts of rapid urban development in the neighbourhood. Dwellbeing organises conversations, events, art activities, newsletters and trips to build knowledge about the issues that affect the local area.
Concept: Julia Heslop
Design: Julia Heslop and Hannah Marsden
Data: Josh Chambers, James Maloney and Hannah Swainston
The next national gathering will take place on the 11th November at Friends of the Earth’s Offices in London from 12-5pm with option pub visit afterwards for the freelancers among us…
The meeting will be a chance for new and old members to meet, discuss, and make plans for the coming months of land justice action! If you’d like to get involved in LJN work over the next few months, we’d love to see you there.
It’d be massively helpful if you could quickly RSVP using the form below so we can send you the agenda ahead of time. And also so we can find enough comfy chairs for you all 😉 !
On Saturday 14th April, after a week of rain, on what felt like the first warm and sunny day of the year, just shy of a hundred people gathered in central London for the inaugural Land Justice Network Landlords’ Game guided walk.
Territories of Life is a video toolkit with a purpose. It’s aim is to bring stories of resistance, resilience and hope to indigenous communities on the frontline of the global rush for land.
We really hope that Land For What? will be able to put together something similar for communities in the UK facing land grabs and clearances by developers and corporations. For example communities fighting against fracking and social housing under threat of being cleared.
Produced by LifeMosaic, a non-profit based in Scotland, the Territories of Life toolkit consists of ten stories that were filmed in communities across Indonesia, Philippines, Guatemala, Ecuador, Colombia, Paraguay, Tanzania and Cameroon.