All my projects are motivated by personal pain and memories, with my own story embedded within. This project was completed over 2 years and captured the last people left living on 'Queenstown' high-rise flats in Blackpool. Queenstown has the highest male suicide rate in Blackpool and Blackpool has the highest male suicide rate in the country. These flats are now demolished and I felt it was important to have an accurate historical record and testimony to how the community lived in this somewhat 'notorious' area for the benefit of future generations. Suicide, drugs and violence are a common theme expressed among the residents. The images serve as an archive as to how the inhabitants endured in their environment and the buildings they spent their lives in. I wish to preserve their memories and reveal these culturally significant problems caused by living in a dwindling form of housing that was built to maximise on the densities and amounts of people living in that area of land and not their 'quality of life'.
I always collect audio on the go, which produces unique tangible and visual accounts of all my sitters' lives and their time spent living on Queenstown. As I am keen to create a relationship with each of them, this helps reveal their personal stories and memories of good times... and bad. This live testimony from each occupant expressing their individual views and feelings towards their rehoming and past experiences on Queenstown allowed me to gain insight and an in-depth understanding of these people.
The work provides a truthful, visual statement that shows how different social classes live. Huge gaps in wealth and class cause major problems in our society, of which sadly, suicide, drugs and violence are a common 'relief' and theme expressed among lower classes, rapidly producing instability in our society, as shown in Queenstown.
Queenstown tells a story of ordinary people striving to live alongside social problems, and how society has installed rules and ideas to influence and affect them, manifesting themselves clearly amongst the residents, people living their lives accordingly through these concepts as if it is normal. An enduring proud subculture leaving their old estate behind with a strong desire for a better future.
Ultimately, I hope to bring a window of reality through which the audience can see a truth they would otherwise be blind to. Showing what it means to be a sand-grown on Queenstown Estate and what these people actually do. To highlight how areas of social segregation with decreased social mobility cause deprivation that promote undesirable, negative, dysfunctional behaviours. Such behaviours invariably create a mindset of disassociation, which continues a vicious circle of cyclical violence and isolation.
Dave at 58
"I had a friend from school. He lived about 4 flights below me. One christmas he came up and asked for some money for drugs. I said, "No, but you can come up to mine for some dinner", he says, “No... No... Im going upstairs to see one of my mates". He threw himself out of the window 20 minutes later. I was just sitting down for my dinner, and he went flying past my window."
I arranged to meet Scotch Eddie on 22/03/2015 at 2pm. We took the lift. I remember it creaking badly. He then cracked a joke and took a huge drag on his vape.
"I had just come home from work, and I heard a sound like fireworks going off… I thought to myself, what's that? Val opened the window and stuck her head out saying, "Oh Eddie, there's a body down there, and the head is rolling around the bins“. It was a young guy in his Early 30’s. He jumped from the 16th floor and caught his head on the way down."
The Heart of A Lion
Eddie and Val are working class people (the beating heart of our society) helping each other, enduring and surviving together amongst the dystopia. A proud and patriotic subculture looking forward to leaving their old estate behind with a strong desire for a better future.
"My neighbour set fire to her house to get rehomed quicker. She was a drug addict, was on the game, sold and took drugs. She had four dogs which she didn’t look after properly. They used her house as a toilet. SO... THEY PUT HER IN A NEW PROPERTY DOWN NEAR THE DEVONSHIRE ARMS."
“Mental health issues or alcohol problems and drugs… They shouldn’t be in the highrise flats. Over the last 15 years it has deteriorated because they have just put the wrong people here."
Anyone For Tennis?
"On Queens Town there are security guards that patrol the area on a daily basis to no avail. You have to be brave to do the security here."
Most people I interviewed kept some sort of weapon to protect themselves daily from booze/drug fuelled fights vandalism theft and abuse.
A family photo on the wall of Eddie's deceased dad holding a shotgun.
A Queen Sized Bed
"Close your eyes and think of England. There are people outside regularly having nooky in my stairwell. Honestly! The last time was Two weeks ago. I was in bed and I heard this noise and thought, What the fuck is going on? Bloody 2 o’clock in the morning."
Ash and Hair
The image above is the typical kitchen on the 17th floor of a high rise building where a suicide took place. The area is renowned for suicides and has the highest rate in England. More tragedy and emotion was at one time flowing around this uncomplicated kitchen area than most people in your average family will ever witness in their entire lives.
Eddie is looking forward to being rehomed into the new maisonettes below.
Framed By The Old
Hello this is the Sexline...
Kathleen was a big, loud lady with a great sense of humour. She was always cracking jokes. She started off by mentioning how she always gets unwanted phone calls about this time of day so she now answers by saying...
Rabbits and Chickens
“Someone broke in and stole my rabbits and chickens… I told the coppers next time ill be waiting for them and ill blow their fucking brains out. The copper said, "Its OK, I don’t blame you"."
Dean Stone 1977-2013
This tattoo is a memoriam to her late husband who was schizophrenic and self medicated with cider to control his symptoms. She came home one evening and found him dead behind the front room door.
"People are trying to pinch stuff. They think the whole place is empty, so they come in and take stuff. I have to keep the door locked all the time. My son came to the door and shouted' "are you in, are you in?". I said, “Yes, I'm in“ and this fella just came walking out of my flat. I said, "right, keep the door locked all the time“. You just don’t know what they are up too."
"Had a woman, had a job, had a car. I had everything."
Bigger and Better