London Met hosts community event for oral history project on the Andover Estate

Professor John Gabriel and Dr Alya Khan with Gulser Rose Kaya presented findings from their ongoing community research project ‘Life on the Andover Estate’ at The Great Hall.

Date: 27 July 2023

Two academics from the School of Social Sciences and Professions, Professor John Gabriel and Dr Alya Khan, with one of the estate’s volunteers Gulser Rose Kaya, BSc (hons), held an evening event at London Met’s Great Hall on 10 July presenting their ongoing oral history project on the Andover Estate. 

The Andover is a council estate in Finsbury Park, North London that has received significant coverage since it was built in the 1950s, often portraying the estate in a negative light. One of the main functions of the oral history project is to hear directly from the estate residents, in their own words.

For the event, John, Alya, and Gulser Rose invited estate residents, community organisations, and local councillors to discuss their memories of the estate and how it has changed. A video of the project interviews and photographs was shown to the audience which sparked a vibrant discussion that explored the effects of the current cost of living crisis, and ongoing issues like housing, health, education, and leisure.

Alya Khan said: “It was good to see such an engaged audience, and to hear directly from the community. When we began this project in 2022 we wanted to give the residents a chance to speak for themselves”

London Met’s Great Hall also hosted an exhibition of the local community groups that operate on the estate, including African drums, and a series of antique Turkish dresses and outfits donated by the Hornsey Ataturk Turkish School.

Several taxicabs brought groups of residents, including those with mobility issues, to make the event as inclusive and accessible as possible. It was also attended by Lord Mayor of Islington Gary Heather, and councillors Mick O’Sullivan and Asima Shaikh. The attendees were invited to engage with John, Alya and Gulser Rose to celebrate the history of the estate and to discuss approaches to community building and social transformation for a positive, sustainable future. They screened a film of project interviews and photographs which sparked discussion at the event.

Gulser Rose commented that, “ as one of the estate’s volunteers and a local resident I saw it as my role to ensure that community engagement and participation was built into the design, organisation and format of the event”

One attendee, Gary Miller, who moved to the Andover in the 70s and has since returned to work in the community centre was glad to hear stories that showed the estate favourably.  “We were one of, if not the first black families on the estate. Moving to the estate I was just so happy to have my own room. It is nice to see it shown in a positive light, there is a lot of good that happens on the estate.”

Lord Mayor Gary Heather spoke several times throughout the evening, detailing the work the council has done to help secure and improve infrastructure within the Andover Estate. Gary wrote “For me the evening was a great success, a great turnout and the displays were top quality”. Councillor Asima Shaikh wrote “I thought this was an amazing event (and the team) had obviously engaged and connected with the community on the estate.”

Director of London Engagement at the University, Sophie Cloutterbuck, also attended the event, saying: “It was amazing to see Alya and John’s work on show in the Great Hall, and to see so many attendees from the Andover. As a founding member of the Islington Anchor Institution Network, London Met strives to be a truly civic university and supporting this kind of community research is a key part of that.” 

The event was supported by the Global Diversities and Inequalities Research Centre and the Centre for Life Writing and Oral History(CliOH). Recordings taken throughout the project will be archived in a CLiOH oral history archive (the presentation will also be published on the university website).

John Gabriel hopes that the project will provide an important resource in itself and basis for change. “We hope that these stories are able to inform local policies and community engagement and development in Islington. We are indebted to the Andover residents for sharing their stories with us.”

Life on the Andover Estate event at the Great Hall