Between Town & Country: The Suburban London Village
Suburbia is over 70 years old and the place where the majority of Londoners live work and play. The vast housing estates built during the inter war period of the 1920s and 1930s have now come of age and this ‘new’ London, which was often derided by contemporary writers as being ‘a weary and a dreary way of living, little houses in silent streets’, was more than compensated for by the improvement in living standards and individual space that the new first time buyers, mostly white-collar workers with steady jobs, were able to enjoy, with the added social status of home-ownership.
Today it is easy to forget that only a life-time ago these areas were made up of common and farm land with orchards, hedgerows and trees. These were flattened to make way for the rolling sea of bricks and mortar that became the new suburbia of largely semi-detached houses that we are now so familiar with, characterised by opposing styles of design from mock-Tudor, to Georgian and Modern, to name a few.
The symbolism of the area’s rural past can often be seen in the names given to the roads, avenues and closes which are often punctuated with a discriptive place name ending with the word ‘field’, ‘brook’, ‘woodland’, ‘coombe’ or ‘farm’. The national ideal of the 1920s and 1930s, of marrying town and country has been realised with each area taking on an individual identity with its own layout of shops, pubs and now mature open spaces with private gardens packaged and village-wrapped with their own unique identity and layout. Suburbia has now come of age and this ‘aesthetic desert of a society hemmed in by net curtains' has developed into a mature and prosperous entity away from the social and enviromental pressures of its inner city neighbour.
I am working on a long-term photo project on suburban London beginning with an up-to-date and contemporary look at local celebrations and events. There is a wide choice: a childs birthday party held at home or in the local fast food restaurant; a wedding or retirement party at the local pub or social centre; a christening or first communion; a St. George’s or St. Patrick’s day bash; Summer fetes and garden parties; a university graduation or teenagers collecting their exam results. All these events are representative of today’s life-styles and culture and the resulting pictures will form a social and historical record of contemporary suburban London.
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