Bishopsgate Institute launch Tower Blocks UK archive
In early 2022 we began discussions with the Bishopsgate Institute about the best way to preserve and archive the history of Tower Blocks UK and our work back in the 80s and 90s when we were known as the 'National Tower Blocks Network' (NTBN). We were keen that the work of the tenants movement, architects, activists and housing campaigners shouldn't be lost and we had a wealth of documents and materials, some dating back nearly 40 years!
So we were thrilled when Stefan Dickers; Special Collections and Archives manager at Bishopsgate offered a home to our precious material, in a way that makes it accessible to all for many years to come.
Our team at Tower Blocks UK began searching through all our old paperwork, boxes, basements and lofts. We even travelled to Yorkshire to collect some documents from former colleagues, and together, we were able to find many fantastic items; from editions of the NTBN newsletter 'The View', to our Fire Safety Information Pack and NTBN meeting posters and old photographs.
Thanks to the amazing team at Bishopsgate, all our items were neatly ordered and chronicled and 3 boxes full of material are now available for public viewing at the Bishospgate Institute headquarters - a magnificent old building located at 230 Bishopsgate, just across the road from Liverpool Street Station in Central London.
Whilst going over these historical materials we were able to compare old notes about a block visit we undertook in Wandsworth in the 90s, to a more recent visit to the same block - only to discover that several disrepair issues noted back then - still haven't been fixed to this day! Our old NTBN directories documented that former tenants of the Ledbury Estate in Peckham had been complaining about gaps and cracks in the walls of their flats as far back as the early 90s - these notes helped tenants to take recent legal action against their landlord, Southwark Council, as they were able to prove that they were made aware of the problem decades ago.
There were many more examples of where lessons could and should have been learned, but weren't. In many ways, the archive demonstrates just how little has changed, and how many missed opportunities there have been for decision-makers to take action or implement new policies to keep tower block tenants safer, but have failed to do so.
We are pleased that the archive has had a few visitors already - and that further evidence is entering the public domain, demonstrating that tenants, campaigners and experts have been raising the alarm for many decades on fire and structural safety in blocks of flats but have been mostly ignored by successive governments.
If you decide to take a visit, we would love to hear from you! Do drop us a line, or tag us in on social media @TowerBlocksUK.
Keep an eye on our News page and newsletters too, as later in 2023 we are planning to hold an open event at Bishopsgate to celebrate the Tower Blocks UK archive and our 40 year anniversary!