Wornington Word – Kevin Percival

The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea. Knightsbridge. Notting Hill. Property. Harrods. Money. Bourgeoisie. Rolls. Bentley. Chelsea Tractor. White and uptight. Rich. A series of stereotypes. A series of assumptions made. A series of images: of great wealth; of London gentry, all suits and ball gowns; of the richest in society; of politicos and financiers; of big businessmen and banks; of embassies and Royalty.

‘Wornington Word’ is about none of these. It is an alternative view of a complex, multi-layered place, as told by the residents who live there and by reading between the lines of the propaganda of gentrification. In many ways a reflection of the broader trend across London, the project focuses on and celebrates the numerous overlapping communities that make up this diverse area through the lens of a single housing estate in the midst of redevelopment.

One of the most densely populated regions of the UK, a 2017 study by Trust for London and the New Policy Institute found that Kensington & Chelsea has the greatest income inequality of any London borough.

Private rent is the least affordable in London and yet these communities still exist, in many cases over multiple generations, on the same estates. ‘Wornington Word’ is a project instigated by Renegade Theatre to record and archive the history of Wornington Green estate residents from the 1960s to the present, at a time when the estate was permanently changing. I worked in partnership with Renegade, developing my own documentary response to living on the estate alongside a programme of residents’ workshops to document these stories before they disappear into London’s background hum.

‘Wornington Word’ documents through photography and oral history the little-known story of a single housing estate in Kensington, West London. Set against a background of austerity, gentrification and the Grenfell Tower fire, the estate is vividly illustrated through photographs of people and place and the residents’ own stories.

You can find out more about this project and listen to the residents’ oral histories here.

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