The New Brutality

For piccolo, flute, alto flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, 2 horns, 2 trombones, bass drum, 3 violins, 2 violas, 2 cellos and contrabass

‘The New Brutality’ is inspired by the relationship between the decline of brutalist architecture since the late 20th century and the systematic oppression of those often inhabiting these buildings by those in positions of political power. Large-scale housing estates, built in the brutalist style from the 1950s onwards became home to hundreds of thousands of working class families in inner-city Great Britain; whilst they were considered very desirable originally, they became neglected and under-maintained by city councils throughout the rest of the century, and as a result their value and the living conditions in these locations declined considerably.

Eventually, councils and governments increasingly began to see these housing estates as a problem that needed solving; these ‘unsightly’ buildings with their outdated infrastructure began to be replaced with more contemporary structures, more in-line with social ideals set out by the Conservative and New Labour governments of the late 20th/early 21st century.

This was branded ‘regeneration’ by the authorities; however whilst the residents of these structures were promised priority access to the new accommodation (after having to find temporary residence elsewhere during demolition and construction), the number flats in the new housing estates were often well below previous numbers and the cost of these new flats were often well above the budget of most working class families. A notable example of this was the Heygate Estate in Southwark, London. Residents were gradually evicted (the majority of them reluctantly) from the estate (originally built in 1974) between 1999 and 2013. The estate is still in the process of being demolished, and there are no projected dates for the completion of the new estate as of yet. Meanwhile, many of the residents have been forced to relocate well away from their community in the south London area as housing costs have risen dramatically since many of the residents first moved to the area in the late 20th century.

Just to the south of Heygate lies the Aylesbury Estate. The council are attempting to ‘regenerate’ the estate in the same way as they are supposedly planning with Heygate; however this time around, there are residents who are refusing to leave the estate, and they have also been joined by social activists who have begun squatting in the empty flats in order to prevent the council from demolishing the structure. In response, in March 2015,the new owners of the estate who wish to demolish the site erected a fence around the perimeter of the estate; residents can only enter and leave through a single checkpoint manned by security staff 24 hours a day. They are not allowed visitors, and are often subject to intimidating behaviour by the staff patrolling the site. They are effectively being held to ransom in their own homes by a capitalist-driven government displaying a blatant disregard for the livelihoods of their citizens in favour of financial gain.

In my view, the government are re-appropriating  these structures built with the intention of providing accommodation of a decent standard to those previously unable to afford it and a space for a community to grow and thrive to oppress those who do not fit into their unrelenting capitalist narrative established in the era of Margaret Thatcher; a situation more brutal than the aesthetics of these buildings ever were.

Dedicated to the residents of the Aylesbury Estate, and the people and organisations working tirelessly to stand up for them.

More information on the current situation at Aylesbury can be found here.