LIVING ON TOP OF EACH OTHER Broadwater Farm is a housing estate in Tottenham that is notorious for a riot in 1985, but which is now one of the safest places in Haringey. In World War II, 3.5 million houses in London were damaged or destroyed by bombs. Instead of rebuilding the old rows of houses, they were cleared away to make room for ‘modernist’ developments like the Barbican and the Royal Festival Hall. Tower block estates were seen as a bold new way of living, and when Broadwater Farm was finished in 1973 it won awards for its futuristic design. But, like other estates around the country, it was soon dogged by unemployment, poverty and crime. “The design of the estate, with it’s tunnels in the sky linking the various blocks and dark car parks, made the estate a haven for criminals,” says Paul Denehy, Broadwater Farm’s Estate Manager. “They built the estate on stilts with car parks underneath. That’s where all the guys hung out,” says former resident Classford Stirling. “People used it for drugs, crime, all different things. People got scared to come over here, even the police. We had a stage where it was a no-go area.” Just three years after it was finished, the Department of Environment suggested it should be demolished. At the same time tension between ethnic minorities and the police was growing. “People objected to the way the police treated black and ethnic minority people and they took to the streets,” says Classford. “Riots were happening everywhere, in Bristol, Brixton, Manchester. No one’s condoning it, but you have to look at what built up the frustration; things were at an all time low with the police.” Racism, poverty, unemployment and unfair policing meant that in October 1985, following riots in Handsworth and Brixton, tension on Broadwater Farm exploded.
DID YOU KNOW... Broadwater Farm used to be... a real farm and a dairy!
DID YOU KNOW... The blocks were built on stilts to protect it from the underground River Moselle which flooded Tottenham for hundreds of years until the 1960s.
DID YOU KNOW... The estate was so popular when it was first built that desperate would-be tenants entered a lottery to win a home there.
YOUTH ACTION “Things were getting out of control on the estate,” says Classford Stirling, who helped set up the Broadwater Fam Youth Association in 1981. “There was an old chip shop that had been closed for years and we just took it over - kicked the door off and threw all the stuff over the balcony. We cleaned it up and created an organisation that had power - real power. We got young people into local politics and people listened. Things were changing. Princess Diana invited herself down to play pool in the club.” But the success of the Youth Association did little to ease the tension between black residents and the police.
RUNNING RIOT In October 1985 the police arrested Floyd Jarrett, a member of the Youth Association. While they were searching his mother Cynthia Jarrett’s house, she suffered a heart attack and died. “There was a protest,” remembers Classford. “Because it was such a large crowd - and it wasn’t just black people the police blocked off the road. Somebody threw a stone and it escalated from there. People began to rip up pavements and it became a war - literally. They broke into a shop, got all the cans in the trolleys and used them as weapons.” The riot lasted through the night. 58 police officers and 24 people were taken to hospital with injuries, and one officer, PC Keith Blakelock, was killed. Three estate residents were sent to prison for his murder before their convictions were overturned. “You can’t imagine what this place was like after the riot,” says Classford. “The place looked like a war zone. There were two police every 20 yards, all over the estate morning, noon and night. Doors were being kicked off - it was like you were in a military zone. It was occupied.”
DID YOU KNOW... In 1985 Jamaican Reggae star Junior Delgado’s song ‘Broadwater Farm’, about the crime and poverty on the estate, predicted the riots that would occur a few months later.
DID YOU KNOW... After the riot, 350 people were arrested,160 were charged and 40 were sent to prison. 9165 police officers were put on stand-by and 271 homes were raided by armed police.
DID YOU KNOW... Before, and since, the riots, housing experts from across Europe and America visited the Farm to learn from the Youth Association and residents.
THE GREAT ESTATE Thanks to the Youth Association and other community groups, just one year after the riot, crime had fallen dramatically and police and race relations had improved. Now, after £33 million of investment and two decades of community action, things are even better. “It’s still dark under the blocks but it was far darker with the walkways overhead as well,” says Paul Denehy, the Estate Manager. “Standing in the main entrance of the estate used to feel like you were underground. When we first knocked it all down, people couldn’t believe how open and spacious it felt. They were standing there looking up at the sky.” And the only place you’ll find young people hanging around now is the community centre, built in the 1990s to hold sports clubs for young people. “I started playing football after I got signed for the team and from there on I’ve had chances for clubs,” says 17year-old Antwon. Ozzie, who’s been going to the centre for over 10 years, says, “We’re all connected as a family now. As coaches we’re guiding the younger ones and getting trained at the same time.” The centre also runs midnight football to keep kids off the street at night. “Some people think that Broadwater Farm is a bad place because of what’s happened in the past and because there’s lot of black people. But when you come here it’s not really like that. We all get along.” says 12-year-old Shaun. "We've had people come from all over the world,” says Paul. “Sometimes they look at the structural redesign, sometimes at the solutions we've found to a community this diverse. Even an adviser to Bill Clinton wanted to talk to us about the integration of black youths. There's a whole range of lessons to be learned from Broadwater Farm.”
DID YOU KNOW... 25 young footballers from Broadwater Farm are now training at Arsenal. Three girls have gone to Tottenham Hotspur.
DID YOU KNOW... There are over 150 CCTV cameras on the estate.
DID YOU KNOW... In 1985 there were 875 break-ins, 50 muggings and 50 assaults in Broadwater Farm. In 2005, there was one house burglary.
This booklet was produced by young people at Exposure, Haringeyâ€™s award-winning youth media charity, with help from BTCV, Broadwater Farm Community Centre and residents, and Classford Stirling. It was paid for by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Antwon Rowe Ozzie Guler
Alice Johns Nick May
Alex Gould Hazal Karabulut
020 8883 0260
The following young people took part in this project: