The event was attended by staff, residents and many of the people and organisations that have all played at part in the first 50 years of Barnsbury Housing Association.
Our special guest speaker, David Orr, National Housing Federation Chief Executive, talked about the importance of small housing associations and called for the revival of the community activism that inspired the founding of Barnsbury Housing Association.
David Orr said: ’When I was at primary school 50 years ago, there were 55 million people in the UK, and our national disgrace was 60,000 children living in temporary accommodation. We now have 66 million people and 120,000 children in temporary accommodation.
‘We have simply not built enough homes. All of us can do something about that disgraceful fact. What kind of impact would Barnsbury HA’s founders have if they were to start up today?’
Barnsbury HA chair David Baker, then a newly elected GLC councillor, was one of the leading protesters. ‘There was growing concern that GLC and borough housing programmes were creating social problems, “building barracks for the workers” as one of our committee members put it.’
The protests saved the terrace, with the GLC even lending the new housing association a mortgage that paid for the site and the conversion of the 12 houses into 30 flats for rent.
David Orr’s talk was followed by a question and answer session with a panel of some of the earliest and, in the case of one caretaker, still serving staff.
Geoff Lewis, one of the first tenant reps and later, for 31 years, Barnsbury HA’s manager, said his father had said he couldn’t understand ‘why anyone would want to live in a khazi like Islington’.
Geoff was also on hand to say a few words about his early days with Barnsbury HA, how he got involved, became general manager and stuck around for 30 years!
We would like to thank everyone that came along to celebrate this occasion with Barnsbury Housing Association and everyone that contributed to the film and event.
The film is now available to watch on our 50th anniversary page.