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Grange Farm Book (2022)
Grange Farm Book (2022)Courtesy of My Yard Changemakers

Young photographers capture life on their vanishing London council estate

Grange Farm Book is a joyful photographic souvenir of an extraordinary community that flourished in non-secure housing, created by its young inhabitants

Grange Farm Estate in South Harrow was on the brink of being demolished when the estate’s young inhabitants got together to celebrate and immortalise their community. With the support of the charity My Yard and the help of industry creatives, a group of 10-16-year-olds documented life on their estate using disposable, medium-format cameras, creating Grange Farm Book – an anthology of photographs commemorating their soon-to-be-vanished home.

“By the time this book has reached your hands the estate as we know it has been knocked down and regenerated, most people moved on and many of this community separated,” explains My Yard founder, Rachel Dimond. “The core of this community came together as non-secure tenants through a common denominator of trauma. Many moved in knowing no one, flats were falling to disrepair pending demolition. The talk of drugs and violence wasn’t just rumours but experienced by many. Initially, I was told we couldnʼt hold teen activities on Grange Farm due to the risk of ‘gang violence’ when we began working there. Three years later, we had 130 young people – some from surrounding areas – to participate in our summer camp.” 

Alongside a range of schemes including bringing surplus food to the neighbourhood, My Yard helped the estate’s younger generation create a self-initiated project called Changemakers – a network dedicated to helping one another and forging new connections. Residents barbeques, gardening, food markets, and new friendships began to flourish. Dimond tells us, “Art soon took over the grey boards of regeneration and sports took over the play areas.” 

The Changemakers’ agenda swiftly gathered momentum. “Once the community centre opened it was like being woken from a fever dream. I don’t even remember much about the estate before the Changemakers,” recalls Dani NʼGuessan, former Grange Farm resident and Changemakers founder. “I thought of the centre like some kind of lighthouse. We’d walk in and things would just happen. We’d cook, sing, dance. Everything we did just felt like a long warm hug. During lockdown, surprisingly the only huge change was the physical distance, but emotionally that warmth was still there, and even stronger. We’d have the kids deliver food bags to residents at least once a week to help those unable to go outside. It was also when our group chat came about which helped everyone stay connected and feel less alone.” 

“This project got us thinking about the future – something many of the young ones dismissed or rarely thought about” – Dani NʼGuessan

The idea to make a book – a souvenir of Grange Farm – evolved from a series of community youth events with visiting artists and photographers Roydon Misseldine, Stephanie Francis Shanahan, Neesha Champaneria, Jackson Bowley, Rory Mullen, Labyrinth, Bimpe Adenusi, and Henry Gorse. “We put on a series of workshops with guest artists to inspire and encourage creativity, embracing a DIY approach using a variety of accessible and upcycled materials,” Gorse recalls. “The idea is about giving the young people a platform to express themselves and tell their own stories. To have confidence in what is yours and own it.”

As a spokesperson for Changemakers, NʼGuessan tells Dazed about the effect making the book had on the everyday lives of the young people involved: “For me personally it was about falling back in love with where I live, where I grew up. It brought out the creativity in everyone, it gave us a sudden burst of confidence and determination to actually get out there and do something, to do everything and anything,” she says. “This project got us thinking about the future – something many of the young ones dismissed or rarely thought about. But now, it feels as though a little bit of hope and bravery has come out of everyone, even myself.”

Take a look through the gallery above for a glimpse of Grange Farm Book

You can follow the Changemakers and My Yard Instagram accounts to keep up to date with their projects. And you can buy your copy of Grange Farm Book here now