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Photo Essay: Heygate Grand Prix

Ahead of its demolishment, photographer Emily Cussins visited an Elephant & Castle estate as the community organised a go-kart race

Last weekend, in the south London area of Elephant & Castle, the community around the Heygate estate came together - for the first time in five years! - for a good old go kart race organised by Release the Wolves. Imaginative costumes and home made racing cars were everywhere, and the mood was top notch. Photographer Emily Cussins got the tip off from a friend and headed down to document not only the race, but a group of people who has been forced to move out as the estate is being demolished. We spoke to Cussins about the redevelopment's repercussions and what people got up to on this family outing...

Dazed Digital: Why did you decide to focus on the Heygate estate and its go kart race?
Emily Cussins: I try to document truly inspirational events or people that I think deserve a wider audience. I heard about the race from an illustrator friend who lives and works on community projects in and around Elephant & Castle.

DD: What's the story with the estate, why is it due to be demolished?
Emily Cussins: The estate is being demolished as part of a £1.5 billion scheme to redevelop the area around Elephant & Castle roundabout. It was home to more than 3,000 people. Now only four leaseholders remain.

DD: Seems to be a lot happening with the Elephant & Castle area… all for the better?
Emily Cussins: The remaining residents would most definitely not think so. The one I met has lived there for just under twenty years. He loves it there.

DD: Why had there not been any such events here for five years?
Emily Cussins: The most likely reason is the council doesn't want to give the locals any further reasons not to demolish the remainder of the estate. Events like this could attract too much attention towards it.

DD: What was the day like, any characters/anecdotes to share?
Emily Cussins: Crazy, brilliant, inspiring. The most inventive go kart designs the world has witnessed. One young guy got a bit over excited and drove straight off the start line into the wall. Undeterred he carried on clocking one of the fastest times. The Mickey Mouse head was another highlight. No idea where that came from.

DD: Who won?
Emily Cussins: Rapid Repa Racers (from Rockingham Play Association).