Film project documents life on Britain’s largest estate

Aerial of the Becontree Estate while it was being constructed

Aerial of the Becontree Estate while it was being constructed - Credit: Archant

The sprawling network of 27,000 homes that makes up Becontree Estate was built almost a century ago as a “home for heroes” after the First World War.

Today it remains the largest council housing development in Britain and will now see its history documented in film.

Social enterprise Catch 22 has been backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund to spend this summer uncovering the lives of those who have lived there.

The project will bring together young people aged 14 to 19 who will be trained as interviewers and filmmakers to record the life stories of Becontree’s elderly residents.

At the end of the three months, the finished film will be used as part of BBC Two’s history series, The Great British Story - A People’s History.

Organiser Ioannis Athanasiou said: “The Stories of Becontree programme provides a community film course, where the young people will get an arts award qualification, work with relevant professionals at Valence House Museum, interview people and take part in film production.”

As the coordinator for Catch 22’s community engagement programmes in the borough, Ioannis sees the film as a way of inspiring local people.

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“It’s often amazing what young people don’t know about where they live. We’re looking forward to hearing more about the colourful stories that emerge from elderly people’s memories. They will create a unique picture of Barking and Dagenham and enhance perspectives of younger participants,” he said.

Recruitment for the young filmmakers is ongoing, and the project is also on the look out for adult volunteers who can commit to three months (July to September) to assist.

The volunteers needn’t have any particular qualifications but familiarity with operating video cameras and sound recording equipment is desirable.

There is also a call-out for any older person who lives or has lived on the estate and would like to share his or her story.

Catch22 will be working in partnership with borough’s archives, Valence House and UCL’s Archaeology Department.

For more information on the project, contact Ioannis on 0208 591 9855 or email