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This Was Forever (2007)

First Light Movies

Main image of This Was Forever (2007)
video, 10 mins, colour
Production CompanyPolkadotsonraindrops
In association with First Light
Direction facilitated byMark Aitken

A look at Manor Garden Allotments in Hackney Wick and their importance to the local community.

Show full synopsis

This short documentary - funded by First Light and produced, filmed and directed by young people - follows a group of East London allotment owners who face losing their land as part of the 2012 London Olympics redevelopment plans.

While This Was Forever touches on the allotment owners' legal battle to prevent the closure of Manor Gardens, its primary focus is exploring the importance of the land to the individuals, families and the community connected to it.

Situated by the River Lea, with the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf as a backdrop, Manor Gardens is an unexpected oasis in an otherwise deprived urban area - 'our Shangri-La in the clouds' as one allotment owner describes it. And while the plots may have begun life in the 1900s as reclaimed rubbish dumps, it is clear that they have become both a sanctuary and refuge for the men and women who tend the land - a place of symbolic and emotional significance. One man proudly shows off his fig tree which has grown over 15 years from a cutting from his father's garden in Cyprus, a country he was forced to flee. Another woman describes how she escaped to her plot following the death of her dog to be comforted by 'Hassan and Reg - who fed me tea and sympathy and let me cry'. For others, the allotments are simply about the enjoyment of growing your own fruit and vegetables, relaxing and listening to the cricket and talking to others.

This Was Forever employs a bold, expressive style which layers diverse local voices over a visual montage of the various allotments, which seem, in some ways, to represent the individual personalities of their owners. However, the most enduring impression is one of a strong and supportive community of people built around a shared passion for this small section of common land. 'We thought we were going to be here forever' says one resident. However, the allotments were closed shortly after the film was completed.

Poppy Simpson

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