Photographer Nick Hedges
Duotone 270 x 290mm landscape + 156pp
“Nick Hedges’ work is not only deeply human, an expression of our shared humanity, it is also important as evidence. This is how life is, and how it was. These pictures show our vulnerability and dignity, our solidarity and strength at work. The subtext tells of the betrayal by politicians entrusted with bringing change, but who instead perpetuate poverty and hardship”. Ken Loach
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the crisis of slum housing became a dominant factor in the social landscape of Britain. The Second World War had left the country impoverished and in every large city there were large areas of housing that had already been declared unfit for human habitation before the outbreak of war. All local authorities were struggling to deal with a huge residue of poorly built and badly maintained Victorian terraces and tenements. The inadequate supply of housing had simultaneously encouraged the emergence of rapacious landlords who preyed upon all those at the fringes of society: the elderly, newly arrived immigrant communities, the unemployed and the poor. Every British city had a tight inner knot around its centre of decaying, mismanaged, desolate slums.
Generations of children grew up in the environment of desolation, decay, and demolition. Hedges’ photographs from Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Newcastle illustrate the playing fields of the cities. The strong working class community cultures were being broken down, as regular employment became less certain, families became dispersed, and old certainties vanished.
Under the stress of bad housing and an uncertain future, it was remarkable how families survived. The relationship between ill health, poverty and bad housing has been long established. Indeed the drive to create healthy living conditions in the early 20th century and the provision of decent council housing was the major force behind much national and local government policy at that time. The link between ill health and bad housing still persists today.
Nick Hedges’ remarkable photographs for Shelter in the late 1960s and early 1970s were instrumental in changing both public and official attitudes towards a housing crisis that shamed one of the richest nations in the world. They are an essential record of the indifference of government to tackle a problem that had persisted for generations and still, to this day, blights society