This body of work is now housed in the Geffrye Museum that is dedicated to London housing.

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Frederick Boxer has written a piece about his time as the building manager
The Head of a Dubious House 
www.boxerfofvanities.co.uk

Guardianship is security through legal occupation.

Any building owner be that public or private can engage a Guardianship firm who then place live in Guardians in the property. Guardians pay less than market rent (a licence fee) and have severely limited rights compared to a standard tenancy, most notably a 28 day notice period. Quite how the licence fee is shared between the owners and the Guardian firm varies from building to building.

I became a Guardian in late 2013, moving into what had been Sheltered Housing for the Elderly in South East London.

Being one of the first in the building of 42 flats I made friends fairly quickly with the building manager - Frederick. It was from hanging out in each others flats that the project came about. We needed different things out of our near identical flats and despite the potential of having to leave very quickly had set about creating spaces that fulfilled them. I enjoyed the tension of him looking out of place in mine surrounded by plastic flowers and pink things, and me feeling a curly haired mess in his black and white, angular world.

Lee agreed to be part of the project if I went first - several months and far too much anxiety later, he said I had to get to do it, or stop talking about it - I did as I was told. He hates being photographed, so it took a 2 litre bottle of cider, a packet of jam donuts and an entire afternoon to shoot Frederick. Then I was stumped - the building had filled up and become anonymous - simply passing people and doorways in the halls.

The project then became a lovely way to make friends in the building, an excuse to get invited to their flat and learn about them - like Angela who went from the woman in the hallway always wearing animal slippers to the woman who was studying Forensic Biology in the flat below me (awesome), or Jess who went from the girl with the great hair to the girl who is about the open a shop of her own (awesome), to Penelope who moved into my old flat (I moved to another in the building) - who rethought the space and painted a fish mural on the wall wondering if she wanted it tattooed on her back (awesome).

I moved out of the building after 2 years to go and live in a school. I still visit and feel happy to have them all as friends, and we have a little record of the time we all lived in the same building in our own ways, for our own reasons.

 

   VICTORIA BIRKINSHAW      /       GUARDIANSHIP




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