We organised a treasure hunt for residents - they could use a kind of workbook, in-situ posters, and a series of clues to explore the estate along different stopping points. The posters at each stop had text and images about historical and recent events connected to that particular location. These included food production, an ancient battle, a brick factory, a family dispute in the 1940s at Cwm Howard Farm being intervened on by Mostyn Estates, and Margaret Thatcher’s Right to Buy scheme. At each stop participants could respond in their workbook to the information on each poster. Examples of prompts included going to the corner shop and writing down their conversation with the shopkeeper about an imagined national dish of Tre Cwm, walking along The Wall and writing down how it made them feel, and responding open-endedly by taking a polaroid of their choosing.
We positioned the Thatcher poster in a kind of non-space in the estate. Accessed by two narrow brick wall corridors on either end, the space opened out into an asymmetrical tarmaced area, surrounded by backs of fences and sections of brick wall. There were more corridors stemming out from this space, but they had been blocked by severe black metal barred gates. The corridors had been created so that residents could have more organic access between areas of the estate, but they ended up being so well used by drug dealers and people taking shortcuts when running away from the police that they were eventually blocked off.
One young person observed that, although the corridors were blocked by these gates in the top part of the estate, on the bottom estate residents would come up with their own blockades to corridors, in the form of sofas etc, to prevent people from using these corridors.
There were now two distinct piles of fly-tipped stuff in this non-space, the bigger of which contained three refrigerators, a play set, a tyre, and piles and piles of rubbish. This is where the poster of Thatcher was set up, which included a text about her Right to Buy scheme creating lots of homeowners and weakening Local Authorities’ ability to sustain and maintain council housing. People had the strongest responses to this poster, out of all of them.
During the treasure hunt, a man carrying a 3 litre vodka bottle walked by several times, in one corridor and out the other. The first time he walked by: ‘I don’t know why you’re hanging around here - look at this (referring to the fly tipping). This is a disgrace’. The second time: ‘Who put a picture of Thatcher here? It won’t last long.’ When I told him it was part of a treasure hunt: ‘I don’t know why on earth you’d be looking for treasure here.’ Someone on the treasure hunt also said ‘Margaret Thatcher ruined this country and this community’.
A lot of different aspects of life were talked about at the end of the treasure hunt - how the architecture of the estate affected daily life there, that some of the most important future jobs would be social care and youth work, the issue of fly tipping, and the importance of breaking habits and routines, getting out of the house, and exploring new parts of your neighbourhood.
We ended with tea and cake, and a prize draw for everyone who finished the hunt.