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Oral history interview with Val Halladay


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Oral history interview with Val Halladay

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Halladay, Val (Subject of)


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Interview summary:

[00:01:04] Introduces herself - lived in Hackney Wick 42 years: Good stories of family settling in Stoke Newington.

[00:02:07] Good story of marriage at 17 (1959): “Lovely bloke, lived just round the corner near me – Clapton Dogs. And worked at the same place as I worked, although I never knew that until we started going out of course. We worked at ‘Simpsons’ in Stoke Newington. And my Grandmother and my mother had worked there during the war and after, funny enough. Anyway he was a cutter, a tailors cutter.” First home in Homerton.

[00:02:49] Good story of life in first home in 2 rooms in Gordon Rd, Clapton as newly weds: Bossy landlady - “Years ago your landlady told you exactly what to do”.

[00:03:47] Moved to their second married home in Sedgwick Street, Homerton.

[00:04:27] Good description of how she moved to Hackney Wick: Offered council flat in new tower blocks on Trowbridge Estate “I went to look, and it was better than where I was. It had a lovely view, over Victoria Park and what have you... I moved in there in 1968. And I’d had my son by then, he was 3 months. So we moved into the high rise, and there we stayed for 27 years”

[00:05:20] Good explanation how Hackney Council’s housing policy refused her requests to be moved out of tower block “The council would say you’ve got adequate accommodation, you don’t need anything bigger”

[00:05:49] Widowed with a son aged 10 (1977)

[00:06:10] Good explanation why Trowbridge Estate’s tower block flats were terrible places to live: “It was so cold there that you had ice on the inside of the windows. And you weren’t supposed to have any other form of heating… especially not gas. I used to sleep in the front room with Christopher because the bedrooms were too cold.”

[00:07:12] Good story about working with new tenants committee: applies DOE for grant to build new estate (Wick Village) on site of local wood wharfs. Committee is involved in every aspect of planning, design and development “And gradually they started building over here (Wick Village) for us.”

[00:08:35] Good description of how Val became involved with Wick Village’s Tenants Management Cooperative (TMC) role: Hackney, the landlord, gives a budget for the year, and the TMC is responsible for how it’s spent.

[00:09:10] Good description of moving into her Wick Village home (1994), and Hackney’s housing policy for the estate: “Course it was lovely, never had a garden, never had anything like that… Hackney did one thing they promised us that we’d never get less than we had. So I had 2 bedrooms in the flat – they gave me 2 bedrooms. If someone had 3 bedrooms, they got 3 bedrooms… But at the time we were so pleased to get out. And Hackney let us get on with it – even named the roads and everything. It was a great actually – it really was a great time getting this together.”

[00:10:12] Good explanation of Wick Village’s first tenants: The last 80 tenants to leave Trowbridge’s 3 remaining tower blocks – all moved to Wick Village, making a close-knit community of families:

[00:10:36] Good explanation of Wick Village TMC’s gradual change in housing policy. “We have to let to the top of Hackney’s waiting list (because of ‘Choice Based Letting’ in Hackney). We used to be able to pick our own. And consequently we have had an influx of new people”

[00:11:33] How the influx of ‘new (foreign) tenants with new attitudes, eroded Wick Village’s community spirit “The people that we call the newer tenants don’t give a hoot about being a community anymore…” Used to socialize as a community. Now households are insular. “People think I’ve got my house, I’ve got what I want. I’m not interested in the rest of you.”

[00:12:23] Good explanation of Val’s role and experiences as Chair of Wick Village TMC for 4 or 5 years: Liaison with Olympic Development Agency (ODA) because of 2012 huge impact for Wick Village tenants.

[00:12:54] Good explanation of impact on Wick from 2012 Olympics: eg. Threat of worsening already congested roads. “We’ve asked for a lot of things, but we haven’t got anything… you can never get to anybody that could really help you do anything” - eg. Window Cleaners because of dust from 2012 site.

[00:14:42] Good explanation of TMC, and how Val and her estate manager use budget to look after tenants needs and complaints at estate office: They do all repairs that Hackney wants done – eg. Refits when tenants die or move out. Difficult tenants. Rent arrears… AGM every year at the old baths. How tenants take TMC for granted. “We do quite a lot on our budget that we shouldn’t do really.

[00:21:28] Good breakdown of Wick Village tenants now: Many pensioners from original move from tower blocks. Their children now grown and gone. New people (see above)

[00:22:07] Good explanation of problem TMC tenants and their complaints: “They just think that it’s just another Hackney Estate”. How they break rules, and complain – eg, don’t complete £50 per year parking permits then get clamped…

[00:32:07] Good detailed comparison of communal street life in Homerton and isolation of tower blocks – their change from family lets to students: “It was quite a nice area, and I was really sorry to leave there… It was just houses and people. And I think that’s what we missed when you went up in the tower blocks. There was 4 families to a landing. And obviously I was going out to work, so you go out a certain time, and you come home a certain time. And if they’re coming home a different time, you never saw anybody. Hardly ever. ”

[00:34:16] Good description of how Trowbridge tower blocks became desolate as families moved away. Housing students and squatters rather. [00:34:45] Good description of the changes she saw as one of first residents to move in to original 4 blocks, and among last to leave due to demolition: Living in condemned buildings, danger at night, fear of mugging, “There were always dodgy people about there, it became not a very nice place at the end…” [00:37:32] Good explanation of fears for kids safety.

[00:38:26] Very good summing up of her experience and impressions of Hackney Wick from 1967 when she moved there: Community feel went, Popular pub ‘The Vic’ and local shops – all closed (early 70s) “The whole place became like an industrial thing.” Desolate still. “There’s still no corner shop or anything like that… we haven’t even got a post box here.”

[00:43:45] Good explanation how council’s made little progress in local services to rebuild Wick’s community – while private housing’s increased.

[00:44:17] Good explanation of distrust of Victoria Park: Fear’s for safety now: Muggings, Knifings…

[00:44:46] Visits to Marshes with her son Chris.

[00:46:09] Her view down across Trowbridge Estate from her 17th floor flat.

[00:53:59] Very good description how without private transport it’s always been a difficult getting to Hackney Wick: “The bus routes were never that marvelous. And even Black cabs wouldn’t take you down there – Black cabs won’t come over here now… It’s a funny old place to get to”

[00:03:55] Very good description of when motorway was built - What it took away: Freedom for young mothers. Lost access to Victoria Park. Grid-locked traffic from the tunnel.

[00:05:36] The tunnel is potential traffic chaos for 2012 Olympics.

[01:09:00] Brilliant and detailed stories of her Hackney experiences in the 60’s: “Oh yeah! The 60’s, I loved that. That was when I used to walk round the corner to work at the ‘Brown and Polson’ place. You could just - one day you didn’t have a job, the next day you could go and find one… But I had that particular job round there. And at the time we always used to wear them white boots up here. Like the white skin-tight boots. Short dresses. All our hair piled up. Did look wonderful” [01:09:41] Good explanation of why she liked the 60s: Enjoyed being young and going out. Local pub social life - eg. the Vic and White House. [01:11:14] Her grandma taking her to get her hair done at Vidal Sassoon’s. “And I went to him in the 60s and had that Mary Quant haircut that everybody used to have…” [01:12:40] Good explanation how there were more opportunity in the 60s: “I used to give up jobs all the time. Didn’t like them I’d think ‘oh don’t like this no’, right didn’t go back. So next day you’d look in the Hackney Gazette or the Evening Standard and you’d see where one was and you’d go up there. And, you know, they didn’t want CV’s and what have you. They just took you on basically how you looked… That’s how I used to get all my jobs. Iused to get loads of jobs They’d go, ‘yeah you look alright, in you come…” [01:13:18] List of local firms she worked for.

[01:13:26] Great story of being in charge of a wholesale coat and dress manufacturer/merchant’ – and getting to know Asil Nadir in the shop two doors down: “He used to say come and work for me, come and work for me… it don’t seem to me 17 years ago that eh buggered off to Cyprus. There you go see opportunity missed.”

[01:16:55] Sums up her life in 60s, 70s, 80s Hackney/Clapton: Dance classes in Mare Street - for nights out at West End dancehalls. 70s hard when husband died. 80s working for Islington council till voluntary retirement at 59.

[01:22:05] Good explanation how helping to build and manage Wick village, built a new community for Hackney Wick, and gave Val herself a new start in life: [01:22:09] Good story of her experience on Trowbridge Estate during the 3-day week: “27 years living in a council flat, you know, up high - I can’t tell you what it was like. I mean I was there when they had the 3-day in the 70s – they had a 3-day working week. And Christopher was a little baby and I had to walk up because there was no lifts. Walk up the 17 flights every time they did these 3-day… saving electricity or what, I don’t know. Oh that was a nightmare. And it was pitch black on these stairs. And I had him in me arms. Buggy. It used to kill me, getting up there. Course you didn’t want to go out again once you were in. You didn’t want to go out again till the next morning. It wasn’t so bad going down 17 flights. But coming up was a nightmare. And then the lifts were always breaking down. You only had two lifts. And if they broke down then you had to (walk) I don’t know how the old people managed. Course I wasn’t old then. But to walk up and down. It killed even a fit person!”

[01:23:24] A more detailed explanation of cold and damp flats in Trowbridge Estate. “…And that was right up until the early 90s. Terrible really. It’s a wonder more didn’t die.”

[01:24:05] Very good explanation of Wick Village development committee’s 5 years work, to the last 80 families out of the Tower blocks and into something better: “It started off quite well, about 12 of us, you know. And then gradually people got fed up with it, you know. Because there was a lot of meetings. A lot of times I had to juggle my shifts to get to meetings with the architects and the builders, and this one and that one, you know. We were forever – we used to have 2 or 3 meetings a week, you know. In a little – which used to be a little shop down on the estate. But it wasn’t a shop then. It was just like a little place that we decorated ourselves and used it as our office so to speak. We had some good times there you know sort of. People were interested, because they wanted to get out of the blocks. People were interested. They might not of come to all the meetings that we held and all that. But, you know, if you said ‘right ok we’re doing the bathrooms, so there’ll be a person there and you’ll have a choice’. You know, it wasn’t like you moved into a flat, there’s the key, it’s already done. We had a choice of what colour we wanted. How it was situated etc. Then people would come out and bother. ‘Oh yes I think I’ll have a pink one’, or ‘I think I’ll have a white one’, or ‘I want this kitchen’. But they gave you so much money to move, but out of that you had to pay for your kitchen at the time. You don’t have to now but at the time you did. It was quite a good time then. As I say that was 89 when we started all that. Finally we all moved in in ’94. Course it (Wick Village) was a closer community then even. Because we’d all – if I didn’t know someone in a block then someone else knew them. There was just the 80 families that... There was a lot of squatters and people that shouldn’t of been there. But we did a tenancy thing and obviously if they wasn’t proper tenants so ta-ta. But it was actually 80 families out of the 7 tower blocks that moved here into the 119 properties. Which is not big”.

[01:26:44] Very good description of view of un-spoilt view of Marshes across the canal when first Wick Village residents moved in: “It was lovely, you had a lovely view really lovely – but now you’re looking at a car park. That’s the reality”.

[01:27:24] Good story of finding out 2012 Olympic development was coming. Leaflet round door about Olympic bid. “Until we actually saw on the TV that we’d actually got the Games, we wasn’t really bothered. We didn’t realize what was going to go on over there. We didn’t realize the enormity of it all… I didn’t realize how it would affect all of us living here. I really didn’t”

[01:29:34] Clerk of 2012 Works promises broken: That Olympic park development workers would all be bused in. Instead they drive themselves and take park their cars along Homerton High Street. Footballers on Hackney Marshes can’t find parking on weekend. [01:30:35] That work will be only part of the week and restricted sociable hours. Instead they work 7 long days a week, and weekends they work nights. [01:31:31] ODA (Olympic Development Association) promise any help locals require, but do nothing.

[01:33:46] Detailed explanation why she has no trust in ODA’s words about the ‘2012 legacy’: “There was a legacy there anyway at Eton Manor – no one used it…

[01:34:56] Great description of why she felt 60s Hackney was better: Safer streets. Old people safe. Fun.

[01:35:15] Good summary description of decades after the war: [01:35:24] Happy child in post-war Hackney playing on bombsites. [01:35:35] In 60s progress stayed then changes for worse in 70s [01:35:50] in 70s things got very serious – 3-day week etc “The 70s always seemed a bit of a dead time to me” [01:36:20] “The 80s it started moving again you know, life started taking on new things…”: Mobile phone. Computers after typewriters.

[01:39:11] Good detailed description of childhood in postwar Hackney: Bombsites in Church Street Stoke Newington. [01:39:48] Very good story of black shirts (Moseley’s race-hating fascist scum, later to evolve into National Front, British Movement etc…) Father hid a Jewish man chased by Black shirts. [01:40:47] Stoke Newington a Jewish area then to now – Jewish school friends [01:41:11] Liked going to her Nan’s because then she’d play in the old air-raid shelter and on the bombsites – into the 50s.

[01:43:05] Good comparison how in era of her childhood and teenage young people did as they were told, and children obeyed parents without question: Unlike now – no respect.

[01:44:11] Good explanation of why she feels some kids on Wick Village Estate have no respect – not even for the police: Gangs and other from outside. Luckily few teenagers (16/17) on Estate.

[01:46:21] She likes life now, but had more fun in the 60s: ”Because I was young and you do”

[01:48:06] Good explanation how life (her Hackney) has changed so much: As child, Black people were curiosities. More equality in opportunities for Black people. Diversity in Britain. Move from Social Housing to owning your own.

[01:59:32] Good explanation how local communities were made up of extended families: Council used to house families together.

[02:02:51] Childhood nick name Ginger or Red because of her hair – teased ‘Ginger nut fell in the cut’ (canal).

[02:04:51] Great little description of how she knew and socialized with the Kray twins in the 60s: “I went to the same clubs as they did… There was a club in Amhurst Road called the Regency. And I used to go there on a Friday night. And they were always in there. And I knew them to speak to, yeah. And the poor bugger that they murdered, Jack the Hat, I went out with him once. He’s under, what do they say, he’s under the Bow flyover. He wasn’t afraid of them funny enough. Whereas everyone else was. But they killed him in the end for it. They lived him to this house apparently and chopped him up… Funny enough, my grandmother lived in Princess May Road Stoke Newington. Over the High Road there was a road called Arkola Street, and that’s where they lived. So even as a kid, although I didn’t realize who they were at the time, I knew them, you know cos we used to play about – and then suddenly it’s the 60s. My friend at the time, why I knew them as well was - she lived with me for a little while at Gaulten Road when I was married - was Barbara Windsor...”

[02:07:15] Good story of her friendship and adventures with Barbara Windsor and Ronnie Knight: “She got me slung out of that flat, me and Albert slung out of that flat. She used to come in late at night and the landlady that used to make us clean the floor, she said, ‘I can’t have this, people coming in 4-O’clock in the morning’, because she was working night clubs and shows wasn’t she, so… Yes I know Ronnie Knight. Well I knew him, used to visit him in prison. Oh yes, that’s another part of the 60s...”

[02:08:05] Compares the Kray’s violence and modern day society’s crime and dangers. “The one thing that you could say now is. Is that they never ever went after their own, right. Or there was never any of that attacking women and all that business, you know. Which they don’t care today, people will attack anybody today. Don’t matter if they’re an 80-year old girl who can’t hit back. They still push them over, they break an hip and they die. They (the Krays) never used to do that they used to look after their old people.”

[02:08:50] More on the Krays: “Loved their mum, loved their mum Violet, loved her. And they also had an elder brother, that they don’t write about very much, Charlie. And Charlie went out with Barbara Windsor for a long time…”

[02:09:33] Good description of the Regency Club in Amhurst Road when she got to know the Krays. “Yeah, get all the villains in there. Loved it didn’t I. Loved it…”

[02:10:50] More on her friendship with Barbara Windsor. Dany La Rou, and Ronnie Corbett.

[02:14:13] Her social life in the 60s with her husband Albert, before son Christopher was born.

[02:16:03] How she met her partner since her husband Albert died, Johnnie Walker.