Excalibur

‘Photographs are memories of light’ Daido Moriyama

If a ‘village’ is ‘a place apart’, the UK’s largest surviving WW2 pre-fabricated Estate is surely one.

In charge of ordinance on a troop ship in Singapore, Sergeant Edmund O’Mahony had Japanese POWs working for him. One spoke good English. Their fate unknown, he showed Eddie a photo of his wife and two daughters... in Hiroshima.

Demobbed in June 1946, the O’Mahonys moved into one of the 187 bungalows, erected by German and Italian POWs in a corner of Forster’s Park. Still there, Eddie, 92 and widowed, is in touch with one of the former German POWs. The Council plans to demolish the Estate to build 400 new ‘homes’.

When I first visited Eddie, he was preparing to address the Council in an attempt to stop the redevelopment. “Each of us couldn’t be more content and comfortable; we’ve got a real community, the kind planners couldn’t design today.” For me, he embodies this unique village; he saw its birth, watched it thrive and is witnessing its demise.

Sixty-six years on, Eddie cannot envisage leaving a home which, echoing with countless memories holds the vestiges of his family’s life.

Each image has a haiku in place of a title. The images from this, my LIP London Villages Project, were subsequently on show at the prefab museum on the Excalibur Estate until the museum was closed following an arson attack and the destruction (among other works) of all 12 images in 2014.