The Runway Stops Here
Festival Exhibition : 9th – 21st October
Jonathan Goldberg: The Runway Stops Here (Grow Heathrow)
On the site of an abandoned plant nursery in West London there lies a unique living space, where an assortment of people have come together to form an evolving community.
It was first occupied over 7 years ago by environmental protesters angry at proposals to build a third runway. Their intention was to create a hub for local residents to fight a campaign against the flattening of their houses. Today Grow Heathrow has evolved into a complex eco-village, and the threat of airport expansion is as real as it was then.
There are currently 30 or so residents on site. The main communal living space is a series of long greenhouses with insulation and cooking facilities. Power is generated through solar panels and a wind turbine, features that can be seen towering symbolically over the glass roof panes.
Much of the food consumed is grown on and around the plot, though this is topped up with additional sources found in supermarket bins or gathered from the local market at closing time.
Over the course of time since Jonathan first visited Grow Heathrow, residents have come and gone, some staying weeks, others years. Houses built using sustainable materials and principles remain. New people occupy them, bringing their own ideas and reasons for involvement.
When I first entered the secure gates at Grow Heathrow on a summer day, I was struck by the warm feeling I got from a community who are united by a common set of ideals.
Had I found my own utopia in an inconspicuous squat in Middlesex?
I became a regular visitor taking pictures at workshops and events, and began to feel a part of the project myself. But I also became more aware of the hardships faced by living in such a place that lacks conveniences associated with a modern conventional lifestyle. Winters can be cold, wet and bleak.
Tensions arise when discussions address domestic issues, and the more significant matters around the future direction of the project. In addition there is the constant threat of eviction from a landowner with a shady history, who has little sympathy with the activists’ plight.
In recent months the runway debate has been reignited by a government favouring increased airport capacity. As residents of Grow Heathrow seem to accept that they will eventually be evicted, preparations are underway for a loud show of defiance not just to save their homes, but also to highlight the far wider-reaching ramifications concerned with aviation and climate change.
‘The Runway Stops Here (Grow Heathrow)’ is exhibited jointly with Amanda Jackson’s ‘To Build A Home’ in the main Oriel Colwyn gallery with an extended show between 9th October – 1st December. It forms part of the free festival content available to all.