Refurbishment of John Walsh and Fred Wigg towers

Photographs by Jack Hewitt and Andrew Shields

For this month’s theme on ‘housing’, I decided to collaborate with photographer Andrew Shields. This came about through sheer coincidence. I had been out photographing the John Walsh and Fred Wigg towers alone one weekend, in light of their recent refurbishment. The following day I came across Andrews photographs of these same towers on Instagram, I was blown away by his images (and a little jealous to be completely honest). I got in touch with him and he was very happy to collaborate on this project.

I revisited the towers a few more times, I spoke to some residents, some staff, and also got in touch with the council to get a feel for what it’s like to live there, and how exactly the council are planning on refurbishing these neglected homes.  

One male resident said that over time there has been “drastic [change], and not just these buildings the whole area” since “they’re refurbishing both towers, new kitchens, new bathrooms, everything.” In the meantime he says that the council is not always consistent with the upkeep of the buildings “it depends who you ask really, the lift is constantly in and out of service and always has been. I live on the 13th floor so I have to use the stairs a lot.” Living in the area during covid has been hard since “the lift here is tiny when it is working it’s impossible to stay 2 meters apart if there’s someone else there, and the stairs aren’t much better either. It’s especially hard for older residents.”

A fire marshal explained that the buildings were supposed to be demolished a couple of years ago but “that was voted against”. He said “It’s not a development, it’s a complete refurbishment – there’s a multi-million-pound program going on at the moment, completely new interiors, everything new.” He is one of four other fire marshals who “work over the weekends whilst the construction workers aren’t here.”

To see more of Jack and Andrew’s images: Instagram – @jackhwtt and @a_d_shields

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