Ex-Woodberry Down tenant inspired to write play on housing crisis

Jelena Budimir at rehearsals for Property.

Jelena Budimir at rehearsals for Property. - Credit: Archant

A playwright who lived on the Woodberry Down Estate before its regeneration has written a new comedy based on London’s housing crisis.

Rehearsals for Property.

Rehearsals for Property. - Credit: Archant

Jelena Budimir's Property, produced by All Ignite Theatre, will be appropriately staged at the New River Studios next to the estate this month.

It is inspired not just by Hackney Council's flagship regeneration, which began 10 years ago, but by the campaign on Stratford's Carpenters Estate, the hugely controversial and ultimately scrapped Haringey Development Vehicle, and by the Grenfell Tower disaster.

"We're all interested in housing whether it's because of the crisis or because you think it's going to make you lots of money," said Jelena.

"There are lots of issues around housing but I didn't want it just to be a rant! I wanted to make it a comedy, because if people are laughing they are thinking as well. The tagline is London housing - a farce."

The Woodberry Down estate regeneration. Picture: Local Democracy Reporting Service

The Woodberry Down estate regeneration. Picture: Local Democracy Reporting Service - Credit: Archant

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Property is set on an old council estate being redeveloped and follows the lives of various characters as their lives are turned upside down - the hipster who has recently moved there, a former council employee now working for the developer, an elderly tenant and a young mother.

Jelena moved to Woodberry Down in the mid 80s, living in a "hard to let" flat - one which no family wanted so was given to single people. She lived there for 17 years and left before any talk of redevelopment.

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"I was really very grateful for my flat," she said. "I was an actor and the rent was reasonable - it allowed me to be an actor.

"When it came to move on I gave it back and moved in with my partner. A few years ago I was passing by and saw an enormous block of flats going up."

Jelena began reading about the housing crisis and joined the campaign alongside Russell Brand on Newham's Carpenters Estate. She was working at The Chickenshed Theatre in Southgate, and began workshopping ideas.

She added: "It's about how we perceive council tenants. Grenfell taught us a lot of people don't care about them."

The show will be staged across four performances from Ocrober 16 to 19 at 7.30pm. After each performance there will be a Q&A on housing and young people, the rise and decline of social housing and the homelessness crisis. The talks are in conjunction with Immediate Theatre, John Boughton and Cardboard Citizens.

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