Monday, July 3, 2017

Redevelopment - a poem

Balloon Woods estate in Nottingham (now demolished)

The below poem was written by my gran, Ruth Johns, in the 70s. It’s based on her experience of helping lonely mums (displaced from Birmingham to a high rise estate in Lichfield) to get the local council to approve the setting up of a playgroup for young children in what was the only possible venue - a disused army nissen hut. She says that there were no play spaces designed for the estate children when it was built, despite young families making up the majority of people being housed there.


Concrete and glass

tower in the sky:

Warning of man's

failure to see

-- reality

A slum may have been

less than a dream

with one cold tap

and loo at the back.

A basement room

with three kids or more:

Six quid a week.

Christ! Get us out.

Bloody it was

but real at that.

Kids made trains

from broken drains.

Bulldozers came

(bright yellow too)

reducing to nothing

all we knew.

Rehousing -- the chance!

A place of our own

like those on TV

and us and the kids all moving together

to the future whatever.

There's a fridge and a bath

and a carpet all over.

Bunks for the boys

like those on TV.

No grate to clean:

hot air supplied.

But it's cells we're in

all clean and square

-- and in the air

Scattered are kin

we lived and fought with.

The kids are all noise.

Oh! shut up: get out!

They've nowhere to play.

The nearest place

is a mile away.

With bored intent

they warm to trouble

If they found it before

excuse was then made


made us less of a breed

said the high-ups in town.

Our lot seemed to point

"to the need to plan"

for a future whatever.

We're planned for alright!

We're stuck here to rot.

Caged -- we just trot.

We curse the young

when we know darned well

they need a future whatever

Now there's none to be seen.

Now there's no dream.

No making trains

from broken drains

-- it's concrete for miles

Where's something to break

for goodness sake.

- Ruth I. Johns, 1970

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