This film is part of Free

Thamesmead 1970

The utopian ideals of post-war planning are encapsulated in this absorbing film about the plans for the oft-derided GLC estate of Thamesmead.

Documentary 1970 25 mins

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This is a fascinating and with hindsight rather sad study of the building of Thamesmead, a new town in south-east London that was envisaged as “a town for the 21st century” but which was soon plagued by social problems caused by lack of facilities and public transport. Includes great shots of the estate being built as well as derelict munitions factories and abandoned homes that occupied the site before construction began. Filmed in 1970, before the project was complete.

An early sign of the problems to face Thamesmead comes in a public meeting for residents, one of whom wonders whether communal areas have only been cleaned because of an impending visit by dignitaries to open new tower blocks. Thamesmead was driven by utopian ideals but this wasn’t always reflected by its later management. The scale of the planning is fascinating to behold, with every area carefully considered – which just goes to show how difficult it is to create from scratch something as organic as a community.