If you go down Banner Street from Whitecross Street towards Bunhill Road, you pass Quaker Court on your right. A very undistinguished, post-War, low-rise, block of flats. But one of the residents has done something remarkable. On all the columns supporting the building above are photos by Elina Jokipii of some of her neighbours in the block dressed up as former residents of the area from the past (the 1911 census to be exact). What a wonderful inspired idea – and so beautifully executed!
It is very much in keeping with the Whitecross Street area tradition for decorating walls with graffiti and art.
The work is called ‘Block X’ by Elina Jokipii. Block X was produced by ‘Kunstraum’ for the Whitecross Street Party 2019 with support from the Arts Council of England.
‘Block X’ was a block of flats in the Peabody Whitecross Street estate on this site until it was destroyed in the Blitz in 1941. Whitecross Street estate was built by Peabody in 1883 following the compulsory purchase orders of previous dwellings in the area that were deemed unhealthy – as part of a plan to improve the living conditions of the working poor. Along with other buildings nearby ‘Block X’ was destroyed in a bombing raid in 1941.
The photographs show current local residents (Elina Jokipii’s neighbours) taking on the characters and trades of people from the past, inspired by Block X’s actual residents as recorded in the census of 1911.
The project was intended as a tribute to past and present residents of the Whitecross Street area. Jokipii said: “By dressing as characters from the past we have been touched by the lives which have made Whitecross Street a vibrant area through the centuries. Although the fabric of the areas gone through some extreme changes, some of them violent, it is the people who continue to make Whitecross Street what it is, past, present and future.”
For this project Jokipii explored London Metropolitan archives, Islington local history Centre and Peabody’s own archives.