Photo gallery: A portrait of life in Norwich’s Earlham House
14:43 15 August 2012
When the landlords of Earlham House in Norwich issued almost 30 residents with two months’ notice of eviction so that the building could be renovated, and then issued hefty bills for the work to people who live and trade there, many in the local community were outraged.
Among them was Stuart Goodman, a former Fleet Street photographer and picture editor whose son Adam is following in his father’s footsteps.
Messrs Goodman senior and junior already had plans for a joint photographic exhibition – titled Goodmen, naturally enough – at The Forum in Norwich, and at this point Stuart decided how to use the opportunity.
“I realised I should take pictures of the tenants living in the flats,” he said, “so I decided to ask the Earlham House community, because that’s what it is now, if I could do some portraits of them for the show and I was delighted when they agreed.
“I wanted to show that more than anything else it’s people who are involved and this building work is not just about some property developer maximising profits at the cost of people’s lives.”
His portraits remind us that it is real people whose homes are under threat and businesses that have served west Norwich for years. Earlham House includes a combination of flats and shops: an organic greengrocer and cafe, an art gallery showing works by disabled children, an estate agency, a butcher and charity shops among others.
Traders say that their takings have reduced by up to a third since the work began. As well as being affected by noise and dust, a major problem has been the reduction in parking spaces available, so many potential customers are shopping elsewhere.
“Our message to people is ‘please persevere’,” said Jon Jones, who has lived there for 11 years and is chairman of the recently formed Earlham House Residents’ and Community Association.
“We need people to park nearby and support the Earlham House businesses, not shop elsewhere for the sake of a couple of minutes’ walk. I’m extremely impressed with Stuart’s dedication and his decision to use his talents to promote our message that it’s people’s lives that are being affected. We all support what he’s doing and we’re grateful for him using his skills as a photographer to highlight what’s happening.” The notices of eviction under section 21 of the 1988 Housing Act came after many years of sub-standard living conditions at Earlham House; residents complained of damp, a lack of heating and dilapidated facilities.
Simon Wright, the Liberal Democrat MP for Norwich South, has agreed to support the association’s proposal for a change in the law that would force developers to provide more than two months’ notice of eviction.The move has support from Norwich City Council – and yesterday it was revealed that tenants who were days away from being evicted have been given an unexpected stay of execution.
The council advised some tenants they had not been issued with the correct documents – leading to a successful challenge and an extra two months to find a new home. Notices to quit have now been re-issued, which gives those people still living in the Earlham Road complex, including Mr Jones, until October to move.
Mr Goodman was standing as the Labour candidate for Nelson ward in the city council elections when the notices were served. “We were supporting the residents and shopkeepers in their struggles with the landlord and I’ve got to know many now as friends,” he said. “Adam and I had decided to do a joint show – he’s just starting his career after graduating, and I’m supposed to have just retired, so it’s an appropriate time for this.”
After moving from London to Norfolk, Mr Goodman, aged 65, gained an MA in fine art at what was then Norwich School of Art and Design – now Norwich University College of the Arts – and later taught photography at the College of West Anglia, City College Norwich and adult education classes. His son, meanwhile, is at the other end of his career. The 22-year-old has just completed a photography degree at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, after studying A-levels at the Hewett School and City College Norwich. His work is largely abstract images themed on landscapes.
He said: “As part of my studies I looked at the abstract expressionist movement in America in the 1940s. I went out with my camera in Cambridge looking at, and into shapes, within the landscape. One of my main aims was to blur reality away from the main subject of the image to create confusion. This was done by using a combination of elements such as form, colour, tone, texture and compositional techniques.”
Goodmen – the photography of Adam Goodman and Stuart Goodman is at the Forum until tomorrow.