My Neighbour’s Keys

“When I lived in Muller Road, before it was knocked down, I knew all my neighbours from the top floor to the bottom by first names.”

My Neighbours Keys recognises the history of the Clapham Park Estate and the importance of friendships between neighbours, as well as the challenges when neighbours are not so welcoming. It is an art installation produced by artist Stella Barnes (Creative in Residence 2018) in collaboration with young and old residents on the estate, and made from keys to flats that have been demolished as part of the regeneration.

This artwork was produced by Creative in Residence Stella Barnes in 2018, and initiated through work with the Clapham Park Over 50s Club. The installation will soon be viewable at the Clapham Park Community Centre.

All My Neighbour’s Keys stories
More info about the artwork

Stories about ‘neighbours’

When I came out of hospital, when my baby daughter was born, I was very poorly and my neighbours brought baby clothes and they looked after my little boy.

My neighbours always cooked Sunday dinner and made some extra and passed it over the garden wall for us because we were poor. 

When I lived in Muller Road, before it was knocked down, I knew all my neighbours from the top floor to the bottom by first names.

My neighbours cut off the electric when we had a birthday party for my daughter because they didn’t like the music.

It was all English people, they were quite nice, not prejudice, they looked out for me. 

We met our up and down neighbours in the lift. Everyone greeted each other. Now we live in a house it’s not as friendly.

Those were the days when you had good neighbours.  We shared the landing and we cleaned together. She cleaned her side and I cleaned mine. We cleaned it so well you could eat your food off it when we finished. We polished the doorknobs too.

When I was expecting my son, the old lady next door, an English lady, she’d get up and go out for cakes and then she’d put a table on the balcony and call me for a cup of tea and we would sit and chat. She was very kind.

It was 1974. My upstairs neighbours, the older brother was in prison and the younger one he was 12 years old, he set fire to the rubbish shoot. It’s plenty better now. 

The one above me flooded out my flat three times, really bad. 

Jan and Bert next door, you couldn’t have had better neighbours. She was always there if you needed anything.

They’d help you with your pushchair from the bottom to the top floor and with the children.

You could leave some of your shopping downstairs and no one would take it, it would still be there when you went down to get it.

The new ones they’re not very sociable. 

My neighbours are here today and gone tomorrow.

My neighbours cook me my Sunday dinner.  

The neighbours I’ve got now are rubbish. When my mum died, they all wanted to come to the funeral, but they never helped out when she was ill. 

If something happened to me, I don’t think my neighbours would even know.

I have one really good neighbour, she is friendly and supportive, and she keeps an eye on things when I’m on holiday.

I helped a girl I gave her my key but haven’t seen her in three years.  

My neighbours are very nice, I’ve known them for 38 years. One of them really looks out for me, she has my house keys.

On my road they do street parties and all the neighbours get together.

Some of my neighbours are unfriendly but I take no notice.

It was quite nice, I got on with everyone, we took it in turns to watch the children.

My neighbours didn’t like me, they were very prejudiced.

You could leave your door open and no one did anything.

We put our keys on a string, so you could get them through the letterbox, we trusted our neighbours.

When we lived in a block everyone was nice and helped each other.

I was ill recently, and no one knocked on my door.

The neighbours keep themselves to themselves it’s because of society, Maggie Thatcher started it: me, me, me.

My neighbours they’re all in their own bubble, they’re not interested in anyone else. 

In the summer the children would go down in the courtyard and we’d all watch them. My neighbour Lynn would bring out the hose and spray the kids and make them squeal. 

Now no one looks out for you, no one bothers.

I’ve lived here six years and I’ve got very good neighbours.

If our neighbours were not well, we’d always help out.

One time my neighbour said: “I’m sorry, I think I’m going to have a baby now,” so I called the ambulance.  One day I was in Croydon and a young lady came up to me and said: “I know you helped me when I was pregnant.” She was my neighbour. 

Background information

Artwork by Stella Barnes, 2018

My Neighbours Keys recognises the history of the Clapham Park Estate and the importance of friendships between neighbours, as well as the challenges when neighbours are not so welcoming. It reminds us of the importance of mutual support and how this creates a strong community.

More than 50 Clapham Park residents and neighbours contributed to the making of this installation, including the Clapham Park Over 50s Club and the Youth Summer Camp. The project began with and was inspired by workshops with the Over 50s Club who meet each Tuesday for a coffee morning. Members of the group told stories about their neighbours going back several decades. Some of the most poignant stories were related to neighbours who had been separated due to the demolition of parts of the estate.

Each key fob is covered with embossed foil and inscribed with a story shared by a member of the community. The keys come from flats demolished as part of the regeneration and were donated by the housing association, Metropolitan Thames Valley. A row of keys with the names of the flats they belonged to have been left undecorated as a memorial to the demolished homes, the lives lived there, the people and the neighbours with whom they share their lives.

The keys are attached to a metal frame in a way that echoes the Love Lock tradition which some believed originated in China with lovers locking padlocks to a gate or fence and throwing away the key to symbolise locking their love forever. The Love Lock became especially popular on the Pont Des Arts in Paris, which was completely covered in 45 tons of padlocks until 2015, when they were all removed.

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