This screening centres around a new work The Miracle on George Green by artist filmmaker Onyeka Igwe. The film takes as its focus a campaign to save an old Chestnut tree in Wanstead under threat due to the construction of the M11 link road in the early 1990s. The protests received national attention as environmental activists travelled from around the UK to join local groups as they fought to prevent the building of the road and preserve the area’s landscape and heritage. The campaign gained notoriety for both its scale and ambition as lawyers famously managed to establish the status of a legal dwelling for a treehouse constructed in the boughs of the oak tree.
Igwe’s film draws from a range of different archival sources with a particular focus on reworking community videos documenting the campaign. In this programme, her film is screened alongside 4 of these videos made by activist Neil Goodwin and the alternative news group Undercurrents, which was formed during this moment.
Dear Tree – The Battle for George Green
Neil Goodwin I 1993 I UK I 24’I Digital I English spoken
“The powerful story of a community’s battle to save a much loved 250-year-old sweet chestnut tree in Wanstead, East London, from destruction by road-builders. This coming a few years after the Rio Earth Summit, when the UK government foolishly embarked on what they termed the biggest road-building programme since the Romans – 23 billion pounds of link roads, bypasses, orbitals, and motorways, thereby sparking a fierce eco-war throughout most of the 1990’s throughout Britain. The fight for this one tree helped to inspire an entire generation of environmental activists, and a huge shift in the wider public’s attitude to the car culture.” (Neil Goodwin)
M11 link road- Wanstead tree eviction Dec’ 1993
Undercurrents I 1993 I UK I 27’ I Digital I English spoken
This video was the first to be produced by alternative news agency Undercurrents and documents the eviction of protestors occupying the George Green Chestnut tree by Police.
The Last House
Neil Goodwin I 1995 I UK I 14’I Digital I English spoken
“The six hour siege and eviction of Munstonia, the last of hundreds of houses to be demolished to make way for the M11 Link Road through London’s East End. Damon Alburn, from Blur, grew up just opposite. With music from RDF.” (Neil Goodwin)
The Miracle on George Green
Onyeka Igwe I 2022 I UK I 12’ I Digital I English spoken
“The Miracle on George Green tells a collective social history of the UK tradition of the commons—land collectively owned and used to gather, play, and debate. The film centers around the George Green treehouse in East London. In the early 1990s, when the old sweet chestnut tree that housed the treehouse was threatened, various people including a group of schoolchildren wrote letters to the treehouse as part of a campaign to save it. From this story, Igwe’s film expands outward through archival materials from other social collective sites: Diggers of the 17th century, radical summer camps in Upstate New York in the 1930s and 40s, anti-war protests of Greenham Common in the 1980s, squatting communities of road protest camps in the 1990s, and the outdoor raves of the 2000s.” (The High Line)
Ed Webb-Ingall I 2019 I UK I 4’ I digital I English Spoken
Direct! Action! was made in collaboration with residents from Waltham Forest and beyond, with an interest in exploring the history of the M11 link road protests and contemporary direct action movements. The result is a video inspired by the graphics of 1990s protests, raves and viral propaganda training videos.
Followed by a conversation between Onyeka Igwe and Ed Webb-Ingall