Late last year the NSW Government announced its intention to demolish and redevelop Waterloo’s high-rise towers and surrounding public housing. This decision involves displacing over 4,500 elderly, disabled and low-income people who live there. Project #WeLiveHere2017, initiated by private resident Clare Lewis, aims to document the stories of a place so many people call home, an important place, a life line, a place dubbed “utopia” when it was built just 40 years ago.
Apart from making a documentary that explores and celebrates our neighbourhood stories, Clare and her team are working with Matavai and Turanga towers to create a community-powered light sculpture which they hope will be part of Vivid Light 2017. Five hundred residents will be given a coloured mood light for their window and asked to use it to best reflect their feelings about the redevelopment before the demolition begins.
Residents who feel angry at being dispossessed of their home of many years may well light up their window with a blazing scarlet. On the other hand, perhaps residents who feel they want to express their grief over the loss of friends and community can choose from a range of blues. Should residents feel extremely wary of government promises about the process of relocation they can express their caution by opting for orange.
Fortunately for me I have been granted the great pleasure of testing the mood light in anticipation of the 2017 community light sculpture. After the light strip was installed quickly and easily in my bedroom window that overlooks Waterloo Green, I could, and did, lie on the bed and change the colour of the lights by pressing a small touch pad. My favourites are an aqua which transforms my room into an underwater cavern flickering with shimmering light, a lovely magenta which turns it into an exotic chamber in an enchanter’s palace and a deep intense blue, glowing with all sorts of mysterious secrets.
Sometimes I lie back and clicking consecutively on each colour joyfully create my personal rainbow. Occasionally I look out of from behind the curtains and see upturned faces which brings with it a certain satisfaction at being able to offer passers-by a small light show. I can only imagine how magnificent the completed project, with full resident participation, will look, and how much it will be a glowing tribute to the closing of a once hopeful chapter on public housing.
For residents who might be concerned about the cost of the project to them personally, Clare says that the lights are LED and so consume very little electricity and would only be in use for one month. She estimates that the cost would be less than $2 and residents would be reimbursed if they wished. As an extra bonus, she adds, residents can keep the lights.
I will certainly keep mine. I would miss seeing my window aglow at night when I take the dogs down to the green, and I value the idea of continuing to both celebrate and mourn the towers as symbols of a vibrant but displaced community.
The #WeLiveHere2017 project is currently raising funds to realise the film and light sculpture. Support them here: https://pozible.com/project/welivehere2017-doco-action