‘ORPHANS’ – A PHOTO INSTALLATION UNDER THE WESTWAY FLYOVER

The Westway Motorway (A40M) was built to run 3.5 miles between Paddington Green and White City. Building works began in 1964 and the Motorway was opened in July 1970.y The building of the motorway cut a swathe through much of the housing, businesses and streets in the North Kensington area and caused national controversy for the effects it had upon the local community and the environment. As the empty ‘non-spaces’ underneath the elevated surface of the road were considered by local people and agencies The Westway began to exist as a lively, contentious, potential network of narratives. Led by local documentary photographer Steve Mepsted and in Partnership with Westway Trust, and Acklam Village Market, ‘Orphans’ is the latest attempt to form an understanding of this richly poetic space. Using archive council photographs taken between 1969 and 1971 (just at the time the motorway was being built and opening) ‘Orphans’ presents old men, young women, local kids, market traders, shoppers on Portobello Road and children playing on makeshift adventure playground structures. These individuals are presented at epic scale; freed from their original pictorial context they roam the walls underneath the motorway as if returning through history and re-materialising under the very structure that cut through their lives and homes 45 years earlier.

Steve Mepsted is an artist, teacher and freelance documentary photographer. His work draws heavily upon his previous experience in fine art and explores themes in social documentary, portraiture and photojournalism. He has exhibited widely, both as a painter and photographer, and writes for publication in magazine and book form. Steve works both on location and from his studio in North Kensington. Previously published local history work includes “The People and Histories of the West Eleven Housing Co-op”

To read more about the ‘Orphans’ project please see HERE

In partnership with

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For a potential future publication Steve Mepsted is looking for stories, memories, anecdotes, suggestions and opinions of how you feel the Westway has affected the fabric of the area – its people, geography and community. Were you a member of one of those 600 families whose houses were demolished to make way for the road? Do you feel the Westway has brought regeneration to the area? What do you think of the Westway now? Please contribute your stories to maintain an ongoing dialogue about the Westway’s past, present and future. Contact details are below. Thank you.

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. A very interesting project. Congratulations!

  2. irenahalder says:

    I love your installation ‘Orphans’, and reading how and why it came about. It’s a sublime work, which shows people who were once weak and disregarded becoming giants who cannot now be ignored. Perfect.

    1. Many thanks Irena, I love your notion of the Orphans becoming giants! The work has touched a few people it seems and I am happy to say that the current operators of the site will be keeping some of the figures up permanently – or as ‘permanently’ as anything can remain these days. Many thanks again for your great comment. Thanks also for your story – received today.

      Steve

      1. irenahalder says:

        My painting of the Westway’s almost complete (how many times have I said that?), so will be in touch again before long. My current painting problem is: how do I make the barbed wire look like barbed wire not Xmas decorations! Best wishes, Irena

      2. Haha. Yes that old problem. Good luck and I look forward to seeing it.

  3. Tom Vague says:

    What a great traffic system, it’s so bright. If the spans are given over to the community, the possibilities for further creative extensions to the children’s adventure playground are total, dig the vibrations.

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