The mystical world of London’s council estates

2 Mins read

Through her dreamy yet familiar images, Gianna Fiore documents the nostalgia of growing up in London’s social housing.

Redbrick tower blocks, eagle-eyed civilians adorned with puffer jackets and dressing gowns; spliffs and teacups; market stalls and motorbikes, Gianna Fiore paints a picture of the world she grew up with in alignment to its endearing, yet raw and gritty nature.

Her steely graphic illustrations depict an alternative history to the lives of the working class in London.

Hailing from West London, Gianna is an illustrator who showcases the unsung realities of council estates and the people who reside in them.

While she had always had a knack for drawing, her creative spirit kicked into gear when she first joined the BRIT school to study film and media.

Artwork showing the windows of a block of flats
Behind the scenes [Instagram: Gianna Fiore]

After being told she was gifted in doing cartoons, Gianna decided to pursue a degree in animation at Middlesex University.

“We were taught loads of different methods for animation,” she states. “We learned 3D models, paper animation… The one I latched onto was the Photoshop method. I still use the same software that I used at university to do my art now.”

“There used to be clubs and community centres. Now, it’s just full of millionaires and billionaires. And there’s only one Caribbean restaurant left in the whole area.”

Gianna Fiore

Her collections of council estates were brought to life one day as she listened to a garage song that reminded her of White City Estate, West London, which she had visited frequently as a kid for its adventure playground.

While the playground has long been knocked down, the estate’s whimsical nature has been immortalised through Gianna’s illustration.

As someone who has lived in London for most of her life, Gianna has seen the ever-shifting paradigms of living in social housing. Regeneration and gentrification in recent years have changed the dynamics that existed in what were once considered working-class areas.

Church End Estate featuring rapper Nines [Instagram: Gianna Fiore]

In a post-Covid, post-Brexit landscape, prices for everything are skyrocketing. Areas such as Ladbroke Grove, where Gianna’s grandmother had moved to in the 50s, were once considered rough and unkempt while it housed mostly working-class immigrants.

The Ladbroke Grove of today bears little resemblance to what it once was – an important settlement for Caribbean immigrants. It is now a trendy tourist spot, with Portobello Road Market down the street and million-pound properties lining the horizon.

“I used to hang out with friends on Portobello. On a Friday night, all the people from the area would be out,” Gianna reminisces. “There used to be clubs and community centres. Now, it’s just full of millionaires and billionaires. And there’s only one Caribbean restaurant left in the whole area.”

The loneliness of addiction [Instagram: Gianna Fiore]

Some of the more notorious estates featured in Gianna’s work include Broadwater Farm and Aylesbury Estate. With both estates being incredibly large and densely populated landmarks of London’s history, Gianna solidifies their existence through art, so that even if their firm yet ragged structure falters, their memory will always prevail.

With most artists coming from upper-middle-class backgrounds and government funding for art in schools being cut, Gianna notes that poorer kids are having creative opportunities taken away from them, leaving the creative world to be reserved for the elite.

“The reason I started even drawing the estates was so I could celebrate my struggle and represent the voices of the people I paint,” she reiterates.

“It’s like – how can I connect with people who are from where I’m from through art?”

Featured image by Gianna Fiore [Instagram: @ggtheillustrator]

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