Stories from Fountain Road Estate, Absolutely Cultured

Photographer Jerome Whittingham, and the Stories from Fountain Road Estate exhibition, mounted on the exterior walls of the former park-keeper’s hut at Waterloo Street Play Area. Photo: Karen van Deisen.

While planting tulip bulbs at the start of winter 2018, local volunteers realised the potential for capturing the stories of such a fascinating community, in this volunteer-led project by Absolutely Cultured.

Stories from Fountain Road Estate celebrates the stories of local people in a new and unique exhibition displayed in the heart of the community.

Commissioning Hull-based photographer and writer Jerome Whittingham, Jerome has been working with local volunteers to interview and photograph the people and architecture of the Fountain Road Estate to capture and tell its unique story.

The Stories from Fountain Road Estate exhibition launched on Sunday 14th April. 25 panels of portraits – of the people and the estate – were mounted on the exterior walls of the former park-keeper’s hut at Waterloo Street Play Area.  150 visitors attended the opening day of the exhibition, with many dozens more coming to see the images over the course of the following week, and across Easter weekend.  To accompany the exhibition, 2,500 booklets were also published and distributed to visitors and residents of the estate.

Jerome photographed 40 people from the estate, and collated some of their stories.

Jerome’s Artist’s Statement:

Nothing lasts forever. Sometimes there exists warm nostalgia for the values of the past, and at other times that fondness for history gives way to relief that life has moved on for the better. The Fountain Road Stories project reflects this.

Walking through the estate one comes across features that have been there for many, many decades, like the ornate iron railings on the Barmston Street bridge, over the drain which shares its name. Here and there, also, old cobbles break through layers of modern resurfacing, as if to say ‘we will not be forgotten’.

Change has happened everywhere on the estate though. What terraced housing the Luftwaffe didn’t raze to the ground in air strikes during the Second World War, ‘the Corporation’ erased during the slum clearances of the mid twentieth century. Some residential streets became industrial land, rows of terraced villas disappeared from the map completely. Many families left the area, often tempted by the modern housing being developed in Bransholme, Bilton Grange, or Greatfield. The Fountain Road community experienced a split, a ‘diaspora’.

A common theme we’ve encountered in this project, however, is that many people returned, and they’re proud to claim the Fountain Road colours. In fact, they bring vibrancy and colour to life on the estate today. Others are new to the estate, even knew to the country, but are making new homes and new communities here.

As a photographer my work is to look at things. I have to be honest, the fixtures of this ‘modern’ estate can seem unwelcoming to visitors. There are so many bollards, barriers, metal fences, metal grills, and more – all forbidding the visitor to ‘go there’ or to ‘do this and that’.

Behind the defensive architecture though, there are people just as warm and welcoming as those that embraced the community-spirit of the terraced housing in pre-war years.  Their stories are full of colour, wit, humour, tenacity, endurance, and ingenuity.

When the ‘City of Culture’, Absolutely Cultured volunteers helped to plant thousands of tulip bulbs on the estate in autumn 2018, I wonder if they realised that those tulips have colours to compete with this spring.

Jerome Whittingham, @photomoments, Spring 2019

More about Stories from Fountain Road Estate project…

Stories from the Fountain Road Estate – Absolutely Cultured’s website

Disused Hull building transformed into exhibition telling stories of residents – Hull Daily Mail