Britain's council estates have become a media shorthand for poverty, social mayhem, drugs, drink and violence - the social ills they were built to cure. How did homes built to improve people's lives end up doing the opposite? Is their reputation fair, and if so who is to blame? Inhabitants? Politicians? Planners? Architects? Lynsey Hanley was born and raised just outside of Birmingham on what was then the largest council estate in Europe, and she has lived for years on an estate in London's East End. Writing with passion, humour and a sense of history, she recounts the rise of social housing a century ago, its adoption as a fundamental right by leaders of the social welfare state in mid-century and its decline - as both idea and reality - in the 1960s and 70s. Throughout, Hanley focuses on how shifting trends in urban planning and changing government policies - from 'Homes Fit for Heroes' to Le Corbusier's concrete tower blocks to the Right to Buy - affected those so often left out of the argument over council estates: the millions of people who live on them. What emerges is a vivid mix of memoir and social history, an engaging and illuminating book about a corner of society that the rest of Britain has left in the dark.
Lynsey Hanley was born in Birmingham in 1976 and moved to London to study in 1994. Her first book, Estates: an Intimate History, was published by Granta Books in January 2007. She has written an introduction to the Penguin Modern Classics edition of Richard Hoggart's 1957 book The Uses of Literacy, and is currently working on her second book.
She contributes commentary pieces, arts features and book reviews to The Guardian and the New Statesman, and has written for The Observer, the Times Literary Supplement, Prospect, RSA Journal, the Daily Telegraph, the Sunday Telegraph, and the Sunday Times. She has appeared on BBC2's Newsnight; BBC Radio 4's Start The Week, Analysis, and The World at One; BBC Radio 3's Night Waves and Sunday Feature; BBC Radio Five Live, BBC Radio London and Resonance FM.In November 2010 she wrote and presented Wall in the Mind, a series of three programmes about class and social mobility, for BBC Radio 4.
Her main areas of interest are social class; economic, social and spatial segregation; the British education system; public policy; built-up areas; mass media and popular culture. Through these themes she tries to examine how individuals interact with their physical, cultural and social environments. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.