The television event of the summer finishes tonight with the last episode of Anthony Wonke’s eight part documentary, The Tower, at 10.35pm on BBC 1. If you haven’t seen any of this so far, watch it while you can.
The premise is straightforward. The show follows the conversion by Berkeley Homes of a riverside former council block ‘Aragon Towers’ on Deptford’s Pepys Estate into the ‘Z Apartments’. These are expensive private flats, duplexes and penthouses offering “not only some of the best views in the capital but also stylish, light-flooded interiors and a specification providing the ultimate in high-rise living, style and sophistication.”
It then contrasts Berkeley’s Canary Wharf clients – part of London’s new economic elite whose concerns range all the way from obtaining an overpriced room with a view with a suitably urban, edgy backdrop to when the first gastro pub might finally appear in “up and coming” Deptford – with the day-today struggles of the residents of the Pepys Estate, examples of contemporary London’s marginalised, abandoned and disintergrating working classes.
A slow-burner, this, at times, bleak and gruelling documentary is developed over its eight episodes into an extraordinary tour de force teasing out contemporary economic realities and the appalling class divisions we are re-creating. At some point in the series you leave the 21st century entirely and realise that we have returned to the Dickensian squalor and Disraeli’s two nations of the 19th Century. How did we get here?
The star of the show is Lol Gilbert – a man so nice he gives heroin addiction a good name – who along with his mate Nicky, who he met in a skip, collects scrap metal every day to sell to feed their heroin and alcohol addictions respectively.
This pair might not sound too promising or wholesome. But you’d have to go a long way to find a better example of humanity, decency and dignity in the face of the most appalling adversity than Lol Gilbert. He puts the willfully ignorant privileged elite buying up his area and tearing up his life to shame.
It’s your last opportunity tonight to catch Lol and his life of quiet desperation. It’s worth the effort.
Lol, The Blogger salutes you. You’re the TV star of 2007. Why has nobody noticed?