The Runway Stops Here: Photographs of a community living off-grid near Heathrow Airport

Adjacent to the nation's busiest airport is a community living entirely off-grid. Flanked one side by a runway and on the other by a Holiday Inn, this is not the most obvious location for an ecological project to thrive. But Grow Heathrow is more than an eco-village. Established eight years ago, it was set up as a direct protest against the expansion of Heathrow Airport.

All images courtesy of the artist. Via Creative Boom submission.

All images courtesy of the artist. Via Creative Boom submission.

Since then it has evolved into a beacon for sustainable living, housing around 25 residents who live in a series of homes cobbled together lovingly using low-impact methods.

Now the threat of a proposed third runaway, as backed in Parliament in June 2018, looks set to demolish the site as well as hundreds of homes in the surrounding area.

When photographer Jonathan Goldberg first visited the site in 2011, he felt as though he had stumbled upon a utopia, and was immediately moved to take pictures. His sensitive images depict the everyday comings and goings and personalities of the residents, some of whom have stayed weeks, and others, years. But life isn't always rosy: the threat of eviction is never far away and winters can be cold and bleak.

Goldberg's photos highlight the intrinsic qualities of a community of people that have chosen a sustainable way of life based on shared values, away from conventional infrastructures. We see inside cosy abodes made from materials sourced predominantly from the land, lush green pastures, and carefree children residing in yurts. A timelessness and intimacy pervade his images, but The Runway Stops Here asks if the charming "dream" that is sustainable living is really as idyllic as it seems.

Photos taken in the winter months allude to such hardships. Much of residents' time is spent outdoors, or in structures which do not fully keep out moisture. Being in a close community full-time can be challenging too, and frequently people are asked to leave if they are becoming a burden to the group. The threat of eviction too has been a cause for anxiety at various times in Grow Heathrow's past, and now the renewed prospect of a third runway.

As politicians have made their intentions clear, preparations are underway by Grow Heathrow residents for a loud show of defiance – not just to save their home, but also to highlight the far wider-reaching ramifications concerned with aviation and climate change.


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