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900 Neighbours (ATOM Study Guide)

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900 Neighbours is the story of a high-rise building and the people who call it home. The Northcott Estate is the largest public housing estate in Australia. The 591 apartments are home to over 1000 people. Its fourteen stories tower ominously over the gentrified inner-city Sydney area of Surry Hills.

Prior to the 1950s the area was a slum district and the vision then was that the new high-rise would create a dream new community for low-income earners. The design of the Northcott building reflected the latest Swedish housing design. In 1958, the NSW Minister for Housing said:

The block of flats to be erected on this block of land will be very much like a lot of apartment houses I saw in Stockholm, Sweden; it will be very beautiful indeed.

Fifty years on, this film takes us inside the lives of some of the people who live there. The documentary follows residents taking part in an outdoor show called StickybrickS that ran at Northcott during the Sydney Festival in January 2006.

This multimedia performance was the result of a dynamic collaboration between tenants, arts organization Big hART, and artists including Leah Purcell, Kerry Armstrong and Lex Marinos. One of the residents describes life at Northcott as 'a multi-confused situation' and this documentary explores this in a 'warts and all' style that is both honest and inspiring.

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