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Ministructures: we meet a woman that chained herself to the Trellick Tower

Artist Lucy Sparrow has made mini versions of London’s iconic buildings out of felt for our Ministructures series. For each iconic building she creates, we find a Londoner with a connection it. This week, we chat to Emma Dent Coad, 58, local councillor for Golborne Ward and deputy leader of the Labour group for Kensington and Chelsea council.

What drew you to this job?
‘In my other world, I write about planning and architecture. So when I decided to put myself up for councillor my friends asked what on earth I was doing. I told them I had the Trellick Tower in my ward, and they got it.’

What’s so great about the Trellick?
‘There’s a kind of excellence in the way its architecture functions. Every little thing has been thought through. Its architect Erno Goldfinger [whose name inspired Ian Fleming] even considered what people would see when they were cooking, to make sure that there were windows in the right places.’

Have you always been political?
‘I’ve never believed anything that anyone’s ever told me. That side of me has always been there, ever since I was at school and joined the National Union of School Students when I was 15. We went on strike.’

What for?
‘To ban school uniforms. And homework. And we wanted pocket money for sixth formers. They agreed to let us wear our own clothes when we were in sixth form, so I won that battle.’

Where do you get your fight?
‘Maybe it comes from being the youngest of six children. And I care a lot about people – I’ll fight to the death for people that can’t fight for themselves.’

You once chained yourself to the railings outside the Tower, right?
‘When I first came on to the council they were looking at demolishing the Edenham care home, which is in front of the Tower. It was full of old people with dementia, and they were very distressed at the thought of moving. So I chained myself to the railings to make a point that this was ours and that whatever the council did should be for the benefit of local people. But they decided to go ahead with the demolition. Some of the residents were standing outside, trying to get back into the site. Two people stopped eating, and eventually died. It was brutal, what happened.’

Why are you so into buildings?
‘A lot of architecture critics are consumed with how buildings look, but I’m interested in how buildings inspire human interaction – how they should work with people, rather than against them.’

What do you think of Mini Trellick Tower?
‘It doesn’t match up to the real thing – but then again, how could it?’

Tell us something we might not guess about you.
‘I have a very dark secret – I’m actually really nice. But I try not to let anyone know that.’

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