Housing for All March

Focus E15 Mums began almost a year ago as a campaign by a group of young mothers living in a hostel in Stratford to fight eviction when Newham Council cut the hostel’s funding. They started a weekly protest stall and made their fight to stay in the area a very public one, asking questions at meetings and staging protests, some of which have featured here before.

Their campaign has meant that so far they have managed to stay in London, close to families, support services and jobs, when Newham was trying to move them out to Birmingham or Hastings or anywhere rather than Newham.  It isn’t that there is no housing available in Newham, at the centre of one of the largest areas of regeneration in the country, with new blocks of flats appearing every time I go there and of course huge developments on the former Olympic site.  Not to mention the many vacant properties on the Carpenters Estate close to the centre of Stratford. More that these young women are not the right kind of people for Newham’s new vision; to put it simply they just are not rich enough.

Newham is of course a Labour-run council. Entirely. All of the 60 councillors now in office are from the Labour party. Unusually it also has a directly elected mayor, Robin Wales, Leader of Newham Council from 1995 to 2002 and Mayor since then, elected for a fourth term in May this year. You might think that this should mean a council that cares for the poor and the disadvantaged in the community, but it appears you might be sadly wrong.

One of the placards being carried in the protest had a picture of Sir Robin on it, along with the text  ‘Olympic Legacy = Evictions and Social Cleansing – Robin the Poor – Robin Wales Mayor of Newham’.  His policies are built around the ideas of ‘resilience’, which seems to mean helping those who help themselves, rather than any care or concern for those who are weak or who face problems they are unable to deal with. To me they seem to have abandoned the key ideas of the Labour movement, and would readily fit with those of the Chamber of Commerce and the Conservative Party.

I was disappointed not to get a better picture with that placard, and it wasn’t for want of trying. Perhaps I was mistaken, but just occasionally at protests there do seem to be people who go to considerable effort to evade the camera.


Four members of the Counihan family came with the Brent Housing Action banner

Of course there were many people at the protest who were happy – if not keen –  to be photographed and many that I knew from other events. I’ve photographed the Counihan family who started a campaign about their own housing problem with the London Borough of Brent – and who like the Focus Mums have gone on to campaign over housing on behalf of others in their own ‘Housing for All’ campaign, Brent Housing Action.

It was also good to see another friend I’ve photographed on various occasions, Tamsin Omond, who was handing out leaflets for a protest against the expansion of London City Airport, also in east London as well as carrying a placard in the protest. Some of the events I photographed her and the other Climate Rush activists at 5 years ago were against the building of a third runway at Heathrow  – and it now looks increasingly as if we will be protesting there again before too long.


Climate Rushers and local residents lead the ‘NO THIRD RUNWAY’ procession at the Heathrow perimeter fence
I had to leave the ‘Housing for All’ march as it passed East Ham Station as I wanted to photograph another event. You can read my report on the march and see more pictures at Focus E15 March for Decent Housing.



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