Posts Tagged ‘social cleansing’

Walking the Rip-Off – Heygate & Aylesbury – 2012

Monday, April 29th, 2024

Walking the Rip-Off – Heygate & Aylesbury – On Sunday 29th April 2012 I joined around 35 others for ‘Walking the Rip-Off’ organised by Southwark Notes Archive Group and Aylesbury Tenants First (and here) which started in the “community gardening projects of Heygate” and went on “to the Aylesbury for a look and learn around the massive site.”

Walking the Rip-Off - Heygate & Aylesbury

It was an interesting and illuminating experience. There were around 35 people altogether despite the rain and a terrible weather forecast, and fortunately it slackened off and the sun actually came out.

Walking the Rip-Off - Heygate & Aylesbury

The Heygate Estate has now completely gone, demolished in 2014. There has been a loss of over a thousand council tenancies in the area, and only around 25 of those tenants displaced from the Heygate are thought to have been rehoused in the area . The well-designed and largely solidly built estate which probably had at least another 50 years of life with proper maintenance and necessary refurbishment has been replaced by lower quality buildings with many flats owned by overseas investors which are unlikely to last as long.

Walking the Rip-Off - Heygate & Aylesbury

As Southwark Notes reported in 2015, developers Lend Lease were marketing its replacement, Elephant Park “overseas for wealthy off-plan buyers looking for second homes, investments, buy-to-lets, homes for their student sons and daughters etc.

Walking the Rip-Off - Heygate & Aylesbury

The individual properties in the new estate are smaller – some best described as poky – and rented properties are several times more expensive. In 2021 the social rent on a new housing development in nearby Bermondsey was advertised at £295.50, which was £130 above the government’s social rent cap of £164.87 for a two-bed property. Many of those who lived on the Heygate have been forced to move to outer areas of London or further afield to find housing they can afford. It has been social cleansing on a large scale.

Walking the Rip-Off - Heygate & Aylesbury
Housing left empty for several years had by 2012 suffered considerable vandalism

Particularly badly affected were leaseholders who were forced to move and given payments that were derisory and a fraction of that needed to buy comparable properties in the area. You can find more details online on Southwark Notes.

There is find more information on the regeneration of the Elephant & Castle area on the 35% Campaign web site. This also has up to date information on other aspects of Southwark Council’s failures including the redevelopment of the Aylesbury estate, the disastrous redevelopment of the Elephant & Castle shopping centre and other scandals in the area.

The site took its name from Southwark Council’s minimum policy requirement of 35% affordable housing, 70% of which social rent which it has failed to meet on Heygate and numerous subsequent developments.

On the tour in 2012 we were able to visit several properties on the Heygate and Aylesbury estates, and I was very impressed by the quality of the accommodation and the obvious love and care the residents had taken in making them really personal homes. I was allowed to photograph inside some of them but did not put any of the pictures on line in 2012, and can no longer find them.

From the 10th floor of Chiltern, Aylesbury Estate

I returned to one of those flats a year ago for the Fight4Aylesbury exhibition which was held there. Later in the year Aysen Dennis in whose flat this was held agreed to be relocated to a new nearby council block, but she continues her fight to save what remains of the estate. This January she acheived a significant victory when the High Court overturned the planning decision for Phase 2B of the Aylesbury Estate demolition. It is now not clear how the remaining demolition of the estate will proceed.


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Colindale and West Hendon Estate 2017

Thursday, March 28th, 2024

Colindale and West Hendon Estate: I’d actually gone to Colindale on Tuesday 28th March 2017 to attend the public inquiry into the second phase of the demolition of the West Hendon estate which was beginning at the RAF Museum there.

Colindale and West Hendon Estate 2017
New buildings on York Memorial Park and the West Hendon Estate across the Welsh Harp

But the proceedings there were tedious and while such things are important unless you are personally involved it soon becomes hard to remain involved. Nothing I heard in the short time I stayed would not have better been submitted as documents and probably had been. And it was a nice day outside.

Colindale and West Hendon Estate 2017
RAF Museum

I left and paid a short visit to the rest of the RAF Museum before going to photograph Grahame Park across the road from the museum, a large council estate built by the GLC and Barnet Council on the rest of the old Hendon Aerodrome site in the 60s and 70s, the first residents moving there in 1971.

Colindale and West Hendon Estate 2017
Grahame Park Estate

By the time I first visited to photograph the estate in 1994, some changes had been made, removing connecting walkways to split the flats into smaller units and replacing some flat roofs with pitched roofs. A more dramatic phased regeneration began in 2003 and considerable building work was still taking place in 2017.

Colindale and West Hendon Estate 2017

The regeneration will greatly increase the number of homes on the estate, and the new properties are more energy efficient, but the original number of council rented properties of almost 1800 will be reduced to around 300. Around 900 of the new properties were to be at so-called “affordable rents” and the remaining 1800 for sale or rent at market prices.

A few hundred existing residents with secure tenancies will be rehoused, but most of the estate residents do not qualify for rehousing, including some who had lived here for over 15 years. They will need to find private rented properties elsewhere in a typical example of social cleansing by Barnet Council, in league with developer and social landlord Genesis Housing Association.

As is the case in other regeneration projects on council estates around London this results in a huge transfer of land from public to private ownership and fails to meet the housing needs of poorer residents, many of whom are forced to move further from jobs, friends and families.

Colindale Ave

I walked from the estate to Colindale Station through another large area of building work, mainly of expensive private housing in large blocks of flats with an area action plan for of expensive private housing in large blocks of flats. Of course we need new housing but should be concentrating on providing it a reasonable cost for those most in need – which means social housing. Not building homes that will take up to 46% of tenants incomes in London, well above the “30 per cent of income” affordability threshold set by the ONS.

WestHendon Estate

I could have walked from Grahame Park to the West Hendon Estate about a mile and a half away but couldn’t see a decent route on the map, so took the tube to Hendon Central and caught a bus from there. The West Hendon Estate owes its genesis to a large bomb on 13th February 1941 which destroyed or rendered uninhabitable 366 houses, damaging a further 400 in the area, killing 75 people and severely injuring another 145. Over 1500 people were made homeless.

York Park there became York Memorial Park, a green open common designated as “a War Memorial in perpetuity” as a mark of respect to all who lost their lives. In the 1960s the remaining houses in the area were replaced by the West Hendon estate, comprising of 680 one-bedroom flats, two-bedroom maisonettes and three-bedroom council houses, along with open space, a community centre and a play area.

Barnet Council handed the memorial park – at least £12 million of public land – over to developers Barratt and they built a 29 storey tower block on the park – “perpetuity” becoming shorter than living memory. The West Hendon estate is being demolished in phases and being replaced by Hendon Waterside, largely expensive flats with views across the Welsh Harp. There will be an increase in the number of homes to 2,171 but many will go to overseas buyers and will be kept empty as investments whose value is expected to rise steeply. And somewhere at the back of the estate will probably be a little social housing – but only a small fraction of the original 680.

Few of the residents will qualify for rehousing but with higher rents and less security of tenure. Most will lose their homes and be ‘socially cleansed’, forced to move out of the area and away from friends, jobs, schools etc. Housing isn’t just a crisis but a shamefull twentyfirst century scandal.

More pictures on My London Diary:
West Hendon Estate
Colindale


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Focus E15 Mothers Party Against Eviction – 2014

Wednesday, January 17th, 2024

Focus E15 Mothers Party Against Eviction: Ten years ago today, on Friday 17th January 2014 I went to Stratford to photograph and support mothers threatened with eviction from their hostel.

Focus E15 Mothers Party Against Eviction

Focus E15 Mothers Party Against Eviction – East Thames Housing, Stratford

Focus E15 Mothers Party Against Eviction

The eviction threat came when Newham Council withdrew funding from the Focus E15 Foyer run by East Thames Housing Association. Rather than accept the evictions and be rehoused by the council in private rented flats in far-flung areas of the UK – including Wales and Liverpool, the women in the hostel decided to join together and fight.

Focus E15 Mothers Party Against Eviction

They fought to be rehoused near to friends, families and support including nurseries close to their local area to avoid distress and dislocation for themselves and their children – and eventually they won.

Focus E15 Mothers Party Against Eviction

The fight by Focus E15 brought national publicity to the scandals around local authority housing, and was a inspiration to others around the country. They continue their fight with their ‘Housing For All‘ campaign and remain an active campaign against evictions in Newham, including a weekly street stall every Saturday on Stratford Broadway.

Their campaign against Newham Council and its right-wing Labour Mayor Robin Wales who seemed to regard the London borough as a personal fiefdom led to some devious and at times illegal attempts to silence them and was almost certainly a factor in fomenting the revolt by Labour Party members that eventually led to him being deposed. Though his replacement as Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, is perhaps only a slight improvement.

All local authorities have suffered under cuts by central government, and in particular attacks on social housing provision, begun under Thatcher and continued by all governments since. The cuts made by the Tory-led coalition following on from the financial crash of 2008 tightened the screw on them still further.

Newham under Robin Wales appears to have decided that they needed to attract a wealthier population to the area and get rid of some of their existing population and had decided in the early 2000s to sell off a well-located and popular council estate close to the centre of Stratford to whoever they could. They began the process of ‘decanting’ people from the Carpenters estate around 2004, with many properties being left empty for years despite having – together with Lambeth – the largest housing waiting lists in Greater London – around 3.5 times the average among London authorities.

One of the Focus E15 slogans was ‘Repopulate the Carpenters Estate’ and it was in part due to their actions, alongside those of other campaigners, that the estate was not sold off and demolished. The estate is now being regenerated by the council although Focus E15 find much to criticise in the council’s plans.

The Focus E15 had begun in September 2013 and the action ten years ago was one of their earliest. I met with them and supporters, including those from the Revolutionary Communist Group, on a street corner near the offices of East Thames and walked with them into the large foyer, where they posed for a photograph for one of the local newspapers.

Then some of the mothers and children moved into the show flat at the front of the offices, with others remaining on the street outside with banners and placards, handing out leaflets to people walking by and using a megaphone to explain why the mothers were protesting.

The member of East Thames staff who had been dealing with the mothers came to talk with them. He assured them that they would be allowed to remain until satisfactory accommodation had been found for them.

The mothers pointed out that East Thames had large numbers of homes available, including many on the former Olympic site in Stratford, but were told that East Thames could not allocate affordable properties directly, but had to work with Newham council.

He seemed genuinely suprised to hear from the mothers that Newham had made offers involving rehousing away from London, in Hastings, Birmingham and elsewhere, away from friends, families, colleges, nurseries and support networks, and stated that East Thames intended to see them rehoused in London.

Later the Group Chief Executive of East Thames, June Barnes arrived and talked with the mothers telling them the same. East Thames seemed clear that the real problem was with Newham Council and not with them, though the campaigners were not really convinced.

You can read a longer account of the protest and party with many more pictures on My London Diary at Focus E15 Mothers Party Against Eviction.


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Grenfell Councillors Visited – 2017

Monday, November 27th, 2023

Grenfell Councillors Visited – Five and a half months after the terrible fire at Grenfell tower the local council responsible seemed still to be doing little to rehouse those displaced and there had been no criminal charges brought. A small group of local residents and supporters from the Revolutionary Communist Group took to the streets of North Kensington to try and call on councillors and ask questions. Of course six years later they are still waiting for justice – and it seems unlikely ever to happen. The British establishment has long practised ways of looking after its own.


Protesters visit Grenfell councillors – North Kensington

Grenfell Councillors Visited

The group gathered at Latimer Road station in the early evening where they held a short rally. They then set off to march to the addresses of several councillors in the area, though most of the council come from the wealthier end of the borough rather than North Kensington.

Grenfell Councillors Visited

I could have told them (and probably did) that they were wasting their time at the first address, that of Councillor Rock Feilding-Mellen, former deputy leader of Kensington Council and their cabinet member for housing in charge of the installation of the dangerous cladding which caused the fire to spread disastrously. He had urged the consultants in 2014 to cut the cost of the cladding leading to the safe zinc cladding specified being replaced with flammable panels – and he only worried about whether they were the right colour. Those making them were labelled as troublemakers (and worse.)

Grenfell Councillors Visited

Other councillors were also involved in various decisions and lack of action, including deciding against an inspection of fire doors in properties in the borough that the London Fire Brigade had made a few months before the fire.

Grenfell Councillors Visited

Seven major complaints made about safety by residents to through the Grenfell Action Group were detailed in evidence to the Grenfell inquiry; these were simply dismissed by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea officers and councillors and in particular by the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) responsible under the council for the management of Grenfell and other properties in the borough.

Feilding-Mellen, elected as a councillor in 2010 was made Deputy Leader of Kensington & Chelsea Council (RBKC) and Cabinet Member for Housing, Property and Regeneration in 2013 with no obvious qualification or experience for either position and began a campaign of social cleansing, to, in his words, “wean people off” living in social housing in the borough.

He cut the council’s housing waiting list in half, removed the right of residents forced out of the borough in redevelopment schemes to return and began an aggressive campaign of removing social assets from North Kensington. Both North Kensington Library and Westway Information centre were sold at cut price to Notting Hill Prep School and the Isaac Newton Centre to Chepstow House Prep School.

Both Feilding-Mellen and council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown were forced to resign from their posts weeks after the fire, though both remained councillors. Feilding-Mellen moved out of his house not far from Grenfell Tower at the end of June, claiming there had been threats against him and vandalism. He was thought to have retreated to the safer climes of Chelsea Harbour, though his wealthy family have quite a few properties around the country and doubtless abroad. Feilding-Mellen’s evidence to the inquiry sickened many as it seemed greatly concerned with getting free publicity for his business interests in psychoactive substances, which includes offering supervised, legal psilocybin retreats in Jamaica and The Netherlands.

David Lindsay speaking

The protesters were more successful in their visit to councillor David Lindsay, a locally born Conservative councillor who is said to be genuinely community minded and respected in North Kensington and was elected as Mayor of Kensington and Chelsea for 2022-23. He came out from his home and talked with them, explaining he had no connection with housing before the fire and had gone down to Grenfell at 4am on the morning of the fire to open up a centre for those affected. He told them that the council were trying hard to find suitable accomodation for the survivors and had spent considerable sums in doing so. The local residents told him they felt the council had been and still was failing in its duties and were not satisfied with his answers.

Finally I went with them some way further south into to rather wealthier areas, stopping outside the house of a third councillor in Portland Road. If they were home they were in hiding, but a neighbour came out to to complain that the protesters were waking his children up, and saying that they shouldn’t protest here and shouldn’t protest at night, but should do so in the daytime when no one would be at home and affected by it. He was met with some very angry and rather rude responses – and the protest continued rather longer and much more noisily that it would otherwise have done.

The group then turned around to make its way back towards Grenfell Tower, but I left them. The Royal Borough doesn’t seem to spend a great deal on street lighting and the batteries in my LED light were failing. I’d taken enough photographs and I was cold and tired and needed to eat and get home to work on the pictures.

More pictures at Protesters visit Grenfell councillors.


LSE Resist – Working Class, Kidbrooke & Cleaners

Friday, September 29th, 2023

LSE Resist – Working Class, Kidbrooke & Cleaners: in September 2016 then LSE research fellow Lisa McKenzie and a couple of students organised a series of discussions, films, lectures and exhibitions in the 3 day campus-wide 3-day free ‘Resist: Festival of Ideas and Actions’. The festival explored how political resistance is understood within academic research, the arts, grassroots activism campaigns, student debate and mainstream politics.

LSE Resist - Working Class, Kidbrooke & Cleaners

As a part of this festival LSE cleaners began a campaign for parity of treatment with other workers at the LSE. I had contributed some protest pictures to be used in publicity for the festival and attended some of the events on 28-29th September 2016.

LSE Resist - Working Class, Kidbrooke & Cleaners

The success of this festival was perhaps one of the reasons why Dr McKenzie was not given a further contract at the LSE. She has since worked at Middlesex University, Durham University and the University of Bedfordshire and is Board Chair of the Working Class Collective.


Working Class debate at LSE Resist – Wednesday 28th September 2016

LSE Resist - Working Class, Kidbrooke & Cleaners

There was a lively open debate around ideas of the working class at lunchtime on the steps in front of the LSE building in Lincoln’s Inn Fields led by LSE Professor of Anthropology David Graeber and Martin Wright of Class War with contributions from others including LSE research fellow Lisa McKenzie and Class War’s Ian Bone.

LSE Resist - Working Class, Kidbrooke & Cleaners

I arrived late, partly because the LSE then was a huge building site and the Facebook invitation to the event had included a map incorrectly suggesting it was taking place in Houghton Street, so unfortunately missed the some of the opening remarks by Graeber.

He was followed by Whitechapel anarchist Martin Wright, a working-class activist from East London who told us he was proud of his record of not working. He now regularly broadcasts his pithy comments on current affairs on the ‘Red and Black’ channel on You Tube.

Ian Bone, the founder of Class War, once described by the gutter press as the ‘The Most Dangerous Man in Britain‘ gave a typically witty and thought-provoking contribution.

And of course Lisa McKenzie spoke at some length and depth, and there was a great deal of discussion among the main speakers, with contributions from many of those sitting around on the steps, mainly LSE students. I took a great many pictures some of which you can see on My London Diary, but think I managed to keep my mouth shut and listen rather than speak.

More pictures at Working Class debate at LSE Resist.


Simon Elmer of ASH indicts LSE

The following day I was back on the same steps to hear Simon Elmer of Architects for Social Housing (ASH) give a lengthy and detailed indictment, ‘The Intellectual Bloodstain’ on a report by a group of LSE academics on Kidbrooke Village, a development by Berkeley Homes and Southern Housing, on the site of a council estate which was demolished between 2009 and 2012.

The Ferrier Estate had been built for the Greater London Council in 1968-72 on the site of a former RAF base. The first section had five 12 storey towers and three years later a second section six more were added. The estate had around 1,900 flats.

When the GLC was abolished in 1986 for having opposed the Thatcher government it was a sad day for London in general, with the capital being left without its essential city-wide authority, something it has not yet recovered from despite the setting up of the GLA in 2000. But for the Ferrier estate in was even worse news as the estate was transferred to the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

Greenwich made Ferrier a sink estate and failed to maintain the estate properly; its population were markedly multi-ethnic, including many refugees while most of the rest of the borough’s estates were predominantly white.

You can read Elmer’s talk in full on the ASH web site and it makes interesting reading. Perhaps the key fact is that the estate still had 1732 flats which were housing council tenants at social rents, but in the replacement Kidbrooke Village although there will be 4,763 new apartments, only 159 will be at social rent. Some of the others will be ‘affordable’, meaning at up to 80% of market rent, but that means completely unaffordable to those who previously lived there – or to almost all of the 15,000 on the council’s housing waiting list.

As a former member of Greenwich Council was quoted by Elmer as stating, ‘Ten years ago residents on the Ferrier Estate were told that they would have the right to come back. What Greenwich Council didn’t mention is that they would need to win the Lottery to do so.

Elmer uses the case of Ferrier to ague about a key tropes behind the LSE produced report, the idea of ‘urban villages’ and also points out some of the omissions and inaccuracies of the report as well as attacking their use of inadequate and often misleading concepts such as ‘human scale‘, ‘unique identity‘, ‘social interaction‘ (which means going to shop at Sainsbury’s), ‘locally driven‘, ‘mixed communities‘ and more as well as pointing out some simple lies lifted directly from the developers’s marketing book.

His report points out “the white elephant standing in the middle of the living room of every one of these luxury apartments – that is, their complete failure to meet the housing needs of the local community” and went on to look more widely at housing issues in the UK before concluding his talk by convening a People’s Court for the indictment of the LSE Four, listing four charges and calling for their suitable punishment “in the name of Architects for Social Housing and on behalf of the former residents of the Ferrier Estate.” I think they were unanimously found guilty.

At the end of the meeting Petros Elia, General Secretary of the United Voices of the World trade union spoke briefly about the failure of LSE management to protect the interests of the LSE cleaners in outsourcing them to a cleaning contractor with no insistence on decent working conditions and conditions of service and inviting all present to a meeting later that do to discuss further action.

More pictures at Simon Elmer of ASH indicts LSE.


LSE Cleaners Campaign Launch

Later on Thursday I went to the meeting where cleaners at the LSE began their campaign for parity of treatment with other workers at the university.

The cleaners, employed by Noonan on a LSE contract, are paid the London Living Wage, but have only the statutory minimum holidays, sick pay and pension contributions, while workers directly employed by the LSE have more generous terms. They also complain they have lost rest facilities, are not allowed in the canteen with other workers, exposed to dangerous chemicals, not allowed to use lifts to move heavy equipment between floors and are generally treated like dirt.

We were all shocked when one of the cleaners stood up and told how she had been sacked by Noonan after 12 years of service at the LSE. The UVW will fight her unfair dismissal as well as pursuing their other claims.

Others attending the meeting included most of the students from a new graduate course at the LSE on issues of equality, something the LSE has a long history of campaigning for outside of the institution but seemed rather blind to on its own campus. Support for the cleaners was expressed by the LSE Students Union General Secretary and by several LSE staff members, and Sandy Nicoll from SOAS Unison told the meeting about their 10 year fight to bring cleaners there in-house.

Several of the cleaners spoke in Spanish, and their comments were translated for the benefit of the non-Spanish speaking in the audience,

There were suggestions for further actions to improve conditions and fight the unfair redundancy, and I was to photograph some of these in the months that followed, eventually leading the them being taken back in-house as LSE employees in 2017.

More pictures at LSE Cleaners campaign launch.


Greedy Property Developers Reward Themselves

Friday, April 21st, 2023

Greedy Property Developers Reward Themselves: Eight years ago on Tuesday 12 April 2015 I photographed housing activists protesting outside the expensive dinner at a Mayfair hotel for the 2015 Property Awards. The protesters held their own alternative awards ceremony for housing protesters as a part of the event.

Among those in my pictures is Aysen from the Aylesbury Estate. The Fight4Aylesbury exhibition in her flat on the estate continues today, Friday 21st April 2023, and on Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd. Parts of some of my pictures from this event were used in collages in that show.


Property Awards at Mayfair Hotel – Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane

Greedy Property Developers Reward Themselves

Property developers have powered the incredible rise in London Housing prices by building luxury flats for mainly overseas investors, many of which remain unoccupied to be sold later at even higher prices to other investors, and also by working with London councils to redevelop social housing largely for private sale.

Greedy Property Developers Reward Themselves

Together with the actions of successive governments – Tory and Labour – they had created what by 2015 was clearly the worst shortage of affordable housing in history, with a record number of evictions and the doubling of rough sleeping in London. Over 50,000 families have had to move out of London while many more properties in the capital remain empty.

Greedy Property Developers Reward Themselves

As I wrote: “Housing in London has ceased to be something to meet human need, and instead is servicing greed and selfishness.” And the expensive dinner taking place that evening in the luxury Mayfair hotel was to give awards to the property developers for their greed. Among those taking part in the protest outside were people from estates which are being redeveloped, including Southwark Council’s Aylesbury estate and Sweets Way in north London who were facing eviction because of the policy of social cleansing driven by councils and developers.

People arriving at the dinner were met by a noisy crowd calling for a fair housing policy outside the ‘red carpet’ entrance to the hotel on Park Lane and had to walk past the protesters to enter. Police tried to keep the entrance clear and some hotel staff directed the guests to other entrances to the hotel, where the protesters also followed.

The protesters held an alternative awards ceremony in front of the hotel entrance, awarding large cardboard cups for the Young Protester of the Year, Placard Making, Demonstration of the Year and Occupation of the Year.

Protesters also briefly occupied occupied a neighbouring branch of estate agents Foxton, who have played a leading role in the gentrification of London. Together with other estate agents they have also been an important influence on the housing policies of both Tory and Labour.

Foxtons is notorious among those who rent property for driving up rents – and in 2022 the London Renters Union reported that their annual revenue had increased by £5m as rents in London went up by an average of 20.5% in 3 months, with one Foxtons tenant reporting a rise of £12,000 per year!

Shortly before I left it became clear that most of those coming to the dinner were being directed to a rear service entrance to the hotel and the protesters moved around the block to hold a rally there. The gate was rapidly closed and there were some minor scuffles as police attempted to move the protesters away. I heard later that there had been two arrests after I left.

Many more pictures at Property Awards at Mayfair Hotel.


Fight4Aylesbury Exhibition

Tuesday, April 18th, 2023

Last Friday I went to the first day of the Fight4Aylesbury exhibition which continues until 23 April 2023. It’s an unusual exhibition and one that is worth visiting if you can get to south London before it ends,

Fight4Aylesbury Exhibition

The exibition celebrates the struggle by residents on the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark to stay in their homes since the estate was first threatened in 1999 and takes over the flat of one of those still remaining, Aysen who writes:

Welcome to my home.

I am opening the doors to my flat for a collective clelbration of 20+ years of housing struggles to defend our council homes against social cleansing and gentrification. Our fight is ongoing.

Since 1999 the council has subjected us with privitisation, “re-generation” and now demolition. We, Aylesbury residents, other council tenant all over the country, and our supporters, have been resisting and are still resisting and defending our homes.

My home tells the story of this struggle.

Aysen

Fight4Aylesbury Exhibition

You are invited to Aysen’s council flat on Aylesbury Estate to celebrate 20+ years of housing struggles for housing justice and against gentrification, social cleansing and demolition of social housing. The flat has been transformed into a living exhibition with flyers, posters, video, audio and installations on housing struggles.
Fight4Aylesbury Exhibition
The exhibition is in this block, Wendover

The Aylesbury estate, designed by Hans Peter “Felix” Trenton was one of the largest areas of council housing in Europe, built from 1963 to 1977 with 2,700 dwellings for around 10,000 residents in an area containing some earlier social housing a short distance south of the Elephant and Castle between East Street market and Burgess Park.

Fight4Aylesbury Exhibition

There are a number of large blocks of various heights, from 4 to 14 floors, all well designed and built to the high standards of the era, with rather larger rooms and more solid walls than current buildings. The estate also had a central boiler to supply heat more economically to the flats.

Southwark neglected the estate in the 1980s and 1990s, failing to carry out necessary maintenance and the estate and the estate environment became in poor conditions. The heating system in particular suffered. Southwark began to use this and the neighbouring Heygate Estate as ‘sink estates’, deliberately moving in families with various social problems and people with mental health issues. It was because the estate had become unpopular that Aysen, who had to leave Turkey after the 1980 coup, was able to get a flat here with her sister in 1993.

The estate came to get a reputation as “one of the most notorious estates in the United Kingdom“, reinforced by it becoming a popular area for TV crews filming “murder scenes, gun and drug storylines and gang-related crimes in soaps and gritty dramas.” In particular from 2004-15 Channel 4 used it in an “ident” for which they had added “washing lines, shopping trolley, rubbish bags and satellite dishes” to create what was described as “a desolate concrete dystopia.”

Its poor reputation led Tony Blair to hold his first speech to the press as Prime Minister in 1997 on the estate, promising that the government would care for the poorest in society. It was a promise that he and later prime ministers have spectacularly failed to keep.

Southwark Council’s response to the estate’s decay they had overseen was to try and wash their hands of it by trying to transfer it to a private housing association to be redeveloped. But a campaign by residents in 2001 led to this being soundly rejected – not surprisingly they voted against demolition, displacement, rising rents and smaller flat sizes.

Undeterred, Southwark decided to go ahead with the redevelopment themselves, producing new plans for demolition in 2005. This time they didn’t bother to ballot the residents.

Solidarity collage which includes some of my images

The plans were for a 20 year phased demolition, with rebuilding of modern blocks by a housing association. The generous public space of the estate would be reduced and the housing density almost doubled. The first phase was completed in 2013 and Phase 2 is currently underway. All four phases are due for completion around 2032, and the 12 storey Wendover block in which the exhibition is being held has already been largely emptied of residents and is expected to be demolished around the end of this year.

Residents have continued their fight to stop the redevelopment, with protests and in January 2015 housing activists and squatters occupied flats in one of the emptied blocks. Moving from block to block they were finally evicted 18 days later. The squatters occupied another building and again were evicted. Southwark spent £140,000 on a fence, completely destroyed all bathrooms, toilets, pipes and kitchens in empty properties and spent £705,000 on security guards to prevent further occupation.

Other protests took place, including one in which part of the fence was torn down, and various protests at council meetings. Aylesbury residents also joined with housing activists in Southwark and across London at various other protests. But although these brought the Aylesbury campaign and the scandals over housing to national attention, the demolition continues.

Part of the scandal has been the “well-oiled revolving door” between the council – councillors and officers – and developers. The toilet in the exhibition flat is devoted to Southwark Council, and in particular for its Leader for more than a decade Peter John, who stepped down in 2020. He described his years as a “decade of Delivery“; community; anti-gentrification collective Southwark Notes call it “a Wild West gold rush for developers.” A 2013 report showed that “20 percent of Southwark’s 63 councillors work as lobbyists” for developers in the planning industry.

Similar estates built with the same system elsewhere have been successfully refurbished at relatively low cost to bring insulation and other aspects up to current standards. These buildings will probably last into the next century and their demolition is expensive and incredibly wasteful of both the huge amount of energy that was embedded in them and and energy require to demolish and rebuild.

There is more to the exhibition – and you can see some hints of it in the pictures. After visiting the show I walked up four floors to the top of Wendover for the view. The windows were rather dirty and most fixed shut but I did find a few places where they were open slightly to let me take photographs of the views across London.

You can see a different set of pictures in my album Fight4Aylesbury Exhibition.


Housing, Low Pay, Arms Sales, A Political Arrest & More

Sunday, April 2nd, 2023

Too much was happening on Thursday 2nd April 2015 to fit it all into a headline, with protests against evictions, jailed Palestinian children, arms companies, sacking of trade unionists at hotels in Ethiopia and the Maldives, a politically motivated arrest and a failed visit to a squat in a prominent London building.


Sweets Way at Annington Homes – James St,

Housing, Low Pay, Arms Sales, A Political Arrest

I began work at a lunchtime protest outside the offices of Annington Homes, the tax-dodging equity investor owned company which owns the Sweets Way estate in north London, calling for an end to evictions and the right to return for all decanted residents.

Housing, Low Pay, Arms Sales, A Political Arrest

It was a small but lively protest and attracted considerable attention and support on a street busy with office workers taking their lunch break.

Despite the efforts of the campaigners this small former Ministry of Defence estate of 142 social homes was finally forcibly evicted by evicted by dozens of High Court bailiffs and 7 vans of Met police on 23-24th September. Annington planned to replace these with around 170 homes for private sale at up to £700,000, along with just 59 so-called ‘affordable’ homes at £560,000. Nothing on the new estate was to provide social housing and this was clearly an exercise in social cleansing for profit.

Sweets Way at Annington Homes


Admiralty Arch Occupied by A.N.A.L. – The Mall

Housing, Low Pay, Arms Sales, A Political Arrest

Admiralty Arch, the landmark Grade I listed building providing an impressive entrance to the Mall from Trafalagar Square was commissioned by King Edward VII to commemorate Queen Victoria’s death, designed by Sir Aston Webb and completed in 1912. Initially a residence for the First Sea Lord and offices for the Admiralty it was later more general government offices. The government sold it off in 2012 to be developed as a hotel.

Housing, Low Pay, Arms Sales, A Political Arrest

Activists from the Autonymous Nation of Anarchist Libertarians had entered the building through the roof at night and were occupying it. I photographed the various notices and banners on the outside of the building and some activities of security and occupiers outside, and talked to a couple of the them. I and a couple of other journalists were offered entry if we brought tobacco or alcohol but felt it wise to refuse and left. I think the squatters were evicted within 24 hours.

Admiralty Arch Occupied by A.N.A.L.


Free the Palestinian Children – G4S, Victoria St

Housing, Low Pay, Arms Sales, A Political Arrest

G4S provides security services for Israeli jails in which Palestinian children are held, some as young as 12 years old. The most common charge is throwing stones. Typically there have been 500-700 of them a year in the Israeli military detention system with between 120 and 450 held at any one time. In 2014 Israel held 1266 Palestinian children for interrogation; campaigners say 75% of them are physically tortured and many sexually abused.

Housing, Low Pay, Arms Sales, A Political Arrest

One of the protesters who spoke about G4S involvement in the imprisoning and torture of Palestinian children also spoke about her mistreatment by Israeli Security, who forced her to remove her clothes and stand naked to be inspected in public because she was going to visit Palestinians in jail

Free the Palestinian Children


Stations of the Cross Pilgrimage – Westminster

Thursday 2nd April 2015 was Maundy Thursday and Catholic Workers were taking part in a walk around the “geography of suffering” in London halting outside the offices of companies in the arms trade for prayers against the arms trade, war, torture, nuclear weapons, international debt, homelessness, immigration policy and climate change. The ‘Stations of the Cross’ was a day early as this usually takes place on Good Friday.

Among the companies whose offices they prayed outside were arms company Qinetiq in Buckingham Gate, where a security man came out and told them they could not protest there. They told him they were on the public highway and if they wanted to protest they could do so. But they had come to pray not to protest and continued, leaving as they finished their service.

Among other companies I photographed them outside were Rolls-Royce, another weapons manufacturer, where the pilgrimage ended. I had only joined them part way through the event, when the came past the protest at G4S.

Stations of the Cross Pilgrimage


Shame on Sheraton – Hotel Workers – Mayfair

Workers at Sheraton hotels in Ethiopia and the Maldives have been sacked for trade union organising and members of the fast-growing Unite Hotel Workers Branch protested in solidarity with them outside Sheraton’s two Mayfair hotels.

Hotel workers are one of the most marginalised groups of workers in the UK, and many are exploited because their English is poor or non-existent. Here in the UK they can also get sacked for joining a union but despite this, the Hotel Workers branch is the fastest growing branch of Unite because of its determined support for the workers.

I met and photographed their protest outside Le Meridien on Piccadilly for around half an hour before walking down with the to the Park Lane Hotel where I had to leave them to go to Aldgate.

Shame on Sheraton – Hotel Workers


Chingford candidate arrested at Poor Doors – One Commercial St, Aldgate

Police clearly had it in for Lisa McKenzie and during this weekly Poor Doors protest outside One Commercial St a woman officer came up to her a and told her she was being arrested, accused of criminal damage. The officer said she had stuck a Class War sticker on the glass next to the rich door two weeks earlier on March 19th. A snatch squad surrounded her, and despite opposition from the protesters she was led away and put in a waiting police van to be taken to Bethnal Green police station.

While many people had stuck posters and stickers onto the glass windows at almost every Poor Doors protest, this was the first arrest. It’s doubtful whether this is an offence, and it is certainly not criminal damage, as glass is not damaged, with posters and any glue residue being easily removed leaving the surface in as new condition.

I had photographed Lisa and others at the Rich Door fairly extensively on March 19th and was ready to testify that she had not herself stuck anything on the glass – though when her case eventually came to court it was thrown out before I was called.

Lisa was certainly a very vocal protester (as usual) but it’s hard to avoid thinking what picked her out was political pressure because of her candidature for Class War against Iain Duncan Smith in Chingford in the forthcoming general election.

Before her arrest the protest had been hampered by barriers for work on the wide pavement outside the Rich Door of the building, and the protest had started on the opposite side of the main road.

Two incidents caused some hilarity, one where a police officer came to deal with a yellow smoke flare that had been thrown into the road, first seeming to kick it, then picking it up and carrying it away down the alley towards the poor door. It had burnt out by the time he reached this, but as I commented “Everyone else may throw their rubbish here but I was surprised the police thought it a good idea.”

The second was when Lisa pointed out that one of the two women officers standing behind the banner she was holding had taken part in plain clothes in a previous ‘poor doors’ protest, and Ian Bone offered her the megaphone to speak – but this was immediately followed by another woman officer coming to arrest Lisa.

There were some angry scenes as she was driven away, and police refused to talk with the protesters. The protest continued with several speeches before people went home.

Much more at Chingford candidate arrested at Poor Doors.


Lung Theatre ‘E15’ Battersea March 2017

Thursday, March 16th, 2023

Lung Theatre 'E15' Battersea March

Lung Theatre ‘E15’ Battersea March: Thursday 16th March 2017 was a rather unusual day for me in that rather than photographing a protest I was being part of a theatrical performance, though not in a theatre but on the busy evening rush hour streets of Battersea.

Lung Theatre 'E15' Battersea March

But like many of the others there, I was playing myself as a photographer of protests, and taking pictures as I would if this had been a real protest.

Lung Theatre 'E15' Battersea March

This performance was to announce that Lung Theatre, a small theatrical group, were bringing their Edinburgh festival award-winning performance ‘E15’ to Battersea Arts Centre, and they were doing so with the help of many of the housing protesters, particularly from the Stratford-based Focus E15 campaign, on which their ‘verbatim theatre’ performance was based.

Lung Theatre 'E15' Battersea March

An interesting article, Documentary & Verbatim Theatre by Tom Cantrell of the University of York gives a clear definition, “Verbatim theatre is a form of documentary theatre which is based on the spoken words of real people. Strictly, verbatim theatre-makers use real people’s words exclusively, and take this testimony from recorded interviews.”

The “protest” began in the rather dim light of the street outside Clapham Junction’s busiest entrance, and it was hard for me to distinguish the actors from the housing protesters by their speech and actions, though rather easier in that they were the only faces I didn’t recognise, having met and photographed the activists so often at previous events. But the group certainly put on a convincing performance as they handed out leaflets and fliers, both about the Focus E15 campaign and their forthcoming performances at the Battersea Arts Centre.

Focus E15 began when a group of young mothers housed in the Focus E15 hostel in Stratford were told that Newham council were going to evict them and they would be dispersed not just in the borough but to rented accommodation across the country in far away places where they had no friends, no family and away from any jobs, schools, familiar services and support.

Newham had adopted a policy which amounted to social cleansing, removing people from its area who, as the then Mayor put it, could not afford to live there. Rather than accept this they came together to fight the council, and inspired others across the country to fight for ‘Social Housing NOT Social Cleansing’.

And Focus E15 won their fight but didn’t stop there, continuing the fight for others in the area faced with homelessness and eviction, demanding the council bring empty council housing back into use in a campaign for ‘Housing For All’. They are still out on Stratford Broadway with a street stall every Saturday, still forcing the council to face up to its responsibilities despite considerable harassment (and more recently a change of Mayor.)

As well as some of the leading activists from Focus E15 at the eevent were also other campaigners including some from Sweets Way in north London and Lewisham People Before Profit and others fighting the demolition of council housing by London’s mainly Labour controlled councils, increasingly in league with estate agents and property developers scrambling for excessive profits from sky-high London market prices. And they had brought some of their banners with them for the event.

From Clapham Junction the “protesters” marched up Lavender Hill to the Battersea Arts Centre, where they occupied the foyer for a few final minutes of protest in what had been a pretty convincing event. And while actors had to go on stage and give their performance, the activists could sit down in the theatre and watch.

I didn’t join them, as I knew I had to come back to view it a week later and then be a part of a panel discussion Art & Accidental Activism, a week later. It was an impressive performance and gave a real impression of some of the more dramatic aspects of the real protests I had covered and made clear the political aspects of the housing crisis and why activism was necessary. But sometimes it did seem strange to hear words I remembered well coming out of a different person.

I couldn’t really enjoy it as much as I would have liked as I was very nervous, considerably daunted at having to appear afterwards ‘on stage’ to answer questions with fellow panelists Jeremy Hardy, journalist Dawn Foster and theatre legend Max Stafford Clark. But in the event it went well (my sternest critic says) and I rather enjoyed it and the session in the bar that followed.

More at Lung Theatre ‘E15’ march to BAC.


Croydon Snouts in Trough Protest – 2016

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2022


Croydon Snouts in Trough Protest

Unless you were a reader of Private Eye, one of the last bastions of investigative journalism in the UK, or a reader of Inside Croydon, which has been casting its critical on-line eye of the dubious activities of the local council since 2010 you would probably have been unaware of what was happening in the Borough when Class War held this protest in 2016.

Croydon Snouts in Trough Protest

Things came into more general light a few years later, particularly after the council collapsed into bankruptcy in 2018, largely due to attempting to become a major housing developer with poor governance and few financial controls , as well as some risky investments to become a property developer. These led eventually in September 2020 to chief executive Jo Negrini leaving with a golden handshake allegedly worth £440,000 for her failures and to council leader Tony Newman resigning after 6 years in charge of this Labour run council.

Croydon Snouts in Trough Protest

Inside Croydon quotes Private Eye that “… thanks to the wonder of revolving doors, ‘Negreedy’ has resurfaced as a ‘cities and development consultant’ on the books of Arup, the giant engineering and planning specialists”. This was one of the firms that “she favoured so lavishly when she was frittering tax-payers’ money“, and a textbook example of the careers of may who have left well-paid council employment to move into the private sector.

Croydon Snouts in Trough Protest
Ian Bone and a Class War banner

And as they say, her Brainchild Brick by Brick, and its £200million borrowings produced precious few new homes. Negrini also oversaw the “£70million Fairfield Halls refurbishment, which delivered rich profits for a handful of consultants but little in the way of the long-promised improvements to the much-loved arts centre.” In 2022 Croydon Council’s report on possible fraud linked to Fairfield Halls and council-owned developer Brick by Brick was passed to the Metropolitan Police, despite determined efforts by some councillors to keep it private. Croydon Council then took Inside Croydon to the High Court for having published documents and information about the report. The case was thrown out, with Private Eye describing it making the council “a national laughing stock.”

Ian Bone & Jane Nicholl shelter from the rain

Class War has strong links with the London Borough of Croydon, and with the South Norwood Tourist Board who on 21st December 2020 organised a Solstice ceremony “sacrificing Croydon Council to the Gods, so that the sun may once again rise on our benighted borough.” Unfortunately I was unable to attend that event bacause of Covid restrictions but there is an impressive short video on their web site, also available on YouTube. Apparently two Conservative Councillors objected to the video and had it removed from the Facebook page of the Save South Norwood Library campaign. Previously held by Labour the council now has no party with an overall majority, 34 Labour councillors, 32 Conservative councillors, two Green councillors and one Liberal Democrat councillor.

Class War came to the recently set up Croydon Boxpark on Tuesday 22nd November 2016 to protest against property developers and council leaders who were attending the Develop Croydon Conference, aimed at transforming Croydon into a desirable metropolitan hub with luxury apartments, prestige offices and the capital’s latest Westfield.

The lunchtime protest demanded that Croydon be developed to meet the needs of the inhabitants rather than to line the pockets of developers and become a piggy bank of largely empty flats and offices owned by overseas investors. Their protest led conference organisers to cancel a scheduled walking tour of Croydon and few of the attendees came to the boxpark where they had been scheduled to lunch, probably finding plusher restaurants in the town centre. The few councillors and property developers who did arriave and walked past the protest to enter the site and were greeted with shouts of ‘Scum!’ and ‘Snouts in the trough!’

Class War had no issues with the boxpark, though some considered it a rather hipster venue, but it is clearly a leisure facility for the people of Croydon. Box Park owner Roger Wade came to talk with the protesters and invited them to come and talk with him at a later date as he felt they had views in common about the future of the town.

A short thunderstorm brought a temporary halt to the protest, with some of us sheltering in a bus shelter before returning to picket. Some used a banner as an umbrella and marched to the East Croydon Station entrance to the Boxpark for a brief protest there, while others continued opposite the conference. Mark Eaton, seen as the BBC developers’ apologist got a noisy welcome as he walked back into the venue for the afternoon session. A security office came out to harass Class War as the area in front of the offices is private land – and told me I could not take picture. I continued to do so. Police soon moved the protesters back to the opposite side of the road where they had been protesting earlier. Soon after the protesters decided that everyone would now be inside the conference and ended the protest. I walked with them to the Dog and Duck before leaving for home.

More at Class War Croydon ‘Snouts in the trough’.