Lewisham: Hills, Rivers, Secret Corners and Blatant Skyscrapers, a set on Flickr.
For most of the last 16 years I have lived in the London Borough of Lewisham — first in Forest Hill, London SE23, and, since November 1999, in Brockley, London SE4, which overlooks Lewisham town centre, the commercial heart of the borough. Built up since Saxon times around the River Ravensbourne, which flows into the River Thames at Deptford, the town centre is also the place where the River Quaggy, flowing in from the south east, via Eltham and Kidbrooke, joins the Ravensbourne.
From its valley, Lewisham also wanders up the hills to the south east, towards Lee, and the east, more steeply uphill to Blackheath. These photos were taken between May and August, and capture some of Lewisham’s history, some of its contours, including the hills and rivers, and some of the new developments in the town centre — Prendergast Vale College, a new school on the former site of Ladywell Bridge primary school, which is a positive development, and the high-rise apartment blocks rising up along Loampit Vale, the road from Lewisham to New Cross that peaks in Brockley, whose contribution is almost entirely negative.
The product of an unholy collaboration between Barratt Homes, Lewisham Council and London & Quadrant Housing Trust, the so-called “Renaissance” development which features 788 apartments in eight buildings, including one 24-storey monster — contributes negatively to the borough because it spectacularly fails to address the chronic need for affordable housing, containing just 146 apartments which are designated as being “for affordable rent,” which (a) may be a lie, and (b) fails to address the fact that there are 17,000 people on Lewisham Council’s housing waiting list, with 350 families living in hostels and 1,000 in temporary accommodation. It also will add enormous stress to Lewisham’s infrastructure, and, in addition, it plays into inappropriate fantasies, entertained by politicians of all parties, that London is overflowing with yuppies whose only purpose in life is to pay through the nose for apartments in high-rise glass and steel blocks that are cynically advertised as barometers of lifestyle and achievement, as I hope to have shown in the photos.
What Lewisham actually needs is a renaissance in social housing, something that the political activists of People Before Profit have been pushing for, as part of a new vision of life and work in the 21st century, in which, along with genuinely affordable, not-for-profit housing, politicians and those with access to money also invest in creating jobs as well, moving beyond the dreadful laissez-faire approach to job creation that has prevailed since Thatcherism in the 1980s, with the idiotic mantra that the market will solve everything, when all the market has actually done is to do away with jobs completely and/or to menialise workers in low-paid retail service jobs with no meaningful future. This is particularly relevant in Lewisham, which, according to the TUC’s Touchstone blog, “is the hardest place in Great Britain to find a job,” with “almost thirty-five dole claimants chasing each vacancy.”
Expect more reflections on the need for work and housing in the future, particularly in connection with photo sets from Deptford, where a long-running struggle remains ongoing to prevent the riverside at Convoys Wharf from being turned into some wildly inappropriate high-rise city, but also with Lewisham, where two other plans are still ongoing — firstly, Lewisham Gateway, next to Renaissance, where there are plans for up to 800 new apartments, including some in yet more new tower blocks, and Thurston Road, opposite Renaissance, where there are plans for 400 more properties.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed — and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
On Facebook, Jennah Solace wrote:
I love the ones of the graveyard – London has some really nice old grave yards. Good thing to think of – before becoming greedy – the day we’ll all end up in the ground. Must we be thoughtless, wasteful, self obsessed with the external appearances? Is vanity getting us anywhere? We want to feel as though we have arrived, that we own some part of this world – but it is all temporary. None of it did belong to us – ever!
Thanks, Jennah. Yes, as I was explaining to my son recently, Jesus was pretty clear about how riches don’t count when you die, and people who claim to be Christians ought to remember that Jesus said that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter through the gates of Heaven.
Jennah Solace wrote:
Very good lesson — you’re a very good father 🙂
Jennah Solace wrote:
(Proverbs 24:3-4) “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its room are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” — ” Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the father is not him. For everything in the world-the craving of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does-comes not from the Father but from the world. ( John 2:15-16) —The world and its desire pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever (John2:17) — Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices within the truth. It always protects truths, always hopes, always perseveres (Corinthians 13:4-70) — Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality; impurity; lust; evil desires; and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming (Collossian 3: 6-7) — Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-which is your spiritual worship – Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to rest and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2)
Thank you, Jennah. You remember much more about the Bible than I do! However, the key lessons remain with me …
I also wanted to thank everyone who’s shown an interest in these photos. I’m very enthusiastic about my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, although I’m aware that it is, in some ways at least, a big leap from what I’ve been doing previously.
Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
Email Andy Worthington
Please support Andy Worthington, independent journalist: