The Eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden and the Mainstream Media’s Inadequacy in Reporting Stories About “Social Homes” and “Affordable Rents”

23.11.18

The Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden as viewed from the top balcony of Reginald House in Deptford on November 21, 2018 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.

 

Today it’s 25 days since the violent eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, by bailiffs from the brutal Bexley-based firm County Enforcement, employed by Lewisham Council. In the battle for hearts and minds, it seems pretty clear that the council is losing locally — Corporate Watch helped us estimate that the council has been spending at least £35,000 a day guarding the garden from the community since the eviction, meaning that they have now spent close to £750,000, and everything about this hideously costly exercise continues to alienate local people — the presence of weird bailiffs 24 hours a day, as well as the daunting militarised atmosphere around the garden, the permanent barking of dogs, the floodlights at night, the vehicles parked up in the garden and the sporadic destruction of the structures built during its two-month occupation by its defenders.

And the antagonism was ramped up this week by the arrival of tree-killers hired by the council, from Artemis Tree Services, who began enraging campaigners by starting to cut down trees, even though we had had it reported from the council that the trees wouldn’t begin to be cut down until after our legal challenge against the council was concluded. Yes, you read that right. The council evicted the garden while an outstanding legal challenge was underway — our appeal against a decision by a judge to turn down our application of our judicial review of the legality of the council’s plans.

This also, of course, should have been a pretty compelling reason for the council not to evict the garden’s occupiers until after the legal process was complete, but they clearly wanted to make a point about their “ownership” of the garden — one that, to date, has cost them £750,000, and, in addition, has been a disastrous piece of PR.

Today, the disastrous nature of the eviction was made clear when Artemis Tree Services withdrew from their contract. As campaigner Ruby Radburn noted earlier today, “Good news! I’ve just spoken to Aaron the contracts manager from Artemis Tree Services and they have pulled out of the job, without pay, for ethical reasons. They weren’t aware of the campaign or the ongoing legal case and now that they are, they are not willing to do the job. Please spread the word and thank them for doing the right thing.”

Three and a half weeks after the eviction, the mainstream media have, of course, moved on from Deptford. Although they reported on the initial occupation, at the end of August, it was difficult in general to secure any further interest from them until the eviction two months later, and since then, of course, they have moved on.

Unfortunately, however, what they have mostly left behind is the lingering smell of lazy journalism. On the day of the eviction, campaigners, myself included, spoke to the mainstream media, in the hope of putting our case across, but while there was significant interest, most of what was broadcast was inadequate. For the main news broadcasts we were sidelined, while Cllr. Paul Bell, Lewisham Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing, who was interviewed by the BBC and ITV, was allowed to make a number of fraudulent claims about providing more social housing that went unchallenged, because, sadly, the mainstream media appear, in general, to be unwilling to spend any time finding out what is actually going on with ‘regeneration’ across London, and to interrogate those implementing it accordingly.

Regular readers will know that the new “social homes” promised by Lewisham Council for the Tidemill site are nothing like existing “social homes”, as they will be built for ‘London Affordable Rent’, which, in Lewisham, is 63% higher than social rents. The implementation of this new rent level appears to be, in fact, a stealthy attempt by London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan to do away with social rents altogether, replacing them with ‘London Affordable Rent’, even though an untold number of hard-working Londoners in lower-paid jobs don’t have an extra £3,000 a year to pay for their rent. Most alarmingly, and almost completely unappreciated by journalists, is that, unless it is fundamentally challenged, the introduction of ‘London Affordable Rent’ will be used to justify a tsunami of estate demolitions across the capital, led by Labour councils.

Reginald House, next to the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden, is a clear example of this new policy. This block of 16 maisonettes is structurally sound, and had a new roof installed just three years ago, but the council and Peabody, the developers of the Tidemill site, are determined to destroy it. Despite the fact that ballots for residents whose homes face demolition has been Labour Party policy since Jeremy Corbyn announced it at last year’s Labour Party conference, Lewisham Council has refused to give the residents of Reginald House a ballot, even though 80% of them have told both the council and the GLA that they don’t want their homes destroyed.

It is also worth noting that Sadiq Khan also stealthily approved the destruction of Reginald House, while he was consulting about implementing ballots, along with 33 other estates across the capital, as Green Party co-leader and GLA representative Sian Berry exposed earlier this year.

The council is promising that all residents of Reginald House will be re-housed in the new development, at “like for like” rents for life, but no written contract confirming this has been revealed, and, in addition, if that’s the case, why bother knocking the block down instead of simply, and less expensively refurbishing it? The answer has to be that the driver of its destruction is because the ‘regeneration’ industry has no interest in refurbishment, and is only interested in getting rid of existing council housing.

Sadly, councils like Lewisham seem idiotically content to asset-strip themselves, as inadequate pimps for bigger fish in the housing game — specifically the developers, building contractors and demolition companies who have guaranteed profits that they demand to have fulfilled, and in the case of the latter, the only way their profiteering can exist is if sound homes are destroyed for profit; in this case, the estimated £800,000 that a demolition contractor will be paid to demolish Reginald House.

Journalists also fail to investigate Lewisham Council’s claims about the provision of new housing at Tidemill, allowing distorters of the truth like Paul Bell to claim that the majority of the homes that the council and Peabody will be delivering at Tidemill, if their plans go ahead, will be “social homes.”

In fact, although 209 new homes are planned, and the number of homes for private sale is comparatively low (51), the rest shouldn’t be described as social homes without that statement being properly qualified. 41 of the new homes, for example, are for shared ownership, an overpriced rental scam designed to fool tenants into thinking that they part-own their properties, when, in reality, they own nothing until they have bought their property outright, because, if they ever default on their payments, they lose not only their home but also all the money they have invested in part-owning it.

The rest — 104 — are the “social homes” identified above, which should never be allowed to be described as such without a robust analysis of what type of rents apply.

In addition, what is even more alarming is that journalists have also failed to pick up on the fact that Lewisham Council is hiding the fact that they stealthily twinned the Tidemill development with another development in New Cross, Amersham Vale, on the sire of the old Deptford Green secondary school, where Peabody has been given approval to build 120 new homes, of which 81 will be for private sale, with just 15 for shared ownership and 24 for rent. Across both sites, therefore, the number of homes for rent at a rate that can be described as “social” but only with a proviso is just 43%.

And throughout all this missing analysis by journalists is another way of putting things that is genuinely attention-grabbing, and for good reason: in the proposed developments taking place at Tidemill and Amersham Vale, the number of homes at social rent will be zero.

Moreover, this is a deplorable situation that is being replicated in other developments across the capital, with hardly any journalists noticing the effort to eradicate social rent, and to ask what it means to replace social rents with ‘London Affordable Rent.’ Journalists are also failing to properly investigate the second alleged “affordable” rent introduced by Sadiq Khan — ‘London Living Rent’, a rent level for higher earners priced out of the mortgage market, with a complicated ‘rent to buy’ sub-text, which, in Lewisham, is 136% higher than social rents.

Figures produced by Lewisham Council showing different rental rates in the borough, and revealing how 'London Affordable Rent', for a 2-bed flat, is 63% higher than social rent (thanks to Sue Lawes for finding this important information).When councillors like those in Lewisham are allowed to talk of social rents without being asked whether those rents are £95.54 (for a 2-bed flat at social rent), £152.73 (for a 2-bed flat at ‘London Affordable Rent’) or £225.46 (for a 2-bed flat at ‘London Living Rent’), it is fair to point out that mainstream journalists are failing to do their job. And when no one at all points out that the number of new homes at social rent will be zero, it is clear that the public are being hoodwinked, and that, by and large, mainstream media journalists are betraying their supposed obligation to seek out the truth, and to report it fairly.

A massive developer-led scam is ongoing, with the full collusion of councils and the Mayor of London, and yet we aren’t hearing anything about it, and when a beautiful community garden like Tidemill gets destroyed, instead of having the rationale for that robustly analysed, a councillor like Paul Bell gets given an unchallenged platform to spread his lies and distortions about what Lewisham Council is actually involved in at Tidemill — which is profiteering for developers and building contractors, and showing nothing but sustained contempt for the local community.

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from six years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, the resistance continues.

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, The Complete Guantánamo Files, the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

35 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    25 days since the violent eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, it’s clear that Lewisham Council continues to lose hearts and minds, as it racks up a huge bill for the cost of guarding the garden from the local community, and, today, has been humiliated by having Artemis Tree Services, who they employed to cut down trees, withdraw from their contract, without pay, for ethical reasons.

    In this article, I reflect in particular on how the mainstream media has failed to adequately investigate the housing crisis that the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign is part of – allowing politicians, like those at Lewisham Council, to talk about the importance of making new “social homes” at “affordable rents” without investigating how what is called social housing can refer to existing social rents, as paid by existing council tenants and housing association tenants, like those in Reginald House (which Lewisham Council and the developer Peabody want to demolish), or ‘London Affordable Rents’, which is what the new rented homes at Tidemill will be, and which in Lewisham are 63% higher than social rents, or even ‘London Living Rent’, which is 136% higher.

  2. Damo says...

    The media are not remotely interested in the plight of tidemill the garden the flats the people nor are they interested in the other regeneration scams across the city the brevet nightmare sucks up all the oxygen the msm will share a few soundbites on London tonight.. NEXT. It just seem that the labour councils have become the most corrupted and harmful of all Lewisham and ealing the most harmful of all

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, sadly, Damo, you’re right about Brexit. It’s like Trump in America. The media focuses on Brexit and Trump, and everything else – all the other political business, which actually consists of most of what is actually happening – becomes sidelined.
    And when to comes to terrible, corrupt Labour councils, we always have to include Southwark and Lambeth, as well – and if you ever visit Woodberry Down it’s difficult not to include Hackney as well.
    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/may/18/-sp-truth-about-gentrification-how-woodberry-down-became-woodberry-park
    https://architectsforsocialhousing.wordpress.com/2017/05/12/class-war-on-woodberry-down-a-national-strategy/

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Andrea Hughes wrote:

    Vicky FOXCROFT is a Tory mole; blind to her electorate.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Or just an unquestioning Labour drone, Andrea, endorsing, like the majority of her colleagues, the kind of devastation that Labout councils are wreaking on their populations in Lewisham, Southwark, Lambeth, Hackney, Ealing – the list goes on and on …

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Andrea Hughes wrote:

    Just open the gate!!!
    What harm could the neighbours do compared to what LEWISHAME and Peabody have already done at a cost of £35000 a day?
    Their reputations have been trampled in the mud of our beloved Garden.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    They have indeed, Andrea, but they’ve obviously been driven more by their urge to dominate us than by any sensible assessment of the situation. Now they look like the out of touch bullies they are, but still they cling to their dreams of destruction rather than backing down. Let’s see what happens when they try to employ replacement tree-killers …

  8. Damo says...

    It seems that these councils are intentionally harming their tennants.. Intentionally old labour would have never done this? This is corruption champagne socialism at its most vile and I mean Vile I’ve lived here in Ealing for 3 years ealing council has been trying to socialy cleanse me within a month of moving in and I don’t know if the same is happening in other boroughs

  9. Damo says...

    Andy people on benefits are at first paying 20% of the council tax (poll tax) this then rises by 5% per year ie it’s now 35% next year 40% and up and up now people are on £71 per week without a penny to spare they’re then taken to court where they’re given a court fine of an additional £160 this then is deducted from benefits at source of £40 per month they then issue more council tax bills but sell them to bailiffs it’s crazy people have no money this is deliberately and intentionality trapping poor vulnerable and disabled people in cycles of debt and poverty which they cannot pay they know this yet they carry on regardless.. The labour party I knew and voted for would never have done this.

  10. Damo says...

    These councils know people can’t afford London rents or rents in the private sector they know people can’t afford to pay the council tax… They know this.. I don’t know who’s worse torie or labour

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    The thing is, Damo, that the Labour Party won’t stand up to the Tories at all. We talk about this a lot in Lewisham – how a responsible Labour council would set an illegal budget, and get the voters on their side. But we never hear a peep out of them. The worst of them are corrupted, and share the Tories’ values of social cleansing, and wanting to get rid of poorer people, those on benefits etc., while even those who appear better on the surface are mute when it comes to speaking out openly and publicly about how disgraceful the situation is.
    And then we have a complicit and/or lazy media too. I think I’m quite well informed, but although I knew that people on benefits are required to pay part of their council tax, I hadn’t heard that the rate rises with each year that people are on benefits. That’s sickening. But of course making anyone on benefits pay anything is also sickening, when they’re allowed just £10 a day to live on, and when the Tories started making people have to pay part of their council tax I remember thinking how that was the same situation that, under Thatcher, led to massive non-compliance, and little old ladies going to jail, and that, eventually, played a major part in bringing her down. But now we don’t hear a peep of complaint out of anyone.

  12. Damo says...

    Every year it rises another 5% to 40% then 45, 50 it’s to incentivise people off benefits. Basically punishing the unemployed the disabled the vulnerable the poor that’s what it’s all about realy this mess that passes for labour now are just an unfunny joke and the only thing George Osborne has ever got right in his life was his divide and conquer and the torie villifieing and othering of the poor, this is what tidemill is its what all this council tax crap is all of it.

  13. Damo says...

    There isn’t the will to protest anymore yes I was at the recent anti brexit March and the trump March… And it was all very… NICE.. But about as effective as a wet fart.. Where are the anarcho punks the crustys the punks mutoid waste spiral tribe.. We need them more than ever now

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    That’s so horrible, Damo, as if people don’t have work because they’re not incentivised rather than because the whole purpose of neo-liberalism is to get rid of as many workers possible, because human beings are an inconvenient obstacle to the creation of ever greater profits. What a nasty world we live in – and yet it’s all just regarded as “efficiency” rather than what it is, which is abject cruelty.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, the pro-EU marches have been quite astonishingly polite, Damo, but maybe people will get properly politicised and get angry. After all, it’s not their fault they’ve been brainwashed into thinking that anger is a sign of a personality disorder.
    Also, Extinction Rebellion is interesting, because so many of the people signing up to get arrested are doing so from a position of politeness, but it doesn’t undermine what they’re doing. If polite people get arrested in huge numbers, the effect will be to clog up the bureaucracy anyway, so anger isn’t required, but for me, as John Lydon sang, “anger is an energy”, and to go back to what I was saying before, I really do think one of the most insidious ways the current powers-that-be have ended up maintaining their control has been to suggest that being angry is a sign of not being properly adjusted psychologically. The new age is to blame for so much!

  16. Damo says...

    They put a hot wire to my head because of the things I didn’t said I love john lydon anger… Is.. An energy when used correctly it forces change blind destructive rage is no good what I’m seeing in France /Paris we need today here now

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, it’s interesting, Damo, that Extinction Rebellion’s bold start is now starting to look a bit vague. In the Guardian today, James Butler, co-founder of Novara Media, has written an article entitled, ‘The climate crisis demands more than blocking roads, Extinction Rebellion’, in which he notes the need for more focused action:

    “Activists associated with groups such as Plane Stupid or the Camp for Climate Action have taken dramatic actions against the aviation industry or fossil fuel producers – including occupying and temporarily shutting down coal-powered stations, and facing down the legal repercussions that followed. Given just 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions, perhaps a strategy focused on those companies – their buildings, their plants, their delivery networks – would function better to rally the greater public behind the movement: such actions need both to communicate why an action is being taken, across the media, as well as being willing to actually put bodies and reputations on the line.”

    See: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/nov/26/climate-crisis-blocking-roads-extinction-rebellion-labour

    I saw the energy of the Paris protests, but I worry about the possible far-right leanings of many of the protestors, as some of the profiles here suggest: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/24/paris-fuel-tax-protest-macron-france-poverty
    Remember, France has a massive far-right problem, just as we have here – maybe worse in the sense that here the Tory government has absorbed UKIP, or become UKIP, whereas in France the fascists are still the romantic outsiders, and the target of people’s anger is the remote, New Labour-like Macron.

    It’s such a mess everywhere, but maybe – while Extinction Rebellion hopefully starts thinking about direct actions against companies that pollute – the localised left-wing protests really are the best way forward, as at Tidemill. It seems to be what Paul Mason is suggesting today: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/nov/26/liberals-politics-emotion-right-wing-populists

  18. Damo says...

    It’s not just the oil gas electric corporations.. If we are to avoid disaster and the clocks ticking it’s 1 minute to midnight then everybody in the world will have to change their entire lives no more plane flights no cars unless electric no more beef no more cheap clothes rationed electricity population control one child one family these are hard hard decisions and sacrifices people must make unless they want climate destruction

  19. Damo says...

    But Andy people especially in the West have become spoiled lazy and flabby and dim /brainwashed would or could people survive a return and it would be so much more healthy and productive on every single level physically mental emotionally to almost return to a far simpler way of life free from all that crap

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    It’s interesting, isn’t it, Damo, how people would freak out if these kinds of changes were proposed, and yet how they would probably adapt quite easily. For me the big ones for people to overcome involve transport – having to understand that unlimited flights are no longer possible, and that car use is one of the major polluters, but also one of the major sources of alienation.
    But it really is interesting when you start to think about how it would work in practice – to take just one example, there’d have to be no more colossal global supermarket chains, because most food would have to be grown locally. It’d actually be like it was as recently as the early 80s, before the rise of the massive, US-style supermarket chains, and the notion that the consumer must be able to have whatever they want, 24/7, 12 months a year.

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    Well, that’s the big question, isn’t it, Damo? Could people cope with it? Because I think, one way or another, they – we – are going to have to be able to adapt to a massively changed world when our 24/7 consumptive overkill comes crashing down, which may be sooner rather than later.

  22. Damo says...

    Do you remember as children we only ate meat or chicken once a week fish on Fridays corned beef hash winter seasonal vegetables nobody had strawberry in the winter unless they came in a tin you made things last read books played out got the bus rode your bike we were all superfit and bright and alert this is only 40 years ago this is the 70s we will have to go backwards to go forwards… We have 12 years if that??

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    Brilliant evocation of the times, Damo. And I like that – “we were all superfit and bright and alert.” It got me reflecting on my childhood and adolescence, and I think you’re right.

  24. Damo says...

    We read books not looked at screens which whether we like it or not everything now involves s screen we /people used there imaginations created /discovered were not just.. Exposed too…. It’s like day of the dead now zombies everywhere

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, I think that’s largely correct, Damo. Obviously the online world isn’t all bad, but too many people are diminished by their relationships wth technology – lost inside themselves, failing to think for themselves, changing their relationship with the world and with other people from things that are real and analogue to ones dictated by companies that, like everyone nowadays, pretends they’re your friend when actually they’re selling you stuff in a corporate world, and no, that doesn’t make you a friend. It makes you a consumer.

  26. Damo says...

    The Internet is a great learning tool but your right it’s made some people insular there’s a great jamiroquai song called Automaton about all this lol

  27. Andy Worthington says...

    I didn’t even know they were still going, Damo. I remember when they started. We used to call him the prat in the hat but he was actually quite funky.
    The internet has to be partly to blame for people becoming insular, but it’s not the whole story. It’s actually the “me me me” world that’s been developing since the 70s, when the dangerous, political, revolutionary side of the hippies was killed off, so that the navel-gazing, finding yourself side could take over – and my, how successful that was! It’s the individual as a self-seeking consumer that’s the real problem. It’s the triumph of the New Age!

  28. Damo says...

    Weren’t they called the yippies ie Richard Branson. We’re In the age of extrema narcissism just turn on the TV talentless narcissists

  29. Andy Worthington says...

    Some of the stuff on TV seems to be beyond satire, Damo – ‘Naked Attraction’, for example – and yes, there’s unfettered narcissism everywhere.
    Branson of course had the long hair and the right ‘branding’ – though we didn’t use that word back then – and got lucky off the back of Mike Oldfield. He was obviously an old-school opportunistic capitalist, much as Mick Jagger only pretended to have anything to do with the hippie worldview because it could make him money (and get him more women, presumably), but Branson definitely wasn’t a Yippie.
    They were a funny lot, theatrically subversive, resolutely outside of mainstream politics. I think we need a Yippie revivial! Check out the Wikipedia page about them: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Youth_International_Party

  30. Damo says...

    Naked attraction awful lol lol awful sagging tits on both the men and women saggy arses pot bellys bushy pussys and peanut cocks lol if you vain /stupid /deluded enough to go on that show you deserve to be ridiculed lol awful awful the pinnacle of cringe.. Keith and Brian were the cool stones Branson made his first millions from tubular bells and culture club though surfing you tube this.. NAFF channel keeps popping up.. Basically young… DORK.. City boys giving advice on how to cash in on brexit.. How vile… Puuuuke.. Just Puuuuke

  31. Damo says...

    This thing that’s so cruel as well as cringe /funny is that they will put on some young guy with a great physique and a big dick next to a couple of middle aged pot bellied shrivel knobs.. Lol its so cruel, lol

  32. Andy Worthington says...

    Perhaps the only thing worse than ‘Naked Attraction’, Damo, is young City boys bragging about how to cash in on Brexit on YouTube, although the senior pro-Brexit Tories are also doing that, but without boasting on YouTube. I really don’t want Brexit to happen, of course, but if it does, there is the remote hope that these traitors will get hunted down after the self-inflicted economic apocalypse takes place …

  33. Andy Worthington says...

    I have no words …

  34. Tom says...

    Question. Is it possible to live in metro London without being a millionaire?

  35. Andy Worthington says...

    It’s becoming increasingly difficult, Tom, as it is in so many cities around the world. Rents of £500 a week are not uncommon, and anecdotally I hear a lot about people paying 70%, 75% or even 80% of their wages in rent. That’s why social rents are so important.

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Andy Worthington

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.
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