Violent and Unforgivable: The Destruction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford

The destruction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden on February 27, 2019 (photo by David Aylward).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 is my birthday, and I find myself in a reflective place, looking, at one side, on death and destruction, and, on the other, at life and love and solidarity.

Perhaps this is appropriate at the age of 56, when I am neither young nor truly old — and, believe me, I reflect on aging, and mortality, and what it means, with some regularity, as my restless brain refuses to settle, endlessly asking questions and seeking new perspectives and insights into the human condition. But that is not why I’m in this reflective place today.

Yesterday, in the hallucinatory light and heat of one of the hottest February days in London’s history, I stood on a small triangle of grass by the horrendously polluted Deptford Church Street in south east London, and watched as a small group of tree-killers, SDL Solutions, brought in from Gloucestershire, tore down almost all the trees in a beautiful community garden, the Old Tidemill Garden, whose tree canopy, which would imminently have returned as spring arrives, had, over 20 years, become an increasingly efficient absorber of that horrendous pollution. Read the rest of this entry »

Nikita Woolfe and I Discuss ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, the Housing Crisis and the ‘Inspire2Resist’ Handbook on Dissident Island Radio

The logo for Dissident Island Radio and a draft cover for the 'Inspire2Resist' handbook, an offshoot of 'Concrete Soldiers UK', the 2017 documentary about the housing crisis, directed by Nikita Woolfe, which I narrate.

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.

 

Last week I was delighted to be invited, with the filmmaker Nikita Woolfe, to discuss ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, the documentary film Niki directed, and which I narrate — and, specifically, the ‘Inspire2Resist’ handbook Niki has put together, with a bit of help from me — on Dissident Island Radio, which describes itself as “a radical internet radio show broadcasting on the first and third Friday of every month from the London Action Resource Centre”, a wonderful community space in Whitechapel.

The show is here as an MP3 (and here on the website), and our section is from 27:30 to 46:00, with our reflections on resistance to the ‘regeneration’ industry, and the many forms it takes, including some mention of the ongoing resistance to ‘regeneration’ in Deptford, via the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign that I’m part of (and see the archive here and here). Our host, Patrick, had done his research, and the interview was exactly the kind of detailed discussion that rarely makes it into the mainstream media.

In discussing who the handbook is for, I stressed that anyone living in social housing is under threat, as councils, housing associations and housing developers continue to work towards destroying secure and genuinely affordable social housing, either through estate demolitions, or through other ongoing efforts to price people out of their homes — like the new rental regime introduced by Sadiq Khan, which I wrote about here. Read the rest of this entry »

‘Concrete Soldiers UK’: Screening of the Housing Documentary I Narrate at the Rio Cinema in Dalston, Tuesday February 26

Poster for the screening of 'Concrete Soldiers UK' at the Rio Cinema in Dalston on February 26, 2019.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.




 

Tuesday February 26, at the Rio Cinema in Dalston, will be the first screening of 2019 for ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, the documentary film about the housing crisis, directed by Nikita Woolfe, which I narrate. I’m very pleased to note that, recently, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’ was awarded ‘Best Documentary Film’ in the European Cinematography Awards for 2018. You can also now watch it via Amazon Prime.

The Facebook event page for the screening on February 26 is here, the listing on the Rio’s website is here, and if you’d like to attend for a reduced rate of £5, quote “£5 Tuesday Deal” when you get to the box office (it can’t be used to book online).

Focusing on the struggles against the cynical estate ‘regeneration’ industry, using examples in south London — the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark and Central Hill and Cressingham Gardens in Lambeth — the film demonstrates the scale of the problems faced by those living on estates, which councils want to knock down in deals with private developers and dubious housing associations. Crucially, however, the film also offers hope to campaigners, suggesting that people power can triumph. Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrating 600 Days of My Photo-Journalism Project ‘The State of London’, as 2018 Ends

The most recent photos from Andy Worthington's photo-journalism project 'The State of London.'

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist, photographer and activist. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

Over six and a half years ago — in fact, 2,426 days ago, on May 11, 2012 — I embarked on a project that provided me with a new creative outlet, and that would, in many ways, re-define my life. With a point-and-shoot digital camera in my pocket, given to me by my wife for Christmas at the end of 2011, I started a photo-journalism project that, in time, I gave a name that I think has a powerful resonance — ‘The State of London’, and that I soon conceived of as a personal photo-journalistic record of the fabric of the city, in which I intended to visit and take photos in all 120 of its postcodes (those beginning SE, E, N, NW, W, SW, EC and WC), as well as in some of the outlying boroughs.

Five years after I started the project, on May 11, 2017, with tens of thousands of photos sitting on my computer (and, yes, on a separate hard drive), and with a skeletal website lying dormant because of my inability to find time to populate it with images and stories, I decided instead to start posting a photo a day on Facebook — and later on Twitter. Today marks 600 days since that project began, and I’m delighted that I now have over a thousand followers on Facebook. 

See all the photos here!

On that first day, as I cycled from my home in Brockley, in south east London, down through Deptford and Greenwich, looking at everything with a photo-journalist’s eye, I had no real concept of quite how big London is, and how immense a project would be that involved visiting and taking photos in all 120 of its postcodes. It took me until September 2014 to visit all 120 postcodes — and although I’ve managed to post photos from the majority of these postcodes in the last 600 days it’s only fair of me to admit that there are some areas of London that I’ve still only visited once or twice — although, ever enthusiastic for journeys to far-flung corners of the capital where I can still get lost, as I used to do wherever I went in the early days, I hope to remedy that in 2019! Read the rest of this entry »

Tidemill Solidarity Gig: Come and Celebrate the Resistance at the Birds Nest This Sunday, Dec. 9

The poster for the Tidemill Solidarity gig at the Birds Nest in Deptford on Sunday December 9, 2018.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.




 

It’s now five weeks since the violent eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, a wonderful community space and precious environmental asset that was violently evicted by bailiffs from the brutal County Enforcement company, who were hired by Lewisham Council. To show our continued resistance to the council’s plans to destroy the garden — and to celebrate our fighting spirit and our creativity — I’ve organised a gig this Sunday (Facebook page here) at the Birds Nest, the legendary live music pub just across the road, featuring musicians who played at events in the garden, or who were involved in the occupation. 

Three prominent campaigners with the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign — Heather, Harriet and I — are represented by our bands Ukadelix, the Commie Faggots and the Four Fathers, and many other members of these bands were also involved in events in the garden. I remember one wonderful evening around the fire with Michelle and Angie from Ukadelix, Archie from the Commie Faggots and Richard from The Four Fathers, when, with Angie playing some wonderful basslines, we adopted ‘Love Train’ as the occupation’s anthem. Also present that night — and on many other occasions — was Flaky Jake, accordionist and troubadour, who, I hope, will also be able to make it on Sunday.

Also representing the occupation is Roll Rizz, who brought peace and love to the garden from north London, with his anarcho-tribal punk band Flak (or Flak Punks), and two singer-songwriters who have both written songs about Tidemill, which they’ll be performing — Gordon Robertson and Mark Sampson. And the evening will kick off with Brian Wilkes, visiting from Eastbourne, who played his first ever public set at a previous Tidemill benefit gig at the Birds Nest on September 16. Read the rest of this entry »

Broken Britain: UN Rightly Condemns Eight Years of Tory Austerity, But the Labour Party Is No Saviour; Try Extinction Rebellion Instead

Anti-austerity protesters, and the Extinction Rebellion logo.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.




 

Britain, is, not to put too fine a point on it, screwed — and also deeply divided. Philip Alston, an Australian-born human rights lawyer, and the UN’s rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, has highlighted both these problems in his newly-issued report on the impact of eight years of savage austerity policies by the Tory government.

Alston pulls no punches. After spending two weeks travelling the length and breadth of the UK, and meeting people at the sharp end of austerity, as well as meeting government ministers, Alston notes how, in “the world’s fifth largest economy”, it “seems patently unjust and contrary to British values that so many people are living in poverty. This is obvious to anyone who opens their eyes to see the immense growth in foodbanks and the queues waiting outside them, the people sleeping rough in the streets, the growth of homelessness, the sense of deep despair that leads even the Government to appoint a Minister for suicide prevention and civil society to report in depth on unheard of levels of loneliness and isolation.”

Alston also explains how, during his visit, “I have talked with people who depend on food banks and charities for their next meal, who are sleeping on friends’ couches because they are homeless and don’t have a safe place for their children to sleep, who have sold sex for money or shelter, children who are growing up in poverty unsure of their future, young people who feel gangs are the only way out of destitution, and people with disabilities who are being told they need to go back to work or lose support, against their doctor’s orders.” Read the rest of this entry »

Video: I Discuss the Tidemill Eviction, the Broken ‘Regeneration’ Industry and Sadiq Khan’s Stealthy Elimination of Social Rents

A screenshot from a video of Andy Worthington discussing the housing crisis outside City Hall on November 3, 2018.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.




 

On Saturday, I was interviewed about the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign, and broader issues relating to the housing ‘regeneration’ industry after a rally at City Hall, ‘No Demolition Without Permission’, that was set up primarily for tenants of council estates facing demolition, who have not been given ballots on the future of their homes, despite it having been official Labour Party policy since last September. One of the 34 estates affected is Reginald House in Deptford, a block of 16 structurally sound council flats, which the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign is determined to save, along with the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden.

The 15-minute video, posted below, was shot by Bob Robertson of Ladywell Labour Party, who I first met earlier this year, when I was on a Saturday stall in Deptford Market with other Tidemill campaigners, spreading the word about the need to preserve the precious and irreplaceable community garden and the 16 structurally sound council flats of Reginald House, next door, and for Lewisham Council and the developer, Peabody, to go back to the drawing board, and to work with the community on new plans for the Tidemill site, which includes the old Tidemill primary school as well as the garden and the flats.

Bob was very supportive, and spoke frankly about efforts within the Labour Party in Lewisham to shift the political focus away from the corporate-focused ‘regeneration’ frenzy that took place under Steve Bullock — and that we are now seeing replicated under the new Mayor Damien Egan, and his Cabinet, including the Member for Housing Paul Bell — but he acknowledged, of course, that it is an uphill struggle to change those in charge, even though the membership of the party is more solidly left-leaning than it has been for some time because of the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader three years ago. Read the rest of this entry »

A Radical Proposal to Save the Old Tidemill Garden and Reginald House in Deptford: Use Besson Street, an Empty Site in New Cross

One of the two beautiful Indian bean trees in the occupied Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, October 11, 2018 (Photo: Andy Worthington).In Deptford, in south east London, a battle is taking place. On one side are Lewisham Council and the developer Peabody, who intend to destroy the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden, a garden that has been used by local children and the wider community for 20 years, and Reginald House, a block of structurally sound council flats next door, for a new housing project centred on the old Tidemill primary school. 

Opposing the council and Peabody — in the manner of that little Gaulish village that held out against Julius Caesar in ‘Asterix the Gaul’ — are representatives of the local community, who have occupied the garden since August 29 to prevent it being boarded up prior to its intended destruction, and also to prevent the demolition of Reginald House, whose tenants are also involved in the campaign.

The Tidemill campaign has, very noticeably, the moral high ground, while the council and Peabody have nothing but spin and deception. The garden is a magical green space and community asset that is also of notable environmental significance, mitigating the horrendous effects of pollution on the traffic-choked roads nearby, and is therefore genuinely priceless. As for Reginald House next door, there can be no rational justification for knocking down structurally sound social housing to build new properties that are also described as “homes for social rent”, unless some subterfuge is involved. Read the rest of this entry »

‘No Social Cleansing in London’: Campaign Launch and Fundraising Gig for the Tidemill Campaign in Deptford at the DIY Space in Peckham, Fri. Oct. 12

An image for the launch of 'No Social Cleansing in London' - and a fundraiser for the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign - on Friday October 12 at the DIY Space for London in Peckham.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.




 

If you’re in London and concerned about the unprecedented scale of London’s housing crisis, I hope you’ll come along this Friday to the launch of ‘No Social Cleansing in London’, a new campaign group that I’m setting up to provide a focal point for struggles against the destruction of social housing, via “regeneration” projects, involving the destruction of council estates, that are designed to socially cleanse poorer residents, and to provide largely unscrutinised profits for builders and developers, and an unfettered private rental market that, for the first time in London’s modern history, is pricing all manner of people out of the capital.

The launch is taking place at the DIY Space for London, a volunteer-run social space at 96-108 Ormside Street, Peckham London SE15 1TF, on an industrial estate just off Ildeston Road, and close to the Old Kent Road, where evangelical churches, traditional industries and young creative types cluster in the shadow of the monstrous Old Kent Road re-development plans of Southwark Council, whose mania for unwanted and unnecessary high-rise housing developments betrays a complete lack of understanding about the nature of employment in 21st century London, and the tens of thousands of workers who can only survive in their businesses on an around the Old Kent Road because they are not exposed to the full greed of the corporate market.

Friday’s event is intended to, in the first instance, provide an opportunity for housing campaigners to come together from across London’s 32 boroughs to meet and mingle and to come up with strategies of resistance. In the weeks to come, I’ll be setting up Facebook and Twitter pages for the campaign — and, hopefully, a website — so if anyone wants to be involved, please do get in touch. Read the rest of this entry »

Shame on Peabody: Calling on the Former Philanthropic Social Housing Provider to Abandon Its Plans to Destroy the Old Tidemill Garden and Social Housing in Deptford

'Shame on Peabody': a banner held by campaigners in the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, which has been occupied since August 29, 2018 to prevent Lewisham Council and Peabody from destroying it - and 16 structurally sound council flats next door - as part of a housing project (Photo: Andy Worthington).Since the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford began, on August 29th, we’ve been so busy focusing on Lewisham Council’s shameful role as the would-be destroyers of a crucially important environmental and community green space, and the wilful destruction of 16 structurally sound council flats next door, in Reginald House, for a new housing development, that we’ve failed to shine a light on their development partners, Peabody.

This is unfair, because, although Lewisham Council owns the land, Peabody are fully implicated in the plans to destroy the garden and almost all of the 74 trees in the garden and on the wider development site, and to demolish the 16 flats of Reginald House and to replace them with a new form of social housing that is not the same as what they’re proposing to destroy.

Of the 16 flats in Reginald House, three are leasehold, meaning that tenants bought them via the ‘Right to Buy’ introduced by Margaret Thatcher, while the other 13 are council flats let at social rents, which in Lewisham, are, on average, £95.54 for a two-bedroom flat. In the proposals for the site, these homes will be replaced with new flats that will be let at ‘London Affordable Rent’, initiated by London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan, which, in Lewisham, are 63% higher at £152.73 a week. That difference, of course, is huge for lower-earning families who are already struggling to make ends meet, and yet the shift to ‘London Affordable Rent’ is fully endorsed by the council and Peabody, leading to the unerring conclusion that both organisations are actually committed to destroying the entire system of social rents, and establishing ‘London Affordable Rent’ as the lowest rents that will be available in future. Read the rest of this entry »

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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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