Celebrating 500 Days of My Photo-Journalism Project ‘The State of London’

The most recent photos from my photojournalism project 'The State of London', 500 days since the project started.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

Yesterday marked 500 days since I began publishing a photo a day on my Facebook page ‘The State of London’ — photos drawn from the extensive archive of photos that I’ve built up over the last six years on bike rides in all of London’s 120 postcodes (those which begin SE, SW, W, NW, N, E, EC and WC), plus some of the outer boroughs. You can see all the photos to date here.

I began publishing a photo a day on the fifth anniversary of when my project started, when I first began consciously to document the capital in photos, cycling from my home in Brockley, in south east London, down through Deptford to Greenwich, and then, in the weeks that followed, cycling relentlessly around south east London, much of which was unknown to me, and also finding routes I didn’t know to take me to central London and beyond. At the time, London was beginning to be under siege — by central government and the Mayor, Boris Johnson — in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics, with bikes banned on trains across the capital, and to get anywhere I had to cycle, which wasn’t always convenient, but it was certainly a good way of getting to know London’s streets.

The Olympics, of course, showed the Tory government in its full jingoistic, corporate and authoritarian malignancy. A bottomless pit of public money was opened up to pay for the Games, even as Tory-inflicted austerity was beginning to crush the capital’s poor, the River Lea was socially cleansed around the Olympic Park in Stratford, and, although I didn’t quite realise it at the time, the heavily-marketed “sexiness” and “cool” that come with being an Olympic city meant that it would be possible to establish a turbo-charged “property bubble” in the capital, even more giddily out of control than the one that had been cultivated by the New Labour government in the ten years before the crash. Read the rest of this entry »

Resistance to Social Cleansing: Screening of ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’ in Bristol, August 9, 2018

Poster for the screening of 'Concrete Soldiers UK' in Bristol on August 9, 2018.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

It’s over a year since the defining event of 2017 in the UK — the Grenfell Tower fire, in west London, in which 72 people died because everyone responsible for their safety — central government, local government, the management company that had taken over the management of their homes, and the various contractors involved in a refurbishment of the tower that ended up being lethal — put cost-cutting and profiteering before safety.

The Grenfell survivors, and the wider community in north Kensington, are still awaiting anything resembling justice. The official inquiry is crawling along at a snail’s pace, many of the survivors are still in temporary housing (even though the Independent revealed, just yesterday, that over a hundred council homes in Kensington and Chelsea are lying empty), and up and down the country people are still living in tower blocks (470 at the latest count) that are enveloped in the same dangerously flammable cladding that turned Grenfell Tower into an inferno.

The Grenfell disaster showed, fundamentally, how in modern Britain those who live in social housing — even those who bought their council homes under Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Right to Buy’ policy — are perceived as second-class citizens, whose very lives are disposable. Those in power argue that this is not the case, but Grenfell reveals this to be the case, and elsewhere politicians’ and housing professionals’ actions reveal their fundamental dishonesty. Read the rest of this entry »

Good News! Haringey Council Ends Its £2 Billion Social Cleansing Deal with Predatory Developers Lendlease

An image the StopHDV campaign made for the development vehicle being scrapped by Haringey's new council on July 17, 2018.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

Good news is so rare these days on so many fronts that I want to celebrate what happened in Haringey, in north London, on Tuesday (July 17), when the new Labour council voted to halt the proposals, put forward by the previous Labour administration, to enter into a £2bn joint venture with the Australian property developer Lendlease, known as the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV), which would have involved a significant amount of publicly-owned land and assets being transferred to the control of the new company. In housing activist circles, Lendlease are notorious as the profiteering destroyers of the Heygate Estate in Southwark, which is currently being replaced by a new development, Elephant Park, from which all the existing residents have been socially cleansed.

The FT, the only mainstream media outlet to cover the story positively, wrote that the council’s decision was “the latest sign of public anger over lucrative regeneration schemes.” and proceeded to explain that, had the scheme gone ahead, “Lendlease would have provided development expertise and earned fees for managing Haringey’s commercial property portfolio.” However, as the FT added, “the scheme, which would have built 6,400 homes over 20 years and redeveloped the Northumberland Park and Broadwater Farm estates, became the centre of a bitter political feud at the Labour-run council, with opposition from leftwing campaigners, residents and Liberal Democrat councillors.”

I first covered the story last July, after the entirely preventable Grenfell Tower fire brought into sharp focus how disposable those of us who live in social housing are, in the eyes of those supposedly responsible for our homes and our welfare, and I then made contact with campaigners from the StopHDV campaign, and played a benefit gig in support of the campaign in Tottenham in September with my band The Four Fathers. Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrating One Year of My Photo Project ‘The State of London’; Now For An Exhibition and a Book!

Images from the last 16 days of the first year of my photo project 'The State of London.'Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, photographer, commentator and activist.

 

Exactly one year ago, I began posting a photo a day on a Facebook page I had just established — ‘The State of London’ —  from my archive of tens of thousands of photos taken of London, in all 120 of the capital’s postcodes, as well as some of the outlying boroughs, that I had built up over the previous five years.

I haven’t advertised ‘The State of London’ via Facebook, which some people suggest is a good way of getting supporters, but I’ve steadily built up a following over the last year of people who like my photo-journalistic take on the capital — photos, often accompanied by short essays, of the good, the bad and the ugly of London in the second decade of this tumultuous century. Someone more objective than me can probably analyse my taste, but I know that I’m bewitched by the light and the changing seasons, that I love catching photos on those outings when I get caught in storms or showers or torrential rain, that I love the river and its tributaries, and London’s canals, that I love the capital’s hills, its park, its trees, and that I also see almost everything with a political eye.

On my endless, restless journeys, I see everything that is happening with the built environment, but when I started in 2012, in the year of the Olympic hype, in which big money was savagely reshaping the Lea valley, I was appalled by the jingoism and empty patriotism, but I didn’t fully comprehend how, in the years that followed, the broken capitalist model that had almost killed itself through 2008’s self-inflicted global economic crash would end up working out that the only way left to guarantee huge and unjustifiable profits for the lazy rich was for the UK establishment, and those who aspire to it, to cannibalistically feed off its own people, through housing. Read the rest of this entry »

A Defence of Social Housing in a Resolutely Hostile Political Environment

The destruction of Robin Hood Gardens Estate, in Poplar, east London, photographed on December 12, 2017 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

Tomorrow, Londoners will go to the polls to vote in council elections in the capital’s 32 boroughs,and across the UK there will also be elections in 34 metropolitan boroughs, 67 district and borough councils and 17 unitary authorities.

Voting ought to be a simple matter. The Tories, under Theresa May, are spectacularly useless and, wherever possible, cruel. Engaged in an effort to implement Brexit that seems to be destroying them, they are also gasping from one scandal to another — the latest being the Windrush fiasco, initiated by Theresa May, who is, to be blunt, a racist, and this whole racist disaster demonstrates quite how unpleasant they are.

And yet, if you care about fairness and social justice — in the specific context of housing, the biggest issue facing Londoners today, as well as many, many other people around the country — then voting for the Labour Party is not, in general, to be recommended, leaving a giant hole where participation in the democratic process ought to be. Read the rest of this entry »

The 34 Estates Approved for Destruction By Sadiq Khan Despite Promising No More Demolitions Without Residents’ Ballots

The destruction of Robin Hood Gardens estate in Poplar, March 13, 2018 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

Anyone paying any attention to the sordid story of council estate demolitions in London will know how hard it is to take politicians seriously — and especially Labour politicians — when it comes to telling the truth about their actions and their intentions.

Perfectly sound estates are deliberately run down, so that councils can then claim that it’s too expensive to refurbish them, and that the only option is to knock them down and build new ones — with their developer friends who are conveniently waiting in the wings.

In addition, a collection of further lies are also disseminated, which divert attention from the fundamental injustice of the alleged justification for demolitions — false claims that the new housing will be “affordable”, when it isn’t; that part-ownership deals are worthwhile, when they are not; and that building new properties with private developers will reduce council waiting lists, when it won’t. Read the rest of this entry »

Haringey Leader Claire Kober’s Resignation Ought to Signal an End to Labour’s Frenzy of Council Estate Destruction, But 70 Labour Leaders Disagree

On the left: Claire Kober, the leader of Haringey Council, who announced her resignation on January 30, 2018 after profound grass-roots opposition to her plans to transfer all the council's social housing to a 50:50 development vehicle between the council and rapacious international property developers Lendlease. On the right: a poster by the Stop HDV campaign, which led a brilliant grass-roots campaign against the proposal.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

There was great news on Tuesday, as Claire Kober, the Labour leader of Haringey Council, announced her resignation, explaining that she will not be standing in May’s elections. Kober — and her close associates, like Alan Strickland, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Housing — had imperiously decided to hand over all of Haringey’s social housing to the predatory international developer Lendlease, in what was laughingly described as a 50:50 partnership. Lendlease, however, has all the money, and what was intended to happen, via the £2bn deal for Haringey, was a large-scale version of what Southwark Council arranged for Lendlease at the Heygate Estate in Walworth: the destruction of council estates and their replacement with private developments for sale, or for rent at unaffordable prices.

At the Heygate, as I explained in an article last September, 1,034 homes, housing around 3,000 people, were demolished, most of which were socially rented, costing around 30% of market rents. 2,704 new homes are being built on the Heygate’s replacement, Elephant Park, but only 82 of those will be for social rent, with the rest laughably described as “affordable” in the biggest scam in the developers’ current lexicon. “Affordable” rents were set at 80% of market rents by Boris Johnson, in his miserable tenure as London’s Mayor, but that is actually unaffordable for the majority of hard-working Londoners.

As Aditya Chakrabortty of the Guardian explained when describing the Haringey proposal, known as the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV), in July, “Haringey plans to stuff family homes, school buildings, its biggest library and much more into a giant private fund worth £2bn. It’s the largest scheme of its kind — ‘unprecedented’, in the words of backbench councillors. Together with a property developer, it will tear down whole streets of publicly owned buildings and replace them with a shiny town centre and 6,400 homes.” Read the rest of this entry »

Following the Successful World Premiere of ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’ at the Cinema Museum, the Next Screening is at Deptford Cinema on Dec. 18

A poster for the launch of 'Concrete Soldiers UK', at the Cinema Museum in Kennington on December 8, 2017.Last Friday a new and timely documentary film that I narrated, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, had its world premiere at the Cinema Museum in Kennington, London SE11, showing to a full house of over 150 people, with pre-screening performances from beatboxer Bellatrix and spoke word artist Potent Whisper. The film was directed by Nikita Woolfe, and is the result of three years’ work. As she says, “Three years ago I was looking at all the new developments in London and was surprised to see how much of the construction happened on old council estate land. I started wondering why the councils wanted to sell off their valuable assets and whether there were alternatives. That’s how ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’ began. Three years later and ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’ is not only answering my questions but it has also become a film about the fighting spirit that I encountered on the way.”

The next screening is at Deptford Cinema on Monday December 18, at 7.30pm, followed by a Q&A with me and with representatives of estates and community spaces threatened with destruction in the borough of Lewisham — Old Tidemill Garden and Reginald Road in Deptford, and Achilles Street in New Cross — under the ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ umbrella term that I came up with in October, and which has so far spawned a benefit gig and a Facebook page.

Niki and I are planning to take the film on the road next year — primarily around estates threatened with destruction in London, but also beyond, if we can secure funding for our time and our travel. We also hope it will be shown in cinemas, and if you can help at all with any of these proposals, do get in touch. You can email me here, or you can email Niki here or call her on 07413 138909. We’re currently setting up a fundraising page, so if you want to help with that, do let Niki know. Read the rest of this entry »

How People Power Is Stopping Social Cleansing in Haringey

Stop HDV campaigners in summer 2017.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

The struggle against social cleansing in the UK is a huge struggle, as councils enter into disgraceful deals with private developers, housing estates are destroyed, and tenants and leaseholders dispossessed, and victories often appear elusive.

As a result, what is happening in Haringey, in north London, is inspirational, as local activists have been working to successfully ensure that councillors who support the council’s social cleansing proposals — involving the creation of the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV), a £2bn deal with a private developer — are de-selected prior to the council elections next May, and are being replaced with candidates who oppose the plans. See this page on the Stop HDV website for the extraordinary story of how, at the time of writing, there are now 36 Labour candidates who oppose the HDV, and only seven who support it.

The threat in Haringey is more severe than anywhere else in London, as the Labour council’s deal, with Lendlease, the Australian-based international housing developer, would involve all of Haringey’s council housing being transferred to the HDV. Even before an agreement is in place, plans have been announced for estates to be destroyed, and it is not scaremongering to suggest that the destruction and social cleansing, if it is not stopped, will be on a scale that has never been seen before in the UK. Read the rest of this entry »

‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’: After Success of Gig in Deptford on Nov. 12, Campaigners Plan to Stage Events in Other Boroughs

No Social Cleansing in Lewisham! A logo for the campaign made by Lilah Francis of the Achilles Street Stop and Listen Campaign.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

It was hard to move in the legendary music pub The Birds Nest in Deptford on Sunday night. I’d arranged a benefit gig there — also intended as a consciousness-raising event, and an opportunity for all kinds of different campaigners to meet — under the umbrella heading, ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’, and it had proved to be so popular that the place was rammed, with sets from the acclaimed spoken word artist Potent Whisper, my band The Four Fathers, playing punky political rock and roots reggae, the theatrical singalong politics of the Commie Faggots, the talented Southwark-based rapper Asher Baker, Deptford spoken word artist Agman Gora passionately tackling current crises, the massed voices of the Strawberry Thieves Socialist Choir, and the ukulele-wielding women of Ukadelix, with their wonderful vocal harmonies. Check out all my photos here.

I organised the event because I’d become aware that the plague of modern London — social cleansing by, predominantly, Labour boroughs — was starting to make its baleful presence felt in the borough of Lewisham, where I live, in south east London. This is not to say that Lewisham had previously been impervious to this greedy, class-based curse. The monstrous Lewisham Gateway development in the heart of the borough had begun with the destruction of a council estate, the Sundermead Estate, and the council is also currently involved in the long-running destruction of two estates on the border with Greenwich, Heathside and the wonderfully Brutalist Lethbridge Estate (which I’ll need to write about soon, as I can find absolutely no criticism of the estate’s destruction online, and very few photos), as well as demolishing the extraordinary Excalibur Estate of post-war prefabs high in the back streets of Catford.

The Four Fathers playing at 'No Social Cleansing in Lewisham' at the Birds Nest pub in Deptford on November 12, 2017.However, compared to its rapacious neighbour, Southwark, Lewisham is not yet a fully paid-up member of the Premier League of social cleansers. Lewisham’s biggest imminent project is the redevelopment of Convoys Wharf, a historically significant wharf on Deptford’s shoreline. This insulting effort to recreate Dubai at the end of Deptford High Street on the site of Henry VIII’s great dockyard is profoundly disappointing, but it doesn’t involve the destruction of people’s homes, whereas Southwark Council, at the Heygate Estate, working with the Australian-based international property developer Lendlease, has destroyed an estate of 1,034 socially rented homes, replacing them with 2,704 new homes, but with only 82 for social rent, and is currently undertaking similar destruction on the Aylesbury Estate, one of Europe’s biggest council estates, with Notting Hill Homes, a former social housing provider that has eagerly responded to government cuts by becoming an enthusiastic private developer. 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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