Year 2, Day 100 of My Photo Project, ‘The State of London’, Recording A City Gutted by Greed Since the Olympics

The latest photos from my photo project, 'The State of London', marking one year and 100 days since I first began posting a photo a day on Facebook.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

Yesterday, August 18, marked one year and 100 days since I began posting a photo a day on ‘The State of London’, a Facebook page I established on May 11 last year, marking five years since I first began cycling around London on my bike, taking photos of whatever interested me. You can see all the photos to date here.

In the six years and three months since I began this photo-journalistic project, I have been out on my bike almost every day, cycling many thousands of miles across all of London’s 120 postcodes, and discovering that what interests me are the changing seasons, the changing weather, the River Thames and the capital’s other rivers, its canals, its parks, and my own idiosyncratic take on the built environment, in which I’m drawn to the old, the odd, the idiosyncratic, the run-down, the derelict and the abandoned, and also to social housing — the great post-war estates, currently facing an unprecedented threat from councils across the political spectrum, who, financially squeezed by central government, are entering into deals with property developers to demolish their estates and to build over-priced new developments from which almost all the existing tenants are priced out, an epidemic of social cleansing that is largely unnoticed by those who are not directly affected by it. 

When these homes are destroyed, social rents (generally set at around a third of market rents) are also conveniently wiped out, replaced by properties for private sale, for market rent, for “affordable” rents that aren’t affordable at all, being set at 80% of market rents, and for shared ownership, an alarming scam designed to fool renters into believing that they are property owners. To add to Londoners’ woes, housing associations, which have increasingly taken over councils’ housing role since the Thatcher years, have also been severely squeezed, and many have, in response, also joined the private property development gravy train. 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 »

New Videos by The Four Fathers: ‘Rebel Soldier’, ‘Masters of War’ and ‘Grenfell’ Recorded Live

Screenshot from the video of The Four Fathers playing 'Masters of War' at a street party in June 2018.It’s been some time since I’ve posted an update about the activities of my band The Four Fathers, so I’m hoping to amend that by posting some recent videos — of ‘Rebel Soldier’ and ’Masters of War’, recorded at a street party in Brockley, in south east London, of ‘Grenfell’, recorded at a summer solstice party in the Old Tidemill Garden in Deptford, and of another song from that party, ‘Kicking the Poor’, used as a housing campaign song in Lewisham, where I live.

Rebel Soldier’, a driving reggae number, is an old folk song, which I gave a new tune and a reggae groove more years ago than I care to remember, while living in Brixton after I left university. It’s been a live favourite since The Four Fathers first started four years ago, and we generally open our set with it. The studio recording, from our first album, ‘Love and War’, is here, and the live video is also on Facebook here.

Masters of War’ was written and recorded by Bob Dylan in 1963, and, sadly, its sentiments remain just as relevant today as they were back then. It’s another live favourite, and another song we’ve been playing regularly since we first got together in 2014. The studio recording isn’t available online, but it is on the CD of ‘Love and War’, which you can buy here. Our second album, How Much Is A Life Worth? is also available on CD or to download, and you can also individually download any of our songs. Prices start at just 60p. Read the rest of this entry »

Quarterly Fundraiser Day 3: Still Seeking $2,000 (£1,600) to Support My Guantánamo Work Over the Next Three Months

A panel from the comic 'Guantanamo Bay is Still Open. Still. STILL!' by Jess Parker and Sarah Mirk, featuring Andy Worthington.Please click on the ‘Donate’ button below to make a donation towards the $2,500 (£2,000) I’m trying to raise to support my work on Guantánamo over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

Dear friends and supporters,

Since I started working independently on Guantánamo, over 12 years ago, I have largely been reliant on the support that you, my readers, have given and continue to give to me via donations that enable me to carry on researching and writing about Guantánamo, and calling for the prison to be closed, a vocation — some might say an obsession — that has, to date, led to me writing and publishing over 2,200 articles about Guantánamo.

I never meant to embark on this path as an independent journalist and activist, but it seemed to be the only appropriate response to my compulsion to tell the truth about Guantánamo on an essentially relentless basis — the truth being that it must be closed, because it is a lawless place of brutality and vengeance, full of alleged intelligence that, to a shockingly large degree, does not relate to any kind of truth, but consists of lies made by prisoners about their fellow prisoners, after they were tortured or otherwise abused, or even bribed with better living conditions.

My independence has allowed me to cover Guantánamo more assiduously than most of the mainstream media, which generally doesn’t maintain a relentless focus on issues of chronic injustice, even though it should, and has also enabled me to use my research and journalism to push more into campaigning, as I did in 2014-15 with We Stand With Shaker, the campaign to free Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, and as I continue to do via my website here, and also via the Close Guantánamo campaign that I set up with the US attorney Tom Wilner in 2012 — where, to provide a current example of my campaigning, I am asking people to mark a terrible milestone — 6,000 days of Guantánamo’s existence — on Friday by taking a photo with a poster marking this sad occasion and sending it to us. Read the rest of this entry »

Quarterly Fundraiser Day 1: Seeking $2,500 (£2,000) to Support My Work on Guantánamo and Social Justice Over the Next Three Months

A screenshot of Andy Worthington calling for the closure of Guantanamo outside the White House on January 11, 2018.Please click on the ‘Donate’ button below if you can make a donation towards the $2,500 (£2,000) I’m trying to raise to support my work on Guantánamo over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

Dear friends and supporters,

It’s that time of the year when I ask you, as I do every three months, to make a donation if you can to support my work as an independent researcher, writer, commentator and activist (and also as a photographer and musician) — primarily on Guantánamo, but also in relation to social justice issues in the UK.

If you can help out at all, please click on the “Donate” button above to make a payment via PayPal. Any amount will be gratefully received — whether it’s $500, $100, $25 or even $10 — or the equivalent in any other currency. 

You can also make a recurring payment on a monthly basis by ticking the box marked, “Make this a monthly donation,” and if you are able to do so, it would be very much appreciated. 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 »

Britain’s Broken Democracy: Tories Become UKIP, Media Ignores Labour Gains, Labour Continues Estate Demolitions

An image of a voter and a polling station sign.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

What a generally dispiriting occasion Thursday’s council elections were. On housing, which is the most pressing issue in the lives of over half the population, there was almost no acknowledgement, from either of the main parties, that we are in the midst of an unprecedented crisis of affordability and of security of tenure. Labour councils, even those that are actively engaged in demolishing council estates and replacing them with new developments with private developers, from which local people will largely be excluded, were largely undamaged at the polls, while the Tory heartlands generally held firm. 

Pundits observed that UKIP were almost wiped out, with establishment commentators suggesting that this was some sort of triumph of common sense in merrie olde England, whereas the truth is that the post-Brexit Conservative Party under Theresa May has actually become UKIP, and, as a result, the truth is considerably more alarming than lazy pundits suggest. As for Labour, the mainstream media furiously tried to portray their modest gains, and their considerable overall majority of councils and councillors, as some sort of sign of failure, which it very obviously isn’t. Some independent analysts suggested, plausibly, that Remain voters sent a powerful message to the Tories, and to Labour under the hazy, instinctively Eurosceptic Jeremy Corbyn, that the EU was significant battleground in the elections, but in general the elections played out as a showdown between the two big dogs of English politics, Labour and the Tories, in which overall, there was little change, because, overall, little change is actually possible. In our wretched, complacent first-past-the-post system, very little is actually to play for, and while the damage this inflicts on a broad platform of viewpoints is always apparent in a general election, local elections somehow get far less scrutiny, even though their outcomes are often even more damaging for democracy.

In Lewisham, where I live, for example, 60% of those who voted cast their votes for the Labour Party, but Labour walked off with 100% of the council seats. 

How is that supposed to be fair? 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 »

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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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Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

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Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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