‘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 »

No Social Cleansing in Lewisham! Fundraiser for Tidemill and Achilles Street Campaigns with Potent Whisper, The Four Fathers, Commie Faggots at the Birds Nest, Nov. 12

The poster for 'No Social Cleansing in Lewisham' at the Birds Nest in Deptford on November 12, 2017.

Check out the Facebook event page here — for ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham!’ at the Birds Nest, in Deptford, London SE8, on Sunday November 12 from 6-11pm, with Potent Whisper, the Four Fathers, the Commie Faggots, Asher Baker, The Wiz-RD and Ukadelix.

Followers of London’s housing crisis — and, particularly, the destruction of social housing estates and their replacement with new, private developments — will know, from the experiences of residents and leaseholders on the Heygate Estate in Walworth, in the London Borough of Southwark, that councils and developers talk sweetly about the right to return for tenants, and about adequately compensating leaseholders, but that in the end both groups are socially cleansed out of their homes, and often out of their boroughs, and even out of London completely, as they are excluded from the new properties built to profit the developers, and to appeal to investors (and largely, it seems, to foreign investors).

The biggest culprit to date has been Southwark Council, which is currently engaged in another huge act of social cleansing on the Aylesbury Estate, also in Walworth, but there have been other notorious examples — the West Hendon Estate, for example, Woodberry Down in Hackney and Robin Hood Gardens in Tower Hamlets — and other councils are queuing up to engage in their own social cleansing. Lambeth Council plans to demolish two well-regarded estates, Cressingham Gardens and Central Hill, and Haringey Council is currently trying to enter into a 50/50 partnership with the rapacious international property developer Lendlease (the butchers of the Heygate Estate) in a £2bn deal that will see the council handing over control of all its social housing, with plans for the destruction of several estates.

Until recently, Lewisham has not figured prominently in this story, having largely bypassed social cleansing issues by working with developers on brownfield sites. But at the end of September, Lewisham councillors approved the destruction of Old Tidemill Garden and a block of social housing on Reginald Road, in Deptford, and the council is also intending to demolish blocks of flats and shops on and around Achilles Street in New Cross. See the Tidemill Facebook page, the Achilles Street Facebook page, and also see my article, Social Cleansing and the Destruction of Council Estates Exposed at Screening of ‘Dispossession’ by Endangered New Cross Residents. Read the rest of this entry »

Social Cleansing and the Destruction of Council Estates Exposed at Screening of ‘Dispossession’ by Endangered New Cross Residents

The Achilles fanzine, put together by resident Lilah Francis, from the area threatened with demolition by Lewisham Council, and some campaign badges (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

 

On Saturday, I went to the New Cross Learning Centre — a community-run former library in New Cross — for a screening of ‘Dispossession: The Great Social Housing Swindle’, a new documentary about Britain’s housing crisis directed by Paul Sng, who is from New Cross (and is the director of ‘Sleaford Mods: Invisible Britain’). The screening was organised by the residents of the Achilles Street area, whose homes are threatened by Lewisham Council, which wants to knock them all down, and build shiny new replacements. The area affected runs between New Cross Road and Fordham Park (from south to north), and between Clifton Rise and Pagnell Street (from west to east), and there are 87 homes (with 33 leaseholders), and around 20 businesses (along New Cross Road and down Clifton Rise).

Lewisham Council claims, in its most recent consultation document, from February this year, that “[a]ll current council tenants who wish to stay in the new development will be able to do so with the same rent levels and tenancy conditions that they have today,” and that “[a]ny resident leaseholder who wishes to will be able to remain in home ownership on the new development.”

This sounds reassuring, but the recent history of regeneration projects — both in London and elsewhere in the country — is that councils and developers lie to tenants and leaseholders, to get them to agree to regeneration under terms that are not then honoured. Instead, tenants are evicted and their homes demolished, and they never get to return, and leaseholders are offered derisory amounts for the homes that, ironically, they bought under Margaret Thatcher’s Right to Buy policy, which is insufficient for them to buy a replacement property in the area, leading to their exodus in addition to that of the former tenants. Read the rest of this entry »

Night Lights: Photos of a Journey from Camberwell to New Cross at Night

Trees on the Lettsom Estate, CamberwellThe Lettsom Estate at nightAn alley on the Lettsom EstateVestry Fish BarThe Poor Law Guardian's Building, Peckham RoadThe St. George's Tavern
Willsbridge, Gloucester Grove EstateLights on Asylum Road, PeckhamBath Close walkwayBath CloseThe garages under Laburnum CloseStation Passage
Trees and shadowsPomeroy StreetAn abandoned mattress

Night Lights: Camberwell to New Cross at Night, a set on Flickr.

This photo set is the 83rd in my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, which I began last May, and after my recent publication of a series of photo sets from last July, featuring a journey through the East End to Stratford and the Olympic Park, on the eve of the Olympic Games, I thought it was time to return to the present — and also to publish some photos taken at night. For the previous photos, see here, here, here and here — and here for my journey around the perimeter of the Olympic Park.

As a result, I’m posting here a set of 15 photos I took at night a few days ago, during a journey from Camberwell to my home in Brockley, in south east London, after collecting my son from an art class organised by Southwark’s schools and the South London Gallery, and then escorting him to Denmark Hill station, to catch a train home. A month ago, in a set entitled, “Mostly Camberwell, At Night,” I published photos from a variation on this journey — from Brockley to Camberwell and back — although on that occasion I travelled back home through East Dulwich, and it was raining. On Tuesday, when it was dry, I cycled through Peckham instead, taking in a few council estates on the way — in Camberwell, Peckham and New Cross. Read the rest of this entry »

London in the Snow: Photos of Brockley and New Cross

Exotic Brockley in the snowSt. Margaret's Road, looking southSt. Margaret's Road, looking westLondon phone boxCrossroads in the snowThe approach to Brockley station
Brockley stationCoulgate Street in the snowSnowy landscapeSnowy junctionMillmark Grove in deep snowVesta Road
St. Donatt's Road, looking south eastSt. Donatt's Road, looking north eastHouses on Lewisham WayLewisham Way in the snowSnowy tree in New CrossFlorence Road in the snow
Snowy fenceSnow on the tracks

London in the Snow: Brockley and New Cross, a set on Flickr.

On January 20, 2013, as London became enveloped in snow — the second snowfall in two days, and this time much heavier than the first — I visited Hilly Fields, the hill-top park on Brockley, in south east london, where I have lived for the last 13 years, to take my son Tyler sledging, and to capture some photos of Londoners at play, which I published here.

I then walked with Tyler down to Brockley station, where we parted ways. He went round to a friend’s, and, after a quick coffee and a muffin at the Broca coffee shop, I cycled north, through Brockley, and on to New Cross and Deptford, as the snow grew heavier and heavier, and the cars and pedestrians began to disappear. Read the rest of this entry »

Photos of South East London At Night: Tunnels, the River and the Surrey Canal

Whitepost Lane at nightThe steep footpathLewisham tunnelSt. Mark's, GreenwichThe stained glass roomCanary Wharf from Greenwich
Delany HouseCanary Wharf from Wood WharfWall of skipsSkips and shadowsThe route of the Grand Surrey CanalBarred
Night skipVictoria WharfThe Pepys Estate at nightThe sports cage on the route of the Surrey CanalSurrey Canal RoadCold Blow Lane
The tunnel on Cold Blow LaneShardeloes Road, the route of the Croydon Canal

South East London At Night: Tunnels, the River and the Surrey Canal, a set on Flickr.

As part of my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike — and specifically as the last part of five photo sets recording various autumnal journeys around my home in Brockley, in south east London — the photos collected here record a journey I made on the evening of November 12, 2012, for around two hours, from 9 to 11 pm. This is the 65th photo set in my project, and see here, here, here and here for the previous four sets.

Beginning at my home in Brockley, I cycled down the hill through Lewisham and the edge of Deptford to Greenwich, and then down to the River Thames at Cutty Sark Gardens, along the Deptford shoreline, past Deptford Green, and on to the derelict site of Convoys Wharf, where there are horrible plans to build a £1 billion mini-city for the rich. I then travelled inland to Evelyn Street, the main road that runs to Surrey Quays. Read the rest of this entry »

From Deptford to Bermondsey: Photos of a Summer Journey Through London’s History

The Orion Business CentreSouth East London Combined Heat and PowerThe dusty pathUnder offerFurniture saleMOT
Wall of PraiseGreat deals on alcohol 24 hours a dayArtesian HouseThe Fort (closed down)Bermondsey Spa GardensBuddhists in the library
Southwark Council's former One Stop ShopPalatial council offices, to be gentrifiedTrees in Bermondsey Spa GardensSpa Road gentrificationA wonderful arch on the Neckinger EstateBermondsey Spa building site
Bermondsey Spa: The builders and the luxury flatsAnother garage bites the dustThe tunnel of the lost riverAnother fine arch, on the Arnold EstateJunction on Jamaica RoadThe Shard viewed from Jamaica Road

From Deptford to Bermondsey: A Summer Journey Through London’s History, a set on Flickr.

After posting five set of photos of autumn in London,  as part of my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, I’m briefly returning to summer to post five of the 46 sets I have from July and August that have not been published yet, containing over a thousand photos.

I have thousands more photos from September, October and November, from al parts of London, and will return to more recent photos after this reminder of summer, but for now, please join me on July 24, 2012 (a hot Tuesday), when I decided to take a visit to east London — and, specifically, Commercial Road, which runs from Aldgate East to Limehouse, and was built by the East India Company 200 years ago. Read the rest of this entry »

Real London: Photos of New Cross, Bermondsey and the Old Kent Road

The Land Rover and the JaguarThe Montague ArmsHouses in Kender Street, New CrossOvergrown development site, New CrossLooking at The Grove building site, New CrossThe ruins of Monson School
A tangle of scaffoldingTunnel on Cold Blow Lane, New CrossCND mural, New CrossDemolition site, New CrossThe old Southern Railway StablesThe lonely doorway
The gas works on the Old Kent RoadThe children's playgroundThe derelict warehouseThe faces of the Old Kent RoadThe towers of the Tustin EstateBreakers yards off the Old Kent Road
Breakers yard on White Post Street

Real London: New Cross, Bermondsey and the Old Kent Road, a set on Flickr.

“Real London” is a short-hand, of course, for a London that is not the shiny one of glass and steel built and sold by property developers, and bought by those in the top few percent of earners — as well as by foreign investors. It is a world of workers, some of whom live in their own houses, having secured mortgages before the boom that began in the late 1990s, and often well before that, when it was still affordable for working people to take out mortgages and be able to repay them. Others live in social housing, built by local councils and run either by the councils or by housing associations, or, less frequently, owned or owned and managed by co-ops, and others have to cope with the increasingly greedy, unregulated private rental market . And amongst them, of course, are the unemployed — part of the current total of two and a half million unemployed people in the UK as a whole. According to the London Skills and Employment Observatory, 1.38 million people are currently either unemployed or “economically inactive” in London, and the unemployment rate is 8.9 percent.

These workers and homeowners were, perhaps, on salaries between the median and the average — currently £14,000 and £26,000, as I discussed in my article, The Housing Crisis and the Gulf Between the Rich and the Poor: Half of UK Workers Earn Less Than £14,000 A Year — but whereas in the past it would have been possible for a household on average or below average wages to buy a house, now it is completely impossible.

As I explained in a recent article, Unaffordable London: The Great Housing Rip-Off Continues, on a multiplier of three times earnings, which was how the housing market functioned before the Blair and Brown boom years, a couple buying a house in London for the average price — £388,000 — need a combined income of nearly £130,000, or something slightly less plus a whopping great deposit. 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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