Celebrating Seven Years of My Photo-Journalism Project ‘The State of London’

The most recent photos posted on the Facebook page ‘The State of London’ (All photos by Andy Worthington).

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Seven years ago yesterday, on May 11, 2012, I set out from my home in Brockley, in south east London, to take photos on a bike ride to Greenwich and back, passing through Deptford on the way. It wasn’t a long journey, but the conscious act of recording what I saw — what interested me — was the deliberate start of a photo-journalism project that I envisaged as a kind of cyclists’ version of ‘The Knowledge’, the legendary training whereby black cab drivers are “required to know every road and place of interest in the main London area; that is anywhere within a six mile radius of Charing Cross”, as a cabbie described it on his website.

That same cabbie explained how it took him four and a half years, which, he said, was about the average. Another website explained how cabbies need to “master no fewer than 320 basic routes, all of the 25,000 streets that are scattered within the basic routes and approximately 20,000 landmarks and places of public interest that are located within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross.”

I can’t claim to know London in this kind of detail, but I can truthfully state that, after my first journey on May 11, 2012, I gradually began to travel further afield, soon conceiving of a plan whereby I would visit and photograph the 120 postcodes — those beginning WC, EC, N, E, SE, SW, W and NW — that make up the London postal district (aka the London postal area), covering 241 square miles, with, when possible, additional photos from the 13 outer London postcode areas — those beginning BR, CM, CR, DA, EN, HA, IG, KT, RM, SM, TW, UB and WD — that make up Greater London, covering 607 square miles in total.

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Celebrating 2,500 Days Since I First Started Photographing London’s 120 Postcodes for ‘The State of London’

The most recent photos from 'The State of London' Facebook page.

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Today is the eighth anniversary of an event that triggered the creation of my photo-journalism project ‘The State of London’, and last Friday marked a milestone worth remarking on in the history of that project: 2,500 days since May 11, 2012, the first day I began cycling around London taking photos on a daily basis for the project that initially had no name, but that I soon called ‘The State of London.’

The eighth anniversary, today, is of when I was hospitalised following two months of serious agony as two of my toes turned black, but GPs and consultants failed to work out what was wrong with me for quite some time — only eventually working out that a blood clot had cut off the circulation to my toes — and also failed to prescribe me adequate painkillers. After I returned from a trip to Poland at the start of February 2011, for a short tour showing the film I co-directed, ‘Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,’ until I was hospitalised on March 18, I was rarely able to sleep for more than five minutes at a time; almost as soon as I fell asleep, I awoke in agony. There was, I thought, something ironic about someone who campaigned for the rights of people suffering all manner of torments in US custody — including sleep deprivation — also ending up suffering from sleep deprivation, although in my case it was caused by my own body waging war on me.

After two days in Lewisham Hospital, where I was finally given morphine to take me beyond the pain, my wife figured out that they didn’t really know what to do with me, and so pushed for me to be transferred somewhere that they might have a clue. That somewhere was St. Thomas’s Hospital, opposite the Houses of Parliament, where I spent the next nine days, as consultants worked out that attaching me for five afternoons to a drip that pushed what felt like cement into my arteries might open up the blood supply to my toes, thereby saving them. 

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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 »

‘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 »

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 »

Lewisham Council’s Self-Inflicted Woes Increase: Chaos Over Tidemill Eviction Costs, and the Sacking of CEO Ian Thomas

Campaigners with the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign outside Lewisham Council's HQ in Catford on November 28, 2018 (Photo: Bridie Witton).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.




 

What a disgrace Lewisham Council are. With Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaigners and numerous local people putting the council under ever-increasing pressure to explain how much money has been squandered on the eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden a month ago, the subsequent cost of maintaining a security presence 24 hours a day (which we believe, on the advice of Corporate Watch, to be around £1m), and why they are still not interested in an alternative plan for the site that will spare the garden and Reginald House and do something to salvage their increasingly tattered credibility, they responded, as a FOI request revealed that £105,188 had been spent on the eviction alone, by using that as an opportunity to blame campaigners for it.

The council issued a press release (helpfully posted here by the Deptford Dame), in which Cllr. Paul Bell, the Cabinet Member for Housing, after complaining about campaigners and members of the Old Tidemill Garden Group occupying the garden, stated, with a cynical use of the Labour Party’s tagline under Jeremy Corbyn (“for the many, not the few”), “Our housebuilding programme is for the many, not the few, and we won’t let the actions of a small number of people stop us providing decent, secure, social housing for those who need it.”

At the same time as issuing the press release, the council also launched a video, ‘No Place Like Home’ (and a page on their website), dealing with homelessness and the council’s alleged dedication to providing new housing, with the tagline, ‘Why Lewisham Council is making social and truly affordable housing a priority.’ Read the rest of this entry »

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

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. 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 »

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 »

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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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