‘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 »

‘Concrete Soldiers’: New Documentary Film About Social Cleansing and Council Estate Destruction in London Features Andy Worthington as Narrator

A promotional image for 'Concrete Soldiers', a new documentary film about the threat to social housing in London, directed by Nikita Woolfe, featuring narration by Andy Worthington.

Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

I’m delighted to announce the launch of the website for ‘Concrete Soldiers’, a new documentary film directed by Nikita Woolfe, for which I’m doing the voiceover. I met Niki at ‘The Truth About Grenfell’, a powerful event the week after the terrible Grenfell Tower fire in June, organised by ASH (Architects for Social Housing), which Niki was filming (and which also features in ‘Concrete Soldiers’). The completed film of the event, which has had nearly 15,000 views to date, is here.

A few months later, Niki asked me if I’d like to narrate the film, and I was honoured to say yes. I live in social housing (which, for foreign readers, is rented housing that is, essentially, run on a not-for-profit basis), and am a passionate defender of it, and it has been thoroughly depressing watching as it has been denigrated by those who seek to destroy it so they can make a profit from its privatisation or its destruction and replacement by new private developments.

Those who want to get rid of social housing have a number of ploys: one is claiming that it should only be for those who are especially poor and desperate, and not, as I think it should be, for anyone who wants to rent rather than own a property, but who wants to do so cheaply, and sees that as a fair trade, as those who rent never end up owning the properties they live in, unlike those who take out mortgages. 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 »

My Band The Four Fathers Release ‘Equal Rights And Justice For All,’ Defending Habeas Corpus, Opposing Arbitrary Detention at Guantánamo and in the UK

The cover for The Four Fathers' new online single, 'Equal Rights And Justice For All.'My band The Four Fathers have just released a brand-new online single, ‘Equal Rights And Justice For All,’ a passionate defence of habeas corpus, which is supposed to protect all of us from arbitrary imprisonment.

The song — an insistent and infectious roots reggae groove — was inspired by my work trying to get the prison at Guantánamo Bay closed down, my work opposing the use of secret evidence in the UK, and also by the 800th anniversary of King John signing Magna Carta in 2015. The key element of this document, which the barons obliged him to sign, was habeas corpus, the right to be bought before a judge to test the validity of one’s imprisonment, which, over the centuries that followed, ended up applying to everyone, and was successfully exported around the world as a hugely significant bulwark against tyranny.

See below for the song, on Bandcamp, where you can listen to it for free — or, if you’d like to support us, buy it as a download for just £1 ($1.25) — or more if you’d like. Read the rest of this entry »

Quarterly Fundraiser Day 4: Why I Need Your Money ($2000/£1600) to Keep Me Working as a Reader-Funded Guantánamo Journalist

Andy Worthington calls on Donald Trump to close Guantanamo outside the Supreme Court on January 11, 2017, the 15th anniversary of the opening of the prison (Photo: Justin Norman).Please click on the ‘Donate’ button below to make a donation towards the $2000 (£1600) I’m trying to raise to support my work on Guantánamo for the next three months!

 

Dear friends, supporters, and any interested passers-by,

I need your help, and I won’t beat around the bush. I’m a reader-funded journalist, activist and creator, and I can’t continue to do what I do without your help. I’m trying to raise $2000 (£1600) to support my work for the next three months, and any amount — $15, $25, $50, $100 or more —will be very gratefully received. Click on the ‘Donate’ button above to make a donation, via Paypal.

So what do I do, and why do I need your money?

Well, since 2006, I’ve been researching and writing about the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay and working to get it closed down, because it’s a legal, moral and ethical abomination, and because outrageous lies have been told about the significance of the men held here (the “worst of the worst,” we were told, although most, as I have demonstrated repeatedly, were no such thing).

First — unpaid — I wrote a book, The Guantánamo Files, telling the stories of the prisoners, which took me 14 months, and then I began publishing articles here, on my website, on a daily basis, as I could find no one at the time prepared to pay me to write about everything I had learned through 14 months of research and writing.

In the intervening years, I have sometimes been paid by mainstream media outlets, but I also value the independence of my website, and my ability to write without any outside interference, and that remains crucial in many ways, as I deliberately blur the false standards the so-called liberal media sets itself, which involve “objectivity” — reporting news stories giving equal weight to both sides of any story, and saving opinions for op-eds.

In contrast, I have always reported news stories about Guantánamo (and about other topics I write about) with an editorial voice, to show my disgust at what has been taking place, and I regard the failure to do so in the mainstream media as a failure to challenge the dark forces shaping our lives and ruining our world. I’d also like it to be noted that the right-wing media, in contrast, has no pretence to “objectivity.”

An example of this false adherence to “objectivity” came in 2008, when I worked with Carlotta Gall on a front-page New York Times story about a prisoner at Guantánamo, Abdul Razzaq Hekmati, who had been a ferocious opponent of the Taliban, but had been mistakenly sent to Guantánamo, where the authorities persistently ignored his efforts to clear his name, and, adding insult to injury, slandered him after his death. Within hours of the article being published, someone in the Bush administration had called the Times to tell them that I shouldn’t have been given a byline, and the editors duly capitulated, printing an Editors’ Note apologizing for giving me a byline because I “had a point of view.”

As the Editors’ Note put it:

Mr. Worthington has written a book, “The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison,” in which he takes the position that Guantánamo is part of what he describes as a cruel and misguided response by the Bush administration to the Sept. 11 attacks. He has also expressed strong criticism of Guantánamo in articles published elsewhere.

The editors were not aware of Mr. Worthington’s outspoken position on Guantánamo. They should have described his contribution to the reporting instead of listing him as co-author, and noted that he had a point of view.

Overlooked in all this was that I “had a point of view” because I had studied Guantánamo for 14 months, and had reached the understandable and accurate conclusion that factual research only established that it was an unforgivable place that should never have been opened, and that should be closed as swiftly as possible.

My independence, therefore, is partly though necessity — to allow me to say what needs saying without being prevented, or having what needs to be said watered down.

But there is, of course, a price to pay for this independence, and this is that, once you step outside of the mainstream media, with, for the most part, its funding through advertising, and, for the print media, through paper sales, there is no money to pay writers. The internet, and the blogging revolution that I got involved in quite early on (as a full-time blogger from May 2007), allows anyone a platform, and I can say, I believe, after ten years, that if you have a clear focus and some talent, you will get noticed, but getting paid is a different matter, and it’s on this point that I return to where I began — and ask you to support me if you can because the kind of writer, activist and creator I am is not corporate-backed, or funded through advertising, but one supported by you.

This applies to my Guantánamo work, for which I am best-known, and which involves not just this website, but also the Close Guantánamo campaign, associated social media, and the costs of running the various sites, but it also applies to all the other work I undertake — my work on social justice issues, mainly, but not exclusively related to British politics, my photography (both my protest photos and my recently launched project ‘The State of London’), and my music, with my band The Four Fathers.

This is probably not the place to start a major discussion about the difficulties of funding all creative endeavors at this point in time, but I think that we collectively face a problem whose scale is not fully acknowledged: essentially, that, since the internet became central to so many of our lives, a huge amount of creative work has become unpaid, and the relatively recent growth of social media, apps and tech companies continues to shift the balance away from creators to a handful of people essentially in charge of the technology, who have become almost incomprehensibly rich at everyone else’s expense.

To some extent, everyone is being ripped off — every time we share our photos, our writing, our thoughts, our creations, on social media and through apps, we are making money for those who own the platforms, whose extraordinary wealth is only possible because we have all been persuaded to provide everything we do for free. For people with paid jobs elsewhere, this is perhaps not so much of a problem, but for creative people it often makes for a profoundly challenging, precarious existence financially, on more or less a full-time basis. For me, these particular obstacles permeate the worlds I’m involved in — writing, photography and music — and, as a result, I really do rely on your support.

To make a donation, please click on the “Donate” button above to make a payment via PayPal. You can also make a recurring payment on a monthly basis by ticking the box marked, “Make This Recurring (Monthly),” and if you are able to do so, it would be very much appreciated.

Thanks for listening, and I hope the thoughts I’ve outlined above have some resonance for you.

With thanks, as ever, for your support.

Andy Worthington
London
September 14, 2017

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign.

Photos: Festival of Resistance Against the DSEI Arms Fair in London’s Docklands, Sept. 9, 2017

Stop the arms fair: a placard emerges from a sea of police at the Festival of Resistance against the DSEI arms fair in London's Docklands on September 9, 2017 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

See all my photos from the Festival of Resistance against the DSEI arms fair  on Flickr here!

Yesterday (September 9, 2017), the Campaign Against Arms Trade and Stop the Arms Fair organised a Festival of Resistance against the bi-annual international arms fair that takes place in London’s Docklands at the ExCeL exhibition centre, which I visited, played at, and took photos of. See my photos here. This UK government-backed orgy of trade in weapons of war and weapons of mass destruction tries to disguise itself by calling itself DSEI (Defence and Security Equipment International), but anyone perceptive can see through the PR-speak.

As the festival’s Facebook page explains, “As one of the world’s largest arms fairs, DSEI brings together over 1,500 arms companies and military delegations from over 100 countries. On display will be everything from crowd control equipment to machine guns, tanks, drones and even battleships.” Countries invited to take part, all with dire human rights records, include Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The resistance to the DSEI has involved protests all week in advance of the arms fair itself, which runs from September 12-15. Throughout the week, dozens of protestors were arrested stopping arms-laden vehicles arriving at ExCeL, and this pattern continued during the festival, as protestors locked on to each other in the road or locked on to vehicles. Protests are also continuing throughout the coming week — see here for further details. Read the rest of this entry »

My Band The Four Fathers Release New Single, ‘She’s Back’, About Pussy Riot, As Maria Alyokhina Releases Memoir, ‘Riot Days’

The cover of 'She's Back' by The Four Fathers, released on September 5, 2017.Today, my band The Four Fathers are releasing ‘She’s Back’, our new online single from our forthcoming album, ‘How Much Is A Life Worth?’, which we’ll be releasing on CD soon, hopefully within the next month.

She’s Back’ was written by guitarist Richard Clare, first aired in 2015, and recorded in a session last year for the new album. It’s about Pussy Riot, politicized performance artists from Russia, who use punk music to get across their messages, which have involved feminism, LGBT rights and the corruption of Vladimir Putin. We recorded it in July 2016, with Richard on lead vocals and 12-string guitar, me on rhythm guitar and backing vocals, Brendan Horstead on drums, Andrew Fifield on flute and Louis Sills-Clare on bass.

The song is below, on Bandcamp, where you can listen to it, and, if you wish, download it for just £1 ($1.30). We hope you like it!

Formed in 2011, Pussy Riot gained international notoriety in 2012 after five members of the group staged a punk rock performance — a ‘Punk Prayer’ — inside Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, which was aimed at the church’s support for Putin during his election campaign. Read the rest of this entry »

The First 100 Days of My Photo Project, ‘The State of London’

The State of London: images from Andy Worthington's ongoing photo project, featuring photos taken over the last five years.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator — and photographer.

 

Back in May, I launched the first manifestation of a photo project I’ve been undertaking for the last five years — ‘The State of London’, which involves me photographing London on bike rides that I undertake every day, from small local circuits from my home in south east London to long journeys to the other side of town and back.

In the years since I began this project, in May 2012, I’ve visited all 120 London postcodes (the EC, WC, N, E, SE, SW, W and NW postcodes), and have also made additional visits to some of Greater London’s outer boroughs. A few years ago, I had a website made, with an interactive map allowing me to post photos by postcode. I hope to start using the website soon, which will also feature original essays about the capital, its history and its current state, and I’ll also soon be setting up a Twitter page, but for now the Facebook page is the place to visit to see glimpses of what I’ve been up to, and I hope that you’ll “like” it and start following what I do, if you haven’t already.

I’ve lived in London for all of my adult life, since I finished university in 1985, but it wasn’t until 2012 that I realized that huge swathes of the city were unknown to me, and that I wanted to visit all the places I’d never visited, as well as revisiting other places I’d got to know over the years. The trigger was me getting ill in 2011, giving up smoking, and realizing that I needed to get fit, and the photo project was the perfect solution. When I began, I soon realized that even the parts of London closest to me, in south east London were in many ways unknown territory, and, with a blanket ban on bicycles on trains in place in the run-up to the 2012 Olympic Games, I had to cycle through south east London to get anywhere else in London, and, as a result of these journeys and of my shorter bike rides close to home, I eventually got to know almost every street in south east London — and have also photograph many of them at some time or other. Read the rest of this entry »

Judge Confirms That Trial of James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, Architects of CIA Torture Program, Will Go Ahead

James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen as they appeared in videos of their depositions as part of the court case against them in 2017.Please support my work! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

Great news from Washington State, as Judge Justin Quackenbush, a federal court judge, has ruled that a “civil lawsuit brought by three victims of the CIA’s torture program against the two psychologists who created it will go to court on 5 September” after finding that “more than a year of discovery had yielded sufficient evidence to support the plaintiffs’ claims,” as Larry Siems, the editor of Mohamedou Ould Shahi’s acclaimed prison memoir, Guantánamo Diary, explained in an article for the Guardian.

The decision was expected, as Judge Quackenbush had allowed the case to proceed last April, a highly important decision that I wrote about at the time in an article entitled, In Historic Ruling, US Court Allows Lawsuit Against James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, Architects of CIA Torture Program, to Proceed. I also wrote a follow-up article in June this year, In Ongoing Court Case, Spotlight On James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, Architects of the Brutal, Pointless CIA Torture Program, after the New York Times obtained videos of the depositions made by Mitchell and Jessen, in which the two men attempted to defend their positions (the Times also obtained the depositions of two former CIA officials and of the plaintiffs, as well as newly declassified CIA documents).

As Larry Siems explained following this week’s ruling, “It will now be up to a jury in Spokane, Washington, to decide if the psychologists, who reportedly were paid $75m-$81m under their contract with the CIA to create the so-called enhanced interrogation program, are financially liable for the physical and psychological effects of their torture.” Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington’s Band The Four Fathers Play Anti-Austerity Song ‘Riot’, Released on Sixth Anniversary of UK Riots

Listen to ‘Riot’ hereA photo of the London riots in August 2011., and watch the live video here.

Exactly six years ago, on August 6, 2011, riots erupted across the UK. The trigger had been the killing, by police, of Mark Duggan in Tottenham in north London the day before, and for the next three days there were riots across the country — the largest riots in modern British history, as 14,000 people took to the streets.

As I wrote back in May, when my band The Four Fathers released our song, ‘Riot’, which was partly inspired by the 2011 riots, “Buildings and vehicles were set on fire, there was widespread looting, and, afterwards, the police systematically hunted down everyone they could find that was involved — particularly through an analysis of CCTV records — and the courts duly delivered punitive sentences as a heavy-handed deterrent.”

I wrote about the riots at the time, in an article entitled, The UK “Riots” and Why the Vile and Disproportionate Response to It Made Me Ashamed to be British, and my song ‘Riot’ followed up on my inability to accept that the British establishment’s response to the riots had been either proportionate or appropriate. 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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CD: Love and War

Love and War by The Four Fathers

The Guantánamo Files book cover

The Guantánamo Files

The Battle of the Beanfield book cover

The Battle of the Beanfield

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion book cover

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

Outside The Law DVD cover

Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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