Concrete Soldiers UK: Crowdfunding Campaign Continues for New Film Opposing Destruction of Social Housing, New Screenings Announced for April to June


A promotional poster for 'Concrete Soldiers UK', designed by the Artful Dodger. The film, directed by Nikita Woolfe, was released in December 2017, and a crowdfunder was launched in March 2018 to take the film on the road.Please support the crowdfunding campaign here!

Last year, the most significant event in the UK, to my mind, was the entirely preventable inferno that engulfed Grenfell Tower, a block of social housing in west London, killing over 70 people. Safety standards had been fatally eroded, in the search of easier profits, and the disaster put the spotlight firmly on central government, local government in Kensington and Chelsea, the management company responsible for the tower (and all of Kensington and Chelsea’s social housing), and the contractors involved in the refurbishment of the tower, all of whom had contributed to turning a safe block of social housing into a death trap.

In the wake of the disaster, I attended a powerful public meeting about the fire, called by ASH (Architects for Social Housing), tenacious defenders of social housing, where I met the filmmaker Nikita Woolfe, who filmed the event, and who was also making a documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the colossal but largely hidden threat to social housing that was also highlighted by the Grenfell disaster, which had shown how those living in social housing are regarded as second-class citizens by those who wield power in this country. 

Niki asked me to be the narrator of her film, and I was delighted to do so, as the film’s focus was of growing concern to me, as it examines the destruction — and the proposed destruction — of housing estates by councils shorn of funds by central government, who are entering into deals with private developers that involve the destruction of estates and their replacement with brand-new housing, pricing out existing tenants, and even offering such derisory amounts to leaseholders (those who bought their flats under Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Right to Buy’ policy) that they too are unable to afford to stay in the area. It is, to be blunt, social cleansing, and its proponents are driving what will be an epidemic if it is not resisted, in which tens of thousands — or hundreds of thousands — of Londoners will be driven from their homes, and variations on it are taking place across the whole of the UK.

Compounding the injustice of this social cleansing, the councils refuse to consider options — like those put forward by ASH — for refurbishment plans that can be paid for via infill building (additional building on existing sites), all the while pretending that tenants and leaseholders will be welcomed back to the new developments that replace their homes, when all the evidence from ‘regeneration’ programmes to date suggests that this is a blatant lie. Councils also claim that the new developments will reduce council waiting lists, but that too is untrue.

The film focuses in particular on two developments in south London — the destruction of the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark, and the proposed destruction of Central Hill Estate in Lambeth, both, it should be noted run by Labour councils, who are actually at the forefront of enthusiastic estate destruction. It also touches on the proposed destruction of another estate in Lambeth, Cressingham Gardens, and the destruction of the Heygate Estate in Southwark, a key stage in what some campaigners are now describing as “the London Clearances”, where Southwark Council entered into a deal with the international property developer Lendlease that has wiped out almost all social housing on the site. The Heygate site has now been renamed Elephant Park, and between them Lendlease and the council have socially cleansed the Elephant and Castle of almost all of the thousands of people who used to live there. Despite all this, the film also carries a hopeful message, and its focus on a successful campaign to prevent the destruction of a sheltered housing development in Streatham is an inspiring example of successful resistance.

‘Concrete Soldiers UK’ was launched at the Cinema Museum in Kennington in December, arriving as London’s housing crisis continued to demand attention — in Haringey, for example, where grassroots campaigners fought a successful battle against the Labour council entering into a housing deal with Lendlease that would have led to the destruction of numerous estates.

We have since had a handful screenings, in Deptford, Hackney Wick and Walthamstow, and have launched a crowdfunding campaign to enable us to take it out on the road and to produce a campaigning booklet detailing the pros and cons of resistance as we learn them from engagement with our audiences.

The link for the crowdfunding campaign is below. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’re interested in putting on a screening, and please be aware that one of the best ways to support us is to put on a screening and to make a donation to the crowdfunding campaign.

And below are the screenings that are currently confirmed — all over London, in Hastings, and in Edinburgh and Glasgow (as well as a film festival in Canada). We hope to see you somewhere along the way!

April 2018

Saturday April 14, 2018, 6pm: Screening of ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’ followed by Q&A with director Nikita Woolfe and Tania Charman
The Bridge Community Centre, 361 Priory Road, Hastings, East Sussex TN34 3NW.

This screening is organised by Heart of Hastings Community Land Trust, whose director, Tania Charman, attended the world premiere of ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’ at the Cinema Museum in Kennington, London SE11 on December 8, 2017.
The Facebook page is here.

Sunday April 15, 2018, 2pm: Screening of ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’ and ‘SA61-Home’ followed by Q&A with Nikita Woolfe and Wendy Charlton
Lordship Hub, Lordship Rec, off Higham Road, Tottenham, London, N17 6NU.

‘The screening of ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’ is also accompanied by a screening of SA61-Home’, an interview with a resident of the nearby Broadwater Farm Estate by local artist Wendy Charlton.
The event page is here, and the Facebook page is here.

Saturday April 21, 2018, 7pm: Screening of ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’ followed by Q&A with director Nikita Woolfe and narrator Andy Worthington
The Rotunda, Cressingham Gardens Estate, London SW2 2QG.

One of the estates featured in the film, Cressingham Gardens is at the forefront of the current resistance to estate destruction, as Lambeth Council vies with Southwark to be the most contemptuous of the needs of its social housing residents.
See a map here.

Sunday April 22, 2018, 4pm local time: Screening of ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’
Cinematheque, 100 Arthur Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3B 1H3. Part of the Architecture + Design Film Festival (A+DFF), now in its sixth year.

See the website here.

Tuesday April 24, 2018, 6.30pm: Screening of ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’ followed by Q&A with director Nikita Woolfe and narrator Andy Worthington
The Wash Houses, The Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design, London Metropolitan University, 16 Goulston Street, London E1 7TP (entrance via Old Castle Street).

Presentation by the Cass Cities programme, co-directed by Jane Clossick and Mark Brierley, and the MA Architecture and Urbanism.
See the event page here, and book here via Eventbrite. As the event page states, “These issues are what MA Architecture and Urbanism students deal with in their activist projects. Come and join us for a taster of the problems London faces.”

Monday April 30, 2018, 7pm: Screening of ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’ followed by Q&A with director Nikita Woolfe and narrator Andy Worthington. Part of the New Cross and Deptford Free Film Festival.
Sanford Housing Co-Op, 4 Sanford Walk, New Cross, London SE14 6NB.

There will also be representatives of local campaigns — to save old Tidemill Garden and Reginald House in Deptford, and Achilles Street in New Cross. Both campaigns are part of ‘No Social Cleaning in Lewisham’ that Andy set up last November to support the campaigns to defend social housing in the borough of Lewisham.
The event page is here, and the Facebook page is here.
The day before, Sunday April 29, there will be a day of short films and live music in Old Tidemill Garden, and on Sunday May 13 there’s a ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ gig at the New Cross Inn, featuring The Four Fathers, the Commie Faggots, Ukadelix, Jazzman John, Asher Baker, The Wiz-RD and the Strawberry Thieves Socialist Choir.

May 2018

Friday May 18, 3pm, free: Screening of ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’ followed by Q&A with director Nikita Woolfe and narrator Andy Worthington.
50 George Square, Room G.04, University of Edinburgh, EH8 9LH.
Hosted by Living Rent and the Human Geography Research Group. Map here. Tweet announcing it here.

Friday May 18, 5.30pm, free: Screening of ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’ followed by Q&A with director Nikita Woolfe and narrator Andy Worthington.
The Wee Red Bar, Edinburgh College of Art, Main Building and Hunter Building, 74 Lauriston Place, Edinburgh EH3 9DF.
A second Edinburgh screening organised by Living Rent. See the website here for the Wee Red Bar, “accessed through a concealed entrance on Lady Lawson Street.”

Saturday May 19, 2pm-5pm, £5/£3: Screening of ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’ followed by Q&A with director Nikita Woolfe, narrator Andy Worthington and representatives of Living Rent
Kinning Park Complex, 43 Cornwall Street, Glasgow G41 1BA.

Screening organised by Living Rent Glasgow, part of Living Rent, a tenants’ union for Scotland, which describes itself as “a democratic organisation run by and for tenants.” As they state, “We want homes for people, not for profit; to redress the power imbalance between landlords and tenants; and ensure that everyone has decent and affordable housing. We believe in the collective power of tenants to come together to fight for their rights, and use diverse tactics – including direct action when necessary – to achieve this.”
Before the screening, there will be a radical art workshop run by Glasgow Art Group (GAG), “who have been active in community organising around housing”, where participants can “work together to produce artwork that also serves as a radical proposal against the onslaught of gentrification.”
The Facebook page for the event is here.

June 2018

Sunday June 3, 5pm, £3: Screening of ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’ and ‘Memories of Ladywell Baths’ followed by Q&A with director Nikita Woolfe and narrator Andy Worthington. Part of the Brockley Max Festival.
Good Hope Cafe, 261 Lewisham High Street, London SE13 6AY.

The screening of ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’ is at 5.30pm, and will be preceded by a screening of ‘Memories of Ladywell Baths’, about the currently derelict baths nearby, which “come back to life in this new, specially commissioned film by local filmmaker, David Stock, in collaboration with Lewisham Buildings Preservation Trust. From dance parties to boxing rings, midnight swims and floods, not to mention a few ghostly tales, hear the stories of this iconic building from those who were there.”
See the Brockley Max website here.


Saturday June 16, all day, exact times tbc: Screening of ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’ followed by Q&A with director Nikita Woolfe
Firstsite Gallery, Lewis Gardens, High Street, Colchester, Essex CO1 1JH.
See the website here.

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 see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in 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), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from six years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London.

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, The Complete Guantánamo Files, 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, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

3 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, promoting screenings over the next two months of ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, the new documentary film, about the destruction of council estates and the admirable resistance of residents to the destruction of their homes, which is directed by Nikita Woolfe, and which I narrate. I’m also promoting the crowdfunding campaign that Niki and I launched last month to enable us to take the film on the road. There are screenings across London – in Tottenham, Brixton, east London, New Cross and Lewisham – as well as Hastings, Edinburgh and Glasgow (and a film festival screening in Canada). I hope to see you somewhere out and about, do get in touch if you want to arrange a screening, and do make a donation if you appreciate what we’re doing.
    Check out the website here:
    And the Facebook page is here:

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    When Melani Finn shared this on Facebook, she wrote:

    From South London social justice campaigning super hero Andy Worthington.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Melani, for the lovely supportive words!

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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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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