Video: The Peaceful Occupation and Violent Eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford


A photo by Anita Strasser of th eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford on October 29, 2018.

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Today marks six days since the violent eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, which campaigners, myself included, had been occupying for two months to prevent its destruction by Lewisham Council for a housing development — one that could be built elsewhere in the borough if the will existed to do so.

Throughout the occupation, and for many years before it, we have endlessly tried to impress on the council that it is unacceptable to destroy the garden, a vital community green space, and a hugely significant environmental asset, which mitigates the worst effects of pollution on nearby Deptford Church Street, which regularly reaches six times the World Health Organisation’s recommended safety levels, and that it is also unacceptable to destroy Reginald House, a block of 16 structurally sound council flats next door. The council, however, has never shown any interest whatsoever in engaging with us or in listening to our demands for them to go back to the drawing board, and to come up with new plans that spare the garden and the flats.

Unusually, I haven’t published anything here on my website for five days, since I posted my immediate impressions of the eviction the day after, in an article entitled, The Violent Eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden: Lewisham Councillors Make Sure They Will Never Be Welcome in Deptford Again.

It’s fair to say, I believe, that myself and other campaigners have been struggling to cope with the fallout from Monday’s violence. We have no intentions of giving up, of course, but we’ve all been emotionally drained, so as I continue to recover I’m posting below, via YouTube, a 12-minute film of the occupation and the eviction made by the Peckham-based Rainbow Collective, which, at the time of writing, has had nearly 4,000 views on Facebook.

As I explained when I shared it on Facebook:

Director Hannan Majid came to the garden shortly after the occupation on August 29, and spoke to campaigner Heather Gilmore, and he also covered the joyful carnival procession from the garden to Fordham Park in New Cross on September 1 for Party in the Park, the amazing community festival that, this year, focused on the housing crisis. Hannan also spoke to Diann Gerson, a resident of Reginald House … who spoke movingly about the brutal destruction of community on the part of the council.

This footage is juxtaposed with footage from the eviction, with Heather and other campaigners (myself and garden supporter Captain Rizz, who was one of a handful of people in the garden when it was stormed by the bailiffs) expressing shock at the council-hired bailiffs’ violence. Hannan also allowed me to explain — in a way that the mainstream media weren’t interested in covering on the day — how the council could have found an alternative site for new housing to avoid destroying the priceless garden, why the development is not being undertaken to provide new social housing, but, instead, is designed to make profits for the developer Peabody, for the building contractors, and the demolition company that will be paid to destroy Reginald House, and why the council’s determination to destroy it is part of a London-wide effort, sanctioned by London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan, to do away with existing council homes at social rent — a policy that, if it is not challenged robustly, will lead to an epidemic of council estate destruction across the capital.

In the last five days, while the Tidemill occupiers have been struggling to come to terms with last Monday’s violence, the cowards and bullies in the council who set a bunch of thugs on the occupants of the garden at 6am on a Monday morning have been engaged in a social media offensive, primarily on Twitter, in an attempt to justify unleashing such violence on an occupation that, for two months, had occupied the garden peacefully.

Many local people are not fooled, however. One of those woken at 6am to be confronted by the council-sponsored violence posted a video of footage taken from her home directly opposite the garden that has been watched over 7,000 times, and wrote perceptively in text accompanying the video:

There is no doubt in my mind that the council have not thought through the impact of this violent and badly-managed eviction on local residents and how they will manage the continued presence of County Enforcement thugs right in the heart of the community they have just assaulted.

I watched with a growing crowd of people as these hired thugs dragged people out of the garden. I watched them smash down a children’s tree house inside while people involved in building the garden cried outside. Many of these thugs kept their faces covered – one guy’s mask was a sinister grinning skeleton. I know it’s Halloween but is this really appropriate attire for a bailiff? I saw them mocking and laughing at us from behind the line of police protection. I saw them pushing and shoving people. And now I have to see them from my window every day, patrolling the street in front of the garden, to ‘protect’ this patch of green land. Their dogs bark all night and their floodlight shines through the thin blind in my bedroom, so that my sleep is disturbed. I go outside in the morning and see them, still there. It sickens my heart.

This eye-witness then ended her commentary with the most pertinent question of all for Lewisham Council to think about: “What will happen when they start to cut the trees down, in full view of the community?”

That may be several months off, with the likelihood being that the council will continue to throw taxpayers’ money at the weird bailiffs who resemble some kind of invading army, paying them to continue guarding the garden from the people of Deptford until our legal challenge against the council’s plans is exhausted (our ongoing appeal against a decision by a judge not to accept a judicial review, which, astonishingly, was in place when the eviction took place), but it seems clear that the council hasn’t thought about how they are going to get away with the actual destruction of the garden.

And so, in conclusion, may I, yet again, remind the council, on behalf of the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign, that there is a viable solution: go back to the drawing board and come up with new plans, working with the community, that spare the garden and Reginald House, and that deliver truly affordable homes at social rent on the old school site, and, if necessary, on other sites in the borough.

Don’t believe them when they say it isn’t possible, and watch out for further information from us as we demonstrate exactly why their protestations of powerlessness, and of needing to be in bed with developers like Peabody are untrue, and designed solely to mask their own lack of vision and imagination.

* * * * *

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 2017 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. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, the resistance continues.

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.

16 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    It’s fair to say, I think, that everyone involved in the two month occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford has been struggling, in the last six days, to deal with the violent eviction of the garden on Monday, when Lewisham Council showed their true colours, unleashing brutal bailiffs and turning the beautiful community garden and environmental asset into a broken place that is still guarded by bailiffs 24 hours a day.

    I’m posting here a powerful 12-minute film made by Hannan Majid of the Peckham-based Rainbow Collective, juxtaposing the violence of the day with footage from the early days of the occupation, showing the garden in its full beauty, and the carnival procession from the garden to Party in the Park, the community festival in New Cross on September 1 that was a powerful example of community resistance to the whole of the malignant council-backed ‘regeneration’ industry. Included are interview with campaigners Heather Gilmore and myself, and Diann Gerson, a resident of Reginald House, the structurally sound block of council flats next to the garden, which the council also cynically wants to destroy.

    Also included are some pertinent reflections on the violence of the eviction by a local resident, who complains about how the bailiffs’ continued presence on her street “sickens my heart”, and asks of the council, “What will happen when they start to cut the trees down, in full view of the community?” What indeed? They clearly didn’t think about that when they pressed ahead with the eviction, despite an ongoing legal challenge by the occupiers, and in the full knowledge that it will be at least two months before they begin destroying the garden, an act of environmental vandalism that will surely only lead to further protests on a much greater scale than was seen last Monday.

    Please keep watching Save Reginald Save Tidemill for further updates:

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Jason Símon de Souza wrote:

    It’s very fair to say that, Andy. Very fair. The sight of 150 mercenaries (because that’s what they really were) storming a nature reserve at 6am, with blow torches, failing to attempt any form of negotiation, to identify themselves and shouting at us to, “Get out now!”, is etched into my memory.

    So too, is the sight of the police, refusing to intervene and looking out into Reginald Road, whilst right behind them, thuggish behaviour endangered people’s lives. A disturbing episode, even for the seasoned.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for adding your memories, Jason. I’m reassured that so many people who were there were flat-out appalled by the behaviour of the bailiffs – and the police. Councillors – who weren’t there – are, I hope, not doing themselves any favours by suggesting, on social media, that we brought it on ourselves, when they’re the ones who ordered paid thugs to act with the kind of violence that shocked those who were there – including many residents of the flats opposite the garden on Reginald Road, who were not necessarily particularly engaged with the campaign until they witnessed the violence last Monday morning, and who are now appalled by the heavy security presence around the garden, and the way it is being treated.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    On Save Reginald Save Tidemill, Joe Wilkes wrote:

    The case for keeping Tidemill gardens and Reginald house intact is absolutely sound I agree. As a member of the Labour Party I am appalled that even some of the new supposedly left wing Momentum endorsed Labour Councilors have supported the proposed redevelopment of Tidemill and Reginald. I suppose it falls to me and other members to support the nomination of different councilors when that opportunity next arises. In the meantime what are the demands of the SRST campaign? Have we a clear alternative plan that; all the proposed new buildings be for council tenants only and none to be sold as private flats? That the amazing historical school building of Tidemill that was never a private school not now be turned in to privately owned property as proposed by the redevelopment.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    There are a few proposals that would work, Joe – reworking the Tidemill and Amersham Vale plans to spare the garden and Reginald House is do-able; it just requires a bit of re-jigging. But the bigger questions are: why is the council giving up, or selling cheap its biggest asset, its land, and is it helpful to continue to engage with the kind of organisations that dominate the ‘regeneration’ industry? Half of the extortionate costs of new builds is the cost of the land, but the council already has that, so it can build new homes on its own land without that being a cost. It then needs to ask if there’s an alternative to ‘regeneration’ that doesn’t involve demolition, building and property developer racketeers, who are all making big profits. They just need to think outside the box – and we can help them. We could be building environmentally low-impact homes using local firms created for that purpose, for example. It’s not actually a ridiculous fantasy. We just need the will to be there to overturn the current system which tramples everyone in search of profits.

  6. Damo says...

    The great capitalist/eating machine never sleeps never stops eating and consuming, crunching, knashing knoring chewing and feasting on community’s nothing stands in its way as it sweeps across London crapping out steel and glass towers.. I’m sorry to hear and see the loss of tidemill crocked corrupt and corrupted councilors will do anything for money.. Anything. They are in the process of here in Ealing destroying the south Acton estate architect designed low rise landscaped estate brick built in the late 70s built to a very high standard they have already built on a small Park full or was full of mature trees their displacing thousands of people social cleansing people as far away as Durham there are no jobs in Durham just poverty and universal credit ealing is a corrupt harmful council and it’s labour… I voted labour ffs.. I don’t know who to as far as politics goes who to believe we’re seeing the rise of the right but feel dissolution with the left.. Something has to give sooner or later this country is becoming a fascist state and s bloodbath for the vulnerable.. Dxx

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Damo,
    How lovely to hear from you again – but sadly of course under such dreadful circumstances.
    We’re still fighting at Tidemill, of course, and we still hope and believe that we can win, because it’s clear that someone somewhere has to successfully break the remorseless march of the monstrous ‘regeneration’ industry. Our experiences have certainly helped sharpen our understanding of quite how corrupt and broken the whole process is – so that we now have devastating facts and figures about how insanely expensive ‘regeneration’ is, how refurbishment is the best way forward, but has no budget, how councils are like pitifully poor pimps facilitating the profits of others while selling their own assets (their land; our land) on the cheap or giving it away, and how, in just one block in Deptford (Reginald House), the cynical destructiveness of ‘regeneration’ is writ large, as residents’ homes, in 16 structurally sound flats whose tenants have diligently paid their rents for decades, are to be demolished simply because profits can only be made by getting rid of them, and we’ll continue to use that against Lewisham Council in the coming weeks and months, but the mainstream media is still lagging behind the reality, or, apparently, blithely unconcerned by it – failing to properly interrogate what new “social housing” and “affordable rents’ actually mean in Sadiq Khan’s new reality, in which social rents are being phased out to make way for a new regime of ‘London Affordable Rents’, which seem to be around 60% higher, and ‘London Living Rent’, a rent-to-buy nightmare where rents are more than double social rents.
    Unfortunately, although I did some preliminary research into the London-wide planned demolitions back in April, which included South Acton, that too, based on Sian Berry’s research, hasn’t been properly followed up on by the mainstream media:
    The only glimmer of hope is that many of the residents of the estates affected are much more motivated to resist than they were even six months ago, which is essential if a proper movement against the ‘London clearances’ is to develop, but as we’ve shown at Tidemill, and as a few other movements (like Focus E15 and Sweets Way have shown in the last few years), what people also need to be thinking about is direct action.

  8. magaret tuxford says...

    Someone will be getting backhanders…

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    You would think so, wouldn’t you, Maggie? Often the backhanders only appear later, however, as in Southwark, via the revolving door between the council and the developers:

  10. Damo says...

    Andy the mainstream media I don’t think are interested in the plight of council tenants your right with direct action create a big stink to quote john lennon strange days indeed most peculiar moma as is our times the thing that’s sad about ealing is the blocks… Were.. All low rise 3 or 4 storie maisonettes with mature gardens paths mature trees.. People had grown grape vines and other plants up the sides of the buildings so in the summer a riot of green flowers everywhere the estate is not a slum not covered in graffiti or rubbish no gangs just a mixed community of Asian sommali turkish romanian black white British irish. God knows were there been displaced too.. London and the South.. Is being eaten alive the brexit March to weeks ago was great but we need those numbers for all the other marches now.. Xx

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    You painted a beautiful picture there os a vibrant mixed community in an estate that had truly become lived in, Damo – only for it all to be destroyed for the profits of developers and building and demolition contractors, and for politicians’ and architects’ cynical notions of what London should look like, and what they imagine it will be – full of bland young professional couples happy in a sterile, corporate environment. I’m on the other side of London, but I’m disgusted that this vandalism and ethnic cleansing is going ahead, and has been fundamentally unchallenged. As I say, direct action has to be the only way forward.
    In case it’s of interest, I found a website where some of the destruction has been recorded and assessed by Avishkar Chhetri, a Nepali-born MA student at Kingston who grew up on the estate in the 90s and 2000s, in a project called ‘Non-viable living’:

  12. Damo says...

    The place now looks so sad one road in particular leading up from the back of Acton Vale towards gunnersbury Park on one side a little Park full of mature trees the other the low rise block set 20feet back from the pavement and staggered full of green.. Now it’s like a windy canyon with these 7stories blocks going up with pictures of bland generic rotational couples and pics of hipsters shopping for…foraged food… Puuuuuke

  13. Damo says...

    One of the saddest things for me has been the enforced closure of G’s Gym at Gunnersbury Park a weightlifting and boxing gym and a community hub kept all those youngsters off the streets and out of trouble had been open since 1980 38years on that site 10years before in Acton so several generations had gone there ealing council refused to renew the licence back in October last year they gave Gary the owner 2 months to leave.. Gone all that history gone where do those kids go now.. It’s now part of the private ealing health club.. Well there’s a surprise

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    And I’ve seen this in so many other places across London as well, Damo. It’s so disgraceful that they can get away with their cleansing of the working class with barely a murmur of dissent.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    That’s horrible, Damo. But no surprise. Manifestations of the gym industry – and whoever are the politicians’ friends behind its remorseless expansion – are everywhere. It used to be that every new housing development was stuck with a Tesco Metro; now it’s just as likely that there’ll be a PureGym too – a Leeds-based chain of “no frills fitness clubs”, according to Wikipedia – “Britain’s largest gym chain by membership, being the first to gain 1,000,000 members. It has plans to open 300 gyms by 2020.”
    Don’t get me started on gyms, Damo. I loathe them more than almost any other aspect of our atomised, self-regarding, pin-headed excuse for a culture.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    I found this GLA document from 2016 in which, of all things, UKIP Assembly Member David Kurten did a good job of presenting the case of tenants and leaseholders on the South Acton Estate who were not happy with how the ‘regeneration’ was going. He said, “What the residents say to me is they feel is that at the initial stages the regeneration scheme sounded fantastic. All the tenants and leaseholders on the estate would get a really good deal out of the regeneration. The tenants would be able to come back and get an equivalent flat, and leaseholders would be compensated to the full value of the homes that they lived in. At the moment there is a lot of anger and fear on the estate. What I am being told by some of the tenants there is that they are being pushed out to live temporarily outside Ealing borough, in some cases outside London as well, with no guarantee or firm promise of return … Leaseholders as well feel they are not being properly compensated and they will not be able to afford to live in the area they come from and be able to afford a new flat in the estate.”

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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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