WORLD PREMIERE: ‘The Battle for Deptford’ – New Documentary Film Tells the Story of the Struggle to Save the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden


A shot from the new documentary film ‘The Battle for Deptford’, directed by Hat Vickers.

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This Thursday, April 28, sees the world premiere of ‘The Battle for Deptford’, a new documentary film, directed by Hat Vickers, about the long struggle to save the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden, a community garden in Deptford, in south east London, and Reginald House, a block of council flats next door, from destruction for a new housing development.

The struggle, which involved campaigners fighting for years to get the council and the developers (Peabody and Sherrygreen Homes) to change the plans, sparing the garden and Reginald House from destruction, culminated in the occupation of the garden for two months, from August to October 2018, until its violent eviction by bailiffs hired by Lewisham Council.

After many months in which the council, at exorbitant cost, paid bailiffs to guard the empty garden, the last of the trees were torn down in February 2019, but building work didn’t begin until October 2020. 18 months on, it’s an ugly building site, with dense blocks of housing rising up, and little sign of any significant green space materialising, let alone anything to rival the beautiful lost garden.

The council has always insisted that the new development is crucial because it will provide 104 new properties described as ‘affordable’ housing (actually, at ‘London Affordable Rent’, which is over 60% higher than existing social rents for a two-bedroom flat), as well as 51 for private sale, and 41 for shared ownership (and also including 16 properties to replace those lost in Reginald House).

These figures may look generous compared to the many private developments rising up across Lewisham (and London as a whole), but, as I have previously explained, the seeming generosity is reduced when the mainly private properties in a twinned development, ‘The Scene’ in New Cross (initially marketed as ‘The Muse’), are factored in, and, in any case, the council’s desperate efforts to highlight the number of alleged “social homes” at Tidemill only serves to highlight how very few others they have managed to build for many, many years throughout the whole of the borough.

The trailer for the film is below, via YouTube:

The screening, at St. Nicholas’ Church on Deptford Green, starting at 7.45pm, is part of the New Cross and Deptford Free Film Festival, now in its eleventh year. The film’s director, Hat Vickers, took footage before, during and after the occupation, and also interviewed some of the many people involved in the garden’s defence — Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaigners Heather Gilmore, Andrea Hughes, Andrea Carey and myself, Diann Gerson, a resident of Reginald House, and local resident Ian, who used to visit the garden regularly with his daughter.

Hat describes the film as follows: “A beloved community garden and block of council homes in Deptford, south east London, are under threat from redevelopment. Lewisham Council want to push through demolition, but local people fight back, to try to influence the plans and have a say in how their communities are changing.”

She adds, “This documentary delves into how by changing our city we change ourselves, and the forces which can take this collective right away from us. It explores gentrification, air pollution, the importance of green spaces, and what it means to be part of a community.”

I saw the film last month at a special preview for the interviewees, and I can confirm that it’s both a powerful reminder of the campaign, and a ringing endorsement of the value of taking a stand for something you believe in.

The Eventbrite page for the screening is here. It’s been fully booked for some time, but as the page explains, you can still register to “join the Waitlist to be contacted if a ticket does become available, and for information about tickets on the door.”

In addition, there is an online premiere on YouTube next week, on Thursday May 5, and you can register for that via a separate Eventbrite page here.

After that, we’re hoping that the film will be of interest to community groups involved in housing struggles, to other film festivals and to independent cinemas. Please feel free to contact me if you’re interested in putting on a screening, and I’ll pass on the information to Hat.

Hat and/or other campaigners will hopefully be available for Q&A sessions accompanying future screenings, so please do get in touch if you can help us spread the word.

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer (of an ongoing photo-journalism project, ‘The State of London’), 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 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 you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.50).

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of the 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, and the trees were cut down on February 27, 2019, the struggle for housing justice — and against environmental destruction — 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.

One Response

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, publicising the new documentary film, ‘The Battle for Deptford’, directed by Hat Vickers, about the struggle to save the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden and Reginald House in Deptford from destruction for an inappropriate housing development, which culminated in a two-month occupation of the garden that I was involved in, followed by its violent eviction by bailiffs hired by Lewisham Council.

    The film features footage that Hat shot before, during and after the occupation, and interviews with some of the many people involved, and the world premiere is at St. Nicholas’ Church in Deptford on Thursday (April 28), as part of the New Cross and Deptford Free Film Festival. There’s an online premiere the week after, on Thursday May 5, and after that we’re hoping that it will be of interest to community groups fighting their own housing and environmental struggles.

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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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