Extinction Rebellion’s Summer Uprising Shows the Need for Increased Direct Action as the Establishment Fights Back

A screenshot of a video of Extinction Rebellion activists blockading London Concrete’s plant in Bow, in east London, on July 16, 2019.

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Last week, the environmental protest group Extinction Rebellion (XR) held a ’Summer Uprising’ in five UK cities — London, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow and Leeds — theatrically installing painted boats emblazoned with key messages in all five locations, and engaging in various actions designed to continue highlighting their three core messages: to get the government to “tell the truth” about the unprecedented man-made environmental crisis that is already unfolding at an alarming rate, to “halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025”, and to “create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.”

Since last autumn, when the group announced itself via the occupation of five bridges in central London, and followed up in April with the extraordinary and unprecedented occupation of five sites in central London that lasted for over a week, with the police arresting over a thousand people but refusing to respond with blanket violence to a movement that was resolutely non-violent, Extinction Rebellion has been one of two movements that have captured the public’s imagination in significant numbers regarding the unprecedented emergency facing life on earth  —- the other being the School Strike for Climate initiated by the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg

With the steely resolve of an individual with Asperger’s who has chosen an implacable route, Thunberg relentlessly confronts world leaders about how they have known about the scale of the unfolding disaster for 25 years, and yet have done nothing about it. She is particularly scathing about the “fine words” they utter when confronted about it, which she correctly assesses as being completely meaningless without the necessary actions to fulfil them. Inspired by her message and her attitude, millions of schoolchildren around the world have taken part in — and continue to take part in — regular school strikes, showing adults the world over how much more clued-up they are when it comes to what should be society’s urgent priorities.

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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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Check out all the photos here!

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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‘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 »

Celebrating 500 Days of My Photo-Journalism Project ‘The State of London’

The most recent photos from my photojournalism project 'The State of London', 500 days since the project started.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.




 

Yesterday marked 500 days since I began publishing a photo a day on my Facebook page ‘The State of London’ — photos drawn from the extensive archive of photos that I’ve built up over the last six years on bike rides in all of London’s 120 postcodes (those which begin SE, SW, W, NW, N, E, EC and WC), plus some of the outer boroughs. You can see all the photos to date here.

I began publishing a photo a day on the fifth anniversary of when my project started, when I first began consciously to document the capital in photos, cycling from my home in Brockley, in south east London, down through Deptford to Greenwich, and then, in the weeks that followed, cycling relentlessly around south east London, much of which was unknown to me, and also finding routes I didn’t know to take me to central London and beyond. At the time, London was beginning to be under siege — by central government and the Mayor, Boris Johnson — in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics, with bikes banned on trains across the capital, and to get anywhere I had to cycle, which wasn’t always convenient, but it was certainly a good way of getting to know London’s streets.

The Olympics, of course, showed the Tory government in its full jingoistic, corporate and authoritarian malignancy. A bottomless pit of public money was opened up to pay for the Games, even as Tory-inflicted austerity was beginning to crush the capital’s poor, the River Lea was socially cleansed around the Olympic Park in Stratford, and, although I didn’t quite realise it at the time, the heavily-marketed “sexiness” and “cool” that come with being an Olympic city meant that it would be possible to establish a turbo-charged “property bubble” in the capital, even more giddily out of control than the one that had been cultivated by the New Labour government in the ten years before the crash. Read the rest of this entry »

Party in the Park, New Cross and Deptford 2018: Sun, Solidarity and the Struggle Against Social Cleansing

The arrival of a carnival procession of campaigners from the Old Tidemill Garden in Deptford to Party in the Park, a community festival in New Cross on September 1, 2018 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.




 

Welcome to Party in the Park 2018, in Fordham Park, New Cross. No fences, no huge metal walls, no entrance fee, no security checks — and no trouble. This was the community in solidarity, proving triumphantly that an open festival is infinitely preferable to the securitised fortresses that play such a divisive role in so many of London’s parks these days (see the big money festivals that, behind their soaring metal walls, take over much of London’s parkland every summer, and the debacle of the recent Lambeth Country Show, for example).

This was the fourth Party in the Park, after events in 2013, 2014 and 2016, but it wasn’t just the brilliant sunshine that made it such a great day, or the music from dozens of great performers (and with my band The Four Fathers honoured to take part). It was that thing I mentioned above. Solidarity.

The theme of the festival was housing, and housing is at the heart of the problems we face on all fronts in the never-ending “age of austerity” imposed by the Tories since 2010, with ongoing cuts to all the services that are essential for a civil society to flourish, and with a relentless onslaught of greed on a key essential of life — housing. Read the rest of this entry »

Resistance to Social Cleansing: Screening of ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’ in Bristol, August 9, 2018

Poster for the screening of 'Concrete Soldiers UK' in Bristol on August 9, 2018.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.




 

It’s over a year since the defining event of 2017 in the UK — the Grenfell Tower fire, in west London, in which 72 people died because everyone responsible for their safety — central government, local government, the management company that had taken over the management of their homes, and the various contractors involved in a refurbishment of the tower that ended up being lethal — put cost-cutting and profiteering before safety.

The Grenfell survivors, and the wider community in north Kensington, are still awaiting anything resembling justice. The official inquiry is crawling along at a snail’s pace, many of the survivors are still in temporary housing (even though the Independent revealed, just yesterday, that over a hundred council homes in Kensington and Chelsea are lying empty), and up and down the country people are still living in tower blocks (470 at the latest count) that are enveloped in the same dangerously flammable cladding that turned Grenfell Tower into an inferno.

The Grenfell disaster showed, fundamentally, how in modern Britain those who live in social housing — even those who bought their council homes under Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Right to Buy’ policy — are perceived as second-class citizens, whose very lives are disposable. Those in power argue that this is not the case, but Grenfell reveals this to be the case, and elsewhere politicians’ and housing professionals’ actions reveal their fundamental dishonesty. Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrating One Year of My Photo Project ‘The State of London’; Now For An Exhibition and a Book!

Images from the last 16 days of the first year of my photo project 'The State of London.'Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, photographer, commentator and activist.





 

Exactly one year ago, I began posting a photo a day on a Facebook page I had just established — ‘The State of London’ —  from my archive of tens of thousands of photos taken of London, in all 120 of the capital’s postcodes, as well as some of the outlying boroughs, that I had built up over the previous five years.

I haven’t advertised ‘The State of London’ via Facebook, which some people suggest is a good way of getting supporters, but I’ve steadily built up a following over the last year of people who like my photo-journalistic take on the capital — photos, often accompanied by short essays, of the good, the bad and the ugly of London in the second decade of this tumultuous century. Someone more objective than me can probably analyse my taste, but I know that I’m bewitched by the light and the changing seasons, that I love catching photos on those outings when I get caught in storms or showers or torrential rain, that I love the river and its tributaries, and London’s canals, that I love the capital’s hills, its park, its trees, and that I also see almost everything with a political eye.

On my endless, restless journeys, I see everything that is happening with the built environment, but when I started in 2012, in the year of the Olympic hype, in which big money was savagely reshaping the Lea valley, I was appalled by the jingoism and empty patriotism, but I didn’t fully comprehend how, in the years that followed, the broken capitalist model that had almost killed itself through 2008’s self-inflicted global economic crash would end up working out that the only way left to guarantee huge and unjustifiable profits for the lazy rich was for the UK establishment, and those who aspire to it, to cannibalistically feed off its own people, through housing. Read the rest of this entry »

A Defence of Social Housing in a Resolutely Hostile Political Environment

The destruction of Robin Hood Gardens Estate, in Poplar, east London, photographed on December 12, 2017 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.





 

Tomorrow, Londoners will go to the polls to vote in council elections in the capital’s 32 boroughs,and across the UK there will also be elections in 34 metropolitan boroughs, 67 district and borough councils and 17 unitary authorities.

Voting ought to be a simple matter. The Tories, under Theresa May, are spectacularly useless and, wherever possible, cruel. Engaged in an effort to implement Brexit that seems to be destroying them, they are also gasping from one scandal to another — the latest being the Windrush fiasco, initiated by Theresa May, who is, to be blunt, a racist, and this whole racist disaster demonstrates quite how unpleasant they are.

And yet, if you care about fairness and social justice — in the specific context of housing, the biggest issue facing Londoners today, as well as many, many other people around the country — then voting for the Labour Party is not, in general, to be recommended, leaving a giant hole where participation in the democratic process ought to be. Read the rest of this entry »

The 34 Estates Approved for Destruction By Sadiq Khan Despite Promising No More Demolitions Without Residents’ Ballots

The destruction of Robin Hood Gardens estate in Poplar, March 13, 2018 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.





 

Anyone paying any attention to the sordid story of council estate demolitions in London will know how hard it is to take politicians seriously — and especially Labour politicians — when it comes to telling the truth about their actions and their intentions.

Perfectly sound estates are deliberately run down, so that councils can then claim that it’s too expensive to refurbish them, and that the only option is to knock them down and build new ones — with their developer friends who are conveniently waiting in the wings.

In addition, a collection of further lies are also disseminated, which divert attention from the fundamental injustice of the alleged justification for demolitions — false claims that the new housing will be “affordable”, when it isn’t; that part-ownership deals are worthwhile, when they are not; and that building new properties with private developers will reduce council waiting lists, when it won’t. Read the rest of this entry »

Launching A Crowdfunder to Support a UK Tour of ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, the New Documentary Film About the Threat to Social Housing, Which I Narrate

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 crowdfunded was launched in March 2018 to take the film on the road.Please support the crowdfunding campaign here!

Dear friends and supporters,

I’m writing to ask if you can help with a crowdfunding campaign I’ve just helped to launch, for a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, which I narrate. Directed by Nikita Woolfe, the film looks at council estates threatened with destruction in the UK, and the inspiring resistance of residents to the proposed destruction of their homes, and we’re hoping to raise the money required to take it around the country, and to produce a booklet compiling information about how to successfully resist estate destruction — and which pitfalls to avoid. If you can help out at all, it will be very greatly appreciated.

The crowdfunding page is embedded below:


My involvement with the film came about after I met Niki at an open meeting last June, called by ASH (Architects for Social Housing) to discuss the Grenfell Tower fire — and specifically, to examine what caused the fire, and what lessons can and must be learned from it. Niki was filming that meeting, which was later made available as a video, and afterwards she asked me to narrate ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, which she had been working on for three years. 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 (The State of London).
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