The War on Social Housing – on the Centenary of the Addison Act That Launched the Creation of Large-Scale Council Housing

The unnecessary destruction of Robin Hood Gardens Estate in Poplar, in east London, March 2018, to make way for a new private development, Blackwall Reach (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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Today, July 31, is the centenary of the first Housing and Town Planning Act (widely known as the Addison Act), which was introduced by the Liberal politician Christopher Addison, as part of David Lloyd George’s coalition government following the First World War, to provide Britain’s first major council housing programme, as John Boughton, the author of Municipal Dreams: The Rise and Fall of Council Housing, explained in an article published yesterday in the Guardian.

Boughton explained how, when Addison “introduced his flagship housing bill to the House of Commons in April 1919”, he spoke of its “utmost importance, from the point of view not only of the physical wellbeing of our people, but of our social stability and industrial content.”

“As we celebrate the centenary of council housing”, Boughton noted, “this sentiment is not lost in the context of the current housing crisis. From the rise in expensive, precarious and often poor-quality private renting to the dwindling dream of home-ownership, it is fuelling discontent. This escalating crisis means that increasing numbers of people are now forced to deal with the painful consequences of the country’s inability to provide such a basic human need — a stable, affordable home.”

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I’m Off to WOMAD to Forget About Boris; Why Not Watch Tidemill on the BBC While I’m Gone?

A photo from WOMAD 2018 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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My friends, I’m off to Wiltshire for six days, for the annual WOMAD world music festival in the grounds of Charlton Park in Wiltshire. My wife runs children’s workshops at this very family-friendly festival, and this will be our 18th year of entertaining children with craft activities, soaking up some of the best music from around the world, and hanging out with friends and family backstage and in crew camping.

It will be a relief to get away from London as the fallout from Boris Johnson’s election as Prime Minister by just 92,153 members of the Tory Party continues, to the dismay of everyone vaguely sentient, and if you’re stuck for something to do until I’m back, why not check out ‘ How the Middle Class Ruined Britain’, a BBC2 documentary featuring working class Tory stand-up comedian Geoff Norcott exploring Britain’s class struggle, which was broadcast last night, but is available on iPlayer for the next eleven months.

I worked closely with the producer and director, and spent an interesting day with Geoff focusing on the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign in Deptford, particularly focusing on the proposals, by Lewisham Council and Peabody, to demolish Reginald House, a structurally sound block of council flats, as part of their planned redevelopment of the old Tidemill primary school and its former wildlife garden, which myself and others occupied for two months last year until we were violently evicted in October.

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

The most recent photos posted in my photo-journalism project ‘The State of London.’

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Check out all the photos here!

Over seven years ago, in a world that seemed brighter than today — even though the Tories were in power, and London was in the throes of a corporate and jingoistic makeover as the host of the 2012 Olympic Games — I began an absurdly ambitious project that I soon dubbed ‘The State of London’, which involved me cycling around the London postal area (the 120 postcodes beginning WC, EC, SE, SW, W, NW, N and E), with some additional forays into the 13 Greater London postcodes beginning with two letters (e.g. CR for Croydon) that surround it.

For some reason, I wasn’t deterred by the fact that the London postal area covers 241 square miles, and although my ambition has in some ways paid off, in that, by September 2014, I had visited each of the 120 postcodes at least once, I would be lying if I didn’t concede that my knowledge of much of London — particularly in the west, the north west and the north — remains shadowy to say the least.

That said, my knowledge of a larger part of London — radiating from my home in south east London — has become satisfyingly thorough. There is barely a street in the whole of south east London that I have not visited, and, in addition, east London and south west London, the City, the West End, and parts of north, north west and west London have all become extremely familiar to me.

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Andy Worthington: An Archive of My Articles About Guantánamo and My UK Housing Activism – Part 25, July to December 2018

Outside the White House, singing in Washington, D.C., and with a loudhailer outside the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, on October 29, 2018, the day its occupiers were violently evicted.

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This article is the 25th in an ongoing series of articles listing all my work in chronological order since I first began publishing articles here in May 2007. It’s a project I began in January 2010, when I put together the first chronological lists of all my articles, in the hope that doing so would make it as easy as possible for readers and researchers to navigate my work — the more than 3,150 articles I have published, which, otherwise, are not available in chronological order in any readily accessible form.

I receive no institutional funding for my work, and so, if you appreciate what I do as a reader-funded journalist and activist, please consider making a donation via the Paypal ‘Donate’ button above. Any amount, however large or small, will be very gratefully received — and if you are able to become a regular monthly sustainer, that would be particularly appreciated. To do so, please tick the box marked, “Make this a monthly donation,” and fill in the amount you wish to donate every month.

As I note every time I put together a chronological list of my articles, my mission, as it has been since my research in 2006-07, for my book The Guantánamo Files, first revealed the scale of the injustice at Guantánamo, revolves around four main aims — to humanize the prisoners by telling their stories; to expose the many lies told about them to supposedly justify their detention; to push for the prison’s closure and the absolute repudiation of indefinite detention without charge or trial as US policy; and to call for those who initiated, implemented and supported indefinite detention and torture to be held accountable for their actions. In addition, as released prisoners have been abandoned by the government under Donald Trump, who has shut down the State Department office responsible for negotiating resettlements, and monitoring those released from the prison, a fifth aim is to seek justice for those released from Guantánamo.

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Radio: I Discuss Guantánamo and the Tidemill Campaign on Wandsworth’s Riverside Radio, Also Featuring Songs by The Four Fathers

Andy Worthington at a previous radio appearance, discussing Guantánamo in Northampton, Massachusetts in January 2015.

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On Saturday, I was delighted to be visited by Andy Bungay, from Wandsworth’s Riverside Radio, for an interview broadcast on Andy’s evening show on Sunday, in which we discussed Guantánamo, which I’ve been covering for the last 13 years, and campaigning for its closure, and the housing crisis in London, which I’ve also been involved in challenging for the last few years. I was on Andy’s show back in September, and it was great to have the opportunity to talk again.

The full show is here.

Our interview starts about 1 hours and five minutes into the show, with a discussion of Guantánamo, and, in part, the case of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, whose release in October 2015 I campaigned to secure, initially working with the Save Shaker Aamer campaign, and, over the last year of Shaker’s imprisonment, via We Stand With Shaker, a campaign I set up with fellow activist Joanne MacInnes. This involved creating a giant inflatable figure of Shaker, a PR stunt that might have been widely ignored, but that, instead, led to a hundred celebrities and MPs being willing to have their photos taken with the figure, and to call for his release.

At 1:22, Andy played ’Song for Shaker Aamer’, a solo version of The Four Fathers’ song, used as the campaign song for We Stand With Shaker, which was recorded live in Washington, D.C. in January 2016, where I played it at an event calling for Guantánamo’s closure on the evening before the 14th anniversary of its opening, with lyrics amended to reflect Shaker’s release. The part about Shaker being “back in London” got a big cheer from the crowd!

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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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Lewisham Council Still Mired in Controversy Six Months After the Violent Eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford

A photo taken during the violent eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford on October 29, 2018 (Photo: Harriet Vickers).

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Exactly six months ago, the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, a beautiful community space and environmental asset, which had been occupied for two months by members of the local community (the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign) to prevent its destruction by Lewisham Council for a housing scheme, was violently evicted by bailiffs working for the notoriously aggressive — and, historically, union-busting — company County Enforcement.

The garden was part of the old Tidemill primary school, which closed in 2012 and moved to a new site nearby, and the council’s plans are to hand over the site to the housing association Peabody to build new housing for sale on the old school site, and housing for rent or shared ownership where the garden stood, and where Reginald House, a block of 16 council flats, still stands. 

The garden, sadly, was completely destroyed two months ago, by SDL Services, a tree services company from Gloucestershire — in the same week that the council, with no sense of shame or irony, declared a climate emergency! — but building work has still not begun, and campaigners are still calling for the scheme to be scrapped, and for a new plan to be created with the local community, which reinstates the garden and saves Reginald House.

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It’s 700 Days Since I Started Posting Daily Photos From My Photo-Journalism Project ‘The State of London’

The most recent photos posted as part of my photo-journalism project ‘The State of London.’

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Check out all the photos here!

700 days ago, on May 11, 2017, I began posting a photo a day on a new Facebook page I’d set up, called ‘The State of London.’ It was five years to the day since I’d consciously embarked on a project that was very ambitious — or perhaps slightly unhinged would be a better description: to take photos of the whole of London by bike.

My plan was to visit all 120 postcodes — those beginning with EC, WC, E, SE, SW, W, NW and N — as well some of the outer boroughs, although when I started I had no concept of how big London is, and it took me until September 2014 to visit all 120 — and I still have only visited some of those furthest from my home in south east London on a few occasions.

Greater London covers 607 square miles; in other words, it is about 25 miles across from north to south and from east to west. It had a population of 8,174,000 at the 2011 census, divided amongst 32 boroughs, and, although it has only a small resident population, the City of London, which, rather shockingly, is in most ways actually an autonomous state.

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Celebrating 2,500 Days Since I First Started Photographing London’s 120 Postcodes for ‘The State of London’

The most recent photos from 'The State of London' Facebook page.

Check out all the photos to date here.

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Today is the eighth anniversary of an event that triggered the creation of my photo-journalism project ‘The State of London’, and last Friday marked a milestone worth remarking on in the history of that project: 2,500 days since May 11, 2012, the first day I began cycling around London taking photos on a daily basis for the project that initially had no name, but that I soon called ‘The State of London.’

The eighth anniversary, today, is of when I was hospitalised following two months of serious agony as two of my toes turned black, but GPs and consultants failed to work out what was wrong with me for quite some time — only eventually working out that a blood clot had cut off the circulation to my toes — and also failed to prescribe me adequate painkillers. After I returned from a trip to Poland at the start of February 2011, for a short tour showing the film I co-directed, ‘Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,’ until I was hospitalised on March 18, I was rarely able to sleep for more than five minutes at a time; almost as soon as I fell asleep, I awoke in agony. There was, I thought, something ironic about someone who campaigned for the rights of people suffering all manner of torments in US custody — including sleep deprivation — also ending up suffering from sleep deprivation, although in my case it was caused by my own body waging war on me.

After two days in Lewisham Hospital, where I was finally given morphine to take me beyond the pain, my wife figured out that they didn’t really know what to do with me, and so pushed for me to be transferred somewhere that they might have a clue. That somewhere was St. Thomas’s Hospital, opposite the Houses of Parliament, where I spent the next nine days, as consultants worked out that attaching me for five afternoons to a drip that pushed what felt like cement into my arteries might open up the blood supply to my toes, thereby saving them. 

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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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