Change the World! A Life in Activism: I Discuss Stonehenge, the Beanfield, Guantánamo and Environmental Protest with Alan Dearling

Andy Worthington calling for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay outside the White House, singing and playing guitar, and challenging the police and bailiffs on the day of the eviction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford.

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At the start of the year, I was delighted to be asked by an old friend and colleague, Alan Dearling, the publisher of my second book, The Battle of the Beanfield, if I’d like to be interviewed about my history of activism for two publications he’s involved with — the music and counter-culture magazine Gonzo Weekly and International Times, the online revival of the famous counter-cultural magazine of the ‘60s and ‘70s.

In February, after my time- and attention-consuming annual visit to the US to call for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on the anniversary of its opening, I found the time to give Alan’s questions the attention they deserved, and the interview was finally published on the International Times website on March 21, just two days before the coronavirus lockdown began, changing all our lives, possibly forever. Last week, it was also published in Gonzo Weekly (#387/8, pp. 73-84), and I’m pleased to now be making it available to readers here on my website.

In a wide-ranging interview, Alan asked me about my involvement with the British counter-culture in the ’80s and ‘90s, which eventually led to me writing my first two books, Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion, and, as noted above, The Battle of the Beanfield. my work on behalf of the prisoners in Guantánamo Bay, which has dominated much of my life for the last 14 years, and my more recent work as a housing activist — with a brief mention also of my photo-journalism project, ‘The State of London’, and my music with The Four Fathers.

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The Four Fathers Release New Eco-Anthem, ‘This Time We Win’, Recorded with Charlie Hart

The cover for ‘This Time We Win‘, the new single by The Four Fathers. Designed by Brendan Horstead.

On Earth Day (April 22), The Four Fathers released ‘This Time We Win’, a new online single on Bandcamp, produced by Charlie Hart, who also plays Wurlitzer piano on it.

This Time We Win’ is an eco-anthem that I wrote last year in response to the unfolding, man-made, global environmental catastrophe that we all face, and the powerful efforts to highlight it that have been made by the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg and her Fridays For Future movement of striking schoolchildren, and the campaigning group Extinction Rebellion, who occupied central London a year ago.

We were planning to release it this spring, to coincide with what we anticipated would be renewed environmental activism, but what we couldn’t have foreseen was the arrival of the highly infectious novel coronavirus, COVID-19, and the complete shutdown of all significant gatherings of people, including political protests, to try and stop its spread.

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The Four Fathers Release New Song ‘Affordable’, Marking the Anniversary of the Destruction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden’s Trees

The cover of the Four Fathers’ new online single, ‘Affordable’, released on March 3, 2020.

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Last Thursday, February 27, marked a sad anniversary for environmental activists and housing campaigners, as it was the first anniversary of the destruction of the 74 mature and semi-mature trees that made up the magical tree cover of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, in south east London, which provided an autonomous green space in a built-up urban area, and also mitigated the worst effects of pollution generated by traffic on nearby Deptford Church Street, where particulate levels have been measured at six times the safety levels recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Unfortunately, the struggle to save the trees, which had been ongoing since 2012, largely took place before environmental activism went mainstream, via the actions of Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion, although this was not just an environmental issue. The destruction of the garden was also part of a proposal by Lewisham Council and housing developers to build a new housing development on the site, one that desperate, dissembling councillors sought to sell to the public as providing much-needed new social homes, when the reality, as with almost all current housing developments, is that a significant number of the new homes are for private sale, existing council housing is to be destroyed, and its replacement will be homes that are described as “affordable”, when they are no such thing.

Instead, the allegedly “affordable” component of the development is a mixture of properties at ‘London Affordable Rent’, which, in Lewisham, is 63% higher for a two-bedroom flat than traditional social rents, and ‘shared ownership’, a notorious scam, whereby, in exchange for a hefty upfront payment, occupants are made to believe that they own a share of the property (typically 25%), whereas, in reality, they are only assured tenants unless they find a way to own the property outright, and, along the way, have to pay rent on the share of the property that they don’t, even nominally, own, and are also often subjected to massive — and unregulated — service charges.

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Radio: I Discuss Boris Johnson’s Alarming Election Victory – and Guantánamo – with Chris Cook on Gorilla Radio

Boris Johnson promising to ‘Get Brexit Done’ and Donald Trump and Guantánamo.

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On Thursday, I was delighted to be interviewed by Chris Cook, in Victoria, Canada, about the parlous state of British politics, and the ongoing and outrageous injustice of Guantánamo, on his weekly show, Gorilla Radio, which is “dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the corporate media.”

The show is here (and here as an MP3), and I’m also pleased to be able to embed it below. My interview is in the first half of the one-hour show:

Here’s how Chris introduced the show on his website, accurately capturing the madness of the UK right now:

Last week, Britain followed America’s lead in electing an ultra-conservative, faux populist based on the single premise of, if not making Britain Great again, at least carrying through with the years-old promise to take the country out of the European Union. The great mystery to those looking from outside the country is why?

Why, following the divisive and ill-defined scheme dreamt up by the David Cameron Tories of yore, did the people of that green and pleasant land, rather than punishing the authors, and bungling executors of the disastrous Brexit debacle, decide instead to reward them with massive electoral success? And for Britons, the greater question now is, what’s going to happen next?

I’m honoured that Chris has had me on his show numerous times over the last ten years — almost always to discuss Guantánamo, but occasionally to discuss other topics — and it was a pleasure on Thursday to be able to provide some analysis of the disaster area that is Britain today, following last week’s General Election.

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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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With 25 Days to Brexit, The Four Fathers Release New Single ‘I Want My Country Back (From The People Who Wanted Their Country Back)’

The cover of 'I Want My Country Back (From The People Who Wanted Their Country Back)' by The Four Fathers (cover image by Brendan Horstead).Today marks 25 days until the UK is supposed to leave the EU, and my band The Four Fathers are taking the opportunity to release — via Bandcamp — our anti-Brexit anthem, ‘I Want My Country Back (From The People Who Wanted Their Country Back)’, which has become something of a live favourite over the last couple of years.

Please have a listen to it, share it if you like it, and, if you want, you can even buy it as a download (for £1/$1.25 — or more if you wish).

I wrote it in the weeks after the referendum, when the chorus came to me out of the blue — as often happens to me — and I then struggled to hammer out some verses, aimed at the stupidity, arrogance and lies of, variously, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and David Cameron. However, although the chorus arrived fully-formed and has never changed, I thoroughly revised the lyrics for the verses after discussions with my friend, the musician and producer Charlie Hart, whose suggestions led me in a direction that was — at least partly — more poetic, especially in the song’s opening lines:  Read the rest of this entry »

As Lewisham Council Spend £1m Guarding the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden from the People of Deptford, Who Will Be Their Tree-Killers?

'Stunning apartments': a reclaimed sign brought to the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden prior to its violent eviction on October 29, 2018 (Photo: Andy Worthington). 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.




 

A week last Friday, the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign — which I’m part of, and which is trying to save a community garden and a block of council flats in Deptford, in south east London from the wrecking ball of the cynical ‘regeneration’ industry — received some unwelcome, but not entirely unexpected news.

In the High Court, the court of appeals upheld an earlier decision not to accept a judicial review of the ‘regeneration’ plans, which centred on issues relating to the right to light of tenants in a block of flats next to the proposed building site.

In a statement for the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign, I responded by saying, “This is a disappointment, of course, but it doesn’t affect the campaign against the proposed destruction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden and Reginald House. We continue to insist that the garden is too important as a barrier to pollution, and as a communal green space, to be destroyed, and that there is no acceptable reason for a structurally sound block of council flats to be knocked down for new housing that purports to be ‘social housing’ but will actually be at ‘London Affordable Rent’, which, in Lewisham, is 63% higher than social rents.” Read the rest of this entry »

Radio: My Interview About Guantánamo with Chris Cook, Plus Dahr Jamail on Our Planetary Environmental Catastrophe

Andy Worthington photographed outside the White House calling for the closure of Guantanamo on January 11, 2019, the 17th anniversary of the opening of the prison; or, to put it another way, when it had been open for 6,210 days (Photo: Steve Pavey for Witness Against Torture).Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

It’s nearly three weeks since the 17th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, and the flurry of media activity that accompanied that somber occasion — although, as is typical, with little or no interest from the mainstream US media — has now largely faded away.

In an effort to keep interest in Guantánamo alive, I will continue to write about it as much as possible this year, to campaign for its closure, and to speak about the need for it to be closed to anyone who shows an interest.

One such person is Chris Cook, in Victoria, in British Columbia, Canada, who has interviewed me on numerous occasions after my annual US visits to call for the closure of Guantánamo on the anniversary of its opening (see our interviews in 2011, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017). Read the rest of this entry »

More Video and Radio from the Resistance to the Continued Existence of Guantánamo on the 17th Anniversary of Its Opening

Witness Against Torture campaigners form a circle outside the White House towards the end of the annual vigil calling for the closure of Guantanamo, on January 11, 2019 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

How time flies. It’s almost a week since I left the US after my annual visit to call for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on and around the anniversary of its opening, and here I am still posting videos and audio links of shows I took part in.

That’s a good sign, however. On the last two anniversaries, the focus on Guantánamo had almost entirely disappeared. Two years ago, we were caught in the limbo between the outgoing administration of Barack Obama and the imminent arrival of Donald Trump, and last year, after Trump’s first year in office, the outrage and exhaustion was such that Guantánamo barely got a look-in.

A year on, and you’d be excused for thinking that the situation would only be worse, but although that certainly seems true when it comes to Trump — now obsessed with his Mexican wall, and having shut down the federal government for the longest period in US history (marking a calendar month today) — it is not true of those opposing him on many fronts, including Guantánamo. 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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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The Battle of the Beanfield

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Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

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Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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