Monthly Archives: December 2015

Families are speaking out against social cleansing

Recently some of our campaigners travelled to Welwyn Garden City to meet people who have been sent out of Newham. We were shocked at the conditions that families with children are expected to live in.  The rents a very high, even for just one room and people are  really struggling financially.  It is a grim reality for those who find themselves without their support networks when their children are unwell or when they need help.

Read the stories of Luis and  Elina and their families below, examples of the many families forced out of Newham to Welwyn Garden City. Luis has a housing meeting on Monday 14 December, check our facebook page for updates on Luis after the meeting.

People are being moved out of Newham in a process which is being referred to as social cleansing. Last year over 400 families were moved out of Newham. Recently we me Luis who was sent to Welwyn Garden City. Luis made the journey down to meet us on our street stall because his housing situation is desperate and he does not know what will happen next. He worries about the future. He lives with his partner and four children in damp, cramped and inappropriate accommodation: the family is split up between two studio flats, which is not suitable for family life.

Newham council placed them in this accommodation over two years ago along with many other families. All the flats in his block have problems with damp and are very expensive to rent. Newham Labour Council is still responsible for the fate of all these families in terms of housing.

It is an impossible situation for Luis because his rent has just gone up and he is expected to pay council tax twice over (on each of the studio flats). With mounting arrears, Luis doesn’t stand a chance financially.The stress on living like this is taking its toll on several members of the family because Newham council has said that Luis will be making himself ‘intentionally homeless’ if he does not pay the increased weekly rent. No father would make his family intentionally homeless – Luis just needs a chance to get his life back in order and live in accommodation that is suitable and healthy for his children.

Luis wants to solve his housing issues and has pressed for a meeting with Newham’s housing officer and has been given a meeting on Monday 14 December at 10.30am at Bridge House in Stratford E15.

Focus E15 campaign supports Luis and his family and their right to decent, affordable, long term, secure housing in Newham which is where they were living, where they have connections and support. Never let it be forgotten that the Carpenters Estate has over 400 empty homes and there are many people who needs these homes today.
Solidarity with Luis and all those in housing difficulty.
No one is intentionally homeless!
Stop social cleansing!

Update from Elina in Welwyn Garden City

I am single mum with 3 small children. I have been sent to Welwyn Garden city by Newham Council as a result of social cleansing. Not only am I am battling with my housing situation but I have been asking the agency (who runs the building where I am housed and are   called Theory Ltd), to repair or replace my washing machine. Theory Ltd often fail to do repairs or take a very long time. The first time it took 6 months to fix my washing machine.

The closest public laundrette is 40 minutes away  from the flat. At the moment I am having problems with my washing machine again. It is in the same room where we all live, eat and sleep. Its making a very loud noise and is scaring the kids. There is damage to the drum and it needs to be fixed or replaced I think.

I reported the problem to the agency about 2 weeks ago. Today I called them again and a woman in the agency told me there is nothing on their files about this problem. When I called Newham council a man told me that if there is a problem with the washing machine he will ask the agency to remove it but it is not their responsibility to provide us with another one. I can not afford to get another one and with children there is always so much washing to be done.

I think that Newham council does not care about the people who voted for them. They and the housing agency get payed well.  Yet we can’t afford very basic things like washing machines.

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E15 play comes to London

An exciting play  about the Focus E15 campaign has been developed by FYSA theatre company. The play is simply called ‘E15’ and it is showing at the Pleasance Theatre in Islington from 15-18 December.  The cast and crew of FYSA theatre company spent  lots of time with the campaign on the street stall last summer just before the play went up to the Edinburgh Festival.

We caught up with Matthew Woodhead,  the Artistic Director of FYSA theatre to ask him a few question about the play.

1.      What drew you to tell the story of Focus E15 campaign? Have you or the cast ever had problems with housing?

The housing crisis is an epidemic that runs throughout England. Having grown up in Sheffield and in the shadow of the recently boarded up Park Hill Estate, the story of families being evicted from their homes to make room for private luxury accommodation is all too common. From Stratford to Sheffield, the story is the same.

The Focus E15 campaign is something that has struck a chord with people who face housing problems across the country. I remember when I first started speaking to people at Park Hill Estate, they all had heard about the mum’s story. In some cases, it had even motivated people to make a stand.  

I was really interested and I went to Stratford to suss it out a little bit more, I was overwhelmed by the kindness and support of everyone at the Saturday Street Stall and I wanted to stay. The story of the Focus E15 campaign is something that resonates with everyone. The struggle embodies a much wider problem that runs throughout our society but the strength and solidarity of everyone in the campaign is an inspiration to others. The story shows that people can make a difference and that you can enforce change. The hope is that we can export what you’ve got going on in Stratford back to some parts of Sheffield.

2.      Both this play and your previous play are based on testimonies of living people – why are you drawn to verbatim theatre in particular?

Verbatim theatre is something I have always been interested in because it feels so much more real than any other form of drama. In a world that feels increasingly dominated by the voice of a particular status and class, this form of theatre actually provides us with the opportunity to hear different stories from a diverse range of people. Also, what is the point in me sitting down and writing something when there is a whole campaign of people standing on the street who can say it better?

3.  What are the difficulties in portraying politically motivated characters?  For example, political characters can be dismissed as being ‘naive’. How do you get round this? 

I think in some ways, every character  is politically motivated. This is especially true of ‘E15’. For us, the real challenge (and something we’re still working on) is trying to tune into the personal story behind a person’s politics. By getting under the skin of someone’s individual situation, we hope to represent everyone respectfully and truthfully. I think if you kind of hold this up as your mantra, you get closer to expressing the reality of a person’s situation – therefore creating more rounded and balanced characters. I completely agree though, it’s a big challenge!

FYSA and focus E15

4. What was the reaction of people who saw the play at the Edinburgh fringe this year?

We were absolutely bowled over by the reaction from everyone in Edinburgh. It was incredibly moving for everyone from the campaign to come up to see the show. We can’t wait for the run at the Pleasance to smash it all over again! 

5.      Are you interested in political theatre as a genre and what other plays, of any genre, have inspired you to become a director?

It is impossible to not be a political director and writer at this moment in time. We are facing a country that is being ruled by a government that is arguably more right wing than anything we have seen in a long time. With the disintegration of any left alternative in mainstream politics, there has never been a more important time for anyone to campaign and look for alternatives. If making political theatre can continue to play any small role in that – I’ll keep on making it.

6. What are your plans for the forthcoming year?

We are absolutely thrilled that ‘E15’ is going for a residency at Battersea Arts Centre from the 18th-31st of January. We are also going  onto Camden People’s Theatre on the 23rd and 24th of January for ‘Whose London is it Anyway’? So there are plenty more opportunities to see the play then. We are  also very excited that he show is then going to be developed for a run at Battersea Arts Centre in autumn 2016, before it heads out on a national tour!

Thank you Matt. Good luck with this production.

If you like the idea of helping to raise funds for this production please support FYSA’s  kickstarter campaign

The play ‘E15’ is at the Pleasance Theatre in Islington from 15-18 December. Book your tickets today!

 

 

“Absurd” Newham council and police seize campaign table

The Focus E15 table is innocent – release it now!

On Saturday 5 December, Focus E15 campaign was holding its regular weekly street stall in Stratford. As usual the campaign had been drawing attention to the housing crisis in Newham where around 5,000 people live in temporary accommodation and where 400 homes lie empty on the Carpenters Estate.

With 40 minutes left to go, a Newham Law Enforcement officer called John Oddie, accompanied by several police, confronted the campaigners, in what was obviously a pre-planned operation.

Having  already told the SWP stall to remove their table, the police and law enforcement demanded that we pack up immediately or else they would seize our table, banner and sound system, quoting the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (regarding the sound system) and the London Local Authorities and Transport for London Act 2003 (regarding the banner and table). However, we were determined that they would not close down our street presence and demanded that our table should be allowed to stay.  It was not obstructing anyone and the shopping street is very wide.

The stall has been there, same time, same place, for over two years every week! So why, the campaigners demanded to know, was today the day they chose to harass and threaten Focus E15 campaign’s presence on the streets? Could it be because there is renewed resistance to the council after Newham delivered a blow to the Carpenters Estate  by closing down the Tenants Management Organisation last week in an underhand way.

Newham council has borrowed over £500m from the banks, more than any other local authority, and is now paying back millions  of pounds in interest each year.  Outrageously,  over the next 70 years,  this will mean that the council will end up paying back over £1bn  in  interest to the banks,  a blatant squandering of public money.

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Campaigners tried to negotiate with the council and police. We had not received any complaints by passers-by on the shopping street , but the council and police were determined to make their point and used their force to seize  the table.  As one  Focus E15 campaigner who was there explained:

“It was so ridiculous and absurd seeing the police and council seizing our campaign table  and bundling it into a  police van  as if it were a person being taken to a police station. At the same time we recognise the seriousness of being targeted by the council in this way, but we will not be intimidated. And  we want our table back Newham!”

Once the police and council  enforcement officer had left with the table, Focus E15 campaigners and other passers-by   continued to use their voices and give out leaflets about what had just happened. We will not be intimidated or silenced!

Share this blog post and join Focus E15 campaign on the street next Saturday. Come with your pop up tables! Let us have a big  presence at our campaign stall and defend our democratic right to protest.

Saturday 12 December,12-2pm on the Broadway, outside Wilko’s in Stratford E15.

Together we will build this housing campaign, defend our right to protest and continue to demand that the Carpenters Estate is repopulated.

 

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CALL OUT: STAND WITH NAZRAH AND ISMAIL! NO PROPERTY DEVELOPERS IN NEWHAM COUNCIL!

On Friday, Nazrah and Ismail, two of the most active members of the Focus E15 campaign, will be facing Newham Council at the Royal Courts of Justice in Central London, and they need your support in the courtroom.

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Ismail and the boys on a street stall earlier this year

CALLOUT: 10:30am, Friday, December 4, 2015
Central London County Court, Thomas More Building WC2A 2LL

Since coming to a Saturday campaign stall in November 2014, looking for help resisting their family’s eviction, Nazrah and Ismail have worked tirelessly to support other families in Newham and beyond going through housing struggles of their own. They have lived in Newham for over 6 years and developed strong ties and support networks in the borough.

In that time, with their three young boys, the family have experienced their own high court bailiff eviction and been in constant conflict with Newham Council and the Home Office about their housing, right to work (as a teacher and teaching assistant, respectively) and Asylum claims.

On Friday they will be appealing Newham Council’s rejection of their responsibility to house the family, while challenging the role of a senior housing manager at Newham, who is also a board member of a property developer in the borough. The family are arguing that someone who makes a profit from property development, management and rentals, should not be in a position to determine the borough’s housing needs, or decide where families in need should be housed.

Join them in the courtroom on Friday to help keep the pressure on Newham Council!

Stand with Nazrah and Ismail!

No to property developers in Newham Council!

Central London County Court, Thomas More Building WC2A 2LL
10:30am, Friday, December 4, 2015

Carpenter’s Estate Tenant’s Management Organisation being starved of funds by Newham Council

An urgent message from the Tenant’s Management Organisation on the Carpenter’s Estate:

We have reason to suspect Newham council is wilfully engineering the closure of the Tenant’s Management Organisation despite a 91% residents’ vote to continue the organisation for another 5 years. The council have declared us insolvent and closed as of tomorrow (1st December) without due explanation or external audit

Newham Council has been unlawfully withholding funds to the CTMO since the 1st October 2015 (to the sum of 191,880). Our view is that Newham council is purposefully doing so knowing that our funds are limited. Since Newham Council are both our only source of funding and our only creditors we believe that they are constructing the abolition of the CTMO to expedite their eventual sale of the Carpenter’s Estate.

The CTMO runs a vibrant community centre at the heart of the Carpenters Estate that provides residents with a number of services including a soup kitchen a free IT suite and a meeting space for several residents’ groups.

We have been told that the CTMO will no longer exist as of tomorrow (1st December) the staff have been transferred without consultation to work for Newham Council. What will happen to the community centre and the services it provides to residents is unclear.

Signed by the TMO and Residents of Carpenters Estate.

CTMO is also directly employed by the CTMO’s board, which Newham Council have so far refused to consult with, as would be necessary when attempting to transfer staff. The CTMO has refused to accept any terms from the council until they go through the board.  A council officer will now be based on the CMTO’s site, reporting directly to her line manager at the council.

Please help us by spreading this message far and wide and join us at our strategy meeting on Saturday 5th December at the CTMO centre 17 Doran Walk, Stratford at 2.30pm.