Category Archives: event

Solidarity with the Summerhill Occupation! 

Take back ownership of empty properties in Dublin.

35 Summerhill Parade is a property owned by Pat and PJ O’Donnell (owners of POD, and sponsors of the Clare GAA team). It is part of a cluster of properties on Summerhill Parade owned by the O’Donnell family. All properties have issues with overcrowding, insecure tenancies and dodgy cash in-hand dealings. A total of 120 tenants were housed in just five properties, each paying between €350-€450 for a bed in a shared room with 6-8 people in each room. In May, mass evictions occurred resulting in 120 tenants being illegally evicted over the duration of a week.

The O’Donnell’s bought Aldborough House, a derelict Georgian mansion in 2016 and have recently been granted approval to develop it into office spaces. No consideration was given to the needs of the local community. Instead, there has been a push from the owners to create slum conditions in the area as a means to get housing prices down and buy up bargain properties to redevelop – after all, the workers in the O’Donnell’s new, plush office spaces are going to need equally plush places to live. It’s a fine example of gentrification in action. Since the evictions in May, properties have sat empty while the housing crisis in Dublin worsens.

Rents across Ireland have risen by 70% since 2008 and Dublin is particularly being effected. The average rent across Ireland during the first three months of this year was €1,261, a monthly increase of €232 compared to the previous peak in 2008. This is why housing and community activists have taken decisive action and occupied the property of Summerhill Parade because enough is enough! Pat O’Donnell should not be allowed to leave potential homes empty.

Rent hikes, evictions, poor housing conditions, people stuck in overcrowded homes, people sleeping in bunkbeds, or packed into their relative’s homes; couch-surfing, sleeping rough, living in hostels or upset by poor quality council provision – we hear about horrendous housing situations every day now, we all know somebody who is affected by housing insecurity. And yet, those in power sit on their hands. There is no political will to make real, meaningful change to the housing crisis we face.

This is why we send our solidarity greetings to the occupation in Dublin. Our immediate demand: houses owned by Pat O’Donnell on Summerhill Parade must be compulsory purchased by Dublin City Council and given back to the local community. Private, vacant properties can and should be put into public ownership. We call on people to take action and get involved in building a housing movement that demands homes for all! People before profit! Victory to the Summerhill occupation!

Those interested in setting up similar occupations, please get in touch. The housing crisis is not a natural disaster and we do not need to accept that this is simply the way it is. Things just won’t get better on their own – action is needed, by people and for people. Everyone needs a home!
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Campaigners call for a ‘People’s Newham’ as Robin Wales is voted out.

On Saturday 17 March, Focus E15 campaigners celebrated the news of Robin Wales’ deselection by riding through the streets of  Newham in a open-topped bus. The bus was draped with placards, banners and flags displaying clear political messages about the lack of social housing in the borough. Campaigners sang out the good news that the Mayor had been deselected, chanting in unison ‘Robin Wales has gone -so long so long’ and received many thumbs up and happy waves from Newham residents amazed at the sight of a bus load of campaigners. There were many joyful beeps and hoots from supportive motorists.  Back on board the bus, exhilarating live drumming kept the freezing temperatures at bay as did the constant chanting of ‘Robin Wales is Out’ all set to the sound of popping champagne corks and loud cheering.

This celebratory mood is understandable as the Labour Mayor Robin Wales has been in power for 23 years, leaving behind him a rotten legacy of 1 in 25 people homeless. Focus E15 campaign has been a constant thorn in the side of  Robin Wales for the past four years by protesting at the lack of council housing in the borough at many Mayoral proceedings and full council meetings, as well as leading an occupation on the boarded up Carpenters Estate back in 2014, when the Mayor was forced to issue a public apology for the way he had treated the original 29 mothers from Focus E15 hostel.

However Focus E15 campaign knows full well that the fight for decent council housing does not end with Robin Wales’s deselection.

With this in mind, Focus E15 campaign is already placing demands on the Labour Mayoral candidate Rokhsana Fiaz and demanding that Carpenters Estate is saved for all existing residents and is maintained as 100% council  housing.

With the news of Robin Wales’ defeat, groups in Newham have started to push for a People’s Charter which has already been presented to Rokhsana Fiaz. It is printed in full below. We will continue to raise the rights of all residents of Newham and hold the incoming council and the next Mayor to account.

Join us at our public meeting on 7 April at 2.30pm at Sylvias Corner, 97 Aldworth Rd E15 4DN to discuss more.

If your group would like to sign the charter please send an email to focuse15london@gmail.com or send the campaign a message on Facebook or twitter  @focuse15.

The charter has so far been signed by the following groups and individuals:

  1. Kevin Blowe
  2. Focus E15 Campaign
  3. Newham People’s Alliance
  4. Unite for Change
  5. Newham for Change
  6. The People’s Revolt
  7. East London Revolutionary Communist Group
  8. Newham Green Party
  9. Sasha Das Gupta
  10. Nadia Johnson
  11. Valerie Johnson
  12. Joseph Johnson

Newham People's Charter final

Why I am A Focus E15 Campaigner: celebrating International Women’s Day

Rebecca Morris from Focus E15 Campaign gives a personal reflection on International Women’s Day.

On March 8 Focus E15 Campaign will be marking International Women’s Day by joining the International Women’s Strike, and singing with Rebel Choir in Russell Square from 1pm. The Rebel Choir is an activist-community choir. Together we will be singing songs in solidarity with victims of abuse, UCU strikers, mothers in Colchester who are protesting at the introduction of Universal Credit, and with women and non-binary people the world over. Then at 5pm, we are going to make a din at the mayoral proceedings in Newham, in solidarity with a single mother of two who is about to be evicted by the council for refusing to be relocated to Birmingham: https://www.facebook.com/events/2037697086489971/

I want to talk about why I think it is still important to participate in the Women’s Strike and why I am a Focus E15 campaigner.  I am not a Focus E15 Campaigner because I am a mother. I am not a Focus E15 Campaigner because I identify as a woman. I am part of Focus E15 Campaign because we campaign for a society where all, regardless of gender, background, race or familial attachments have an adequate home – a place to feel safe and comfortable. This is not the reality for many people. Every week on the Focus E15 stall horror stories are heard: evictions from rogue landlords, the awful, cramped conditions of temporary accommodation, where some families share just one room for lengthy periods of time, making it seem as if we really have gone back in time.

A hundred years ago, Sylvia Pankhurst’s campaigned for decent housing in the East End and her writings discuss the inadequacies of housing for the working class. The following outlines what she considered to be essential for every family home:

“A moment’s thought conjures up many requirements which should be considered essential to every home, but which in almost every working-class home are lacking. Each adult member is surely entitled to at least one room of his or her own (and whoever works or studies all day at home should have two rooms). There should be a place, to sit in, a place to meet friends in, a place to read and be quiet in, a place out of doors where the children can play in fine warm weather, and a place indoors for wet, cold weather, furnished with toys and childish things. These are essential, but the problem of cleaning and tidying must be taken into account, for the housewife must not be an overworked slave.”

It is depressing that nowadays this vision seems impossible for so many. Yet we must not give in for our struggle for decent secure homes for all.

Focus E15 campaign was started by 29 young mothers who were about to be evicted from their hostel by Newham council, they stood together and refused to leave their communities. Over 4 years on, Focus E15 continues the weekly street stall on the Stratford Broadway. It is a multi-gendered campaign that would not have been able to win countless victories without the support of so many from the community.

In Paul Watt’s recent article, Gendering the right to housing in the city: Homeless female lone parents in post-Olympics, austerity East London, he breaks down how Newham council and our neighbouring council of Waltham Forest used the greater powers councils received to allocate council houses after the 2011 Localism act. Waltham Forest slashed 11,925 applicants off its waiting list, the largest reduction in England, while Newham sliced 5000 off its list, the eighth largest reduction. They began prioritising applicants in paid employment and ex-members of the armed forces. As Watt argues, “this prioritisation has had considerable, albeit under-appreciated, gendered effects. Newham and Waltham Forests’ housing allocations’ policies effectively discriminate against women who have a small presence in the armed forces and are also less likely than men to be in paid employment, not least because of caring responsibilities.”

Watt uses personal case studies with single mothers to further outline the disadvantages women and children experience in temporary accommodation. These mothers have the right to be in safe public housing yet their “safety was jeopardised by their experiences of living in temporary accommodation where they had to share communal areas with strangers, including men who could be intimidating and even violent.” Moreover, Watt argues the huge disadvantages to mothers being re-housed out of borough, and the fact that particularly in the time of austerity they rely heavily on support and services of the city. The campaign believes it is vital that we support and give solidarity to the most vulnerable. If lone parents struggle to find a safe home for their children, then our society has failed.

Yet herein lies another issue that Focus E15 have had to contend with: the dichotomy of mothers and women who consider themselves activists being labelled as ‘victims’. It sometimes feels as if no matter how clued up and radical we are as campaigners, the mainstream media and those in power will only listen, or lend us a voice if we are presented as victims, or fragile women who only went the radical route when all other options failed. When the campaign started, the mothers did not give in, and who knows what might have happened to them if they had. They fought back and responded quickly. They did this simply by knocking on each other’s doors; by organising together with other political groups; keeping each other’s spirits up; supporting each other; going out onto the streets and talking to people and asking them to sign a petition.

I truly believe that Focus E15 Campaign is challenging traditional power structures through collective organising. Involved in the campaign are a fantastic and creative collective of people; pooling resources to create dynamic publicity stunts; generating memes; sourcing local news about the council; sharing inspiring quotes, videos and raising political awareness. There is so much power in this style of organising. We look out for each other. And we are not victims.

We want to inspire other people, women, mothers, children to start a campaign. You are never too young or too old – there is a diversity of ages represented in our campaign, and children have always played a huge part, always present at the weekly street stall in Stratford.

To conclude, I would like to recall a moment that stood out to me at an open meeting we recently had on children and homelessness. A member of Focus E15, the housing activist and single mother of three who has been re-located to Basildon, stood up, and brushing angry tears away from her eyes, told a silent room how as a result of her displacement she had suffered racism in her local area, as well as mental health issues, yet maintained that no matter how she is treated by the council and her neighbours, she will stay determined to fight until she sees victory, and that she has been able to do this with the support of Focus E15. This put me in mind of a quote by Sylvia Pankhurst, one that we have had stitched onto a banner by activist and artist, Andrew Cooper: “I am going to fight capitalism even if it kills me. It is wrong that people like you should be comfortable and well fed while all around you people are starving”.

Don’t make our babies homeless!

Public meeting happening  on Saturday 3rd February

Carpenters and Docklands Centre, 98 Gibbins Rd, E15, Stratford, 2.30pm

The number of children living in temporary accommodation in Britain has been steadily increasing since 2011, from 80,000, to an estimated 128,000 by December 2017. In England alone, at the end of 2017, 85,000 children, of which about 26,000 were under-fives, were stuck in temporary accommodation. Tower Hamlets had the highest number of under-fives in temporary accommodation last year, followed by Newham. This instability is damaging our children’s physical and mental health.

Come to our public meeting to have your say, discuss and debate these issues, educate ourselves, agitate in our communities, schools, workplaces, and organise to hold our local councils to account. Homeless children? NO WAY!
Speakers: Focus E15 campaign, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!, Kate Belgrave (journalist and blogger), The Magpie Project, the Housing and Mental Health Network.

March of the towers takes off in the East End

On Saturday 12 August Focus E15 campaign, responding to concerns from Newham residents, organised a local ‘march of the towers’. The route of the march encompassed 3 significant tower blocks, starting at a tower block called Ferrier Point in Canning Town, where residents have been shocked and angry to learn that their homes have been covered in the same cladding as Grenfell Tower. The route of the march then went to Tanner Point in Plaistow for a speak out, because this is another tower block covered in flammable material. The last stop was the Carpenters Estate in Stratford, where for 15 years three tower blocks have been left to waste by Newham Labour council who evicted residents leaving 410 flats empty.

Little wonder then that for the whole route this march was noisy, angry and vibrant and passersby and shopkeepers stopped in their tracks to see what was happening in their community. They were met with chants of “the people united will never be defeated” and “social housing is a right, here to stay here to fight”. There were drummers, pot and pan bashers and political speeches. Residents demanded that Newham council provide safe and secure homes for all, and stop social cleansing.

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Excellent observations were made by the many speakers at Tanner Point: that the social murder which happened at Grenfell Tower must not be used by the government as an excuse to destroy our homes and demolish more tower blocks, that organising together in our local community is necessary for building movements of resistance, that the capitalist system will never provide enough secure and safe homes, that housing insecurity is a mental health issue, that women fleeing from domestic violence are being let down by the system as they have nowhere to go and that community action can also be creative and that we all have something that we can bring to a march – including our singing, drumming, chanting, political speech making, our colourful home made banners, and our commitment, solidarity and camaraderie .

At the end of the march on Carpenters Estate a party took place, food was handed out, phone numbers were swapped and children’s games got underway, free haircuts were given courtesy of Fringe Movement and more plans were made to strengthen the movement for housing justice.

Focus E15 campaign would like to thank everyone who took part. The march was supported by residents from all the towers, the Revolutionary Communist Group, Movement for Justice (who kindly supported the march by lending their megaphone when we had a blip with the sound system), the Socialist Party, residents from the Frampton Park Estate, One Housing Tenants Action Group, South Essex Stirrer, East End Sisters Uncut, Whitechapel Anarchists,  Socialist Equality Party, Debt Resistance UK, Housing and Mental Health Network and Journey to Justice.

TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER.

Caught on camera with Newham Nag!

Have a Nag Robin…

The Newham Nag is a spoof magazine, put together by Focus E15 campaign and Debt Resistance UK to bring some truth to the streets of Newham and to challenge the Labour Council’s in house magazine,The Newham Mag, which unfortunately pops through people’s doors every two weeks. The latter publication is full of pictures of smiling Mayor Robin Wales telling us all what an inspiring borough Newham is, when in reality, Newham faces huge debts from LOBO loans, instigates ongoing social cleansing and has residents living in towers with cladding that has failed recent safety tests. Newham also owns many empty council homes like those on the Carpenters Estate where 410 homes are still boarded up and remaining residents there now face eviction and are worried about where they will live. The borough has a rising number of homeless people sleeping rough or living in temporary accommodation. Plenty of reasons then to Nag Newham!

At the annual Newham Mayor’s Show in July this year, Focus E15 campaign spoke to local residents and ran an open mic outside, demanding safe, secure, long term housing for all and distributed the Newham Nag for free.  The campaign set up outside the show grounds because Newham council will not allow anyone to hand out their own literature inside. Our campaigners and supporters made sure everyone got a copy of the Nag as they came out.

We thought you might like this photo taken of the Mayor at ‘his’ show…

robin wales and nag.jpg

If you feel concerned about housing safety standards and the rising number of residents sleeping rough or living in inadequate accommodation then join us on the streets, 12-2pm every Saturday on The Broadway in Stratford for a  public speak out and stall with open mic.

Please also join the campaign on Monday 23 July at 1pm at Bridge House in Stratford to demand Newham Labour council  saves the Carpenters Estate and that it is repopulated immediately.

Newham nag is a hit with residents

Read all about it. Real news hits the streets of Newham

Focus E15 campaign and Debt Resistance UK  joined forces to launch a one off  publication, the Newham Nag on Saturday 20 May outside Stratford station in London.  Both campaigns agree that Robin Wales and the Labour council in Newham continue to pull the wool over the eyes of residents and this needs to be exposed. The Newham Nag draws attention to the official publication for Newham council, the Newham Mag.  This latter publication paints a rosy version of Newham that is unrecognisable to those who are facing the effects of years of austerity and council cuts. Clearly an alternative voice is needed in Newham!

Front Cover

Passersby flocked to get their free copy of the Newham Nag and stayed around to chat to campaigners. Speakers on the community sound system included Debt Resistance, Focus E15 campaign and Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! with a special Newham news and weather bulletin from our very own correspondent.  Points were made about the financial scandals, the growing disparity in wealth in the borough, gentrification, social cleansing, the corruption in the Labour Party at local level, the ongoing cuts to services and the appalling state of temporary and emergency accommodation that people are being forced into as evictions and homelessness increase.

The event was brought alive by some special guests including someone dressed up as Sylvia Pankhurst, the revolutionary, anti-fascist, communist, who was also campaigning in east London for the rights of working class women a hundred years ago; there was someone dressed up as Lyn Brown, the local Labour MP who received a fair few boos and also someone dressed up as a council worker and a cockroach, a symbol of the overcrowded slum living conditions that many residents have to put up with in Newham.

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Just as members of the public came forward to share their stories the police and local enforcement officers approached campaigners and suggested that there may be a problem with the street event under S137 of the Highways Act. It was hard to take this seriously given the amount of space available outside Stratford station and no passersby were complaining.  After some discussions,  with police officers ominously hanging around, the enforcement officers came back to announce that they were now going to ‘take enforcement action’, which turned out to be the threat of issuing a penalty notice, which they never did as campaigners took to the community sound system and made points about police harassment  – a fine lesson in standing your ground and knowing your rights and garnering the support of people on the streets.

The council may not want us distributing real information but we won’t be silenced.

Come and get your copy of the Newham Nag, available every Saturday on the Focus E15 stall 12-2pm outside Wilko’s on The Broadway, Stratford E15. Email focuse15london@gmail.com for more information.

For more information about the work of Debt Resistance UK and their involvement in exposing local council financial scandals all around Britain, see lada.debtresistance.uk.

nn-18u-e1495482319378.jpg

No More Fake News! This is reality

Robin Wales and his parallel universe of lies and deception!

Focus E15 campaign went along to Newham’s Annual Council Meeting on the 18 May. This is a big gala event.  250 people heard Robin Wales make vainglorious speeches about how wonderful he has been for Newham.  It was grotesque. Robin Wales made a speech about his work programme for 2017/18 and spoke of Newham having the best services in London, compared to 25 years ago when the borough was, an “incompetent backwater”. It was hard not to feel sick.

He  then went on and blamed the housing crisis on the Tories and explained that Newham Labour are standing up against criminal and rogue landlords. He promised that Newham Labour are putting “power into the hands of the residents”. Robin Wales ended his speech by concentrating on the Newham borough motto, which is, ironically, considering the amount of social cleansing that has been going on, Live, Work and Stay. He repeatedly emphasised that Newham is a place where people CHOOSE to live, work and stay, knowing full well that for those who are sent out of borough and out of London for housing, there is no choice at all in gentrified post-Olympic Newham.

As the applause started and the standing ovation began Focus E15 campaigners stood up too and started shouting questions about Lobo loans, financial mismanagement, social cleansing, slum living conditions, the empty council housing on Carpenters Estate and then broke into chants of Repopulate the Carpenters Estate! Robin Wales shrugged his shoulders and mumbled in to the microphone about 2018 council elections. He was then mobbed by his sycophantic supporters while ‘We’ll meet again’ was played very loudly over the public address system and Focus E15 campaigners shouted YES WE WILL.

Leaving the Old Town Hall in Stratford the reality hit – almost in every doorway in the old shopping centre  was a bed space for a homeless person tucked into a sleeping bag on cardboard. Homelessness and rough sleeping is rising and Newham has the highest number of residents in temporary accommodation in London and is one of the boroughs moving the highest number of people, who it has a statutory duty to house, outside the borough and outside of London. Outrageously, after over a decade, the Carpenters Estate in Stratford still stands mostly empty. Newham council is continuing its attempts to empty these homes, remove the residents and demolish the estate while claiming there are no homes in the borough.

Join us on Saturday 20 May to tell the real news of Newham. Meet outside Stratford station from midday  and tell the truth about what is going on in the borough. Please share this facebook event

Actors Occupy Shopping Centre To Speak Out Against Social Cleansing

The Focus E15 campaign joined forces with a dynamic theatre company called You Should See The Other Guy on Sunday 16 October. An impromptu performance took place inside the Stratford Centre of a play called Land of the Three Towers, much to the surprise and delight of  shoppers and Focus E15 campaign supporters. Passersby were treated to short clips of  fresh and energetic dialogue, humorous songs and even some dance routines despite the security guards trying to break up all the fun. They did not succeed as the performers were indefatigable and would not be silenced. This really is what political theatre should look like.

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The play celebrates the action that Focus E15 campaign took  in 2014 when 4 flats were occupied on Carpenters Estate in protest at Newham Labour Council who were sending people out of the borough whilst keeping their perfectly decent flats boarded up for years on end. The campaign believes that there should be social housing, not social cleansing.

Land of the Three Towers  will now have a run at the Camden’s People Theatre from Tuesday 18 October to Saturday 22 October. Some tickets are still available.

Focus E15 campaign would like to take this opportunity to wish all the crew involved in Land of the Three Towers every success this week. See you in the audience!

 

JOIN US FOR A STREET PARTY – Saturday 24 September 12-2pm on our weekly street stall

 

This photo is a strong statement put out by Focus E15 campaign in September 2014. Taken on the first anniversary of the campaign, it shows the political occupation of empty flats on the Carpenters Estate in Stratford. It exposes the lies of Newham Council and Labour mayor Robin Wales, who continued then and continue today, to send people, adults and children, out of borough and out of London for housing, when there are perfectly good homes locally. This action highlighted the years of sustained work by the residents of the Carpenters Estate who have fought, and continue to fight, to save their estate, against all machinations of the council which reached a peak in the run up to the Olympic Games 2012. We will not keep our eyes of this estate.  Focus E15 campaign’s demand to Newham Council remains:
REPOPULATE – CARPENTERS ESTATE!

THIRD BIRTHDAY EVENT
Focus E15 campaign is celebrating its third anniversary and as part of a series of events, invites you to come and join us this Saturday 24 September 12-2pm outside Wilko’s on The Broadway E15 on our weekly stall, with open mic. Bring family, friends, bring stalls and leaflets, bring information and enthusiasm, bring resistance and strength, bring your housing stories and your reality – the fight for decent, affordable, stable, long term housing is underway and together we are stronger.

BOUNDARY HOUSE, WELWYN GARDEN CITY
No to Unsafe and Unsuitable accommodation
The residents of Boundary House are speaking out, fighting back, exposing the practices of the councils who have sent them miles from their families, support networks, schools, jobs etc to unsuitable, unsafe and unsanitary accommodation. In the next few weeks there will be a series of events culminating with a protest in Leyton, east London, on Friday 28 October to expose the role of Theori Investment, the housing management company working with local authorities to secure accommodation in places such as Boundary House.
No to Unsafe and Unsuitable accommodation – follow the residents’ fight on facebook and twitter.
https://www.facebook.com/boundaryhouseresidents/

EAST END SISTERS UNCUT
Congratulations to the sisters who celebrated nine weeks in a reclaimed space in Hackney, raising the issues of the cuts to services for women facing or fleeing domestic violence and winning significant demands from Hackney Council who have promised to fill all empty homes in Hackney by September 2017, stop using private hostels and B&Bs for domestic violence survivors, to provide specialist domestic violence training to all hostel staff.
Keep the pressure up and get involved.
https://www.facebook.com/eastendsistersuncut/

THE AYLESBURY
Last week the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, accepted the Government Inspector’s recommendation not to confirm Southwark Labour Council’s Compulsory Purchase Order on the homes of leaseholders on the First Development Site of the Aylesbury Estate regeneration. This is an important precedent and we need to understand what lies behind this unexpected decision.
Read more about this from Architects for Social Housing.
https://architectsforsocialhousing.wordpress.com/2016/09/17/financial-compensation-for-human-rights-the-aylesbury-estate/

SYLVIA SCREENINGS
Free political cinema in Sylvia’s Corner, 97 Aldworth Road, London E1 4DN – all at 7.30pm
Thursday 29 September – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – powerful documentary about people’s power in revolutionary Venezuela
Thursday 27 October – The Working Class Goes To Heaven – 1971 film about trade union and student struggles
Thursday 24 November – Every Cook Can Govern – documenting the life, impact and works of CLR James. Hosted by East London Radical Assembly.
Thursday 8 December – Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners. Hosted by East London Revolutionary Communist Group.

Contact Focus E15 Campaign if you would like to show a film as part of Sylvia Screenings.