Category Archives: event

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.

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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.

Children forced to live in appalling conditions

On Monday 27th June 2016, Boundary House residents went to Waltham Forest council’s housing office, Cedar House, to fight back against the appalling conditions they have been forced to live in.

Boundary House is a block of one-bedroom flats of ‘temporary accommodation’ in Welwyn Garden City which is outside London. From there it is a long and expensive commute back to Walthamstow where most of its current residents are from. The distance and cost means that residents are isolated from their family, friends and support networks, with one mother of two being forced to quit her job in London, as she could no longer afford the commute.

The conditions there are terrible, with mould, cockroaches, overcrowding and dangerous faulty appliances. One resident, pregnant and living with her young daughter, had to survive the winter with no heating. Still today, their heating has not been fixed.

On the third floor of Boundary house there is a young mother living with her now four month old baby, who was delivered by C-section. As there are no lifts in the block of flats, and the block is not safe or secure enough to leave the pushchair down stairs, every time this mother wants to go out she must carry her baby in the pushchair up and down three flights of stairs. The strain of this has meant that she has not been able to fully heal from the operation.

Boundary House was not built with families in mind. Nonetheless, Waltham Forest council have been sending their constituents to this accommodation and have done nothing to ensure the properties are fit for purpose. When Boundary House residents tried to raise these issues to Waltham Forest council, they have received little, if any, responses to their letters, phone calls and emails.

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Boundary House residents prepare to march to the housing office

This is why on Monday 27th of June, Boundary House residents decided enough if enough. Supported by Focus E15, and others,  we marched on the housing office, as a united community to demand to speak to someone who could act upon our demands. When we arrived,  security tried to refuse us entrance into the office. But we did not stand for it and insisted to be let it. Once the security had conceded to our demands to enter, we were told the Director of housing would not be able meet us. We refused to accept this and told them we would not move until Boundary House residents were able to speak to someone in charge.

It did not take long for the council to concede, and we won a group meeting with the Director of Housing for Waltham Forest Council, whom some Boundary House residents have been trying to get in contact with for over two years. We were taken to a conference room, and every resident had the chance to tell their story, express their concerns, fears and frustrations, and to demand the Waltham Forest Council treat its residents with respect and dignity.

In the meeting, the Director of Housing agreed to listen to our demands, to investigate the appalling conditions of Boundary House, and to hold another meeting in the coming weeks to update Boundary House residents as to what actions they have taken improve from the current conditions. This is a small victory of Boundary House Residents.

The action has demonstrated that when we fight together, they cannot ignore us! We will continue to fight, to make sure that Waltham Forest council holds true to their words, and we will continue to demand that Waltham Forest council bring Boundary House residents back to London.

SOCIAL HOUSING NOT SOCIAL CLEANSING!
Joins us on our street stall in Stratford outside Wilkos on the Broadway on Saturday from 12pm.

 

The Focus E15 newsletter is out now

Tomorrow Saturday 30 January – Join Focus E15 contingent to: 

March Against the Housing Bill!

(there will be no Stratford stall outside Wilko’s).

Travel to the start together… meet Focus E15 at Stratford station at 11am (outside the exit that leads onto the bus station, near the train statue).

https://www.facebook.com/events/817880454987012/

The march, organised by Lambeth Housing Activists, starts from the Imperial War Museum, Lambeth Road, SE1 6HZ (nearest tube Lambeth North) and will march to Downing Street for 2pm.

See below re other events and actions related to opposing the Housing Bill.

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Tonight Friday 29 and tomorrow Saturday 30 January

Land of the Three Towers

A community theatre piece celebrating Focus E15 occupation of Carpenters Estate in 2014

https://www.cptheatre.co.uk/production/land-three-towers/

Congratulations to FYSA theatre company for the latest E15 performances. Reviewed below and more performances scheduled for later this year.

https://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/2016/e15-review-at-camden-peoples-theatre-london-a-rallying-cry/

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Two campaign events on Saturday 13 February 2016

Focus E15 campaign stall 12-2pm on the Broadway outside Wilkos in Stratford. 

We will be supporting the Radical Housing Network’s call for action against the housing bill. Come and speak out, leaflet  and use the open mic. Make plans, talk to people on the streets to make the housing movement grow. All welcome. Take part in East London Radical Assembly’s stall crawl and get involved with the housing movement in your area.

Focus E15 campaign meeting and the Immigration Bill 2.30-4.30pm

Bryant Street Methodist Church, Bryant Street, E15 4RU

Come and hear a speaker from RAMFEL – Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London  www.ramfel.org.uk/

Discussion in particular about the Immigration Bill and the impact on housing and planning future events.

Big Thank you to Simon from Architects for Social Housing who spoke about the housing bill at the last meeting.

https://architectsforsocialhousing.wordpress.com/

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HOUSING AND PLANNING BILL CALENDAR

26 January: 2nd Reading of the Bill in the House of Lords (first chance to discuss areas where amendments are needed, so start lobbying Lords before this date). Defend Council Housing lobbying Southwark Council offices at 160 Tooley Street (6.00pm).

30 January: March Against The Housing Bill, called by Lambeth Housing Activists (midday), from Imperial War Museum to Downing Street.

2 February: Defend Council Housing Protest outside Parliament (4.00pm), followed by testimony meeting (5.00-7.00pm), in Committee Room 4a.

6 February: Defend Council Housing organising meeting (11-1pm), Unite the Union, 128 Theobald’s Road.

9 February: Islington Hands Off Our Public Services Commission, public meeting on the Bill (7pm), Islington Town Hall, Upper Street.

10 February: Estimated date of Committee Stage of Bill in House of Lords. Detailed examination of the Bill lasting around two weeks.

13-14 February: We Love Council Housing, weekend of actions against the Bill called by the Radical Housing Network for the Valentine weekend.

24 February: Estimated date of the Report Stage of the Bill, when the House debates any committee amendments. This is shortly (that day or the following week) followed by the Third Reading, the last chance for the House to vote on amendments. Any amendments are then sent back to the Commons for consideration. Then the Bill is sent for Royal Assent.

13 March: Kill the Housing Bill (Act) / Call for Rent Control, National Demonstration called by Defend Council Housing.

16 April: People’s Assembly Against Austerity: March for Health, Homes, Jobs and Education, Central London.

5 May: Elections for London Mayor.

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!

 

 

We will not be silenced about the housing crisis

East London night of resistance – resistance goes on undeterred….

On Wednesday 28 October, Focus E15 campaign, East London Radical Assembly and Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! organised a night of resistance in a local Stratford pub. After a great evening of film showings, discussion, poetry and music, the plan was to join the rough sleepers and homeless people overnight in the old Stratford Centre/mall to highlight the fact that rough sleepers are regularly kicked out of the mall and often spend the night in the grounds of the local church.

Suspiciously however, on the day of the event, a notice went up to say that the Stratford Centre would be closed from 11pm to 5am for ‘maintenance works’.  We  then found out that the police had been on the phone to the pub all afternoon, hassling them to cancel our social event and discussion about the escalating housing crisis. The pub realised that this was absurd and said no.  We are clear that this is Newham Labour council and the police  working together to intimidate the pub and silence our campaign. We also saw police ‘guarding’ the grounds of the local church at night, presumably to stop people from sleeping there.  Of course, when we arrived at the mall there was absolutely no sign of any maintenance work. The police guarded all entrances but we led a lively and noisy demonstration just outside and told passersby what was going on. A home made quilted banner declared our solidarity with homeless people and  as one Focus E15 campaigner clearly explained, ‘we are in solidarity with people facing homelessness and no intimidation by council or police will stop our campaign growing’.

What is happening to people with their housing is unacceptable. More and more people are sleeping rough or left in temporary accommodation for years on end whilst at the same time many homes are sitting empty, such as the 400 or so homes on the Carpenters Estate.  Robin Wales and Newham council encourage an Olympic legacy of gentrification on the one hand and evictions and social cleansing on the other. Let us not forget that Newham is one of  the  least affordable boroughs for private renting in the country and has one of the worst records in London for rehousing people out of the borough: last year Newham moved 423 homeless families out of London altogether.

It is not good enough to leave people to sleep rough on our streets. Say no to street homelessness and join our campaign by getting involved in organising with us and by coming down to our weekly street stall in Stratford on the Broadway outside Wilkos from 12-2pm. Make your voice count.

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East London Night of Resistance says everyone needs a home! Join us.

On Wednesday 28 October, join Focus E15 campaign at the King Edward VII pub on the Broadway in Stratford, London E15 for East London Night of Resistance, co-hosted with East London  Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism and East London Radical Assembly.

At the end of the night, we will be going to Stratford Mall to give support to the homeless people of Stratford who seek warmth and shelter and  who are increasingly being moved on by police and security, as gentrification and social cleansing take hold of post-Olympic Stratford. Bring sleeping bags, thermos flasks and solidarity.
While the Carpenters Estate in Stratford has over 400 empty council homes, homelessness is on the increase. As if this scandal wasn’t bad enough, Newham is amongst the 15 least affordable areas for private renting in the country and has one of the worst records in London for rehousing people out of the borough. Last year it moved 423 homeless families out of London altogether.
Join us in the pub from 8pm and then  on the streets to help build the resistance.

Focus E15 campaign will be showing a short film called Squatters  which is about housing issues in London in the 1970s.

Pilar Lopez will be bringing folk music from Spanish freedom fighters. See pilarawa.wordpress.com for more information.
Janine Booth, a punk poet will be performing as well: https://m.facebook.comJanineBoothTheBigJ
Porcupine Dilemma will be playing a few acoustic numbers.

There  could even be a bar room sing-along!Please join our campaigners at the end of the evening when we will be leaving together to show solidarity with the homeless in Newham with a mass sleep out. For the most up to date information see the facebook event page

We will be asking for donations to cover the cost of this event.