Category Archives: london

Decolonizing knowledge -young mothers as radical thinkers

Thank you for the following thoughts by our guest blogger Toni Adscheid from Germany, who supported the campaign on the street stall and in meetings when he was in London, and who participated in our online meetings during lockdown. It is through back and forth conversations such as these that we are inspired to carry onwards and take up the fight for housing with greater clarity and awareness of the role campaigning plays in the tremendous struggle that lies ahead. Educate! Agitate! Organise!

Toni writes:

The following text is based on a talk, given at a conference on “Decolonizing the curriculum”
via zoom, to an audience of university lecturers, schoolteachers and students. The
conclusions I draw, derive both from my experiences in teaching undergraduate geography
students as well as my observations and interactions with members of Focus E-15 campaign
during the weekly street stall in Newham, organisational meetings and personal
conversations. I also want to clarify that I regard capitalism, colonialism and patriarchy as
inherently intertwined structures of oppressio
n.


Contemporary neoliberal university practices attempt to fix the generation of knowledge
through curricula to the university, which is regarded as the only place for study. Moreover,
in neoliberal universities, students come to see themselves either as problem, because they
need to earn credit to graduate, or as professionals after they graduated. These attempts of
fixing the generation of knowledge to the place of the university as well as fixations upon
students as either problems or professionals, I argue, are two examples for colonizing
knowledge in neoliberal universities around the globe. In this regard, colonization can be
understood as the normalization of structures of oppression in which people are defined as
problems and offered salvation through institutionalized settings, which supposedly hold the
tools that people need to solve their problems. In the face of colonizing the generation of
knowledge through attempts of fixing (of students) and fixations (on the university as place
for knowledge generation), what would it mean to escape and thus refuse these attempts
of fixing the generation of knowledge to the university and attempts to fix students? For
me, this entails two things: To acknowledge that, outside of the university, people study all
the time and that amateurism should be encouraged rather than sanctioned.

As scholars like Stefano Harney and Fred Moten remind us, when we think about study we
ought to think as much about nurses in the smoking room as we are about the university
(Harney & Moten 2013: 112). Their argument opens up knowledge generation beyond the
walls of the university building as people constantly try to figure out ways to be with one
another, despite attempts to keep them apart, either by promises to become better by
themselves or by fixing them in place. This mode of study is what Focus E-15 engages in, and
what authors like Paul Watt and Penny Bernstock continue to emphasize. If we are truly committed to challenge current ways of colonizing knowledge, we have to look no further
than the street corners, the narrow alleys, the council housing estates. Here, in the outside
of institutionalized knowledge generation, people constantly try to figure out why they
ended up in their current situation but also think and practice how to live otherwise. This is
what Focus E-15 continues to highlight. People who are not recognized to have a voice,
especially young mothers in so called ‘temporary accommodation’, constantly figure out
ways how to escape and thus refuse attempts of being fixed, both in place and as persons.
They refuse because there is nothing wrong with them and nothing can hold them; they are
already amazing. As Saidiya Hartman wrote in relation to the US:

‘The decades between 1890 and 1935 were decisive in determining the course of black futures. A revolution in a minor key unfolded in the city and young black women were the vehicle. This upheaval or transformation of black intimate life was the consequence of
economic exclusion, material deprivation, racial enclosure, and social dispossession; yet it, too, was fueled by the vision of a future world that might be.’ (Hartman 2019: xv).

Young women, especially the young mothers of Focus E-15, are radical thinkers who never
fail to imagine how the world might be otherwise; this is what the campaign can teach
university students. This is what I convey in my teachings to my students in order to
decolonize knowledge generation: You are not the only ones who study, learn to listen to
the radical thinkers who continuously study around you. Initiating modes of mutual learning,
between in and outside the university, then becomes an imminent task if knowledge is
about to be truly decolonized.

My understanding of young mothers as radical thinkers then led me to the realisation that
neoliberal institutions, such as universities, fear those who they consider amateurs.
Amateurs who supposedly do not fully know what they are talking about, those who refuse
to be creditors after graduation, who refuse to graduate because they are committed to
study outside of the university. The university tries to get rid of that amateurism through us,
people who are involved in teaching. Our task, so we are told, is to enable students to
graduate by giving them credit. Hereby, those who do not receive credit are considered to
have failed, as they refuse to earn credit. However, as Focus E-15 continues to show, the aim
of study is not to become a professional (who supposedly knows everything) but about
fostering a kind of collaborative amateurism. This kind of collaborative amateurism in which for example a German PhD-student studies housing issues in the UK, can create openings
through which one can be affected by others, dispossessed and possessed by others. It
allows students to be opened up to the vast array of knowledge continuously generated
around them and to be affected by that knowledge; it helps them to realize that they can
never be entirely ready, never fully become professionals.

Practicing amateurism then means to acknowledge that study happens with each other, in conversation with those who never fail to imagine how the world might be otherwise. For those of us who are committed to keep ‘studying as amateurs’ it is important to stay with the trouble; even though we might be in neoliberal universities, we are not of them.

Harney, S., & Moten, F. (2013). The undercommons: Fugitive planning & black study.

Book Review: Michael Romyn, London’s Aylesbury Estate – An Oral History of the ‘Concrete Jungle’

Michael Romyn, London’s Aylesbury Estate: An Oral History of the Concrete Jungle (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020) The estate was like a shiny new penny. It was lovely. It was really lovely. It’s hard for me to paint a picture for you but it was a beautiful place to live … The community side of it, you […]

Book Review: Michael Romyn, London’s Aylesbury Estate – An Oral History of the ‘Concrete Jungle’

Resistance banners appear across London for Mayday

We may be locked down at the moment but groups and campaigns are turning their thoughts to the political situation this Mayday by putting out messages of anti capitalist resistance at home and on billboards and bus stops. Here are a selection of some messages both inspiring and angry. Check out lockdown banners on Facebook for loads more! Happy mayday comrades.

Educate! Agitate! Organise! Mayday 2020.

News from Focus E15 Campaign

Come to the campaign meeting this Saturday to make plans for 2019.
Saturday 8 December 2.30-4.30pm
Sylvia’s Corner, 97 Aldworth Road, London E15 4DN
Hear about the effects of poor housing and insecure conditions on children and young people. A young speaker, who has recently been supported by our campaign will talk about her experience of standing up for her right to be housed near to her school. A speaker from Housing and Mental Health Network provides the bigger context, and also hear report of research on anger and how this affects us in housing.
Plus more on the Labour council, the Carpenters Estate and plans for 2019….

RESIDENTS FROM BRIMSTONE HOUSE STAND TOGETHER

Residents of Brimstone House have maintained pressure on John Gray, Newham’s Cabinet representative for Housing, to hold him to his word that the conservatory within the building will be cleared out and returned to a children’s play area, and the locked park outside the building will finally be opened up for the children to play in.

It is grotesque to think of the unsuitable and cramped conditions that families with young children are being forced into in Brimstone House while the play areas are kept locked up.

Therefore, on 1 December, residents of Brimstone House and Focus E15 campaign entered the opened park and the children played. Then we went to visist the conservatory in the building….. it was cleared out, but still boarded up and locked…. the next day however, the boarding had been taken down….this is a step forward and now it must stay  open and be filled  with toys and fun activities for the children.

Remember that Brimstone House is formerly Focus E15 hostel/foyer where the campaign started five years ago, when young mothers and pregnant women refused to be moved out of London.

Five years on, with a change in council and mayor, that fight is still going on, as families who refuse out of area housing are outrageously labelled intentionally homeless and face the real possibility of the council discharging their duty to house them, this is in the context of Newham as one of the poorest boroughs in London with worsening homelessness, overcrowding and social cleansing.

Read about this struggle here:
https://focuse15.org/2018/12/03/stuck-in-limbo-at-brimstone-house-newham/

And put it in the context of the ongoing revelations of financial mismanagement of immense proportions in the borough. Expose this rotten system….
https://www.newhamrecorder.co.uk/council-investment-properties-1-5804846

It is clear that unless we fight back and resist, more and more people will be forced into unsafe, overcrowded, slum accommodation or made homeless.
We must fight for a world where land is held as a common good and housing as a human right. Which is also why we are campaigning for every new home on the Carpenters Estate to be a council home at council rent.

Capitalism is theft!
Stand with Focus E15 campaign on the streets, in action and at the meeting this Saturday and join the resistance!

 

Stuck in limbo at Brimstone House, Newham.

A young mother has been living at Brimstone House Hostel in Newham for over a year. We wrote about her predicament of being labelled with ‘intentional homelessness’ in September. 3 months on she is finding it difficult to manage this uncertainty and insecurity. These are her words:

I am a single mother living in a bedsit for the last 15 months. I have been on a emotional roller-coaster back and forth with the council with still no solution in sight. When will all the emotional stress be over? Despite showing documented evidence of my connection with the local area, the Council does not take this into account and have made me two out-of-borough offers of accommodation which I have had to refuse due to medical reasons and the need for my local connections and support.

I then realised that the council’s ‘solution’ to this was to discharge their duty of care to me, a decision which would put me and my daughter out on the streets. I was told I had the right to a suitability review, which was kinda pointless because the council had already made the decision to end their duty of care even before the suitability request was reviewed.

After a week’s consideration, the review officer sent an email saying the review was unsuccessful (no surprises there). I feel that the review officer did not follow appropriate inquiries into my reasons regarding why I needed to stay living in Newham. He then made the decision that I had to leave the property at a particular date (that didn’t exist!) so after a few emails back and forth to clarify the actually day and date I had to leave, I was finally given a date of Wednesday 28th of November…

It was so heartbreaking to have to tell my daughter we are moving but not knowing where we are going – it makes me feel so bad as a mother the fact that I can’t find a decent, suitable and affordable home for my child to live an ordinary life like any normal family …three days prior to my eviction date the manager for the building called to say my eviction is on hold and she will be in touch over the next few weeks …but what does this really mean? I’m stuck in a limbo! At the moment I’m just not sure about what is going on with my case. I am really confused as to what this all means and I am not sure if I still have to leave, I just don’t know.

This mother attends college in Newham and has her child enrolled in a local Newham school. They need to be housed in their community. Say no to social cleansing!

Come and discuss how to take this case forward at our next public meeting on Saturday 8 December at Sylvia’s Corner, 97 Aldworth Rd, E15 4DN 2.30pm.

Grenfell contractor Rydon makes millions via public sector contracts

Rydon is the company that led the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower during 2015-16 which resulted in external cladding being installed onto the face of the tower block. Metropolitan Police have launched a criminal investigation into the fire and have said that the cladding and installation fitted at Grenfell had failed “all safety tests”.

Rydon has spent the last 40 years developing its business via public sector contracts. Thank you to Trevor Rayne from the newspaper Fight Racism, Fight Imperialism who has discovered more information about this little known British-based company. We have reprinted some of his research below.

Rydon employs over 750 staff and paid out £8.4m to shareholders in 2016. Rydon’s chief executive is Robert Bond who received a salary of £424,000 last year and as a shareholder received an estimated £1.4m in dividend payments.

Other Rydon shareholders include two Jersey firms registered in the offshore tax haven of Jersey, including one set up by Lloyds Bank. HBOS put up money for a management buyout in 2005. HBOS is now owned by Lloyds.

  • In 1997 Rydon was registered as a provider to housing associations, local authorities, NHS Trusts and the education sector.
  • 2002 Rydon entered the Public Private Partnership market with the PFI scheme for the Chalcots Estate in Camden.
  • 2004 Rydon secured the largest mental health PFI contract in the country for the Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust.

The Royal Borough of Kensignton and Chelsea are also under intense scrutiny due to negligence over fire safety standards as the Grenfell Action Group blog painstakingly points out. Focus E15 campaign will be supporting the forthcoming demands of this housing campaign.

People of East London!  Join Focus E15 on the street stall on Saturday July 1st at 12pm – 2pm in Stratford outside Wilkos to demand:

PUBLIC HOUSING NOT PRIVATE PROFIT
Social Housing, not social cleansing!
Justice for Grenfell!

 

 

Focus E15 Campaign against Deliveroo victimisation – let Ben return to work!

Focus E15 campaign would like to send out a message of solidarity to Ben Geraghty who is being victimised by  Deliveroo, the company he has worked for for over a year.  According to a statement put out by his union, the IWGB, on the Couriers and Logistics branch Facebook page, Ben’s contract has been suddenly terminated, without warning, and he has not been offered any more shifts. Many think that there is an obvious reason why this has happened to him: Ben is a prominent union organiser with the IWGB and has been recently campaigning for union recognition and  workers rights for all Deliveroo drivers. This is the real reason why he has been targeted in this way. Ben told Focus E15 campaign that:

These actions clearly represent an attempt, on the part of Deliveroo’s management, to victimise and silence me and, by extension, the union. This is what Deliveroo and the gig economy truly stand for: old style casualisation and anti-union intimidation, poorly painted over with a twenty-first century aesthetic. Myself, the IWGB and its members will never bow to such blatant attempts at union busting as these.

Over the last two years, Ben has been a regular supporter of the Focus E15 campaign, attending our street stalls, events and public meetings. We stand with Ben and urge Deliveroo to immediately reinstate him and recognise the IWGB as the union of  choice for Deliveroo drivers.

Support Ben and the IWGB campaign to unionise the Deliveroo workforce! Stand  for workers rights! Stand up for Ben. Come to a public meeting, hosted by IWGB Couriers and Logistics Branch  on Tuesday 13 December, 7pm-9pm at Somers Town Community Association, 150 Ossulston St, NW1 1EE to organise the fightback.

TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER.

 

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Ben Geraghty, centre, supporting the opening of Sylvia’s Corner  – a community hub for Focus E15 campaign

Everyday people face evictions in Newham

Newham’s housing is a health risk
Newham is the most overcrowded borough in London with conditions for many residents increasingly best described as slum housing. In Olympic legacy Labour Newham, in the fifth richest country in the world, every day people face evictions, social cleansing and literally being dumped on the streets.  Below are just two examples of the consequences of what can happen when you remove social housing.

Jennifer is the mother of five children and a grandmother. On Wednesday 8 June she will be at Bridge House homelessness Unit in Stratford, east London in the borough of Newham. Jennifer is about to be made homeless for the second time in nine months. She has been in temporary accommodation for 14 years, shunted from pillar to post, and in this last home, didn’t even totally unpack when she moved in nine months ago because she didn’t think it would last. She is right, a housing association put her in private rented accommodation and now the landlord says no more, possession order has come, meeting at Bridge House and all the usual emotions of fear, insecurity, shame, powerlessness. What will Jennifer tell her son who is on the autistic spectrum and is just settling in yet another home, when they have to move again, what of her son doing GCSEs and anxious about his exams. These are the issues facing her again.

Focus E15 campaign is supporting Jennifer in her request for long term stable housing in Newham. Housing Justice for Jennifer!

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Jennifer, second from the right joins the Focus E15 street stall

On Saturday 4 June, Focus E15 campaign held its monthly public meeting. The theme was Housing is a Mental Health Issue. A speaker from Psychologists Against Austerity spoke of the direct and indirect effect of poor housing and overcrowding on our physical and mental health. At the end of the meeting we met Beverley, a resident of Focus E15 building, or Brimstone House as Newham Council would like it now to be known, who is facing eviction. She has physical and mental health needs.  On Tuesday 7 June, Beverley was told to leave Brimstone House. When they  first placed her in Brimstone House, Newham Council said it was interim accommodation while a decision was made on whether to provide her with housing. Her dog, vital to help her maintain her health, was not allowed in the room and Beverley had to give her dog away causing her great anguish. The council assessed her as ‘homeless and eligible but not priority need’. She has now had her Housing Benefit and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) stopped. On Wednesday 8 June they will come to evict her and with no duty to house her, Beverley will be on the streets.

When Robin Wales announced in April that Newham Council had bought Focus E15 hostel, Brimstone House, from East Thames Housing Association, he said: ‘We cannot turn down this unique opportunity which makes both financial sense at the same time as helping some of our most vulnerable residents.’ So tell us Robin Wales, Labour Mayor of Newham, how throwing vulnerable people out onto the streets with their belongings is helpful?

On Thursday 16 June, at the Municipal Journal Local Authority Awards, Newham Labour Council is up for an award for the best trading standards and environmental health and has been nominated in the best environmental health category. What a slap in the face for the Newham residents who know the reality.

Expose the shameful actions of this Labour council.  No one should be indefinitely in temporary accommodation! No one should be out on the streets!

Repopulate the Carpenters Estate where over 400 homes in Stratford lie empty.

Join Focus E15 campaign weekly stall every Saturday 12-2pm, on The Broadway, E15 outside Wilko’s.

Join the protest at the Municipal Journal Local Authority Awards  where both Newham and Lambeth are due to receive awards:
Thursday 16 June 6.30pm
Hilton Hotel London W1K 1BE  

Social housing not social cleansing!

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Living  out of bags at Focus E15 hostel – awaiting eviction.

 

 

 

Emergency – housing is a mental health issue.

On 21st May, to mark the end of Mental Health Awareness Week, Focus E15 Campaign held a demonstration in Stratford to force a spotlight onto Newham council who have left empty homes boarded up on the Carpenters Estate  and to make a link that the current housing crisis is having an adverse effect on people’s mental health.  

Many people took the opportunity to use the open microphone. Speeches, live music, chanting and an impromptu march  highlighted the link between mental health and housing insecurity. The point was also made that taking collective action is empowering and good for our mental wellbeing.

Passerby stopped to hear how people are being decanted, evicted, abandoned and forced out of their homes at catastrophic rates  – currently someone in England is threatened with eviction every 90 seconds. Newham has the highest number of households in temporary accommodation of any London borough and the devastating consequences that housing conditions are having on people’s mental health should be obvious. To constantly worry that the roof over your head will not be there tomorrow is traumaticThe stress and isolation that comes from housing insecurity is causing a mental health crisis.

Dangerous and overcrowded accommodation; temporary housing, isolation from family and friends, evictions, homelessness, social cleansing, children out of school, job losses: these are the issues so many people are facing and they are making people sick. As people are evicted from their homes and socially cleansed out of London, they are not only being forced into places that are making them ill, but they are cut off from the very support networks that keep them healthy. 

Thank you to everyone who stood together in our community to raise these important issues. The fight back continues. Collective action makes us stronger and gives us back our mental health! In the words of a campaigner on the day:

No political party has any solutions. Families are being evicted every day. People are getting ill. Children are suffering. This is a rich country but you wouldn’t know it if you looked at what is happening to the most vulnerable people and their housing. We must stand together to avoid drowning.’

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Community solidarity for the Focus E15 action – Housing is a mental health issue May 21st 2016

 

No to social cleansing in Redbridge! Support Bianca to stay in her community

Stand in solidarity with Bianca on Monday 12 October. Bianca is being evicted. The baliffs are coming. She wants to be rehoused in her local community near to her support networks.
Either meet at her flat at from 8.30am or at the housing office in Illford at 9.30am.

Please be aware that the press will be there -bring your banners and your voices!

Bianca’s flat address is : 304, Chadwell Heath High Rd, Romford, RM6 6 AG. Meet there at 8.30am. Nearest station to Bianca’s flat is Chadwell Heath Station, or 86 bus.

From her flat we will be organising free cabs to take people to the housing office when Bianca has her housing meeting at 9.30am.

Housing office address is: The Housing Advice Centre, 17-23 Clements Road, Ilford IG1 1AG This is the second meeting point and we will be there at 9.30am.Nearest Station to the housing office is: Ilford Station
Bus 25 86 145 147 169 W19

We urge Redbridge council to look carefully at the needs of this young family who have a child with hypermobility needs. They want to move forward with their lives in a positive way. Bianca’s child needs to remain in her school where she has completed her reception year and made friends.

Remember the council must exhaust all local possibilites first before they rehouse Bianca out of the borough.
Demand that Bianca and her children are rehoused in the local area! Email: housing.options@redbridge.gov.uk

Bianca and her children need somewhere to live near to her child's school.
Bianca and her children need somewhere to live near to her child’s school.