The campaign to Save George Tomlinson School

At this point I would rather think back to the optimistic and uplifting way this week started rather than the gloom I awoke to this morning.

On Monday a delegation of pupils from George Tomlinson School in Leytonstone gathered outside the school gates to deliver our petition to the Town Hall in Walthamstow. In a matter of weeks over 4000 people signed a petition both online and on paper, calling for the Lime Academy Trust to be removed from the school and a non-Academy aligned Headteacher appointed. It now looks as though our campaign has been successful with a new Headteacher and Senior Leadership Team to be appointed soon.

This is a video I made at the start of the campaign that highlights the central issues.

It’s important to note though that when I asked the Portfolio leader for Children and Young People at Waltham Forest Council, Cllr Grace Williams, to back a call against all future academisation in the Borough, as neighbouring Labour-led Redbridge has done, she merely said it was the Council’s policy to allow Governing Bodies to decide what is best for their school.

The battle for the future of George Tomlinson could be just the latest of others to come in Waltham Forest.

Thousands March for Homes in London

Yesterday saw thousands of people take to the streets of London in the March for Homes. This builds on recent high profile housing campaigns such as Focus E15, the New Era Estate, and Our West Hendon. But this is just the tip of the iceberg, as one campaigner from Feminist Fightback told me there are 70 social housing estates undergoing ‘regeneration’ which is often just a means of demolishing the existing homes, displacing the tenants and privatising some if not all of the land. The group has calculated that there are around 160,000 tenants facing eviction and/or rehousing. The land value of these 70 estates is estimated to be in the region of £52billion.

Fred & John Towers banner

There was a great spirit amongst the diverse range of Londoners traipsing through the rain from the congregation points of St Leonard’s Church Shoreditch and the Elephant and Castle – converging on City Hall, Boris Johnson’s Death Star. A lady thrust a yellow flier into my hand whilst I stood on a peddle-dash plinth trying to get a decent shot of the procession from a higher vantage point. ‘Fred & John Towers Not For Sale’ – Leytonstone’s own iconic tower blocks beside Wanstead Flats that played host to snipers and anti-aircraft missiles during the London Olympics. The E15 Campaigners have joined forces to help the residents who face being rehoused while Waltham Forest Council sell off one of the blocks and dispose of 70 Council homes in the process.

Fred and John Towers Leytonstone

Next week the residents of Earls Court will be demonstrating to save the heart being ripped out of their area with a £8billion development. New battle lines are being drawn all across London every day in the fight for the soul and the future of this great ancient city.

 

 

The fight for the New Era Estate Hoxton

Here’s a short doc I made for Russell Brand’s Trews Reports about the situation on the New Era Estate in Hoxton .

Then last Saturday the residents of the New Era organised a day of action where eviction notices were served upon Benyon Estates and one of Edward Benyon’s homes.

Here’s a column about New Era in The Guardian

Focus E15 go to Bow County Court and win

Some images from the court hearing of the Focus E15 Mums who were occupying a house on the Carpenters Estate in Stratford in protest over social housing in Newham – and their statement following the verdict below.

Focus E15 Mums protest

Focus E15 Mums protest

Statement from the Focus E15 Mums:

“We are overwhelmed and grateful for the support and solidarity from both the local and the wider community. Also thank you to Anthony Gold, ITN solicitors and our barrister Lyndsey Johnson. We have decided to leave 80-86 Doran Walk on our own terms by 7th October, as planned. Newham have agreed to this, with no other conditions and have dropped their Interim Possession Order. We have celebrated a year of the E15 campaign, during which we have tried to engage with Newham Council on a number of occasions and they have refused to listen. As a result, our political occupation was the only option to escalate our demands for social housing, not social cleansing. We have reached our goal of highlighting the issue of decent homes left empty on the state and we have built lasing link with the residents and the community. This has be broadcast to millions of people. Ultimately this occupation was never about staying indefinitely, but about our demands to Newham Council. These demands remain and they include: – Repopulating the Carpenter’s Estate with secure council tenancies now – An immediate end to decanting and evictions of existing residents – No demolition of the estate – The management of Carpenters estate by residents and for residents, with no third party or private management involvement We will continue fighting to save council housing and to ensure decent housing for all. This is the beginning of the end of the housing crisis.”

IMG_8675 IMG_8673 Focus E15 Mums protest

Here is the day brilliantly covered by Russell Brand in his Trews youtube series (I pop up at Carpenters highlighting the recent thwarted attempt by UCL to take over the site and the imminent arrival of the Smithsonian and V&A to the Olympic Zone)

Ken Livingstone in Leyton

   Ken Livingstone in Leyton by Fugueur 

Monday evening I went along to Leyton Town Hall (now Orwellianly renamed Leyton Management Offices – what are they managing I worry?) to attend Ken Livingstone’s ‘Tell Ken’ event.
I took the liberty of recording a few bits which you can listen to above.

Overall I found Ken’s tone very positive – I had become disillussioned with his last term as mayor towards the end, with his seemingly too cosy relationship with the corporate interests of the City of London and his love of skyscrapers and big developments. He seemed to have long forgotten the Red Ken that I met when chairing a Labour Students public meeting during the City Poly occupation of 1991.

Maybe I had primed myself for disappointment by using the Labour Party’s refusal to select Ken as its mayoral candidate in 2000 and his subsequent expulsion as the long overdue catalyst for leaving the party I’d viewed as a birthright.
The fact that he later rejoined the party and stood for Mayor as a Labour candidate in 2004, even after the invasion of Iraq at a time when Labour was very much the belicose Party of war, was a bit too much for me at the time.
(Some unfortunate young Labour candidates knocked on my door around this period and received a rant about how they were no better than members of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party with hands drenched in the blood of Iraqi children – they didn’t seem to see this coming for some reason).

However, he atoned slightly this evening by repeating his commitment to wealth redistribution – and using whatever means at his disposal to help bring that about – such as giving free travel to kids as 40% of children in London are from families living below the poverty line.

He would also look to expand the capital’s social housing sector – although I wasn’t clear whether he can build housing as mayor – and return housing estates as the kind of mixed communities they once were (such as I grew up in), rather than now where you need to be homeless and jobless to be eligible for housing.

Ken explained that the only reason he signed up to the Olympic bid was to get £8bn worth of investment into the East End. He talked about how the land south of the Olympic Park to the Thames would be the next big development area with capacity for 40,000 new homes and 50,000 jobs and that the mayor should be selling this opportunity to the growing markets in China, India and Brazil.

I asked him about Trams – and whether he would revive his proposals to extend London’s Tram network beyond Croydon. To this he conjured up a beguiling image – a tram route that would follow the North Circular from Wembley arcing across the north of London to Waltham Forest.
That romance of that vision alone is almost worth my vote.

There’s more info about Ken’s campaign to be re-elected mayor here.
Do you think there’s any chance that we’ll be able to write-off the Boris years as some kind of bizarre collective halucination?

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