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The show is over but the campaign goes on…

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Spectres of Modernism was always intended as just one strand in a longer and broader campaign against Taylor Wimpey’s The Denizen development. The show proved effective by generating press coverage of the many political and social issues flagged up by the City of London granting planning permission for Taylor Wimpey’s ghost flats – including potential conflicts of interest on the part of City of London councillors Chris Hayward, Michael Bear and James Thomson. As a result of our banner exhibition on the balconies of Bowater House these matters have now entered mainstream media discourse. The show and the issues it raised were covered by the national media in the UK, as well as the art press. Prior to Spectres of Modernism our concerns had only been aired in local papers and/or blogs. But far more important than press as regards Spectres was the way it brought our community even closer together as we fought Taylor Wimpey and the City of London council.

We’re still waiting to hear if the application for a judicial review of planning permission for The Denizen has been successful, which is one way we hope our campaign will move forward. But it is also important to keep raising awareness about social cleansing, a process explicit in the demolition of Bernard Morgan House – with its 110 key worker housing units – that Taylor Wimpey plan to replace with The Denizen’s 99 buy to leave luxury apartments; and with no social or affordable housing in complex whatsoever! Likewise we will continue to participate in the ongoing fight against the uniquely undemocratic political system in the City of London – with the council controlled by business votes – which denies residents a proper voice in local government. If the City of London was run by a democratically elected council like those found in the rest of the UK, The Denizen wouldn’t have stood much chance of winning planning approval in the first place!

While the Spectres of Modernism banners were up on Bowater House we blogged every day. That will stop now and we’ll only make occasional update posts from here on in. The 75 posts we’ve made so far aren’t just about us and the press coverage Spectres received, they were also intended to place our campaign in both a local London and global context; and to let people know about some other campaigns we support.

Please don’t forget our post show event. This is now rescheduled to take place on Friday 2 February at Raven Row, 56 Artillery Lane, London E1 7LS, from 6.30pm to 8.30pm. There will be an exhibition, performances, screenings, talks and the sale of works from and related to Spectres of Modernism, to consolidate the protest at Bowater House against Taylor Wimpey’s The Denizen Development.  With the participation of: Mark Aerial Waller, Stewart Home, Tom McCarthy, Anna Minton, Katrina Palmer, Chris Petit, Esther Planas, Bill Parry-Davies, Iain Sinclair, Claire Louise Staunton, Nina Wakeford and Lloyd Corporation in collaboration with students from Goldsmiths Visual Sociology MA. All proceeds from the sale will go towards the campaign.

Other sites supporting our campaign against The Denizen – including OPEN Golden Lane and Reclaim EC1 – will in future be more active than this one. So please check them out! And activism against Taylor Wimpey’s development still retains a live cultural component via the horror stories various novelists are producing set in The Denizen; the blog featuring some of them is here.

A spectre is haunting the cynical overdevelopment that characterises London’s buy to leave property boom, the spectre of modernism!” #savegoldenlane

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Focus E15 Still Going Strong

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Focus E15’s use of banners and slogans during their occupation of the Carpenters Estate in 2014 inspired many who followed in their wake.

The Focus E15 campaign was born in September 2013 when a group of young mothers were served eviction notices by East Thames Housing Association after Newham Council cut its funding to the Focus E15 hostel for young homeless people. When they approached the Council for help, the mothers were advised that, due to cuts to housing benefit and the lack of affordable housing in London, they would have accept private rented accommodation as far away as Manchester, Hastings and Birmingham if they wanted rehousing.

This attempt by Newham Council to displace the mothers from London, removing them and their children from their families and local support networks, is just one example of a city-wide process of social cleansing, with low income people being forced to the fringes of London and beyond by soaring rents, benefit cuts, and a shortage of social housing. This prompted the mothers to get organised and demand social housing, not social cleansing!

In the year since its inception, the campaign has gone from strength to strength, with a weekly stall in Stratford, an occupation of Newham Council’s housing office, and a march of several hundred supporters to Newham Town Hall all contributing towards the mothers’ growing national profile. The campaign has been a thorn in the side of unsympathetic Mayor of Newham Robin Wales, whose aggressive behaviour  was the subject of an internal investigation after a complaint was sent to the council about the way he treated Focus E15 campaigners at the Newham Mayor’s Show in July 2014.

On September 21st 2014, the Focus E15 campaign celebrated its first birthday with an occupation of a disused block of flats on the nearly empty Carpenters Estate in Stratford, East London. This action draws attention to the fact that people are being forced out of London due to a lack of affordable housing while thousands of perfectly good social housing units sit empty. The occupied flats were opened to the public and ran as a social centre for two weeks, with an evolving program of daily events, including workshops, meetings, and music and comedy gigs.

The campaign continues to meet weekly in Stratford. More actions are planned. In the words of Jasmin and Sam ‘This is the beginning of the end of the housing crisis’.

The words here come from Focus E15’s About page, this is their website: https://focuse15.org/

EC1 Protesters At Islington Town Hall

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On Thursday 7 December a football game was held on a mini-pitch outside Islington Town Hall to protest against the current plans for the redevelopment of Finsbury Leisure Centre. These plans reduce the size of football pitches and diminish other leisure facilities, as well as unacceptably overshadowing St Luke’s Gardens and social housing. If the flats the council proposes to build on the site are placed against Central Street rather than St Luke’s Gardens, there will be less overshadowing and more room for sport.

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Maintaining the current level of facilities and building social housing is a win-win situation that could be achieved by flipping and tweaking the current design. This also requires the closing of Finsbury Leisure Centre while the redevelopment is carried out. Closure will shorten the time required for the works and thereby save money. Current plans focus on keeping the Finsbury Leisure Centre open at the expense of achieving the best possible long term result. Exercise classes could be moved to nearby Ironmonger Row which currently has excess capacity; while better use could be made of the Kings Square football pitch close at hand, with facilities elsewhere in Islington – including Ironmonger Row – temporarily catering to Finsbury Leisure Centre sports needs.

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At the Redesign demo there were many residents from Burnhill House and the St Luke’s Community Collective, whose flats directly overlook the site. Also present were representatives of the campaign against Taylor Wimpey’s The Denizen development in Golden Lane EC1 and the struggle to stop the Harringey Development Vehicle in north London. Those supporting a Redesign of the current plans from these other two groups are regular users of the Finsbury Lesiure Centre, and they are in favour of its temporary closure to achieve the best possible long term result in terms of both sports facilities and social housing.

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London Review of Books on Spectres of Modernism

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Free exorcism with every Taylor Wimpey ghost home by Anna Aslanyan, LRB Blog, 7 December 2017.

Colourful banners hang from the balconies of Bowater House: ‘Under London, heaven’s light, grow life, not loot,’ one of the 21 slogans says. Another: ‘One day will this shadow fall.’ The building is part of the Golden Lane Estate, a Grade II-listed social housing complex designed in the 1950s and built on a bomb site in the City of London. Bernard Morgan House opposite is shrouded in white sheets bearing the logo ‘Taylor Wimpey’. The developer is about to demolish the building, which housed key workers between 1960 and 2015, and replace it with a 10-storey luxury block called The Denizen.

The display on Bowater House was designed by Fraser Muggeridge Studio and curated by Clare Carolin. Artists and writers including Fiona Banner, Tom McCarthy and Iain Sinclair came up with the slogans. The installation, entitled Spectres of Modernism (‘A spectre is haunting the cynical overdevelopment that characterises London’s buy to leave property boom, the spectre of modernism!’), was created to support Save Golden Lane, a campaign against The Denizen.

Taylor Wimpey will sell all its 99 apartments privately, meeting its obligation to provide social housing by contributing £4.5 million towards 14 council flats to be built somewhere else. The most expensive properties in The Denizen – a ‘refined haven in the heart of the City’ – are going for over £2 million. The building as currently designed will overshadow Bowater House, Prior Weston School and Fortune Street Park, where local children often play after school. The park will lose afternoon sunshine between September and March.

The sun was still shining in the park when I met Stewart Home there. Concerned that the new apartments will be sold to investors and remain unoccupied, he came up with the slogan ‘Free exorcism with every Taylor Wimpey ghost home’. The developers’ marketing strategy relies on the artwashing of urban decay in an area branded as ‘Culture Mile’. ‘Fashion designers, Turner Prize winners … and you’, a slogan spotted at another development, was co-opted by Eleanor Vonne Brown for Spectres of Modernism (her fellow artists include two Turner Prize winners, Jeremy Deller and Elizabeth Price).

Across the road, another council block is emblazoned with banners reading ‘Save our sunlight’ and ‘Stop overdevelopment’. The residents of Burnhill House are objecting to plans to redevelop Finsbury Leisure Centre. Islington Council consulted them about the project, but the revised proposals ignore their suggestions. A short distance away, yet another scheme threatens Bunhill Fields, where William Blake and Daniel Defoe are buried. The public garden will be deprived of light by two tower blocks about to be built on its edge. Boris Johnson approved them in February 2016, using his power as mayor to overrule Islington Council. In May 2017, after taking back control, the council gave permission to extend the nearby Finsbury Tower from 16 to 28 storeys.

Permission to build The Denizen was granted by the City of London’s planners, several of whom are associated with consultancies acting for Taylor Wimpey. (The borough has one of the highest approval rates for planning applications in England.) The only way to stop the process is through a judicial review. The campaigners applied for it in October and are waiting to hear from the Planning Court.

Home and I walked around the neighbourhood, stopping by two new Banksy murals; rumour has it they were commissioned by the Barbican to promote its art exhibitions. We passed people sleeping in doorways opposite the offices of Shelter…

Read the full article here: https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2017/12/07/anna-aslanyan/free-exorcism-with-every-taylor-wimpey-ghost-home/