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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#MeToo Protest Banner in Poplar!

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When a friend came over from Poplar in east London to see Spectres of Modernism, we did what we do with everyone who comes to view our banners, which is give them a tour of our EC1 neighbourhood and make sure they also see the protest signs for a redesign of the proposed St Luke’s development on Burnhill House in Norman Street. One of the Burnhill protestors we know was coming out of that block as we got up there and so everyone was introduced. Our friend had already told us she wanted to make a banner to protest against sexual harassment, and the subject came up again. So Burnhill offered to help in the construction of a feminist banner. We’d planned to go over on the night it was made and help too, but in the end we didn’t make it! Now from the balcony of a flat in Poplar (E14) overlooking the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) a ‘feminism’ banner is flying; thanks to help from Burnhill. So sisters traveling to and from work around Canary Wharf on this branch of the DLR are uplifted by a sign of solidarity. It’s just great seeing people use their balconies in London and elsewhere for social justice protests like this! But even more so when it’s hand rendered in a font as groovy as this one!
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Our Flyers Are Everywhere! Pt 5

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Our flyers may not have come flying through your letter box yet if you live in the Isle of Lewis but they are in a lot of places around EC1. Here they are on a table at the EC1 Block Party in St Luke’s Gardens on 19 November 2017; alongside our neighbour’s Save Our Sunlight/Redesign Finsbury Redevelopment campaign. A lot of leaflets were taken, and a lot of free mince pies were eaten too! Everyone had a good time!

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

City of London Has Highest Planning Permission Success Rate in England

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A news story about how easy it is to push development schemes through planning in the City of London appeared in a number of places recently. What we didn’t see anywhere was an explanation for this sorry state of affairs: although obviously the fact that this is the only borough in the UK to retain the business vote means there is a lack of democracy and residents don’t have a proper say in local matters – about 80% of councillors are elected by local firms and not by people who live in the area. If local people’s interests were taken into account developments like Taylor Wimpey’s The Denizen would not be granted planning permission. The City of London council doesn’t care about local people because overwhelmingly it isn’t local people who elect it. Here’s the more general planning ease story from News Anyway:

Government data has revealed that the London borough saw 100% of major development applications granted in 2016/2017.

The City of London has seen a huge population surge in recent years, growing 29.6% in the decade 2006 to 2016 and newly highlighted data reveals development here is just as popular.

In its recent campaign to educate investors on the planning permission process in England and Wales, commercial finance brokers Pure Commercial Finance unearthed data which reveals you’re more likely to get planning permission accepted in the City of London than almost anywhere else in England.

In the year ending 31st March 2017 there were 18 places in England where 100% of major development applications were accepted: the City, among more Northern locations such as Copeland, Wigan, and Lincoln. The historic financial district also saw the highest percentage of minor development applications granted (98.53%) last year….

…Ben Lloyd, Co-Founder and Managing Director at Pure Commercial Finance, said:

“Commercial property finance is our bread and butter and we help arrange funding for development projects across the country on a daily basis, so we were intrigued to see where these were most likely to get permission and at what rate.

“We are pleased to see a number of planning bodies across the country are keen for the redevelopment and expansion of property on offer in their areas, and are delighted to provide our current and future clients with an insight into this data. 

The City of London is Revealed to Have One of the Highest Planning Permission Success Rates in England by Sam Allcock, News Anyway, November 7, 2017

Read the full story here: https://www.newsanyway.com/2017/11/07/city-london-revealed-one-highest-planning-permission-success-rates-england/

The story title in News Anyway isn’t all it could be, if the City was joint first for allowing major planning applications and first for minor applications, overall it has the highest planning permission success rate in England! We note that the local City Matters newspaper stated in its issue of 15-21 November 2017 that the ‘report highlighted the City’s willingness to rubberstamp bids of varying sizes…’ (Developers in love with City, page 3). The fact that the City of London is willing to ‘rubberstamp’ developments like Taylor Wimpey’s The Denizen on Golden Lane – which will steal sunlight from schools, local homes and a park – illustrates exactly what’s wrong with the undemocratic business vote system and why it should be abolished. Local people have no say in decisions that massively impact their lives because faceless financial interests control the City of London council under the business vote system. We want democracy and a proper say in what goes on around us!

Image above shows two of the banners on Bowater House forming part of the protest exhibition Spectres of Modernism against Taylor Wimpey’s Denizen development. Arnaud Desjardin’s French, which he asks people to read, translates as “city = thieves = liars = speculators”. Free Exorcism With Every Taylor Wimpey Ghost Home is by Stewart Home. Ghost homes are residential properties which the buyer neither lives in nor rents out, but on which huge profits can be made due to rising house prices.

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

Esther Planas: Urban Field Work

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To date in these blogs we haven’t really looked at any of the artists in our Spectres of Modernism protest. We deliberately didn’t provide biographies or links to their websites because we wanted our focus here to be on our campaign; we also figured anyone who was interested in one of more of the artists they weren’t already familiar with could look them up online. As our banners will be removed from Bowater House in less than a month, and they’ve achieved the impact we hoped for, it will not be too distracting if we engage with some of the urban interventions our artists have been involved in now.

Many of our ‘artists against overdevelopment’ have produced work that might be described as ‘psychogeography’ or ‘deep topology’. To provide just one example of this here, we’ll now focus on a film and photography series by Esther Planas entitled E2 8DY Walk About 2011-2015. This visually records the neighbourhood in which Planas lived at the time she made the work; it’s about 20 minutes walk east of Golden Lane. We’re just going to quote the English text she provides about this, the Spanish text is longer. We reproduce one photograph from the series above, there are many more on her website. The full project can be found at the link at the bottom of this, and obviously there’s much much more on the many other pages Esther Planas has put online.

The Film: Walking on the whereabouts near my place, with a sound artefact and a small camera, the desolated field and the special totem that holds a whole building with its concrete anima are all manifesting calling up for rebellion. Sound and field recording of a somehow unresolved situation.

The Photos: Doing walking urban research, a series of photos taken between 2011 and 2015, an ongoing journal of walks around the area where I live, the same buildings that I see from my window, the streets, the estates I cross and how they are becoming derelict, the casual gardens, the plants and flowers, the birds and squirrels.

“Affectivity—fear, ambivalence, terror, shame, disorientation, or dispossession—figures prominently in addressing the subject’s identification with, or resistance to, the indeterminacy of change. Affect registers and regulates the subject’s ambivalent and anxious responses as it faces what is new, partially known, or without guarantees; at the same time it provides the agent with an imminent sense of sensory and bodily attentiveness to the task of change. To the extent that affectivity is crucial in positioning subjects in relation to contingent and indeterminate circumstances, affect is an acute measure of the time change takes—in particular, the temporalities of transition or transience.” Homi K Bhabha

See the full project here: http://www.estherplanas.com/index.php?/projects/e2-8dy-walk-about-20112015/

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