Closed House Weekend – 8 & 9 August 2015

tumblr_npyfe0aCMH1uytcnao1_1280 (1)

Closed House Weekend calls for support against London property developers  

The first Closed House Weekend is to take place as part of Stop the Blocks, a new campaign aimed at uniting support against the sale of London’s East End.

Running Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 August 2015 in Tower Hamlets, the weekend will offer a guided tour of ‘development’ hotspots and a forum to discuss ways to challenge ongoing urban re-development.

The first day’s guided tour will include the Bishopsgate Goodsyard, the Joiners Arms queer pub on Hackney Road, the No.w.here artspace on Bethnal Green Road and the former Queen Elizabeth Children’s Hospital on Hackney Road. Events at each location will range from street parties and stalls to art installations and protests.

Sunday will feature a public assembly near the site of the London Chest Hospital in Victoria Park.

The weekend aims to highlight the impact of rapid gentrification in east London – the social cleansing of housing estates, the destruction of historic sites and closure of public services and social spaces – and to promote the campaign groups fighting the replacement of public space with private profit.

Amanda Bentham, a member of the East London Teachers’ Association, said: ‘Closed House weekend will give the public a chance to see the full scale of changes being threatened in Tower Hamlets, to get involved in small scale actions and to give a sense of fighting back. Because we don’t just want people to turn up and look at how bad things are – we want them to get excited about fighting to make them better.’

The weekend is the first action by Stop The Blocks, a collective of campaign groups in Tower Hamlets. Members include Tower Hamlets Renters, and campaign groups working to protect sites such as the Bishopsgate Goodsyard, the Holland Estate and the London Fruit & Wool exchange.

John Foster, Protect the London Chest Hospital campaigner, said: ‘Stop The Blocks is a way to link up single-issue grassroots campaigners under a broader banner, so that we can share ideas for resistance, raise wider awareness and support for our groups, and develop ideas of how Tower Hamlets – and London – can grow without harming the communities we are part of.’

The guided tour will meet at 11am on Saturday 8 August outside Whitechapel underground station. More details can be found on Twitter (@stoptheblocks), by searching ‘Closed House weekend’ on Facebook, or at https://stoptheblockslondon.wordpress.com/

Advertisements

Property Awards, Mayfair, April 2015

When we heard an action was being organised to protest outside the Property Awards (a swanky industry bash to celebrate and award “individuals and companies who have significantly impacted the property market”), we knew we had to get involved.

The awards were held at the Marriott Hotel in Mayfair, which has three entrances of varying degrees of glitziness. So we set up shop in front of the two main entrances, and proceeded to greet the rather embarrassed looking chieftains of property development. There were megaphones, chants, a counter awards ceremony handing out trophies to activists (sadly these were only made of cardboard and didn’t come with a raft of free wine), and an increasingly amusing cat-and-mouse game as the Marriott security re-directed punters to the back entrance, then back to the front, and over and over.

10922408_944435748920330_1417059637803232136_o 11149605_944434802253758_2471958353873453293_o  11154639_944437585586813_1442233244153014634_o 10982934_944436212253617_6814024298507728598_o

One agitated attendee came out to angrily inform us that his firm had “created over 500 jobs and built on brownfield sites”, a spirited defence which saw him roundly booed. It raised the interesting point that not all property developers are evil crooks; but the spectacle of hundreds of people patting each other on the back for a job well done in the midst of what is widely accepted to be the worst housing crisis since World War 2 was a little too rich to ignore.

Huge thanks to Sam Awad for taking the photos, and to all the other campaigners who made it such a success – Sweets Way, Focus E15, Digs, Occupy and everyone else. And to Property Week for setting up the awards – we’re looking forward to our invite in 2016.

Update – July 2015

We recently had a meeting at the Chesham Arms (in Homerton) – a pub which won a lengthy battle to be taken into ownership by a community group. It’s now got an exciting collection of beers, a beautiful garden, and more community spirit than you can shake a stick at. As well as being an inspiration for what the Joiners could look like, it also provides some important lessons on how to get there – as the manager pointed out, it took one thousand days of fighting to get the pub re-opened. So as we enter our eighth month of campaigning, it’s heartening to know these things don’t happen overnight.

As you’ve probably noticed, the Joiners remains closed, although there seem to be people inhabiting at least part of the building. No formal plans have been submitted or approved for the future of the building. But we have plenty to occupy ourselves… Here’s a selection:

– The Closed House weekend (8/9 August) will feature a walking tour of various sites across Tower Hamlets (including the Joiners), and a public assembly on the Sunday. We’re involved in this, along with other campaigns such as Tower Hamlets Renters, the More Light, More Power campaign, Save Norton Folgate, and the artists behind no.w.here on Bethnal Green Road. More information can be found here: https://stoptheblockslondon.wordpress.com/press-release/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/813693865372090/

– We are working with David Shenton, the incredible and inspirational artist behind the infamous Joiners mural to try to document and preserve the legacy of his work, which formed such an important part of the visual impact of the Joiners. Attempts to contact the creator of the wavy clock behind the bar have so far come to nothing…

– We are planning a joint fundraiser with Shafted (the unashamedly deviant HIV cabaret and activism movement) in October, and hope to be able to share details with you soon

– David Pollard, the legendary landlord of the Joiners, has set up a new bar in Sitges (south west of Barcelona) and has this update: “Joiners Arms Sitges has now been open for a month, from 28th June. It is still a little slow but each week is better than the last. We are now more confident of survival, and feel less ‘breast high mid the alien corn’. There doesn’t seem to be much of the more substantial – or militant gay scene here, but we provide condoms + lube. Sadly there isn’t anything like the discussion provided by Pat Cash, Dean St. and Act Up. And of course Dan Glass. We are working on a Facebook here, about to be launched. Joiners Arms Sitges is at C43 Palisades, open late…

Please get in touch if you want to help out with the campaign, or want more information, or just want to hear more of our beautiful voices.

Love, Life and Liberty!

Peter

Public meeting, March 2015

FRIENDS OF THE JOINERS PUBLIC MEETING

When: Wednesday 31st March 2015
Where: Common House Clinic (see map)

Find out more

London is experiencing rapid and ruthless gentrification that is making people homeless, is ripping the heart out of our diverse city and is threatening safe spaces for vulnerable, disadvantaged groups. Whilst we understand that preventing the demolition of social housing is absolutely crucial, we see the destruction of important cultural and community spaces as part of the same, ugly beast – mass gentrification.

Our campaign and this event aims to bring together other groups and campaigns that are resisting the mass gentrification of London, to share experiences, tactics of resistance and how we can better support each other.

Speakers include Defend Council Housing (DCH), Squatters Action for Secure Homes (SQUASH), and Focus E15 Mothers.

Housing and anti-gentrification camaigns disrupt property awards

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – TUESDAY APRIL 21ST 2015

LONDON’S HOUSING AND ANTI-GENTRIFICATION CAMPAIGNS CONVERGE TO DISRUPT PROPERTY AWARDS.

 

This Tuesday 21st April 2015 multiple communities from across London committed to challenging the Property Awards (1) come together to fight back against the mass gentrification of London. Activists and community members will descend outside the Grosvenor House, A JW Marriott Hotel to conduct an alternative awards ceremony to recognise the destruction companies attended have caused to some of London’s most deprived and oppressed communities in London. It will also be an opportunity to flip the script, and congratulate all the housing and anti-gentrification campaigns for their hard work in ensuring London remains open and accessible to people from all backgrounds, not just a rich elite. Campaigners in attendance believe that the property developers and large financial institutions should not be congratulating each other for the profits they have made on the back of mass gentrification in London – see (2) Background on some of the shortlisted companies.

 

The demonstration will gather outside the Grosvenor Hotel on Park Lane at 17:30 on Tuesday, 21st April, to send a single, clear message: ‘We reject the legitimacy of property companies, developers and financial institutions and their dominance, as well as their right to earn profits from the gentrification of London. We demand adequate, truly affordable housing for all, the protection of important cultural and social spaces and the democratisation of urban planning.’

 

The Property Awards website states – “The Awards will celebrate and reward excellence in 19 categories to the individuals and companies who have significantly impacted the property market in the past. The Property Awards are the UK’s leading and most prestigious annual Awards dedicated to the property industry.”

 

Dan Laverick from the Friends of the Joiners campaign said:

 

“Tenant evictions are at record levels in England and Wales with London being the worst hit; Britain is witnessing some of the worst shortages of affordable housing in history and rough sleeping in London has more than doubled over six years – what more evidence do we need that the Property Awards is morally bankrupt and complicit in a system that serves a minority elite at the expense of the majority?”

 

Katya Nasim from the Sweets Way campaign said:

 

“These companies do not care for the human and social costs of their projects. They care only for the profits they accrue, and London’s attraction to the global financial elite is leading them to convert living spaces, social amenities and community assets into soulless investment opportunities, which serve none but a tiny, privileged minority.”

 

Charlotte Gerada from the Friends of the Joiners campaign said:

 

“Property developers and companies are contributing to destruction of our diverse capital city as we know it, from rising rents and a shortage of social housing, to the closure of libraries and social centres, the demolition of pubs and clubs.

 

“They are complicit in a process of social cleansing, by which London is becoming off-limits to the families and communities that have lived here for generations, and built its reputation as the UK’s diverse and vibrant capital.”

 

Jon Glacklin from Streets Kitchen and organiser of The March For Homeless said:

 

“I am absolutely outraged! It is obscene that the property developers are having a private party and a back slapping Awards Ceremony celebrating their links with local London councils resulting in the social cleansing and evictions of local people, whilst there are ten empty homes for every homeless family.”

 

Clive Murphy-Simpson registered General and Mental Health Nurse and outraged resident of Covent Garden said:

 

“ I am witnessing shocking despoliation by people who have no interest in London – only in making money. Most of these luxury flats won’t even be occupied. Central London is becoming a wasteland, full of crowds and gawping tourists with little else.“

 

Protestors have made the following demands:

  1. The mass construction of social-housing;
  2. Rent controls to making housing affordable for all;
  3. Law making empty properties expensive or impossible so that no-one remains homeless while livable homes sit empty;
  4. The democratisation of urban planning to place people and communities at the centre of decision-making processes

 

Contacts

 

Email Contact: homos4homes@gmail.com

 

Phone numbers – Dan L – 07815925877 / Jon Ward 07973545098 / Dan Glass 07717811747 / Katya 07790108631

 

Notes to Editors

 

(1) Grosvenor House, A JW Marriott Hotel, 86 Park Lane, W1K7TN London, United Kingdom –http://www.awards.propertyweek.co.uk/

 

(2) Background on some of the shortlisted companies

Delancey is part of the huge Elephant and Castle redevelopment project, where thousands were evicted from their homes, some to the outskirts of London and beyond, and where social housing is being replaced by private flats. The Coronet, a gig and club venue that has been at the heart of E&C nightlife for decades, is also under threat and Delancey have refused to rule out demolition. The company recently purchased the shopping centre for a £80m but stand to turn a massive profit when they pull it down and replace it with retail units and flats.

 

Cathedral Group is building a project is Deptford town centre. Although they try to project an image of a locally sensitive, alternative developer, they are marketing flats in the development to overseas speculators. See report here:http://www.newsshopper.co.uk/news/11627222.VIDEO___Sickening__Deptford_investment_video_sparks_backlash/?ref=mr

 

Land Securities are one of the biggest developers in the country. They focus on commercial properties, but are also building several luxury developments in London. Their construction workers however are not paid the London Living Wage. The company also tried to claim tax relief for ‘losses’ made when they sold a company and then bought it back:http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/03/27/uk-landsecs-tax-idUKBRE92Q0OA20130327. They own the ‘Walkie Talkie’, at the top of which is the ‘public’ space that you have to register to visit. They described it as a ‘loss leader’, so we’ll see how long before they ditch their commitment to provide this public space:http://www.standard.co.uk/business/markets/a-sky-garden-for-the-eye-and-mighty-9125482.html.

 

Brookfield is a Canadian company that recently purchased Canary Wharf with the Qatari government. They are behind the 50-story Principal Tower in Shoreditch that is already marketed to investors in China and the Middle East. Flats start at £900,000.

 

Mill Group Residential is a Real Estate Investment Trust. They make money out of the housing crisis by renting to people who can’t afford to own their own place. Their Chief Executive described the housing crisis as an opportunity for safe and tax-efficient returns on investment:http://www.ftadviser.com/2014/11/17/investments/investment-trusts/mill-group-launches-first-mainstream-residential-reit-UC2XrH5qZrniqNQt6LpPqI/article.html

 

Hammerson are behind Bishopsgate Goods Yard, a controversial scheme of seven towers that was submitted with only 10% of the flats designated ‘affordable’ (which is defined as 80% of market rate, not affordable by any means).

 

Axa Real Estate invests heavily in care homes. They like the aging population and the government subsidies. Southern Cross is a good example of how the private sector see property profit opportunities when the residents require care and medical attention. They benefit from controversial Sale and Leaseback deals to the UK Hospital ‘Market’. These Deals have been key to the sell-off of UK Hospitals via the Private Finance Initative (PFI). Under these arrangements UK taxpayers have been forced into paying for the construction and maintenance of Hospitals that they no longer own.