The state of the estates


Broken pavements with weeds sprouting up everywhere and the possibility of new life forms evolving in the stagnant puddle of water by the drains


It’s not clear whether this is a result of Basildon Council’s Kafkaesque rubbish collection policy or one of the residents behaving like a scumbag but leaving trash bags in an area where kids play is bang out of order

The other evening, along with a comrade from Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA), we distributed our housing flyers across the estate on the south side of Wickford Avenue in Pitsea. As you can see from the above images, the place has seen better days. While it’s not as bad as the ¾ estate in Vange (yet), it’s clear that it has seen better days.

Across the estate, it was a story of broken kerbs, cracked and uneven paved areas complete with a range of weeds sprouting from the cracks and a lot of unkempt gardens. The neglect of the public areas on estates seems to be pretty much endemic across Laindon, Basildon and Pitsea. The only times we’ve seen public areas kept clean has been down to direct intervention by pissed off residents taking matters into their own hands and doing the job themselves.

As for the neglected gardens, more often than not the cause is down to the growing number of buy to lets on the estates, too many of which appear to be owned by scumbag landlords who’ll cram as many tenants into a property as possible to maximise their revenue. A lot of these are on short term leases so with the churn of tenants, community cohesion is going to start taking a hit.

In addition there are the properties owned by London based housing associations where they dump tenants who have been booted out of the capital as a result of social cleansing in the name of so called ‘regeneration’. This is something we’ve already written about here: Newham Council…it’s just got personal…https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/07/24/newham-council-its-just-got-personal/

Longstanding residents understandably get concerned when they see the estate they’ve lived on for a few decades start to rapidly decline. It’s these concerns that get picked up by the knuckledraggers on the right and far right to be exploited for their own divisive, hateful purposes. Which is why we’ve produced the housing flyer shown above to a) make sure people’s anger gets directed at the right targets and b) to offer BASHA’s assistance to any residents willing to group together and start to turn their estates around.

Thankfully, we’re not alone in this task… The recently formed Vange Hill Community Grouphttps://www.facebook.com/groups/180311358699122/ are doing some sterling work in starting to turn the ¾ estate around and we’ll do what we can to facilitate that. Then there’s Focus E15 who are putting Newham Council – one of the worst offenders in turfing their tenants out of London – under intense pressure. We’re always happy to stand in solidarity with Focus E15 as their fight is our fight…

Marching from tower to tower

Photo by Peter Marshall

On Saturday 12th August, as part of our ongoing strategy of linking up with grassroots housing activists, I attended the March of the towers: Resistance in the East End! protest organised by Focus E15https://www.facebook.com/focuse15/ – and supported by a healthy range of groups and individuals. The march started at Ferrier Point in Canning Town, went on from there to Tanner Point in Plaistow and finished up at the Carpenters Estate in Stratford. Both Ferrier Point and Tanner Point have cladding similar to that used at Grenfell Tower – understandably, residents of both blocks are fearful about what could happen and frustrated at being messed around by Newham Council. The Carpenters Estate is being depopulated by the same council in a cynical bid to offload it and trouser a huge wedge from a developer.

It wasn’t the biggest march (in terms of numbers) I’ve been on this year but certainly the most passionate and for it’s size, pretty damn loud as well. It was visually impressive with the banners and the smoke flares, particularly as we were coming into Stratford. Loads of flyers were handed out to the people we passed by to let them know what was going on and why we were marching. This should be standard practice on marches but sadly it ain’t – credit to Focus E15 for doing this and spreading the message.

It was great to be not marching alongside the usual suspects but with feisty working class people for a change. It was also good to see Movement For Justice – https://www.facebook.com/movementforjustice/ – and East End Sisters Uncut – https://www.facebook.com/eastendsistersuncut/ – amongst others coming along to support the march. This shows that a diverse range of groups can effectively work together as and when the need arises. This fits in with our support for making alliances as and when the need arises without getting hung up about ideological purity.

Also, there were no cops intervening at any point…brilliant! ‘Whose Streets? Our Streets!’ actually had some serious meaning yesterday…

All in all, it was a good day where alliances were formed and strengthened and morale raised. We’re more than happy to continue to continue to offer our solidarity to Focus E15 and the other groups who stand alongside them…

Dave (the editor)

An explanation…

We’d like to apologise for the dearth of posts on this blog since the start of the month. This is down to us being busy, writing, laying out, reviewing and then scrapping and starting all over again the process of producing the next Stirrer paper. It’s not been an easy process in any way, shape or form!

Part of that is down to the fact that there’s so much we could write about, we honestly don’t know where to start! Another factor is that with the next edition of the Stirrer paper which is due to hit the streets in early September, we were writing it with the London Anarchist Bookfair (Saturday 28th October) in mind where we have a stall. That meant writing a paper for two different target audiences.

One of those audiences has had enough of the way things are going and wants some inspiration on how they can start to change things on their estate, in their neighbourhood or in their workplace. The other audience are the people who attend the London Anarchist Bookfair, some of who understand where we’re coming from and support what we’re trying to do at the grassroots and some who to be perfectly honest, we’re starting to have some real problems with…

As you can imagine, producing a paper to satisfy both of those audiences is nigh on impossible! So, we’re going to re-write the Stirrer paper so it’s pitched at our local audience but we will be getting extra copies printed for the bookfair so attendees can get an idea of what we think a grassroots paper should look like – this will be our usual four page format As well as that, we’re going to produce a two page newsletter aimed specifically at the bookfair audience explaining where we’re coming from politically and outlining some of our frustrations with the anarchist movement.

The two pager aimed at the London Anarchist Bookfair audience will be us living up to our name of the ‘Stirrer’. It may not win us a lot of friends and may even make us a few enemies but hey ho, sometimes you have to stick your head above the parapet, tell a few home truths and take the risk. Unlike the normal edition of the Stirrer, this paper will not being going up online as a PDF until after 28th October so if you want to see what we have to say, feel free to visit our stall at the bookfair.

EVERYTHING TO GAIN (and everything to lose)

We’re entering a period of instability – all that’s solid seems to be melting into air. With an indecisive election and Brexit negotiations descending to the level of farce, our so called rulers look weaker and more divided than ever before. The faction ridden ruling elite of this country have embarked on the first stages of Brexit negotiations with no clear idea of what they want or how they’re going to get it. A fractured so called party of government seems to be more fixated on who’s going to replace the hapless Theresa May as prime minister and leader rather than getting it’s head around understanding exactly what Brexit entails.

A breakdown of trust

At local council level, councillors and council officers all too often are found to be self serving and incompetent. The Grenfell Tower disaster showed up the so called ruling elite at the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea as arrogant, out of touch and uncaring – it was ordinary people on the ground who took over the initial relief and recovery effort while the authorities floundered around.

Across the south of Essex, we struggle to find anyone who has a good word to say about their local authorities. Southend Council are obsessed with pointless vanity projects such as the museum on the cliff top instead of addressing the homelessness crisis in the town. Basildon Council can’t even organise a weekly rubbish collection on estates such as the ¾ in Vange without leaving bags of uncollected rubbish strewn all over the place. Thurrock Council are in full control freak mode attempting to dictate which media outlets can and can’t report on their proceedings and refusing members of campaign groups the right to ask questions at council meetings. People are losing what little faith they had in local councils to do the job of serving the public…

Whether, it’s at national or local level, trust in governance is declining, yet nothing appears to be happening to bring about real change. Much of the left has been subsumed into the bizarre cult of Jeremy Corbyn, buying into the deluded notion that should he manage to form a government, everything will be all right. The Corbynistas need to take a look at the dismal record of London Labour councils when it comes to socially cleansing the working class from London in the name of ‘regeneration’ – maybe that would give them the reality check they need. Everyone else appears to be just hunkering down and getting on with things as best they can…

There has to be a challenge

While the powers that be are divided and appear to be blundering from one crisis to another without a clue as to where they’re going or what they’re doing, they’ll continue to get away with it until there’s a serious challenge from below. At the moment there appears to be no sense of an opposition that can pose a real threat to the status quo, let alone a desire to move beyond the dysfunctional world we have to endure and build a more just, equitable and sustainable one. While this state of affairs continues, the ruling class can stagger from one crisis to the next safe in the knowledge that in the form of the state, they have the monopoly on the force that’s needed to keep their grip on power, regardless of how tenuous that may seem to be.

While the majority of people are under the illusion that things will be all right and thinks that the third of society that’s suffering needs to get its act together, there will never be a serious challenge to the system. Should things go seriously wrong as a result of another financial crisis or the Brexit process leading to a black swan event, then a large proportion of the population will be screwed. If there’s no significant radical movement in place by that point, we’re in serious trouble.

With the ruling class as divided as it is now, we have the best opportunity there’s been for a long while to build a movement that will bring about fundamental change through collective struggle. That movement can only be built from the grassroots upwards – waiting for the messiah in the form of Jeremy Corbyn will not bring about the change that’s needed. As the title of this piece says, there’s everything to gain if we can get our act together and build that movement. If we can’t, then as the bracketed subtitle suggests, there’s everything to lose…

The fightback starts now

Just under a month ago, we undertook a distribution of a Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) flyer on the ¾ estate in Vange on the southern fringes of Basildon – this was our write up of what we found: Where the new town dream has died…https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/07/06/where-the-new-town-dream-has-died/ Since that low point, there have been a number of encouraging developments: Positive developments in Vangehttps://theestuaryalternative.wordpress.com/2017/07/16/positive-developments-in-vange/

On the evening of Wednesday 2nd August, along with our comrades from BASHA, we met up with representatives from the Vange Hill Community Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/180311358699122/ – and two of the ward councillors for a walk around the estate to get a fuller picture of what the issues were and start to work out an action strategy to deal with them.

One of the problems on the ¾ estate is tenure… A lot of houses were brought by their tenants when the right to buy came in. Many of these properties have since been brought up by buy to let landlords…some of who are total scumbags. Anecdotal evidence suggests that tenancies on a fair number of the buy to let homes are on short leases. Many of these are ‘houses of multiple occupation’ that are seriously overcrowded. It feels that the sense of community that used to be found on the estate disappeared long ago as the number of people moving in and out on short term leases increased. Instead of neighbourliness and solidarity, there’s fear, suspicion and a collapse of morale…

Then there’s the neglect by Basildon Council, Circle Housing and Swan Housing – all have some responsibility for various parts of the estate but none seem to want to talk or co-operate with each other! There are issues with rubbish collection which have been going on for years and show no sign of ever being resolved. There are broken kerbs and potholes everywhere. As for the walkways and steps, apart from the fact that they appear to be going back to nature as the grass and weeds take over, there are numerous uneven and broken paving slabs that mean you need to keep your eye on where you’re walking to avoid tripping over…

Despite the teeming rain, the walkabout was a positive experience. Vange Hill Community Group are passionate about turning round the fortunes of the estate and members have already started clean ups in the immediate vicinity of their homes. We spent a long time talking to them about how we can support and facilitate what they’re doing and getting the outline of an action plan in place.

One aim is to lead by example… This will be when a small group of neighbours get together to clear up rubbish, strim out unwanted weeds, clear unsafe steps of leaves and weeds and where appropriate, set up a community flower bed. As well as making a physical difference, the process of doing this will start to rebuild the community solidarity and pride that the ¾ estate desperately needs. If this can start to happen at a few points on the estate and can be sustained, then it will hopefully set an example that others will want to emulate it so that the ‘reclaimed’ bits of the estate physically link up with each other.

However, as you can see from the images taken on the walkabout, we and Vange Hill Community Group are under no illusions about the scale of the task…it’s a good job we like a challenge!


A ‘house of multiple occupation’ with a front garden turned into a rubbish tip


Electricity and flood water are not a good mix!


One of the neglected paths and open areas on the estate


One of many flights of steps that appear to be getting left to go back to nature, making them hazardous for pedestrian use


Looks like someone’s had a clear out…

Advance notice – March of the towers!

We’ll be going along to this to show our solidarity with housing struggles in East London: March of the towers! https://www.facebook.com/events/1951128301839783/

Date: Saturday August 12th

Join us for a march and speak out to demand safe homes, not social cleansing in East London.

The flats of Ferrier Point and Tanner Point are both tower blocks with the same cladding as Grenfell Tower. Carpenters Estate in Stratford is marked for demolition by Newham Labour council.

Let us meet to raise the issues of secure housing in our local community and demand that the council provides suitable housing for residents.

Meet 12 midday: Ferrier Point, Forty Acre Lane, Canning Town E16 and/or 1pm: Tanner Point, Pelly Road, Plaistow E13.

From there we will be marching to the Carpenters Estate, Stratford E15.

And from 2.30pm we will be having a ‘hands around the Carpenters Estate’ solidarity event and speak out with residents to organise resistance to decanting, demolition and social cleansing.

Take action to defend people’s right to homes and safety.

Join us at Midday, bring your banners and your voices and your hearts!

As we’ve written and said more times than we care to remember, what happens in London with social cleansing as a consequence of ‘regeneration’ in the service of making the capital a welcome home for the global super rich and their money has a direct impact on us out here along the estuary. This is why we show solidarity with housing activists in London fighting this tide of social cleansing from the capital – as far as we’re concerned, the housing struggle, regardless of where it takes place, is one struggle.

Advance notice – we’ve got a stall at the London Anarchist Bookfair

With our friends from Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA), we’ll be jointly running a stall at this year’s London Anarchist Bookfair which is taking place on Saturday 28th October running from 10am – 7pm. The venue is Park View School, West Green Road, London, N15 3QR. This is what the London Anarchist Bookfair collective have to say about the event:

Bookfairs provide a space where like-minded people can come together to re-affirm old friendships, make new ones, discuss all things anarchist and anti-capitalist and start planning the future revolution. They’re also one of the public faces of anarchism. Anyone unfamiliar with the ideas or wanting to know more about the politics can come along, look through books, sit in or get involved in meetings, workshops and discussions or just chat to the groups and organisations having stalls there.

It is also a space where we counter the rubbish talked about anarchism by sections of the media and our opponents. Bookfairs are one small element of making anarchism a threat to the present political system.

There’s more information about the bookfair here: http://anarchistbookfair.org.uk/

Why are we going? Firstly to talk to people about our community focused politics and actions, and the need to work from the grassroots upwards in our neighbourhoods if we’re serious about fundamental change. Secondly to boost the audience for all of the South Essex Radical Media blogs and publications, and hopefully get some donations to help with the cost of running and producing them:) Thirdly, to build alliances with any like-minded groups who share our approach and tactics in building a movement for change.

Work on the next Stirrer paper is underway

At long last work on the next Stirrer paper is underway. The aim is to have it written, laid out and off to the printer by the latter part of August ready for distribution from mid September onwards. We will be getting more copies than normal printed as we’ll be distributing the paper at the London Anarchist Bookfair which is taking place in north London on Saturday 28th October – http://anarchistbookfair.org.uk/ We’ve got the tricky balancing act of producing a paper that people out here on the estuary will want to read while also appealing to the very different audience who attend the bookfair. You’ll find out how we resolved that tricky little issue when the papers come back from the printer!

We we’re going to bring out the Stirrer paper fairly soon after the general election. However, with all the uncertainty that followed the election and continues to be a feature of political life, we held off producing one as we didn’t want to be saddled with loads of papers rendered redundant by fast changing events! This is why the next paper will have more of a generic feel to it that will reflect that uncertainty and draw attention to the opportunities that provides for those of us of a radical persuasion.

As ever, any help with distributing the paper will be more than welcome. If you want to take a bundle to hand out to friends, neighbours, family, colleagues and comrades, let us know and we’ll work out a way of getting them to you. If you run or know of a venue sympathetic to our politics who are willing to take a small bundle for their patrons, please feel free to get in touch with the details. Lastly, we want to undertake a few high street distributions during the latter part of September running into October. If you’d like to join us in one of these, let us know and we’ll take it from there.

In the meantime, we’ve produced another paper to complement our sister blog, The Estuary ALTERNATIVE – https://theestuaryalternative.wordpress.com/ Unlike the Stirrer which is ‘in yer face’, this paper and blog celebrates and promotes positive alternatives and the building of a new world in the crumbling shell of the dystopian one we currently endure. Distribution of the ALTERNATIVE is proceeding at a steady pace and if we get a positive response, we’ll be bringing out future issues. So the way it’s potentially shaping up is two issues of the Stirrer and two issues of the ALTERNATIVE a year.

Are Thurrock Council really interested in your views?

At this week’s meeting of Thurrock Council, the proposals for the Lower Thames Crossing were up for discussion for the first time since Highways England announced they would opt for Route C, running just west of Orsett, skirting round Chadwell St Mary to cross the river between Tilbury and East Tilbury. Feelings were running high at the meeting as campaigners against the crossing in the public gallery were prevented from asking questions and speaking: Thurrock Council meeting suspended after Lower Thames Crossing campaigners express their outragehttp://www.thurrockgazette.co.uk/news/15436135.VIDEO__Council_meeting_suspended_after_Thames_Crossing_campaigners_express_their_outrage_before_being_escorted_out/

The Tory leader of the council, Cllr. Rob Gledhill, presented a report setting out the authority’s next moves and creating a Lower Thames Crossing task force to lead their response. The council claim they want to listen to the views of residents on the crossing, however when George Abbott, the leader of the Thames Crossing Action Group requested to speak to the meeting, he was denied permission. The action group has over 9000 members on its Facebook page so it should have been considered influential enough to be allowed a voice at the meeting. The council didn’t see it that way and for reasons beyond us mere mortals, saw fit to deny George Abbott and other members of the action group a voice.

As you can see from the video clip in the Gazette piece, George Abbott was understandably not best pleased at being denied the right to speak to the meeting. Let’s just take a step back here and look at what Thurrock Council did… Despite claiming they want to listen to the views of residents about the crossing, they denied the leader of the action group the right to address the council. When George Abbott questioned that, the council meeting was suspended and security were called in to escort supporters of the action group out of the meeting.

To our eyes, this is the council wanting to control the narrative right down to the last full stop and comma and silence anyone asking difficult questions. This episode is not the first instance of Thurrock Council’s tendency to be control freaks. This is what we had to say a few weeks back about a proposal by the council to decide which news outlets could or couldn’t report on their proceedings: Thurrock Council in control freak modehttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/07/03/thurrock-council-in-control-freak-mode/

We can’t help coming to the conclusion that Thurrock Council’s objections to the river crossing are mere window dressing and that they’re coming under pressure from central government and the Tory MP for Thurrock, Jackie Doyle-Price, to not rock the boat. After the fiasco at these week’s council meeting our advice to the anti-crossing campaigners would be to not trust Thurrock Council as far as they could throw them…

Newham Council…it’s just got personal…

I took part in a protest organised by Focus E15 today (Monday 24th July) outside the Newham Council housing office at Bridge House, Stratford. The protest was called to offer solidarity to Chantelle who’s facing eviction and possible relocation out of Newham this week and also for Elina who has been re-located by Local Space Stratford to Pitsea miles away from her family and support network. We support protests like this because what happens in London as people are socially cleansed as part of the project of making the capital a welcome home for the global super rich has direct consequences for our communities out here along the estuary: Booted out of London…https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/06/19/booted-out-of-london/

Along with Basildon & Southend Housing Action, we’re doing what we can to support Elina, working closely with Focus E15 in the process. We know that as far as Newham Council and Local Space Stratford are concerned, once their residents have been re-located out of the borough, they have effectively washed their hands of any meaningful responsibility for their welfare. Not only that, communication between the likes of Newham Council and the local authorities receiving their former residents are pretty much non-existent. When people being booted out of London are dumped on estates in Basildon that already have more than their fair share of problems, it exacerbates existing tensions…

This is why we’ve produced the above flyer to explain to locals in Basildon what the situation is, to not blame the people being relocated out here but instead, aim their anger at the authorities in London complicit in social cleansing. We know there are divide and rule merchants out here who will exploit this situation to promote their own reactionary agenda – we’ve no intention of letting these bigots get away with it. The actions of the likes of Newham Council in dumping people out here make our lives as activists more difficult as we have to deal with the consequences. Outside Bridge House today when I took the mic for a few minutes, I let Newham Council know in no uncertain terms that as a result of their actions, they will have to deal with us and Basildon & Southend Housing Action as well as Focus E15 and their allies. To put it bluntly, it’s now got personal…

Bridge House, where the protest was held, is just round the corner from the Carpenters Estate with its iconic tower blocks surrounded by low rise housing. In its heyday, the estate had a reputation for being a thriving community where people got along regardless of who they were or where they came from. The tower blocks are now empty and Newham Council are now putting pressure on the remaining residents in the low rise housing to leave. This is so the council can flog off the estate to developers and trouser the cash. In their greed and hubris, they’ve killed off a community. Newham Council along with all the other London councils engaging in social cleansing need to be told that breaking up communities and decanting residents right out of the capital has consequences and they will be made to pay for them…

Dave (the editor)