A better future for the ¾ estate in Vange

A few posts back we wrote about our experience on the Creating A Positive Revolution In Southend course and how we used that to come up with some ideas for improving life on the ¾ estate in Vange: A different way of thinking about community activism. That plan is now available as a downloadable PDF from here.

We will have print outs of this plan available (for a small donation) at our stall at the Bristol Anarchist Bookfair on Saturday May 12th. We will also be doing a presentation about this at the Dorset Radical Bookfair on Saturday 4th August.

Bear in mind that the plan is an aspiration and the contents are a guide as to how that aspiration can be realised. As such, it’s not written in stone and can and most likely will change as we progress and learn from our experiences, successes and mistakes!

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A different way of thinking about community activism

We’ve just completed a six week course facilitated by Graham Burnett and Sherry Fuller – Creating A Positive Revolution In Southend (CAPRIS). It was an incredibly useful course that made us question a lot of our assumptions about community organising. As community activists, it’s all too easy to get stuck in a rut of operating in a certain way and constantly wondering why your efforts aren’t making the impact you want them to make. For some activists it can be hard to have to question set patterns of working – we’re fortunate in that we welcome the opportunity to have our assumptions questioned and to start thinking about different ways to deal with the issues we encounter on the estates.

As part of our final presentation which was based around enhancing the work we’re already undertaking with the Vange Hill Community Group and Basildon & Southend Housing Action on an estate in Vange, we came up with the outcome tree shown above. It works in a very simple way. In red in the middle is the ultimate outcome we want to achieve. Above in blue are aspects of the vision we have for the estate. Below in green are the actions that need to be undertaken in order to realise that vision.

The outcome tree was just one tool we discussed on the course. There were others that were useful in making us think about how we work towards our desired outcome. One of these was a timeline that in our case stretched out to eight years. It starts off with one small undertaking which in our case will be encouraging residents to work on converting a patch of land recently cleared of flytipping and turn it into a pocket garden. As residents achieve more, learn more, become more confident and empowered, the vision for the development of the estate becomes more ambitious until the aim shown in the outcome tree above is realised.

This may seem like pie in the sky thinking but if you really want to change the world, you have to have a vision. Obviously, we’re well aware of the obstacles that lie in our way and we had a frank and useful discussion about those at the last session of CAPRIS. The point is that we want to move from a situation where we’re just fire fighting the whole time and dealing with the same issues over and over again to one where we’re moving forwards and making genuine progress. CAPRIS has hopefully given us the ideas and inspiration to achieve that.

The Estuary Alternative is back from the printer

The second print edition of The Estuary Alternative paper has just come back from our friends at Oxford GreenPrint. We produced the paper specifically for distribution at these two events where we will be having a presence…

Mendip Wildlife Gardens Wonderful Family Gathering
Saturday 24th March from 10:00–19:00
Mendip Wildlife Garden, 42 Dunster Avenue, SS0 0HN – https://www.facebook.com/events/391405211330131/

Southend Community Wellbeing & Vegan Festival
Sunday 25th March from 10:00-17:00
49 Alexandra Street, Southend-on-Sea – https://www.facebook.com/events/150970792218276

A small number of papers will be available from the Freedom bookshop in Aldgate, London from Saturday 17th March onwards. As Freedom very kindly published much of the content of the paper: Seeds Beneath the Snow: Thoughts on local organisinghttps://freedomnews.org.uk/seeds-beneath-the-snow-thoughts-on-local-organising/ it would be rude to not let them have some papers for distribution! If there are any papers left after the weekend of the 24th/25th March, they’ll be available on the shelf at The Railway in Clifftown Road, Southend-on-Sea and possibly, from a few other venues if there are a sufficient number left.

If you can’t make it into Southend-on-Sea but would like to see the paper, it’s available online as a downloadable PDF: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ujlgie04y5u7jo3/The_Estuary_Alternative_No2.pdf?dl=0

Building a new world in the shell of the old

Normally we’d be promoting a course like this on our side project, The Estuary Alternativehttps://theestuaryalternative.wordpress.com/ However, there are a number of very good reasons why we’re promoting it on here as well…

Firstly, as the title of this piece suggests, amongst other attributes, this course has an element of building a new world in the shell of the old. It’s all very well knowing what we’re against – we also need to be able to articulate what kind of world we’re aiming for…

Secondly, Graham Burnett is a good friend of The Stirrer and the least we can do in return is to promote this course:)

Thirdly, try as we might, The Estuary Alternative isn’t getting as many hits as we would like so we’re promoting the course on here in order for it to reach a wider audience.

Details on how to book a place on this course can be found here: https://spiralseed.co.uk/prod…/creating-positive-revolution/

Bookfair diary

We’ve just started a Bookfair diary – https://onuncertainground.wordpress.com/bookfairdiary/ – on the On Uncertain Ground blog. The aim of this diary is to promote the growing number of regional anarchist / radical bookfairs that are taking place across the British Isles. With the London Anarchist Bookfair collective saying they won’t be organising one in 2018, the focus will be shifting to what’s going on in the regions. No two bookfairs are the same and we’re pretty sure that once the diary starts to fill up, there will be an interesting variety of events to attend, support, help to build and participate in. We recognise that the London Anarchist Bookfair had grown to an international event and it will be missed. However, there’s plenty of life outside of London and we want to do our level best to help promote that…

If you’re involved in organising an anarchist / radical bookfair anywhere across the British Isles in 2018, get in touch with us here – seradicalmedia@protonmail.com – with the relevant details and we’ll put them up on diary page with a booster post on the On Uncertain Ground blog as well.

Get digging!

Type ‘Brexit and food security’ into a search engine and you’ll come up with a slew of articles warning about significantly higher food prices, crops not being harvested because there isn’t the labour to undertake the task and last but by no means least, the distinct possibility of food production standards being lowered. This piece is just one example of what we found: Brexit about to trigger sky-high costs for British food industryhttp://www.politics.co.uk/comment-analysis/2017/05/02/brexit-about-to-trigger-sky-high-costs-for-british-food

Now we don’t want to come across as ‘Remoaners’ complaining about the impact of Brexit – as anarchists, we’re on record as having a pox on all your houses attitude towards the issue: A few thoughts on Brexit…https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/03/29/a-few-thoughts-on-brexit/ However, if those eager to pull the UK out of the EU had undertaken some planning for life outside rather than relying on blind faith that things will work out okay in the end, we may not be facing a future of soaring food prices and disruptions to supply…

A tanking sterling has already started to force food prices to go up. If the UK ends up crashing out of the EU without any deal, tariffs on imported food from the EU will send prices soaring. Then there’s the question of the labour needed to get the food from the field to our plates. The stark fact is that much of this is undertaken by migrant labour from the EU. Already, there has been a decline in migration from the EU as potential migrants are being put off by what they feel will be a hostile welcome. If inward migration is cut to the levels the likes of UKIP and hard right Tories have been screaming for, we could face a situation where crops will be left to rot in the fields because there will be no-one to pick them. The jury is still out on this one but in a post Brexit UK where food prices are going through the roof, there may be a temptation to ease up on some hygiene and safety regulations relating to home produced and imported foodstuffs in a bid to keep prices down and stave off domestic discontent.

As the title of this piece suggests, there’s a solution…get digging! We’re not suggesting a patriotic ‘dig for victory’ drive – we’re anarchists and we don’t do patriotism or nationalism. What we are suggesting is making a start on building community resilience to deal with the shite that’s likely to come if we continue to rely on clueless politicians to negotiate the complexities of a Brexit no one seems to have any plans for or idea of how it’s going to pan out. One aspect of community resilience is localising as much food production as possible down to neighbourhood level.

We’re talking about things like turning your back garden over to growing your own. If you can get hold of an allotment, do so: Allotments going begging – get one while you can!https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/02/23/allotments-going-begging-get-one-while-you-can/ If you feel a plot may be too big to handle on your own, team up with friends and neighbours to work it and share the produce equitably. If you can, find a plot to start a community garden. It’s not always necessary to ask permission – we’ve seen guerilla gardened plots that have been going for a good few years without any unwanted attention from the authorities!

Obviously, it’s better if food growing can be done as a neighbourhood project. Working together growing food and sharing the produce helps to build friendships and goes a long way to generating the community solidarity that will be vital in the troubled times ahead. Localising food production in this way with the solidarity it generates, not only gives you more control over where your food comes from, it’s empowering people to start taking more responsibility for, and control over, the neighbourhoods they live in. Also, growing food in this way is healthier, not just because of the fresh air and exercise involved but also because you have complete control over the inputs. Once a community feels empowered enough to start taking control of their food supply, that could lead to some interesting developments in the fight for a more just, equitable, sane and sustainable world…

Unsure how to make a start? Below is a list of resources which have loads of useful information on community gardening that can be done in a healthy and sustainable way – get reading!

Resources

Billericay Community Garden – https://www.facebook.com/billericaycommunitygarden/
Empty Cages Design – http://www.emptycagesdesign.org/
South East Essex Organic Gardeners – http://seeog.org.uk/
Southend In Transition Community Allotment – https://www.facebook.com/SiTcommunityAllotment/
Spiralseed – http://spiralseed.co.uk/

Disability Law Service – new website launched

The Disability Law Service (DLS) has launched a new website here: http://dls.org.uk We’re posting this up in solidarity with anyone who’s disabled and their carers, family and friends. Given the numerous shocking examples of the treatment of disabled claimants by the Department of Work & Pensions, this is the least we can do. The DLS rely on donations to be able to provide access to justice for those with disabilities and their carers, so if you can afford it, please donate…