We got our hands dirty…

Vange Hill Community Group (VHCG) facilitated by Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) and supported by a number of residents got their teeth into the community clean up on the ¾ estate today (Saturday 17.2). The main areas of focus were Oldwyk and the top end of Dewsgreen at the top end of the estate and Gambleside and Sturrocks at the bottom end.

These are areas where VHCG and BASHA have an active presence and are working to establish what are effectively ‘zones of control’ where we can move forwards from fire fighting with rubbish clearance onto enhancements such as pocket community gardens. The idea of establishing these zones is to set an example of what can be achieved by residents working together which will hopefully inspire other people across the estate to do the same. This is already working as we were able to expand operations down into Sturrocks with residents coming out to clean up their close. The long term aim is to start linking these zones up and to start really transforming the estate.


The pocket community garden on Oldwyk


Gambleside looking a lot better as a result of active resident involvement

More work was undertaken on the small community garden that’s been created at the top of Oldwyk and there was bulb planting, strimming and tidying undertaken on Gambleside and Sturrocks. As you can see from the images below, a lot of rubbish was collected. A heck of a lot of rubbish considering the small area we were operating in…

There was an agreement with Basildon Council to pick up the rubbish we had collected. The Oldwyk pile was eventually collected. At the time of writing, the pile at the end of Gambleside hadn’t been collected. To say this is disappointing is an understatement as it makes a mockery of all the hard graft that was put in today. VHCG are already chasing up Basildon Council to ensure that the pile at Gambleside is collected as early as possible on Monday.


The rubbish collected from Oldwyk and Dewsgreen


The rubbish collected from Gambleside and Sturrocks

All in all, it was a reasonably successful day. However, it was just one day in a long campaign to start to turn round the fortunes of an estate that has more than its fair share of problems. A campaign that will only succeed when residents really start to turn out in numbers on clean up days and in between, do what they can to keep the estate maintained. That means a combination of doing it themselves and working with VHCG to put pressure on Basildon Council to do their job. We will be back to support the work of VHCG and BASHA as and when required in the months to come.

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A little reminder from Chay and Dean about the 24th and 25th March

We don’t normally use The Stirrer to promote events like this (we set up The Estuary Alternative to do that). However, as a) this blog gets considerably more traffic and b) these two events on the weekend of 24th/25th March could see a major step forward in promoting positive alternatives in southern Essex, we’re using all the means at our disposal to promote these events. Please feel free to share widely:)

The 24th and 25th of March will see two events on two consecutive days that will offer people / communities some real alternatives to how we live now. Both of these events are exactly the kind of action we want to promote at The Estuary Alternative. There are still slots for stallholders but you need to act sooner rather than later because they’re going fast. If you’re involved in any kind of progressive, alternative, community focused grassroots project in and around Southend, this is where you need to be on the weekend of 24th / 25th March.

STALL HOLDERS PLEASE CONTACT EITHER:
DEAN WARD: 07964984667 | deanward1981@hotmail.co.uk
CHAY GODFREE: 07960650341 | Chay.godfree@cultiv8uk.org

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We’re bringing out another paper!

While The Stirrer does what it says on the tin – stirs and causes trouble – our sister project, The Estuary Alternative, is about promoting positive alternatives. In other words, starting to build a new world in the decaying shell of the increasingly dystopian one we currently have to endure. We’re bringing out another print edition of The Estuary Alternative in a bid to give this project a boost. So, if you’re involved in a progressive, community based grassroots project anywhere in the south of Essex, we’d love it if you could write a piece about what you’re doing and send it to us:)

As it’s almost certain we’ll be on a stall at this event (see poster below), we’re going to be bringing out another print edition of The Estuary Alternative in a bid to promote this project and get more people contributing to it.

We pretty much wrote all of the copy for the first print edition of The Estuary Alternative in a bid to kick start the project. With the forthcoming print edition, we feel that in order to reflect what’s going on with community focused grassroots projects in the south of Essex, the people involved in them should be writing about what they’re doing and sending the copy to us. All we want to write is a brief editorial and that’s it.

We want to get this four page, A4 paper, printed and delivered back to us by the middle of March. This means the layout has to be…

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What’s the difference?

On the left is a spread from the Basildon Council free rag, the Borough Diary, showing what their Pride team has managed to achieve during last year. On the right are a couple of images shot on the community clean up facilitated by Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) on the ¾ estate in Vange back in December.

We’re not knocking the Pride team because when they go on to the estates to tidy things up, they do a pretty good job. However, the team only has limited resources and we’ve heard anecdotal evidence from people in the know that they’re stretched to the limit and can only do so much. That means that however hard the Pride team work, there any many areas in Basildon that will remain untouched by their hands for some time to come.

BASHA are a community based action group. A key part of their remit is empowering and facilitating groups on the estates to start taking an active role in making their neighbourhoods better places to live. Which is why on December 2nd, they found themselves alongside members of the Vange Hill Community Group facilitating some tidying up and gardening on parts of the estate: Doing it for ourselves on the ¾ estate in Vangehttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/12/02/doing-it-for-ourselves-on-the-%c2%be-estate-in-vange/

BASHA are not in competition with the Pride team from Basildon Council and in no way want to deprive any of them of a job. All BASHA want to do is work in partnership with the Pride team to help residents who want to improve conditions on their estates. As we’ve written more times than we care to remember, attempts to deal with the hierarchy at Basildon Council when it comes to building an effective working partnership have generally been re-buffed. This is in total contrast to the council teams on the ground who genuinely appreciate what BASHA does and have always helped them out on clean ups by taking rubbish and cuttings away.

Tenant and resident led initiatives on the estates aimed at improving conditions on the estates through activities such as clean ups should be getting the full support of the council instead of having obstacles constantly thrown in their way. Resident involvement in running and maintaining their estates should be hard wired into the council’s thinking and planning. The problem is that there are elements in the hierarchy of Basildon Council who cannot even begin to contemplate letting go of their control…

So, once again, BASHA would like to offer the powers that be at Basildon Council the opportunity to have a rethink, relinquish a bit of control and let tenants and residents at the grassroots get involved in making their neighbourhoods better places to live. It’s a new year – let’s have a new start from the council and some positive thinking for a change!

We’re recruiting…

This is our tongue in cheek recruitment poster which we’ll be displaying on the joint South Essex Radical Media / Basildon & Southend Housing Action stall at the London Anarchist Bookfair which is taking place on Saturday 28th October – http://anarchistbookfair.org.uk/ Yes, we know that as anarchists, we’re not supposed to be into ‘recruitment’, however, needs must as there’s a lot happening along the estuary that needs dealing with and at the moment, we haven’t got enough people to deal with it! Also, as we’ve previously mentioned, it’s tongue in cheek and reflects the irreverent way we operate:)

Cleaning up the Pattocks

Pattocks is a sheltered housing complex run by Basildon Council. By definition it houses elderly, vulnerable, people many with mobility problems. One would have thought that anyone with a responsibility for the pathways would prioritise maintaining those around sheltered housing. The paths around Pattocks are broken, cracked, and overgrown, with weeds coming up in abundance. There is also rubbish dumped around the site and broken walls. The paths are not fit for purpose – they are clearly a health hazard.

Thumbs up to the estate manager who was not content to keep reporting broken paths and dumped rubbish around a sheltered housing complex with no result. She got in touch with the local councillor and a clear up was organised. Basildon & Southend Housing Action were there to lend a hand and share experiences of how to get things done. A few local people came out, either from the complex who expressed their gratitude or who came along to help. The “Pride Team” from Basildon Council were there to do the heavy stuff and take away the rubbish that had been collected. The result was a great improvement but needs to be kept up. There was cake and tea as a reward!

Yet again, it’s down to volunteers to undertake basic cleaning and maintenance on an estate in Basildon. If volunteers from the community are having to put in more of their time and effort to bring their estates up to an acceptable level, it has to be said that it’s not an unreasonable demand for those at the grassroots to have a real, meaningful say in how their neighbourhoods are run…

Doing it for ourselves (because no one else will!)

A short while back, we posted up this piece on the problems experienced by residents on the ¾ estate in Vange, which is on the southern fringes of Basildon: The fightback starts nowhttps://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/08/02/the-fightback-starts-now/ As well as hassling ward councillors, council officers, county council officers and various housing associations, as you can see from the above image, part of that fightback is residents getting out and cleaning up the estate themselves. The above was done by the Vange Hill Community Group and was facilitated by help from our friends at Basildon & Southend Housing Action.

It’s only a small section of the estate but…it sets an example to residents in other areas that a little bit of unilateral people power action will get a result when it comes to cleaning the place up. In the absence of any signs of Basildon Council / Essex County Council getting off of their arses to pay the ¾ estate a visit and do the job they’re paid to do in maintaining it, the only way things are going to get done is by the residents getting out and doing it for themselves. Hopefully, these kind of actions are the first steps towards residents taking control of their estates and bringing power right down to the grassroots…

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…

The Estuary ALTERNATIVE

As regular readers of the blog may have gathered, we’re a bit spiky, gobby and love getting in the faces of certain political enemies to wind them up something rotten. However, we realise that in the project of bringing about radical change, there are times when positive alternatives that are about building the new world in the decaying one that we currently endure need to be promoted for all they’re worth. The Stirrer is NOT the appropriate vehicle to do this! So, in order to promote positive alternatives, we’d like to introduce The Estuary ALTERNATIVEhttps://theestuaryalternative.wordpress.com/

Please note that this blog is very much a work in progress – as you can plainly see from the fact that currently, there are only three posts that have been published! As for the links in the sidebar, we have only just scratched the surface… So, if your grassroots project isn’t featured, feel free to drop us a line at: seradicalmedia@protonmail.com with some information about what you do and the all important URL and we’ll feature you…