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:)

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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…

Positive change in Southend

A few of us went along to the Southend Radical Fair that took place on Saturday May 6th at The Railway in Clifftown Road. To be honest, we weren’t quite sure what to expect but when we turned up, we were greeted with the welcome sight of a busy, buzzing event with plenty of deep conversations and networking taking place. The stallholders were a fairly eclectic mix ranging from greens, community gardeners and vegans through to groups dealing with gender issues and some funky ‘zine makers.

Basically, the kind of groups who want to start making a difference in the here and now – in other words, starting to build a new world in the decaying, fractured shell of the one we currently endure. In all honesty, a bit of a contrast to the more class struggle focused, combative, stroppy attitude that we have here at the Stirrer! Which is fine because it takes all sorts to build a movement for change and all of us have a role to play. Being together under one roof for a few hours gave us a chance to learn from each others experiences and perspectives. What was refreshing was the open minded attitude of the participants to new ways of looking at things which may explain why a fair few copies of the Stirrer were shifted and all the Class War papers we had sold out!

We’re not quite sure what will come out of this event but we hope it will lead to a responsive and flexible network where groups and individuals get together to participate in actions or work together on projects as and when the need arises. What we don’t want is a formal alliance with all the bureaucracy that goes with it. What we would love to see is a flexible, nimble and ad hoc network that has the capability of being greater than the sum of its parts.

Lastly, but by no means least, we’d like to offer our heartfelt thanks to all of those who took over the reins when the fair hit a few bumps in the road in the middle of the process of building it. In particular, we’d like to thank Kamil of Southend In Transitionhttps://www.facebook.com/SiTcommunityAllotment/ – for his organisational skills that kept the show on the road. Some valuable lessons have been learned in the process and we hope this is the start of something positive in south east Essex…

Doing it for ourselves


Plans for Gobions Park in East Tilbury

A couple of months ago, we asked this question: What’s the future for our parks?https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/whats-the-future-for-our-parks/ This piece focused on what volunteers have been doing to turn round the fortunes of Hardie Park in Stanford-le-Hope. It was written in response to this news item: UK’s cash-starved parks at tipping point of decline, MPs warnhttps://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/feb/11/uks-cash-starved-parks-at-tipping-point-of-decline-mps-warn

What’s happening at Hardie Park is not a one off by any means. Other communities have been watching their local parks slide into decline as as result of the austerity imposed squeeze on local authority spending and rather than just sitting there moaning about it, they’ve done something about the situation. This is what residents in East Tilbury have been doing: Volunteers and building firm team up to put finishing touches to improved Gobions Park in East Tilburyhttp://www.thurrockgazette.co.uk/news/15237822.Volunteers_and_building_firm_team_up_to_put_finishing_touches_to_improved_park/

It could be said that all the volunteers at Hardie Park and Gobions Park – and the local businesses that have chipped in to support them – are doing is letting the council off the hook for their spending cuts. It could also be said that in an ideal world, under a more equitable economic system, there would be sufficient funding in place to ensure that every community had perfectly maintained parks. We don’t agree with either of these views…

In our view, what’s happening at Hardie Park and Gobions Park to name just two examples is that people are stepping up to the plate to start to take control of a community asset. From our own personal experience of volunteering at Hardie Park and that of the other volunteers, we can vouch that it’s an empowering experience helping to maintain and run the place. It’s a step towards having a say in what happens in our communities and starting to bring power down to the grassroots. This is where real change starts…let’s see how far it can go!