We’re moving…

This blog was born out of a series of misunderstandings in the early stages of building for the Southend Radical Fair, held in May 2017, that led us to pulling out of organising the event. These led us to conclude we had to scrub the predecessor of this blog, the South Essex Heckler, which was closely associated with the early stages of building the fair and start anew with this blog. The problem was that alongside this, we also started two other blogs – The Estuary Alternative and On Uncertain Ground. All had their specific functions but to be honest, it was a bit messy and many people looking at our range of blogs were, quite rightly, left wondering exactly what we were about. Also, this blog had been straying from it’s original remit, thereby adding to the confusion.

The Estuary Alternative and On Uncertain Ground blogs have been deleted. This blog is being terminated after this post and will remain online as an archive. As a number of people have linked to or re-blogged material from this blog, it would be a bit rude of us to delete it!

We’re starting a new blog with a class struggle anarchist / community activist perspective which in tandem with the South Essex Working Class Action Facebook page and Twitter feed, is a considerably more straightforward proposition. This is the new blog:

The Heckler – https://thehecklersewca.wordpress.com/

Yes, we’re bringing the Heckler name back! Hopefully, it’s onwards and upwards from this point…

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A good weekend in Southend:)

We had an interesting and productive two days over the weekend of the 24th/25th March. We spent Saturday afternoon at the Mendip Wildlife Gardens Wonderful Family Gathering at Dunster Avenue on the northern fringes of Southend and all day Sunday at the Southend Community Wellbeing & Vegan Festival.

The event on Saturday was a community festival with an interesting vibe held on a council estate on the fringes of Southend up by the A127 and right under the flight path to the airport. An area that has more than its fair share of problems but also has a pretty good sense of community as well which in these troubled times, is essential in building neighbourhood resilience. It gave us (South Essex Working Class Action) some ideas on persuading residents on one of the estates we work on in Basildon to think about putting on something similar with us helping to facilitate it. It was also interesting to see what various groups of volunteers have done with the Mendip Wildlife Garden – a lovely little oasis right in the heart of the estate.

On the Sunday we had an Essex Social Strategic Alliance stall at the vegan festival with a table loaded with leaflets and papers. We shifted two thirds of the print run of the current edition of The Estuary Alternative (we kept a third back for distribution at suitable venues across the region). Not only that we had a fair few interesting conversations and made some potentially useful contacts in the process. What was good about this event is that unlike a lot of vegan fairs which can be very lifestyle orientated, there were a healthy number of campaign stalls present to help put some politics and context into veganism.

Lastly, but by no means least, a big thank you to Chay Godfree, Dean Ward and the teams of volunteers out on both days for organising and running both events. Both events in their own way provided an opportunity for the community to get together – on the Saturday to enjoy themselves and on the Sunday for an insight into veganism and also a chance for local activists to do some serious networking.

We’ve been going for a year…

Today is the first anniversary of this blog and it’s sister project, On Uncertain Ground. Our predecessor was the South Essex Heckler which had been going in various forms since 2011. At the start of last year, we thought the Heckler had lost its focus and was trying to be all things to all people. It was veering from fairly punchy posts focusing on local and some national issues, attempts at more theoretical pieces through to what some would see as more ‘fluffy’ promotions of community focused projects.

Having all of this under one roof became too much so we binned the Heckler in early February last year and after a short experiment with localised blogs covering Thurrock and Basildon respectively, the South Essex Stirrer was launched and this is where we are. Our other sister blog, The Estuary Alternative which as you may guess from the title, promotes positive alternatives in the form of grassroots projects that make a difference in the here and now, was launched in the aftermath of the Southend Radical Fair which took place in early May last year.

How are we doing? Reader numbers on the Stirrer are up to what they were on the Heckler before it was scrapped so we’re making pretty good progress here. With On Uncertain Ground which is for the longer, more theoretical pieces, it only gets updated every couple of weeks so when a new post goes up, the hits come in but then tail off until the next update. As for The Estuary Alternative, it’s not taken off in the way we wanted. That’s down to a number of factors, one of which was not having the time to seriously push the project last year. We’ve reviewed the situation, come up with a few new ideas which we’ll be implementing so hopefully it’ll be onwards and upwards for The Estuary Alternative this year.

The Stirrer, On Uncertain Ground and The Estuary Alternative all come under the umbrella of South Essex Radical Media which has a presence on Facebook. This is where we announce the updates for all of our blogs as well as briefly commenting on issues and sharing events and items of interest from other like minded pages. South Essex Radical Media also has a presence on Twitter as well.

What we want to do with all of our blogs is make them more open and collaborative. We do not want to be writing all of the posts for the blogs and all of the copy for any papers we bring out. With the Stirrer, we’re making reasonable progress in sourcing material from external sources but we would warmly welcome more! With On Uncertain Ground, as it’s intended to be a bit more theoretical in its outlook, we’re more than happy to accept guest posts from people who are broadly in agreement with our politics. As for the Estuary Alternative, the long term aim is to hand that over to other grassroots activists in the south of Essex so we need you to start contributing to it sooner rather than later!

All of the above blogs and the Facebook page are linked to in the side bar on the right hand side.

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:)

It’s down to us but most importantly, it’s down to YOU!

The point of our project at South Essex Radical Media (SERM) with our publications, The South Essex Stirrer and The Estuary Alternative, and our alliance with Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) is simple – to inspire, encourage and support people to take action at the grassroots in order to bring about meaningful change.

SERM is basically about propaganda. It’s our job to report on what we see across the region we cover and, not just point out what’s wrong but to stir people up to start acting collectively to bring about change. BASHA are community and housing activists. As well as holding Basildon Council to account for their repeated failings, they aim to encourage residents and tenants on the estates to start taking collective action to bring about change.

This is why we and BASHA support and facilitate the work of groups such as the Vange Hill Community Group (VHCG) and help to facilitate actions such as this: Doing it for ourselves on the ¾ estate in Vangehttps://theestuaryalternative.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/doing-it-for-ourselves-on-the-3/4-estate-in-vange/ It’s not for us to tell VHCG what to do – their supporters live on the estate and know exactly what needs to be done! All we do is provide logistical support and some equipment on clean up days and help them to produce their propaganda. We hope that what VHCG do will act as an example to other estates and inspire people to start collectively taking action.

With The Estuary Alternative, the ultimate aim is to hand the project over to grassroots activists in the region while we move on to other initiatives. As stated in this piece: The future of this project…https://theestuaryalternative.wordpress.com/2017/12/11/the-future-of-this-project/ we don’t want to be lumbered with the job of finding content for it for ever and a day. The aim of The Estuary Alternative is to foster a greater degree of communication and co-operation between and among the range of grassroots groups operating in the region. That means that ultimately, it has to end up as a collective, collaborative project…

There are only a few of us and we have to be focused on what we can achieve with what are limited resources. Running The South Essex Stirrer and the On Uncertain Ground blogs (and the paper) takes up a lot of our time and energy which is why when we launch an initiative such as The Estuary Alternative, we really do want other grassroots activists to eventually take it off our hands!

It’s the same with BASHA, there are only a few of them and they want to focus on their roles of a) holding Basildon Council to account and b) facilitating and supporting grassroots groups and activists on the estates. They are not a back up service to be called upon when the roads haven’t been gritted or the rubbish hasn’t been collected. If residents and tenants want to act together to deal with issues like this, BASHA will happily support and facilitate them but they’re not going to do the bloody job for them!

We’ve had a fair few discussions about this dilemma that we’re facing and why people look to us to do stuff rather than them collectively doing it for themselves. There’s no single answer to this…

In the case of BASHA, on a growing number of estates, it’s a toxic cocktail of factors such as a general collapse of morale in the face of austerity plus demographic reasons such as the growing number of buy to let landlords and houses of multiple occupation leading to a constant churn in the population. Atomisation isn’t just a word bandied about by sociologists in academia – it’s the brutal reality we increasingly find on the estates.

With SERM, our biggest headache is getting other people to write for our blogs. We do get a few guest pieces for which we are incredibly grateful but we still have to do a lot of the legwork in terms of sourcing content. To broaden our reach we’re increasingly using re-blogs and cut and pasting media releases from groups we trust but it’s no substitute for having a rota of regular contributors. With all of our publications, we really want to open them up to as many individual groups and activists as possible to make them truly representative of what’s going on.

Drawing to a conclusion, it seems that we are up against the evils of demoralisation and atomisation on the estates and a worrying degree of complacency in a number of grassroots groups who seem happy to plod along doing the same old thing rather than reach out, link up and step up a gear. Going into what is looking to be a turbulent and unpredictable 2018, we’re going to need as much solidarity as can be mustered to deal with the onslaught that’s coming our way.

We don’t pretend to have the answers to this dilemma by any stretch of the imagination. We’re more than happy to listen to what other people have to say on the problems of demoralisation, atomisation and passivity and how they think they can be overcome. We admit that this piece can be seen as us venting some of our frustrations! Having said that, the intention is to foster a constructive discussion on how we can move forward and get ourselves into a position where we can deal with whatever 2018 throws at us…

Get your copy of the The Estuary Alternative paper

This was first posted on our sister blog, The Estuary Alternative but, as this one gets more traffic, we’re posting it here because we want to see as many of you as possible when we’re distributing the paper:)

If you want to get hold of a copy of The Estuary Alternative paper and talk to us about what we want to achieve with this project, you’ll have your chance this coming weekend. On Saturday 16th, we’re going to outside the Southend Christmas Vegan Fair (Bellvue Baptist Church, 484 Southchurch Road, Southend-on-Sea, SS1 2QA) – https://www.facebook.com/southendveganfair/ – from 1pm onwards for a couple of hours. On Sunday 17th, we’re going to be at the Stop the Cliff Development Demonstration (Prittlewell Square, Southend-on-Sea, SS1 1DW) – https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/11/28/protest-against-the-development-desecration-of-the-cliffs/ – from noon onwards. If we have any papers left over from the Saturday, we’ll be handing those out at the protest – if not, we’ve got flyers to hand out instead. We look forward to meeting as many of you as possible this coming weekend and to work out a way of taking this project forward in 2018…

The future of The Estuary Alternative…

This post was originally published on one of our sister blogs, The Estuary Alternativehttps://theestuaryalternative.wordpress.com/ We’re re-posting it here, because unless enough local activists step up to the plate in 2018 to contribute to The Estuary Alternative and help to turn it into the collaborative project it was intended to be, sadly there will be no option but to pull the plug on it…

The Estuary Alternative was launched after the Southend Radical Fair that took place back in May. The original aim of this project was to a) promote projects and actions offering a positive alternative to the dysfunctional political, social and economic system we currently have to endure and b) to act as a clearing house for an exchange of ideas, experiences and expertise between the various alternative / grassroots projects operating across southern Essex. The question we’re now asking ourselves is this – is the project achieving the aims we set out for it?

The harsh truth that has to be faced is that it’s falling well short of those aims. Apart from a small handful of groups sending us information about what they’re doing, we’re having to do a lot of the legwork to get content for this blog – we’re also having to do a lot of legwork to get The Estuary Alternative paper distributed as well. Regarding the paper, the current issue is a one off produced to get the ball rolling. If there’s going to be a second edition a) funding from grassroots groups across the region will be needed and b) content will also be needed as on the back of the current edition, we clearly state that we have no intention of writing any copy for the next edition!

This is supposed to be a collaborative project with the eventual goal of it being handed over to grassroots activists across southern Essex by the autumn of 2018. It’s still our intention to do this – however if by the summer of next year, we’re still doing most of the legwork in producing the content for this project, sadly we’ll have no alternative but to pull the plug on it. So, if grassroots activists across the region want an online resource (and a paper) where, ideas, experiences and expertise are exchanged as well as a diary for what’s going on, now is the time to step up to the plate and get involved…

We’ve had a bit of a slim down of the content on this blog as well… The reason being was that we felt it was turning into a bit of a lifestyle listings resource and straying from it’s original remit of covering and supporting ideas and actions aimed at building a new world inside the decaying shell of the dysfunctional and increasingly dystopian one we currently have to endure. In other words, it was getting too fluffy, and while there’s a place for that, it’s not in a project like this which is aimed at bringing about fundamental political, economic and social change.

We really do want this project to succeed but it has to be on the understanding that it’s a collaborative project. We’re going to be at the Southend Vegan Fair – https://www.facebook.com/southendveganfair/ – for a few hours on Saturday 16th handing out copies of The Estuary Alternative paper and talking to people about what we want to achieve. We’ll also be at the protest against the proposed development of the cliff top in Southend – https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/11/28/protest-against-the-development-desecration-of-the-cliffs/ – on Sunday 17th from noon onwards to hand out any papers that are left. We look forward to meeting people willing to join us in taking this project forward…