Fightback – and win?

text of IWCA leaflet given out at the Hackney Empire Fightback rally on Saturday 28th October

We are under attack from two sides. Not only is the Council cutting back our essential services, but they are encouraging developers and housing associations to gentrify our Borough and ‘socially cleanse’ the Borough of us – the working class majority.

Resistance to both these attacks must be from the estates and the communities most affected. While it’s obvious that demonstrations and lobbies are one way to show public anger at Hackney Council, it’s vital that we do not allow these protests to run out of steam in a succession of dwindling marches and rallies. We cannot allow those who are only interested in selling their papers and ‘building the party’ to hijack our genuine anger.

Posters saying “The Council must fight” are leading us in the wrong direction. The Council won’t fight. Instead we need to decide what which essential services we cannot lose, draw a line in the sand and plan what steps we will take to defend them. The nursery occupations are a good example of taking practical action – calling for “no cuts” at all is not. We would have no problem cutting councillors’ expenses and Max Caller’s three grand a week salary for starters.

Labour MP’s should not be given a chance to speak during this campaign. The Labour government has proved no better at funding Hackney than the Tories. Go round our estates and anyone will tell you that the Hackney Labour Party is a middle class party that has no interest in representing the working class.

We need to go beyond protest. We need to replace the four middle class parties on Hackney Council with working class representatives. The IWCA will be standing in the next council elections in the Shoreditch Neighbourhood. In other wards we ask tenant associations and community groups to consider putting up their own candidates.

If you want to discuss any of these points, or would like to get involved in the IWCA’s consistent approach to community politics in Shoreditch – including surgeries, repairs canvasses and distribution of a local newsletter to 10,000 homes – then get in touch.


Social Cleansing

The Peabody Trust have put half page adverts in the Highbury & Islington Express for their new flats at Cremer Street, but are not advertising in the Hackney Gazette. This is because they are all about colonising Hackney – aiming to house City workers and the Hoxton Square bar crowd.

Peabody’s “award winning” flats at Murray Grove were said to be “affordable” – but the cheapest rent there is £146 a week. Peabody showed no interest in housing young people and overcrowded families from the Wenlock Barn estate next door. Their wider aim – shared with all four political parties on the Council – is to replace the working class majority with the middle class – a process known as “social cleansing.”

The Peabody Trust was formed “to house the poor of London.” They should rent the Cremer Street flats at Council rents to people on the waiting list.

Pembury Estate

The Peabody Trust took over the Pembury estate in April. The Gazette headline at the time “clean slate for estate” introduced the new caretaking and management team for the estate.

It has taken only four months for Pembury tenants to find out what Peabody is really about. “The Peabody Trust was oh so interested in us when it wanted our votes for privatisation…” write Gareth Dale and William Brownings in a letter to the Hackney Gazette, “… but now it only shows any concern at all when we make a fuss.”

The week before (August 24th) the Gazette’s front page was headed “Our drug hell” and sub-titled “is this Britain’s worst estate.” The report goes on to list the muggings, drug deals, vandalism and break-ins that are now common on the Pembury as well as a recent shooting.

One tenant is quoted as saying, “we know who the dealers are and where they live. We have told the cops and our landlords, but they won’t do anything until they have half-a-dozen murders on their hands.”

What is happening on Pembury will be very familiar to most people living on estates in South Hackney and Shoreditch. We are fed up of having our lives disrupted by anti-social elements. Loud music, in-your-face drug use, syringes left on the stairs, vandalism and muggings can all make life hell. For most of us, life is hard enough without having to live through this.

Apart from housing benefit problems caused by ITNet, anti-social behaviour on our estates has been the biggest single issue raised with us in the last six months.

Many people have complained repeatedly to the police and the Council (and Pinnacle in Shoreditch) and have been sickened by their lack of response. Can you imagine the police taking no notice if these problems were going on in Hampstead or Chelsea?

The Council have run this area down. They leave the streets filthy. They don’t offer our kids play facilities or enough youth clubs. The Council don’t carry out the basic repairs our homes need, and seem either unwilling or unable to tackle the problems – as long as it stays in working class areas.

We have problems with two sorts of vandals – the young ones who we can see terrorising our estates – and the ones in suits who work for the Council and the housing associations like Peabody.

Maybe the police, the Council and Pinnacle really don’t give a damn about us and the areas we live in. After all very few councillors and senior officers live around here. As they let this area run down – both through doing nothing about the anti-social elements and through not spending our rent money on improving our homes – you have to ask whether this is all part of a deliberate plan. We all know that they want to drive us out and fill this area with yuppies from the City. And you can bet that they won’t turn a blind eye to anti-social behaviour if the rich take over the area!

Lets get this straight. The police, the Council and Peabody have a duty to solve these problems. But they have shown themselves to be unwilling and unable to solve them. And so we need to begin to find our own solutions.

The IWCA has begun discussions with tenants on a number of estates to look at ways of solving this problem. We cannot sit back and let anti-social elements take over our estates. This has always been a strong working class area, and we need working class solutions to the problem of anti-social behaviour.

The Pembury tenants are looking for solutions, not just sitting back and hoping that their problems will be solved for them. Gareth Dale and William Brownings’ report on a meeting on the Pembury showed tenants calling for Peabody to “take on more caretakers and give them a security role.” Others argued for “restoring youth clubs, bringing back football training and car maintenance and building up a community development programme.” Their report closed by asking whether Peabody would take these suggestions seriously, “and if it doesn’t, how can tenants put pressure on it to do so?”

This shows one of the problems of voting for a private landlord. You can’t go back. At least with the council there is some sort of accountability. But Peabody can be forced to take action. By doing what they are doing – calling their own meetings (and not letting Peabody run them) putting their demands and shaming Peabody through the Gazette can all help. Peabody wants to take over more council estates and won’t want he bad publicity. But all of these steps can only help win one thing at a time. We would argue that the Pembury tenants should have a look at standing their own candidates for the new Hackney Central Ward in the council elections in 2002. That would put more pressure on the Peabody Trust and the Town Hall and you would be able to link up with the IWCA candidates who will be standing against the middle class parties who currently represent Shoreditch at the Town Hall.

We would be willing to meet with any tenant or community group that wants to take on the problem of anti-social behaviour on our estates, and will publish any response to this article on our website that comes from a working class perspective. Respond to:

"Colonial times" in N16 Magazine

This gem featured in the “N16 magazine”, a free mag with adverts for upmarket restaurants and various “witty” pieces:

You could rename N16 “Colonial Times” because that’s the truth of it. Or “How to turn a working class area into your local village”. Your rag makes me puke! It’s a pat on the back for how successfully the middle classes have swarmed in. And your obsession with the 73 bus! Sure, it’s big and red and maybe a little fantasy gets projected – but for chrissakes it’s just a bus! You walk around Hackney like it’s an old curiosity shop. The letter in your last issue said it all – “an interesting cultural mix of people who appear to live alongside one another harmoniously”. We’re not schoolchildren or there to entertain some fantasy.

A woman said to me in the park once that she wouldn’t let her kids watch Postman Pat because there weren’t any black people in it, and I looked around the playground and all I could see was “wellys” (people from Tunbridge Wells). You’re either squatting and calling yourselves anarchists, or just plain buying up the place. You talk as if it’s a community without acknowledging the fact that you destroyed an ailing community to get what you want. A friend was outcast from a playgroup because she wanted to send her kid to private school. One woman said “I’d rather send my little Harry to a Stokey school and rub shoulders with thieves than send him private”. You strut around like you’re street hip. You even get Ali G’s jokes, but it takes a bit more than sticking little Milo in an Arsenal shirt to be a fan.

Please excuse my lack of grammar, only I’m not pretending. Put that in your e-mail and freebase it!
Yours most angrily
D. Kidmon
PS Have a lovely Festival

IWCA reply to above letter

I agree with what D Kidmon wrote in the last edition of N16 – your magazine should be renamed “Colonial Times.” It is a magazine for people who spend holidays “up the Dordogne in a camper van” (p18) or like Sally Watson (p8), who you quote as saying that she is having such a problem finding a private nursery for Georgia and Tabatha that she “may have to move to Highgate just to find one.” The problem is that the Watsons will be replaced by more rich young people who will move in and continue to take over what pubs and cafes we have left, and show off to us about it in the pages of N16. Your coverage of the mobile phone mast issue could have been based around the magnificent resistance put up by the Tenants’ Association at Hawksley Court, but instead gives them just three lines compared to the Council’s two paragraphs, while worrying about the effect on house prices.

As a political organisation we wouldn’t put it the same way as D Kidmon, but he is talking about the effects of the “social cleansing” of Hackney. As the middle class takes over more and more of the Borough, the IWCA will continue to seek to involve and represent what is still Hackney’s working class majority.

Anyone wanting to get in touch can contact us at Box 48 136 Kingsland High St, E8 2NS, or you can look at our web site on

Peter Sutton, Hackney Independent Working Class Association

Year 2000 News Archive

A Sorry Picture

A story in this week’s Hackney Gazette seems to back up what the IWCA has been saying for some time about the gentrification of Shoreditch. Under the headline “Cool Britannia” brigade driven out by rent hike the Gazette tells us that artists who were encouraged into the area by government cash supposed to secure cheap studio space, are now being forced out of the area by rocketing property rents and service charges. One artist claims that rents are now as much as £320 a week and service charges £700 a quarter.

While we won’t be particularly sad to wave goodbye to some of these over-rated, under-talented media tarts, there is a more serious side to this exodus of goatee beards and berets. As Glasshouse property developers managing director David Nicholson states, “we are not a charity, we are a commercial business and we’ve never lead anyone to believe we were anything else”. Ring any bells ? Just look at the plans Hackney Council have for housing, leisure and learning. Initial cash injections followed by leaving it all to market forces. And why do these companies get involved ? Because they think they can make a profit. Helpfully, David Nicholson tells us “It comes down to market forces which we don’t control”. Perhaps in a couple of years – once more council houses have been dumped into the private sector, rents have started to spiral out of control and all the leisure and learning services have been sold off – we might be told the same thing: “Market forces…blah blah blah…nothing we can do.”

Now more than ever, we need to fight to keep control of affordable housing and basic services, because if the “Cool Britannia” mob can’t afford the rents, Hackney’s working class majority sure as hell won’t either.


Surprise Surprise

As if we didn’t expect it, the ballot at Fellows Court over transfer to Pinnacle has resulted in a yes vote, meaning that 300 flats will now move into the Shoreditch Neighbourhood. As we said at the time, the ballot was a joke from start to finish. Photocopied ballot papers, with no way of being authenticated, were sent out to tenants who were then told to return them to Andrew Wilkes, a man who has a clear interest in getting a yes vote and hiving off estate management into the private sector. Fishy ?


Hackney Council to re-ballot tenants of Fellows Court

Despite having balloted residents of Fellows Court in November of last year, Hackney Council officer Andrew Wilkes has circulated a letter asking residents to vote again on the same issue that the council were defeated on last time, namely whether the estate should be transferred from Kingsland Neighbourhood in to Shoreditch. The council claims that the last vote was not valid as the “results from individual estates could not be distinguished” – a cock up in other words. There has been under two weeks’ notice given to tenants to return their ballot papers and interestingly, they are being sent back to none other than Mr Wilkes himself. Far be it from us to suggest any electoral impropriety, but wouldn’t you be suspicious if the man collecting the votes was the same man pushing for a yes vote ?

Once again, the IWCA would urge a NO vote on this transfer. as we’ve seen with the pathetic failure of IT Net and the difficulties with private contractors trying to cream off a nice profit from the sold off leisure services, once you get transferred and into the grubby hands of a private company, it’s in their interests to make money from you. How ? Well how about upping your rent, refusing to carry out repairs unless you pay and gradually forcing you out to make way for the kind of tenants they really want – yuppies.

IWCA letter in Hackney Gazette April 2000

Hackney IWCA was pleased to see in the Gazette of 23rd March that residents of Hawksley Court estate had successfully prevented the installation of a mobile phone mast. This is exactly the sort of community-led initiative that the IWCA supports and it is good to see local people standing up against the spread of these masts which are dangerous and unwanted .

When Hackney Council and private companies like Orange treat ordinary working class people with such disdain is it surprising that residents get sick of being treated like second class citizens? From the disasters of IT Net, the lack of consultation over tenants being “decanted” from Florence Court right through to the dubious ballot over Fellows Court’s transfer and now this example of arrogance, it should be clear to us that the council will only sit up and take notice when we take matters into our own hands.

The residents of Hawksley Court have set a good example to the rest of the borough.