- Category: Campaigns
- Published on Wednesday, 1 October 2014
- Written by Tony Aldis
What will you see if you visit the E15 occupation on the Carpenters Estate in Newham? Outside you will see a surprisingly good looking open and tidy council estate with many of its buildings inexplicably boarded up. Inside you will definitely see people rushing around from laptops to phones, others cooking or cleaning and, in various rooms, signs of donated toys, clothes, bottled water, hoovers etc. It would be almost impossible, in the experience of my three short visits there, not to see Jasmine and Sam, who carried their experience of defending themselves when the home they shared with around 30 other mothers was closed down by Newham council and they were threatened with being housed far from the community and support they knew. In that fight they won the right to stay in Newham, although not, in their view, in the kind of social housing that is needed.
If you do see them they will likely be discussing their next move to defend their occupation from Newham council’s sudden need to “put all to right” on an estate they have left to decay for around 7 years. You will see them working alongside activists in planning community events and reacting to various problems as they occur. They will probably disappear at points to meet visitors, give interviews and probably for the thousandth time patiently and passionately explain why they are occupying a group of flats in the middle of this little estate. The first time I arrived the visitors were a group of secondary school children from North London trying to understand the dynamics of housing in the city and probably getting one of the most memorable and useful lessons they ever will.
Today on my third visit I decided I needed to do something mildly useful so went equipped to get my hands dirty helping out with the decorating of one of the downstairs flats that was a little worse for wear after being vacant for 7 years. With some paint and a bit of filler, however, this house would be a dream come true for any of the thousands of homeless Londoners out there, many of whom are surviving in the very this borough. While I was scrapping some stripped wallpaper from the skirting in preparation for a undercoat of silk emulsion I got glad-handed (I think they call it) by Darren Johnson, London's Green Assembly member as he made his way around the building. The fact he was there was no surprise as this occupation is so timely and speaks to so much that is wrong in London, in the country and indeed within capitalism, that the coverage and support it has got from those in and around the Left reflects that. Darren Johnson is just the latest in that line.
So I came out after the couple of hours I could spare wishing, as always, that I could stay longer and feeling energised by the potential. When I arrived via the path from the back door onto the open square at the front of the house I was greeted by the wonderful sight of Jasmine and Sam holding an outdoor answer and question session with a large group of around 20 or 30 young adults. At an opportune moment I caught one of the other house activists standing to the side to find out what prompted this event. It turned out a group of Sociology students from a London university had got in touch and arranged the visit. I could not help but take a few snaps of this exchange before I had to reluctantly leave.
The house will be appearing in court at 10:00am on Thursday 2 October at Bow County Court, 96 Romford Road, London E15 4EG. If they lose they will be expected to vacate within 24 hours. Tell everyone you know about the campaign, and get everyone down. The residents are asking people to get to the court from 9.30am.
They need our support. And whatever happens, we need this campaign to continue. London's housing crisis can only get worse without the resistance of ordinary working class Londoners through campaigns like this.