Despite the Sun showing at Tate Liverpool

dtv009Sbox

Despite the Sun will be showing at Tate Liverpool’s exhibition ‘Keywords: Art, Culture and Society in 1980’s Britain’, which is running from 28th February until 11th May 2014. The film investigates the state of the media and the context in which over 5,000 print workers, clerical staff, cleaners and secretaries lost their jobs. It was produced in 1986 by Despite TV, predecessor to Spectacle, both founded by Mark Saunders, documenting the dispute over Rupert Murdoch’s decision to relocate his printing operations from Fleet St to Wapping. There is also a new website dedicated to the strike where there is a lot of information.

“…Despite TV’s ‘Despite the Sun’… was shot on VHS at night, so it’s full of comma tails and smears and it was shot colour, but actually there was insufficient light, so it comes out as a greyscale, that’s I think one of the most gripping pieces of political documentary to be made in this country in the last 50 years, it’s a phenomenal piece of work. It was using the aesthetic of both the recording equipment and the playback, the immediate circulation for ‘Despite the Sun‘ were people in the immediate area of the dispute over moving the Murdoch group newspapers down to the Isle of Dogs and the famous picket lines. The BBC crews, which they interviewed, weren’t allowed through the police lines, but these guys were all locals, so they all went scooting round through people’s houses and so on to get stories that the national media weren’t getting, and it’s a fabulous piece of work, but it was designed to be shown locally and distributed through the library service in Tower Hamlets, so they were expecting domestic TV and VHS playback, so it was pretty raw, and also released very swiftly, I think they cut it in less than a week from about three weeks of shoots. So it was very important aesthetically as well as in terms of its politics.”

You can buy the DVD or read more here: Despite the Sun

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‘Gateway’: Corporate Language of Control

Preferred Plan by Network RailThe area surrounding Peckham Rye Station, set for redevelopment by Network Rail and Southwark Council, has been dubbed the ‘Gateway‘. Their intention to cash in on Peckham’s recent prosperities endangers the independent, artisan businesses within the arches and the 1930’s building surrounding the station. In January, the plans were revealed detailing commercial and retail units, and seven-story’s worth of luxury accommodation. While community efforts to halt the construction are bubbling, with council meetings being called and the local distribution of flyers, it is still important to note the strategic use of limiting language by various bodies of power and not to adopt such terms ourselves, or face being pigeonholed.

gatewaydefinitionA simple Google search produces interesting definitions for the term ‘Gateway’ – “a place regarded as giving access to another place” and “a device used to connect two different networks”. In the context of the station, the overground links and rail services certainly do give immediate access to central Peckham and all of the available industries around Rye Lane. However, by defining the area as such, limits it to being perceived only as a port of access and undermines it as an attraction in itself.

The Gateway AreaPeckham Vision illustrates (above) the locations of various creative and cultural businesses on the station redevelopment plan. Similarly, our previous blogs have tried to highlight how the Peckham ‘Gateway Area’ is in fact a place full of creative enterprises, long-standing businesses and new, independent initiatives such as bars and breweries, galleries and studios. All of which are contributing to a gradual increase in footfall and popularity of Peckham, which is attracting people from all over town. Yet the plans have chosen to ignore Blenheim Court, Blenheim Road, Dovedale Court, Holly Grove and the Station Arcade as an area of increasing enterprise and local economic advantage. Instead, the whole area has been reduced to an entry and exit point for central London commuters who will take up the unaffordable housing, and the gentrified twenty-somethings flocking to Frank’s of a summer’s eve. All of the connotations point away from existing residents, business owners and the local community who actually use, live and breathe the space every day.

The use of the term, as can be seen in the statistics above, began to peak around the 1980’s – a stark correlation with the Thatcher era and large-scale, government-funded programmes for urban redevelopment. The Thames Gateway project, of the same name, is a perfect example.

thames_gateway_470x168This was a Thatcher regeneration investment to turn brownfield land into 160,000 new homes, rejuvenate towns and create 180,000 new jobs along the Thames estuary, from east London, through Kent and as far as Southend-on-Sea and the Isle of Sheppey in Essex. The sheer size of the development meant that the entire region was looked upon not as individual, bottom-up improvements spanning three counties and 16 local government districts, but as a singular overhaul of general degradation. It was former conservative deputy Prime Minister, Michael Heseltine who defined the area as a ‘Gateway’ during a helicopter tour of east London in 1979, and in doing so reduced the home of over 3 million people to “a place regarded as giving access to another place“.

Similarly, last year’s Tower Hamlets Whitechapel Vision Masterplan aimed at the regeneration of the area to transform it “into a key destination for London“, uses the the word again. From page 8 of the ‘vision’:

The creation of “entrance gateways” will help to improve first impressions, create a sense of arrival and define Whitechapel as a place and destination in its own right. This can be achieved through high quality buildings and public realm improvements at these gateway junctions.

Despite the complete disregard that Whitechapel is a already a place of interest for many Londoners, the onus on developing the area alongside new Crossrail networks for the enjoyment of newcomer’s “first impressions”, without recognition for the people that already live and work there, just stands to show where the loyalties of our councils lie. The grandiose over-expenditure on the part of Network Rail for amenities already available in Peckham, such as bars, galleries and artisan studios, reeks of this outmoded, 80’s planning.

The same generalisations can be said for things like the Gateway Drug Theory, which suggests that drugs such as alcohol and cannabis create a pathway into harder drugs, addiction and crime. Various sporadic experiments have supported and refuted the hypothesis, but all-in-all, the term used is limiting and sees populations as a generalised whole, detracting credit from the rational, decision-making individual.

this is not a gateway

Organisation, This Is Not A Gateway, was formed to create a platform for people who care about the future of our streets to discuss, debate and critique the ever-changing urban policy of cities and towns. They argue that all too often, decisions regarding vast redevelopment of urban areas are isolated to a small population of upper-middle class, white men that will likely never step foot on the soil they homogenise. In describing the choice of name for the organisation, they put it perfectly:

There is no beginning or end of a city, there is no place of entry and exit, there is no entrance that can be opened, there are no gateway texts, no gateway knowledges. In choosing to recognise ‘gateways’ we give others the ability to create boundaries, borders and limitations to our lives.

The historical use of ‘Gateway’ has always been about management. It reduces and simplifies places and people so that they can be effectively herded and categorised, which establishes control.

EileenClaridgeNetworkRailEileen Claridge, the sarcastic Network Rail representative instructed to attend the January 18th ‘public consultation’ meeting, who kindly stated that corporation was “not a charity”, is the terrifying example of this control tactic. In Network Rail’s 2012 winter newsletter, Eileen was interviewed about her new position as one of eight “asset development surveyors who look after enhancement projects for Network Rail Commercial Estate”:

What does your job entail?

We identify and develop potential new income for commercial estates.

 

What are the challenges?

We’re tasked with raising the company’s income
by finding brand new opportunities.

 

What would you be doing if it weren’t this job?

I’d quite like to be a mounted policeman!

I can only draw comparisons to the Peterloo Massacre of 1819 at Eileen’s closing statement.

 

Please feel free to leave your comments below.

Get in touch if you would like to contribute to our film about the Peckham Rye Station and Gateway Area Redevelopment Project. Just email: production@spectacle.co.uk

See Peckham for more blogs and information.
Or visit PlanA, our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

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A small triumph for Peckham at the Community Council Meeting

Ruth Kennedy discusses the deputationThe Peckham and Nunhead Community Council Meeting at Harris Academy Peckham on Wednesday 12th February saw Peckham residents and local business owners gather to discuss, directly with Southwark councilors, the plans for Peckham Rye Station.

A crowd beginning to gather for the Community Council Meeting, Wed 11 Feb

The chair announced the deputation that had been devised by local Peckham people, including Eileen Conn of Peckham Vision.

Chair of Peckham & Nunhead Community Council Meeting

Ruth Kennedy, a Peckham resident for over 20 years, read the Deptuation Statement to the room. It outlined the lack of communication between Southwark Council, the GLA and Network Rail, and the subsequent lack of consultation with local people regarding the developing plans. It emphasised the threat the plans pose for the local economy, in particular the cultural quarter, and disputed the size and scale of the primarily residential block developments surrounding the station. The lack of basic priorities that the public had asked for, specifically public toilets and the open square, were also brought to Southwark’s attention.

Ruth Kennedy delivers the deputation to Southwark CouncilRuth concluded by asking two questions:

Please can we meet to co-construct a process of meaningful ongoing collaboration, that will see this development through to a fantastic transformation for Peckham?

Can we begin the next phase with the curation of a robust, creative workshop, involving all three partners and the community, so everyone is hearing the same messages, and is engaged in collaborative problem-solving together?

A long applause for the deputation!…which received tumultuous applause.

Cllr Fiona Colley agrees with the issues raised in the deputation

Councillor Fiona Colley (pictured) thanked those involved for devising the deputation and enthusiastically agreed to both points. She announced that a meeting between Southwark Council and Network Rail would be taking place next week in order to discuss the plans and that the speed of the development was controlled by a deadline for the Spring 2016 GLA fund of £5million, which in order to be completed, a planning application would need to be submitted by next week. Therefore, Colley has arranged to meet with the GLA to seek an extension of the deadline.

Local Peckham resident BarryShe agreed that the issue of public toilets needed to be addressed and apologised for the way the subject was handled at the January 18th Public Consultation meeting. With regards to the threat to industry as a result of the redevelopment, Colley was wholeheartedly behind protection of these businesses and incorporation of them into new plans so they are not priced out. As such, she announced that Southwark Council would not be using compulsory purchase orders for this project and that betting shops and payday lenders would be excluded from the area. She also said that the plans for Dovedale Court demonstrated a real “lack of vision” and clarity, and that Network Rail did indeed only give generic answers to question of potential rent prices at the last meeting.

Peckham residents and business owners deliver the deputation

However, the issue of the seven-storey, residential buildings proposed around the station were keenly glossed over. Colley agreed that she saw little reason for the 30’s building to be torn down and that the height and density of the residential blocks should be discussed further with Network Rail, but she did not oppose their existence.

Peckham & Nunhead Community Council Meeting

Among the victories that Peckham has won here, we are in danger of compromising on other aspects of the redevelopment that also pose a real threat to the carefully balanced ecosystem of Peckham Rye. It certainly suits Southwark Council to shift blame to Network Rail, yet we must remember that all parties were aware of the scale of the redevelopment plans.

Nick Dolezal agrees with deputation

Please feel free to leave your comments below in answer to these questions or any other statements throughout the blog.

Get in touch if you would like to contribute to our film about the Peckham Rye Station and Gateway Area Redevelopment Project. Just email production@spectacle.co.uk

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Plans to reveal yet another statue.

The Camden New Journal yesterday uncovered plans to erect a statue of Christ the Redeemer on Primrose Hill. The statue will be a tribute to the one overlooking Rio de Janeiro, to celebrate passing on the torch (pun begrudgingly intended) to Brazil for 2016.

The Brazilian government would fund the project, and a planning consultancy based in London has been employed by Brazil’s tourist agency to hold a public meeting to display the designs before applications for planning permission are submitted.

The Camden-based design company See Me, Hear Me, Feel Me did not want to discuss the plans, and the Brazilian government was unavailable for comment, but Primrose Hill Lib Dem councillor Chris Naylor said he wasn’t sure a 30ft statue of Christ with his arms outstretched was quite what the area needed.

Other statues to celebrate the Olympics have been erected around Britain, often to the displeasure of residents. The ‘Jurassic Stones’ statue, by Richard Harris, has been greeted with horror by residents of Weymouth, Dorset. The Stones’ £335,000 bill pales in comparison to the £19m spent on Anish Kapoor’s ‘ArcelorMittal Orbit’, on site in Stratford.

 

Many people question why so much money is being spent on statues to celebrate the Olympics, and whether it is appropriate in the current economic climate. The term ‘Legacy’ has always been used to describe the impact of mega-events like the Games: urban development, social, economic and cultural changes are words often thrown around in relation to the Legacy. However, the term has been re-appropriated by critics of the Games and become somewhat of a joke. The Legacy that does seem to be taking shape is symbolised in the statues cropping up around the country – abstracted, distorted, and expensive.

The real Olympic Legacy will be towering debt.

For other Olympic links and Spectacle’s video archive

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National demo against racist EDL in Tower Hamlets: Sat 3 Sept

Unite Against Fascism, together with United East End and other community organisations, is calling a national demonstration against the racist English Defence League on Saturday 3 September .

The EDL is threatening to come to Tower Hamlets that day to spread race hatred and attack the local Muslim community.

Last year, around 5,000 people marched through Tower Hamlets in an impressive show of strength and unity against the EDL, although the racists had already been forced to call off their own protest, admitting it would be “a suicide mission” to attempt to march through London’s East End.

more on: unite against fascism

see also: tower hamlets alarm

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New Olympic legacy website: London-Rio: Olympic Cities

Mega Event Cities

London-Rio: Olympic Cities

“Cities across the globe are using mega events to catalyse urban development and social, economic and cultural change. Here we present insights and analysis of these events, examining their impact upon city-building and exploring their contribution to the design and shaping of place.

Our research is policy focused and practical. Our approach is focused upon the social impacts and legacies of mega events. We use interdisciplinary analysis to discover new ways of comparing and thinking about the mega event city.

We are interested in receiving comments on the site and suggestions for relevant material or links to be placed on it. The site will be dedicated primarily to housing academic work on the social legacies of mega events, particularly those referring to London 2012 or Rio 2016. We would also welcome links to our site being placed in sites addressing similar themes.”

For other Olympic links and Spectacle’s video archive

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London 2012 marathon manager quits in row with LOCOG

blue wall

Dave Bedford, the manager of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, has resigned from his post after a series of disagreements with the Olympics organising committee, LOCOG.

Bedford tendered his resignation on the 4th April, saying that the organisers were ‘inexperienced’ and had not listened to his advice. It is believed that Bedford was angered by the committee’s decision to move the marathon away from Tower Hamlets in east London to the Mall without consulting residents and over their plans to close the marathon route for a test run for ten hours on 30th May.

Over the past weeks, the press has reported a number of controversies involving LOCOG over the planning of the Olympics. In spite of this latest criticism, London Marathon have already confirmed that they will continue to work with the Committee to finalise preparations for the 2012 Olympics.

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Financial Times Reveals Welfare-to-Work Programme Chaos

OLYPHOTO - 270

The Welfare-to-Work Programme has been described as “set to fail” by Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham – the host borough for the 2012 London Olympics. In a fortnight, the winners of contracts are due to be announced, putting the unemployed and people on disability benefits back to work. However, Sir Robin believes that there is “a serious risk that some of the best prime providers may walk away”. Out of 11 bidders for the East and South London contract, 3 will be appointed in order to provide competition. Sir Robin said that he is yet to be convinced that ‘three prime contractors each delivering across 17 boroughs will do anything other than lead to confusion amongst job seekers and contractors’.

The rules the work programme has in place could themselves prevent people from taking one of the 100,000 jobs that the Olympics are meant to create. This is because providers will be paid the majority of their fee once they have managed to provide individuals with sustained work for a period of up to 2 years. However, given the short-term nature of most of the Olympic jobs on offer, the possibility of people taking jobs, becoming unemployed again and having to re-start the work programme a year later may prove discouraging.

Sir Robin believes that the government needs to ‘ensure that working in an Olympic job does not disadvantage the indivdual’ to avoid losing out on ‘the single greatest opportunity in Newham’s history to get our residents into work’.

To see the full article click Olympic jobless drive heads for ‘Chaos’

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Olympic Marathon dumps East End for tourist landmarks

The London Olympic Marathon will not go through the East End or finish at the Olympic Stadium as is tradition. To please the Olympic Committee, it will pass through the West End showcasing tourist landmarks St Paul’s Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament and Tower of London.  The race is planned to finish in the Mall with Buckingham Palace as its TV friendly backdrop. The race walks are also set to be held in central London instead of the East London as first planned.

Rushanara Ali, the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, has claimed that the change meant that organisers were “embarrassed and ashamed to showcase the area and its people to the world”
“If LOCOG goes ahead with this proposal, the message they send to the world is ‘while we are happy to use the vibrancy, dynamism and diversity of the East End of London to win the Olympics bid, we’re embarrassed and ashamed to showcase the area and its people to the world’,” said Ali.

Tower Hamlets Council have created a petition as well Facebook group to protest the decision. They claim that Sebastian Coe, chairman of London 2012, had promised them that the marathons would pass through their area.

In his defense, Coe stated that “This is not a beauty contest and it would be ludicrous to suggest that we are ashamed of the East End,” when he met with Ali during the Labour Party Conference in Manchester. Although defiant, Coe did promise that the Olympic Torch Relay would pass through East London.

The London Thames Gateway Development Corporation (LTGDC), the Government’s lead regeneration agency for East London, has described the decision not to route the marathons and walks through that area as a “missed opportunity” to promote the region as a key investment destination to international investors.

As with Greenwich Park (see here and here), spectacular televisual backdrops demanded by the Olympic Committee override the interests of London and its residents.

To read more visit insidethegames.biz

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