Tower Hamlets needs social housing, not luxury flats

Tower Hamlets need social housing,
not a mayor that is in the pockets of
luxury property developers.

Tower Hamlets needs social housing,

not a Mayor that is in the pockets of

luxury property developers

No more luxury flats

Requisition the empty towers NOW.

Weeks have now gone by, the Covid19 virus is spreading fast and it is now killing our friends and neighbours, and we cannot yet see any end in sight.

The entire country, in fact most of the entire world, has been told to stay home and stay safe.

Yet the construction sites, building luxury flats for overseas investors, remain open. Their workers travelling to and from work, spreading disease.

Where are our politicians? They’re in the pockets of the luxury property developers.

When this is over, the directors of property developers like Guinness Homes, Mount Anvil and Vastint UK, need to be prosecuted for ignoring the lockdown imposed upon the rest of us. They are fully aware of what they are doing, and they need to be held to account for murder.

If they can carry on as usual, why can’t we?

Luxury investment properties are not essential works, and it’s time they were seized and used as social housing.

Balfron Tower is now near complete-146 flats stolen from the people of Tower Hamlets are just sitting empty, awaiting investors.

If our politicians weren’t in the developers pockets, they would do what any decent Labour politician should do- condemn the developers and requisition the towers.

#shutthesites

Balfron Social Club

Poplar, 1st April 2020

The Prince and the Poplar (block of garages)

Did you know the social cleansing of Teviot Estate in Poplar was supported & funded by #PrinceAndrew?

Did you know the social cleansing of Teviot Estate in Poplar was supported & funded by #PrinceAndrew?

View image on Twitter

https://thetrampery.com/2017/02/20/duke-york-opens-trampery-republic-new-space-creative-innovation-east-india-dock/

100+ garages were annexed to build a #fashionhub, ahead of planned estate demolition, with Poplar Harca claiming 86% resident support, for the demolition of a purpose built estate, where flats cost up to £577 per week.

Apparently 86% of the residents of Teviot Estate voted for its demolition.

Thats 86% of residents, on a purpose-built council estate, stolen from the taxpayer, voted to have their homes demolished, where ex-RTB flats cost up to £577 per WEEK.

That’s right. EIGHTY-SIX PERCENT.

“The ballot concluded with residents giving a clear mandate to Poplar HARCA to proceed with the estate regeneration proposals – with a turnout of 81% and a positive majority of 86% of voters supporting the plans.”

https://www.electoralreform.co.uk/case-studies/poplar-harca/

So, a massive THANKS to all the housing activists, community, Labour Party, journalists, academics & everybody else involved in another landgrab on social housing, that YOU ALL COMPLETELY IGNORED.

First comes the fashion hub, then comes the evictions, then the bulldozers.

Perhaps if Anna Minton & co had actually done any real community based work, instead of ripping off the work of others & doing deals with Harca, people like Gavin, featured in @paulsng‘s Dispossession wouldn’t face being kicked out of their homes again.

Here’s Gavin, in Dispossession, talking about how he was homeless and moved into Balfron Tower. Then they kicked him out and put him on Teviot Estate. Now they’re kicking him out of there too, as they demolish the estate to build homes for rich people.

Balfron Social Club has been writing about social cleansing of Teviot Estate since 2015.

Read Brutalism {Redacted}- Social Art Practice and You exploring the role Hannah Nicklin subsequently took on Teviot Estate, which has now led to its demolition.

Read Brutalism [redacted] – Social Art Practice and You

Hannah Nicklin responded to our criticism, but ultimately admitted that the role she played was artwash for Poplar Harca. Now the Teviot Estate is facing demolition (with a claimed 86% approval), we can see exactly what was being artwashed, and why.

https://poplarpeople.co.uk/artwashing

Tweed House was the first block on Teviot Estate to be demolished, in recent years. We wrote about that in 2015 too.

Read Tweed House RIP

In May 2018, we asked The Trampery some questions. They have never answered.

I asked @electoralreform if they have anything to do with claimed approval rating on the regeneration of Teviot Estate. Here is their reply.

So, basically another bought & paid for consultation by Poplar Harca, delivering the results they ordered.

This is social cleansing, with a Royal seal of approval.

Balfron Social Club

26th November 2019

Artwashing the Archive with Bow Arts

@LBTHArchives have become a politically-motivated & funded propaganda wing for the social cleansing of Tower Hamlets.

James Lander at a screening of Inversion/Reflection:Turning Balfron Tower Inside Out at University of East London, hosted by Alberto Duman, 2015

James Lander, whose PhD was believed to be funded by Bow Arts, looks on longingly at my work, & wishes he had any talent whatsoever.

Meow, right? During this talk Lander claimed to be commissioned by Poplar Harca to create an archive in Balfron Tower.

He later denied it.

😼🙀

A visibly nervous Lander stuttered through his talk, gestured at me suggesting I had failed to negotiate with Bow Arts.

There was no negotiating with Bow Arts.

They’d no interest in art, or community, just money, & they used revenge eviction against me as a 1st resort… Lander came on board the Bow Arts gravy train when he was a property guardian in Balfron Tower.

Simon Terrill engaged him onto the building & Bow Arts took him under their wing, buying themselves a critical voice on the artwash of Balfron Tower… 

The photograph above was taken at a talk hosted by Alberto Duman at University of East London in 2015.

James Lander and Alberto Duman appeared together recently at TACO, in Thamesmead.

https://www.a-n.co.uk/news/assembly-thamesmead-building-communities-developing-collaborations-living-precariously/

It seems that fraud, social cleansing, vicious attacks on working class communities and the theft of Balfron Tower, during which social several long-term social housing residents died, so that their homes could be socially cleansed and sold off as luxury flats, is not enough to stop James Lander and Alberto Duman helping Bow Arts with their artwash programme.

Thamesmead is currently being artwashed & socially cleansed for Peabody. Nobody has ever been held to account for the charity tax fraud, revenge eviction, & sabotage of my residency at UCL.

Financial penalties aren’t enough, & Bow Arts still owe me £4k, taken illegally from my rent & donated to themselves without my permission.

https://www.artsprofessional.co.uk/news/exclusive-artist-squares-regulator-over-manifestly-unreasonable-fundraising-investigation

This thread explains in more detail, but I believe Bow Arts also paid Ruth Solomons, who was at the time soliciting them for money for her PhD.

Solomons name came up repeatedly in Subject Access Requests, questioning any challenge to BAT’s credibility.

Ruth had been bought. 

If you missed @paulageraghty brilliant thread on the integrity of the archive, check it out here…

Which leads me onto my interactions & experience of @LBTHArchives

I went to visit the London Borough of Tower Hamlets Library & archives in 2011, to talk to them about my work in Balfron Tower.

They were friendly & gave me a copy of 9th Floor: a History of Social Housing in Tower Hamlets. I have never had any other interactions with them… If anybody has ever had the misfortune to watch 9th Floor: a History of Social Housing then I am sorry for you.

The film was an incorrectly-titled propaganda film for Bow Arts & their artwash agenda. I knew the director. He was embarrassed by it… 

LBTH Library & Archive were clearly in the grip of Bow Arts propaganda, however bad, and their agenda of artwash & social cleansing.

In the years since, the Tower Hamlets Library & Archive have repeatedly exhibited & promoted all sorts of propaganda being funded by Bow Arts… 

Interspersed with exhibition after exhibition about the radical HISTORY of Tower Hamlets, plus unwavering support for Bow Arts, including artwashing patsy James Lander.

@LBTHArchives have become a politically-motivated & funded propaganda wing for the social cleansing of Tower Hamlets. 

I guess they’re not open to a critique then.

Lol, right?

btw, the Bow Arts propaganda film may have been called 15th floor, or something.

The director lived on the 9th floor of Balfron Tower, so thats what I always called it that. 

Rab Harling

Balfron Social Club

Poplar, 21st November 2019

This thread originated on Twitter. Thanks to @threadreader for the unroll.

The original thread can be found here: https://twitter.com/RabHarling/status/1196851487412019200

We are “all to blame” for the gentrification of Balfron Tower, claims Dr. Owen Hatherley.

I thoroughly agree that Owen Hatherley, and many of his ethically-challenged self-entitled chums, are certainly to blame for the gentrification of Balfron Tower, and also for the overall dismantlement of social housing in the United Kingdom in general, during a housing crisis.

But they are not the people that have to live with the consequences of what they support, or apologise for; they are not displaced from their communities, they have not been thrown out of their homes so they can be sold off to rich people who have come into Poplar and brutally attacked our working class community, following Poplar Harca’s CEO Steve Strides proclamation of “doing God’s work in Poplar” to create “a new Shoreditch”, brutally displacing working class communities and demolishing our social housing, dismantling the social tenancy system to build part-ownership models, financially out of the reach of almost everybody in our community, whilst their advertising hoardings boast of “affordable” housing that is being delivered in such small numbers it cannot be considered anything more than tokenism. Most of these people do not even live in the communities that they are waging class war against.

Nobody ever voted for Poplar Harca to operate as a local authority, yet they operate in this exact way. Nobody ever voted for them to operate or control parks, schools, markets, housing, transport, police, pubs, arts centres, community centres or to brand their name across every school child in Poplar.

Welcome to socialism in 21st Century Britain.

A few social housing tenants and leaseholders did get to vote for Poplar Harca, in a ballot transfer many years ago, where billions of pounds of publicly-owned housing stock was transferred, mostly free of charge, to a “Housing Association and Regeneration Communities Association”, who then mortgaged our entire community, via Bernadette Conroy, a Poplar Harca board member and a Vice President of HSBC, all with full liability firmly placed upon the Tower Hamlets tax payer.

But these tenants were lied to, they voted for Poplar Harca because they were told that they would be given new windows, new kitchens and new bathrooms. They were not told the truth that they would be brutally and ruthlessly thrown out of Balfron Tower, or their estate demolished and their family displaced, so Poplar Harca could do sleazy deals with sleazy property developers, like Londonewcastle.

I wrote a short thread on twitter, exploring some more of the people who are “all to blame”, read not to blame, for the social cleansing of Balfron Tower, from the blatant eugenics-like hatred of the working classes from Arts Council England funded Bow Arts, to apologists for social cleansing such as Anna Minton of the University of East London and Owen Hatherley.

We are not “all to blame” for the social cleansing of Balfron Tower. But a lot of people are; from property developers, journalists, politicians (all Labour), artists, arts organisations, Arts Council England, Historic England, National Trust, British Council, University of East London and University of the Arts, amongst many others.

It is not now, nor will it ever be acceptable to invest in, or live, in a regenerated Balfron Tower that has 0% social housing. The experiment in privatising our social housing has not worked, and it’s time to nationalise all housing built with public funds, or housing that as been built to replace it. The attacks on our working class communities have gone too far and people must be held to account. Owen Hatherley’s defence of Studio Egret West, and the vandalism done to both the building and the community will not be forgotten.

Balfron Social Club has campaigned since 2014 to retain 50% social housing in a refurbished Balfron Tower. The current amount being offered is zero. This is not good enough. My advice for those considering purchasing or living in the all new-improved Balfron Tower, would be to familiarise yourself with High Rise by JG Ballard.

You’re going to need it.

Balfron Social Club, Poplar

3rd June 2019

Big Issue issues an award for corruption & social cleansing

Homelessness charity The Big Issue gives working-class communities in London’s east end a slap in the face, as it rewards Katharine Hibbert & Dot Dot Dot for helping property developers to dismantle social housing.

From the Telegraph 3rd March 2015:

What Does Balfron Tower Mean to You?

What Does Balfron Tower Mean to You? by Rab Harling

As its five month installation in Living with Buildings at the Wellcome Collection draws to a close on 3rd March 2019, Inversion/Reflection: What Does Balfron Tower Mean to You?, a short film by Rab Harling, is now available to watch, free of charge, here on the Balfron Social Club website.

If you are able to visit Living with Buildings at the Wellcome Collection in central London, we highly recommend a visit to the free exhibition.

Please note that this film is displayed here for personal viewing only. Commercial or educational screening of this film is unauthorised without prior consent. Please use the Contact button for all enquiries.

Find out more about Living with Buildings on the Wellcome Collection website.

Living with Buildings at the Wellcome Collection until 3rd March 2019

Doreen Fletcher: artwashing the east end with Bow Arts

It is beyond question that Doreen Fletcher is a talented painter, and her paintings display a nostalgic sentimentality for a rapidly changing east London, an east London whose communities have faced a turbulent time over the past 20 years, as the east end is changed beyond recognition.

Bartlett Park by Doreen Fletcher. Bartlett Park in Poplar has seen heavy residential development, and now houses an arts organisation under the control of Poplar Harca.

Fletcher has been adopted by the East London Group, which promote the works of painters such as Albert Turpin and Harold Steggles, “mostly working class, realist painters whose formal education had often stopped at elementary school”, they portrayed a grimy smoke-filled vision of the east end. Doreen has been promoted as a “lost artist”, an artist previously ignored by the art establishment, whose work is now being brought to the attention of the public by Paul Godfrey, aka The Gentle Author. Godfrey has published the monograph Doreen Fletcher: Paintings under his own Spitalfields Life publishing house. The book is published to accompany her exhibition with Bow Arts at The Nunnery.

Doreen’s paintings at best visually fit the canon, and at worst are derivative of the East London Group, who primarily worked in the first half of the 20th century. At the same time as the East London Group were painting the streets of east London, a wider revolution was happening in British society. In Poplar, a rates rebellion had led George Lansbury, a Labour Councillor that fought and was jailed for fighting for the rights of the working classes in his community, to become MP for Bow and Bromley and Chairman of the Labour Party. The horror that had been the 1st World War led to a boom in the building of social housing for working class communities, and the fallout from the 2nd World War led to the creation of the welfare state; free medical coverage, free education and most importantly, a safety net for those who fell through the cracks.

Shakey’s Yard in Winter by Albert Turpin

However, in post-Thatcher austerity Britain, a neoliberal agenda is being pursued by everybody from government, education to the arts. In the current turbulent political climate, comfort can be found in a romantic painting of an east end long since vanished, and Doreen provides plenty of comfort for us to reminisce over the past.

Godfrey’s claims that Fletcher is a lost artist however are all part of a smokescreen, an illusion that preaches community and integrity and celebrates the working class artisan, whilst imposing its singular view upon us; that of white, middle-class gentrification.

Fletcher’s CV reveals she is far from that of a lost artist, with paintings held in the collections of many civic and financial institutions. The lost artist claim serves to build up Fletcher’s mythology; to sell books, to sell paintings, but even more sinister: to sell the east end to an affluent class of investor, for them to romanticise its history; nostalgia for displaced communities that they themselves are replacing.

Stop the Blocks campaign poster featuring Balfron Social Club

Paul Godfrey, aka the Gentle Author, first came to my attention in 2015 over his involvement in the Stop the Blocks movement. Stop the Blocks first appeared in June 2015 and disappeared just a few months later. Stop the Blocks campaigned to “save Shoreditch from the shadows” and a well attended rally was held and glossy leaflets and a large poster were produced. The poster featured local activist campaigns, including Balfron Social Club and Save Chrisp Street, accompanied by hand drawn pictures of the territory we were fighting for, including Balfron Tower.

Godfrey wrote about Balfron Tower:

Built as council housing, designed by Erno Goldfinger in 1963 and made a Grade II listed building in 1996, Balfron Tower is now being sold off by Poplar Housing & Regeneration Association. Current long-term residents are being forced to sell and moved out while the famous block is being fetishised in a sixties-style marketing campaign to attract private owners. The circumstances at Balfron Tower are a prime example of how social restructuring is devastating London’s working-class communities. Another layer of social division was added when artists renting emptied properties were co-opted tacitly into PR for the sell-off – a process that has become known as ‘art wash.’ 

And he wrote about the campaign to Save Chrisp Street Market:

‘Save Chrisp St Market’ is campaigning to inform local residents and traders about the proposed ‘regeneration’ of Chrisp St Market by Poplar Housing & Regeneration Association (HARCA). The plans include ‘luxury’ housing and stores, at the expense of shops and accommodation affordable for local people. Traders will be booted out for the period of redevelopment, or longer – if they cannot afford the increased rents. Traders say they have been left in the dark about the future of the market. Save Chrisp St intends to do their own consultation in parallel with­­­ Poplar HARCA’s, by going door-to-door asking people about what they would like to see for the area. So far, many people have said they want the market to be improved, but not at the cost of their ability to live there. Save Chrisp St are working to make sure that the community has a proper voice. 

Stop the Blocks, August 2015 (pic: Rab Harling)

Despite involvement in two of the campaigns featured, no contact was ever received from Godfrey, or any of his associates before publishing the Stop the Blocks campaign poster. Stop the Blocks claimed to be a “network of grassroots Tower Hamlets campaigns fighting gentrification and social cleansing,” but seemed to be co-opting other groups, many grateful for the exposure for their campaign, for their own short-lived cause. So, it later came as no surprise to discover Godfrey had joined forces with Bow Arts.

Bow Arts had been at the forefront of the recent trend of using artists to help property developers displace communities. Their poorly managed occupation of a number of estates managed by the housing association Poplar Harca had imposed arts-led gentrification across a number of sites in the process of being socially cleansed in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

The Albion Public House by Doreen Fletcher

The use of artists as the foot soldiers of gentrification had various levels of success, depending upon who you asked. The Bow Arts Balfron Tower Case Study, which was no doubt lapped up without question by housing association Peabody when choosing Bow Arts to help artwash their social cleansing program in the London suburb of Thamesmead, told of a fantasy that existed inside the head of Bow Arts CEO Marcel Baettig, a fantasy where artists benefitted from targeted harassment, monitoring of their social media accounts and happily donated their landlord, a registered charity, thousands of pounds a year as a donation, taken illegally from their rent.

Bow Arts purpose was clear: it was, and remains, a publicly-funded charity who supply artists to property developers to help artwash the social cleansing and the dismantlement of social housing. Their involvement in the artwash and social cleansing of the infamous Balfron Tower serves to remind us of the direction being taken by Arts Council England, to take the lottery receipts from the Heritage Lottery ticket customers, and use it to artwash the dismantlement of our social assets.

So, is Fletcher innocent for turning a blind-eye to how Bow Arts operate? I certainly made Fletcher aware of how Bow Arts operate many months ago, but like so many artists, she chose to ignore the behaviour of who she is working with, giving them her endorsement, as well as the endorsement of the East London Group. Godfrey’s prior co-optation of sites of contestation in the east end, such as Balfron Tower suggest he was already fully aware of Bow Arts controversial role in the artwash of the east end, but chose to collaborate with them regardless. No support was ever received by Godfrey in our campaigns to save Balfron Tower or Chrisp Street Market from gentrification.

It disheartens me that artists allow their art to be deployed as a weapon against society, artwashing the reputation of some thoroughly greedy individuals and organisations, and there is no doubt that this is what Fletcher’s retrospective at Bow Arts does. Fletcher’s baby-boomer narcissism may allow her to ignore, support or collaborate in the social cleansing of the communities that she painted, but the rest of the East London Group, now deceased, have now had her ethics imposed upon them. This association with Bow Arts damages the legacy of the East London Group of painters; painters unable to object.

Balfron Social Club

Poplar, 25th January 2019

Notes:

Doreen Fletchers website https://www.doreenfletcherartist.com/

East London Group on Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_London_Group

George Lansbury and the Poplar rates rebellion on Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poplar_Rates_Rebellion

Closed House Weekend by Stop the Blocks in Design Exchange Magazine http://www.demagazine.co.uk/architecture/closed-house-weekend-spitalfields-life

Balfron Tower: the Artwash of an Icon by Rab Harling in Urban Transcripts Journal http://journal.urbantranscripts.org/article/balfron-tower-artwash-icon-rab-harling/

Artist squares up to Regulator over “manifestly unreasonable” fundraising investigation by Christy Romer https://www.artsprofessional.co.uk/news/exclusive-artist-squares-regulator-over-manifestly-unreasonable-fundraising-investigation

A Researchers Guide to Balfron Tower

Pic by @BalfronSocial

Balfron Social Club is regularly asked for help by researchers, journalists and students, so we have compiled a list of useful links and resources, for your easy reference.

This list will be updated regularly. If you have a suggestion, or have written something you would like us to include, please get in touch. This guide does not include work on the Balfron Social Club blog, so don’t forget to look at all the great content on our blog too.

Last updated 14th March 2019.

Balfron Tower: a Building Archive by David Roberts http://www.balfrontower.org/

Balfron Tower: a building archive

Balfron Tower: the Artwash of an Icon by Rab Harling http://journal.urbantranscripts.org/article/balfron-tower-artwash-icon-rab-harling/

Still from What Does Balfron Tower Mean to You? by Rab Harling

Rethinking the role of artists in urban regeneration contexts by Stephen Pritchard http://colouringinculture.org/blog/rethinkingartistsinurbanregen

SCREENSHOT FROM TEVIOT TALES BY HANNAH NICKLIN (2016)

Wayne Hemingway’s ‘pop-up’ plan sounds the death knell for the legendary Balfron Tower by Ollie Wainwright https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/architecture-design-blog/2014/sep/26/wayne-hemingways-pop-up-plan-sounds-the-death-knell-for-the-legendary-balfron-tower

Photograph: Sophia Schorr-Kon/National Trust

What Does Balfron Tower Mean to You? By Rab Harling http://rabharling.com/what-does-balfron-tower-mean-to-you/

Still from What Does Balfron Tower Mean to You? by Rab Harling

C20 Society’s fears are confirmed as the Balfron Tower’s new look is unveiled https://c20society.org.uk/news/c20-societys-fears-are-confirmed-as-the-balfron-towers-new-look-is-unveiled/

Catherine Croft, the Society’s Director, said “especially given the controversial decision to change Balfron from social housing to private flats, this outcome is a tragic missed opportunity.”

Hey Creatives, Stop Fetishising Estates by Caroline Christie https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/jm953d/balfron-tower-art-fetishising-estates-157

Ken Coleman, local resident. Image Copyright Vice Magazine.

How the Balfron Tower tenants were ‘decanted’ and lost their homes by Benjamin Mortimer http://www.eastendreview.co.uk/2015/03/24/balfron-tower-poplar-harca/

High life: The Balfron Tower. Photograph: Joe Roberts

Balfron residents: ‘Privatising the tower will segregate the community’ by Dr Vanessa Crawford https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/balfron-residents-privatising-the-tower-will-segregate-the-community/8691394.article

Image from Inversion/Reflection: Turning Balfron Tower Inside Out by Rab Harling

How ‘placemaking’ is tearing apart social housing communities by Nye Jones https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/dec/27/london-placemaking-social-housing-communities-tenants

Photograph: Jess Hurd/reportdigital.co.uk

A delicate sense of terror by Rab Harling http://journal.urbantranscripts.org/article/second-post/

A Delicate Sense of Terror by Rab Harling

Artist squares up to Regulator over “manifestly unreasonable” fundraising investigation by Christy Romer https://www.artsprofessional.co.uk/news/exclusive-artist-squares-regulator-over-manifestly-unreasonable-fundraising-investigation

Photo: diamond geezer via VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-ND

Regulator resolute on decision to side with charity over artist by Christy Romer https://www.artsprofessional.co.uk/news/regulator-resolute-decision-side-charity-over-artist

Photo: gee on Visual Hunt / CC BY

Letter: We’re not here to defend the public – Gerald Oppenheim, CEO of the Fundraising Regulator https://www.artsprofessional.co.uk/magazine/letter/letter-were-not-here-defend-public

Fundraising Regulator- a toothless regulator

Poplar parade of garages to become £4m East End fashion hub by Jonathon Prynn https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/poplar-parade-of-garages-to-become-4m-east-end-fashion-hub-a3164031.html

Image: Evening Standard

Campaigners challenge housing association’s social cleansing policy by Tower Hamlets Renters https://towerhamletsrenters.wordpress.com/2015/02/17/561/

Pic by @BalfronSocial

From sink to swank — In defence of Britain’s brutal estates by Edwin Heathcote https://www.ft.com/content/7ae5d134-bacf-11e5-bf7e-8a339b6f2164

Image: Copyright FT

Balfron Tower: Gutted east London fortress is a husk of a utopia by Jessica Mairs https://www.iconeye.com/opinion/icon-of-the-month/item/13178-balfron-tower-erno-goldfinger

Photo: WandererWandering via Flickr (cropped)

Where do Zupagrafika stand on brutal capitalism destroying London communities by Pippa Henslowe https://reclaimec1.wordpress.com/2018/03/01/where-do-zupagrafika-stand-on-brutal-capitalism-destroying-london-communities/

Image: Reclaim EC1

Bazaar Politics: Uncovering Social Cleansing In the Heart of London by Dilly Hussain https://ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/bazaar-politics-uncovering-social-cleansing-heart-london/

Pic: Ceasefire

The Pernicious Realities of ‘Artwashing’ by Feargus O’Sullivan https://www.citylab.com/equity/2014/06/the-pernicious-realities-of-artwashing/373289/

Wikimedia Commons/Graeme Maclean

Artists Against Artwashing: Anti-Gentrification & the Intangible Rise of the Social Capital Artist by Stephen Pritchard http://colouringinculture.org/blog/artistsagainstartwashing

Pic via colouringinculture.org

Campaigners and local residents are furious with a Labour council for ‘allowing social and ethnic cleansing’ by Nye Jones https://www.thecanary.co/trending/2018/07/25/campaigners-and-local-residents-are-furious-with-a-labour-council-for-allowing-social-and-ethnic-cleansing/

Still from The Battle of Chrisp Street by Rab Harling

East End tenants ‘booted out’ of Goldfinger’s iconic Balfron Tower’ claim by Mike Brooke https://www.eastlondonadvertiser.co.uk/news/east-end-tenants-booted-out-of-goldfinger-s-iconic-balfron-tower-claim-1-3961574

Image via East London Advertiser

‘Artwashing’ Teviot Tales – artwashing? by Hannah Nicklin http://poplarpeople.co.uk/artwashing

Image: Poplar People

Labour peer Lord Cashman discusses Poplar Harca and the social cleansing of Balfron Tower in the House of Lords https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/667e22e7-c184-4d12-a33a-07a0e9737a07?in=15:50:50

Lord Cashman of Limehouse

A new documentary shows the harsh realities of regeneration in East London by Nye Jones https://www.thecanary.co/reviews/2018/06/17/a-new-documentary-shows-the-harsh-realities-of-regeneration-in-east-london/

A still from The Battle of Chrisp Street by Rab Harling

Challenging the artwashing of social cleansing means calling out & critiquing artists involved by Stephen Pritchard http://colouringinculture.org/blog/callingoutartwashingartists

YOUR LIFE BUT ARTWASHED, STEPHEN PRITCHARD, 2017.

Interview: Bow Arts In Balfron Tower by Londonist https://londonist.com/2009/03/interview_bow_arts_in_balfron_tower

Pic: Londonist

STOP PRIVATISATION AND SOCIAL CLEANSING AT BALFRON TOWER: Change.org petition by Balfron Social Club & others. https://www.change.org/p/stephen-halsey-steve-stride-john-biggs-stop-privatisation-and-social-cleansing-at-balfron-tower

Pic by @BalfronSocial

RAB HARLING INTERVIEW: Diffusion Photography Festival 2017 https://2017.diffusionfestival.org/live/rab-harling-interview

Rab Harling speaking at Diffusion 2017

Balfron Tower Redevelopment Video by Poplar Harca https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2hVJ0_SxtI&t=2s

Making Poplar a better place to live.

Balfron Tower: Not for the likes of us by James Walsh https://morningstaronline.co.uk/a-2a72-balfron-tower-not-for-the-likes-of-us-1

There were no pictures in the Morning Star article

Mr Goldfinger’s Tower by Steve White & the Protest Family https://stevewhiteandtheprotestfamily.bandcamp.com/track/mr-goldfingers-tower

Steve White and the Protest Family

Property chiefs caught up in Presidents Club scandal by Colin Marrs https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/property-chiefs-caught-up-in-presidents-club-scandal/10027474.article

Londonewcastle, the developers of Balfron Tower, had their own table at The Presidents Club. Is this the sort of hospitality Poplar Harca received before giving them the development contract?

Interview: Bow Arts In Balfron Tower by Londonist https://londonist.com/2009/03/interview_bow_arts_in_balfron_tower

Insert stock photo of Balfron Tower here.

Property developers Londonewcastle’s marketing website for Balfron Tower http://balfrontower.com/#

Balfron Tower: stolen social housing being marketed to the rich

Balfron Tower Redevelopment Video (July 2014) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3FMGeJ9g6Q

Dispossession: the Great Social Housing Swindle / Social Housing Social Cleansing

Social Housing, Social Cleansing: Balfron Tower excerpt, co-produced by Rab Harling, includes photographic and video work from the Inversion / Reflection series, and includes a personal appearance.

This excerpt taken from Channel 5’s Social Housing Social Cleansing. Directed by Paul Sng for Velvet Joy Productions. First broadcast 28th March 2018.

Balfron Tower excerpt originally featured in the cinema documentary feature film Dispossession: the Great Social Housing Swindle (2017), directed by Paul Sng. First screened at the East End Film Festival, 8th June 2017.

To watch Social Housing, Social Cleansing online: visit My5.tv

For more information on Dispossession: the Great Social Housing Swindle: Click here

Artwash and the Rhizome (the Social Cleansing of Poplar)

BFI & Arts Council England are funding property developers who are socially cleansing social housing, during a housing crisis.

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This talk was commissioned by The Rainbow Collective (1) and was first delivered at Building a Movement at the East End Film Festival (2), London on 14th April 2018.


In this talk I will attempt to draw analogy between a rhizome and the organic interconnectivity of community and how through genetic modification the rhizome can be engineered to work against the community in the service of property developers, focussing on Poplar Harca (3), Up Projects (4) and my own research in Balfron Tower (5).

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Balfron Tower, Poplar (pic: © Rab Harling)


When I first started living and working in Balfron Tower at the start of 2011, alongside my planned photographic project to turn the tower inside out using large format photography, to reveal a cross section of the tower depicting the interior worlds of its residents, I also proposed alongside to map the rhizome-like structure of the community living in the Tower, and as the project developed, to record the community’s interconnectivity as it prepared to be decanted of its social housing tenants, prior to the regeneration and 100% privatisation of the block by registered social landlord Poplar Harca, in partnership with Telford Homes (6) and luxury property developers and Presidents’ Club (7) table hosts Londonewcastle (8).

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There was some understandable outrage amongst tower residents when publicly-funded Bow Arts (9) flounced into Balfron Tower, in 2007, promoting it as Artwash Central, commissioning the likes of John Walter and Simon Terril to become the friendly faces of artwash and of their imminent gentrification, further confirming the profession of artist as mere foot soldiers to property developers intent upon feasting upon the carcass of our social housing.

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It wasn’t long before the residents committee banned art projects in the tower, a ban aggressively enforced against any artist daring to be creative outside the confines of their own home (at least not without official approval in advance).

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This made it necessary to map interactions with residents in a very different way than had I put up posters on a Poplar Harca controlled community notice board encouraging people to come forward to participate.

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Instead, I got to know my neighbours and integrated myself into the community and made myself a useful person to know, and it wasn’t long before I was a familiar face around the building, sometimes to a mixed reception, somewhat understandable given the conflicted nature of a community in the process of being removed from their homes, all the whilst being surrounded by a group of mostly middle class artists purposefully and insensitively placed there to raise the profile of the building, and the value of the homes they were being decanted from.

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In my attempts to map the interconnectivity within the community, by encouraging neighbours to tell their friends in the building about my work and to encourage their participation, I discovered that there were a lot of people who were very isolated and alone within that tower.

-There were a lot of people who quite simply did not know any of their neighbours at all-


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Images from Inversion/Reflection: Turning Balfron Tower Inside Out by Rab Harling


In some cases I faced some hostility (more often from the artists than anybody else), but in most cases my neighbours were friendly and welcomed me in to their homes and willingly and enthusiastically took part in my project to document their surroundings, before they were written out of the history of the great Erno Goldfinger’s greatest achievement.

Before my eviction from Balfron Tower by publicly funded “charity” Bow Arts, at the end of 2013, in an attempt to sabotage my work as revenge for questioning significant anomalies in their taxes (10), I had spent three full years working and living in the building, and 120 out of 146 of my neighbours had participated in my work, creating an incredible archive of life in Balfron Tower during its social cleansing.

Whilst a potential attempt to map the rhizome was theoretically there in numbers, it was simply not there in connectivity, with most neighbours being far more isolated than had been anticipated.

The divide and conquer tactics used to clear the community of Balfron Tower had been very effective, decimating a once proud and friendly East end community. A community that had famously been moved street by street, from the old terraced slums into the great futuristic architect designed communities in the sky, had been all but destroyed by systemic practice to dismantle any potential opposition to their social cleansing and the sale of their social housing as luxury properties to Canary Wharf bankers and architecture professionals with no sense of moral outrage.

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Making sense of the metaphor

This brings me to my second look into the rhizome and the darker nature of community connectivity, which is to look at the forces that led to the social cleansing of Balfron Tower, that led to the purposeful devastation of an established community over a period of ten years, the length of time it took to clear Balfron Tower.

One of the most common complaints I heard when speaking to people in Poplar is just how little support local people receive from Poplar Harca, which effectively runs Poplar as an unelected local authority, including providing community centres, markets, parks, police and schools, which are all very much under the control of Harca.

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A Poplar Harca public consultation on the regeneration of Chrisp Street Market, 2013


Complaints are common that Poplar Harca are running the community for the people they want to live there, rather than the people who do live there; placemaking a future community to create their vision of “a new Shoreditch” whilst carrying out sham consultations, organising fake petitions as well as practically every heinous act a social landlord could carry out against a community it desperately wants to displace.

If my rhizome analogy functions in relation to a successful community, or the failures in the mapping of an unsuccessful one in the process of decant, such as that found in Balfron Tower, how would it work when applied to Poplar Harca, the Registered Social Landlord?

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Artwash is not welcome in Poplar


The arrival of the Victoria and Albert Museum in Poplar, with the creation of the Lansbury Micro Museum (11) at Chrisp Street Market, seems to typify the kind of memory harvesting being undertaken by artwashers, supported by the property developers whose interest they serve.

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The Lansbury Micro-Museum at Chrisp Street Market, a joint venture between the Victoria & Albert Museum and Poplar Harca


A “micro-museum”, as was the case at Chrisp Street Market, or some other attraction arrives in the neighbourhood. They are friendly and welcoming and host all sorts of events to try and engage the community.

Meanwhile, they seek to harvest your photographs, your memories, which they will use to reminisce your passing, as you are forced out of your community, as your social housing is demolished and replaced by “affordable” housing you cannot afford, with an awful lot of units for sale, via a solicitor in Hong Kong (12).

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Memory Harvesting on Brick Lane


And don’t be too surprised, if you take part in one these artwash exercises, to find your grandma staring back at you on a hoarding surrounding a building site that has no social housing, telling you about the wonderful heritage you could be a part of; subject to contract and a significant deposit; for a 25% share in a tiny new-build, so long as you meet the criteria to receive “affordable” housing, and earn approximately £70k per year.

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Sonya Boyce on the Up Projects homepage


The addition of new board members in 2017 to Arts Council NPO Up Projects could be a good indication of their genuine mission rather than their stated aims to place contemporary art in public places. Through the prism of Up Projects I will investigate just how well the rhizome can function, should a clear agenda be identified; or a hidden agenda on behalf of a property developer.

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Paul Augarde claims to have “spent a decade making feature films.” yet his IMDB.com profile reveals a very different story (13).


In addition to Xanthe Arvanitakis, commercial director of Soane Museuem, Helen Pheby of Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Paul Augarde, Director of Placemaking for Poplar Harca, was also appointed to the board of directors of Up Projects in 2017, so it might be interesting just to take a look at the accounts of Up Projects to see where they get their money.

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Up Projects Statement of Financial Activities (14), 2017 

Their accounts reveal that over the 2 years, 2016 and 2017, they received donations and grants of over £811,000. Let’s take a closer look at this income, perhaps to see if they are funded to fulfil some sort of agenda.

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Up Projects Analysis of Grants Received (15), 2016 & 2017

Arts Council England is their greatest funder, supplying Up Projects with over £271,000 of public money over two years. Significant sums were also received from the British Film Institute, Queen Mary University of London and the Canal and River Trust, spotted recently writing supporting applications to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, in support of the regeneration of Chrisp Street Market by Poplar Harca.

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The architect of Poplar’s social cleansing, Steve Stride, CEO of Poplar Harca


However, the most revealing grants come from Foundations for Future London (16) who generously provided Up Projects with £95,000 over two years, and on their board? The architect of Poplar’s social cleansing, Mr Steve Stride, Chief Executive of Poplar Harca and Paul Augarde’s boss.

These examples just scratch the surface of the rhizome, which weaves a sinister pattern, repeated again and again across Poplar.

If you want to open a pub appealing to middle class gentrifiers, such as the Galvanisers on the Coventry Cross Estate then you get five years free rent from Harca. If you are a Bengali seamstress wanting to open a small stall at Chrisp Street Market, then you find their terms and conditions so stringent, along with your childcare and other family responsibilities, that the dream dies.

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Free rent for some

If you have the right connections and want to open a bicycle shop in the market, then you get £17,000 free rent from Poplar Harca. However, if you are a trader seen to protest the unwanted gentrification of the market, you suddenly find your rent triples to £27,000 and you are forced to voluntarily close up your business, as has been reported to me by market traders this week.

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Londonewcastle showing gross insensitivity in their celebration of the social cleansing of Balfron Tower


Anybody who takes a look beyond Poplar Harca’s glossy PR with a critical eye quickly sees their shine tarnish as their shallow motives are revealed; to force the poor from our communities, to dismantle our social housing, in collaboration with HSBC and luxury property developers like Londonewcastle and Telford Homes, and to ensure their legacy as managing agents and co-landlords in the replacements to the social housing they are dismantling.

I appreciate my view that Balfron Tower should retain at least 50% social housing after regeneration is controversial and is clearly an outrageous demand, particularly of a Registered Social Landlord that was given 9000 properties by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets free of charge. I appreciate that not everyone shares my view.

If you would like to hear another point of view on Balfron Tower, from a public school educated architectural historian, who has never lived there, Owen Hopkins of Soane Museum is giving a talk at Sutton House next week, hosted by Pages of Hackney, a Clapton bookseller and The Guardian’s former gentrifier-in-residence Dave Hill (17).

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Wayne Hemigway’s ‘pop-up’ plan sounds the death knell for the legendary Balfron Tower, Oliver Wainwright in The Guardian, 26 September 2014  (18)


Held in a National Trust property, again revealing NT’s taste for the artwash and social cleansing of Balfron Tower has not diminished since their poorly considered venture there with Poplar Harca and Wayne Hemingway in 2014, which led to Ollie Wainwright in The Guardian describing it as the “death knell for the legendary Balfron Tower”.

Maybe I should just take a moment to remind you that Owen Hopkins works for Soane Museum. The Commercial Director of Soane Museum is Xanthe Avanitakis who is on the board of Up Projects, alongside Paul Augarde, the Director of Placemaking for Poplar Harca.

The rhizome functions perfectly well, albeit in a somewhat genetically modified form skewed towards a property developer agenda, and like a rhizome, the complexity of the interconnectivities working to asset strip our community needs significant further research.

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Contingent liabilities for the people of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets (19)


This is why I am demanding, before it is too late and there is nothing left worth fighting for, that the Mayor of London (or perhaps one the candidates in the forthcoming Tower Hamlets mayoral elections) should call for and carry out an immediate, independent and full audit of Poplar Harca, including the development contracts for Chrisp Street Market, Balfron Tower as well as every other estate Harca have demolished or any other community that is in the process of being gentrified, or that has already been destroyed by the Poplar Harca social cleansing machine; and there are many.

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We need to know whether their operations are in the best interest of the people of Tower Hamlets or whether they are just serving the interests of banks, property developers and politicians, and Harca need to be held to account for the damage they have caused to our communities.

After all, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets has guaranteed to cover all liabilities and losses of Poplar Harca, using public funds.

I won’t hold my breath for an audit, but I will keep asking.

Rab Harling

14th April 2018


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Rab Harling on stage at the East End Film Festival, London. 14th April 2018. Picture courtesy of The Rainbow Collective.

References:

  1. The Rainbow Collective website: http://www.rainbowcollective.co.uk/
  2. Building a Movement, East End Film Festival:  http://www.eastendfilmfestival.com/programme-archive/action-housing-talks-screenings/
  3. Poplar Harca website: http://www.poplarharca.co.uk/
  4. Up Projects website http://www.upprojects.com/
  5. Rab Harling website http://rabharling.com/info/
  6. Telford Homes website   http://www.telfordhomes.london/developments/current
  7. Details on the President’s Club scandal involving Londonewcastle https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/24/guest-list-presidents-club-all-male-charity-gala
  8. Londonewcastle website http://londonewcastle.com/developments/balfron-tower/
  9. Charity tax fraudsters Bow Arts website http://www.bowsarts.com/
  10. Artist squares up to Regulator over “manifestly unreasonable” fundraising investigation https://www.artsprofessional.co.uk/news/exclusive-artist-squares-regulator-over-manifestly-unreasonable-fundraising-investigation
  11. V&A Lansbury Micro-museum website http://lansburymicromuseum.com/
  12. Marketing video for former social housing on the Aberfeldy Estate, E14 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnir13hRgtA
  13. Paul Augarde’s entry on IMDB, the industry standard for film & TV credits http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0041776/?ref_=nv_sr_1
  14. Report of the trustees and unaudited financial statements for Up Projects https://tinyurl.com/y94kfanz
  15. Report of the trustees and unaudited financial statements for Up Projects https://tinyurl.com/y94kfanz
  16. Foundation for Future London website https://www.future.london/
  17. No link will be provided for this event until after it has taken place
  18. Wayne Hemingway’s ‘pop-up’ plan sounds the death knell for the legendary Balfron Tower, Olly Wainwright, The Guardian, 26th September 2014 https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/architecture-design-blog/2014/sep/26/wayne-hemingways-pop-up-plan-sounds-the-death-knell-for-the-legendary-balfron-tower
  19. Tower Hamlets Annual Financial Report 2012/2013 https://www.towerhamlets.gov.uk/Documents/Finance/Accounts-and-audit/Statement-of-Accounts-2012-13-Jan14.pdf