Just how do you get social housing in Tower Hamlets in just 5 months? We asked Apsana Begum MP.

A secure tenancy on a £330,000 riverside flat in Tower Hamlets in east London, at social rent? That sounds too good to be true! Tell us how?

We asked Poplar & Limehouse’s newest occupant of their secure Labour parliamentary seat in Tower Hamlets for an answer. Ms Begum, formerley married to a currently serving Tower Hamlets councillor, seems to have bagged herself a secure tenancy on a £330,000 property in the Isle of Dogs region of the Borough.

Balfron Social Club asked her how she did it?

Ms Begum seems to like Twitter, but she must just keep missing our tweets. I’ll ask again.

We still haven’t received an answer.

“The housing crisis remains at the top of the political agenda, its scale laid bare by the Covid-19 epidemic . But despite the media spotlight, the stories of those affected by the  chronic shortage of social housing in the United Kingdom, including in Tower Hamlets, have often been left out of debates on housing.”

https://poplarandlimehouselabour.org.uk/index.php/events/

We agree!

The housing crisis in Tower Hamlets is catastrophic for local communities, after years of corruption at the very top, with a mayor who used to be a lobbyist for property developers; billions of pounds of public assets have been passed into the hands of their friends and associates, which are then quickly passed into the hands of property developers, redeveloped and sold with the most minimal of public housing provision; typically 0% in direct comparison with traditional social tenancies.

Instead, properties, which still meet the criteria to be classified as “affordable” housing, require a £90,000 income in order to buy a 25% share of a tiny new-build property; a property built on the graveyard of social housing and the communities that once lived there.

But Poplar & Limehouse has a brand new MP- young, female and ambitious, what’s the problem?

The problem is that Apsana Begum jumped over 18,000 places on the official Tower Hamlets social housing register. This register recently had tens of thousands of names removed from it, and many more people, including myself, have simply been refused permission to add our names to the list.

So, if there are 18,000 people officially on the list, how many people are there that Tower Hamlets have deemed un-listworthy?

Including myself, I estimate there to be at least that number again; sofa-surfing, sleeping on floors, in vehicles, in overcrowded or unsafe homes, garages, sheds, doorways, squats etc.

So, how did Apsana Begum MP get a secure social tenancy on a £330,000 riverside flat on the Isle of Dogs, next to the now near-abandoned Canary Wharf international banking sector?

We have asked, repeatedly, but we have still not received a reply.

To be fair, I am not the only person asking, and I don’t think anybody has received a reply. Corruption and social cleansing seem to come as standard equipment in Tower Hamlets, under Mayor John Biggs, with a number of entire buildings mysteriously changing hands or being sold to friends for just £1, and dozens of entire estates facing “regeneration” as our social housing is asset-stripped and replaced by business models that suits banks and property developers, not buyers and certainly not the local community.

Housing policy in Tower Hamlets is overt social cleansing.

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/10390219/labour-candidate-probe-council-flat/

Tower Hamlets Social Housing Case Studies

As official figures provided by crooked politicians on social housing simply cannot be trusted, and their PR closely resembles the genre of fantasy fiction, I thought I would share a few stories about people who weren’t lucky enough to be given a secure tenancy, at social rent, in a riverside property, in only 5 months.

Classic Move

Having been hand-picked to stand for election, in 2019, in the secure seat of Poplar & Limehouse in Tower Hamlets, east London- a borough renowned for corruption, Ms Begum seems to have decided that it would be a good idea to spin herself into position as a saviour of social housing.

Dispossession: the Great Social Housing Swindle

Watch Dispossession: the Great Social Housing Swindle for yourself, the Balfron Tower excerpt, co-produced and even featuring a guest appearance by myself, is available to watch below or on YouTube, free of charge.

You can watch the full documentary here.

Dispossession: the Great Social Housing Swindle. Dir: Paul Sng 2017.

A tradition of corruption

In a Borough as corrupt as Tower Hamlets, you would think that a “model” Labour council would be more careful about corruption, especially housing fraud, given the scarcity and price of such a limited resource.

This is not the first time a Labour politician in the area has been caught, accused and convicted of housing fraud.

Mohammed Haran, was convicted of housing fraud and sent to jail, shortly after being elected as Councillor for Lansbury, site of the hotly contested Chrisp Street Market regeneration proposals, which were unanimously approved by crooked Labour councillors in the pockets of property developers.

https://www.eastlondonadvertiser.co.uk/news/muhammad-harun-admits-housing-fraud-1-6305345

Stop the corruption! Stop the social cleansing!

The people of Tower Hamlets have had enough. We have had enough of the fraud and corruption and the Sino-Soviet style entitlement to public assets by politicians in Tower Hamlets.

Another event providing a platform for Apsana Begum to spin her way out of corruption allegations.

Drop the act, Ms Begum. You jumped the housing queue, trampling over 18,000 people to receive housing that you are not entitled to. That is fraud, and you should go to jail for blatantly stealing social housing from people in need.

Dear reader, if you were really looking for an answer to the opening question then we apologise, as we are still a little unclear as to how we can get social housing in just 5 months as well.

Why not ask Apsana Begum directly, maybe she will be able to help you.

UPDATE:

On 14th September 2020, Apsana Begum MP blocked Balfron Social Club on Twitter. No answer has ever been provided as to how she skipped over 18,000 places on the social housing register to receive social housing in just five months.

Despite being blocked, we will keep asking.

Representation by UK Labour Poplar & Limehouse MP Apsana Begum

Balfron Social Club

Poplar

26th August 2020

Shock, hypocrisy, as London housing activism group @Homes4AllUK provide platform for social cleansing.

London housing activism group @Homes4AllUK, run by Glyn Robbins from the London School of Economics, are providing a platform for Labour politicians deeply involved in corruption and social cleansing.

Hopefully nobody is going to notice how many Labour politicians in Tower Hamlets have been jailed for housing fraud, or that local Councillors like Bex White are sponsored into office by “a family friend”, the CEO of Poplar Harca, or that 1000’s of socially rented homes have been dismantled into the hands of luxury developers, or that Apsana Begum MP herself was given social housing in just 5 months…

Are we just going to ignore all the housing fraud and corruption carried out by the current crop of Labour politicians and their crooked connections to luxury developers ripping apart the social housing in Tower Hamlets?

Including Apsana Begum herself?

Do #BlackLivesMatter & @GrenfellUnited not take exception to @ApsanaBegumMP co-opting your worthy causes who, via her party, has helped systematically dismantle social housing into the hands of property developers & then personally jumped the housing queue because she “needed housing“? All the while participating in creating ghettoes, such as that at Chrisp Street Market, so they can then justify social cleansing, or as they keep referring to it-regeneration.

Spin

Apsana Begum recently appeared on a q&a panel for Paul Sng’s feature length documentary Dispossession: the Great Social Housing Swindle, an online event held exclusively for Labour Party members.

Here’s the excerpt from Balfron Tower, co-produced by myself.

How can housing activists seriously justify giving her or her local party a platform?

Homes 4 All website states that they’re supported by @unitetheunion, @DCHcampaign, @radicalhousing & @LambthHousngAct.

Could anybody from above groups please explain why you are providing a platform for @ApsanaBegumMP, following years of social cleansing & corruption in Tower Hamlets?

Would you be so pleased to see Peter John, Neil Coyle & co. being given a platform to spin themselves out of the devastation they have caused to your communities?

@Homes4AllUK we need answers. Stop giving platforms to crooks.

I’m not going to provide an exhaustive list of links about fraud, corruption and social and ethnic cleansing in Tower Hamlets, as you don’t seem to care (Labour cult?) about the damage these people have done to our communities, our families and our lives, though you can find many more instances in this website http://www.BalfronSocialClub.org or the recently relaunched https://www.eastendenquirer.org/ which provides “investigative journalism for London’s East End”.

I would however be fairly certain that groups like Homes 4 All are connected to UK Higher Eduction establishments, establishments that have routinely treated working-class communities as mere case studies, as they divert attention away from the devastating impact these institutions are causing to London’s working-class communities- invading, colonising and then demolishing them in cynical attempts to gentrify and socially cleanse the community, as happened recently on the Teviot Estate by University of the Arts’ London College of Fashion, where a deeply suspect poll claimed 86% of the tenants of the estate voted to demolish their own homes, on an estate where flats rent for up to £600 per week.

However, here is one, as you specifically referenced this one:

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/past-six-days/2017-12-10/news/labour-in-2m-skyscraper-bribe-scandal-kvxd80t6s

One rule for them, and another for us.

Six years ago, I was thrown out of Tower Hamlets housing office into the street by police, for refusing to leave as I had nowhere else to go, following eviction by Bow Arts who were assisting Tower Hamlets crooked cabal of social cleansers aggressively cheat the working-class community from their homes in Balfron Tower, so they could be sold off to the wealthy and the vulgar, with zero social housing at all.

I was refused any support at all and was refused entry on to the waiting list for social housing, & I’ve been insecurely housed / homeless ever since, and I am still not included on any housing register.

Meanwhile, Apsana Begum was given social housing in just 5 months.

As some people have questioned, there may have been extenuating circumstances surrounding Ms Begums very brief appearance on the waiting list, such as fleeing domestic violence.

However, as Ms Begums partner was and remains an elected councillor in Tower Hamlets, then surely this information should be made available as being in the public interest?

However, her response was that she “needed housing”.

Obviously a damn good excuse, one I wish I had thought off because I have thoroughly appreciated 6+ years of sleeping on floors and sofas, down to the kindness of some good people to whom I am very grateful, and a socially rented flat worth £330,000, as was rented at a social rent to Ms Begum, would have been of no use to me at all.

Meanwhile social housing continues to be dismantled in this east London Labour stronghold, and with organised, and presumably funded, housing activism groups like @Homes4AllUK clearly turning a blind eye to corruption, fraud and brutal attacks on working class social housing communities amongst their Labour cronies, and instead providing them with a platform.

Surprisingly, @Homes4AllUK don’t seem to feel much need to answer questions about their hypocrisy in providing a platform for this politician, and by extension her party, who are routinely involved in fraud and corruption of Tower Hamlets precious social housing.

Utterly shameful stuff @Homes4AllUK. You should be thoroughly embarrassed to be complicit in the PR cover-up for the social and ethnic cleansing of multi-billion pounds worth of socially rented homes, transferred by Labour politicians into the hands of property developers, especially as this was something that they once campaigned against, as questioned by Balfron Social Club in 2018.

Thank you for your solidarity. You are failing the people of London to defend crooked politicians involved in social and ethnic cleansing.

Balfron Social Club

Poplar

1st July 2020

Guinness Homes are killing nurses & bus drivers by building Imperial-by-Lea.

We will not forget selfish company directors that consider their developments more important than the lives of our friends & neighbours.

Balfron Social Club recently wrote about the Guinness Homes construction site Imperial-by-Lea in Bromley-by-Bow in Tower Hamlets which has remained open during the #Covid19 lockdown, which is still open on 14th April, weeks after everybody else has been forced to close down their businesses and stop going to work.

Weeks have now passed and many construction sites such as Imperial-by-Lea by Guinness Homes at Bromley by Bow in Tower Hamlets remain open.

Published by Balfron Social Club on 2nd April 2020.

Construction workers need to travel to and from work, and whilst NHS staff and bus drivers are dying in droves, the directors and board of Guinness Homes seem to think that their profits are more important than the lives of key workers- workers risking their lives on the front line of a global pandemic, to try and keep us safe.

Timelapse of construction at Imperial by Lea still operating weeks after covid19 lockdown

Construction companies may have issued guidelines for workers to keep 2 metres apart, but it is very clear that this is not possible for many of their insecure, poorly-paid construction workers, and it is evident in photographs that this is routinely not happening.

As I write, over 11,000 people in the UK have been officially confirmed dead due to covid19, and this figure excludes many thousands of people who have died at home or in care homes.

An incompetent government, spineless politicians and company directors who don’t care who dies have rapidly made the UK one of the worst affected countries in Europe from the Covid19 pandemic.

Keeping 2 metres apart at Imperial by Lea is not possible for construction workers.

Whilst our friends, family and neighbours including NHS staff and bus drivers are dying in droves, there is no doubt that the Directors and Board of Guinness Homes will be firmly locked down and isolating in their homes, or second homes, because it has become very clear that there is one rule for us, and another for them.

Whilst they Zoom, we die.

I do not believe that the privilege of these people should allow them to go unpunished for what is tantamount to the murder of critically important key workers, people risking their own lives to save the lives of our friends and neighbours in the fight against the Covid19 pandemic.

Guinness Homes building shite (sic) at Imperial-by-Lea, Bromley by Bow in Tower Hamlets

I have therefore compiled a list of the directors and board of Guinness Homes and am publishing it below, along with their details.

These people made purposeful choices that their profits are more important than the lives of key workers.

Enough is enough, it’s time to shut the sites.

Social distancing does not work on building sites

Each of the following people has the blood of NHS staff, bus drivers & key workers on their hands for keeping their construction sites open during #covid19 lockdown.

We will not forget their selfishness which has led to the deaths of key workers.

The following are Directors of @GuinnessHomes.

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We will not forget selfish company directors that consider their developments more important than the lives of our friends & neighbours. 

The following Directors of @GuinnessHomes feel they are more important than the lives of NHS staff & bus drivers (repeated here in text so that their names are picked up by search engines and their actions are never forgotten).

Angela Maria Drum.

Philip Michael Day.

Ian Joynson.

Jonathon Milburn.

Catriona Ruth Simons.

Peter Hedderly.

Trafford Wilson.

Paul Watson MBE.

The following are board members of @GuinnessHomes.

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Neil Braithwaite.

Mike Petter.

Amanda Calvert.

Phil Morgan.

Samantha Pitt.

Chris Wilson.

Chris Stevens.

Linda Sanders.

The following Twitter poll is live. Please click to vote.

It’s one rule for us, and another for them. If they were building homes that our local community could afford, we might have more sympathy for them.

But, they’re not. Whatever they tell you “affordable” housing is not affordable for our community. It’s a scam designed to fool you.

Does the image below look representative of the community of Bromley by Bow? Does it look representative of Tower Hamlets?

Do the Directors of Guinness Homes look like your neighbours? Or of our community?

Developers hoarding at Imperial by Lea, looks nothing like Tower Hamlets residents to me. Its clear who they’re building for.
https://twitter.com/RabHarling/status/1249970324319371266

Once again, the capitalists have clearly shown us that their profits are far more important than the lives of our friends and neighbours.

The directors of construction companies like Guinness Homes need to be held to account for the deaths of our friends and neighbours, for the deaths of people across London as people die in huge numbers, and they did nothing to help flatten the curve.

They need to be held to account for showing us how much contempt they hold for us.

Social distancing does not work on construction sites.

But where are our politicians, you may ask?

We know exactly where they are.

They are in the pockets of the developers.

Former lobbyist for property developers Mayor John Biggs fits nicely into the pockets of luxury property developers.

Mayor Sadiq Khan was sponsored into office by property developers and proudly splashes his brand all over construction site hoardings, like this one at Chobham Manor, in Newham.

Mayor John Biggs, in Tower Hamlets, who used to be a lobbyist for property developers, does nothing unless he is filming it for his PR.

Tower Hamlets has financial reserves of over £500,000,000.

Shut the sites. Protect our communities.

I reiterate my call that all of these sites should be requistioned and converted into 100% social housing. We have had enough of politicians and developers lying to us, telling us they are building “affordable” housing when the reality is anything but.

We will not forget.

Balfron Social Club (in lockdown)

Poplar

14th April 2020

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