Mieka Smiles: Senior Plagiarist for the Daily Express

Reach PLC journalists, whose titles include My London, Daily Mirror and Daily Express appear to be in an interlinked conspiracy to plagiarise the work of artists and community bloggers, in order to pass other peoples original creative works off as their own.

Reach PLC journalists, whose titles include My London, Daily Mirror and Daily Express appear to be in an interlinked conspiracy to plagiarise the work of artists and community bloggers, in order to pass other peoples original creative works off as their own.

What Does Balfron Tower Mean to You? by Rab Harling, the source of the plagiarised quotes.

Tens of thousands of people all around the world have now read our exclusive blog post “As buyers reject a regenerated Balfron Tower, we reveal what’s next as all flats are withdrawn from sale“, published on 3rd April 2023, in which Balfron Social Club revealed that the developers who regenerated Balfron Tower- Telford Homes, Londonewcastle and Poplar Harca, have failed to sell a single flat in the socially cleansed Ernö Goldfinger brutalist icon Balfron Tower in Tower Hamlets, east London.

It came as no surprise to us that our exclusive revelations were picked up by other media outlets. One of the first such stories drawing upon the Balfron Social Club blog arrived in Novara Media in August 2023, correctly acknowledging Balfron Social Club as the source of the story and linking to the original article.

This was swiftly followed by ‘the brutal lessons from Balfron Tower’s unsold flats’ in the Standard on 10th August 2023, which quickly revealed how journalists, especially from a media outlet that had been such an enthusiastic cheerleader for the regeneration of Balfron Tower as the Standard had been, were completely unwillingly to allow a community blog to take credit for an exclusive story, citing Novara Media as the source; the sort of exclusive that they themselves should have written, the sort of exclusive that any decent journalist would have been proud of.

Preceding either of these stories though, on 29th July 2022, was an article entitled “Council tenants forced out of Britain’s ‘ugliest building’ so flats can be sold for £800,000” by Josh Bolton, in a Reach PLC online publication My London.

This article drew heavily upon interviews in a short film “What Does Balfron Tower Mean to You?” (2015) by Rab Harling, founder of Balfron Social Club.

Quote from the Josh Bolton article in My London including appropriate credits

In this short film, which was exhibited in the Wellcome Collection exhibition Living With Buildings in 2018, numerous former-tenants of Balfron Tower were asked one simple question, what does Balfron Tower mean to you?

The results provided a unique glimpse into the thoughts and feelings of some of the inhabitants of this brutalist icon, at a time when they were being forced out of their homes so that the tower could be privatised, removing all of the social housing from this purpose-built tower block, with a plans to sell the 146 flats to bankers at nearby Canary Wharf and enthusiasts of Goldfinger’s distinct architectural style.

As we now know, this plan was a complete disaster and the developers failed to sell even one single flat, a disaster that left developer Telford Homes, recently acquired by CBRE, with a £193 million loss.

The story in My London must have been a success because that same evening another story appeared in Reach PLC’s sister national publication, the Daily Mirror, with a similar title “Council tenants turfed out of UK’s ‘ugliest building’ so flats can be sold for £800,000“, now credited to Josh Bolton and Charlie Duffield. Only this time the source of the interviews had been attributed to My London, rather than the original source.

Quote from the Daily Mirror which now cited the source of the interviews as MyLondon.

Given Poplar Harca’s habit of intimidation towards residents who speak out against them in the media, Balfron Social Club posted a tweet advising those involved in the story that the interviews had actually been drawn from Rab Harling’s short film, and that they had not spoken to journalists from My London, as they had claimed. The tweet also commented that this was no doubt an “innocent mistake”.

Fast forward to September 2023 and Balfron Social Club was contacted by Ruby Gregory, the Local Democracy Reporter for My London, who having read the Balfron Social Club blog post was interested in telling the story of Hugh Thompson, who had been living in a hotel for seven years whilst awaiting a return to his flat in Balfron Tower, now five years overdue.

Balfron Social Club was acknowledged in this article, but the included hyperlink led to an unrelated post rather than to the actual source of the story. At the time, this really felt like a kick in the teeth, but it was decided to overlook this as the story was not about Balfron Social Club, and we felt that it was important that Hugh Thompson’s story was heard, given the appalling treatment of this octogenarian leaseholder by Poplar Harca.

At this point, we had still not joined the dots in realising that this was what appears to be a systemic approach to reappropriating the work of others and passing it off as their own, purposefully obfuscating the original source material.

This realisation hit us squarely in the face when we recently discovered the next article, some weeks after it was published.

On 16th December 2023, Mieka Smiles, Senior News Reporter for the Daily Express published “UK’s ugliest building cost £56million to upgrade with views over a dual carriageway” in the UK national newspaper the Daily Express, another Reach PLC title.

Mieka Smiles for the Daily Express was now linking to the Daily Mirror as the source of the interviews.

This article heavily relied on the interviews with Cindy, a former resident of Balfron Tower, who had spoken to Rab Harling in his 2015 film What Does Balfron Tower Mean to You? Only now, instead of crediting the original source of the interviews, it linked to the Daily Mirror, who had already removed the original source of the material.

As you can imagine, we were not too impressed to discover that this article now included what can only be described as plagiarised content, taking credit for work that was not carried out by the journalist, but through a series of convoluted references had deleted the original author of the work to take credit for work they had not done.

Mieka Smiles also failed to mention Balfron Social Club as the source of the story regarding the failure to sell a single flat in Balfron Tower, instead attributing the credit to Novara Media, just as the Standard had previously done.

In a post on Balfron Social Club we asked Mieka Smiles to apologise and to correct the article and to add the correct credits. At the time of writing, this has not been done.

Mieka Smiles did however send one single Direct Message to Balfron Social Club in which she acknowledged that she was fully aware that the quotes that she had attributed to the Daily Mirror came from an artists film.

All further contact has been ignored.

It seems very clear that this was a concerted effort to take credit for work that was plagiarised, and over a series of articles has removed the original author of the work and instead credited themselves for interviews that they did not undertake.

Interactions on Twitter have made us realise that this is a systemic problem at Reach PLC titles, who appear to have forgotten that journalists cannot just help themselves to the work of others, and may sometimes have to actually go out and do some original research of their own, you know, the job they are paid for.

We have advised Mieka Smiles that unless this issue is addressed appropriately, which it has not been, that we would be making a formal complaint to IPSO, the Independent Press Standards Organisation. However, our previous experience of any kind of UK regulator has revealed that they are more interested in covering up the crimes of the powerful and corrupt than actually ever taking appropriate action.

If a regulator ever actually did what they are supposed to do we suspect that this kind of unethical behaviour would not be so prevalent in the UK media.

Instead of making a complaint and then waiting months for a cover up which would only protect a plagiarist, we have decided to publish this account of the actions of Reach PLC journalists and editors, and then send it to the regulator for them to take appropriate action.

Once we have received a response we will keep you informed.

Balfron Social Club has operated since 2014 in order to highlight the unethical social cleansing of 146 purpose built social housing homes in Balfron Tower and to demand that a minimum of 50% social housing was retained in the block following redevelopment.

We are completely unfunded, nor have we ever sought funding. We publish our blog in order to expose corruption and social cleansing in attacks on working class communities.

Journalists are welcome to quote the work on the blog, with appropriate credits, but they are not welcome to plagiarise our content and pass it off as their own work.

Balfron Social Club

5th January 2024

As buyers reject a regenerated Balfron Tower, we reveal what’s next as all flats are withdrawn from sale.

Balfron Tower lead architect Ab Rogers made bold claims that he was “honouring the ghost of Goldfinger”, but it appears that Goldfingers ghost may be having the last laugh.

Despite two high profile marketing campaigns for the private sale of all 146 flats in the Ernö Goldfinger designed brutalist Balfron Tower, all flats have now been withdrawn from the market.

The sales effort for Balfron Tower was launched in Summer 2019 with a high profile sales campaign, with marketing featured across a broad range of mainstream media, including The Guardian and the Financial Times, yet genuinely interested buyers appeared to be thin on the ground and the project appeared to be going seriously off the rails.

Balfron Tower was then withdrawn from sale in early 2020 and throughout the pandemic scaffolding once again climbed this 27-storey tower, where it remained for well over a year.

There appeared to be some significant structural problems with the tower.

Meanwhile, leaseholders were waiting to return to their homes.

One elderly leaseholder, Hugh Thompson, 86, has been living out of a suitcase in a hotel since he was forcibly decanted from his home in Balfron Tower in 2016 so that regeneration works could commence.

Initially, he was told that the construction works would take two years, although following a one year delay to the commencement of the project, after the tenants had all been decanted, he was then told that he could return to his home in 2019.

After three years in a hotel, the novelty had worn off and he was eager to return home.

On several further occasions Poplar Harca advised Thompson that he could return to his 21st floor home, which he bought in the 1980’s from Tower Hamlets council under Right to Buy legislation.

Yet, on each occasion he was let down at the last moment and told that he could not return home.

Second marketing campaign

In the Summer of 2022, Poplar Harca launched a second high profile marketing campaign, managed by PR firm Good Relations, perhaps best known for their connection to Bell Pottinger and their legacy of stirring up racial tension in South Africa.

Harca scored a second feature article in The Guardian by Oliver Wainwright, as well as features in the Daily Mirror and The Sun and a collaboration with registered charity Open House to market the socially-cleansed flats via Rightmove and their Open House events.

Harca Lies

Despite Harca’s claims in The Guardian that “more than 1,200 interested buyers have already signed up”, it appears that there has actually been so little genuine interest in actually buying one of these architecturally mutilated flats that they have all now been withdrawn from the market.

Poplar Harca openly boasted that they have sold Flat 130, the home for two months in 1968 of Balfron Tower’s infamous architect Ernö Goldfinger, yet the Land Registry does not include the details of sales of any property in Balfron Tower since Flat 102 changed hands to Balfron Tower Developments LLP for £1,480,000 in 2017.

This transaction raises serious questions about the legitimacy of some of the transactions, and who they may have benefitted.

Poplar Harca openly boasted in BD Online in 2008 that one of the project team had already bought one of the flats, for cash.

Balfron Social Club reiterates our call for an independent audit of Poplar Harca.

The human cost of regeneration

Hugh Thompson’s home in Balfron Tower prior to regeneration.
Photograph from Inversion / Reflection: Turning Balfron Tower Inside Out by Rab Harling

As for leaseholder Mr Thompson, did he get to return to his flat as was promised in Autumn 2022, six years after he moved out, following the second expensive, high-profile marketing campaign?

In short, no. No, he did not.

Mr Thomson has recently been told it will now be September 2023 before he can return home, over seven years since he was forced out.

Seven years in a hotel, in his 80’s.

Hugh’s story is just one brutal story from a catalogue of abuse residents suffered at the hands of Poplar Harca and its staff who appear to thrive on bullying residents, who are treated more as an inconvenience than a community, especially social tenants who live in blocks earmarked for regeneration.

This arrogant attitude towards local people appears to stem from the very top of Poplar Harca and filters its way down though its directors, who appear to treat Poplar as their own personal fiefdom, and where telling lies to tenants seems to come as second nature.

Meanwhile, Poplar Harca directors were happily associating themselves with some very sleazy individuals, such as developers London Newcastle, highly indicative of the management style emanating from Harca under its CEO, Steve Stride.

References are still often made of the “Balfron Tower casting couch”, the nickname for a nicely decorated flat that was forcibly appropriated by Poplar Harca during Bow Arts so-called Balfron Season in 2015, where agencies such as Arts Council England, English Heritage and British Council turned Balfron Tower into their own personal playground and assisted Bow Arts and Poplar Harca with artwashing the social cleansing of Balfron Tower, all whilst social tenants, yet to be decanted, remained living in the tower.

Poplar Harca also made the flat available to London Newcastle, Telford Homes, Bow Arts and any of their friends to use, as they chose.

The Balfron Tower Casting Couch prior to having been commandeered by Poplar Harca.
Photograph from Inversion/Reflection: Turning Balfron Tower Inside Out by Rab Harling

Poplar Harca’s arrogant attitude towards the local community has ensured that local people have always been hostile towards the regeneration of Balfron Tower.

All social housing was removed from Balfron Tower in a plan that cast local people aside, often to estates already earmarked for demolition creating chaos into the lives of the local population, in order to provide homes for office workers at the nearby Canary Wharf financial district, and took very little consideration for the needs of the local community.

They only cared about the value of the homes people occupied and their desperate attempts to gentrify the community by attracting financial workers to the neighbourhood.

Paul Augarde, Poplar Harca’s Director of Placemaking meets the locals.

The community has not forgotten the brutal treatment by Poplar Harca staff, who bullied and harassed our friends and neighbours from their homes, and intimidated, even stalked, anybody that dared criticise them or obstruct them in any way.

Is anybody really surprised that Poplar Harca’s plans to sell all the flats in Balfron Tower have been a total disaster?

I suspect they alone are, because if Harca are known locally for anything, its for not listening to the needs and requirements of local people, as they court people they want to live in the area rather than those who already do.

They were never listening, they decided what they wanted to do and then went ahead and did it, regardless of the needs of the local community, and just like the Tower Hamlets Labour Party, who lost control of the council at recent elections, their time is up.

What’s next for Balfron Tower?

“The private sales operation for Balfron has been put on hold. The developer (Balfron Tower Developments LLP) has now made a decision to convert the newly renovated homes which had been proposed for sale, to professionally managed rented homes (‘Build to Rent’ or BTR). Subsequent to this Savills have since been appointed to market the BTR element to prospective investment partners.”

It now appears that Poplar Harca, a Registered Social Landlord, that was given vast swathes of Poplar free of charge by the former Labour council, have decided to convert the homes in Balfron Tower into “professionally managed rented homes” using the government’s Build to Rent scheme.

It would seem unlikely that the regeneration of Balfron Tower should be eligible for a government scheme designed for large landlords who have specifically built new-build properties solely for the rental market, but if there is one thing that Poplar Harca & Co. are good at, its lying and cheating their way into large amounts of public funds.

If somehow they do manage to achieve their new aim of Build to Rent then this would ensure that, according to the terms of the Build to Rent scheme, at least 20% of the homes being made available for rent must be made available as “affordable rent” properties, for the long-term.

Balfron Social Club believes that the ghost of Goldfinger will never be happy until Balfron Tower is returned to its intended social purpose.

Balfron Social Club started in 2014 with a campaign for 50% social housing to be retained in the regeneration of Balfron Tower.

Poplar Harca, backed by a Labour council led by (now-former) mayor John Biggs, insisted that there would be absolutely no social housing retained in the tower and that all flats would be sold on the private market.

Now the market has concluded that there are to be no sales on the private market, Poplar Harca plans to rent the properties privately instead.

We do not believe that a token 20% “affordable rent” properties in the tower is acceptable, and we demand that all unsold flats are now returned to the socially rented sector, to help relieve some of the pressure upon people in Tower Hamlets, people in desperate need of genuinely affordable social housing.

Sack Steve Stride

Poplar Harca’s risky top-down plans to gentrify Poplar have failed, and its time for Steve Stride to be sacked, and for the Poplar Harca housing stock to be transferred back to the management of Tower Hamlets council, as has recently happened to Tower Hamlets Homes, under the direction of Tower Hamlets new mayor, Lutfur Rahman.

Meanwhile, 146 families on the Tower Hamlets housing waiting list can be housed in this recently refurbished, purpose-built social housing block, with great views across London.

Balfron Social Club

Poplar. 2nd April 2023.

Find us on twitter: https://twitter.com/BalfronSocial

Have you seen “What Does Balfron Tower Mean to You? a short film by Rab Harling?

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

Give me a chance to sort it out: a Poplar Harca Placemaking Case Study

Paul Augarde, London Film School graduate and Director of Placemaking for Poplar Harca, asks residents for a chance to sort out the annexation of Poplar’s lock-up garages.

Ok, Paul. How long do you need?

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/poplar-parade-of-garages-to-become-4m-east-end-fashion-hub-a3164031.html


image by Rab Harling; Copyright 2019
image by Rab Harling; Copyright 2019
image by Rab Harling; Copyright 2019
image by Rab Harling; Copyright 2019
image by Rab Harling; Copyright 2019

Um, yeah. Cheers Paul. Well done. Have another promotion, mate.


Courtesy of Canton Street residents, Poplar.
lol
Not so lol now though, is it?

Want to read more about Paul Augarde, Poplar Harca and how they deviate public funds towards a property developers agenda?

https://balfronsocialclub.org/2018/04/16/artwash-and-the-rhizome-the-social-cleansing-of/

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

The Battle of Chrisp Street

The Battle of Chrisp Street by Rab Harling

A public market serving the daily needs of the local working class community has existed in Poplar at Chrisp Street since Victorian times. In 1951, the market underwent a significant redesign by modernist architect Sir Frederick Gibberd, in celebration of the Festival of Britain, creating the UK’s first pedestrianised shopping centre.

After years of managed decline, regeneration is looming for Chrisp Street Market. A Registered Social Landlord, a property developer, and a Labour authority seek to create their vision of “the New Shoreditch”, with a brief to “change the social mix” of this 9-acre site, situated in the shadow of Canary Wharf, no matter the cost to the established community.

A mass home building program is underway in east London and new homes are rapidly being built on the graveyard of social housing, with regeneration proposals aiming to serve incoming middle class residents. Yet social housing is desperately needed by the local working class community; the people who live & work in Poplar now, rather than the people developers want to attract here.

Chrisp Street Market serves long established and diverse communities which come together 6 days a week in the market square. It serves the everyday needs of the community, and has done for over 100 years. If current regeneration proposals go ahead, a unique east end market will be purposefully gentrified beyond recognition, displacing its community and bustling marketplace in the process.

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.