Category Archives: Uncategorized

Moving day for this blog

My Speech for the Lambeth SOS delegation to the Mayor and Council

The demo was great last night I thought, especially given that we are now in the long hard grind of the 3rd year of cuts, and services have been cut, coworkers made redundant, and contact with friends and families lost. We wanted to highlight the deep cuts to children’s services that have already taken place by building our own adventure playground on the steps of city hall. We painted a backdrop over the weekend while leafleting for the demo

backdrop

And the miniature inflatable playground gave everyone a taste of the joy that the lost adventure playgrounds once brought Lambeth’s kids

kid

We created a library backdrop as well, as our libraries are still on the block. Only a small delegation was allowed in of course, though many joined us in the gallery. Public speaking isn’t quite my forte, but this is what I did my best to say:

Good evening Mr Mayor and Councillors. Thank you for agreeing to listen to me.

My name is Andrea Gibbons and I am speaking on behalf of Lambeth Save Our Services.

We set up Lambeth SOS in 2010 because we could see the cuts that were coming and we could see the damage that they
would do.

Over the past two years you have made £66 Million in cuts, and they have done real damage.

We have lost the Park Ranger:s.

We have lost the Ethnic Minority Achievement Team.

Two years ago, I was there when the former Leader promised that no Adventure Playgrounds would close – but if you visit our Parks this weekend you will see the tragic sight of deserted Adventure Playgrounds standing empty. There is nothing more tragic than a deserted and locked up playground.

At the same time you have made more than 550 redundancies and outsourced 100 jobs, jobs belonging to friends of mine, and half of them to Southampton.

These have been some of the effects of the cuts so far.

Now you face making cuts of £108 Million over the next four years, most of which have yet to be planned. These cuts will devastate our services and our communities and throw hundreds more workers on to the scrap heap of unemployment.

We all know two things about these cuts.

First, they arise from the policies of Central Government, who are forcing through spending reductions not to reduce the public sector deficit, because they haven’t and won’t, but in order to destroy our Welfare State.

Secondly, this is not a poor country that is short of money.

Seventy years ago, after the Second World War, when we had far less, the Attlee Labour Government created many of the services which are under attack from this Government.

If they could do that then, we do not need to tolerate these cuts now.

The cuts to our jobs and services are a political attack upon our communities by a Cabinet with a majority of millionaires.

Lambeth SOS believes that Lambeth, the whole borough, all of us, should fight back against this political attack.

And that includes you Councillors.

We believe that, instead of planning only how to live within the ever tighter financial limits which the Government set for you, you should be leading the fight against these cuts.

The Co-operative Council is not going to be an antidote to these cuts – particularly not when your next step is going to be to appoint three new Commissioning Directors each on more than £100,000.

Labour Councillors have rightly taken a strong line in opposition to the threat to Clapham Fire Station. We think you should fight just as hard to protect all our services.

I think that if you are going to set a budget which makes further cuts that you should not meet in this chamber.

I think you should meet in one of our closed down Adventure Playgrounds so that you can reflect upon the consequences of your actions.

Whatever you decide, Councillors, there are citizens and staff who will resist further cuts, whoever is making them.

In reply they said everything I said had been true, we were facing something unprecedented, we had to lobby the central government…but in response to our request for a council that will lead us in the fight? I’m afraid I don’t really see them leading much of anything.

But we will continue to fight, Lambeth residents and staff.

[also posted on www.lambethsaveourservices.org]

I was looking up information on the four adventure playgrounds that Lambeth Council has ‘temporarily’ closed and I found these amazing photographs of Lollard Street Adventure Playground

lollard playground2

[photo from http://www.tepapa.govt.nz/whatson/exhibitions/brianbrake/brakeswork/Pages/Object.aspx?irn=1015656 ]

lollardst1

[photo from http://www.thearchitectureofearlychildhood.com/2012/01/post-war-adventure-or-junk-playgrounds.html, along with a fascinating description of the importance of playgrounds and theories of play]

This was the birth of the adventure playground. At Lollard Street children gathered to play with the detritus created by the clearing away of a bombed out school. While the children played, children’s rights campaigner Lady Allen of Hurtwood started to form a movement for the building of playgrounds (a short history can be found here). Originally known as ‘junk’ playgrounds, they were renamed adventure playgrounds — a good public relations move I confess — in 1953, and the movement grew.

Look at the beautiful place Lollard Street Adventure Playground grew into. For years this has been a fully staffed facility of fun, learning and mentoring

LollardSt

LollardSt4

And now it is closed. Indefinitely. Empty of children for the first time in 60 odd years. In the old black and white photos you can see the houses of parliament in the background, you can still see them today. You can stare over a playground empty of children and committed workers at the parliament (dead center, just visible over the building, compare it to the second B&W picture!) that shut it all down.

LollardSt2
[also posted www.lambethsaveourservices.org]

March 26th: The Big Beginning

Yesterday was absolutely brilliant, was it not? I was still bouncing up and down when a handful of us arrived at the Westminster Arms to toast the day with the some of the folks from the Bakerloo RMT branch. We only heard last meeting that they’d affiliated to Lambeth SOS, so it was grand to get to know some of them better. But that’s jumping ahead, so back to the beginning.

The South London feeder was a tremendous success, for all the trials and tribulations and lack of democratic process over the final route. The police reported we had 5,000 people there, so you know that we had more. I’m going to miss people from this list because there were so many groups there, so apologies! Southwark SOS, Lewisham Anticuts Alliance, BARAC, Colacor, all the South London union branches, pensioners, teachers, No Cuts for Kids…and more. Amazing.

What else did we have? The best trojan horse I have ever seen, labeled the TUC Armed Wing. Ha! It was a stallion actually, as Ali swears it was anatomically correct. I’m just sorry, as I know you are, that I can’t provide photographic proof.

I hope you caught some of the activist art on the billboards along the way, I loved the one transformed into a giant legal bust card, (you can see the one featuring David Cameron here); some one has been doing some good work!

The decision to head over Westminster Bridge rather than Blackfriars was a really good one; we had no trouble at all, and we could see the hundreds of thousands of people slowly moving towards Hyde Park.

I was holding the other end of this Colacor (Latin American Colation Against the Cuts) banner for much of the way with a companero from the Latin American Workers’ Association, and originator of my favourite chant of the day: Esto no es marcha, esto es protesta, carajo! (roughly this is not a march, it is a protest damn it). As you can see, the banner cramped our photography style just a little, so I handed the camera off to Paris for a quick shot from on high when we joined the main march:

I’m afraid I never saw Paris again. But the crush of people was glorious and I did see and dearly love the full brass band

The fire brigade from the Isle of Wight with their drum, the folks with the Robin Hood hats, the balloons and the gorgeous banners from all over the country. Most of all I  just loved the beauty and immensity of it all:

This last shot I took in the late afternoon as we were leaving after a much needed rest in Hyde Park. I can’t even remember what time it was, but it must have been getting on for 5 pm and people were still streaming into Hyde Park as you can see. We thanked our stars for taking Westminster Bridge and joining the march nearer the beginning than the end. They’re saying half a million people in total but I can’t believe it wasn’t more:

I also got up to Oxford Street for a bit, getting there just too late for UK Uncut‘s action against Topshop, but I did join the revolutionary milling about for a while. Click here to read just why Topshop is a target, and why I personally was quite happy to see this:

Central London was an amazing place this weekend, almost empty but for a handful of confused shoppers, protesters, and riot police.

Just check out the nonchalance of London towards riot police! It was immensely surreal, but surely not business as usual. I don’t think it has been business as usual for a long while, I think that is something we should congratulate ourselves on.

UK Uncut went on to occupy Fortnum and Mason’s as well. Just after I had grown tired of milling about, sadly. You can read the press release here, and a very moving eyewitness account from a new activist who was there. There’s also plenty of live video footage to contradict the reports in the press of violence and mayhem. The police caused the damage, but, you know, it’s Fortnum and Mason after all. As my favourite tweet of the day says: @simonblackwell: According to police, £15,000 worth of damage inside Fortnum & Mason. Someone knocked over a jar of olives.

I know there’ll be a lot of contradictory opinions on the violence of yesterday. For myself, the violence really at issue here is that of the government against the people. It’s in every job cut and every service lost, and the job cuts run into the tens of thousands. For those of us with personal experience of the immense pain that come from lay offs and the destruction they can cause to people’s sense of self, their families, and their communities . . . there is no way to stand by and do nothing. Dismantling the welfare state is nothing if not intensely violent.

This is why we must continue to fight tooth and nail against all of it, from the sackings of RMT reps Arwyn Thomas and Eamonn Lynch (who I met last night, cheers Eamonn), to the cuts to the NHS, to our libraries and librarians, park rangers, public housing and … well, just tell me who and what isn’t getting cut.

Join us next Thursday, March 31st, 6:30 pm at the Vida Walsh Centre in Brixton to see where we go from here. I find myself deeply inspired by yesterday’s march and all of the people I marched with. So now? Now we go back to work to save our jobs and our services.

[also posted on www.lambethsaveourservices.org]

I’m going to hurt you if you don’t go

I just looked up how to say I’m hungry in Italian, and the internet offered a series of related phrases:

It really made my evening, but what makes my evening even better is the little place with the mama italiana in the kitchen who cooks up bowl after different bowl of homemade pasta, and you can eat as much as you like with the purchase of a single bottle of wine. Happiness itself. And you think it can’t get any better and then all the staff and customers start dancing…

Afghanistan…

Bush declared Operation Enduring Freedom in October of 2001, but too often reading the news you could have forgotten entirely that we were still at war. Yet it went on, day by brutal day, the list of Western soldiers killed and mourned by name steadily growing. But it has now sprung very much into focus. WikiLeaks‘ recent release of thousands of classified documents has revealed a much expanded sense of the tragedy, the instances of friendly fire, the civilians dead, the steadily growing hatreds, the despair on both sides.

The Guardian has made it a major source for multiple stories since the news first broke, giving it a majority of space on the landing page and releasing detailed information and spreadsheets with the actual data. Der Spiegel has done something similar. The New York Times? Today there is one major story, “Document Leak May Hurt Efforts to Build War Support.” There is nothing about civilian, or even friendly fire, casualties here, rather a principal focus on Afghan and Pakistani unreliability.

I would disagree with the NY Times Op-Ed writer Andrew Exum that this is no big deal and we have learned nothing new. These documents offer an unparalleled view of what is happening on the ground and its true costs to everyone within Afghanistan’s borders. Of course, this immeasurable human cost is multiplied in the daily suffering of refugees.

The camps along the borders in Pakistan overflow with Afghans trapped in strange limbo, with very little hope of returning home, and less hope for any kind of future. And the true tragedy of Afghanistan is that many of these camps have been in continuous use since the 70s, and the USSR’s war in Afghanistan with all its parallels to Vietnam. Given a guerrilla was like a fish in water, to counter insurgency their strategy was to simply drain the water.

What wouldn’t any of us do to escape a world with so little chance for a future?

[also posted on www.brightwide.com]

Corruption in Repealing the Whaling Ban

A provocative little article ran this weekend in the Sunday Times, with the even more provocative title of ‘Flights, girls and cash buy Japan whaling votes.’ Reporters posing as English lobbyists tried to bribe some of the small nations that make up Japan’s voting block on the International Whaling Commission (IWC). They would have succeeded if they’d actually had the millions of dollars to spend.

If there is one thing that the documentary The Cove makes clear, it is that the whaling ban needs to be extended to cover dolphins. Tens of thousands of dolphins have been slaughtered in Taiji, Japan, and the film’s courageous exposure of how this happens will break your heart.

It is horrifying to find out that instead of voting to expand the ban, the International Whaling Commission will be voting next week on whether or not to appeal it. Phrased innocuously as the institution of quotas, some believe it could be the first step to open up whaling on a larger scale. The quotas would include two endangered species.

While the Cove contains some evidence of Japan’s efforts to control a block of votes on the commission, the Sunday Times lays it all out in excruciating detail. Six different countries evinced interest in the undercover reporters’ offer of twenty-five million dollars in aid over ten years to change their vote. The offer from Japan? Tickets to IWC meetings, along with hotel, car and living expenses while there. The offer of university educations. Japan is building, or has built in these countries, a very large number of ice plants to store fish, factories to process fish, markets to sell fish. And of course, they always show people a good time when they visit Japan. That’s when the girls come in.

To read the article, click here. To learn more about the issue or connect to organizations currently campaigning on it, click here.

[Also posted on Brightwide.com]