Tuesday, June 11, 2019

From The Archives: Walterton And Elgin Action Group, 1985-1995

Seamus Clarke in his sub-standard flat before renovation, Walterton Estate, 1993

Another scanning session has resurrected a set of photos from the campaign by residents of two North Paddington estates to save their council-owned homes from sale to a private developer.  Explanation below.  More pictures here

In 1985, with the Greater London Council on the verge of abolition, Walterton and Elgin, two of its estates in the north of the borough of Westminster, were handed over to Westminster City Council.

The two estates, one comprised of Victorian terraces, the other of two 1960s towers surrounded by low-rise concrete blocks, were in poor condition. Without any consultation, the council immediately began drawing up plans to sell them off to private developers.

WEAG posters, Walterton Estate, 1987

Residents responded by forming the Walterton and Elgin Action Group (WEAG).  At very short notice, more than 200 tenants attended a meeting of the council's housing committee to demand that their needs and wishes should take priority.

It was the beginning of a seven year campaign, and WEAG, with a programme of inventive direct action and assistance from a wide range of sympathetic housing professionals, legal advisers and local Labour councillors, went on to draw up its own plan to save the homes for local people in need of rented housing. It lobbied council meetings, paid unannounced visits to the offices of property developers, signed petitions, and flooded the area with posters publicising its struggle.

Unannounced WEAG visit to Regalian Property Company, 1987

The Conservative led council, under the leadership of Dame Shirley Porter and concurrently fighting accusations of gerrymandering over its Building Stable Communities programme, resisted all the way. But in April 1992, the tenants and residents were victorious, their newly-formed Walterton and Elgin Community Homes (WECH) taking over the ownership and control of 921 homes, together with a dowry of £22 million to cover the cost of repairs and renovations.

Removing asbestos from a flat in Chantry Point, Elgin Estate, 1995

Friday, April 05, 2019

Public Sector Workplaces 1981-1991

Southwark Council, Lugard Road Kitchens, 1985

These photographs are from a set of newly scanned black and white negatives I shot in the 1980s, at a time when much of my work was commissioned by the National Union of Public Employees (NUPE) and the National Association of Government Officers (NALGO). Others were taken for the Popular Planning Unit of the Greater London Council, then led by Ken Livingstone, and for a variety of other publications and organisations.  More photos here.

It was a time of rapid change and struggle in the public sector, with the radical “contracting out” privatisation policies of the Thatcher government compounding the impact of the 1970s public spending cuts under Labour that had culminated in the Winter of Discontent of 1978-1979.

Domestics occupy administrator's office, St.Mary's Hospital, 1981

These policies were disastrous both for the workers who provided our services, cutting jobs, pay and conditions in the NHS, local government and elsewhere, and for the service users who relied on them.

They weren't good for photographers either. Claims of commercial confidentiality, and a growing obsession with written consent forms, made access to contracted out workplaces much more difficult to obtain.

More text here.

Contracted out domestic worker, St.Charles Hospital, Notting Hill, 1986
Manchester City Council refuse incinerator, 1987