DAGE Part I

DAGE pensioners’ pop-in – Monday to Friday 10am-1pm

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The pensioners I’ve been meeting for tea and cake on Wednesday mornings at DAGE, Deptford Action Group for the Elderly, have been coming to DAGE for many years. Women such as Brenda, Carol, Barbara, Kathy and Winnie met at DAGE many years ago and have since become very good friends. DAGE on Wednesdays is an important part of their week and the familiarity between them is clearly visible. Many of DAGE’s more local regulars such as Winnie and Dee come daily to the social meetings made possible by on-going funding support. Whilst many come on a Wednesday because of the market on Deptford High Street, DAGE very much promotes the other days of the week for visiting as well and many make a point of coming on the least busy days.

Kathy, who is 74, explains that DAGE has always been a place for information and where it is possible to find out how things work. Kathy highlights that the information sharing is so important for elderly people by telling me about the difficulties she had with renewing her bus pass which had got damaged: “They wouldn’t do it in the shop anymore, and on the phone I couldn’t understand the advisor. I don’t know how to do it online, so I couldn’t renew it. Thankfully, a nice bus driver helped me. Older people don’t know how to do things anymore because everything’s online now or over the phone, and there is not enough information about how things work. We will also have to pay the rent online from this year. So far, we’ve paid our rent in the post office but we won’t be able to do that anymore. I have no idea how to pay online and I’m worried that I’ll be robbed of my money because we lose control over it with doing things online. The elderly are simply left behind, and we don’t understand how these systems work. All this online business is getting to me, it’s very worrying”, she says.

Kathy tells the story of how she became part of DAGE about 15 years ago. She just walked past, and someone asked her if she wanted a cup of tea, so she went in. What she has always liked and why she has kept coming back is the information she gets at DAGE. “People from the NHS come to inform us about services and art students from Goldsmiths have worked with us too. At times you wouldn’t be able to get a seat on a Wednesday it was so packed. Harry [an active pensioner volunteer who died in November 2016] used to be the driving force behind this – he used to tell us our rights and shout and swear at the MPs over the radio on DAGE’s weekly radio programme, telling them what’s what! We really miss him!“

Harry Haward at DAGE. Photos kindly supplied by DAGE.

DAGE also organises daytrips and parties for the elderly. Everybody at the pop-in reminisces about the great trips and activities over its 17 years. “We have been on many outings and we also have a couple of parties a year. We always look forward to these events, they have always been great days!”

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Photo kindly supplied by DAGE.

Barbara is 83 and was born in Deptford. DAGE is very important to her. “I’ve been here since it’s opened and I’ll be here until it closes. This place gets me out, otherwise I’d be sitting at home looking at my four walls”, she says. Barbara is a regular on DAGE’s outings to the coast, and she also remembers the day when they visited the Queen’s garden party at Buckingham Palace. “We had afternoon tea. It was such a lovely day.” Barbara and Kathy also pay tribute to the Job Centre (a pub on the High Street) which has provided a free Christmas dinner for DAGE’s members. They also recall being invited to a school through DAGE to tell young kids about how they used to live in the past, which they really enjoyed. Another highlight of theirs was the outing to the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in the summer of 2016, where they admired the wildlife, ladybirds, trees and other nature. “It’s such a lovely space with lots of kids”, they said. They were horrified when I informed them about the approved planning application to build blocks of flats on the garden land, and to demolish Reginald House to make way for more flats.

“Why are they demolishing perfectly good houses?”, they ask. “Buildings in the past were built to last and to provide for everyone. These flats were spacious, and the aim was to provide decent living conditions for everyone. These new flats, restaurants and bars are all for the wealthy and not for the poor or for people like us.” Luckily, these ladies live in a secure place and don’t have to worry about having to move or about housing in general. “But we know that others are not in this position, and that a secure home is a luxury in today’s standards.”

They can’t imagine how the younger generation can afford to pay the rent, and how people manage to live in flats. “With houses”, Barbara says, “everything was more friendly but now, you never see the people who’ve got to go to work; flats are not friendly. The developers don’t think about the people living there. They just find a gap somewhere and build on it, it’s ridiculous, and it ain’t for the poor!”

“And what about pollution levels?”, Barbara continues. “If everything is so built up, there is less space for air to circulate and so we have more pollution! I live on the 9th floor and there are 4 flats with children on the same floor and they’re stuck up there, you never see them, it’s not healthy! We used to see children playing outside. Now, they are locked up in the sky without fresh air.”

Kathy also worries about the younger generation and what they’ll be missing when they get older if DAGE (and other community spaces) could not continue to function. With a loss of funding to DAGE from the council due to their general budget cuts, Kathy asks: “What are people gonna do when they’re older? Places like this won’t exist anymore.” Thankfully DAGE does not rely on a single source of funding and Tim Hamilton, DAGE’s Project Development Officer, has received monies from some 30-plus funders each year to see DAGE continues. However, due to the huge funding shortfall from a major source, DAGE are currently fundraising to try and cover their full running costs and to ensure DAGE continues to provide services for the elderly. If you would like to donate, please click on the link below.

https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charityweb/charity/finalCharityHomepage.action?charityId=1013449

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Later I meet Eku, Carina, Ola and Laura who come here every Wednesday after communion in All Saints Church in New Cross. They always used to come here “to see the lovely lady [Diane who used to run the pop-in], she’s very good to us.” The four have been coming here for 14 years and they said it would be a great loss if DAGE could not continue. They have been to many of DAGE’s parties and outings and stressed the importance of such events for elderly people. They also have fond memories of Harry. “He was such a nice man!”

Finally, I speak to Diane, the lady who ran the pop-in for many years, serving tea and cake to the pensioners, and handing out bread, rolls and other food stuffs donated by Marks & Spencer. Like most members at DAGE, Diane pays tribute to Harry who volunteered everyday for DAGE and remains a shining example of the benefits of volunteering at DAGE in befriending more isolated pensioners and signposting those elderly who need advice and support.

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Diane explains that she was an employee of Harry’s since the age of 18 and worked for him in the nightclub, Cheeks, The Harp pub, among other places. Diane worked for DAGE for many years following the centre being opened in 2001, with the support from various charitable funds. The pop-in is also assisted in its running by volunteers who Diane used to supervise. They mostly befriend but can also signpost as Diane kept the centre stocked with leaflets on agencies for advice and support. Sadly, Diane’s time at DAGE has come to an end: her work was supported by the Big Lottery funding which ran out at the end of January 2018.

Diane falls into the category of women born in the 50s whose working life was extended unexpectedly in 2011. Diane tells me to look at WASPI – Women Against State Pension Inequality – a group of women born in their 50s whose pension age was raised in 2011. They have demonstrated on the streets to be allowed to retire early without success. Diane is angry at the government for the fact that she cannot retire for another year. “I got the letter, I can tell you the exact date: May the 6th 2019 is when I can retire, when I’m 65 and 5 months old. On my 64th birthday I will have to sign on and look for a job! I’m tired, it’s time to put my feet up but I can’t. I’ve worked since the age of 15 without a break! That’s 50 years I’ve paid into the system and who is going to employ me at the age of 64?”, she asks. The pop-in is now run by volunteers, and on Wednesdays, Scott is there, Harry’s son who is just as devoted to helping the elderly.

It is clear from conversations with members at DAGE how important it is to look after the elderly. Places like DAGE, and active volunteers such as Harry, really help to combat social isolation, one of the top social epidemics for older people in this country today. Visiting DAGE has highlighted the need for the government and other funders to keep places like DAGE alive so they can continue their good work.

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Garry’s Deptford Story

This is the second guest contribution for this blog, written by Garry Lengthorn. I met Garry’s dad and wife at one of the Friday lunches for pensioners at the Armada Community Hall. I was speaking to them about Deptford’s regeneration, and Garry’s wife, who used to accompany her father-in-law to the Armada, suggested that I speak to Garry as he was born in Deptford. This contribution to my research came out of this conversation. Text and images by and from Garry Lengthorn.

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My Deptford Story

My name is Garry Lengthorn and I was born in April 1965 in Watergate Street Deptford. I can truly say I am Deptford born and bred because, being the second of two children born to Maureen and John Lengthorn, my mum was allowed to give birth to me at home! No 4 Rowley House in Watergate Street!

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Here is an early picture of me in the Pram basking in the outdoors!

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Bordering on the edge of the Royal Borough of Greenwich it would be all too easy to say that I was a Greenwich child, but I have always been proud of my Deptford roots; an upbringing that was tough for my Dad, as we lost our beautiful mum to cancer when I was only 7 and my brother 12!

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In December 1969 we moved to Chester House overlooking Sayes Court; with shops below and a fantastic park in front of us it seemed a step up from Watergate Street; it was a shame that we lost my mum within a few years and she never had the chance to enjoy our modern flat and childhood life.

My early school life at Hughes Field was largely a pleasant experience, albeit interrupted by my mum’s passing. I had a great set of friends who all lived either local in Watergate Street or the surrounding streets of the Dacca Street and Sayes Court estates.

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We were always looked after; when I was about 9 or 10 I got collared by the Sayes Court park keeper for being in the park playing run outs when the park was closed; one of the older teenagers politely asked the keeper to let me go when he was threatening to call the police; it seemed polite at the time!

Football started to become a big part of my life playing 20 a side football every Sunday in the gravel pit at the end of the park with all the lads from the area, playing football in Sayes Court with my Dad and brother, as well as going Millwall with my Dad, brother and Uncles; fantastic memories I will never forget!

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As I developed in to my teens and attended West Greenwich boys school, it become clear that Deptford was a much tougher place to grow up as a teenager; avoiding fights and trouble was something you learned very quickly; an instinct I hope I still have today. Unfortunately, many of my friends at West Greenwich did not have that solid home life behind them and I am sure are now either in prison and or struggling to cope with what life threw at you; I consider myself very lucky, but also realised early on that a solid family background was a key part of why I survived these early years.

Once I left school with a solid, but uninspiring set of qualifications I attended South East London College after qualifying for a paid computer course; from this I got my first job as an IT engineer and this has kept me in work to this day.

Deptford was a tough area to live during those early 80’s, as I left school and started working life; the community spirit was there in patches, but families were struggling under the cloud of a Thatcher government, the real threat of a nuclear war and a general mood of depression; cars regularly being broken into and the threat of burglary real, as I found to our cost on at least 3 occasions. Deptford High Street and the market were in decline and pubs were not nice or safe places to drink.

Most of my close friends left the area and started to live in the surrounding areas or the Medway towns. Deptford was certainly not somewhere you choose to live, and it was only getting worse.

During the early nineties I met with my wife and, as she come from South West London, it was inevitable that we moved out. It is fair to say that I was not sorry to leave.

My Dad to his credit remained in Deptford (my brother had already moved out to Kent during the eighties) and never had a bad word to say about Deptford going about his usual way of life; if he ever felt threatened he would just give someone a piece of his mind; something he continued to do in to his eighties!

During the nineties and noughties, we continued to regularly return to Deptford to see my dad with our kids and stay over; this typically coincided with a family party, a game at Millwall or just a visit to see my Dad and enjoy Manze’s Pies and Mash (of course with Liquor)!

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But then we started to see the changes; gradual at first with the old Surrey Docks being redeveloped and then parts of the Pepys Estate, as well as the Deptford Market and station areas. Now Deptford was being touted as the new Shoreditch; edgy, but the place to be seen! The old job centre that I had visited on one or two occasions become a cool bar and all of a sudden, a number of the original pubs become Kitch or Hip to be in. Little Nan’s became a hip cocktail bar to go to and suddenly Deptford was becoming popular again.

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It is easy with all this going on to look back and say what a shame Deptford is changing! It is easy to say that with rose tinted glasses if you don’t remember the bad old days of the eighties when it started to become a very unsafe place to be.

Deptford has always had a fantastic community spirit; this started in the war when people’s houses were bombarded by German bombers, but it continued in the sixties when the council decided to demolish some fantastic properties and build a concrete jungle, as well as the eighties when parts of the UK and South London were becoming very gloomy places to live.

People were proud through all of this to come from Deptford; to think they had survived their childhood and come through it. They always looked after the old folk; even today the community spirit is amazing.

Do I think Deptford is better for the changes we are now seeing? I have mixed views; as I said earlier Deptford was a dangerous place to live in the eighties and certainly you had to be very lucky or have a good solid family background to survive this; today the developers are all over the area and no doubt property prices will go up and people will be forced out; it will be very bad if this happens, as once again this will put a huge strain on the community spirit.

I have confidence that no matter what happens that Deptford will remain a great place to live, as it has seen many changes since the turn of the 19th century and it has always survived. Yes, it will see a whole new community enter the area, as it has done in the past, but I suspect the mix of old and new folk will ensure that the underlying spirit continues.

I also personally would like to see Deptford prosper again and I hope this includes its rich heritage of ship building and dockers. With the plan to re-generate Convoys, it is likely that the rich heritage of shipbuilding will be celebrated once again, so Deptford should become the home of this historic boat craft rather than a popular estate agent!

 

 

Memories of an ex-stevedore

I am introduced to Bill through a mutual acquaintance, his neighbour to be precise, whose flat I have just photographed. The photographs are intended to serve as a document, a visual memory of the homes that are under threat of demolition. When I ask Bill whether he would talk to me about his memories of living in his flat, and if I could photograph it, he immediately agrees and shows me around.

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Bill has lived in his flat on Achilles Street for 64 years, ever since he moved in in 1953. Bill was born in St Olave’s Hospital in Rotherhithe – now a housing estate – in 1928 and is 89 years old. He started to work in 1942, and on his way to work by bike London was getting bombed all around. “All the houses in our neighbourhood were getting bombed, but in those 6 years our house managed to stay safe.” After the war, the houses were being pulled down and his family had to move. His father was working in the docks at the time and didn’t want to move too far away from work. They found this flat on Achilles Street, a London City Council building at the time and built not long after the war. Bill and his family moved in when he was 25, and he has lived here ever since.

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The flat hasn’t changed much since moving in, and for the family, it was the first home where they had electricity and a bathroom. When we talk, Bill shows me some photographs of his mum and other family members. You can see the same settee and other furniture in the photographs, and his mum’s bedroom still has the same wallpaper as when she passed away 20 years ago. Also, the gas fire is still the same as on the day they installed it; only Bill is not allowed to use it anymore for safety reasons. Bill used to know all the neighbours, and he still remembers all the names of people and in which flat they lived. Sadly, many of them have moved out or died, and “now you don’t know who lives next door!”

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Bill is still incredibly fit for his age. He manages the whole household by himself and has a memory as sharp as a pencil. When he shows me photographs of him and his colleagues at the docks, he tells me the name of every person, where they were from and whether they have died or are still alive. Bill worked in the docks as a stevedore (somebody loading and unloading ships) for 30 years and has very fond memories of that time.

“It was a wonderful time, the camaraderie amongst men was out of this world”, he reminisces, “not like today where everyone just looks out for themselves. Working at the docks was hard work but it was very rewarding”, he continues. “It was all about friendship, you knew all of your mates and we helped each other out.” Together they played football and cricket, and took part in marches. “Many of the strikes were to support other people and when we went on strike, everybody was united! This kind of camaraderie doesn’t exist anymore today.”

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Bill started working in the Surrey Quays Commercial Docks in 1950 and took bus 202 which used to run from New Cross to Rotherhithe to work. “At that time, there was work in abundance”, he remembers. When those docks shut in 1969, the workers were sent to Millwall and West India Docks where Canary Wharf now stands. In 1980, when all the docks shut down, Bill, after 30 years of being a docker, was made redundant. But he was lucky. After looking very hard for another job, Bill started work as a maintenance worker in Nat West Bank in the city less than 2 months after being made redundant. He worked there for another 13 years doing anything that needed doing such as cleaning, polishing, repairing before retiring in 1993. “It was a good job and well-paid”, he says. “At that time the bank paid all their own staff, engineers, labourers, everyone. Now all the services are sub-contracted, and you see what happens…like with Carillion now. How can the government give them a £2bn contract with taxpayer’s money without doing their research?”, Bill asks.

Bill also has fond memories of New Cross and Deptford, and how he would spend his free time. “We’d come home from work and there was plenty to do. The Venue was a cinema called Kinema, there was the New Cross Empire Theatre, the Broadway Picture House and the Odeon in Deptford. And if you wanted a drink, there was mile of pubs on Deptford High Street. You could start at one end of the High Street and by the time you arrived at the other end you’d had enough.“ Sadly, pretty much all pubs on Deptford High Street have disappeared and whilst many of the pubs in New Cross are still here, Bill says they’ve been taken over by Goldsmiths students, “and you  might as well call New Cross Goldsmiths with the amount of buildings they own”, he says half-jokingly. For Bill, New Cross pubs are too dear now, and he likes to go to the Greenwich Wetherspoon’s or the Crosse Keys Wetherspoon’s in the city, where he has been meeting his former Nat West colleagues, those still alive and well enough to go, every Wednesday since he retired.

Bill is very pragmatic about change. “It’s progress, I suppose”, he says. Curiously, he doesn’t mind if he has to move into another flat, but this is mostly to do with his age. “When you get to the age of 89, you don’t expect too much. If I was younger, I’d be more interested in how I live but now it doesn’t’ make a lot of difference to me; as long as they don’t send me to China or North Korea, or into an Old People’s home – I don’t want to go there. I want to live somewhere quiet and stay in the area I’m familiar with; that’s important. I can look after myself and just want to be able to do my thing.” When I ask him if he would miss his flat, considering it hasn’t changed in all these years, his pragmatism comes out once again: “I haven’t had much change in my life, I moved from Rotherhithe to here, that was my only change. I won’t get a flat as big as this but it’ll be something I can manage better. I might even get a nice view into the park. But I don’t want to live on the ground floor though, it’s too noisy!” He does feel sorry though for the younger generation, for leaseholders and private renters. “They are probably in a much worse situation than me. Most of the flats are private now and they’re not building any more council houses.”

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“New Cross was one of the last areas without being out in the suburbs”

As I walk into Mughead Coffee on 359 New Cross Road, the staff are busy baking cakes for the next day. The wonderful display of home-made brownies and cakes, sandwiches and other savouries draws you in, and the fact that food is prepared on site makes you want to try something even more. When I get the camera out, Star King, one of the owners of the business, is slightly concerned about the mess behind the counter whereas to me this is nothing more than the evidence of the baking going on. The flour stains on her apron remind of baking at home, evoking the warm memories of mum’s cooking. Upon request though, I don’t photograph the ‘mess’.

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Mark and Star King are the business owners of Mughead Coffee. They love coffee and set up business in June 2017 with a 5-year lease, knowing that the area might be redeveloped in the near future. “At the moment it’s just talk and no fixed plans have been approved yet. It might not even happen and so we set up with the hope that we might be able to stay”, Star explains. The reason why they set up in New Cross is its art scene, the amount of artists and freelance workers that live in the area. “When we were looking for an area conducive to coffee shops, the Deptford and New Cross area stood out. This location here is so good – the layout of the courtyard and the fact that the buildings are set back from the road – you won’t find anything like this anywhere else”, Mark explains. With the limit of the 5-year lease, Star and Mark have not invested much money in the building itself, but they have built up a very good customer base very fast. Their customers are, according to Mark, “50% from Goldsmiths and the other 50% are freelance workers in the area.” The coffee shop was pretty much an instant success, at least in terms of popularity. “We’ve got dozens of people who come daily, with some customers having become almost family and calling the café their community hub. We know many of our customers by first name, know about their personal lives, and we’d miss the community if we had to go. It seems there really was a need for a place like this.”

The 5-year lease, however, makes the future uncertain and it carries a high risk for their business. “If the area does get redeveloped, we might not be able to find anywhere in the area within our budget. Where coffee shops are successful, the rent is already high and we need to find a balance between affordability and profitability in a difficult business climate. At the moment, we’re working towards financial ‘security’ if things remain as they are, but we fear we’ll be pushed out of here.”

When I ask Mark what he thinks about what’s generally happening in London, he describes it as an “unstoppable ripple effect”. “It is the inevitable pushing out of populations through exorbitant pricing. People who used to be able to afford Greenwich had to move to Blackheath before then being moved on to Hither Green, which is also now becoming unaffordable”, he expands. Mark and Star live in Hither Green and expect to be moved on again to somewhere further out soon. “Most of London is inaccessible to us as renters and entrepreneurs, and New Cross was one of the last areas without being out in the suburbs.”

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It is evident that regeneration affects all those who don’t have the money to pay the high rates charged after an area has been developed. This applies to homes and to businesses. Currently, the buildings on New Cross parade are owned by the council which makes rents more affordable, giving some entrepreneurs the chance to run an independent business. However, once the area has been regenerated with buildings owned by private developers, rents will be so high that most current businesses will not be able to set up again.

After a while, Mark has to leave; he needs to pick up their child from school while Star remains behind the counter baking and serving customers.

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Save Tidemill – Reginald House and Tidemill Wildlife Garden II

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Check out the fantastic summer programme of free events in Tidemill Wildlife Garden, until middle of July anyway (programme for the rest of the summer will follow). Also check the Facebook page for further updates: https://www.facebook.com/savetidemill/

Save Tidemill Programme

While you are in the garden, why don’t you leave a note about your experience of the garden on the Memory Board. Make a comment, write a story, paint a picture of your impressions, tell us what you like about the garden and why we need to keep it. Post-it notes, postcards, pens and white-tac provided.

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As you may know, the garden is, along with Reginald House, under threat of destruction to build homes. Although campaigners and local residents have put forward alternative plans that would build the same amount of homes without destroying the garden and demolishing people’s existing homes, the council is not willing to consider these plans. Despite the garden being an important green space with lower pollution levels than anywhere else in the area, and despite Lewisham Council supporting a project called ‘Tranquil City’ that maps the green spaces of London so that people have access to less polluted routes through the city, the garden is in imminent danger of being closed to create more pollution by felling mature trees and building more flats. We all know we need to house Lewisham’s homeless but there are plenty of other opportunities to do this without losing a much-needed green space and demolishing perfectly sound council homes. Whilst this development now promises to provide a fair amount of social housing units (an achievement of the campaigners), there are numerous developments in the area where more social housing units could be built (and could have been built). It begs the question – why here? Why destroy a wildlife garden and a council block when there is, and would have been, plenty of opportunities elsewhere?  Join the campaign and try to help save the garden from demolition alongside Reginald House, where the majority of people have voted against the destruction of their homes. See the campaigners demands below (campaign meetings take place every Saturday 3pm in the garden).

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Lucy Loves-Life

Today’s post is the first guest contribution written by Lucy Loves-Life, a local Deptford resident, campaigner, activist, and co-founder of the Deptford People Project, which feeds homeless people every Friday 12 – 2 in New Cross Field. For more information see: https://www.facebook.com/deptfordpeopleproject/ As part of my research, I have invited Lucy Loves-Life to express her views on the regeneration and gentrification of the area and how it is impacting on the local working-class population. Lucy Loves-Life has kindly invited me to contribute some of my images to her text.

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When your area is featured in Time Out you know the worst is yet to come.

I imagine the conversations over breakfast by a couple who bought an ex-local authority Victorian semi in Deptford ten years ago. I can see the fair-trade coffee on the beech worktop and the children’s Crocs neatly placed by the back door. And I can hear the excitement in their voices as they discuss the local property price increase & how Deptford is set to be the new Dalston. Not that they ever really liked Dalston but apparently Dalston is the place to reproduce.

Dad will leave for the station & mum will upload a photograph of Henry, their two-year-old son, pouring organic porridge over his head, before getting them both ready for music buddies at the coffee shop & Monday’s yoga class. Life is good.

Dad loves his walk to the station. More so now because a local community group have helped to redevelop the run down green space just outside their home. Ker-ching! Another few grand added to the house. He knew getting into community was a good idea, he just wishes the local kids would stop graffitiing on the new skate park. No respect whatsoever, random names and RIP, not what one wants on their door step. He’d take photos, upload them to the Facebook groups & call the police.

The station was looking fab now too. No more rough sleepers hanging around especially since all the immigration raids. No, Deptford was definitely coming up. The quality of people was too: young arty types and young professionals, oh and a new Caribbean restaurant opening soon. This one we can take the family to not like the one down the road with big Rastafarians hanging about outside. No, things were changing for the better.

 

Rhys is a ten-year-old local lad kicked out of school because his ADHD hadn’t been diagnosed yet & the school just didn’t have the resources to fund a one-to-one support teacher. He was set to attend a new state-of-the-art free school but the residents of the apartments above have lodged a petition as they don’t want to have degenerates affecting the price of their properties. He’s bored and his nan who looks after him while his mum’s at work is old and doesn’t notice when he sneaks out to graffiti in the park. He likes spray painting, he’s seen the bigger boys doing it on the estate making pictures for that kid who was murdered up the road. He can’t do pictures like them but he’d like to. He likes the new park. Even when that weird man takes his photo. Life is good.

What does this have to do with gentrification?
They are all just numbers in a market research case study.

Just stereotypes. And yes we all carry them. At best, the majority of us know they are wrong and at worst, we think them but keep our opinions to ourselves. Truth be told, fundamentally we all want to be safe, accepted and feel part of the area that we live in.

But that isn’t profitable. Not for local councils and not for developers. Why? Because people that care for each other are less likely to buy into the redevelopment fantasy. The only thing that matters is a rise in eligible council tax payees, business rates & licences. And the ability to use the sale of land to offset the inhumane cuts to education, health and policing. These things affect us all. Cuts are felt by all.

Do you see the irony? Come to our newly developed area. Free from rough sleepers, hoodlums & benefit claimants… You will be provided with a ready-made lifestyle in your starter pack. Just open it and life will be good. Pay your council tax & everything will be alright. Ignore the obvious signs of deprivation around you. You have earned your right to live in this new complex. You are climbing the ladder of success… (just don’t forget to pay your council tax). Oh, and don’t get sick because you’ll have a long wait on the NHS. Oh, and you’ll need to make sure you’re living in the street of your school of choice because you might not get a place for your child otherwise. But it’s fine, you have a beautiful balcony overlooking the Creek. Don’t worry, the boat community will be moved very soon because we can now make money on the moorings.

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What is gentrification? Who is responsible? And how is this related to stereotyping?

Gentrification is a general term for the arrival of wealthier people in an existing urban district, a related increase in rents and property values, and changes in the district’s character and culture. The term is often used negatively, suggesting the displacement of poor communities by rich outsiders. Often used negatively?  Damn right it is! Because it’s based on the assumption that all people strive to be rich and that wealth is the only measure used to distinguish a thriving community.

Firstly the divide isn’t between the classes at all. It’s not about two communities fighting for land. Neither is it about rich & poor.  The divide is between two ways of thinking. It’s between people who purposely choose to use the deprivation of an area because it has investment potential & those who choose an area to live in with the view of becoming a part of the community.

Then there are huge money generating corporations. Most of which are based in China. No one really knows what they’re doing here.

Is it social cleansing? After all, developers did build on a community garden but they gave the council a cheque and the offer of moving to a site 6 miles away with a quarter of the space. That’s not social cleansing – it’s a little shifting of furniture. The old telephone table will eventually be crackle glazed and made into a Martini bar & herb stand at the back for the garden. It’s social tidying, more like social regurgitation then cleansing.

 


There is a sea of metal & glass apartments laying half empty, unused commercial space dormant while community groups are forced out of local authority buildings. That is what gentrification really looks like. It’s empty. It’s an off-plan idea that is never meant to be lived in.

You see developers are not interested in the future. They create the future for you and then watch it dwindle as the investment potential wastes away along with the recycled cardboard flower beds. For them the purpose is a one-off event, a party that creates a substantial amount of money in a short amount of time. Then they leave and reproduce the same event in another deprived run-down area.

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And they love to use the word economy in their projections. They’ll bring jobs to the area, bring shoppers to the High Street, when the reality is that people buying a Deptford new-build are more likely to be found in the city or at the train station than spending in Jerk Hut or the local Costcutter. The introduction of a new market, which isn’t actually anything like a market, which houses ethically sourced lifestyle stores and yet another rebranded coffee shop. Oh, and an art space, which basically means any business that has a wall. Ethically sourced products with unethical & false idealism placing a veneer over the people and community that already exists. Oh, and it’s called a yard! Proper street! New buzz word for this round of commercial space. Yard I assume to represent the nautical history of Deptford. I imagine they are not referring to the community of Jamaicans whose ‘yard’ is being stamped over! So much talk about ships and no talk about the people that came off those boats.

Promises of a hipster, ankle-swinging sandal-wearers heaven where drinks are served in jars and pallets are seen as authentic furnishings. All in the name of art & culture. But whose culture? The same culture that no one wants in Shoreditch now? The kit community. Pull tab, open box and Bob’s your uncle, a ready-made life for those that are yet to find their own form of expression. We’ll market Deptford not Dalston, that’ll work. The individual looking for a place to call home needs nothing more than a pre-packaged life style. After all, who needs to think for themselves when developers have a team to do that for you. And you’ll ignore the real graffiti over the commission lettering because actually the words ‘no gentrification’ & ‘get in the creek’ just fill you with a fearful excitement. Anyone visiting will totally appreciate how brave, artistic & authentic you really are for living in such a tough part of South London. Developers have psychoanalysed their potential victims. They know you better than you know yourself. They know that money gives the opportunity to buy the life you aspire to. Except it’s not your life at all. It’s you & 225 other people who also bought an apartment in your block. Look closely, you might even see yourself in the coffee shop depiction on the council’s website.

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The problem has never been the people. The problem is developers using people to make profit. We are all being manipulated into an idea solely designed for the stock market. Commodities and shares that’s what we are. The land under our feet means nothing to these organisations. The only community that is valuable is a pre-designed community whose spending and resources can be projected and placed into an offshore bank account.

The point I’m attempting to make is while we all allow ourselves to be railroaded into a social category by some very well-paid, highly educated group of capitalists, we risk losing our communities completely. We have been sold a marketing dream used for our history, our abilities & our aspirations. These people rely on our stereotyping. Divide & conquer.

How do we stop gentrification? We stop thinking that we have no power. We stop believing the developers’ version of our dreams. We stop allowing stereotypes to dictate our place in society. But more so we start remembering what a home is. What being part of a community is. And we support only those projects, businesses & developments that serve everyone. Not investors!

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If you have come to Deptford with no other intention but to make money I hope you’re willing to sell your soul. Because that’s what it will cost you. There’s a very good reason why Deptford was left until the last knockings. They still don’t know if it’s going to work here. They still can’t place Deptford people into a neat little marketing category. So we will have to see where the chips fall. And who’s left? The community or the investors. And seen as the majority of Deptford have nowhere else to go, I’d say the community might well win this one….