The future of this project…

The Estuary Alternative was launched after the Southend Radical Fair that took place back in May. The original aim of this project was to a) promote projects and actions offering a positive alternative to the dysfunctional political, social and economic system we currently have to endure and b) to act as a clearing house for an exchange of ideas, experiences and expertise between the various alternative / grassroots projects operating across southern Essex. The question we’re now asking ourselves is this – is the project achieving the aims we set out for it?

The harsh truth that has to be faced is that it’s falling well short of those aims. Apart from a small handful of groups sending us information about what they’re doing, we’re having to do a lot of the legwork to get content for this blog – we’re also having to do a lot of legwork to get The Estuary Alternative paper distributed as well. Regarding the paper, the current issue is a one off produced to get the ball rolling. If there’s going to be a second edition a) funding from grassroots groups across the region will be needed and b) content will also be needed as on the back of the current edition, we clearly state that we have no intention of writing any copy for the next edition!

This is supposed to be a collaborative project with the eventual goal of it being handed over to grassroots activists across southern Essex by the autumn of 2018. It’s still our intention to do this – however if by the summer of next year, we’re still doing most of the legwork in producing the content for this project, sadly we’ll have no alternative but to pull the plug on it. So, if grassroots activists across the region want an online resource (and a paper) where, ideas, experiences and expertise are exchanged as well as a diary for what’s going on, now is the time to step up to the plate and get involved…

We’ve had a bit of a slim down of the content on this blog as well… The reason being was that we felt it was turning into a bit of a lifestyle listings resource and straying from it’s original remit of covering and supporting ideas and actions aimed at building a new world inside the decaying shell of the dysfunctional and increasingly dystopian one we currently have to endure. In other words, it was getting too fluffy, and while there’s a place for that, it’s not in a project like this which is aimed at bringing about fundamental political, economic and social change.

We really do want this project to succeed but it has to be on the understanding that it’s a collaborative project. We’re going to be at the Southend Vegan Fair – – for a few hours on Saturday 16th handing out copies of The Estuary Alternative paper and talking to people about what we want to achieve. We’ll also be at the protest against the proposed development of the cliff top in Southend – – on Sunday 17th from noon onwards to hand out any papers that are left. We look forward to meeting people willing to join us in taking this project forward…


Doing it for ourselves on the ¾ estate in Vange

This was originally posted up on The South Essex Stirrer. As it’s about a day of action that played a part in building neighbourhood solidarity and made a positive difference to the look of the areas of the ¾ estate where it took place, we feel it should be posted up here as an example of what can be achieved.

Promotion of this community clean up which took place on Saturday 2nd December started a month ago. It was called as a response to longstanding issues with rubbish collection on the ¾ estate and the amount that was remaining uncollected. We had visions of a day of litter picking and re-bagging burst, split and festering sacks of uncollected trash…

Well, ever since Vange Hill Community Group (VHCG) and Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) announced the clean up, residents have noticed a marked improvement in Basildon Council’s performance when it came to collecting rubbish and not leaving uncollected sacks lying around. Coincidence? No, not a bit of it… Basildon Council didn’t want to be embarrassed by our photographs of a rubbish strewn estate so they pulled their fingers out and actually did the job that they’re meant to do. Okay, it wasn’t 100% pristine but residents we spoke to said the estate was looking cleaner than it has for some time. We’ll take this as a victory…putting on the pressure pays off…

So, with not a lot of rubbish to collect, what did we do? Well, we did a bit of gardening, cutting back, strimming, weeding and sweeping instead. Which to be honest, is infinitely preferable to dealing with festering sacks of uncollected rubbish. We were working in two separate locations. The aim is to use these two locations as examples of what can be done by residents, facilitated by VHCG and BASHA. It’s hoped that these examples will inspire other residents across the estate to start taking care of their closes with the eventual aim of linking these up and starting to totally transform the place.

The point of today was to facilitate resident action in cleaning their sections of the estate up. This is the first step in empowering them to take more of an active role in making the ¾ estate a decent place to live and dispelling the bad reputation it has gained over the years. The more the residents can achieve, the more empowered they’ll feel and the more ambitious they’ll get in terms of getting a meaningful say in how the estate is run and developed.

A few words of thanks are due… Firstly to the residents who care about where they live and came out to put in some hard graft on tidying the place up. Secondly to Basildon Council who provided the litter pickers and black sacks – the gesture was appreciated. Thirdly to the Basldon Council workers who took away a fair amount of the rubbish and green waste we had collected when they showed up. Lastly but by no means least, many thanks to the residents who made us cups of tea and coffee to keep us going…that really was appreciated:)

All in all, it was a good day when we could see the result of our pressure on Basildon Council and from the graft we put in. This will be the first of a number of actions on an estate where residents are starting to take an active role in turning the place around…it’s onwards and upwards from here…

Vange 3/4 estate community clean up this weekend!

Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) and the Vange Hill Community Group (VHCG) have had more than a few issues in dealing with the authorities who are supposed to be responsible for the ¾ estate in Vange which is located on the southern fringes of Basildon. Both BASHA and VHCG are fed up with the wrangling over which authority is responsible for (not) clearing the trash properly, (not) trimming back out of control undergrowth and (not) maintaining footpaths and steps to a decent, safe standard.

There’s only so much banging heads against a brick wall they’re prepared to tolerate in dealing with the Kafkaesque bureaucracy of local authorities and housing associations and trying to contact ward councillors conspicuous by their absence. At a recent meeting between the South Essex Stirrer and BASHA, they decided to do something about this with a day of therapeutic community cleaning where they can see a definite result at the end of a day’s hard graft.

They welcome any of their supporters to join them on the day – please wear suitable footwear and clothing you don’t mind getting mucky. Tools will be provided, but if you can bring along anything you think will be useful, you’re welcome to do so…

Vegan Army Surplus

Vegan Army Surplus Facebook page:

Along with a mate from Basildon & Southend Housing Action, I’m going to be at the Colchester Vegan Christmas Fair tomorrow helping out on the Vegan Army Surplus stall. The aim of the stall is to offer hard wearing vegan clothing options for the kind of activists who like to get ‘out and about’ – there will be some more fashion orientated items on sale as well. Aside from the clothing, there will be a range of propaganda items, some vegan orientated, others more generally orientated such as The Estuary Alternative paper. Tomorrow will also be a good networking opportunity that will hopefully help us in our aim of building up an alliance of groups and activists throughout Essex and further up into East Anglia.

Dave (the editor)

Colchester Vegan Christmas Fair (Hosted by Lotus Stray Rescue)
Sunday 25th November: 1pm – 6pm
Firstsite, Lewis Gardens, High Street, Colchester CO1 1JH
Facebook page:

Advance notice (so you can put it in your diary)

While we’re on the subject of growing your own food (see the previous post), we’ve had this in from South East Essex Orgnaic Gardeners. Okay, we know it’s not until next February but as diaries can fill up quickly, we’re giving you advance notice of this event…

SE Essex Seed Potato Day is organised and run entirely by volunteers from both SE Essex Organic Gardeners and local charity, Trust Links –

Why not put it in your diary now?

Saturday 24 February | 10:00 – 14:00

Growing Together Westcliff, 47 Fairfax Drive (corner of Fairfax Drive and Prittlewell Chase), Westcliff-on-Sea, SS0 9AG.

Please use the entrance in Prittlewell Chase.

Free admission – delicious refreshments available.

Well over 30 varieties of seed potato (some organic) sold individually at 20p per tuber (1 free tuber for every 5 bought), plus Sturon and Stuttgart Giant onion sets.

– Onion sets, Sturon and Stuttgart Giant: £1.00 per half pound
– Organic potato fertiliser
– Chicken pellets
– Dalefoot Composts
– Southend Seed Swap
– Allotment advice from Jeff Barber, The National Allotment Society
– The Soil Association’s latest organic research literature

Please check our website for updates –

A return to seasonal food?

You don’t need us to tell you that the cost of food is going up. As the world becomes ever more volatile and unpredictable, the need for people to start growing their own food is becoming greater. This can be done in a variety of ways from setting up community gardens or allotments through to turning over part or even all of your back garden to growing your own fruit and vegetables. Even though the need for more self sufficiency in food is increasing, it doesn’t have to turn into a grim struggle for survival… Vegetable and fruit gardening is a healthy, enjoyable activity – even more so when it’s done communally and becomes an activity that’s sociable and increases neighbourhood cohesion.

However, as you’ll gather from the above graphic, growing your own food means a return to a seasonal diet. That’s not bad news – as you can see, there’s a fair variety that can be grown for each season. Not only that, you have the sense of anticipation when a particular food is about to come into season!

SE Essex Organic Gardeners meeting – Monday 20 November

SE Essex Organic Gardeners would love you to join them at their next meeting on Monday 20 November at Growing Together Westcliff at 20:00:

“Using Plants for People and Wildlife”
John Little – – will chat through the mix of work that he’s done over the last 20 years.

Growing Together Westcliff, 47 Fairfax Drive (corner of Fairfax Drive and Prittlewell Chase), Westcliff-on-Sea, SS0 9AG.

Please use the entrance in Prittlewell Chase.

Non-members £2.00 – you are most welcome!