October ’17 Repair Cafe @ Shoebury Hub

This is the kind of practical, grassroots activity making a positive difference from skill sharing to sustainability through giving various items a longer use life that we love to promote…

After a hiatus due to a home move we were eager to get back into Repairing and for Octobers repair Cafe we were pleased to connect with the Malcolm, Brian and Chris of My Town Southend – https://www.mytownsouthend.com/ – @ the Shoebury hub who kindly offered, at stupendously short notice, to host the repair cafe in the wonderful community space they have created in what was originally the Unitarian Evangelical church. My Town Southend is all about promoting community cohesion, resilience and well being as opposed to extractive activities draining people and capital from the town. Needless to say we definitely sing from the same song sheet as them and are excited about one of their ideas to set up a Share shed at the hub which would sync in perfectly with the repair movement.

See here for the rest of the piece: https://southendrepaircafe.wordpress.com/2017/10/03/october-17-repair-cafe-shoebury-hub/

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Cleaning up the Pattocks

Pattocks is a sheltered housing complex run by Basildon Council. By definition it houses elderly, vulnerable, people many with mobility problems. One would have thought that anyone with a responsibility for the pathways would prioritise maintaining those around sheltered housing. The paths around Pattocks are broken, cracked, and overgrown, with weeds coming up in abundance. There is also rubbish dumped around the site and broken walls. The paths are not fit for purpose – they are clearly a health hazard.

Thumbs up to the estate manager who was not content to keep reporting broken paths and dumped rubbish around a sheltered housing complex with no result. She got in touch with the local councillor and a clear up was organised. Basildon & Southend Housing Action were there to lend a hand and share experiences of how to get things done. A few local people came out, either from the complex who expressed their gratitude or who came along to help. The “Pride Team” from Basildon Council were there to do the heavy stuff and take away the rubbish that had been collected. The result was a great improvement but needs to be kept up. There was cake and tea as a reward!

Yet again, it’s down to volunteers to undertake basic cleaning and maintenance on an estate in Basildon. If volunteers from the community are having to put in more of their time and effort to bring their estates up to an acceptable level, it has to be said that it’s not an unreasonable demand for those at the grassroots to have a real, meaningful say in how their neighbourhoods are run…

The Estuary Alternative is back from the printer

We would like to extend our thanks to Oxford GreenPrint for a superb print job and swift delivery of the paper. Distribution of this will start in Southend tomorrow, including venues such as The Railway in Clifftown Road. Given the kind of paper this is – celebrating and promoting grassroots community projects – we won’t be delivering it door-to-door as we want to make sure each and every copy gets into the hands of people who want to make a change in this area.

So, if you support the aims of this blog and paper and want to take a small bundle to hand out to friends, family and neighbours, feel free to get in touch and we’ll sort something out. Also, if you know of or frequent a venue that you think will be sympathetic to what we’re trying to achieve, let us know and we’ll get the papers in there.

As we’ve stated and written before, we really do want to make this a collaborative project, giving a voice to all of the grassroots community projects operating in the area. The headline on the paper is ‘Working better together’. The aim is to encourage the development of an informal network of groups who help each other out as and when necessary, share experiences and skills and end up becoming considerably greater than the sum of their parts. So, it’s over to you to build on what we already have and build something that can start to bring about real, meaningful change…

Get digging!

Type ‘Brexit and food security’ into a search engine and you’ll come up with a slew of articles warning about significantly higher food prices, crops not being harvested because there isn’t the labour to undertake the task and last but by no means least, the distinct possibility of food production standards being lowered. This piece is just one example of what we found: Brexit about to trigger sky-high costs for British food industryhttp://www.politics.co.uk/comment-analysis/2017/05/02/brexit-about-to-trigger-sky-high-costs-for-british-food

Now we don’t want to come across as ‘Remoaners’ complaining about the impact of Brexit – as anarchists, we’re on record as having a pox on all your houses attitude towards the issue: A few thoughts on Brexit…https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/03/29/a-few-thoughts-on-brexit/ However, if those eager to pull the UK out of the EU had undertaken some planning for life outside rather than relying on blind faith that things will work out okay in the end, we may not be facing a future of soaring food prices and disruptions to supply…

A tanking sterling has already started to force food prices to go up. If the UK ends up crashing out of the EU without any deal, tariffs on imported food from the EU will send prices soaring. Then there’s the question of the labour needed to get the food from the field to our plates. The stark fact is that much of this is undertaken by migrant labour from the EU. Already, there has been a decline in migration from the EU as potential migrants are being put off by what they feel will be a hostile welcome. If inward migration is cut to the levels the likes of UKIP and hard right Tories have been screaming for, we could face a situation where crops will be left to rot in the fields because there will be no-one to pick them. The jury is still out on this one but in a post Brexit UK where food prices are going through the roof, there may be a temptation to ease up on some hygiene and safety regulations relating to home produced and imported foodstuffs in a bid to keep prices down and stave off domestic discontent.

As the title of this piece suggests, there’s a solution…get digging! We’re not suggesting a patriotic ‘dig for victory’ drive – we’re anarchists and we don’t do patriotism or nationalism. What we are suggesting is making a start on building community resilience to deal with the shite that’s likely to come if we continue to rely on clueless politicians to negotiate the complexities of a Brexit no one seems to have any plans for or idea of how it’s going to pan out. One aspect of community resilience is localising as much food production as possible down to neighbourhood level.

We’re talking about things like turning your back garden over to growing your own. If you can get hold of an allotment, do so: Allotments going begging – get one while you can!https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/02/23/allotments-going-begging-get-one-while-you-can/ If you feel a plot may be too big to handle on your own, team up with friends and neighbours to work it and share the produce equitably. If you can, find a plot to start a community garden. It’s not always necessary to ask permission – we’ve seen guerilla gardened plots that have been going for a good few years without any unwanted attention from the authorities!

Obviously, it’s better if food growing can be done as a neighbourhood project. Working together growing food and sharing the produce helps to build friendships and goes a long way to generating the community solidarity that will be vital in the troubled times ahead. Localising food production in this way with the solidarity it generates, not only gives you more control over where your food comes from, it’s empowering people to start taking more responsibility for, and control over, the neighbourhoods they live in. Also, growing food in this way is healthier, not just because of the fresh air and exercise involved but also because you have complete control over the inputs. Once a community feels empowered enough to start taking control of their food supply, that could lead to some interesting developments in the fight for a more just, equitable, sane and sustainable world…

Unsure how to make a start? Below is a list of resources which have loads of useful information on community gardening that can be done in a healthy and sustainable way – get reading!

Resources

Billericay Community Garden – https://www.facebook.com/billericaycommunitygarden/
Empty Cages Design – http://www.emptycagesdesign.org/
South East Essex Organic Gardeners – http://seeog.org.uk/
Southend In Transition Community Allotment – https://www.facebook.com/SiTcommunityAllotment/
Spiralseed – http://spiralseed.co.uk/