A good weekend in Southend:)

We had an interesting and productive two days over the weekend of the 24th/25th March. We spent Saturday afternoon at the Mendip Wildlife Gardens Wonderful Family Gathering at Dunster Avenue on the northern fringes of Southend and all day Sunday at the Southend Community Wellbeing & Vegan Festival.

The event on Saturday was a community festival with an interesting vibe held on a council estate on the fringes of Southend up by the A127 and right under the flight path to the airport. An area that has more than its fair share of problems but also has a pretty good sense of community as well which in these troubled times, is essential in building neighbourhood resilience. It gave us (South Essex Working Class Action) some ideas on persuading residents on one of the estates we work on in Basildon to think about putting on something similar with us helping to facilitate it. It was also interesting to see what various groups of volunteers have done with the Mendip Wildlife Garden – a lovely little oasis right in the heart of the estate.

On the Sunday we had an Essex Social Strategic Alliance stall at the vegan festival with a table loaded with leaflets and papers. We shifted two thirds of the print run of the current edition of The Estuary Alternative (we kept a third back for distribution at suitable venues across the region). Not only that we had a fair few interesting conversations and made some potentially useful contacts in the process. What was good about this event is that unlike a lot of vegan fairs which can be very lifestyle orientated, there were a healthy number of campaign stalls present to help put some politics and context into veganism.

Lastly, but by no means least, a big thank you to Chay Godfree, Dean Ward and the teams of volunteers out on both days for organising and running both events. Both events in their own way provided an opportunity for the community to get together – on the Saturday to enjoy themselves and on the Sunday for an insight into veganism and also a chance for local activists to do some serious networking.

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The Estuary Alternative is back from the printer

The second print edition of The Estuary Alternative paper has just come back from our friends at Oxford GreenPrint. We produced the paper specifically for distribution at these two events where we will be having a presence…

Mendip Wildlife Gardens Wonderful Family Gathering
Saturday 24th March from 10:00–19:00
Mendip Wildlife Garden, 42 Dunster Avenue, SS0 0HN – https://www.facebook.com/events/391405211330131/

Southend Community Wellbeing & Vegan Festival
Sunday 25th March from 10:00-17:00
49 Alexandra Street, Southend-on-Sea – https://www.facebook.com/events/150970792218276

A small number of papers will be available from the Freedom bookshop in Aldgate, London from Saturday 17th March onwards. As Freedom very kindly published much of the content of the paper: Seeds Beneath the Snow: Thoughts on local organisinghttps://freedomnews.org.uk/seeds-beneath-the-snow-thoughts-on-local-organising/ it would be rude to not let them have some papers for distribution! If there are any papers left after the weekend of the 24th/25th March, they’ll be available on the shelf at The Railway in Clifftown Road, Southend-on-Sea and possibly, from a few other venues if there are a sufficient number left.

If you can’t make it into Southend-on-Sea but would like to see the paper, it’s available online as a downloadable PDF: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ujlgie04y5u7jo3/The_Estuary_Alternative_No2.pdf?dl=0

Guerilla gardening – just do it!

An idea from the latest print edition of The Estuary Alternative:)



guerrilla gardening

the activity of growing plants without permission on land that belongs to someone else or on public land, with the aim of improving the environment or producing vegetables or flowers for people to use or enjoy

Starting a project to make a change in your neighbourhood can seem to be a daunting prospect. Yes, there are grassroots community projects that are complex and there are probably good reasons for that – changing the world is not an easy business and a degree of organisation is required. However, there are things you can do which don’t require a lot of organisation or hours writing funding applications. Guerilla gardening is one of those things you can do…

If there’s an awkward shaped smallish plot of land in your neighbourhood that’s been neglected and no one’s sure who owns or has responsibility for it, why not do a bit of guerilla gardening? Canvas opinion in the immediate neighbourhood to see how much support there is for the idea of transforming the plot from an eyesore into a community asset. Find out who’s willing to help you work on it and then work out a plan for what you want to do.

You could ask for permission if you want but if the land has been neglected for years, then whoever is responsible for it obviously doesn’t care about the impact of their neglect on your neighbourhood so…just get on with it! There’s a welcome, non-violent anti-authoritarian aspect to guerilla gardening that should be embraced. While at one level, it’s about making your neighbourhood a better place to live, at a more fundamental level, it’s asking questions about land ownership and control.

The other benefits are building a feeling of solidarity and cohesion in your neighbourhood as people get together to work on a common project. A project that as it matures will give people a sense of pride in and responsibility towards their neighbourhood and boost community morale. A confidence booster that can inspire people to take on bigger and more complex projects that will start to lead to real, meaningful change.

Start small, gain confidence, start to think bigger but above all…just do it!

Building neighbourhood solidarity and resilience

This is the keynote article from the latest print edition of The Estuary Alternative.

With all of the grassroots community projects we promote and do our level best to support, there’s one key fundamental and that’s generating a sense of neighbourhood solidarity. We’re not talking about an exclusive sense of solidarity centred on one particular group – we’re talking about the kind of solidarity that respects the variety of people that go to make up a neighbourhood.

The kind of solidarity which recognises that while people can be very different from each other, they can all play a role in making a neighbourhood a better place to live once they recognise that’s what they want to achieve. The kind of solidarity that our rulers and their mates in the right wing media hate because it means people have seen beyond their games of divide and rule and encouraging us all to be nothing more than selfish, atomised, uncaring producers and consumers. It’s the kind of solidarity we’ll need in an increasingly uncertain future as we face a Brexit where no one in power in either the UK or the rest of the EU can explain to us mere plebs what its consequences are. In addition to this, there are also the ever growing risks posed by climate change to consider…

These will impact on food security – the first manifestations of which will be steep price rises. Extreme manifestations could well be shortages of certain foods… This is the kind of scenario where life in an atomised neighbourhood where no one knows or trusts their neighbours could start to get uncomfortable to say the least. The kind of scenario where neighbourhood resilience cannot happen because everyone is fearful of everyone else. The kind of scenario where the authorities can control us because we fear and can’t trust each other. Basically, a nightmare scenario that no caring human wants…

Which is why we support any community project that brings people together, regardless of their backgrounds. At the end of the day, whoever we are and wherever we’re from, everyone wants to live in a neighbourhood where people look out for and care for each other. A neighbourhood that in an age of failing public services can provide networks of support for its more vulnerable members. A neighbourhood that’s taking steps to take control of its food supply with community gardens/allotments, food buying groups and the like. A neighbourhood that once it gains a degree of self confidence about looking after itself, will start to ask some searching questions about power, who exercises it and how it has to be brought right down to the grassroots.

So, while The Estuary Alternative may on the surface seem to be a ‘fluffy’ project, what we’re about is building the new world in the shell of the crumbling one we have to endure at the moment. The key to success in that project is building neighbourhood solidarity and resilience so we can not only survive the challenges of the dysfunctional world we currently live in but we can also start to build the saner, juster and more sustainable one we desire.

Building a new world in the shell of the old

This is editorial from the latest print edition of The Estuary Alternative.

Our sister project, the South Essex Stirrer, highlights what’s wrong with the increasingly dysfunctional political, economic and social system we have to endure. People have a pretty clear idea of what the Stirrer doesn’t like but wonder what alternative can be offered instead. This is why we set up The Estuary Alternative in a bid to start looking at different ways of organising our lives.

Radical change isn’t going to come about without an upheaval that will sweep away the existing order and replace it with a society that’s more just, equitable, sane and sustainable. What can be done in the meantime is trying out different ways of organising our lives. It’s a process of starting to build a new world in the decaying shell of the dystopian one we’re in at the moment. That process necessarily involves a fair bit of experimentation to see what does and doesn’t work.

The emphasis is on bringing decision making about how we organise our communities and lives down to the grassroots. Obviously there are power structures in the way that put obstacles in the way we’d like to deal with issues such as housing. However, when you start to look, there are plenty of opportunities for projects that can start to make a difference in the here and now.

Here are just a couple of ideas as to what can be done…

Neighbourhood community gardens that give people more control over how their food is sourced. As well as empowerment from having more control, there are other benefits such as collectively working with your neighbours, access to fresh fruit and vegetables plus the exercise put in to cultivate them and a reduction in energy inputs involved in transporting food. Given the disruption to the food supply chain that’s likely to happen with a chaotic Brexit, this will boost neighbourhood resilience and cohesion in what could well be difficult times ahead.

Repair cafes where anything from tools to broken radios can be fixed and have their lifetimes extended. One benefit are the skills learned in repairing items as opposed to simply dumping them – skills that increase self reliance and boost confidence and self esteem. There are also the environmental benefits that come from reduced consumption of raw materials and a reduction in waste. On a more subversive note, doing this slowly undermines the unsustainable, consumer driven, production for profit rather than need model we currently have to live with.

There’s a lot more that can and should be done. The important thing is being prepared to have a go at launching a grassroots initiative that can play a part in building a new world in the shell of the old – this is what we’re looking at in this edition of our paper. Feel free to let us know what you think and send in your ideas for bringing about change at the grassroots.

We’re bringing out another paper!

As it’s almost certain we’ll be on a stall at this event (see poster below), we’re going to be bringing out another print edition of The Estuary Alternative in a bid to promote this project and get more people contributing to it.

We pretty much wrote all of the copy for the first print edition of The Estuary Alternative in a bid to kick start the project. With the forthcoming print edition, we feel that in order to reflect what’s going on with community focused grassroots projects in the south of Essex, the people involved in them should be writing about what they’re doing and sending the copy to us. All we want to write is a brief editorial and that’s it.

We want to get this four page, A4 paper, printed and delivered back to us by the middle of March. This means the layout has to be ready to send to our printer, Oxford GreenPrint, by the start of March. In order to allow enough time to do the layout, we need your contributions by Friday 23rd February. If you’re interested in writing a piece for The Estuary Alternative, feel free to let us know using the contact e-mail below and we’ll take it from there.

This is our contact e-mail: seradicalmedia@protonmail.com

Get your copy of the The Estuary Alternative paper

If you want to get hold of a copy of The Estuary Alternative paper and talk to us about what we want to achieve with this project, you’ll have your chance this coming weekend. On Saturday 16th, we’re going to outside the Southend Christmas Vegan Fair (Bellvue Baptist Church, 484 Southchurch Road, Southend-on-Sea, SS1 2QA) – https://www.facebook.com/southendveganfair/ – from 1pm onwards for a couple of hours. On Sunday 17th, we’re going to be at the Stop the Cliff Development Demonstration (Prittlewell Square, Southend-on-Sea, SS1 1DW) – https://southessexstirrer.wordpress.com/2017/11/28/protest-against-the-development-desecration-of-the-cliffs/ – from noon onwards. If we have any papers left over from the Saturday, we’ll be handing those out at the protest – if not, we’ve got flyers to hand out instead. We look forward to meeting as many of you as possible this coming weekend and to work out a way of taking this project forward in 2018…