Community Resistance, RA Vol 4, Issue 3, Oct/Nov '99

Oxford, Blackbird Leys,
Hitting the Headlines

WITHIN DAYS of the launch of the Blackbird Leys IWCA in Oxford, the branch made headline news in the local daily paper. The Oxford Mail's front page screamed 'VIOLENT FILM HERO USED IN LEAFLET - Vigilante image just a bit of a laugh', in reference to the first issue of the branch newsletter, the Leys Independent, which addressed the thorny issue of anti-social neighbours. The newsletter had carried a picture of Travis Bickle character from the movie Taxi Driver, as light relief. In an editorial comment, the Voice of the Oxford Mail, the editor stated:
"No-one would argue against families wanting to live in peace. No-one would deny their right to protest about the anti-social behaviour of a minority and press for those in authority to sort it. To that end we have sympathy with the Blackbird Leys Independent Working Class Association. But we are not too happy with its methods of publicising its aims. If the use of a picture of a deranged, gun-toting character from a violent film was meant to shock, it succeeded. If it was intended to demonstrate the determination of the group to get results, it was alarming. If it was included for light relief it was not funny. There are those who would take this as an invitation to join a vigilante group. They look for this sort of action and the association could unwittingly be encouraging it. If its aim is to assist the police with information rather than action, then we applaud the public-spirited nature of the move. If it is anything more, we urge the members to think again".
The story was picked up by Teletext, which carried an edited version.
2,000 copies of the Leys Independent have been delivered on the Blackbird Leys estate prompting a healthy response from residents and panic from the council and housing associations. The newsletter was raised in the Oxford County Council chamber where the local Labour councillor suggested that "they could be fascists", displaying his complete inability to percieve of progressive working class organisation. Either that, or the councillor has an entirely different agenda. We shall see.
The Blackbird Leys IWCA has also been busy with the launch of its children's cinema. The first show in early September proved very popular. It is hoped that, funds permitting, this will become a regular event.

East London, Hackney
"Class Crusaders"

Picking up on the Hackney IWCA branches hard work, the local paper the Hackney Gazette, devoted a whole half-page feature to the new branch, even carrying the address and phone number. It is reprinted below in full...

CLASS CRUSADERS have called on tenants to fight off a yuppy invasion of Shoreditch and South Hackney. In a leaflet hand-delivered to 8,000 council homes, the Hackney Independent Working Class Association blames spiralling housing costs for forcing out traditional Hackney folk and slams a £50 million government giveaway for being the springboard for the trendy trainer brigade invasion.
In February, Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, announced the £50 million New Deal for Shoreditch re-generation package.
The Hackney Independent Working Class Association fears that Hackney residents will be run out of the area and replaced by yuppies and City business folk.
Peter Suttle, chair of the association, says: "Why are they investing all the money in the Shoreditch area, instead of other places further away from the City like Hackney Wick? Most of the estates marked for redevelopment are either next to the canal or the proposed new train link in Kingsland Road.
"These are prime sites for canalside flats and trendy bars and restaurants and the estate residents will be forced to move away.
"There is nothing wrong with new homes, shops and bars, but we should have new homes for our community and shops and bars that charge prices we can afford and that employ local people," adds Mr Suttle.
Mary Graham, of the Foillingham Court Tenants' Association, told how its bid to buy a shut-down school next door to the estate was turned down in favour of converting it into luxury flats, which are now being sold at prices that few can afford.
The Hackney Independent Working Class Association is aiming to attack council and New Deal policies through independent councillors drawn from residents' associations, who will answer directly to the voters.
"We will support independent councillors", said Mr Suttle. "We want to break away from the established council party system that only represents the middle classes. "We are not Old Labour, or Socialist Workers' Party. We are not a reaction to any extreme right-wing groups. We just want the residents to have a voice".

Hackney IWCA's newsletter, the Hackney Independent, was also reproduced in full, in the August edition of the 'New Deal Trust' info newsletter, distributed throughout the area. Entitled "Raw Deal - What Raw Deal?" the article stated that the IWCA newsletter "contains some innacuracies about the New Deal for Communities, and gave space to "a local resident" to outline her disagreements.
An IWCA spokesperson commented, "The New Deal Trust board (which includes ex-Hackney Chief Executive Tony Elliston) are obviously feeling the pressure; still nice of them to give us the free publicity!"

Reproduced from RA Vol 4, Issue 3, Oct/Nov '99