Thatcherwocky

On the 34th anniverary of the beginning of the miners’ strike, 5 March, 1984

’Twere ’84, and the Tory whores
Did scheme and plot in Parliament:
On strike were England’s collieries,
And the coppers were all bent.

‘Beware Maggie Thatcher, my son!
‘The deeper cuts, the rising rents!
‘Beware the Milk Snatcher, and shun
‘The Conservative Government!’

I took my P45 in hand:
Long time a paying job I sought –
Then saw the view of a soup queue
And stood a while in thought.

And as with coal-black face I stood,
The Iron Dame, in the Law’s name,
Rode roughshod through our mining towns,
And closed them as she came!

Her Boys in Blue, they galloped through,
Our picket lines were charged and snapped!
Now ‘modernised’, she took our lives,
And went triumphant back!

‘Hast thou destroyed the unions?
‘Welcome to our class, O grocer’s daughter!
‘We’ll bury you a Baroness!’
(They shook with noble laughter.)

Three decades on, and Thatcher’s spawn
Are once again in Government;
Society is dead and gone,
And the money’s all spent.

– after Lewis Carroll

Geopoetry: Greenwich Peninsula

This text, with the accompanying images projected, was performed at the conference on ‘The Mediated City’ held at Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication, Greenwich Peninsula, between 1-3 April, 2014. The performance was given on Wednesday, 2 April. The following day, Thursday 3 April, the geopoetry reading it introduced was conducted around Greenwich Peninsula. The main contents of this reading can be found in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, no. 68-69 (March-April, 2014). A second performance was given on the final day of Real Estates, a 6-week conference and exhibition organised by Fugitive Images at Peer Gallery, Hoxton, from 18 February-28 March, 2015. That same week we founded Architects for Social Housing. The following year the text and images for this performance were published in Architecture and Culture, volume 4, issue 2 (September 2016).

Simon Elmer & Geraldine Dening
Architects for Social Housing

 

Labour Party Conference No. 2

I remember Corbyn at the Brighton love-in,
He was talking so brave about ‘faith’,
Promising salvation on regeneration
While Labour councils demolish estates.

Those were his excuses, but this is London,
We are fighting for our homes on the streets,
Where sound-bites are swallowed by believers in lies,
Labour voters and estate residents.

Ah, but you got away with it, didn’t you, Jay?
You lied through your teeth to the crowd.
You talked all day, but I never heard you say:
‘Stop demolishing! Start maintaining!’
‘Stop demolishing! Start maintaining!’
Or anything to save this old town . . .

I remember Corbyn at the Brighton love-in,
He was famous, his name was a chant.
Blaming the Tories, the same old story,
But Labour councils can do what they want.

And nodding his head at council tenants
Who still hope for a Labour government,
He raised his fist, said: ‘Have faith and wait,
‘In five years I’ll be in 10 Downing Street!’

Ah, but you got away with it, didn’t you, Jay?
You lied through your teeth to the crowd.
You talked all day, but I never once heard you say:
‘Stop demolishing! Start maintaining!’
‘Stop demolishing! Start maintaining!’
Or anything to save this old town . . .

This doesn’t mean for our sins I want the Tories to win,
But neither will I be voting Labour.
I remember Corbyn at the Brighton love-in,
If that’s all, then he’s not the Messiah.

– With apologies to the late, great Leonard Cohen

Fake News

Ralph Steadman

Sunday (06.08.17)

Jeremy Corbyn announces he will be joining Invite the Union’s picket of the ‘anti-Labour’ ASH exhibition at the ICA.

Daily Mail reacts to news of ASH residency at ICA: ‘Elitist gallery splASHes public funds on anarchist propaganda!’

Monday (07.08.17)

Southwark council leader Peter John to join Socialist Protesters Party™ on ‘Stand Up To ASH’ march from Elephant Park to Pall Mall.

ICA exhibition to screen exclusive footage of ASH chasing London Mayor Sadiq Khan down Islington street in the lead up to his election.

Tuesday (08.08.17)

Prince Charles accuses ASH of ‘art-washing’ on anonymous Twitter account with link to website selling watercolours of Poundbury.

George Osborne offers ‘profiteering’ ASH undisclosed amount to publish map of London estate regenerations on front page of Evening Standard.

Wednesday (09.08.17)

Katie Hopkins starts petition to stop ‘sexist, homophobic, transphobic, implicitly ablest and probably racist’ ASH exhibition at the ICA.

Labour Housing Network outs ASH as ‘anti-Corbyn, pro-Brexit, white working-class Trump sympathisers with really bad micro-politics.’

Thursday (10.08.17)

Conservative MP Lord Rees-Mogg denounces ASH as ‘Godless, heretic extremists’ profiteering from subsidised housing and moat maintenance.

Labour MP David Lammy denounces ASH’s ‘white, male, upper-middle class’ design alternatives to the Haringey Development Vehicle.

Friday (11.08.17)

Labour MP Emma Dent Coad exposes ASH as ‘astro-turfers’ for dark-money funded multi-national corporation Architects for Social Cleansing.

Theresa May grants Met Police expanded powers to investigate social media accounts of ‘extremist’ group Terrorists for Social Housing.

Saturday (12.08.17)

Donald Trump uses personal Twitter account to accuse ASH of spreading ‘fake news’ about scale of estate demolition in London. ‘So sad!’

Ex-Guardian journalist Dave Hill awarded job as Press Secretary for Lendlease after denouncing ASH as ‘protest Ultra-Left intelligentsia’.

Sunday (13.08.17)

Unpublished academic in search of a tenured job accuses ASH of institutional corruption from another anonymous Twitter account.

Sunday Telegraph questions ASH residency at ICA, suggesting undue influence by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

Monday (14.08.17)

Lambeth Cabinet member Matthew Bennett says ASH design alternatives to estate demolition exhibited at the ICA ‘give false hope to residents’.

Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville denied entry to ASH exhibition at the ICA during daring attempt at undercover infiltration.

Tuesday (15.08.17)

Labour London Assembly Member Tom Copley condemns ASH map of London’s current estate regenerations on show at the ICA as ‘wonky’.

Mayor Sadiq Khan to attend presentation by Co-ops for London at ICA this evening, 7-8pm.

Wednesday (16.08.17)

Jeremy Corbyn fan club Stagnation refute ASH map, declaring there are ‘3 or 4 estates at most’ facing demolition by London Labour councils.

Architect Paul Karakusevic says he will attend Achilles Street estate workshop on resident ‘zines’ this evening at the ICA, 7-9pm.

Thursday (17.08.17)

33 London councils refuse FOI requests by ASH on estate regeneration schemes on the grounds that it is ‘commercially sensitive information’.

Former RBKC Cabinet Member for Regeneration Rock Feilding-Mellen to attend ASH meeting on Grenfell Tower fire at ICA this evening, 7-9pm.

Friday (18.08.17)

Following an emergency roundtable discussion on ICA exhibition by ‘protest group ASH’, the Architects’ Journal decides not to publish in News section.

Scuffles break out at ICA when ZHA director Patrik Schumacher throws ‘key party and multiplying event’ in VIP bar during ASH residency.

Saturday (19.08.17)

Academic Anna Minton denies ‘prior knowledge of or influence by’ ASH map of estate regeneration in Guardian article on mapping estate regeneration.

Jeremy Corbyn says he will attend ASH opening at ICA tonight, 7-11pm, to explain why 196 London estates are under threat by Labour councils.

Police called to ICA during performance by Adam and the Queers at ‘anarchic’ opening of ASH exhibition.

Sunday (20.08.17)

RIBA declines ASH offer to continue mapping London’s programme of estate regeneration in Portland Place due to ‘conflict of interest’.

Autonomous Nation of Anarchist Libertarians occupies Upper Galleries at ICA as ASH confirms building is ‘non-residential’.

Late-night police raid on ICA as ASH arrested under Counter Extremism Act for ‘vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values.’

Simon Elmer
Architecture Critic at the Sun newspaper

21 Council Army (Poem for Jeremy Corbyn)

Poems for Jeremy Corbyn (2016)

We’re gonna say it loud
Twenty-one councils can’t shut us up
They’re lying about it
Spreading their smears across all our backs

And it feels as if we’re talking to ourselves
Cause no-one wants to know
But the message coming from the street is
‘They want our homes!’

Oh Je-re-my Cor-byn
Why are you so sil-ent
A-bout La-bour coun-cils
De-mo-lish-ing e-states?

Oh Je-re-my Cor-byn
When will you do some-thing
To stop so-cial cleans-ing
By the La-bour Par-ty?

Ha-rin-gey is wai-ting
And Hack-ney is wait-ing
And South-wark is wait-ing
And Lam-beth is wait-ing

Lew-ish-am is wait-ing
And Green-wich is wait-ing
And New-ham is wait-ing
And Croy-don is wait-ing

Ham-mer-smith and Fulham
They also are wait-ing
Bark-ing and Dag-en-ham
They also are wait-ing

Is-ling-ton is wait-ing
And Cam-den is wait-ing
And En-field is wait-ing
And Red-bridge is wait-ing

And Mer-ton is wait-ing
And Eal-ing is wait-ing
And Har-row is wait-ing
And Houns-low is wait-ing

Brent and Wal-tham
They also are wait-ing
Ev-en Tow-er Ham-lets
They too are now wait-ing

Oh Je-re-my Cor-byn
Please an-swer our ques-tion
Stop run-ning a-way from
The home-less of Lon-don

Oh Je-re-my Cor-byn
One hun-dred and nine-ty
Lon-don es-tates con-demned
By your Lab-our coun-cils

Oh Je-re-my Cor-byn
Why should we vote for you?
You’re just like the Tor-ies
It’s the same old sto-ry

– after a song by Jack White

Explaining a Few Things

Photograph by Jason Hawkes

You will ask: and where are the lilacs?
And the world-changing new politics?
And the dreams unceasingly speaking words,
embellishing them with flowers and birds?

I’ll tell you everything that happened.

I lived in a neighbourhood,
a neighbourhood of London, with council estates,
and tower blocks and trees.

From there you could look out
across Kensington’s gardens,
like a sea of grass.
My tower was called
Grenfell Tower, because at its feet
green fields grew: it was
a good-looking tower
with its families and children.
Isaac, do you remember?
Remember, Jeremiah?
Mehdi, do you remember
(from beneath the ground)
do you remember my window where
the June sun drowned flowers in your mouth?
Brothers, O my brothers!

Everything
loud with children’s voices, the rumble of trains,
blocks of throbbing life,
homes of my ward of Notting Dale with the Westway
Winding like a snake through the grass.
Our prayers reached the sky,
a deep heartbeat
of feet and hands filled the streets,
pounds and pence, the sharp
measure of life,
stacked up flats,
the texture of metal in the cold sun
from which our homes were insulated –
aluminium and foam panels
bolted to our sides.

And one morning all that was burning,
one morning the flames
leaped out of the walls
devouring human beings,
and from then on fire,
burning metal from then on,
and from then on ashes.

Killers with clipboards and questionnaires,
murderers with laptops and masterplans,
assassins in suits speaking lies
came through the fire to kill children
and on the streets the ashes of children
fell softly, like the ashes of children.

Consultants who ignore those they consult,
councillors whose counsel the residents spat out,
contractors whose cladding killed those it clad!

Faced with you I have seen the smoke
of Grenfell rise like a tower
to devour you in one bonfire
of greed and pride!

Corrupt
bureaucrats:
see my dead home,
look at Grenfell Tower:
from every window burning metal springs

instead of flowers,
but from every ruin of London
London will rise,
and from every dead child a voice cries,
and from every crime justice is born
that will one day find the bull’s eye
of your hearts!

And you will ask: why does his poetry
not speak to us of dreams and flowers
and the gardens of this green city?

Come and see the ashes in the streets.
Come and see
The ashes in the streets.
Come and see the ashes
In the streets!

– Simon Elmer, adapted from Pablo Neruda’s 1936 poem about the Spanish Civil War

Dear Labour Council

london-labour-councils

Dear Labour Council
Please don’t put a price on our homes:
Our estate is where we live,
You cannot sell what you don’t own.
When you come round here to consult with us,
Listen hard to what we say to you,
And we do hope you consider it well
When you decide what we want to do.

Dear Labour Council
Please hear these words that we speak:
We know you want this land,
But in this you are not unique.
The rich get rich building luxury homes
They rent and they sell for too much,
And the rest of us work all of our lives
For a dream that we never will touch.

Dear Labour Council
Please don’t dismiss what we say:
We’re not about to back down,
We’re not about to move far away.
Each one of us has a right to a home,
And we know you know this to be true,
And if you vote to regenerate us
We will vote and regenerate you.

– after Bob Dylan