Doddington Estate 1971: “They’re building flats where the houses used to be”

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I came across this amazing documentary about the Doddington Estate from 1971 in the BFI archives: “They’re building flats where the houses used to be”.

It features interviews with the first families to move into the Doddington Estate. Perhaps you recognise some faces?

http://player.bfi.org.uk/film/watch-where-the-houses-used-to-be-1971/

The British Film Institute (BFI) says: “Refreshingly, the commentary comes entirely from the mouths of the residents themselves: young mothers, working fathers, elderly women, teenagers and children, who discuss their experiences, particularly the issue of loneliness and isolation.

“The film was made in 1971 when the estate was still being developed. Just one year later, the tenants’ association complained that Doddington was rapidly deteriorating. As one young female resident puts it: “I don’t think I’d give these places 20 or 30 years before they become slums. I think I’d give it two or three years, the way they’re going at the moment.”

Where the houses used to be is a sad film. Shows how Battersea’s tight-knit working class communities found it hard to switch to tower block life. Continue reading

Worth an Oscar: Wandsworth on film

To celebrate the Oscars tonight, here’s a quick run-down of films shot in Wandsworth’s Town Hall, parks and estates

Golden Globe winner Chiwetel Ejiofor shot Dirty Pretty Things (2002) in Wandsworth Town Hall

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That wrong ‘un Lucas from Spooks blew up Wandsworth Town Hall in 2010 (was doubling as an embassy in Senegal). Proof:

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Common People, a film shot entirely on Tooting Common, had successful cinema release last year

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Brilliant short film: history of Winstanley Estate told through movies, interviews & photos

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To mark Battersea Labour Party’s centenary, volunteers – including Timothy West & Prunella Scales – made this film:

Other films shot in Wandsworth include Love Actually, 101 Dalmations, Snatch & V for Vendetta. Full list from Wandsworth council here.

 

 

Lily Harrison (1924-2015)

Lily HarrisonObituary by Penny Corfield

Lily Harrison had a strong, feisty, ‘giving’ personality, with an intense civic commitment to the Shaftesbury Estate community in particular and to Battersea in general. In another generation, when opportunities for working-class women were greater, she would have taken a front-seat role. But she did more as a grass-root, throughout a long and non-stop life, than many front-benchers. Her award of an MBE in 2008 was a justified honour.

For Battersea Labour Party, Lily was not only the longest lived of a post-war generation of committed working-class activists who ran Labour in its unchallenged prime – but she was also a personal link between three generations of truly remarkable women in Battersea left-wing politics.

Lily worked closely with Caroline Ganley (1879-1966), who was Labour MP for Battersea South (1945-51) and a long-standing Battersea Councillor (1919-25, 1953-65). And in turn Caroline Ganley had worked closely with Charlotte Despard (1844-1939), the pioneering suffragette and left-winger, who lived in working-class Nine Elms and stood (alas, unsuccessfully) for Labour in Battersea in the 1919 general election. It was Charlotte Despard who purchased 177 Lavender Hill as BLP’s headquarters; and it was Lily Harrison who for many years ran 177 as its guardian figure.

Lily was born in Canning Town, East London, into a family of working-class Tories. After a sickly childhood, she grew into a wiry and indefatigable adult. She left school at 14, working as a sewing machinist. In 1941 she joined the WAAF and had a ‘good’ war, proud of her contribution to London’s home defence. At one stage, she was in charge of a team of women operating the huge barrage balloons on Sydenham Hill in south London, which were used to disrupt the flight of enemy bombers as they tried to blitz Battersea’s industries and rail networks.

It was a challenging task, Lily told me, not just technically but also because she had to manage a team of ‘flighty’ young women who were not used to physical labour and were all too keen on enjoying wartime London’s night-life. Later, she was in charge of a similar team operating barrage balloons on the cliffs of Dover at the time of D-Day.

When stationed on war duties in Cambridge in 1944, Lily met her Herbert (Bert) Harrison, nicknamed ‘Ginger’ for his red locks. Married in 1947, they were devoted to one another and to their growing family: two surviving sons, Edward and Derek, and a daughter Joan, who had Down’s Syndrome and died from pneumonia at the age of two. At that time, many parents used to put Down’s children into institutional care. But, as her son, Derek, recalled: ‘Not Lily! She dressed Joan in a red coat and displayed her to the world, lovingly declaring “That’s my daughter”.’ The little coat was kept as a treasured family memento, and was buried with Lily.

Bert Harrison came from a politically committed Labour family. His own father, another Herbert Harrison, had been a Labour Councillor and Mayor of Battersea (1953); and Bert followed in his footsteps, representing Shaftesbury Ward on Battersea Borough Council. For Lily, joining the Harrison clan meant that her leftish sympathies were suddenly jolted into non-stop activism. ‘It was a steep learning curve’, she admitted, but one that she thoroughly enjoyed.

When interviewed for the making of BLP’s DVD Red Battersea (2008), Lily said of her role in Battersea Labour: ‘After Bert was elected for Shaftesbury ward, I attended every Council meeting for fifteen years. I became a dedicated Party nut! I lost half a stone in weight during my first General Election campaign, in 1964 – but it was worth it because we got Ernie Perry in [as MP for Battersea South] with a big majority. Later, I ran the BLP Afternoon Section for older ladies: we had jumble sales, garden parties, raffles, knit-ins, and dinner parties, the annual Bazaar. You name it, I’ve organised it. It’s been my life.’

Lily and Bert, who lived on the Shaftesbury Estate, were also part of the strong community life of the Estate; as well as busy in many other local projects. After Bert’s death in 1990, Lily continued her civic involvement, being active on: Battersea Arts Centre Board (founder member from 1971 and later Trustee); Battersea United Charities (Trustee from 1960 and chair 1990-2006); Bolingbroke Hospital Friends; St George’s Hospital Friends; Tooting & Balham Carnival Committee (member from 1971; secretary 1984-94); and SHARE Community (Self-Help Association for Rehabilitation & Employment), of which she became Life Vice President. She wound down only when halted by illness, late in life.

As that account indicates, Lily had the gift of working well with others. She always did what she’d promised to do, with efficiency and good humour. She got on well with most people, and faced the twists and turns of politics with a certain stoicism. In personal terms, her greatest regret was that Bert did not become Mayor of Battersea, as his father had done before him, or of Wandsworth, which merged with Battersea Borough Council in 1965. And there’s no doubt that Lily would have made a great Mayoress.

Yet her tireless activism showed that civic individuals don’t need an official position to get involved. By the end of her long life, Lily had friends across the political spectrum. That’s because, unofficially, she was for many years the equivalent of an uncrowned Lady Mayor of Battersea. But she was no mere ceremonial figure. Lily was nothing if not hands-on. It’s how she lived her life.

Renters don’t get a fair deal in Wandsworth

Speech to Wandsworth Council, December 9, 2015

Wandsworth council is not working hard enough to get a fair deal for renters.

It doesn’t seem to understand renters’ lives. And it is not willing to inspect, to investigate, to level the playing field for renters.

This was shown most recently in the Investing Solutions scandal.

This is the Wandsworth-based letting agency that took £5.5million in housing benefit from a charity which housed the homeless. £2.1m of that was paid by Wandsworth council. Crisis, the housing charity, described the arrangement as “a new low”.

Several of their properties – used to house vulnerable people – were unsuitable, due to lack of heating and hot water, rats and damp.  The BBC reports the company earned £11,568 profit per year from one property alone. Continue reading

2015: My political year in 15 photos

1. More than 100 volunteers join Steve Coogan at an election rally in Clapham Junction for Will Martindale, who ran an inspiring campaign in Battersea

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2. ‘Walking Tall’ by Bert Hardy is my favourite Battersea photo.

I only found out the moving true story behind it this year. Getty Images says the photo is from 1956 and shows: “Sean, a child who was given away by his natural mother because he had a hare lip, goes walking with his adoptive mother, Mrs Wiseman, in Battersea”

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3. Playing in the ‘Community Kick About’ organised by Battersea Labour Party as part of the campaign to save Battersea Sports Centre (February)

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4. Listening to voters with friends from Battersea, Putney and Tooting Labour parties (March)

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5. Interviewed as part of the campaign against Wandsworth’s plans to pay council tenants to move to Birmingham to rent privately (April)

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6. Volunteering on Jess Phillips’s Birmingham Yardley campaign. Jess was elected as an MP and has made quite a splash. This blog about how she first got involved in politics was one of the most popular on my website in 2015. (April)

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7. Labour councillors Fleur and Rosenna at Wandsworth’s annual Mayor-making ceremony. Last year they overturned a Tory majority of 1,000 to be elected in Bedford ward. (May)

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8. Tooting MP and next Mayor of London Sadiq Khan checks a young activist’s homework with the help of Wandsworth Labour leader Rex Osborn. (June)

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9. I wrote an article in support of Tessa Jowell’s campaign to end the ‘transfer tax’ on money sent home to family overseas. This featured the story of Joseph, a security guard who lives in Latchmere and sends money home to Ghana. It was a pleasure to later introduce Joseph to Tessa at a Battersea Labour Party fundraiser

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10. The sad end of an era for Balham as My Back Pages bookshop turns into Jackson’s estate agent. Wandsworth has 153 estate agent shops (July)

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11. Corridors of power: councillors Sally-Ann Ephson and Candida Jones prepare for a committee meeting in Wandsworth Town Hall

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12. A rare photo of Speke Road, Clapham Junction, shortly before it was demolished to make way for the Winstanley Estate. Posted as part of ‘Why was the Winstanley Estate built?‘ the most-read article on my blog in 2015.

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13. With fellow Latchmere ward councillors Tony Belton and Wendy Speck after a canvass session listening to local people. (September)

Simon Hogg, Wendy Speck and Tony Belton, Latchmere's Labour councillors

 

14. More than 1,000 homeless local families with children spent Christmas Day in Wandsworth council temporary accommodation

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15. In Wandsworth Town Hall’s council chamber as best man at at friend’s wedding. A bit surreal after so many council meetings in this room! (November)

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The new Right To Buy is a terrible deal for Wandsworth

Councillor Simon Hogg listens to local people in York Gardens Library

Councillor Simon Hogg listens to local people in York Gardens Library

Speech to Wandsworth Council, October 14, 2015

The new Right To Buy is a terrible deal for Wandsworth.

The housing policies the Tories seems so proud of will cost Wandsworth tens of millions of pounds – and do nothing to help renters, the homeless or most people on ordinary incomes hoping to buy.

And, when you add them up, the policies will mean the slow death of social housing.

Right To Buy is a good policy when it helps council tenants become home-owners and a new council house is built from profit. But that’s not happening. It never has.

Let’s judge Wandsworth Tories on their record. In the last 25 years, 14,791 local council homes have been sold off and only 5,170 affordable homes built in their place. We’re 10,000 short.

Continue reading