Manchester: Lessons of Cornerhouse

The Cornerhouse is a former theatre in Manchester squatted from January to August 2017 by self-organised homeless people linked to the Manchester Activist Network. This is their story.

As the final pieces of our belongings, donations and clothes were brought out of the infamous Cornerhouse it was time for Manchester Activist Network to reflect back on six months of occupation. From the Loose Space festival and surviving three eviction attempts, to the rough sleepers we housed and three other squats opened over that time, this had been a busy, and at times stressful but productive period that none of us will ever forget.

The biggest thing that came out of the Cornerhouse was a reaffirmation of the need for solidarity when we are faced with big issues. In order to fully tackle rough sleeping and stop the rise in homelessness we all need to be prepared to give a little of ourselves. Not money, but from inside of us. We need constructive dialogues, we need to drop the egos, forget about the “company line,” reflect on what we put our energies into and how we can change as individuals. Only then can we better the systemic problem that is homelessness. [Read More]

UK: Manchester homeless call out council ‘one way ticket’ scandal

Following revelations that Manchester Council has spent £10,000 on one-way tickets to push rough sleepers out of the city, activists have been expressing their disdain for executives’ excuses that the measure is aimed at “reconnecting” people with relatives who can help.

In a statement, Manchester Activist Network (MAN), which has been heavily involved in homeless self-organising in the city explained the real way in which the system works:

Person becomes homeless. Person goes to local town hall. Person is told no housing available, all the money is in Manchester. Person goes to Manchester and asks for help. Person told they have no local connection, go back home. Person kicks off a bit. Person is offered a train ticket to stop them from staying in Manchester long enough to be considered as having a local connection (six months). Decision time. Go back to the place that’s already failed you (and has a waiting least of two years+) or stay and take a chance in a city where at least the public care even if the council doesn’t. [Read More]

Manchester: Council gears up for eviction of the Addy

Andy Burnham’s Labour administration found itself in yet another mess over homelessness today as it made its first abortive attempt to scare a self-organised homeless group off an occupied site in Hulme — just days after pledging to “end homelessness” in Manchester.

The spectacle has been particularly humiliating for City bosses because the squatted empty property was once better known as North Hulme Adventure Playground — a community space which was shut down by council funding cuts cuts in 2014.

The council-owned land was occupied in August by around 40 people who had been evicted from Hotspur Press — itself an embarrassing episode for Mayor Burnham which prompted protests outside his office only weeks after his election on a ticket of helping rough sleepers. [Read More]

UK: The social centres roundup

For all its small size and general impoverishment the libertarian socialist movement actually runs a surprisingly large amount of real estate around Britain, all on non-hierarchical lines, by and for the people of the cities and towns we’re in. Housing co-ops, bookshops, bike collectives, archives, distros, printers and the like are all part of the collective mix. Below, Freedom News briefly rounds up some goings-on at 15 radical social centres and spaces over the last few months. [Read More]

Manchester: Shock eviction of Cornerhouse centre puts 20 people on streets

Homeless people rounded on Andy Burnham’s Labour administation in Manchester today after 20 people were rousted out of the well-regarded Cornerhouse squatted centre in an early-morning raid.

Manchester Activist Network, which has been heavily involved in the space, said today they will be looking to hold highly-paid council bosses to account for promises made during Mayor Burnham’s election campaign in May that his team would “end rough sleeping by 2020”:
[Read More]

London: Because they were poor: The Grenfell

Angry Londoner writes: “The people who died and lost their homes – this happened to them because they are poor,” Akala, rapper and poet, local resident.

“Regeneration is a euphemism for ethnic and class cleansing”: Kensington resident and writer Ishmahil Blagrove.

Guilty: Boris Johnson. When Mayor of London he put through cuts including the closure of 10 fire stations and the loss of 552 firefighters jobs despite pre-election promises not to do so. When questioned over this at the Greater London Assembly he said: “Get Stuffed”. The loss to the fire services meant a slower response time to the fire, with fire teams having to be called in from outside London.

Guilty: Kensington and Chelsea Council. They repeatedly ignored warnings for years from residents about fire hazards. They attempted to close down a blogger, Francis O’Connor, member of the Grenfell Action Group (GAG) after he warned about fire hazards at Grenfell. They sent a lawyer to threaten him, which he ignored. Nicholas Paget-Brown, leader of the council, attended a private dinner to which he was invited by organizers of the MIPIM (property developers’ event) conference in 2015. The council has had plans to cleanse the residents and build luxury flats in the neighbourhood for the last three years. Now Paget-Brown is trying to put blame on the residents by falsely saying that they objected to water sprinklers. [Read More]

London: Grenfell Tower must mark a turning point for UK housing

Grenfell Tower must mark a turning point for UK housing – community protest called for Saturday 18 June, 12 noon.

In response to the horror at Grenfell Tower, Grenfell Action Group and Radical Housing Network have called a protest at Kensington & Chelsea (RBKC) Town Hall this Saturday.

Radical Housing Network is a London-wide alliance of grassroots housing campaigns of which Grenfell Action Group are a member. The group are calling on estate campaigners, community groups and tenants from across London to join Saturday’s protest to demand #Justice4Grenfell. [Read More]

London: Justice for Grenfell Tower

‘Managed decline’ of council housing and contempt for tenants contributed to fire

Radical Housing Network, a London-wide alliance of groups fighting for housing justice, said the Grenfell fire was a tragic consequence of systematic disinvestment in council housing alongside disregard for council tenants safety and their concerns – and called for #JusticeforGrenfell.

The catastrophe at Grenfell Tower was foreseen by a community group on the estate. Just 7 months ago, Grenfell Action Group, a member of Radical Housing Network, warned that failings in the estate management organisation’s health and safety practices were a “recipe for a future major disaster”. These warnings were dismissed by Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea (RBKC) council.

It’s been revealed that Gavin Barwell, Conservative Chief of Staff and ex-Minister for Housing, ‘sat on’ a report warning that tower blocks were vulnerable to fire. Last year, Barwell was one of 312 Tory MPs who voted against making properties ‘fit for human habitation’. [Read More]

Squatting: the urban space as a common good

London_squatters_outside_the_Mayfair“Housing is a need, not a privilege”, “Housing for people, not for profit”. Banners with slogans like these hang from windows in any number of European cities. Across Europe, increasing social inequality is making some urban spaces inaccessible to those who used to inhabit them. Gentrification, corporatization and so-called “urban regeneration” projects are leading to the demolition of social and accessible housing, replaced by unaffordable apartments. This leads to the increased eviction and displacement of tenants from their homes and their relocation to the suburbs and peripheries.

Houses, once owned by councils or their occupants, have become investment opportunities for large corporations. With up to 200,000 living spaces intentionally kept vacant in the UK, houses are being stripped of their social value and becoming objects to secure the elites’ wealth. Workers in precarious positions, families, low wage households and students are being displaced or made homeless, while surrounded by vacant properties. [Read More]

Manchester’s self-organised homeless challenge Andy Burnham to join them

201705_Cornerhouse_Cinema_ManchesterOrganisers at squatted former arts space Cornerhouse have called on new Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham to go a step further than simple charity donations and engage directly with homeless people in finding solutions to the city’s rough sleeping crisis. Cornerhouse, owned by Network Rail, has been occupied by homeless people and Manchester Activist Network (MAN) since January and successfully saw off an eviction attempt late last month.

Writing in response to Burnham’s recent pledge to give 15% of his pay to homelessness charities and “put words into action” to help the rising street homeless population, MAN said:

This sounds great Andy, however what do (former mayor and new business and economy deputy) Richard Leese, (power player and former Manchester council chief exec) Howard Bernstein and (Manchester city centre tsar) Pat Karney think about this?

From the information we have been provided with it seems that Leese will continue to have the large sway of the Devo (devolutionary budget) mayoral power and you will be pushed out to the outer regions. Maybe this is why Oldham and Rochdale were mooted as potential places for shelters. Will you have any real Mayoral power or is this just a token? [Read More]

Squatters of London Action Paper 7

Squatters of London Action Paper number 7 is out now – pdf

Manchester: Loose Space squatters cleaning up before eviction