The Curious Case of The Heygate Estate, Hej Coffee And A Hey Presto!

As ‘people who sit in the dark typing things by themselves’, we are happy to shine a light on the real and marvelous history of The Curious Case of Hej Coffee and The Heygate Photo.

At the start of August we received our usual public relations updates from multinational property developer, profiteer and demolisher of the Heygate Estate, Lend Lease, with exciting ongoing news about their new development Elephant Park. This time there was an Elephant Park video promoting the new Hej Coffee shop on Rodney Rd. Hej Coffee is part of the new blocks where the old Wingrave blocks of Heygate Estate had been. Ok, but that’s how it works? – Lend Lease promote a new café to advertise their new development and the café promo talks about the new development to promote Lend Lease and their cafe. They are joined at the hip. Ok, that’s not sinister. It’s just business doing its thing. Marketing, selling, profiting or hoping to profit. However…



The video is fronted by Joanna, a black barista working at Hej Coffee (pronounced Hey! as in Hey-gate!). At the time we commented that although we had ‘massive respect to Joanna as a local worker’, it was ‘utterly tragic the actual disconnect between the words and the pictures in the promo video and the actual reality of the social cleansing of The Elephant’. By disconnect we meant that the script of the video talks about the customers being ‘diverse’, ‘variety’, ‘all sorts of people’, ‘everyone’s different’ but actually everyone in the video wasn’t different or diverse but were all white 20-somethings. So it’s a typical whitewashing of a local London area that is a massively mixed and great community. In Heygate’s hey day it even had about 3000 working class people living around where the Hej Cafe stands.

Cafe Manor Place Holal

This isn’t the first time this goes on locally and probably won’t be the last. In fact, this week Notting Hill Housing who are developing the Manor Place depot site put up hoardings with very much more of the same – a barren but stylishly chic café with only white people in it and yet bearing the text ‘Hola!’ and three spicy chillis! You could argue that these regeneration images are just identikit nonsense, badly thought through or you could argue that’s it’s deliberate. We edge towards the latter.

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(Customers from the Hej Coffee promo video)


Of course, it’s not our argument that we want a more inclusive gentrification! Gentrification will only ever be exclusive along class and race lines – that’s how it works. Black people rarely get ‘included’ in these ‘indicative CGI’ pictures of forthcoming developments because images of smug white coffee slurpers are used to sell the new-builds to exactly those smug white coffee slurpers. Creating a terrain of whiteness means that these hoardings are like all those other unsubtle codes that racialise everyday life – white people indicate safety, white people indicate networking and getting on, upward mobility, white people indicate taste and style, beauty and desirability. To be honest, it’s sickening. So, this was our first criticism directed at Hej Coffee.


Hej Orignal Photo


A few days later we heard that Hej Coffee had put on its wall a large artistic photo of the Heygate Estate as part of the décor. It’s a pretty photo, carefully taken in 2010, a symmetrical presentation of an empty estate. Hej Coffee was very proud of the photo and Tweeted out its installation in the café by the picture’s taker Simon Kennedy, an architectural photographer and lecturer at University College of London’s Bartlett school.

As people who were heavily involved in the last years of the struggles against the demolition of Heygate we wondered what it meant for a new café, an intimate part of the gentrification of the area, to want to display a photo of the Heygate albeit one especially chosen for its abstracted sense of the estate blocks. So we dropped some lines to Hej Coffee about this saying things like ‘don’t think many customers understand the long messy and scandalous history of the demolition of the Heygate. It’s certainly not a good look for the Hej cafe. Bit insensitive given that the Heygate scandal has not gone away for many local people’ and posting up photos we took in 2011 of the old Wingrave blocks.

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(Photos – From Heygate Estate to Hej Coffee 2008 – 2018)


Hej Coffee replies were never on the subject of the criticism and only about coming in for a coffee to chat about it. In fact the more we and then other people commented the more they made invites (with cute emojis) – ‘We need more people to come in to drink more coffee and know more things…not to be sitting in the dark typing things by themselves’. Nice one!

Hej Heygate Text on PhotoHej Text Heygate

Eventually they made a move and placed next to the Heygate photo two texts to try and give the photo some context and some rationale. These were a bit rich really and seemed to us as manly guff and wishful thinking – ‘Reverence for history is paramount at Hej, consequently we are open and honest about Heygate’s past. With your co-operation we would like to facilitate discussion and debate to benefit our community’. They also posted out a link to an article ‘Heygate Abstracted’ about Simon Kennedy’s Heygate photos where various ideas are mooted about what Kennedy’s images mean in relation to social housing and the scandal of the demolition – ‘Kennedy’s photographs emphasise the consequences of the painfully protracted if not perpetual contemporary ‘regeneration’ process which has left homes and shops conspicuously vacant for years on end’. Hej Coffee wrote ‘This should help everyone understand the context of the art we proudly display at our roastery’. (Here, we could be pedantic and ask: is the scandal really that those homes and shops were vacant for a long time, or is it rather that the diverse community that lived and worked there for 35 years were forced to vacate them, for no other reason than desire to sell-off the land and encourage privatised profit and a whiter, richer image for the area?)


Anyhow, then it all becomes a bit confusing. Either Hej Coffee or someone else made a leaflet for a discussion night at Hej Coffee on Friday 7th September about Hej and the Heygate. This then caused another round of online back and forth. Hej Coffee said they hadn’t made the flyer but were happy for a discussion to go ahead.



For us lot, although Simon Kennedy’s picture shows an empty estate and might therefore represent some kind of symbolic commentary on the political processes around the ‘regeneration’ and demolition of the Heygate buildings and community, we thought that there’s something less than sincere in the representation and in its display in a café that is only situated where it is because of that social cleansing process. Despite its neat portrayal of vacancy, at the time the photo was taken in 2010 there were still many households living on the estate and there was a huge range of people doing stuff in the estate’s public spaces to highlight it. We were there too being a part of the allotments, the film screenings, the public exhibitions on the scandal of the decant, the chicken keeping, hosting visits for school kids and students, leading anti-gentrification walks and supporting all the remaining residents in their struggle for decent rehousing or fair compensation.

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(Activities on Heygate Estate right up to the final eviction of the last resident, 2013)


So when Hej wants to contextualise their use of the image as a respectful memory we would question whether such an image devoid of the actual real tenants and residents functions in any such way but more appears as a done and dusted and historical artefact removed from any actual painful and still very real context. One Tweeter described Heygate as ‘still an open wound’ which is something we agree with and continue to do the work we do on this basis. We replied to Hej Coffee – ‘your Heygate photograph describes ‘a process that disassociates these buildings from their contentious histories, and any sense of domestic life’ yet when he took those photos residents were still living there and all sorts of public life was still going on for 3 more years. The community never gave up on the public and social side of the estate until the final eviction and enclosure. In fact that enclosure was resisted til the end. The Heygate photo you proudly display is both an abstraction and aestheticised erasure of that long community struggle. It would make more sense if you were genuinely concerned to remember the social housing of the Heygate by framing these displacement maps of where residents went. Displaced so Lend Lease could demolish their homes, build Elephant Park & you could rent a space for your coffee shop’. We also posted a photographs of their site that show the actual material history of what demolition and displacement looks like and how it’s experienced by many locals. Other critics were also piping up. Our friends at Vile Arrogance wrote ‘When posh coffee shops come to your neighbourhood and wanna debate ‘context’ about poor decisions of displaying an arty photo of the council estate they were built on top of…

Hej Heygate Gone

Any road up, were were umming and arrrghing about whether to go the event or not. We do not relish liberal dialogues in gentrified spaces where any anger or pointed criticism gets washed out by scene and setting. But on the day of the event, Hej Coffee took down the Heygate photo and wrote ‘whilst we never intended any offence or insensitivity by displaying art, we have listened to your comments and have taken the photo down’. It wasn’t any old ‘art’ that was seen as offensive and serving the politics of gentrification, but Hej Coffee could not at this point seem to bear to name it. Whatever! The Heygate photo was gone, decanted to some other unmapped place.



By way of a small finale, we want to add some things in about gentrification, community and coffee shops. It would be a kind of foolishness to equate expensive coffee shops with some kind of enemy. Hej Coffee, like others appearing in the neighbourhood, are the product of gentrification and not the cause. Although we don’t particularly like the kind of expense, vibe and disposition of such places, it would be stupid to centre our entire political life on opposing them. Campaigns against ‘yuppies’ in the 80’s and against ‘hipsters’ now rarely have any potential for actual community organising and they seemingly don’t have much longevity! In the same weeks that this mini-soap opera was playing out with us, Hej Coffee and others, we were more usefully spending our time being part of the local campaigns against the demolition of the Shopping Centre and of the Aylesbury estate, because opposing these is opposing the much larger forces at play – that’s national and local government-supported gentrification dressed up as ‘regeneration’.


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(Latin@s from Boyle Heights protesting the Weird Wave Coffee Shop, 2017)


Having said this, there are many communities in the world who are militantly against the arrival of gentrifying businesses as they are part of the signal that it’s okay for developers and speculators to colonise ever greater chunks of our cities for their bloody-minded profit-seeking schemes, while low-income residents get stomped over or cast aside. In Boyle Heights in L.A, a Latin@ neighbourhood with a decades long struggle for public housing and against the social and ethnic cleansing of their area, parts of that community are targeting new business such as cafes or art galleries that are a sign of the violent gentrification of their area. Those struggles are enacted by a community that recognises itself as such – as poor and as Latin@ – and who are fighting from the basis of that self-identification.

We would say that in London the debate and action around these questions has not been so clear. Of course, it’s London and not L.A and each anti-gentrification struggle is different but it would be good to see some discussion here about how to think and link different parts of the ‘regeneration’ process – global development and real estate, investment and construction, demolition and displacement with the ‘uplifting’ of areas, luxury flats and more expensive shops, lifestyle values and displays. But let’s not mistake one for the other. White coffee slurpers have little power over any of this, the same as the rest of us. We need to be clear also that many (but not all) people living in gentrifying areas are likely to be as precarious in their housing situation (low wages and expensive rents), even in new developments like Elephant Park. Then of course, there are the rich folks buying into the area and so what role do they play? So far, locally, they do not really organise as a lobby to boost more ‘regeneration’ although London is seeing a rise of Yes In My Back Yard (YIMBY) groups who are dubious in their support for more and more new gentrifying developments.

Elephant Crowd 2108

In The Elephant, the community campaigns have not been making clear demands to new more upscale businesses partly because this probably reflects it being an unresolved issue within London’s wider anti-gentrification campaigns. Partly, locally, this is out of sheer tiredness with keeping up with everything going on in the area. Maybe it’s because the carrot of a Labour government dulls a bit the fact that we actually want a whole lot more than just percentage peanuts of social rented homes? Partly again there is still over politeness to politicians, be they councilors or The Mayor. There have been attempts to make a Neighbourhood Plan of our area and that would enable us to make decisions about what kind of things we want to keep and what kind of things we want to see invested in around The Elephant. All good stuff but its slow work! One thing for sure though is that without thinking through and being clear on the above and if we aren’t clear about how to take on gentrifying businesses head on in line with our vision for the area, we will wake up in a whitewashed bland-o-rama!



Hej Blocked

more LOLZ…on the old Heygate site…and that is why we keep going on about it!!

Heygate House Price Aug 2018


‘WE’RE WIDE AWAKE, READY & WE’RE GOING TO TAKE YOU DOWN’. Aylesbury Estate leaseholders battling further Compulsory Purchase Orders for ‘regeneration’


Aylesbury Leaseholders Action Group (ALAG) absolutely roasted Southwark Council’s Cabinet on Tuesday 24th July with a hot and heartfelt political statement against the ongoing ‘regeneration’ of the estate. The ALAG delegation of Aylesbury leaseholders were from Northchurch House which is the next phase of the so-called ‘regeneration’, a site called Plot 18 off Thurlow St. It’s questionable whether the Council actually needs to CPO this block as it continues to issue contradictory statements about whether it is a vital part of Plot 18 building works or not.

Plot 18 CPO Map

It’s certainly great to see working class people standing up for themselves and spelling out in no uncertain how they experience this dreadful ‘regeneration’ programme and how it’s nothing more than the continued social cleansing of Walworth. The video above shows the whole deputation in all it’s righteousness but here are some choice words from ALAG to the Council:

‘As leaseholders and residents of the Aylesbury estate, and we are making this public statement because Southwark Council, the developers Notting Hill Housing Association, central government and those profiting from the housing crisis would prefer that we didn’t.

For too long, my family and thousands like us have suffered the silent oppression of state endorsed social cleansing. Southwark council has a history of violent social cleansing and it is yet to answer for the brutal displacement of residents on the former Heygate Estate. This oppression happens invisibly, via cabinet meetings, in council offices and coded into email chains that never see the light of day. The oppression is drawn out over years and the uncertainty eats away at the mental health and stability of its victims until they can take it no longer and cave.

Let me state this. We will not cave. My family, our friends and neighbours and fellow activists will not cave. Southwark council has made a fatal error in judgement by deciding to abuse the rights of Judi, Mary & Felix, Grace & Solomon and Deji & Grace and all the others.

My parents have paid for their education in this country, they have worked tirelessly and they have paid their fair share of taxes. They started their own businesses and rain or shine they paid yet more taxes. They saved what they could and chose a well located home of their own, surrounded by their community. They raised respectful, educated, law abiding families in these homes. While the council is happy to collect years of council tax and service charges and major works fees from these families, they are deaf to their cries for justice when deciding to dispossess them of these homes’.

ALAG also requested to cabinet to not approve the CPO for the Northchurch block and the appropriation of land needed to start construction on the First Development Site and on Plot 18. Not surprisingly, cabinet proceeded to pass those resolutions without a single hesitation; the usual vague promises were made to meet with leaseholders to discuss and explain the situation further. We know however that what is needed are not explanations and more empty promises and lies (leaseholders understand perfectly well what’s going on), but actions to stop the demolition of the estate.


AYLESBURY Arklow Hse demolished

Aylesbury Estate – Social Cleansing In Action

The struggles on the Aylesbury Estate have been going on for decades with local tenants and residents seeking not to be displaced out of the area or see their council homes transferred to Housing Association.  Right now, the outcome of the recent 2nd Public Inquiry into the Council desire to Compulsory Purchase (CPO) leaseholders from their homes on the First Development site is still unknown. You might have seen this site off Albany Rd where demolition has been in progress in the last few months pulling down the large Bradenham block (as well as the red brick Arklow House). Despite this demolition, one leaseholder there is still battling the CPO as the other blocks come down around her ears!


When a Council seeks to Compulsory Purchase your home, it’s because you can’t agree via negotiation with them a reasonable compensation for your home. Compulsory Purchase means that the landowner, in this case the Council, can ‘obtain land or property without the consent of the owner‘ as long as the Government agrees to this. Many Aylesbury leaseholders do not want to sell their homes and would prefer for the estate to be refurbished, but IF they are going to have to give up their homes then they have been demanding a reasonable compensation in return that would enable them to stay in their local area. Earlier phases of the regeneration have seen tenants and leaseholders displaced out of the area. Tenants to other existing council homes in Southwark and leaseholders far and wide as the money they got for their homes was not enough to buy locally. Partly this has been because the valuations made by the Council have been phenomenally low and the gentrification of the area (of which the Aylesbury regeneration is part and parcel) has massively pushed up house prices.Whatever the outcome of the ‘regeneration’ scheme, former Aylesbury tenants will either have to accept rehousing to new and more expensive and less secure Notting Hill Housing homes or face ‘decant’ to other parts of Southwark. For many these homes will be far from their existing social and survival networks – friends, family, schools, doctors, local shops etc. Another disaster from the scheme is an estimated loss of hundreds already existing council homes on the Estate. As always we say ‘whose regeneration?’ Who is really benefiting in this community?


Aylesbury Estate Leaseholders Displacement Map – Loretta Lees , 2016

Many of the Aylesbury leaseholders are council tenants who bought their homes on the estate under the Right To Buy scheme. Although we do not support the sale of council homes,we understand why working class people decide to buy their flats. We recognise that any housing struggle on any estate has to show solidarity to all those who live there not to be forced out be they tenants, leaseholders, temporary tenants, private renters, unauthorised occupants or squatters. United we win, divided we beg for scraps!



Aylesbury Estate – Compulsory Purchase Pressures

There have been two CPO Public Inquiries over the First Development Site.  The first one resulted in a partial victory for leaseholders in September 2016, the second one is ongoing and waiting for the Government Inspector to make a recommendation to the Secretary of State who will then make known whether the CPO is confirmed or denied.

Regardless of this amazing struggle by Aylesbury leaseholders, Southwark Council seem determined to throw out CPO’s like confetti even though each CPO process can also see a Public Inquiry that takes months to complete. The Inquiries into the First Development site has held up the demolition for years now. Knowing that their are hundreds of other leaseholders across Aylesbury, we wonder if for a regeneration hungry Council this is the most sensible way of going about things. The Aylesbury Leaseholders Action Group now has a wealth of experience from battling CPO’s. It’s been great then to see them gearing up once more into action over Plot 18 and beyond on other phases – Taplow Phase 3:

‘Aylesbury Leaseholders Action Group is a self-organised organisation of Aylesbury Estate leaseholders who are campaigning to push Southwark Council to:

  1. Refurbish rather than demolish the estate, to save the existing diverse community and to say no to social cleansing.
  2. Offer “like for like” homes to leaseholders whose home are being demolished. ALAG understands “like for like” as being able to stay within SE17 in a home of the same square meterage.
  3. Maintain services and maintenance on the estate and not operate a policy of ‘managed decline’.’

We at Southwark Notes continue to stand 100% behind the Aylesbury Leaseholders Action Group and groups of tenants organising on the Estate!!

Aylesbury Phase One Displacement Map

AYLESBURY Creation Phase 2 displacement map 2017

Two displacement maps made by Aylesbury’s own pro-regeneration body Creation Trust showing where tenants from the state have been ‘decanted’ too.

Also at Southwark Notes we have been stressing that the small Left shift in local Southwark Labour has yet to see any of those Left councillors step up and condemn the Aylesbury ‘regeneration’. As ALAG says, after Labour Councillors support for the demolition of the Heygate Estate a few years ago – ‘Why are Southwark’s Labour councilors continuing to persecute their voters?‘ (on Aylesbury) This is a topic we are now beginning to stress and will return to soon – you can’t be against the social cleansing of The Elephant but remain silent on the violent regeneration of the Aylesbury.

Labour Tweet Shopping Centre July 2018


We’ve been appealing for local Labour wards to break the silence on Aylesbury but we are still in the tumbleweed zone. We will let you know if we hear anything…


Why we are protesting LCC (London College of Communication) as ‘Development Partner’ at The Elephant


It’s been a big fight again at The Elephant but it’s been a fantastic united effort of organising against the disastrous plans for the area. Local people, students, traders and other groups have come together to try and put a stop to the violent social cleansing of the area. As we’ve said before, The Elephant Shopping Centre is the very heart of the area and it’s a place of getting your shopping done whilst making vital social interactions with shop-owners and friends alike.

All of us who have come together under the Up The Elephant campaign recognise what a terrible loss to the Shopping Centre will be. For us, we can’t eat luxury flats and we don’t want to lose the myriad of small businesses to a sterile plaza of Café Nerro, Wagamama or Foxtons! We are demanding for The Elephant genuinely affordable homes, guaranteed protection for small traders and keeping the Bingo. In January 2018 we managed to get the planning permission for the scheme adjourned so that the Council and developers would have to start taking onboard our demands. Seeing as the ‘there is no alternative’ Council has recommended that the scheme by given permission, this was no uncertain victory along the way for what we want for our community!

UPDATE: Video of the demonstration at Elephant on 21st June 2018

Actually Existing Local People!!

On Saturday morning again, we were part of a campaign stall talking to users of the Shopping Centre and precious few of the hundred or so people we talked to were in favour of the development plans for 100’s of unaffordable flats and the loss of what makes the Shopping Centre so great – its soul and its sense of community.


But it has only been through the efforts of Up The Elephant that any of the plans have been changed at all. Peter John, Southwark Council leader, has remained silent on how on the question of housing Delancey has been forced by us to include more social rented homes in the plans. Instead of seeing the community in action (and with help from some local councillors) as a leverage and a pressure on the developers for a better deal, his only recent comment has been how he thought that ‘on balance – and it was always an ‘on balance’ view – that the offer was good enough’. That ‘offer’ was originally only 33 social rented homes out of a total of 979 – that would be about 3% homes in any way affordable to the local community! In the same interview he talks about his belief in ‘old-fashioned municipal socialism’. Yes, we support free school meals and free swimming for local residents but municipal socialism was never about demolishing council homes (see Aylesbury Estate!) or not even understanding the basic effects or more and more overpriced developments in poor areas like The Elephant.


The London College of Complicity

It is only recently that campaigners have been highlighting the role of local London College of Communication (LCC) in this development plan. LCC, a part of the University of The Arts London (UAL) group of art schools, is a development partner with Delancey, the shadowy offshore and tax-avoiding developer behind the whole Elephant scheme. What UAL/LCC seeks to gain is a new campus on the site of the Shopping Centre once it is demolished.

Now, no-one is saying that nothing should ever change and everything should always stay the same and so the local campaigns are not against a new campus for the LCC but not at such a cost to the local area. But UAL and LCC management have been spectacularly bad at being in any way accountable to the local community they have been part of for over 50 years. Natalie Brett, Head of London College of Communication and Pro Vice-Chancellor of University of the Arts London essentially gave the same ‘woe-is-us’ speech at a Community Council meeting and a meeting organised by the Walworth Society with Delancey. At no point in her speech did she recognise any of the community’s concerns nor did she even make direct reference to those concerns. Instead she warbled on about how shabby the LCC campus is and how they are desperate for a new campus.

In February 2018 in a public relations response forced by all the pressure the campaigns were bringing down on LCC, she wrote: ‘We welcome the agreement from Southwark Council’s planning committee to defer the final planning decision to enable further discussions to take place to address key issues and concerns raised by Councillors and local community stakeholders’. However in another interview published in a recent LCC publication she describes how she is ‘not very happy in the way it turned out because I think there was so much noise going on about the concerns here, that there wasn’t enough opportunity for the benefits of the project to come through’.

Natalie Brett seems happy to remain sceptical about the strength of local opposition and from this point onwards, LCC retreated away again from hosting any actual public engagement with local people who could be invited in for a genuine dialogue with LCC as a long-term part of the local area. All that has happened is that Delancey opened up a shop front in the Shopping Centre where fancy displays and leaflets can only demonstrate to us what we already know – that the scheme still isn’t good enough for us! So far none of the Up The Elephant campaigns have been invited to discuss their concerns directly with LCC management. Maybe we are simply too noisy for Natalie Brett?
The College even has the large LCC Studio space on the First Floor of the Shopping Centre where they could host dynamic conversations about the plans with the campaigns and local people. There have been one or two exhibitions held by LCC there that feature different takes on issues of regeneration but nothing truly reaching out to the local community and asking for their opinions, good or bad!


London College of Communication in Consultation Mode

We are aware that there have been formal meetings with staff about redevelopment at LCC. There was a drop-in consultation meeting at LCC for staff in the last months where Delancey did their latest pitch showing how they had improved the social housing offer in response to local pressure. Members of staff could ask Delancey questions at this.  Staff have also been encouraged to go and look at plans in Shopping Centre.

A member of staff told us:
Its been quite strange the way the college management and staff seem to be handling the whole redevelopment thing. I mean the declining Elephant and its estates has been in loads of projects by staff and students over the years – so there’s been interest and they have been critical I think, but now its like there’s a disconnect. I think the union has tried to raise the issue. There was a meeting a while ago last year maybe, there were some people from the Elephant campaigns there who did a talk. But it seemed to go quiet after that. I don’t know what happened. Or maybe its like people think the College doesn’t have responsibility towards social justice at a local level – its just something to say in brochures and student projects!
   I did hear that some staff were being encouraged by the management to sign some developers petition, which seemed really bizarre. And some staff tweeting the petition out I think! I don’t know if that’s true, I didn’t get asked. The view from higher up seems to be that its all down to the Council about the development, the college is just a trying to get a building to do right by its staff and students. That’s what I’ve heard at the big all staff meetings. I think privately and amongst themselves a lot of people don’t think its right. So I wonder if people are a bit scared to be more vocal. One of the union leaders at LCC a few years ago who wouldn’t let management get away with anything, lost his job. People don’t want to be targets and are worried about their jobs. It would be like taking on the management and not just LCC but UAL. There is a lot hanging on the new building, for the head I expect as well. Its a big machine UAL.

We were very grateful to hear an insiders view on goings on at LCC and are always happy to give an anonymous platform for any staff or students at LCC to voice their concerns about the role of the College in these shonky development plans. ( – or by post or hand to: Southwark Notes c/o 56a Infoshop, 56 Crampton St, SE17 3AE)


The Students Will Have Their Say

As part of the increasing pressure being put on LCC / UAL, there has been quite a robust campaign from students from the College and from other UAL campuses such as Central St Martins in Kings Cross and Chelsea College. The students initiated their own Stop The Elephant Development campaign back in January with an occupation of the LCC right before the Council’s planning committee meeting on January 30th. Since then they have also made a feisty intervention at the opening night of the LCC large ‘Capital City’ exhibition in April and another one at the opening of LCC degree shows in May: ‘A group of us from Stop the Elephant Development stormed the event, disrupting it for over 2 hours at the peak of the event despite a heavily increased security and bag searches. Occupying the space, a number of us had brilliant conversations with attendees of the event, including students who exhibited and members of the public. Significantly, Jeremy Till Head of Central St Martins chose to tell the ArtsSU Campaigns Officer that as a student union officer she should be ashamed of herself and that the action was “disgusting and pathetic just like the idiot students who partake in this nonsense”, before refusing to answer why UAL continues to ignore the demands of the community and UAL students and workers’.


The intervention at the Capital City opening was interesting as the LCC show was about highlighting ‘the relationship between money and property in London and its affects on all lives’. We saw the show and the intervention and it was a perfect companion to students work on display that did bring attention to the LCC role in gentrification amongst other topics and themes. Students from Stop The Elephant Development made some good points in a decent exchange with a LCC lecturer on Twitter: ‘Exhibitions need to be active spaces that create new ways of speaking to each other and organising how we work together – as well as drawing attention to issues and debates…This is a common problem with (often v worthy) university projects when they are conducted without the engagement of communities in knowledge production: the gaze often goes one way; the knowledge produced is abstracted or moralised rather than directly political’.

The accompanying Capital City booklet did contains good pieces from staff and students on how such speculation and development (such as LCC and Delanceys) is making life increasingly harder for many and increasingly desperate for the many marginalised communities in London. It’s a shame that such criticism of the LCC can seemingly only be reserved for exhibitions but no actual feedback or dialogue is invited into management there to hear from staff, students or local campaigns. The student campaign has however been meeting with different Up The Elephant people since January and we’ve had some good critical exchanges.

One student said to us: ‘As a student paying thousands of pounds to study here over the past few years, its been difficult to comprehend that the university management’s attitude and behaviour over the last year has been real and not some surreal waking nightmare. Even looking beyond the heavy-handed security and harassment of staff and students, it’s the sheer arrogance and the contempt with which the university appears to view students, staff and local residents that has been most difficult to comprehend. Claiming to need to remain in Elephant and Castle to support the very community that these plans will inevitably tear apart is a kick in the face. Desperate straw clutching it may well be, but people are afraid to speak out. My involvement in the campaigns has been quietly praised, but on several occasions I’ve been warned with sincerity, “keep a low profile, jeopardise your degree”. It has become an increasingly surreal and aggressive atmosphere and the university’s management can’t bury their heads in the sand forever – students and staff deserve answers and people like Natalie Brett need to be held accountable for their lies and false promises‘.

Other students actions have also been happening at other UAL campuses such as student meetings and banner displays against UAL involvement in social cleansing.



‘Up The Elephant’ Campaign

Up The Elephant has been gearing up again in recent weeks with the expectation that the Elephant Shopping Centre application will go back to Planning Committee in July. The campaigns have written an Open Letter to Natalie Brett and UAL signed by 20 local community groups, tenants and residents associations and others. In the letter the basic demands are outlined again:

• 35% real affordable housing made up of half social rent and half London Living rent, with secure tenancies. This must include a commitment that the Planning Committee will sign off any new S106 deal and that the affordable housing composition cannot be reduced at a later date.

• A relocation or compensation deal for all traders with a traders panel set up. Affordable units should be provided at 40% of market rates (as per policy) with temporary units available for everyone whilst the development is underway, rent free for 1st year. £100-250k compensation should be provided for any trader forced to relocate. This should include all traders within red line of the plan, from market stalls to shops, kiosks and stands. And commitment for a right to return.

• Bingo and bowling remain. Delancey’s removal of the Palatial Leisure facility disproportionately affect older people and people of colour which we believe to be a breach of the Equality Act 2010. Affordable leisure facilities are essential for a neighbourhood to thrive, as such, any redevelopment must reinstate the facilities at the heart of our community.

Elephant Crowd 2108

Up The Elephant has also called a noise-making community protest to gather our forces for Thursday 21st June where we can stand up for The Elephant. We welcome all and any who don’t want to see the ruin of what we love about our area to come and join the protest. We will be highlighting LCC / UAL’s role in social cleansing by assembling the protest outside their front doors at 6pm! Be there and fight for what you want in your community.



Open Letter To Natalie Brett, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Head of College, London College of Communications

Natalie Brett
Pro Vice-Chancellor and Head of College
University of the Arts London
London College of Communication
Elephant & Castle
London SE1 6SB

13th June 2018

Dear Natalie Brett and UAL management,

Open letter on the redevelopment of the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre

This is an open letter from the groups representing the Elephant and Castle local communities asking for your support in achieving a redevelopment plan for the shopping centre that doesn’t push the local community out.

We oppose Delancey’s plan in it’s amended form, which gives with one hand and takes away with another. Within their new housing offer they have hiked the prices of some of the affordable flats to make up for the increase in social housing. Their additions include a temporary boxpark of just under 300sq/m for displaced small independent traders who (according to the Council) currently occupy 4,000sq/m. Moreover there is no commitment on security of tenancy or affordability of rent and still no commitment to a ‘right to return’. The traders, whose families depend on the income from their businesses, cannot make a living with this level of prolonged insecurity. Lastly, despite Delancey intimating that the bingo hall could return, their suggestions has so far proven totally unworkable.

As it stands, the amended redevelopment plan is designed for a local population that Delancey wishes to attract to the area, rather than for the population already here. But It doesn’t have to be this way. There is a redevelopment model that could work for everyone and we ask you, UAL, to support us in making this a reality. This model is modest, and in terms of the housing offer simply compliant with Southwark Council’s own policy intentions. The community groups represented by our campaign have come together to formulate certain demands including :

  1. 35% real affordable housing made up of half social rent and half London Living rent, with secure tenancies. This must include a commitment that the Planning Committee will sign off any new S106 deal and that the affordable housing composition cannot be reduced at a later date.
  2. A relocation or compensation deal for all traders with a traders panel set up. Affordable units should be provided at 40% of market rates (as per policy) with temporary units available for everyone whilst the development is underway, rent free for 1st year. £100-250k compensation should be provided for any trader forced to relocate. This should include all traders within red line of the plan, from market stalls to shops, kiosks and stands. And commitment for a right to return.
  3. Bingo and bowling remain. Delancey’s removal of the Palatial Leisure facility disproportionately affect older people and people of colour which we believe to be a breach of the Equality Act 2010. Affordable leisure facilities are essential for a neighbourhood to thrive, as such, any redevelopment must reinstate the facilities at the heart of our community.

We suggest these improvements to the scheme are paid for out of Delancey’s £153 million projected profit. We are not opposed to development and the improvement of the Elephant and Castle area, in fact we would welcome it. We also appreciate LCC’s need for a new building. Our issue with the current proposal is that it does not bring tangible benefits to local people in terms of housing (or leisure), nor for existing traders and that is why we are asking for your support in putting forward these demands. We are aware that the college has been shortlisted for the Lord Mayor’s Dragon Awards for students’ work with local businesses. However although this is welcome, it is questionable whether any of these businesses will be able to remain in the area due to the proposed development. We know that UAL, and LCC in particular, are committed to community engagement, equality and social justice. As key partners in the development we are appealing to you to turn these values into genuinely social action.

We invite you to respond directly to our request.

Jerry Flynn
(35% Campaign)

On behalf of the following;

35% Campaign
Elephant Amenity Network
Aylesbury Tenants and Leaseholders First
Fight for the Aylesbury
Latin Elephant
Southwark Defend Council Housing
Alvey Tenants & Residents Association (TRA)
Fight For Revite
Ledbury Action Group
Rockingham Community Association
Southwark Law Centre
Walworth Green Party
People’s Republic of Southwark
Rainbow Collective
Southwark Notes
56a Infoshop
Stop the Elephant Development Campaign
People’s Bureau
Elephant Family Action
Arts SU, UAL Student Union


We wanted to highlight once again the amazing solidarity work being done by students and supporters across University of The Arts campuses against the UAL-LCC (London College of Communications) complicity with the social cleansing of The Elephant. By joining forces as a ‘development partner’ with offshore tax-avoiding company Delancey to demolish the Elephant Shopping Centre and build 1000’s of unaffordable homes, LCC is actually sounding the death knell for the local community it is has been part of for years. It’s quite sad and tragic, really.


All the local campaigns have been astounded at how LCC has both been unable and unwilling to reach out to local community campaigns to discuss these disastrous plans and also has been putting the heavies onto staff and students who have asked for such meetings. The only public outreach has been to attend two Community Council meetings and make pitiful speeches about how decrepit the LCC blocks are and how they need the new campus Delancey will build them as part of the deal. Sure but how about engaging with local people on the issue of regeneration displacement and the gentrification of the area and all its pressures on local renters and local businesses?


With this in mind, it seems that hosting a large exhibition Capital Citythat examines the relationship between money and property in London, and its effects on all our lives‘ is a bit flippin’ rich if you aren’t actually engaging with local people affected by the very same processes you are happy to ‘examine’. We don’t need any more liberal debates about ‘wealth disparity’ or ‘estate regeneration’. We are not a ‘debate’. We are the local community suffering from these processes.

Here is the brilliant text written by the Stop the Elephant Development group describing the protest at Capital City:

‘Tonight LCC held a private view for their new “Capital City” exhibition and series of events. The exhibition is described as ‘examining the relationship between money and property in London, and its effects on all of our lives’ and explicitly references gentrification.

There was no invitation for either our group or any of the rest of the community campaign in the exhibition, though a number of students and teaching staff fought to exhibit work directly referencing UAL’s role in the disastrous Delancey development in Elephant and Castle, some even showcasing our designs and posters.

A group of us from Stop the Elephant Development stormed the event, disrupting it for over 2 hours at the peak of the event despite a heavily increased security and bag searches. Occupying the space, a number of us had brilliant conversations with attendees of the event, including students who exhibited and members of the public.
Significantly, Jeremy Till Head of CSM chose to tell the ArtsSU Campaigns Officer that as a student union officer she should be ashamed of herself and that the action was “disgusting and pathetic just like the idiot students who partake in this nonsense”, before refusing to answer why UAL continues to ignore the demands of the community and UAL students and workers.

A member of Delancey’s management team was also in attendance for the event and looked very awkward.

Overall, the action was well received: answering questions from people who were curious, promoting the campaign to those who asked for leaflets, and having constructive conversations with a number of attendees.

Throughout the disruption, security on the orders of management surrounded the group and restricted the movement of our roaming chants and handing out of leaflets. The entrance to the block where management offices are located was blocked off entirely by a constant wall of security, clearly out of fear another occupation might take place.

We were loud, clear and disruptive with our demands and message that UAL management are complicit in gentrification. Huge respect to the students and artists involved in putting on this event – at the same time, we will not let UAL whitewash themselves with a veneer of radicalism by hosting this, whilst continuously ignoring the voices of the community and those of us fighting in solidarity.

Thank you to the nearly 30 students (from across all 6 UAL colleges!) who came to and made our term 3 planning meeting so productive and energising ! Lots of exciting ideas to keep the pressure up, see you soon UAL management…


Local anti-gentrification group Fight For Revite from Ark Academy school: Quick interview


Southwark Notes were excited to run across the newly formed group Fight For Revite made up of young adults from Ark Academy school in North Southwark when we attended the last Community Council meeting in March. Fight for Revite were great at asking Stafford Lancaster, investment director at Delancey, some pointed questions about how viability assessments made by developers are often skewed to enable them to pretend they can’t provide 35% ‘affordable’ housing on a scheme.

The question of how regeneration and social cleansing affects young adults is rarely asked. As young people subject to all sorts top-down decisions being made about their community we thought it might be a good idea to both interview them and to give them some publicity.

Revite 1

How did you decide to come together as a group?

We came together for a project called UniteUS which is a competition run by the US embassy so we decided to come together because we all had similar views on the same social issues.

What does Fight for Revite want to do as a group?

-Increase awareness
-Advocate for more social housing
-Bring this up in Parliament
-Provide a platform for the youth and resident to be involved in the decision making process

How are you going to do this?

-We’ve sent emails to Jeremy Corbyn to arrange a meeting
-Attended community council meetings.
-Had a meeting with our principle Matt Jones
-Interviewed local traders and residents
-Gathered data
-Worked alongside Lend Lease


One of your concerns is about gentrification- How do you see and experience this?

One of our members, Saidur, used to live in the old Heygate Estate and saw first hand the effects of gentrification. Furthermore, we all live nearby and are witness to the construction projects around us.


Give them some support – follow them on Twitter and invite them to your local events. We want to thank them for answering our questions even though they were very stressed from exams in those weeks. It’s great to see more and more different groups forming in Southwark especially young people raising these critical questions to the Council and developers and also to pupils and teachers in their own school.




For once in our lifetime at Southwark Notes, we get to write something we’ve never ever written: The Council rejected a Planning Application that sought more luxury flats in The Elephant.

Savour that news, for now, as we have been savouring it too since Tues January 16th when after an epic 7 hour meeting, Delancey’s plans to knock down The Elephant Shopping Centre were put on hold.

Even more impressive was the remarkable re-grouping of the Elephant community. From the old campaigns who have been dogged in their graft from day one, to the new student and staff activists from London College of Communications (LCC), the formidable traders and their supporters, the media work being done by some to get the campaign’s voices out in print and video, and the folks from other parts of London nervous how any luxury over-development of The Elephant will impact their much-loved communities.

It’s been a joyful ride these last few weeks! In fact, we had tears in our eyes when we marched with you all on Tues 16th; 200 strong, up Borough High St to the gates of Southwark Council’s castle in Tooley St. A certain magic enabled us to all get into the Town Hall and make enough noise for the planning committee to know the community was at the door and not just online!!



The last week has seen an amusing counter-PR campaign by the developer Delancey. They set up Twitter accounts to promote all the benefits as they want them to be seen. ‘They’ being an unaccountable offshore-registered, tax-avoiding client fund, so the benefits they see are only ever making ££££ for their investors. There was even a petition set up by the mysterious ‘Zara Hindle’ to encourage locals to support Delancey’s plans. In the end, the PR guff didn’t garner a lot of support. People can see it for what it is, a desperate move by a desperate developer.

The petition accused the campaigns of being an aggressive minority! Well, two things we know for sure are, yes we are aggressive in our assertion of being a community defending itself from the sheer violence of this ‘regeneration’ plan. As for being a minority, this community has organised countless public meetings, gathered online objections to the plan (900+) and pulled together a large and growing band of people determined to defeat this land grab. All this done for love and on a shoestring. There’s certainly no offshore bank accounts paying for any of our hard work.

And we can’t say we’ve seen much love for the plans: at the Planning Meeting on Jan 16th where space is given for someone local to support the plan, not a soul in the room spoke in favour.

In the last weeks too, students at LCC have been doing amazing organising to expose the College’s shameless partnership with Delancey. LCC is brazen in its support of Delancey against the wishes of the local community and have been very heavy-handed in dealing with any internal discussions that staff have tried to have about the LCC’s possible role in the social cleansing of the area.

LCC Occupation – Here

HOLD TIGHT! STAND FIRM! (and apply a pinch of salt…)

But despite all of this amazing campaigning and coming together, the dice is always loaded. We are not being cynical when we say that this is just the start. We face the long haul now and the campaigns have to stay sharp. We are going to be as honest as we can right now and say that the work of some local councillors on this campaign has been great and we’ve even heard a councillor or two say the word ‘gentrification’ here and there. Interesting times. But councillors, as ever, are as accountable to their communities and this round of speaking up remains to be tested over the next years. We are not being spiteful to remind people that not so long ago some of those same councillors sat in the same planning meeting as we all and approved the demolition of the Heygate Estate or the Aylesbury plans. But if there now is a sea change in local Labour party politics coming from pressure from local party members, and the national direction of the party, that’s great. Do your best! Just remember that the trust broken for years cannot be re-established in one night.

For us, we want to continue from this new found determination to defeat the social cleansing of the Elephant and beyond. We want local communities setting the agenda of what we want and what we clearly don’t want. And, of course this means support for our neighbours at the Aylesbury Estate where more of the same disaster is being dumped top-down onto tenants and residents. There is ample space now for local ward councillors there to be less pro-regeneration and listen better to the serious concerns of the community campaign on the Aylesbury. The ongoing Public Inquiry to the attempt to Compulsorily Purchase people’s homes on the Aylesbury has more than enough evidence and facts on how bad this ‘regeneration’ scheme is and will be for Walworth for generations to come.



The community’s campaigning has made all the right and best arguments for the Elephant and we’ve all been backing them up with action. On Tues 30th January, the planning application is back at Southwark’s Planning Meeting. The pressure to pass the plan must be enormous on those sitting on the Planning Committee. It’s not even so clear what is possible at that Planning Meeting. The Council’s planning team has been publicly saying the reasons for refusing the plans are weak. Will there be more back-room wheeler-dealing like we saw at 1AM in the morning on Tues 16th! We hope not.

Once again, the community has called for a large mobilisation at the Town Hall. We say again: for any Londoner who fears for London becoming more and more a place for the rich and the wealthy at an extreme cost to the fabric of our local areas, please come down and support the battle for the heart of the Elephant. We are calling for a COMMUNITY CARNIVAL to demand that the vote is respected and that there is no STITCH UP! And we will be there to make sure this doesn’t happen!

Bring your campaign banners, flags, mobile sound systems, energies and passions! See you all there!