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 City ‘that 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…
NO TO GENTRIFICATION // YES TO SOCIAL HOUSING’