Tag Archives: London

(1155) Grenfell

Here are two thoughtful pieces regarding the atrocious fire in a tower block in London on the 15th.  We can’t help but feel that London’s economic regime, aided and abetted by public policy, produced this fire.  People in authority need to go to jail.
Already there are several clear lines of responsibility leading to both government and business which indicate the fire would have been prevented had some fairly moderate things been tended to.   Unfortunately, the neoliberal economic regime in the UK is a beast now quite skilled at defending itself from acquiring responsibility for disasters of every kind from questionable privatization drives to botched wars.
UK public money is available for wars in the Middle East, for surveillance programs run by intelligence agencies, and extensive agricultural subsidies.  The local government body  responsible for the building recently handed out a property tax rebate and is one of the wealthiest in Britain with large amounts of money on hand.  Real property in London represents a vast and profitable churn of billions of pounds yearly and social housing has been a component of that for many years.  Why so little for the Grenfell’s residents?
We’ll see over the next few years if eighty or more lives are enough to change things.
Christian Wolmar: tower tragedy must mark turning point for council cuts
Grenfell is a shameful symbol of a state that didn’t care
(755) Towers for the better
(485) Highrise hell [report]
(321) Rising high

(83) 1 Millionth Tower
(61) Flemo!
image: ChiralJon via Flickr/CC

(845) Scrubbing London

owstEligibility statistics for a UK children’s meal program appear to indicate the way lower income people are being rushed out of the UK capital.

‘Vast social cleansing’ pushes tens of thousands of families out of London. Data shows that the numbers claiming free school meals has dropped by almost a third in some boroughs, suggesting areas are becoming preserves of the rich

image: D. Howard via Flickr/CC

(524) Working at Western

Weldon Library University of Western Ontario“Bland Stalinist optimism.” Now that’s a sharp turn of phrase well applied to one of the priciest and most image-conscious universities in Canada.  Western’s white collars must be reaching for the Prozac™ and the Pepto Bismol™ a lot these days.  Looks like rebranding the university Canada’s Harvard is turning out to be a little tougher than they thought it might be.  Jacked up tuition leaves students indentured with uncertain prospects for employment regardless of how much fantasy projection those running the university apply to their brand.  Sessional instructors, teaching assistants, doctoral students and support staff at the university have come to find their working lives frequently as precarious as those of fast-food workers while trying to contribute to an institution that is supposed to exemplify our society’s best ideals.  Read about Western in this piece from the blog of Openwide, an alternative student print publication.

Purple and poor: the real Western experience  

image: D. B. Weldon Library on the campus of University of Western Ontario by Balcer via Wikimedia Commons

(478) Renter Girl

Renter GirlIf suburban-poverty.com could get a long distance romantic crush going on another blog it’d probably be for Renter Girl at Blogger.  Perils and precarity mark out the renting life in a global financial uber-capital and it takes a brave bloggess to survive it all.  In big, bad London it doesn’t matter how far out you move you don’t get a break.  Fresh stresses await the working people of London, too, as prices soar, global investors flock in, wages lag, and governments ignore or aggravate the whole mess by turns.  Renter Girl’s author is one Penny Anderson who also writes about housing issues, renting, working and getting by for the Guardian.  Keep up the good blogging Renter Girl.


For more visual, North American rental horror porn in Tumblr form there is www.worstroom.com
…mainly New York City but we saw Ottawa, Toronto and dozens of other places represented in this hall of landlord shame.

(453) Enfield series

EnfieldA feature series started today on theguardian.com about northeastern London’s Enfield.  The sorry state of Enfield makes for an excellent read when it comes to understanding how bad a place can get. Enfield was once an industrial dynamo and seems on the edge of catastrophe now with the one-percenter’s London of bailed-out banks and high consumerism nowhere in sight.  Crime, poverty and unemployment have wrecked the reputation of the area and driven off investment.  Shades of Detroit, Michigan and Camden New Jersey, America’s moribund urban industrial centres emerge as Aditya Chakrabortty describes how his home turf fell down the basement stairs.  Additionally, nearly every part of suburban poverty as known on this continent is found in Enfield, especially the frustrations of poor transit connections to the wider economy and the way that holds back recovery.  The neglect and failure of this once mainstream part of London is almost complete for many of its people and now the future has truly arrived.  It seems something radical, something experiemental is about the only thing left for Enfield, hence the name of the series.

The Enfield Experiment: London’s fortunes distilled into a single borough.
The Guardian’s senior economics commentator kicks off a new series looking at the challenges facing the London suburb where he grew up – and the ideas that might offer a radical fix

image: Stu Phillips via Wikimedia Commons

(418) Bicycle elevated expressway

The Next City
got the new year started off on bit of a lame, frowny-downy note.  They provided a brief, negatory reaction to UK starchitect Norman Foster’s support for an elevated bicycle expressway in London, England.  The structures would reach about 220km in length eventually and would utilize space directly above rail lines.  Foster may be an elite practitioner but it’s doubtful he’d associate himself with something like this before giving some consideration to costs, benefits and practical matters of useability.  He’s a cyclist and trail advocate.

The reaction at the first link below feels superficial, like the pre-1900 pooh-poohing of aeroplanes in which the person doing the pooh-poohing would tell listeners that if man were meant to fly he’d have been born with wings.  Just think of the interesting views of Londinium from up there on the SkyCycle.

Norman Foster’s Pie-in-the-Sky Cycling Plan for London Next City

Norman Foster-Designed Scheme Aims to Transform London into “Cycling Utopia” ArchDaily provided a less reactionary description of the proposal

See also: (148) Bicycle super-highway

image: Foster + Partner

(241) London to 2016 [LSE brief]

This London School of Economics briefing paper looks ahead to 2016 and serious increases in the unaffordability of housing in both inner and outer London. Among the findings: “A majority of people in poverty in London now live in outer London. Ten years ago they were evenly split between inner and outer. In addition, across London, in-work poverty has risen over the last decade while out of work poverty has fallen. As a result, half of children in low-income households in London are in working families.”

Poverty and inequality in London: anticipating the effects of tax and benefit reforms .pdf file

(170) Why he moved back to the suburbs

We find resources for the discussion at hand on the intertube pages at Atlantic Cities again and again.  A youngish writer leaves the higher profile parts of London for its more anonymous suburban reaches in the piece linked below.  We enjoyed this item because it got us thinking about the contrast between the author’s notion of suburban and what constitutes that reality in North America.

London was a massive city long before the present era, one in which places with eight or ten million people are shilling-a-dozen.  With its long head start London has an extensive transit network, the likes of which is unmatched in North America with the exception of New York City.  In terms of population density and automobile ownership London is not suburban in American and Canadian terms though the latter statistic has risen considerably in most of the UK since the 1980s.  Dare we think that the 100 year-old suburbs of London represent a denser, better connected model for communities half the age or less in North America?  Or is it apples and oranges?  If suburbs in North America grow deliberately into better places will they attract creative people, writers in a way they really do not at the moment?  An interesting question.

Why I moved back to the suburbs

photo: Birkbeck Station in south London
Chris McKenna via Wikimedia Commons