Yard armed

YT first met with Spacestudios some 15 years ago at a time when Gini Simpson was arranging a media lab for the Bridget Riley studios, Hackney Wick. We climbed up to the roof on at least one occasion, plotting how we could establish a wireless bridge to the Triangle Studios on Mare Street to link the artist communities together and stimulate interaction.

We all got swept up in a storm of enthusiasm for DIY infrastructure projects, open source software, file-sharing and peer 2 peer experiments but perhaps inevitably some of these grander plans have escaped us!

This week we will be visiting a small yard in an all but forgotten corner of Islington north London to install wireless access points that will share a broadband service between the 12 artist studios. It’s very easy to imagine horses and carriages clattering over the cobbles, the shuffling of hay bales and the banter of stable life. Today it is used by a quiet group of fine artists, ceramicists and sculptors. All continue to brave the chill of the Victorian work-spaces and period drama of the unique setting. I hope they find the value of  latter-day networking  outweighs the interruption of such tranquility.

Many of the buildings in the huge Spacestudio network across east London, now boast excellent internet access but rarely share local resources. It doesn’t follow that they identify with each others work online or express an awareness of the untapped potential for collaboration these network services still hold. 

SPC continues to test and press for greater experimentation and adoption of locally hosted network services. Our current favorite is the Sandstorm collaborative suite which offers a huge range of secure communication tools and will run locally on a low power PC. It’s very easy to install and operate and will run ok on legacy hardware so give it a go!

The MAZI toolkit will also offer a unique combination of options to support the ‘collective awareness platforms for sustainability’ motives. The latest custom version for the Raspberry Pi offers a selection of network, collaboration sensor and democracy tools.

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SLC meet-ups

During February, we are hosting Creeknet meet-ups at Stephen Lawrence Centre where friends of Brookmill Park and Deptford Creek will gather to share stories and publish reports.

As part of the MAZI pilot we are all working together to install interactive beacons along the creek where significant points of interest and DIY network activity coincide.

We have booked three weekly meetings in this riverside lecture room, starting Monday 13th Feb so please join us there between 12 and 4pm. Please register so we know how may to expect at lunch!

Our emphasis is to support the many local groups along the creek as they promote their respective activities and publish to their networks. In preparation, we have been resetting some of their legacy, corrupted and entangled WordPress installations, so a clean start is possible!

Friends of Brookmill Park are now ready to bring their designs into effect to feature the nature and diversity of the park, planting plan and to begin animal species monitoring.

Terry Edwards is a local musician and model gardener who leads the Crossfields Estate community garden project Wonky Prong and has begun posting and planting again in time for spring. He may well join Karen Barnes on Wednesday’s open mic event at the Birdsnest.

She has been very busy scanning some of the many pinhole camera prints she has made in situ around Deptford as well as on occasional trips to Westminster. They feature at thearmed909 alongside accounts of living and working in the area.  The Undercurrents gallery in the back room of the Birdsnest has been showing Minesweeper art and photographs of the boat that survived the devastating fire in January. Karen recently added a Piratebox to collect up some memorabilia and share donated audio recordings and artwork. Next time you pop in for a pint, try logging on to check the collection.

Friends of Deptford Creek, started by those living on house boats in the creek also have a refreshed website to voice their current concerns not least in light of redevelopment plans effecting their mooring and land access at 2 Creekside. John Cierach is also the owner of 3 Creekside where we recently reviewed the plans for development to feature stacked shipping containers and reworked mooring strategy that won’t include all the current boats!

A Kumu map of working relationships between interested parties along Deptford Creek is emerging form the mud of our interaction. Further interventions and activity will continue to extend these impressions, your comments and contributions are most welcome.

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Hoy Meet-ups

This coming Monday 23rd January we will again meet up with Creeknet friends to continue some great conversations and push on with DIY network research. Our host for the last few Mazi Mondays has been the Hoy Kitchen on Creek Road at the Deptford and Greenwich border by Creek Bridge. We have been starting with teas/lunch at noon and drifting on in discussion till 4pm.

Claire is the proprietor of Hoy and grew up in the Hoy Inn as it was previously known. Her family moved into the area from Belfast in the 70’s at a time when SE8 was comparatively naked, few street lights, road signs and empty buildings in a very industrial maritime landscape. The pub was a notorious social hub and she has many stories about these earlier times to tell!  Her great familiarity with local history, society and current wave of transformation is proving most entertaining and illuminating.

When Quayside redevelopment took off in the streets all around them  during the 90’s her family faced fresh and unexpected challenges. Land which had always been linked to the Hoy was assumed part of the property development package. It triggered a fight to hold on to access and the infamous Hoy Steps. Successful but lengthy resistance has meant that the steps have been retained but a road wraps around the building to the new build properties adjacent.

Perhaps as a consequence, Claire has good contacts with local business including Millenium Quay who have responsibility for the recently installed swing bridge. She has also suggested making historical steps accessible for the first time since the dispute!

The illustrious privateer Sir Francis Drake may well have been knighted by Queen Elisabeth by the Hoy Steps, his ship ‘The Golden Hind’ certainly ended it’s days in the creek, scrapped to shore up the sea wall of the creek. Today the replica boat is a popular tourist destination in Clink Street by London Bridge very close to our very own Backspace which prevailed till turn of the last century!

Please join us in February when we will meet-up at Stephen Lawrence Centre for a further three weeks of more practical workshops At these events we will work with low-cost technologies to host and promote a range of DIY neighbourhood publishing tools, discover more about the options for OWN mesh access meet its resident groups and friends from that area of the river by Brookmill Park.

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Brackish and Brawn

Over a year ago, YT attended Transmediale media arts festival in Berlin to meet up with old friends living in the city and introduce them to members of the Mazi project attending for the first time. One of the first panels Global Ports still resonates as we edge forward with Creeknet pilot in Deptford. Much like in Port of Hamburg, the PLA (Port of London Authority) conforms a hydrachy of power, governing access to the waterways of the city, monitoring shipping and controlling all but the the weather and tides.

For those who are dependent on the Thames and it’s tributaries for transport,  trade and residence, there are very few resources available to guide use and track changing conditions.  It’s the knowledge of the boating community and their interpretation of PLA bylaws that hold sway here. Resistance, skulks the waters edge, using forgotten inlets, overgrown steps and derelict locks, to retain river access and uphold liberties. Mooring rights and tidal rituals, ebb and flow along the river wall, entangled in mooring chains, revealed as the river bed is drained by tides.

The Thames river wall all the way into Deptford Creek is part of the UK coastline, it’s beaches are monitored and rubbish cleared. Material on the shore clusters much where it was dropped into the water so great collections of red brick, clay pipes, animal bones, oyster shells and drift wood colour the shorelines. Warehouses and wharves are fast being replaced by multi-story condos, only a very few remain out of the grasp of developers such as the abandoned squatted restaurant on Odessa Street up river in Rotherhithe, where recent Minesweeper fundraiser was such a success.

The burning of the Minsweeper and subsequent loss of mooring access at Brookmarsh Yard in Greenwich, point to an inevitability that will end occupation of these reaches by  the many barges and boats currently resident. Lengthy negotiations and legal actions by boaters to retain land access and not often ended well. Current proposals for redevelopment at 2 Creekside could well be followed by overturning of long established moorings at No4. Meanwhile, redevelopment of No3 and No1 form breaking wave of transformation that may well consume all undeveloped land and property up to Deptford Church Street.

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Sweeping for power

Since first writing this report the Minesweeper has been destroyed by a terrible fire on 5th Jan 11pm. Despite quick response from the London Fire Service and attendance of a dozen fire engines, it was all over by 5am – toast. Adjacent boats were also effected as was the mechanics workshop in the Brookmash estate. YT visited on Friday and stood on the river wall there with some Minesweeper Collective members looking over the side into the abyss of charred timbers and blackened soup of belongings, chairs, books, some vinyl records and somewhat strangely, bags of charcoal untouched by the fire.

For those living and working aboard the Minesweeper, keeping warm during winter months presents the greatest hardship. Wood burners are kept alight 24/7 that require continual feeding. A store of suitable timber has to be collected throughout autumn and kept dry for use. Neighbours in in Brookmash yard supply the off-cuts from their furniture production. (as well as supply power the broadband wireless uplink)

The collective recently purchased a new AC generator after many months fundraising and having experienced breakdown of previous secondhand units, however bad luck has again struck, an oil leak forces it’s return for repair, leaving them without power again. A new wind turbine is ready for installation, to provide the top up charge their battery array needs if it to remain in good condition to supply 12v for lighting and laptop charging. The print working areas of the minesweeper already have bright LED worklights fitted, with more needed throughout, as well as external motion triggered perimeter and safety lighting.

An energy audit was carried out on the boat late summer as part of the Creeknet pilot, which revealed just how much energy the print curing and screen cleaning processes demand, too much of a shortfall for any solar or wind turbine system to close. Gaining a better understanding about how off-grid power systems need to be configured and managed has been difficult, though progress is being made. We recently visited other boats on the creek and noted how their installed systems reliably store and distribute available power as needed, so will return for their support if the need arises.

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Ripped and Yarned

It’s the end of 2016, an extraordinary year that has surprised us all for it’s contrasts and contradictions, horror and hubris. Any anticipation of sudden enlightenment or even delayed reaction to the scale of discord seems far fetched, yet somehow fresh hope springs with each new year. 2017 may test that theory!

Cast in this light and with rising sense of expectation from those around us,  we set out on the second phase of neighbourhood engagement and activity around our Mazi pilot – Creeknet. It explores use of DIY networking methods and promotion of ‘offline‘ information systems, that express awareness, sustainability and determination for greater data autonomy.

To date, we have met with a wide range of local people living and working alongside Deptford Creek, each with a view on local issues and an intensity to shape outcomes in whatever form of public campaign or personal agenda they may fix on. Help us identify the tools for success in such situations and to foster the development of home grown options to introduce into the MAZI toolkit.

We begin a series of weekly meetings and workshops at venues up and down the creek this month, to channel some energies into discovery, discussion and expression on subjects closest to heart. The quality of lived environment tops that chart, as any local resident, worker or student will assert. Unbridled property speculation, deteriorating air quality and wealth disparity, contribute to the sense of dis-empowerment, isolation and anxiety for the future.

Much we have learned, as the storm of chaos around us builds, reminds us that we can never again take personal freedoms and privacy for granted. As of 30th December, the Investigatory Powers Act permits targeted interception of communications, bulk collection and interception of communications data by UK government and intelligence agencies.

Educating and informing ourselves on conditions of change are now critical steps for us to take for future health of communities, cultures and capital. Our faith in each other, open collaboration and social justice are at stake. Your insight, inventiveness and expertise are key to unlocking neighbourhood value and identifying solutions to act on locally.

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