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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Crossed Bridges

Residents in Deptford and Greenwich, the ‘Friends of Deptford Creek,’ have formed an alliance to help co-ordinate living and working amongst the clustered houseboats and workplaces, to share access to the land resources and promote mooring rights.

Living on the Creek they enjoy relative independence, whilst navigating increasingly unstable environmental, commercial and social conditions. All around them, the struggle for land use, rolls on at a ferocious rate, excluding some and capturing others, in the quest for recognition, acknowledgement and respect.

Upholding rights to access resources, trade and live locally, are long fought battles, sustained against the odds. Increasingly rapid transformation along each side of the Creek is out-gunning the capacity to respond. Finding the energy to resist reckless planning and hold developers to their commitments is left to those people most effected. All are agreed that more independent and widespread DIY monitoring and critical response is required, not least, to gather information to counter commercial assumptions of developers.

Meanwhile, city workers and their families are moving into fresh apartments rising at every corner. Racing costs of domestic rents and restrictions of workspace are contributing to a crisis of identity and insecurity that will continue to oppress homemakers in the area, perpetuating the churn of fortunes many are already experiencing.

Large scale infrastructure projects in progress across London will soon be joined by Thames Tideway sewer overflow construction from Ealing to Becton along the Thames. There are two deep excavations planned for SE8. One at Deptford Church Street and the other at Greenwich Pump Station. Both will contribute massive local disruption for five years or more, whilst offering little in compensation or shelter for those effected.

At a recent meeting of the Deptford and Greenwich Liaison Working Group held at Creekside Discovery Centre, we heard from officials of the Thames water, Tideway and Lewisham council about their commitment to public liaison yet despite it’s detailed project plans, little was presented to ally fears of further sweeping aside of community interest and blank faced consultation processes. The promise here is for full co-operation and clarity, leaving lots of scope to fudge delivery !

Resistance to the rehearsed rhetoric surprised many of the Tideway builders and administrators present. Our Informed requests for detailed data about environmental monitoring already taking place, or any commitment to make such data feeds available were not received well, with only tacit offers of aggregation and post collection reporting on offer.. Let’s have the raw data available, please!

Additional topics to the prepared agenda tried to focus on awareness of how to negotiate for the £2.5 million pound section 106 CIL to benefit local activities (see recent council meeting minutes). However the Greenwich Pump Station excavation doesn’t have an allocation out of this, strange considering how many newly built places there will be disrupted. More on this to come!

The physical links between Greenwich and Lewisham residents are limited to the access to footpaths and bridges crossing Deptford Creek. There are seven public crossings two by road and rail and four by foot. The newest of these a ‘swing’ bridge sits at the mouth of the creek where it tips into the Thames and was completed early in 2015. A lifting bridge at Creek road allows the few larger gravel boats servicing the cement works to pass through. The rail ‘Iron Bridge’ is an industrial heritage monument but which is due a raft of safety improvement measure not least the replacement of the housing and engine lifting equipment with GRP simulations. The Ha’ppeny Hatch just beyond was installed after huge public appeal for a footbridge at this point to provide safer crossing and links Norman Road to Creekside. Environmental designs for a continuation of pedestrian walkways stretching from New Cross Gate to Woolwich were outlined in Borough Plans of the nineties!

Planning consent for 500 ton barges to carry away spoil from the Tideway tunnel dig has been requested to limit the use of road haulage consent, already offered. This would result in 2 transports per tide, instead of 100 trucks a day. For this to be possible, dredging of the middle section of the creek from Iron Bridge to the Creek mouth. The effect of all this will be to destabilize the small community of boats including the Minesweeper cluster of boats opposite Laban Dance. A further consequence will make the study area for Creekside low tide walkers inaccessible. Dredging may well turn up unexpected complications for all those along this stretch, as it’s historical uses have left a noxious sludge residue submerged not far below.

The A2 crosses over the creek at Deptford Bridge where the DLR also spans overhead. A cycle and foot path picks up again in Broadway Fields an open space with basketball courts and opportunities for public socialising, often occupied by small groups playing sport or hanging out and enjoying the rare chance for a view of sky.

A humpback footbridge jumps back over to the path leading south into Brookmill Park and the wide footbridge adjacent to Stephen Lawrence Centre opens out onto Brookmill Road. The Ravensbourne river cuts along the side of the park, in a concrete trench from Lewisham alongside the DLR.

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Senses in sight

The Brookmill Park Friends are an engaged group of locals, with differing relations towards the park. Most are neighbours and enjoy the close proximity to a great green space with a measure of co-management. In meetings, they have been very aware of the issues they face and are working with Glendale the local authority contractors, to improve the environment.

We approached the group some time ago and first connected with Cash Aspeek, who planned to use the Park Ranger’s hut for Redstart Art sessions. We helped initiate clearing up of the space, sorting the usable (indoor toilets, kettle and sink) from not (mouldy carpets, lots of rubbish).

Clearly some additional after dark security is now required and conversations about technical assistance SPC would provide as part of the MAZI zone pilot spawned a sub group to hear suggestions and discuss options. This is when we first heard of recent website failings and fallout confusion and suggested introduction of an information hotspot, presenting a ‘park guide’ and visitor interaction was suggested, as were the desire for nature watch cameras and sound recorders to live stream and monitor the environmental variations.

Conrad Ellam is a local naturalist and holds very popular twilight ‘bat walks’ and ‘dawn chorus’ listen-ins – attendance depending on who hears detail in time. in general, public signaling for events and activities in the park has become patchy, such that a clear strategy for communications is now called for.

The lost website will be revitalized with the collaboration of friends, to ensure that the best can be made of the great contributions from everyone involved. Further effort will be made to automate social media publishing about park events and introduce new public information systems to capture park visitor observations and requests.

At the most recent friends meeting there was a renewed confidence in plans for the park. This was voiced in enthusiasm for proactive planting and habitat protection, to present activities publicly and celebrate this treasured space together.

Strategies to lift visitors awareness of park rules on rubbish disposal and dog access need action. The accumulation of tins, bags and paper ends up in the undergrowth and the creek, causing problems downstream, worse the dog shit is dangerous for children, a fact people still need reminding of.

Taking up ownership of communication in the park, to update signage and improve on conditions at the Park Ranger’s hut for Redstart Arts and friends meetings is key. Regularly updated and relevant notices around the park will also help promote the Friends activities as well as information about neighborhood concerns and interests.

We are ready to install Salsa bluetooth responders in to the park, at the notice boards and Park Ranger’s hut. Proximity to the passive info points trigger pages of a our smart phone application to appear on screen, relaying historical, nature watch and cultural information.

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Concurrency

elasticsystemLate summer has stretched out into October this year and to some extent the anticipation of wintry times ahead, is drawing our attention on from the confusion of recent electoral fiascos. Our best effort as individuals or in groups can seem ever more diluted and frustrated, however, much else that we take for granted, must continually overcome effects of disruption and change.

Richard Wright invited us to visit his latest project Elastic System , where we were treated to a review of the British Library cataloging systems that represent it’s huge collection of published titles. The last attempted consolidation was abandoned at letter D, having taken 15 years before settling on a composite set. Now between 150 and 180 million acquisitions co-exist in the Yorkshire repository or in the London library. Richard worked with IoCT (internet of cultural things) to examine the progress of capturing and representing the information stream of new data about how the library is organised, focusing on a historical screenshot-at-2016-11-30-00-24-21collection in London and it’s specific method of elastic co-ordination.

Steven Ball visited Deckspace on a few occasions during his research and preparation for Deep Water web. His simple but poetic aim, to present a live view of Sydney Harbor for us in London and there, a view of Thames in return. Both were viewed at Furtherfield Gallery in Finsbury Park during a summer exhibition, complimented with a concrete’ exchange of current reports in a collage information streams.

The daylight music series at union chapel this month featured William D Drake, performing otherwise unreleased songs at the church organ alongside singer Louise Kloboe. Cameras nested in the organ guts and around the stage were stitched together well as record of this very entertaining collaboration.

the-sea-nymphs_pressLater in the month we also saw Bill perform alongside old friends to celebrate the launch of long awaited second album of Sea Nymphs recordings which are available together with the first release from 1992! The time gap between releases is now compressed to a moment of anticipation for all the evergreen pleasures now at last available for all.

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