Monday, 25 November 2013

That Was The Week That Woes

Signposting  the Willesden Week of Action

Residents and visitors to Willesden Green were welcomed to our neighbourhood last week with a massive sign that made our area look like the South Bronx in the 1970s. Were they doing a chilly remake of the Summer of Sam? Or perhaps Crimewatch was filming in the area? The reality was less glamorous but just as scary: this was Brent Council’s idea of engaging the community during the ‘Willesden Week of Action’. And as this collection of Tweets indicates, people were unimpressed with the stunt.

Visiting the actual Week of Action stalls outside Sainsbury’s, anger over the threatening sign changed to a sense of disappointment: a potentially fruitful initiative was being squandered by Council incompetence. The fire-fighters, NHS employees, Council Housing workers and Transition Town people who were at the Week of Action Tent (though oddly the Willesden Green Town Team seem not to have been invited) are at the core of our community, and it is very important that we have an opportunity to meet  and exchange information face-to-face. Yet the whole event was overshadowed by the bizarre signage outside the tube station and the more sinister anti-immigration raids that seem to have been part of the Week of Action.

The Willesden Week of Woe was not just a PR disaster for Brent Council. It shows how one hand just doesn’t know what the other is doing. While the stalls at the Week of Action rightly tell us how important it is for health and well-being to get out and about, to stop-and-chat to neighbours (immigrant or otherwise), our Council decimates our area’s remaining public spaces, evicts our independent bookshop and threatens to close down our community pub. As Council workers look to advise vulnerable residents about their housing rights, their bosses see it fit to build gated communities on public land, marketed at wealthy speculators.
The Week of Action Tent on Saturday

We set up our own Make Willesden Green stall outside Sainsbury’s on Saturday to offer this alternative message: we want Brent Council to start joining-up its thinking with its actions. If Councillors and their officers really want to focus on our area’s needs and priorities, then ditch the scaremongering and start defending our community assets and fighting school academisation; build more social housing and protect tenants' rights; preserve our public spaces and stop private developers swallowing our neighbourhood up.     

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