London is a pinball game; millions of us whizzing around on parallel but separate lines, crashing into obstacles without concern for those around us. Or so it can feel, as you sit in the paved square of Doran Walk, overlooked by the twinkling lights of the Westfield Centre, hearing how a group of mothers from East London were evicted from their East Thames hostel last month.
Focus E15 Mothers is an organisation, a campaign and social space, where the original Focus mums and their supporters have come together to fight against the housing crisis. As Sam Middleton, one of the mothers who had been living in the hostel for over a year, told me: ‘It’s about social housing, not social cleansing.’
‘We decided to occupy this building and turn it into a social centre, for the community,’ says Sam. ‘We want to raise awareness of the number of empty properties there are out there, but also it’s really important that we repopulate the estate.’
Along with supporters and campaigners from across London (not to mention a huge number of celebrity champions on social media) Focus E15 are putting on loads of events, day and night. There have been comedy gigs featuring Josie Long and James Acaster, every day there’s a free shop offering clothes and toys for those who visit, there is free food for those who need it and the occupied house has a playroom where Focus E15 mum Jasmine Stone can often be found with her daughter, surrounded by local children.
‘Because ordinary people are being forced out of London, it is up to Londoners to fight back,’ says comedian and supporter Josie Long. ‘I admire the women who set up Focus E15 and I wanted to go and thank them for their brave and inspiring campaign. I hope it is only just the start.’
On the practical side, Focus E15 are also running a huge schedule of workshops and meetings. This Sunday Sept 28 will see a large, open residents meeting, focusing on the state of the estate. At 1pm there will be a debt workshop where people can bring their bills and bank statements to receive advice on how best to manage their finances. At 3pm there’s an open workshop on housing and economics. There’s also events today and Saturday including a session on family cohabitation at 3pm and a workshop on private renters’ rights at 5pm.
Showing support is more important now than ever, with reports that the estate’s water has been turned off. So, break out of the pinball game and pop down.
The Focus E15 Mothers can be found at 80-84 Doran Walk, off Wilmer Lea Close.
For more information about the upcoming events, visit their Facebook page.