Yet another amazing day of making homemade smoothies on the bicycle powered blender with Transition Heathrow the Com.Cafe!
Com.Cafe come to Grow Heathrow for seed sewing Thursday 29th May
We won’t be open for workshops of visits during January, as we’re spending a lot of time reviewing and evaluating the last year to help plan for the future.
This includes our structures of working groups, our growing, and how effectively we welcome volunteers and support them to get involved. It also includes exploring wellbeing and working relationships in the collective, visioning of our aims for Transition Heathrow and Grow Heathrow’s futures, and how we sustain resistance. We’ll be open again in February with a bang for loads of preparation for the biggest party of 2014: our fourth birthday on Sat 1st March. Be there.
We only have bikes.
If you have a van, we’d love to be able to use it for a day or two to get waste slabwood from a local sawmill to build a new compost loo as our current one is filling up ominously. If we manage to get hold of one, we’re hoping to also pick up a wood-burning Rayburn/AGA stove that will help us move away from using fossil fuels to cook with.
A group of residents from Harmondsworth, Sipson and Harlington have successfully bid for a £7000 grant to give villagers a greater say in future development and planning issues.
The money has come from the Community Development Foundation, one of the organisations administering a £9.5 million government fund to support communities creating a Neighbourhood Plan for their area.
The plans can deal with a wide range of subjects, such as housing, employment, heritage and transport, or may focus on one or two issues that are of particular importance to local people.
Holly Crofter, a resident at Grow Heathrow in Sipson and now a member of the Heathrow Villages Planning Committee (HVPC) that will be using the grant, is enthusiastic about the project: “The Neighbourhood Plan will give our villages a say in development decisions that have, in the past, been difficult to influence in a meaningful way. It’s particularly important for this area, which has suffered the blight caused by airport-related development for decades.”
Having secured the grant with the help of the Harmondsworth and Sipson Residents’ Association and arranged for the charity Groundwork to accept the funds on their behalf, HVPC are eager to move forward with the process to draw up an approved Neighbourhood Plan. This includes finding seven residents from each village to join a Neighbourhood Forum.
A public meeting about the project is being held at St Mary’s Church Hall in Harmondsworth on Thursday 14 November at 7pm.
Harlington resident and HVPC member Christine Taylor is hoping for a good turnout: “To complete this project it’s vital that people from all three villages get involved. This is our chance to tell the planners and developers what we want in our area and, just as important, what we don’t want.”
I’m currently staying/participating at a squatted site called Grow Heathrow. It is proving to be quite an important time for me. Politically affirming. I came here to learn skills, connect with others who have similar ideas about how we provide for ourselves, and give my support to a cause/project I’m passionate about. The squat originated from a need to confront the proposed plans for a third runway at Heathrow Airport. The government in the UK has been looking at airport expansion for a while now – there’s still talk as to where this expansion will take place. If they opt for Heathrow, they’ll have to remove the squatters from this land and tarmac over the village of Sipson; one of the principle aims of the project is to instil community resistance in Sipson against Heathrow Airport Holdings (formerly British Airports Authority), if they come knocking.
The attitude here is great. People are focused. It’s a working squat. People arrive for many reasons. I’m here to work. That’s where my head is at the moment – I want to be productive, to be useful. Other visitors are here to enjoy themselves, relax and talk with others. This is a haven for free thought – a space to breathe for those disillusioned with materialism.
Here there’s no room for the workings of capital – no pressure to work the 9 to 5. It is a kind of political expression that directly challenges labour, the 9 to 5 grind. It is this kind of political expression that interests me at the moment, as opposed to attending the monthly anti-war protest/demonstration. Protest is important, but we must also set the agenda. ‘If all we do is oppose what they are trying to do, then we simply follow in their footsteps’. We need to carry on with our activity that isn’t determined by money. We must dedicate ourselves to what we consider necessary or desirable. We must live the world we want to create. Besides, protesting wipes me out (as I recently experienced at the protest against Fracking at Balcome). Not sure I want to devote my time and energy to protests, where we shout, confront police etc. It’s not in my nature to use physical force against other humans. Probably too middle class. It’s not in my nature to shout about things, sing chants etc. Perhaps if it’s a cause that really riles me up, then I might reconsider.
At the squat there is a non-hierarchical, anarchistic set up. No one is instructed to work. People work when they feel ready to. There are always tasks to be done. People wake up, a group gets together, starts talking – momentum starts to build and we work on a project. And we work hard. But it doesn’t feel like work. Because we’re there at our own will, because it’s a cause we believe in, there’s such comradery in our collective work. It’s fun and social. What great conversations emerge during work. Working together on something, where there’s a common goal, an objective, sometimes sparks more interesting conversations than assembling with the intention to socialise. During the summer there seems to be a huge flux of international travellers who have heard about the project. The squat reminds me of travelling in hostels – spaces to socialise, unwind and talk idealistically.
A working mind is a healthy mind. People are happy when they’re productive, when they’re being useful. Their self-esteem grows, their self-confidence and sense of value to the group benefits. During this first month, I have easily forgiven those who have not managed to work and contribute fully. There will be a long history of reasons as to why some are able to contribute more than others. Those that don’t, we should have sympathy for and try to understand why, rather than resent them. I guess I am just grateful I have this working mind, this motivation. I’ve only been here for a month, and my feelings on this may change. Without special resolve and grit, I imagine it is easy to lose patience over time.
The experience thus far is fulfilling a personal need to experiment with new forms of social relations outside capitalism. Grow Heathrow is an open project with plenty space for people to join the site. Contrary to other squats, it is the project that brings the inhabitants of the site together, rather than a group of friends. This kind of experiment in communal living has its rewards and challenges. There are those that use this space as some kind of refuge from some torment in their lives outside the squat. Although they are often unable to contribute to the collective in a variety of ways, the space must try to accommodate their distress. The community must do its upmost to prevent looking inwards. One older lady, who was previously in a mental institution, has benefitted immensely from gardening, working outdoors and being with people. She tells me how lonely she gets in the evenings on her own in her flat. Living communally trumps any discomfort from sleeping without a mattress.
The squat relies on solar panels and a wind turbine for its electricity, has no running hot water from the tap (although an impressive warm shower wood burner has been built) and there’s a compost toilet on site, minimising water usage. Almost all the food consumed is either grown on site, taken from bins outside supermarkets, or from food wholesalers giving away waste food. I must say, I do get a sense of gladness as I walk about doing my daily activity without barely any ecological footprint.
After 5 months in Salzburg (or rather a lifetime) of talking about the problems of the world, and what needs to be done, I am finally in a living and working arrangement that satisfies my political need to get to grips with the ‘doing’. When I wake up in the morning I feel as though I’m in the right place. At least for now. We’ll see how it goes this autumn.
The land that the community is occupying is up for eviction. So there is that added insecurity that for some residents makes long term-commitment/planning difficult. Indeed, their innate instability and transitory nature is a key criticism of squatted social centres. I seem to forget that bailiffs could start breaking through the gate any minute. Part of me doesn’t believe it will happen: Who would break-up such a peaceful, well-meaning, environmental project? I come across as naïve to some of the old-time squatters, who tell me I’ll soon understand what we’re fighting against when I see the State use its might to destroy any dissenting activity. Property is king. I wonder where I’ll be, what I’ll do when we’re being evicted. I probably won’t know how I’ll react until it’s happening. Can physical force ever be successful against the State? History shows that violence and aggression is what it often does best. Why play them at their own game? But if someone is evicting you from your home – if I develop some emotional attachment to this place – there’s no knowing how one might react.
Everyone is welcome to our weekly Sunday potluck, beginning July 28th. Come ’round at 6:30pm, after our all-age Growing Club from 2 till 6.
You are invited to a picnic and public meeting to discuss the future of Transition Heathrow.
Join us tomorrow, Tuesday 23 July at 6.30pm at Grow Heathrow.
Bring food and drink to share, plus your thoughts on the future of the project in light of our recent Court of Appeal verdict and the airport’s new proposals for expansion.
For how to find us, follow this link.
See you in the meadow!
One week today.
We’ll be there in pirate badger costumes (well, at least one of us is; I’m dressing like a superhero bee), with pots of nasturtiums, marigolds, yarrow, the obscenely rich bass of our bike-powered sound system (because the only good system is a bike-powered sound system), marmalade, wild food workshops, face paints, dancing, singing and if you’re lucky, maybe even buckets of delirious joy.
All without burning a single fossil fuel. We love Hayes Carnival!
We will give more updates as soon as we can tomorrow once we’ve been able to talk about it. We’ve just heard that we lost our appeal in the UK’s second-highest court so the landowner now has a live possession order.
We are continuing to try to negotiate with the landowner to buy the land, and there is no real threat until at least Monday. We expect to hear in a few weeks whether our application to appeal to the Supreme Court is granted. If we can appeal, then at that point we expect the possession order to be shelved (so no threat); if we’re not allowed to appeal, then we continue to be at risk. The first thing we will do is to talk with local residents in Sipson to organise next steps.
We don’t know the landowner’s plans, so we don’t know whether or when he will apply for a warrant from the County Court for bailiffs, and beyond then whether or when he might hire bailiffs, which could take months.
We need people here to help us plan what we can do now. There is travel info to get here. Please bring a tent, roll mat and sleeping bag. There is lots of indoor space, so you’re unlikely to need a tent, but it’s useful just in case.
If you can’t come to site, please consider donating any cash you can spare – we need money now more than ever and even £10 makes a huge difference for us. The orange ‘donate’ button is to the right.
occupy, create, resist