Solar buses, Cornish language, post referendum racism and crowdfunded housing for migrants

I’ve been a bit rubbish about updating this blog with my writing lately so here’s a quick roundup:

From the last two issues of New Internationalist: The response to racism after the UK’s European Union referendum (September) and the fight to save the Cornish language after government cuts (October).

For Positive News I wrote about the Thousand 4 £1000 project, crowdfunded housing for migrants in Brighton who have no other means of support.

This week the Guardian Sustainable Business network published my article about The Big Lemon bus company and Brighton Energy Coop’s plan to bring electric buses to the streets of Brighton and Hove, powered by solar energy generated at the Big Lemon depot.

Cornish community group vows to keep fighting Lizard ‘Super Quarry’

Community Against Dean Super Quarry campaigners. By Alison McGregorOn the UK’s wild and beautiful southern tip, a rebellion is growing. People on Cornwall’s Lizard Peninsula have been fighting the reopening and expansion of Dean Quarry which was mothballed in 2008.

The Ecologist published a report from me on the campaign and some of the environmental issues around it. The full article is here at their website.

One the highlights of this article for me was being able to cover something happening just a few miles from where I grew up which doesn’t happen very often!

Photo: Community Against Dean Super Quarry campaigns outside court earlier this year. By Alison McGregor.

Squatting myths

This weekend a law criminalising squatting in residential buildings in England and Wales came into force, leaving up to 20,000 people facing eviction, fines or imprisonment.

Similarly to protesters, squatters are a often stereotyped and misrepresented in some of of mainstream press as freeloaders, anti-social, a nuisance to the community. Unlike any squatter I have ever met.

Sure, just because I haven’t met squatters fitting that description it doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Squatters are like any group of people, not a homogenised mass. They make use of empty buildings, making them home and sometimes a community space as well.

Squatters utilise all sorts of buildings but these laws only apply to residential ones. It is estimated there are 350,000 long term empty homes in the UK, 279,000 in England. These are the buildings people would have been able to squat.

As the squatting law has been discussed in the press over the last few days the same old inaccurate moans have come out, as well as some great reporting. Here are some of the squatting myths that get to me the most:

Squatters don’t pay their way

Sure, squatters are not paying rent or a mortgage but they are subject to the same tax laws as everyone else, including council tax. While some may not pay, that makes them no different to non-squatters.

Often buildings are empty because they are not of good enough standard to rent. If people decide to squat them this often means connecting up energy supplies and fixing things round the house, things which often cost money and a lot of time.

This law was needed so landlords could get rid of squatters

Buildings must be empty for people to squat them. They must not break in or cause criminal damage. They can not squat people’s homes. There were already laws in place to deal with all of those things.

Even if they’ve entered through an open window and caused no damage to a building that has been empty for years they can still be evicted. What was known as ‘squatters rights’ didn’t mean squatters could just take any building they want.

Squatters are lazy

It’s the age old criticism thrown at anyone vaguely ‘alternative.’ While the rest of us are working hard, paying our way how come these people have the time, and cheek to protest/occupy/squat/actively try and change or do anything positive?

Many squatters have jobs, many don’t (seemingly the yardstick of ‘laziness’ used by people in these arguments). Living in a squat is itself almost a full time job and most keep residents there 24/7.

A lazy squat just wouldn’t work.

For more information on the law and squatting in general go to the Advisory Service for Squatters.
The law is being challenged in court by Irene Gardiner in Wales, find out more here.

Content from UpStart

Here’s some of the content I have done for UpStart magazine.

For Issue 1 I was on the ‘craft’ team, which did most of the design and subbing. Here are the pages I designed:

Issue 1 Contents

Joanne Dewberry interviewNews

For Issue 2 I was on the create team, writing copy and sourcing images. Here are a couple of the articles I wrote:

Green business

Both these pages were designed by Jo Price

For a better quality look at the whole magazine you can read it in full here on issuu.

Craftivist Stitch-Ins For Fair Fares: Please Support them :)

I’m very excited to be going on the Railway Adventure on April 16. Here’s a blog from the Craftivist Collective on some stitch-ins and protest picnics happening at a station near you!

At 1pm on Saturday 10th April craftivists across the UK will join a nationwide protest to demand a halt to rail fare increases.  Currently the coalition Government plans to hike fares by 31% over the next 4 years. This is a huge issue and the Craftivist Collective would love you to support them.

The Craftivist Collective are supporting Climate Rush on the Railway Adventures campaign. Hundreds of craftivists (activists who protest using scissors, thread and fabric) will converge on railway stations across the UK for a super cute kitsch protest picnic and stitch-in.  They will be creating 4inch deep x 7inches wide fabric train coaches covered with statistics, facts, quotes and consumer views on our Government’s carbon-friendly transport policy, whilst drinking tea, eating jam sandwiches an

d talking about the issues. The various panels will be collated into a petition-train which will be taken on a Fair Fare Railway Adventure on Saturday 16th April.  It will be delivered to Philip Hammond MP (Minister for Transport) by direct action group: Climate Rush.

Sarah (Craftivist Collective) and Tamsin (Climate Rush) with their carriages

So far we there are craftivists coordinating stitch-ins in:

Brighton, Hastings, Coventry , Birmingham, Dorset,Leeds, Bristol, London, Manchester, Devon and Cornwall.

If you want to do coordinate a stitch-in near you please email craftivist-collective [at] hotmail dot com

They would love your support. Please join one of the pretty stitch-ins, set up your own or craft a carriage and post it to the Craftivist Collective before 15th April. You can find flyers, posters, content for our bunting petition, examples all here. They are also making an instructions video which will be available before end of March- watch this s

Philip Hammond MP, Secretary of State for Transport, said:

“Whether we like it or not, the ability to travel point-to-point on an individually-tailored timetable [i.e. in a car] is one of the great quality-of-life gains of the second half of the 20th century.”

Sarah Corbett, Founder of the Craftivist Collective, said:

“As the Craftivist Collective we are passionate about showing our love for local and global neighbours. These unfair fare increases will stop people using trains when we need help keeping our carbon footprints down. The increases will hit people living in poverty the most and stop them getting to their jobs and alienate them even more from society.

“Short-haul flights and cars shouldn’t be the cheapest most convenient option. Philip Hammond MP wants to hike fairs a massive 31% over the term of this Government. We’re here to demand fair fares and a sustainable alternative.”

On Saturday 16th April Craftivists with join Climate Rush on a Railway Adventure.  For more information please visit the Railway Adventure blog.