June ‘Reclaim Lambeth’ event planned as activists unite

Libraries and Cressingham Gardens campaigners joined forces outside a Lambeth council cabinet meeting earlier this year
Libraries and Cressingham Gardens campaigners joined forces outside a Lambeth council cabinet meeting earlier this year

Activists and community members met in Brixton at the weekend to launch Reclaim Lambeth – an initiative to unite single-issue campaign groups in the borough.

One outcome of the meeting will be a Reclaim Lambeth “public event” on 25 June, designed to bring together the issues that the borough’s activists are campaigning about.

“We aren’t just protesting,” said a statement “We want to put forward a positive vision of our borough, one of equality, democracy and justice.”

The intention is to build on last year’s Reclaim Brixton event – “developing the successful library and housing campaigns that have emerged”.

The following day, 26 June, “marks the birthday of the Brixton Black revolutionary Olive Morris and we want to take this opportunity to celebrate her life and legacy.”

About 50 people took part in the in the Brixton library meeting that discussed housing, gentrification, library closures, government cuts and the proposed Garden Bridge.

The initiative came from Lambeth housing activists, members of the trade union Unison and library campaigners.

“It is time to unite our campaigns to take action together to reclaim Lambeth and make it a borough where we aren’t being driven out by sky high house prices and rent and where we have the services and community that people need,” they said. Lambeth council and central government were refusing to listen to the people of Lambeth.

The meeting split into groups of five and six to discuss what unified local campaigns and how this might be harnessed.

Ideas discussed included partnering with Reclaim Hackney and a series of themed music, poetry and film events that would build momentum for change and keep issues alive beyond one-off demonstrations.

Simon Hardy of Unison, said: “Lambeth is a brilliant borough, but it’s been destroyed by Westminster cuts imposed by an unaccountable council.”

His thoughts were echoed by Dan Jeffery, vice chair of Lambeth Unison. He said: “The group as a whole thought there was a big disconnect between the council, councillors and the people of Lambeth.

“People feel utterly ignored on key issues like the Garden Bridge. The council is not representing the people. If they refuse to listen to us, then we’ll continue to hold these demonstrations.”

After last month’s 2,000-strong show of defiance against the closure of Carnegie and Minet libraries, there were suggestions that a heightened police presence in Windrush Square outside the library on Saturday was because the authorities believed the Reclaim Lambeth meeting was going to be a demonstration.

But chief inspector Roy Smith of Brixton police station said: “We are aware of the Reclaim Lambeth event, our local liaison officers have spoken with the group in Windrush Square with no issues identified. There is a visible police presence across Lambeth today which is very much business as usual.”

The next Reclaim Lambeth meeting is scheduled for 4 June.

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