Waltham Forest Together
Updated: Apr 27
In early April, hubRen took part in a beautiful grassroots gathering of local residents and activists for an afternoon of conversation, creativity and community. It was a feast of free food, a celebration of mutual aid, a weaving together of responses to inequality through music, food and connection. Just as the causes of injustice are connected, the solutions to these injustices are also interwoven with each other.
Waltham Forest Together is a super local grassroots coalition of housing activists, trade unionists, migrant rights activists, socialists, and local food-co-ops, joining together to take action against the housing injustice, poverty and inequality we see in our borough.
What does housing, poverty and inequality have to do with climate? A lot! The causes of both are deeply entwined, with extractive capitalism and the exploitational mindset as the connecting roots, siphoning away wealth and health from humans, nature and community. Households are responsible for 40% of the UK's emissions, and people suffering from poverty and poor housing are more at risk from the effects of extreme weather along with being more exposed to pollution and poor air quality. A Green New Deal with provisions for mass home insulation along with a shift to renewables, away from erratic and soaring fossil fuel prices will benefit the poorest households the most.
I met a few of the organisers during the 2021 E17 Art Trail, when I had the work-in-progress version of the hub set up outside my house. Cat & Shaunna were in the process of setting up a food co-op, now well established and helping dozens of neighbours to minimise their food bills and food waste while also building community connection. I was so thrilled when they enthusiastically agreed to have me along (inviting myself and the hub to things seems to be my MO at the moment).
A primary focus of the event was housing; how to resist racist evictions, help with accessing benefits and advice, understanding your rights and building solidarity. A huge red banner that stretched from one end of the hall to the other read..
The Enemy Doesn't Arrive By Boat, He Arrives By Limousine
Waltham Forest Migrant Action were there with bundles of warmth, advice and humanity, along with Unionist East London Unite campaigning to halt the unnecessary expansion of the Edmonton Incinerator. The Hornbeam Cafe, The Gleaners and the local Cooperation Town food co-op collaborated to provide everyone with hot drinks and abundant, nutritious food, both as a hot meal to share together and groceries to take home in Iftar bags.
Kids were entertained with t-shirt making and crafts, and my favourite stall of all was the Anti Capitalist Nail Bar, 'The Revolution At Your Fingertips', for lovely chat of a radical nature and a free manicure in fetching shades such as 'Momrade', 'Joyful Militant', 'The Unschooler' and 'Pacifist'. So fun, I got 'Momrade', a beautiful turquoise.
Lovely rad chat was also in joyful abundance at my pop-up climate and community resilience hub - hubRen!
There was SO MUCH talking, I had to gulp copious quantities of tea to keep my post-covid throat from seizing up. With every conversations I tried to ask either 'What do you think?' or 'How do you feel?' and every single person expressed deep concern and worry for what they could see as the unfolding, un-addressed climate crisis.
Waltham Forest is an incredibly diverse borough, with people from all corners of the globe and walks of life. This diversity was clearly apparent in the crowd that attended and in the myriad of voices that unequivocally, looking me right in the eye, stated "I am scared, I am worried about climate change, I don't know what to do, what can I do?".
Many books, movies, podcasts were suggested, emails gathered, ideas shared and connections made. I had a plan to take some video and photos of the hub but just didn't have the time! Too much chatting.
Joanna Macy says that the heart that breaks open can hold the whole world. It both broke my heart anew to hear and hold the grief of strangers, yet it was also a gift, for our grief is our love. It's easy to think that we are alone in our concern, but we aren't.
The hub is still a work in progress, I am still making bits, sewing and sawing, futzing about and changing things. It turned out the poster hanging set up I had was not so great in gusty wind, so that needed a re-think. It's a process, never as fast as I wish it was. But this event was the closest I have gotten so far to seeing the hub work in the way it was first envisioned. A tool to connect with my community, to help us all connect the dots and reweave a future that is joyful, safe, creative, satisfying, abundant, caring and fun! I'm so excited for more events like this in the future.
I recently received the super exciting news that I was successful in a funding bid (written while sick with covid, thanks feverish writing zone!), with a proposal to take the bike on a tour around Waltham Forest this summer, popping up in different places, each pop up partnering with different local groups to give each event a distinctly different focus and flavour. So, watch this space! Wanna pop up with me? Drop me a line!
You cannot change any society unless you take responsibility for it, unless you see yourself as belonging to it and responsible for changing it. – Grace Lee Boggs