In our busy, sometimes hectic schedule, we’re going to set aside some time to do some research in preparation for writing some lengthier pieces, some of which may be produced as pamphlets. It’s working titles only at the moment – as the research progresses, more suitable titles may emerge. Also, please note that we won’t be rushing these projects and they will be spread out over a fair few months. Here are the ideas in no particular order…
Between the Plotlands and the New Town
As some of you may be aware, before the construction of Basildon New Town, there were existing settlements at both Laindon and Pitsea. Some of those settlements were made up of what were called the Plotlands. These were informal settlements formed when farmers in the early part of the 20th century who were struggling to make a living on marginal agricultural land, divided their farms into plots and sold them off to people to build whatever they wanted on. What emerged was a series of informal settlements ranging from cabins through to bungalows but…they weren’t plumbed or wired into the utilities that we all take for granted. Billericay Urban District were reluctant to spend the money needed to connect a scattered collection of cabins and huts to the utilities, let alone pave the roads. So, when it was proposed to build a new town over the existing Plotland settlements, the council were only too happy to roll over and oblige.
There’s already an extensive body of literature on the history of the Plotlands, in Basildon and elsewhere across the country. With the release of the film. New Town Utopia, there’s a lot of focus on the disparity between the original vision for Basildon and the depressing reality we’re only too painfully aware of with our work with Basildon & Southend Housing Action, Brooke House Residents and Vange Hill Community Group. We want to do this research and writing, not because we’re local history geeks but because we want to deal with the tension between top down planning (and it’s casualties) on the one hand and informal bottom up settlement on the other.
Post Brexit food security and supply
The more you read about the food supply chain, the more you realise that it wouldn’t take much to seriously disrupt it. A ‘no deal’ Brexit with the subsequent delays in getting food imports into the country would cause chaos. What is already having an impact is the number of migrant workers in the agricultural sector across the UK who are packing up and going home because the decline in sterling since Brexit is hitting their earnings and they’re concluding there’s no point in staying on.
We’ve already written on The Estuary Alternative about the need for more community food growing projects to not only offset the impacts of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, but also to start giving people more control over how their food is sourced. The aim of this research is to firm up our arguments for a more sustainable, localised form of food production.
The retreat into national and cultural identity
Many years ago, this is where I first came into contact with identity politics…or at least what I thought was identity politics! This was back in the 1990s when it was felt that with the decline in the project of achieving material advancement for the working class, there were clear signs of a compensatory retreat into national and cultural identity. With the further demise of any notion that the prospect of stability and a decent standard of living for the working class is achievable, the retreat into national and cultural identity has accelerated and is manifest in the waves of populism that we’re currently witnessing.
We feel that it’s time to address this and start working out ways of de-bunking this kind of identity while developing an inspiring, progressive political alternative that will capture people’s imaginations. Failure to achieve this will come at a heavy cost…
Dave (the editor)