A third runway at Heathrow is back on the agenda. In 2010 the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition made a formal agreement that plans for a third runway should be scrapped. Yet there have been persistent murmurings from the British Airports Authority (BAA), big business and the chancellor about the need for an expansion of capacity. The issues of climate crisis and the tarmacking over of communities in the name of ‘development’ are being sidelined.
But in Sipson village, one of the places that would be bulldozed were the runway to go ahead, there sits a patch of land where those issues are very much alive. It is home to Grow Heathrow – a community space and growing project that exists to oppose runway expansion. ‘We don’t know what is going to happen with the third runway but the point about this place is that we are ready to resist it and we’re not going anywhere,’ says John Allen, who has been living and working at the space since April 2012.
Grow Heathrow began in 2010 when a group of people from Plane Stupid and Climate Camp moved into the local area to support residents in their resistance to the third runway. Having established relationships with the residents during the 2007 Climate Camp in a nearby field, the plan was to create a project that would be a continuation of this. The campaigners spotted an abandoned junk yard, which was home to three large greenhouses from its past as a plant nursery, and made plans to turn it into a community space. After receiving support from the local residents’ association, they squatted the site and went about transforming what had been a ‘sea of cars’ into a beautiful and inspiring project organising around climate change, food sovereignty, community resilience and squatting.
Their takeover of the site was welcomed by local residents, who were relieved to see the back of the scrapyard. But more important was the support that Grow Heathrow extended to the residents in their struggle against the third runway. As residents watched their village empty after bullying from BAA and the government, the fact that Grow Heathrow has stuck around means a great deal to them. This constant in a landscape of flux and uncertainty gave them ‘a sense of hope’ and made them feel supported, one resident told Allen.
The local residents were in turn quick to stand up for Grow Heathrow. In the early days when the police used to harass the people there, a telephone tree was used to contact a ‘flashmob’ of elderly women who would turn up and demand that the police leave ‘our activists’ alone.
Grow Heathrow is also an experiment in sustainable living. A wind turbine, constructed from scratch on site, and solar panels provide the energy it needs. There are planters full of vegetables at the front and in the greenhouses. The entire site is a maze of incredible eco-contraptions made on the spot from reclaimed materials. There is a clay pizza oven, providing pizza in four minutes flat – ‘the secret is a thin base and lots of ingredients’ – alongside stoves made from gas canisters, compost toilets, a compost mound that provides hot water, an outdoor wood burning shower, and a hay house that is currently in development.
‘What’s been great about this is that people with skills, and willing to share those skills with passion and energy, have come together to make all of this and that’s why I was attracted to it,’ John Allen explains.
Admiring the half-built hay house and listening to their future plans it is hard to imagine that their project and their right to a home is under threat. Yet inevitably the owners are taking them through the courts. In what is a landmark case, Grow Heathrow will argue against their eviction under Article Eight of the Human Rights Act, which guarantees the right to home and family life. While Article Eight currently applies to public landlords, it has not yet been determined whether it applies to the private sector. If the courts were to find that it did, this would have significant implications for privately renting tenants and squatters.
Grow Heathrow’s activists have many fights on their hands, but they’ve also got lots of support. John Allen describes how he was cycling through the town one day and passed a pub with a group of drunken men outside. They shouted at him as he cycled past: ‘Hey! You’re doing brilliant work!’
Andrew Dolan on how the left must match the anti-establishment rhetoric of the right, but with a different politics
In the first of a series of interviews with migrants' rights and racial justice activists from the US, Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Peter Pedemonti, co-founder and director of the New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia
Yasmin Gunaratnam reflects on John Berger’s gut solidarity with the stranger
Charlie Clarke and Heather Mendick discuss how to work through the tensions within Momentum
In 1972 David Widgery wrote about the bitter intensity of love in capitalism
Emma Snaith speaks with directors Emer Mary Morris and Nina Scott about the power of theatre to encourage community resistance to estate demolitions.
Photos from The World Transformed festival in Liverpool, by David Walters
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK
As man-made global warming gets closer to the tipping point, Andrew Simms finds reasons to be positive about averting catastrophic climate change
Greenwald speaks Trump, War on Terror, and citizen activism
Glenn Greenwald was interviewed by Amandla Thomas-Johnson over the phone from Brazil. Here is what he had to say on the War on Terror, Trump, and the 'special relationship'
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform
Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out
Don’t delay – ditch coal
Take action this month with the Coal Action Network. By Anne Harris
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.
Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.
Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History
Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.
A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas
Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn