In 2004, Lord Levy, Tony Blair’s ‘pimp’ for getting the super rich to fund Blair’s school academies project, visited the then Labour-run Brent Council and persuaded it to support the building of an academy on the Wembley Park sports ground. As usual this was kept secret – but the unions soon found out.
We fought back hard using a variety of tactics, which escalated over the long struggle to save the sports ground. It began with the usual meetings, pickets of council meetings, letter-writing and petitions. The council was embarrassed but determined to proceed. We knew we were gathering support and in 2006 their stance against the academy played a key part in the Lib Dem win at the council elections (see box, right). The academy was withdrawn – victory.
A few months later, however, it was all back on the cards. The new consultation was even more of a con than the first one and we treated it with the contempt it deserved. Meetings were disrupted and we even took over one and ran it ourselves. We produced a number of scurrilous broadsheets – scurrilous because the truth was scurrilous! Eventually we occupied the sports ground. This started with just two of us striking up a tent and then others joined us.
The original sponsor of the proposed academy backed out – but another group stepped in: ARK, a group of multi-millionaire hedge fund speculators (leading lights are Arki Busson, Paul Marshall and Stanley Fink), who worked closely with all three main parliamentary parties to ensure that they stayed on board with their privatisation agenda.
Our occupation continued. Our protest actions included building tree houses on the site, numerous public meetings, forming an alliance with the local residents association, organising a ‘flash camp’ for a week outside the town hall, launching a legal challenge, getting thousands to sign our petition, having over 100 camping on the site overnight, and having many hundreds visiting during the day and supporting some of the fundraising events.
We left after six months when the lease on the sports ground was extended for a year. Then the council reneged on that agreement and moved to evict the people who ran the site, including a nursery. We occupied again but this time they went for court orders. The fantastic support meant even this had to be delayed. We held a rooftop protest by camping on the roof. Finally, in July 2009, after we had been evicted, another group reoccupied the site before being violently removed after a couple of weeks, when the whole sports ground was secured with guard dogs patrolling.
We held up the process for five years, which we consider a partial victory. We have to remember that we are in a war to save state education and we will not achieve complete victory in every battle. In making it increasingly difficult for the privateers, though, we start to turn the tide. Our action spawned others all over the country, including the occupation of the school roof at Lewisham Bridge, which defeated the academy proposal there, and a victorious campaign at Royal Docks school in Newham against ARK taking it over.
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
As man-made global warming gets closer to the tipping point, Andrew Simms finds reasons to be positive about averting catastrophic climate change
In this extract from his new book The Candidate, Alex Nunns tells the inside story of how Jeremy Corbyn scraped onto the Labour leadership ballot in 2015
Graham Jones proposes a framework for a diverse movement to flourish
Musician Eliane Correa reflects on the fading revolution
Trump's victory is another sign of the failure of the centre-left's narrative on climate change. A new message is needed, and new politicians to deliver it, writes Alex Randall
Siobhán McGuirk says the question we are too afraid to ask is simple - what kind of society leads to Donald Trump as President?
The battle lines are clear. Democracy is in peril and the left must take itself seriously electorally and politically. Ruth Potts speaks to Gary Younge, who was based in Muncie, Indiana, for the US election, about the implications of Donald Trump’s victory
We need a society built on openness, community and equality to truly defeat everything that trump stands for, writes Nick Dearden.
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Short story: Syrenka
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Utopia: Industrial Workers Taking the Wheel
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry – and its lessons for today
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
Utopia: Room for all
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
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
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
'A small manifesto for black liberation through socialist revolution' - Graham Campbell reviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation'
The Fashion Revolution: Turn to the left
Bryony Moore profiles Stitched Up, a non-profit group reimagining the future of fashion
The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.
Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.
Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism
What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry