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PLACE WASTE DISSENT is a book that takes the aesthetics of poetry as seriously as the occupation and protests that inspired its writing.
Having spent three years in the early 1990s occupying properties and protesting in Claremont Road, east London, poet Paul Hawkins maps the run-off, rackets and resistance along the route of the proposed M11 Link Road.
Using the voices of Dolly Watson and many others in avant-garde experimental text and lo-fi collage, he explores place, waste and dissent; the stake the Thatcher/Major Tory government was driving into the heart of the UK.
From Claremont Road to Cameron via surveillance culture and Occupy: transient-beta memory traces re-surfacing along the A12. This collection is an important reflection on a historic site of resistance, offering us illumination, ideas and inspiration for the future.
The collage is taken from photographs by Julia Guest, Maureen Measure, Steve Ryan, Sarer Scotthorne and personal photographs/archive ephemera of Paul. On each page of the book the text and images have been cut and pasted by hand by Paul, and, in a long sequence of text/image called Flea, by poet Sarer Scotthorne.
‘The collage format of text and imagery works perfectly in conveying the complex dynamic of community struggle, external politics and inner personal insecurity. Its sense of “being in the thick of it”, of being adrift and yet trying to get a handle on things, of being players in a drama that was both orchestrated and out of control is exactly what it felt like. Parts of Place Waste Dissent brought me close to tears.’
– Ian Bourn (artist, film-maker, former resident of Claremont Road, Leyton)
‘Picture Sesame Street as reimagined by Guy Debord and the set designers for Apocalypse Now.’
‘This book is a timely reminder that it only takes a few determined individuals to tear down the facade of order. Injustice breeds discontent. This powerful work documents how damaging that can be for all.’
‘These human stories are a reminder that what was at stake was not just the erasure of some lines in the A-Z of London but an assault upon a living community.’
‘Place Waste Dissent is a valuable, experimental, unique contribution to contemporary British poetry. It serves to illustrate that every life and experience is valuable, and to impel us to resist anything that encroaches.’
‘I loved Hawkins’ book. The lo-fi, analogue, cut and paste of word and image is richly redolent of that early ’90s squat and crusty culture.’
– Tony White, Piece of Paper Press
‘ . . . the mix of poetry, photographs and a multitude of voices is impressive, moving and assertive, proving that creativity and aesthetics can live alongside political protest without appearing twee or being completely redundant.’
‘ . . . this book, more than any I have read in a long time, is a collection. It truly works as a whole: poems bleed into one another, characters disappear and reappear later in the collection, images reflect and haunt other images. This book recreates and re-presents the culture and time which it is reflecting upon, and it is an ‘archive’ that delightfully overwhelms with sound and image. This book is important.’
‘. . . provided me with passion, inspiration, information, an appreciation of community and the gentle reminder that life is a balance of good and bad. It is a truly beautiful book.’
‘The photos alone would be fascinating – but it is the personal stories, told unvarnished, that give a real feel for the time.’
– Red Pepper
This text is from 20th Century London, and goes some way to explaining the chronology;
“One of Britain’s largest and longest anti-road building protests took place in East London during the 1980s and 90s. It came to a climax in 1993 when, after exhausting all other avenues, the campaign turned to direct action.
The protest concerned the demolition of 400 houses in Leyton, Leytonstone and Wanstead to make way for an inner-city motorway. The new road was to link the M11, opened in the early 1970s, to London’s road network. This meant pushing the road through the Victorian terrace streets between Hackney marshes and Redbridge roundabout.
The first Link Road Action Group was formed in 1976. For the next 15 years, the residents fought government plans through public enquiries. The residents’ solution was to build a road tunnel, leaving the houses untouched. By the 1980s, planning blight had affected the area and many of the houses had become home to a community of artists and squatters. Some were tenants of the housing co-operative ACME, which let derelict East End property to artists on short leases.
Construction of the road began in the early 1990s, followed in 1993 by the start of a direct action campaign to resist the final evictions. Residents transformed the Victorian terraces into a makeshift walled city, blocking up the entrances and creating new interior routes between the houses and over the rooftops. The streets became a daily battle of wills between the bailiffs, trying to evict people, and the inventive residents.
The presence of so many artists created a visual protest. The houses themselves were turned into artworks, vividly decorated with slogans and banners. The residents were very media-aware, producing newsletters and videos and engaging in stunts. In April 1994, protestors climbed on to the roof of the home of a government transport minister and symbolically drove a motorway through his house by painting it.
In January 1994, the protestors declared the independence of the sovereign state of ‘Wanstonia’. When Wanstonia fell to the bailiffs in February, the neighbouring state of ‘Leytonstonia’ declared independence. The chestnut tree on George Green became a fierce focus of the protest. The protestors built tree houses and encouraged people to send letters to the tree, which meant that it was officially a residence and had a certain protection in law. Legal protection ran out in December 1993, and the tree was chopped down.
The protestors’ last bastion was Claremont Road, where the final evictions took place in December 1994. By this time, the protest had become an international news story and the world’s press and media witnessed the occasion. Five years later in October 1999, the M11 link road was officially opened.”
I spent three years occupying properties and protesting in Claremont Road between 1990 and 1993 and have filled notebooks with stories, notes, poems, characters, memories, photos, newspaper clippings, recordings etc from those days. Especially from Dolly Watson, who was born in 32 Claremont Road, and died in 2001, having been forcibly evicted from her home by riot police in 1994. In 2013 Erbacce Press published a collection of poems in a pamphlet called Claremont Road which was mainly based around some of my experiences living there. That year I wrote and performed Flea, which was a story-telling project about specific events and the journey of several characters which started in Claremont Road.