Howler 17 out now!

The new Howler is out. You can get it from Freedom Books, Newham Bookshop and Housemans. Please contact us if you would like copies. Here is an article written for the Howler by a Clapton Football Club supporter.

Clapton Ultras: Football fans shaking things up in East London

This is an edited version of an article that appears in the current edition of Strike!
Before 2012 there were no Clapton Ultras: over the space of only three seasons, a group of left-wing anti-fascist football fans have, with their passion, noisy songs and a fondness for smoke flares in support of Clapton FC, a club in Forest Gate in east London, shaken up the staid, parochial county league that the team plays in.
What is happening in Forest Gate is a reflection of a growing trend amongst an increasing number of football fans who are tired of paying £50 or more for a match ticket, or simply cannot afford to, just to watch a game with no atmosphere or spectacle. At Clapton FC, most fans also support a League side, but have adopted a local team, one with a long and rich history but forever at the fringes of football, because it means watching with friends for only £6, a beer in hand, without oppressive policing or officious stewards insisting everyone remain seated. For many, this is what has attracted them to switch to non-league football, or to return to the game after often years away from regular attendance at overpriced Premiership and League fixtures.

There is something else, however, that makes the Clapton Ultras noticeably different from other groups of football supporters: their absolute opposition to the often boorishly sexist, homophobic and right-wing sentiment and behaviour tolerated at many larger clubs. This has been coupled with the adoption of the best elements of a continental anti-fascist Ultras’ culture that is strengthened by the presence of many Italian, Spanish and Polish fans.

This attitude extends to the club’s place in its local neighbourhood, one of the poorest in London and the most ethnically diverse in the country. Acts of solidarity organised by the Clapton Ultras include distributing rights cards on the powers of immigration enforcement teams, organising food donations for a local project supporting asylum seekers with no access to public funds, raising cash for local group supporting victims of domestic violence and turning up in numbers to support campaigns around homelessness and evictions. At the end of the last season, on a truly magical day involving rainbow-coloured smoke flares, we helped launch an appeal that eventually succeeded in raising funds to keep open Newham’s only LGBT youth group, which faced closure because of council cuts.
For many of us, this kind of community organising is just as important as the football: the Ultras bring together, in significant numbers, a group of like-minded activists with years of campaigning experience who can make a real impact locally. This extended to encouraging more local people so Clapton FC better reflects the community where it is based: just recently, we held a stall at the local Forest Gate Festival simply to remind local people that the club still exists and is far more welcoming and family-friendly than many might imagine. It’s a real necessity because, perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority of working class football fans remain white, straight and male. Constantly reaffirming our opposition to all forms of discrimination is slowly encouraging a greater level of diversity as the number of supporters increases, but not as fast as we would like.

Fundamentally, though, the Clapton Ultras remain just football fans, who happen to have created a safe, supportive space for others like themselves on the radical, largely unaligned left. It’s somewhere to have a laugh, make new friends, temporarily forget what a massive cockwomble David Cameron is and still enjoy an outpouring of emotion at away game in a tiny village somewhere out in the wilds of Essex.

You can find the Clapton Ultras online at claptonultras.org, on Facebook at facebook.com/ClaptonUltras and on Twitter at @ClaptonUltras

The Clapton Ultras fanzine, Red Menace, is at
redmenacefanzine.wordpress.com
The Clapton Ultras podcast, The Old Spotted Dogcast, is at theoldspotteddogcast.wordpress.com

 

 

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Howler 16 Out Now! Keep the Rich off our Pitch

The 16th edition of the Howler is now out. We focus on a range of new campaigns in Newham and Tower Hamlets. We also include an article from the inspiring Reclaim Hackney.

KEEP THE RICH OFF OUR PITCH

Another five years of a Conservative government, determined to attack the working class and those most vulnerable in society, has caused both anger and despair. Whilst some spend their time moaning and planning for the next election, others are stepping up the fight-back that had already gained momentum well before the election. Campaigns continue to spring up all over East London: eviction resistance, saving social housing from developers, protests against the tower blocks being built for the rich, fights to preserve important community places such as markets and pubs, and a general fightback against austerity and cuts.  What all the campaigns have in common is the determination to make sure that the working class can afford to live and work in East London. This is becoming increasingly difficult as the whole area is becoming gentrified, as seen in the increased rents and house prices and the spread of up-market chain stores, ‘boutiques’, and expensive cafes and restaurants. Working class neighbourhoods are being rebranded, like the new ‘Upton Village’. The Chief Executive of Galliard, Stephen Conway (born in Bow himself) is quoted in the Daily Telegraph as saying: “London is no longer affordable for people on normal wages. In fact, it never really was”. We refuse to accept that a city like London is for the rich.

In this issue of The Howler, we focus on some of the new campaigns that are adding their voice to Focus E15, Friends of Queen’s Market, Fred John Towers and others in the struggle to stop social cleansing and gentrification. Boleyn Development 100 is demanding 100% social housing on the site of the West Ham stadium. The lack of truly affordable housing is the main factor forcing people to move out of the area. Save Chrisp St Market in Poplar, similar to Friends of Queen’s Market in Upton Park, realises the danger to the community if a traditional market is ‘redeveloped’; it means higher prices, shops and traders forced out and social housing knocked down. The end result is that a working class community has been changed into one that is aimed at the well-off. The campaign stresses that cheap shopping is as crucial to maintaining a local community as housing. More and more people are joining the struggle. As one campaigner from Boleyn Development 100 said: ‘Keep the rich off our pitch!’

 

 

 


Howler 14 Out now!

Issue 14 of  Action East End’s paper, The East End Howler is now out. It features articles about the Focus E15 Mothers campaign and The No Poor Doors campaign

You can pick up a copy at East London bookshops

Freedom Bookshop, Angel Alley, 84b Whitechapel High Street, London E1

Newham Bookshop, 747 Barking Road, London E13

East Side Books, 166 Brick Lane, London E1

Downloads here.

http://www.dropbox.com/s/90r1bar0ppaskxv/ee_howler_14.pdf?dl=0


New Howler out! Issue 11 October 2012

The latest edition of The Howler is out now. The main theme of Issue 11 is the Olympic legacy, looking at the impact through the eyes of local campaigns. If you would like hard copies to distribute, please e-mail us. Otherwise, it will soon be on the blog to download.