This summer Sisters Uncut opened up an empty flat on an estate in East London as part of their ongoing campaign against cuts in domestic violence services. The flat stayed open for months and was full of activity and people, and the action resulted in some serious changes to Hackney official policy — not least getting a kid’s playground reopened.
Sisters Uncut started in response to massive cuts to women’s refuges and other crucial services which have happened during a rise in domestic violence and this has led to an increase in deaths due to domestic violence for the first time in decades.
In Hackney they have been campaigning about housing policy including stopping the loss of social housing and people in desperate circumstances being turned away by the council, and calling for more empty flats to be used for temporary accommodation. This summer they made that call a reality for one flat in Marian Court in the E9 area.
As soon as the flat was opened up the group made a massive effort to reach out and connect with people in the block and the surrounding estates. One of the first activities was a kids’ breakfast club, providing free food and a cup of tea and a chat.
The flat was on a block which had many empty flats and was being used to house families on a short-term basis and many of them got involved in the activities. When the weather was hot the kids made a demand for a paddling pool and soon the lawn outside the flat was the scene for a lot of splashing.
The action worked due to a big effort to reach out and talk to people, to make the flat comfortable and welcoming and simultaneously pushing for concrete changes to local policy through lively direct actions. The campaign tied together many Issues that are having a serious impact on people including loss of social housing, homelessness, domestic violence, racism and worsening conditions for children in poor areas.
The campaign also worked because it was very serious and at the same time really good fun. Families were constantly in and out of the flat and felt welcomed and they were on the demos joining in. Kids from the block looked like they were having the time of their lives.
Sisters Uncut currently have groups in north, east and south east London, Portsmouth, Doncaster, Bristol and Newcastle. Find out more at www.sistersuncut.org.
This article first appeared in the Winter 2016 edition of Freedom anarchist journal