Tag Archives: ACORN Bristol

Banksy’s Dismaland

Announcing: ACORN are an official part of Banskys Dismaland! And you can too - we need your help! Visit http://www.acorncommunities.org.uk/disma_volunteer to get involved!

Announcing: ACORN are an official part of Banskys Dismaland! And you can too – we need your help! Visit http://www.acorncommunities.org.uk/disma_volunteer to get involved!

New Orleans      At the end of a long catch-up Skype call with Stuart Melvin, ACORN United Kingdom’s national organizer, he mentioned he and some of the members were going to be spending some time at an odd street festival of sorts not far from our folks in Bristol, England along the coast in a town called Weston-super-Mare. Stu kinda laughed about it, said he couldn’t really describe it, but I should just Google the name of the town, and I’d get a sense of it. I meant to do so of course, but I didn’t, you know how these things go, there’s only so much time in the day.

A couple of mornings later I scan a piece in the New York Times about the latest mashup from world famous street and graffiti artist, and Bristol-native, the ever elusive, Banksy. The art community had been wondering what he had been up to during an unusually quiet stretch and suddenly, and in his typical way, secretly it seemed, he had opened a massive thing he called Dismaland on the English seaside. Interesting, I thought and kept on pushing.

Later at work an email from Stu says this bizarre experience went well. Ah, that’s right the gang was going to the shore, I’d almost forgotten. Finally, the pieces came together when I saw a Facebook picture of our crack ACORN Bristol organizer, Nick Ballard, waving an ACORN flag standing next to one of our volunteers, and in the background was, yes, you guessed it, Dismaland! Damned if Banksy and his people, whoever they might be, hadn’t invited ACORN to be one of the street attractions for this 5-week extravaganza that observers believe might attract as many as 400,000 people. No wonder Stu was excited that in his first afternoon out there in a couple of hours we had enrolled 50 provisional ACORN members, all of whom wanted ACORN in their towns!

The Guardian refers to Dismaland as a mixture of anarchism and amusement park. I’m Ok with that. Just days before the Bristol ACORN crew had posted pictures of a typical summer day and it was basically a shot of dark, cold, and rain. Now reading the descriptions of Dismaland and looking at some of the pictures, what can I say, I wish I were there!

For the art lovers, Banksy is displaying 58 artists’ work, and says these are pieces from the best contemporary artists in the world, “apart from the two that turned him down.” He has 10 new pieces on display including a thing on Cinderella where her carriage has crashed killing her and her horses. You buy your 3 pound ticket online except that the huge demand has crashed the dismaland.org.uk website of course when I first visited, and then you have to endure a cardboard security station with guards in pink hi-viz vests who tell you that you cannot bring squid into the park. There is a warning that no officials or lawyers from Disneyland are allowed entry of course.

There are the normal amusement park features with a twist. The isn’t an ATM but there is a “loan shop” for children that satirically jabs at 5000% interest rates and payday lending. There’s a portrait artist, but you can only get a portrait of the back of your head, which the promo says “is surprisingly revealing.” In a takeoff of the longstanding English institution, the Citizens Advice Bureau, the Comrade’s Advice Bureau teaches all interested in how they can unlock the bus display advertising posters and sells a special 5 pound tool to do the job. When asked whether this was legal, the Dismaland guide told The Guardian, “it is not illegal.”

How great is this? ACORN is honored and excited to be a part of this whole affair. But, hey, Banksy, what does it take for us to put this show on the road, so we can all go, have some laughs, be part of the fun, and shove our funny bones into the fat guts of the powers that be here and elsewhere around the world?

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These pictures credited to The Guardian. . .

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Bristol Wins First Agreement for Improved Rental Standards

10915261_869482249748692_5220009214410874635_nNew Orleans       Catching up on Skype this week, it was great to hear the progress ACORN Bristol had made in the United Kingdom in advancing the campaign to win what they call an Ethical Letting Charter or a model set of standards for landlords and tenants.  The campaign has been developing for months as tenants organized in Easton and other neighborhoods in Bristol have steadily banged on letting agents or real estate rental agencies to change their business practices on security, leases, and repairs.  Given the way the world works in Britain, the organization cannot just pound on the City Council for relief, so the campaign is forced to go after the industry and individual companies to win agreement on the standards.  After hard work the first company has voluntarily signed an agreement, so the bubble has been burst and ACORN members are determined to bring the rest in line.

The full text of the agreement is well laid out, but too long to include all of it here.   The key items though are utterly reasonable and well summarized.   The Ethical Letting Charter calls for the following major principles:

Security

The ethical lettings charter centres upon a commitment to security of tenure; beginning with support for and use of recurring Assured Short hold Tenancies (AST’s); the strengthening of conditions for serving notice to tenants which enable more ethical evictions and repossessions; as well as extending time frames

Cost –

Commitments centre upon recurring AST’s with no extra cost; a phasing out of tenancy fees, beginning with their transparent valuation including costs; the reduction of deposits to affordable amounts, stored within accredited tenancy deposit protection schemes that are not arbitrarily reducible; as well as the careful scrutiny of rent prices

Quality

Commitments centre upon making and keeping properties at a statutory and recommended level of quality, maintenance as well as health & safety. Checks, repairs and improvements should be carried out within sufficient time frames and to recommended legal standards

Access

Commitments centre upon the stopping of discrimination against potential tenants due to their belonging to any protected group and/or being welfare recipients and/or parents/carers with dependents; as well as work with ACORN and the local authority to promote equal access in the future

ACORN intends to award “a Gold, Silver or Bronze Accreditation, reflecting the level of commitments” made by landlords and rental agencies.  The charter is firmly rooted in reality and understands that some of the improvements will take time and therefore ACORN indicates that it will monitor the signatories carefully as they move “towards greater levels of commitment” and improve their accreditation ratings over time.

This is a breakthrough campaign for tenants’ rights in Britain, and since the same issues pop up all around the world, it’s worth following closely.

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Street Dogs “Up the Union”

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