“If you live locally, you’re lost if you don’t get news alerts from the tireless Darryl’s 853blog.com”
– The Greenwich Visitor, February 2012
Hello, welcome to 853. The site offers news and commentary on issues concerning Greenwich, Charlton, Blackheath, Woolwich, and the wider south-east London area. I go to council meetings, I read their documents, I put in Freedom of Information requests, and I talk to people.
This started in 2008 as a personal blog – somewhere to stick photos from my travels around London and around Europe. Then, as one of those things you do when you take redundancy from a job you’d been in for ages, I had the time and space to get interested in local issues and try to do something. First came a heady attempt to get elected to the council. That didn’t go so well – but I met lots of people with stories to tell me. And they weren’t being told by the local press.
So I went back to something I could do. Journalism. It’s evolved over the years, and it’s had its ups and downs, but I’m really proud of what I’ve done with 853. I’ve tried to cover the stories others haven’t. It’s helped expose bullying, arrogance and waste in Greenwich borough’s public affairs. It’s counted cable car passengers and managed to get hold of all sorts of interesting documents.
In a part of London squeezed by the twin curses of austerity and complacency, it’s important these stories get told, and that elected officials are held to account. Here are some of the stories 853 has uncovered or explained over the years.
NEWS AND FEATURES
- Greenwich Council gave prize to church whose pastor calls homosexuality ‘darkness’ (July 2017 – exclusive)
- Shut down: The east Greenwich pub run by its regulars (April 2017)
- Dirty borough: Greenwich’s street sweeping boss leaves after complaints (January 2017 – exclusive)
- Sadiq Khan backed Silvertown Tunnel five weeks after election – despite promising review (January 2017 – exclusive)
- Eltham Labour Party gets ‘fly-tipping’ warning after councillor’s items found in street (November 2016 – exclusive)
- Lewisham Council turns to Uber to fund Blackheath fireworks after Greenwich Council blows £17,000 on Hollywood stunt (October 2016 – exclusive)
- How former Greenwich Council leader represented borough in Berlin – with taxpayers paying hotel bill (September 2016 – exclusive)
- Greenwich councillors spent £20,000 on private mayoral party (June 2015 – exclusive)
- Greens rally round ‘no-show’ election candidate (May 2015)
- Emirates Air Line cable car now has NO regular commuters – followed up by the Independent and Daily Mail (December 2014)
- Blur’s Parklife on the Greenwich Peninsula: 20 years on (August 2014)
- A night at the Greenwich Council election count (May 2014)
- Buried Greenwich Council report criticises Silvertown Tunnel – followed up by News Shopper (May 2014 – exclusive)
- Beyond the Silvertown Tunnel – TfL eyes Ringway road revival (March 2014)
- Greenwich Council forced to reveal Silvertown Tunnel report (December 2013 – exclusive)
- Greenwich councillor’s bullying document kept secret (December 2013)
- Leader has final say on Greenwich Time, council finally admits (November 2013)
- Greenwich Time: Cut unflattering content or we’ll get our P45s (November 2013)
- Caught on tape: Greenwich Council leader bullying cabinet member – followed up by the News Shopper, which published the tape (September 2013 – exclusive)
- The Gilligan files – Greenwich Council’s cycling sulk revealed – followed up by the News Shopper (August 2013 – exclusive)
- The strange tale of the last bus from Kidbrooke Village (July 2013)
- Greenwich snubs cycling tsar over council criticisms (June 2013)
- Will Greenwich Labour pick right-wing party founder for council? (June 2013 – exclusive, praised by Labour MP Paul Flynn)
- Social cleansing – end of the Greenwich Peninsula dream? (April 2013)
- The Crossrail conundrum towering over Woolwich (February 2013)
- Greenwich Labour members reject council’s Silvertown campaign (January 2013)
- Greenwich Council courts Page 3’s Jodie to back Silvertown Tunnel (December 2012)
- Greenwich and Woolwich Foot Tunnels: Did council lie over works? (November 2012)
- Lifts breaking, lights flickering in ‘revamped’ Greenwich Foot Tunnel – followed up much later by BBC London. (April 2012)
- Revealed: Greenwich Council’s Eltham ‘DLR on stilts’ report (March 2012)
- No horses, no Irish – NOGOE goes back to the 70s – followed up by the Mail on Sunday (February 2012)
- Council eyes 40,000-capacity stadium for Greenwich Peninsula (February 2012)
- First look inside Woolwich Common’s Olympic shooting venue (December 2011)
- Did Southeastern overcharge your Oyster at Blackheath fireworks? – picked up by the South London Press five weeks later (November 2011)
- Ken Livingstone ‘rejected Boris’s cable car’ (November 2011 – exclusive)
- Bluecoat pupils ignored as Greenwich councillors rush for wine (October 2011)
- Planning farce as Greenwich Council backs equestrian centre (October 2011)
- Woolwich riots aftermath coverage (August 2011)
- Behind the scenes at Greenwich Park’s temporary stadium (July 2011) – Olympic test event coverage
- Delayed Cutty Sark stretching councillors’ patience (April 2011)
- Greenwich Council plans lavish mayor’s party despite cuts (April 2011 – exclusive) – even though he wanted to scrap it (January 2011 – exclusive)
- Meet the man behind the Peninsula Festival (May 2011)
- Greenwich rail users could face Olympic cuts (April 2011 – exclusive)
- Dead cat on the line: How train ‘plan’ distracts from real issue of who runs our rail (May 2017)
- Tall Ships 2017: Woolwich divided? (April 2017)
- Webcasting could be good for Greenwich Council – if councillors actually made use of it (March 2017)
- Southeastern smackdown: Worst of all worlds for SE London commuters (December 2016)
- Lewisham’s Ravensbourne Arms is closing – but why did nobody spot the warning signs? (October 2016)
- Goodbye to Greenwich’s ‘eco’-Sainsbury’s (June 2015)
- Journalism in SE London is slowly dying – why you should support the News Shopper strike (June 2015)
- Silvertown Tunnel: The perils of the path of least resistance (February 2015)
- Southeastern’s shambles – Greenwich’s farewell to Charing Cross (January 2015)
- The Guardian’s redundant row over Deptford’s Job Centre pub (July 2014)
- Goodbye Woolwich fire station, sorry we didn’t try harder (January 2014)
- Greenwich Council bullying: A night in denial at the town hall (November 2013)
- Flowers for Lee Rigby in Woolwich – but what happens next? (May 2013)
- Why Greenwich Peninsula is going in the wrong direction (April 2013)
- Stephen Lawrence – a measure of justice at long last (January 2012)
- Surrey Canal- south-east London’s great lost chance? (July 2010)
- Those who can, teach. Especially in Deptford. (July 2010 – which became a Guardian comment piece)
Who are you anyway?
I’m Darryl Chamberlain, a journalist living in Charlton. I started 853 in October 2008 when I decided I needed a “legit” blog after ranting and raving online under daft pseudonyms for years. I later took redundancy from a full-time job, and began to realise there was a gap in local news coverage. By day I’ve worked for the BBC, MoneySavingExpert.com and innovation charity Nesta. I’m currently looking for new assignments – take a look at my personal site for more about what I do.
Isn’t there a dirty political past?
One of the exciting things I did after taking redundancy was standing in May 2010’s council elections in Peninsula ward. I ran for the Green Party, inspired by the fine work their councillors were doing down the road in Lewisham. We lost, but I learned a lot from my experience. I’m no longer involved with the Greens and this blog strives to be, if not exactly neutral, aware that there’s other arguments about issues.
853 was the telephone exchange code (along with 858) for most of Greenwich, Charlton, and Blackheath until 2000. The number stuck in my head.
What else do you do?
I also edit the Charlton Champion, a collaboratively-written local site for SE7 which I hope provides a neutral forum for those who care about their community. I was part of the team behind The Scoop, a London politics blog from monthly arts and culture paper Snipe, which I wrote a column for. I’ve also done some work for greenwich.co.uk, including some editing, and popped up on The Greenwich Podcast when that was running.