All about 853

Ottie and the Bea, Blackheath
Journalism classes for seven-year-olds in Blackheath. Not recommended if you want to get the kids into a stable career…

“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.

853 is written and produced in conjunction with a sister site, The Charlton Champion, which details community news and happenings in the SE7 area.

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

COMMENT

Some infrequently-asked-questions…

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.

Why 853?
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.

Self-portrait