What is 853?

Greenwich Peninsula
Our part of London is going through huge change – but few understand it and hardly anybody reports on it

“I’ve not given up my policy of commenting on 853 leaks and I’m not going to start tonight.”
– Greenwich Council leader Danny Thorpe, September 2019

Thanks for reading 853. The site offers news and commentary on issues concerning Greenwich, Charlton, Blackheath, Woolwich, and the wider south-east London area.

It goes to council meetings, it reads the documents, puts in Freedom of Information requests, and talks to people – the stuff the local press gave up doing a long time ago, or is now seeking public handouts to do. It’s a proud member of the Independent Community News Network.

And most importantly, its readers now help fund it. Without this funding, the site couldn’t continue and much of what is here would go unreported. If you’d like to join the growing band of 853 supporters, visit www.patreon.com/853.

The bulk of what’s 853 does concerns Greenwich borough – with a general slant to the north and west of it – with the odd Lewisham story thrown in here and there where it’s of wider interest. It looks at politics, transport, infrastructure, planning and more.

Most stories are written by editor Darryl Chamberlain, but there’s more to 853

News: Stories you won’t read elsewhere, from council decisions to investigative pieces.
Comment: This site started as a personal blog, and will still offer an editorial opinion from time to time.
Mercury Man: The much-loved 1990s column from the then-leading local paper is back, pulling no punches while highlighting the good things in our communities.
Viewpoint: Got a strong view on an aspect of life in our part of London? Submit a Viewpoint piece and get your voice heard.
Community Spotlight: Are you part of a community group? Community Spotlight aims to promote the work of non-profit groups and other good causes in our patch.

With time and more funding, the aim is to expand the site to include more writers and a broader range of stories. If you’d like to help fund the site, visit www.patreon.com/853.

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

This site aims to report robustly, but fairly. It adheres to the Editors’ Code of Practice. (Got a complaint? Mistakes happen, so get in touch and we’ll try to fix things. For more serious issues, see out complaints procedure.) It’ll get off the fence when it has to, but will always remember there different sides to an issue. 853 believes in honest and transparent public affairs, and sustainable, liveable communities. Not too much to ask for, eh?

Here are some of the stories 853 has uncovered or explained over the years.



Ottie and the Bea, Blackheath
Journalism classes for seven-year-olds in Blackheath. See, anyone can write this stuff nowadays.

Some infrequently-asked-questions, answered by the site editor…

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.

How did the site come about?
After the glorious failure of dabbling in local politics, 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 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.

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.