“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.
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.
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)
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.
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.