Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Don't be fooled by my links section down the side. Although I am not entirely IT-illiterate, I am allergic / barely able to sort out the background of my blog, and so the list of links has remained unchanged for two years, despite my accumulation of terrific blogs and websites.

The blog whose absence from my links should provoke the most outrage is Sit down man, you're a bloody tragedy (the tragedy being Ramsay MacDonald). Its writer, Owen, astounds, delights and terrifies me (the latter because of his sheer erudition). I was browsing through SDM's archives last night, when I came across this:

RACHEL STEVENS, "I will be there"

If it weren't March (a little too early for making predictions), and if it weren't 2005 (when this was actually released), and this had've been released as a single (which it wasn't), I'd proclaim it single of the year.


Speaking of hauntology...

Provoked by an appreciation in this month's Wire (not available online, alas), I have spent an evening on Youtube checking out J Dilla / Jay Dee. He reminds me of Ariel Pink - barely-written songs, samples which sound like they've been traced rather than spliced, non-vocals drenched in an amniotic dreamworld...

It's interesting listening to him alongside, say, De La Soul (some of whose work he produced - "Stakes is high", f'rinstance). De La, and in particular AOI: Bionix (by far their best LP), make the sort of hip-hop which will be played to the blessed in utopia whenever the end of history comes around (LL Cool J's "Around the way girl" would too). De La's music can be sad, but it shimmers, its vocals embalm you, it is undeniably alive.

Dilla's music, on the other hand, festers and disintegrates, like he wanted to make this perfect record to be played when the sprinklers are on, but life got in the way and stained it. He often recorded over tapes of unmastered, discarded instrumentals, and the traces of those unwanted tracks resonate across Dilla's beats.

I got into Dilla through the caramelly, faintly tangy "So far to go", recorded with Common and D'Angelo. Like "Won't go", also from his second solo album The Shining, it samples the Isley Brothers. Elsewhere, he samples Donald Byrd, Kraftwerk, the Stylistics, ESG, Zapp, Minnie Ripperton etc. This is classic pop-funk-soul gone bad.

There's a virtually inexhaustible supply of his stuff on Youtube - singles, album tracks, demos, solo work, group work with Slum Village, remixes etc. Here's a sample - let the man speak to you from the grave.

COMMON featuring D'ANGELO, "So far to go"

J DILLA, "Won't do"

SLUM VILLAGE, "The look of love"



Can a building be anti-capitalist? Yes - so long as it does not obey its fundamental rules.

A building which has no value and which produces no surplus deviates from the logic of capitalism whereby all objects (including people) are judged according to their profitability. An empty building performs a dual (un)purpose: it fails to generate profit, and by standing on valuable ground it prevents another building from generating profit.

Hoorah, therefore, for derelict buildings!

The Anglo-Saxon form of capitalism is based on a deep-rooted utilitarianism. Everything must have a capacity for profit, a potential to produce surplus value. That which does not is dismissed as wasteful or useless. This is not quite the case in, for example, France and Germany, where radicalism and reflection are privileged. But Anglo-Saxon nations privilege practicality. They quickly judge when something is alive (profitable) and when it is dead (unprofitable, and therefore redundant).

The French writer Georges Bataille inverted this view. He believed that the bourgeois emphasis on utility denies basic human drives, and that a life dedicated to work is really no more than a living death. He called the emphasis on utility “profane”, and contrasted it with the “sacred”, a mode of life which is not subordinated to production, and which enables people to live in the here-and-now.

Bataille would therefore be a champion of buildings which have outlived their original purpose. Two such buildings are Battersea Power Station and the West Pier at Brighton (though this website explores whole villages whose moment has passed).

Battersea Power Station no longer generates electricity and is structurally unsound; the West Pier has collapsed into the sea. As far as capitalism is concerned, they are both useless and should be replaced by something more purposeful - and our utilitarian friends have been planning hotel complexes and theme parks on these sites for years. And yet, the power station has been not been operational for 25 years, and the pier lost contact with the land in 1975. These ghostly buildings ain't conceding to capital without a fight.

This seems particularly pertinent to the discussion on “hauntology,” which k-punk has led, and which is the subject of a symposium at the Museum of Garden History in a month or so. The term 'hauntology' was coined by Derrida in Spectres of Marx to describe the way in which traces of Marxism can exist in a society which, according to the neoliberals, has outlived Marx. Even though capitalism has overcome socialism, it can never be altogether free of its influence. The ghosts of Marxism, and in particular its messianic hope for a better world, continue to haunt our twenty-first century world.

Hauntology (homophonous to “ontology” in French) is generally seen as a theory of being where the present is haunted by the past. I’m not sure this is entirely true – the capitalist present is constantly preoccupied by the future, and some science fiction writing (especially comics) would fit the category of hauntology perfectly.

The spectrality of these buildings means that they are barely present - they do not occupy a comfortable place in the accepted order of things, and so they hardly exist. They are deviant. But by not subordinating to the demands of the past or the future, in negating both tradition and investment, they are absolutely present. The more skeletal they become (both are open to the elements), the more we see their ghosts. We are unable to grasp them, and yet they possess a rare vitality. Such buildings refuse capitalism's demands. They are the playgrounds of another world.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


There’s nothing like an overcast sky, a flurry of snow and the mention of radar to get my juices flowing. So it was that my father and I braced a vicious east coast breeze to visit Bawdsey yesterday to take a look at the Radar Group’s Magic Ear exhibition.

The exhibition, which is on every Sunday and Bank Holiday, explains the development of radar technology. In February 1936, Bawdsey Manor was purchased by the Ministry of Defence to further research the discovery by Robert Watson Watt and Arnold Wilkins that aircraft up to eight miles away could be detected using radio waves. By the outbreak of World War II in 1939, four 360 foot transmitter towers and four 250 foot lattice receiving masts had been built and aircraft could be detected at a distance of 140 miles. Later, a system of simultaneous readings from five Chain Home stations – Bawdsey, Great Bromley, High St , Dunkirk and Swingate – enabled the accurate trajectory plotting of the German V2 rockets that were being used to bomb London.

The exhibition is comprehensive but I am never going to understand complex radar technology in a thousand years. It was its location that made us visit – the desolate nuclear-age surroundings, the Transmitter Block with its sub-station switch gear, the giant Receiver and Transmitter Towers and Bloodhound missiles that towered over the beach towards Cold War enemies, and the subterranean reserves which would have kicked in had the overland blocks been hit.

Alas, we were a little disappointed. The towers and missiles have long been removed, and the peripheral underground buildings are still closed to the public. We were not allowed to see what lies beneath the ground these days at Bawdsey, but it seems a good excuse to direct you towards the Subterranea Britannica website, which contains photos of these secret sites. Perhaps these reveal / conceal the ineluctable mysteries of the coastline better than the reality.





What happened in between what took place:

drove through sleet and snow to find shop selling wine

black out

arrived home

cooked, burned out

coastal view

Saturday, March 22, 2008


More Penguin / Pelican covers from the 1930s to the 1970s here.


In getting under the skin of the Blackwall Reach Regeneration Project, Murphy clarifies why I oppose the demolition of Robin Hood Gardens. I too think its architectural merits are questionable (it is certainly a remarkable building) and I’m not at all sure I would particularly want to live there. Nevertheless, there are two reasons to support its maintenance:

(1) as a reminder of a time when Labour governments were committed to building high-quality housing for working class people;
(2) more pragmatically, because the alternative will mean a drastic reduction in Council housing.

To be clear, I only support the retention of RHG as social housing. An alternative might be to sell the homes, en masse or separately, to private developers, who could pump them with capital and turn them into des res’s for the financiers who work nearby. I would oppose this as much as demolition.

A more likely alternative is for Tower Hamlets to demolish the stock, give up its status as landlord and sell the land to developers or registered social landlords. As Murphy correctly states, while most of its current tenants would be quite happy to see RHG fall to the ground in a cloud of smoke, most would also like to stay in the Blackwall area. In reality, while the Council could campaign for the land to be used for “the local community”, it would have no longer own the site, and it could not guarantee the right of return for RHG’s decanted tenants.

The dwindling supply of social housing is at odds with growing demand. Tower Hamlets is rare in that it owns and manages all 13,000 of its homes. Most Councils have part-privatised the management of their housing by setting up Arms Length Management Organisations. But even those Councils who retain ownership and management oversee Housing Registers where even the most vulnerable have to bid, auction-style, week after week, for housing. There are currently 1.3m eligible households in the UK who are on a waiting list for Council housing.

The pragmatists wish to solve this supply crisis by developing capacity in the private-rented sector. The reality is that, in a city such as London, where land is expensive, few private landlords will offer rents which are sufficiently low to be affordable to people on Housing Benefit. This is especially likely in Blackwall Reach, given the proximity of the financial district.

There is only one alternative to the twin problems of supply-and-demand and affordability: for the Government to fund a nationwide programme of new Council housing. Propose the building of new Council housing to most policy people, and they’ll look at you like you’ve just landed from Mars.

But without new homes – lots of them – how can Tower Hamlets stop its current stock from becoming sink estates? Yet, without new money – lots of it – how can Tower Hamlets raise the capital it needs other than by selling off its land? As is so often the case with public consultations, the tenants of RHG are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Here is the government’s choice agenda in all its finery.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Trafalgar Square was beginning to fill up by midday on Saturday, but one could have been mistaken for predicting a mediocre sort of day. People were thinly spread throughout the square, perhaps put off by the biting cold and the grey skies.

There has been little in the mainstream media to mark the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq; they report little on the prospect of a war against Iran; the only reports I have seen about the Israeli siege of Gaza have been sickeningly ambivalent. Perhaps, we wondered, the crowds had decided to stay at home.

There were speeches in the square before we marched. The speeches lasted almost two hours, which may have been a bit much, but it reminds you how implicated we all are in the wars of the Middle East: how much they affect us and how much we affect them. The speeches were jumbled, angry, defiant, eloquent, maddened, stubborn – they were a mess, but how could they be otherwise? The women speakers, I noticed, were the pick of the bunch: Caroline Lucas, the Green MEP, and Lindsey German, the secretary of the Stop the War Coalition, and an excellent mayoral candidate for the city.



By 2.00pm, the square had filled, and we were off - down Whitehall, over Westminster Bridge, back over the river and down Millbank to Parliament Square. The Stop the War Coalition estimated that 40,000 people joined the march. Make of that what you will - all I can say is that Parliament Square was truly packed by 4.00pm.

We passed a band passed playing reggaefied campfire songs ; a demented hippie pushed a wheelchair down Whitehall, or perhaps he was dragged by two blood-spattered mannequins ; we discussed the speeches, and whether or not the Garden Museum in Lambeth opened at weekends.

Conversation ebbed and flowed, from Iraq to other things and back. Five years on from the enormous march of 2003, the mood is very different - sad and angry, but ever more certain that the ideals with which we march are correct. The fact that everything the anti-war movement predicted would happen if the West invaded Iraq has indeed come to pass feels like a hollow moral victory. Nevertheless, this was a great march.

Demonstrations are often portrayed as being like politicised summer camps where lots of people get together and fight for a unified cause. But a march about globalised warfare must surely be a tense affair, and while marchers united to oppose the principles of the American and Israeli occupations of the Middle East, there was discomfort about some of the messages. A portion of the crowd itched when Galloway called for a less peaceful, less lawful opposition movement (a strategically misguided call, but hardly morally objectionable), and the calls for a victory to the intifada rubbed some up the wrong way.


I believe that you cannot oppose the occupation of Palestine and Iraq, logically or morally, without wishing victory to the intifada and the Iraqi resistance. The alternative assumes that the occupations will be halted by diplomatic means – ceasefires, peace processes and the like. But when the occupiers are the diplomats, this assumption is hopeless.

There is a guerrilla war being fought in Iraq at the moment which the US can never win, but in which they can cause infinite chaos, destruction and death. The lack (or surfeit) of motive for the invasion of Iraq means that literally any Arab is a potential combatant. In the heat of the moment, any Arab is a legitimate target. This has been so in the Occupied Territories for decades.

Very poor children learn to beg, lie and steal from their parents. Prosperous parents tell their children that nobody should lie, steal or kill, and that idleness and gambling and vices. They then send them to schools where they suffer if they do not disguise their thoughts and ... this prepares them for life in a land where rich people use acts of parliament to deprive the poor of homes and livelihoods, where unearned incomes are increased by stock-exchange gambling, where those who own most property work least and amuse themselves by hunting, horse-racing and leading their country into battle,

wrote Alasdair Gray in his novel Poor Things. Or, put more simply, morality in a comfortable, peaceful London lifestyle is a very different thing to morality at gun-point in Haditha or Fallujah or Gaza City.

Friday, March 14, 2008


Much debate around the BBC's White season, which seems to be less about race than it is about creating (or pandering to) grotesque stereotypes of working class people. Seamus Milne of the Guardian wrote a well-argued piece yesterday:

You'd never know it from the way these things are discussed by politicians and the media, but most people in Britain - 53% at the last count - regard themselves as working class. And however hard it may be to agree on definitions of class, that majority is reflected across a range of statistical breakdowns of modern British society. Getting on for 40% of the workforce are still manual workers, for instance; add in clerical workers and you're getting on for two thirds.

I'm not sure it's so hard to agree on definitions of class; indeed, I've suggested before that "the working-class person is he or she who has nothing to bargain with except his or her labour power – the very labour power which will create profit for his employer." But such archaic Marxisms are unlikely to appeal to the BBC, which expertly commissions a range of programmes, from drama to comedy, which show working-class people as salt-of-the-earth, on-the-make dimwits.

The BBC series has nothing whatsoever to do with race, nor any sensible notion of c lass. "It's not a case of woman v man / It's more a case of haves against haven'ts," sang Jarvis Cocker on "I spy" in 1996. We all knew then - didn't we - that the imminent election of a New Labour government would harmonise these class boundaries. Ten years on, the conception of the working class is more sickeningly bourgeois than ever, and our most exciting predictions (white working class = basically and unredeemably racist) are, happily, allowed to come true.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


As the US searches for a democratic alternative to Communist rule in Cuba, the only model it can find is the one applied in every intervention of the last 20 or so years (the Balkans, Iraq, Haiti, the US-encouraged pastel revolutions in Eastern Europe etc). To the West, which cannot see beyond production and consumption, democracy facilitates commerce – and nothing more. It may be in the autumn of its years, but the neoliberal model has been adopted throughout the world, and has been the ruin of people everywhere.

There is a better alternative. A renewed thirst for participative politics has spread across Latin America in recent years. It takes different forms – Venezuela’s politics are Bolivarian, Bolivia’s promote citizenship for indigenous people, and the administrations of the larger economies are more liberal and pragmatic – but a leftwards shift in is unmistakable.

A handful of countries have escaped this swing, and remain resolutely conservative: Colombia and Peru’s right-wing leaders have strong links to the US, and Paraguay still struggles to escape its fascist past. Homo Ludens always points its ear to the ground when it hears of a Latino election campaign, and Paraguayans will go to the polls on 20 April to elect a new leader. Who might they go for?


A brief survey of Latin American history shows two great waves of authoritarianism. Firstly, after independence, a batch of strongmen cemented the foundations of the new Latin republics by violent means. Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia was Paraguay’s first ruler and he ruled with an iron rod. After an assassination attempt in 1820, he forbade his subjects from standing less than six paces away from him. Anyone caught looking at his Palace in Asuncion was shot on sight, and at the end of his reign he ordered the assassination of every dog in Paraguay.

The second wave of authoritarianism was inspired by the backlash from the Cuban Revolution, and from the 1950s onwards, right-wing military regimes sponsored by Washington took over much of the continent. John Pilger’s recent film The war on democracy gives a good overview of this period. It is this second wave of authoritarianism which Paraguay has failed to surmount.

Although the neo-fascist President Alfredo Stroessner was deposed by a coup in 1989, his Colorado Party have maintained power ever since, and in January celebrated 61 consecutive years in power. There have been elections on a fairly regular basis during the 90s and 00s, but they have been fairly meaningless affairs. Most Paraguayans are now worse off than they were under Stroessner's dictatorship, and more than a quarter of Paraguayan nationals have emigrated abroad. There have been widespread allegations of fraud, politically-motivated assassinations and attempted coups. Paraguay does not the share the radical tradition (buoyed by strong indigenous leadership) of its westerly neighbour Bolivia, but on several occasions since the turn of the century, peasants and workers have taken to the streets demanding that the government stops its free-market policies and pursues a policy of land redistribution.

Some commentators believe this could be the year that a left-wing candidate might finally break through the Colorado monolith. Fernando Lugo, a former priest, is riding high in the opinion polls. His Alianza Patriótica para el Cambio coalition draws together trade unions, indigenous groups, social movements and leftist parties, and has pledged to reform land and the judiciary, regain control of its natural resources, and promote the rights of indigenous people. As this report notes, “this might seem a reformist programme, but in Paraguay it is not far short of revolutionary.”

You can read more about the election here and here, and Homo Ludens will follow the election with interest. Indeed, I feel a particular passion for Paraguay. I went there in late 2005 when life seemed, frankly, like a pretty shitty affair. Asuncion and its people put a spring in my step, for which I shall be forever grateful. Here is a snippet of what I posted at the time on Snowball’s excellent blog:


On Saturday, I left the comparative security of Buenos Aires behind to take an 18 hour bus journey to Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay. P.J. O'Rourke said that "Paraguay is nowhere and is famous for nothing." After Bolivia, it is South America's poorest country, and is certainly the least visited by travellers.

The reason I have come to Paraguay is that nobody else does. Every other country in Latin America has its fans, but Paraguay sits there, hemmed in by its more popular neighbours, semi-tropical, loved by nobody. My searches in the guidebook and on the Internet suggested that there is little to do in Asuncion. Having scoured Asuncion personally, I think the Lonely Planet is probably right : there really is nothing to do here.

I have never been to a capital city that behaves less like one. I have seen the Palacio de Gobierno, the Camara de Diputados and the Museo del Barro, and I have a cheap porn flick pencilled in for this afternoon (a highlight of the Paraguayan cinema matinee). And yet I will be as sorry to leave this place tomorrow as I was to leave Buenos Aires last weekend. There is something highly seductive about Asuncion´s laziness. The negligible pace must be something to do with heat. It is almost 40ºC here, humid as hell, and it is a struggle even to think straight.

The people here have been warm, funny, inquisitive (the question of why the hell I would want to visit Paraguay has come up over and over), generous and helpful. They are proud of their country, and especially of their football, but Paraguay is poor and getting poorer. Although they are less vociferous in their protests than their neighbours, the graffiti on Asuncion´s walls gives a strong hint of what Paraguayans think is at the heart of their sinking economy: PRIVATIZACIÓN = POBREZA.


Richard Gott’s LRB article concludes by reporting that my favourable attitude to Paraguay is not shared by the British government, who have apparently been reading a little too much Graham Greene:

The US Embassy meanwhile has taken over two floors of the Sheraton hotel to house its CIA contingent, pending the refurbishment and extension of the embassy itself, while James Cason, the Guaraní-speaking ambassador, has been brought in from a posting in Cuba, where his funding of members of the local dissident movement led to their arrest and imprisonment. And what of the British? They decided that other parts of the world were more interesting and closed their embassy in Paraguay permanently three years ago. They are now represented by an honorary consul.

Friday, March 07, 2008


The results of the 1st Ballardian Festival of Home Movies are in!

Ben Slater's Vista 8 (above) walks away with the gong, applauded by the judges for its "monochromatic location" and "snatched inclusion of Bowie's man-machine classic, 'Always Crashing in the Same Car'". My phone is very old and doesn't have a camera, otherwise I would have done some sort of La Jetee rip-off. Ben has improved on this - his film yearns like Marker's film, but it has a fuzzy dislocation all of its own.

The limitations of time and equipment in a camera-phone movie mean that any story you evoke will be made up of shards of moments. A bit like Miles Davis's modal music, where the fullness of the music is created by paring down the parts, except that here the emptiness of the movie is created by adding in atoms of memory - photos, a snatch of TV, a building, a reflection. The result is ambiguous but definite. I like it. I might try and make one - my Nikon camera may be a little higher-tech than my phone, but it's hardly Hollywood.

Actually, my choice for top dog would have been this: the splendidly-titled Superego, where Ballard catches and contradicts himself while answering the questions generated by the automatic Eyckman Personality Quotient. I think this is a bit of a classic - from now on, when I have a tough choice to make, I shall simply ask Ballard!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


He is seductive, he is righteous, he is correct on virtually every subject he covers in this Meet the Press interview - and he covers several. He makes you realise, whether you support Clinton, Obama or McCain, that the other candidates are basically hypocritical turds.

But would you vote for him?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


The Architects’ website, Building Design Online, has filed a petition to save Robin Hood Gardens, a public housing scheme in East London, from demolition. The main champion for pulling it down is the Culture Minister, Margaret Hodge. She thinks those who find artistic value in architecture might like to engage with buildings via an online archive instead of a real building. Quite why anybody thought such a ministry should ever be filled by as an arrant a philistine as Ms Hodge is beyond me.

Robin Hood Gardens was designed by the Team 10 architects Alison and Peter Smithson. It was opened in the early 1970s, and unlike many contemporary projects, it remains public housing. (As a footnote, it should be noted that there are no proposals to pull down similar concrete tower-blocks, such as Keeling House, which have been bought up and refurbished by private developers, and which are now highly desirable. The Government’s enthusiasm for demolishing RHG can be partly explained by its barely disguised hatred for Council housing.)

We went to visit Robin Hood Gardens on Sunday. We alighted at Canary Wharf, spent a little time eating a picnic in the shopping mall next to the tube station, then made our way north-east towards the Blackwall Tunnel and RHG itself. Anybody visiting the estate from this direction will immediately be struck by the antagonism between the buildings of Canary Wharf and Canada Square, and the housing estates nearby. The skyscrapers in the business district have a glassy, metallic tang, a chest-beating aggression. They preside over an area in which the elite look down from their priapic towers and survey those on whom their profits depend, the people who stand passively in the shadows of these obscene buildings, shop and drink cocktails.

When one first sees Robin Hood Gardens from the A1261, it immediately exudes a brooding silence. There it stands, gravely ignoring its mightier, brasher neighbours in the south. It is undeniably a remarkable structure and is generally recognised as the great practical example of Brutalism – gigantic slabs of raw concrete separated by vast, uninterrupted lines of gridded windows, with only the stairwell panels providing a diagonal retreat from the building’s endless orthogonal lines. It is actually two buildings, both of which curve slightly to enclose a lawn with two large tumuli. It is like a cathedral in that it inspires reverence, but to people who don’t live there it is not exactly likeable.

The failures of housing programmes such as Robin Hood Gardens (and, historically, Trellick Tower in Ladbroke Grove which, for all its clean, graceful modernism, lacks the sheer brute force of RHG) has been both structural and social.

Whatever its utopian roots (the provision of “streets in the air,” proud communities for the proletariat), RHG looks unloved and shabby today. The reinforced concrete, which was never coated, has become stained and weathered ; inadequate cladding and the accumulation of water on flat roofs leads to leaks and flooding ; the lawn is unkempt and sterile, though the playground was well-used by local children, even on this chilly March afternoon ; the entrance to the Blackwall Tunnel roars nearby, and the local community has become something of a desert, swallowed up by the commercial developments nearby. The local authority, perennially strapped for cash, has not been able to refurbish it or patch up the concrete as private developers have done with Keeling House.

Socially, the failures of RHG and other similar estates are indicative of the problem of social housing in the UK. Originally, slab and point housing blocks were created as part of the post-war slum clearance programme. The poorest and most vulnerable (physically, economically and socially) people, previous slum-dwellers, were placed there, which in turn meant that wealthier residents moved out of the area. Investment dropped, properties became hard to let, high void rates meant that Council did not have cash to invest, and so the vicious cycle continued. Neither right to buy nor choice-based lettings has changed the fundamental fact that a lack of social housing means that only the most vulnerable get social housing.

While the Government, buoyed by its close links with the building industry, is gung-ho about knocking the scheme down, the people who live there appear to rather like it. Here's Shirley Magnitsky, a minicab controller who has lived at RHG for more than a decade:

“Look out my kitchen window, what do you see? Trees, grass, very pleasant surroundings. It’s a great place to live, absolutely. This is the most peaceful part of the borough with plenty of facilities. The homes are run down because the council won’t spend money on them. This is a prime spot. That’s why they want to build 3,000 more homes here. The whole thing is about location and money.”

And while detractors criticise its exterior, the interior of the split maisonettes (bedrooms downstairs, living facilities upstairs) are spacious, have generous balconies and large windows, and enjoy superb views of the city.

Ms Magnitsky is right: this is about location and money. It is also about whose hands money will be held, and to whom it will flow. The successes of Keeling House and Trellick Tower (where sustained local authority attention has kept a thriving estate in public hands) mean that Brutalist blocks are not lost causes. Indeed, Robin Hood Gardens has the foundations to be a great success story. If the government is willing to fund the refurbishment of high-density public housing such as this, schemes like RHG (both existing and new-build) could be the answers to the government's and the public's prayers. If it remains stubbornly wedded to the conservatism of low-density private developments, the housing shortage in the south will grow ever more acute, and we will be left with an architectural heritage of so many Noddy houses.

The choice is yours - the petition is here.