Positive Actions in Hackney

28th May 2015 by

Guest post from Rob Greenfield of Get Into Green Jobs 2015

On Friday 1st May as part of Otesha’s Get Into Green Jobs programme, Joe, Chris, Faithful and I completed our first action project with a local youth group run by gab.

Armed with an inflatable die, numerous wild flower seeds, and bucket loads of enthusiasm, we embarked on the short journey from Workshop 44 to Borougham Rd Community Hall.

Upon entering we were greeted by the lovely Darcy who helps run the weekly session along with Sian and Cecilia. Once all the kids had arrived the first order of service was to establish names via the infamous name circle. We then handed it over to Joe to explain why it was that these four young adults had randomly shown up to their play session.

The Activities:

We began with our first activity, the imaginatively named animal game. As everyone walked in between space, the Green Jobs team took it in turns to read out a story that involved travelling through an unknown habitat where you would suddenly stumble upon an animal. When the animal was revealed everyone had to make its shape and then a winner was chosen. The room soon resembled some sort of Hackney City Zoo as monkeys, starfish and sharks were all discovered.

The next activity involved taking the kids outside to the garden. Screaming, exploring and seesaw-throwing ensued, but seeing how they reacted to going outdoors brought home how important it is for kids to have access to that environment to play in, especially those who grow up in big cities. After we managed to gather them back into a group, we explained how we were going to play the Green Man game. Once again Joe did a great job outlining how the activity was going to unfold.

In the middle there was a river with a bridge going over it, on it stood the Green Man who would only let you pass if your behaviour was environmentally sound. For example, reusing plastic carrier bags, switching the lights off when you leave the house, or turning off the tap when you’re brushing your teeth. If you failed to do these things, you would have to try and pass the Green Man after everyone else, without being caught. If he did catch you, you would then become part of his Green Gang. By nominating himself to be the Green Man, Joe had the impossible task of trying to stop the first wave of environmental wrongdoers from crossing his cherished river. Underestimating Joe’s hawk-like prowess proved costly as I was first to be caught. As the game progressed our Green Gang got bigger and bigger until it became impossible for anyone to cross without being grabbed. Congrats to Faithful on making it to the end, although there’s rumours’ flying at Otesha saying that she may have lied on some of her answers.

The two games had taken us nicely onto the kids’ free time – the part of the session they’re encouraged to go outdoors and play. At this point we set up two optional activities. Joe and Chris hosted a seed bomb making session whilst Faithful and I played a giant eco-snakes and ladders game. To make seed bombs we had to acquire wild flower seeds, compost, flour to bind it all together, and some newspaper to take it home in. The idea is that the kids make the bombs themselves, take them home and throw it in their garden or nearest green space, spreading the wild flowers. Although I wasn’t part of the seed bomb making process, I witnessed the gleaming smiles of the kids as they ran into the hall covered in flour and soil.

Wildflower Seed Bombs

Wildflower Seed Bombs


Equally as happy were the children who had chosen to play eco-snakes and ladders. The kids took it in turns to roll the giant inflatable dice onto the mat, using their feet as counters. They would go up a ladder if they landed on a square with an environmental good deed, such as having a shower instead of a bath. The snakes represented actions that harm the planet, such as using a washing machine to only clean one t-shirt. As always the kids were determined to win and this competitiveness meant they were engaged for the duration of the game.


Enviromental Snakes and Ladders in action!

The session ended with another shape game although this time the kids were in groups and had to form not-so-sustainable transport like cars and planes. But by then our mission of making sure the kids have fun, whilst learning a bit about how they can have a positive impact on the planet, had already been achieved!


A human skateboard -awesome!

It was a really enjoyable experience and hopefully marks the start of a new relationship between gab and Otesha.


Thanks to Joe, Faithful and Chris for helping organise it all and smashing it on the day.

Big shout out to Otesha for all the advice and tools they provided via the Green Jobs programme, and especially to Annie for helping us get the project off the ground and turn all our ideas into actions.

Also thanks to the kids that attended for being so energetic, engaged, and switched on with environmental issues. It made our job a lot easier.

Finally, a massive thanks to the gab team for letting us run the session. Without their guidance and supervision the activities could’ve resulted in the destruction of the local environment, the exact opposite of what we wanted to achieve.


Reclaim the Power Guest Blog

26th May 2015 by

RTP camp may - june imageSo, many of us are angry about the new government. But now is the not the time to mourn, it’s the time to organise and take action together.  On Friday 29th May 2015, Reclaim the Power will hold a family-friendly action camp near Npower’s Didcot power station and we want you and your crew to come!


The new Tory government are in bed with the fossil fuel industry.  They think they now have free reign to subsidise their friends and relations in the fracking industry and commit to another round of gas-fired power stations. They plan to build infrastructure that will lock us into burning carbon for years to come while killing off renewable technology. Like the communities who have held off fracking for four years, people on the ground will take action to stop them in their tracks.

The ‘Reclaim the Power’ camp will help to get us skilled up and ready to take action against corporate power and its stranglehold over our democracy. This camp is part of an international weekend of action against the fossil fuel industry’s  grip on the UN climate talks in Paris this December.  Didcot is owned by RWE Npower, one of the ‘Big Six’ energy companies who control the UK’s energy supply and one of Europe’s biggest fossil fuel polluters.  In Paris we know that RWE will put their profits first – no matter the cost to us – we can’t afford to let that happen.  

This doesn’t have to be the end – we all know that an alternative future is possible. Britain could be carbon neutral by 2030 using current technology. Even in Didcot, when a fire shut down the power station, it was wind power that kept the lights on. Community groups local to Didcot are building their own energy future through solar, wind and hydro projects that they control.

We’re inviting you because the struggle for a clean, safe and sustainable future is on, and it needs you. If we want to win, we have to stand together, build power and take action. And that is what the camp will help us do together.

Reclaim the Power has something for everyone – kids, families, seasoned activists and those who are new to taking action. Come along for the whole weekend, or pop in for an afternoon!  There will be workshops on everything from planning creative actions, fighting the housing crisis and austerity, to making your own solar panel.  We will provide a Kids Space every day.  Monday 1st June will be a day of decentralised actions against fossil fuel targets all over the country.

The camp will be fully accessible – please let us know if you have any specific access needs on accessrtp@gmail.com

Three ways you can help:

  1. Facebook and tweet about the camp!  Please share the facebook event through your social media channels – at the bottom of this email is a suggested facebook message and some tweets to inspire you.
  2. Forward this email to your members/group. We want the camp to be as open and diverse as possible
  3. Come! Drag out your tent and join us – in order to win, we need everybody.

If you’d like to come but want to talk to someone first, or have someone there to say hello to, please do get in touch with Reclaim the Power by emailing info@reclaimthepower.org.uk

PS: Head to http://www.nodashforgas.org.uk/guides-and-info/didcot-programme/  to see our programme of exciting activities, workshops and entertainment

Housing… need I say more?

21st November 2013 by

Housing.  These days, it feels like a word steeped in controversy.  And yet according to Article 25 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of one’s self  including housing.

There’s been a sharp increase in rents along with associated utility bills.  At the moment reports show that together theyphotoswallow a third of incomes‘.  And ‘for everything that’s wrong with London’s housing and built environment, look to the Heygate Estate, and to what will replace it‘.  And what is with the obsession with home ownership?  Across other European countries (most notably Switzerland, Germany and Denmark) it’s rather the norm to rent as opposed to ‘wasting your money’.  I know it’s probably a very complicated matter especially when it involves the economic market and policies on tenant/landlord rights.  But I’m still not convinced house ownership is the answer.  In truth, I believe it’s damaging.


And ultimately if housing is a basic right, then can we afford to house the poor in the future?

Are there alternatives out there?  Yes, but one must be creative and it’s a complicated matter.  Here are some examples of what we’ve found so far:

  • An innovative Scottish approach provides affordable housing that is resistant to soaring rural house prices
  • The essential importance to town planning
  • Housing Co-operatives – there are many out there and many more being created every week.  Hundreds of thousands of resources can be found online. 2012 was the International Year of Co-operatives and their site is extremely useful in summarising the principles of co-operatives. We’ve also come across a fantastic summary at CECODHAS Housing Europe which is the European Federation of Public, Cooperative & Social Housing.  There are further examples of student co-ops, and co-ops started by a collective group of individuals. For further inspiration of housing alternatives around world, look no further than the winners of the 2013 World Habitat Awards.  But the truth of the matter is that there are far too few housing co-operatives in the UK.

Have you found any interesting and inspiring projects out there?  Let us know your thoughts below.

Spring Fever

24th April 2013 by

Spring is upon us… finally!  You may vaguely recall that for the first day of spring, which was the 20th March, there wasn’t much hope in the air. These past few weeks however, have put a ‘spring’ in my step and a smile on my face as I get on my bike and ride.  So with that in mind, I’ll jot down a few spring tips to get into the groove.

Spring Tips:

1. Tuning up your bicycle
bike04You may think that the first thing to do when you read ‘tune up’ is to take your bicycle to the shop but wait – that might not be necessary at all. Here at Otesha, we’re big fans of doing it yourself or at least having a good go.  If you’ve been riding all winter long, the first place to start would be to give your bicycle a good clean.  It will do wonders!  Some of us have even been known to take our bikes apart and clean all the little bits as well.  It’s a joy having a gleaming chain.  Don’t knock it till you try it.

The next tip would be to make sure you take a good hard look at your tyres and your brakes. Make sure the tyres are at the proper pressure and test out your brakes.  You can do a search for tips online although I particularly enjoyed this article.

And if you want a hand, come along to our free Dr Bike sessions at our new home, Workshop 44, 44 Marlborough Avenue, E8 4JR. We’re here to help on Tuesdays 5-6pm.

2. Spring Cleaning
Some of us, and I do emphasise the word some, enjoy a little spring cleaning when the sun’s out.  That could include a wide variety of activities.  Generally though, I’m a big fan of de-cluttering my closet, and wiping down those barely seen corners of the room.

We’re a big fan of using our very own cleaning products.  Did you know that everything you need to disinfect and clean your home is probably already in your store cupboard? There is a silent genius lurking on the supermarket shelves.  Click here for some ideas and recipes to make your own.

In all the cleaning flurry, also consider our new and improved “3-Rs”:

  • Rethink: Do I need this?
  • Refuse: “No, I don’t need a bag (I brought my own).”
  • Restore: Try to fix things instead of just throwing them out. Or better yet, transform things into something else.  We’ve mastered the art of turning a tetrapak into a lovely wallet.
  • Reduce: Get library books instead of buying new ones, and buy vintage clothes instead of new gear. If you’re a woman, you can also reduce your waste by buying yourself a keeper, mooncup or luna pads.
  • Reuse: Scrap paper, lunch containers, etc.
  • Rrrr-Compost: It’s like reusing food.
  • Then, only when you’ve exhausted all the other options: Recycle!

3. Plant something
As “Otesha” is a Swahili word that means “to plant something and make it grow”, try your hand at plantingp-stmaryssecretgarden.jpg.270x270_q95_crop--50,-50_upscale something.  It can be something as small as a sunflower seed to growing your own veg.  For those with small spaces, I absolutely adore this inspiring site based in Newcastle Vertical Veg. And if you want further help, sign up to our Bimonthly Bemusings newsletter here.  May’s newsletter is coming out shortly and includes great links to our challenge to plant a seed.

4. Go through Otesha’s Fun Action List
It’s been a while since we’ve gone through our Fun Action List so try it out. There are great things to do in and around your house, some you may have forgotten about.  See how many you can tick off.

Have any more tips for us?  Drop us a comment below.

Happy Spring!


It’s coming straight for us! It probably smelt the wallet in your pocket.

20th March 2013 by

economy s

Click the image to enlarge. More cartoons here.


22nd November 2012 by

Click the image to enlarge. More cartoons here.

Otesha – A pen portrait

27th April 2012 by

Click here to see full size

Yoga in London- what comes to mind?

4th April 2012 by

Yummy mummies, Madonna’s arms and overpriced classes?

Or sharing, integration and rehabilitation for some of the most vulnerable women in London?

Yoga, a Sanskrit word meaning ‘unity of mind and body’ is more popular than ever before, but practice is also further removed from the idea of ‘unity’ than ever before.  Very much seen as a white middle-class hobby, the benefits of yoga practice have become reserved for those with time and money; something which very small few have!  For me, yoga is about well-being in all senses of the word and nothing embodies this more than a project I’m involved with at Hackney City Farm; the Hackney Yoga Project.  Combining restorative yoga practice, hot nourishing food and language learning in a safe space; the project directly challenges the exclusivity of yoga by opening up the benefits to refugee and asylum seeking women- some of the most vulnerable and un-represented people in the UK.

I’ve been teaching English at the project since September which has been a great way to bring together three things I’m passionate about- yoga, teaching and delicious food- whilst supporting women who have suffered huge change and upheaval.

Many of the women are facing isolation; unable to access resources and support due to destitution and low English language skills.  The opportunity to learn the language in which you live is a human right and is key for equal participation in society.  There is a well- established correlation between poor English language skills, low pay, unemployment, poor housing, poor health and poverty.  Many women at the project are unable to access ESOL classes due to cuts in funding to ESOL provision and strict eligibility requirements, large class sizes and a quick learning pace.  Loss and trauma have been widely experienced amongst the women who attend the project often manifesting itself in depression, lack of concentration, memory impairment, anxiety and an inability to retain learning.

At Hackney Yoga Project a model of subsidised Yoga+English provision has been developed which builds greater capacity for learning, concentration and knowledge retention and is open to all refugee and asylum seeking women in London.   And we have seen great results; students are more relaxed and focused in the classes and I’ve been able to see real improvement in confidence and English abilities.

There are huge challenges too; working with women who have big gaps in education or no first language literacy is incredibly hard, letters having no correspondence to sounds, words being a jumble of shapes.  Mapping pathways into further education, training and employment against a seemingly impenetrable web of service providers, community organisations, changing immigration regulations and funding cuts is becoming an important and much needed part of my role.

Yet the farm and collective spirit of the project continues to provide us with inspiration and now that the weather is getting warmer I’m looking forward to working outside and incorporating the natural environment into classes more and more!

You can read more about the Hackney Yoga Project here: http://hackneyyogaproject.blogspot.co.uk/

Tamsin Robertson, Green Jobs Caseworker at The Otesha Project UK

Home sweet home

25th March 2012 by

A little photo essay of our new home, Toynbee Hall.

Search Blog

Get Social