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Social Action Challenges Controversial Chocolate Factory Development

On the 19th December, Bristol members of renters’ union ACORN and other local community members held a Christmas carol procession through the area of Greenbank, ending at the gates of the controversial Chocolate Factory development.  

ACORN Bristol is currently organising with the community around the development because of a lack of affordable or social housing being provided by the developer, Generator South West.

The development is in an area where a lot of ACORN members live, so they have been lobbying for affordable housing there for a while.  The campaign was reinvigorated when Generator announced construction would be starting on the site last year, prompting the community to spring into action and plan a Christmas action.

Local resident and Bristol staff organiser for ACORN, Anny Cullum, explained why the issue of affordable housing is important to residents:

“It will really affect people in the area because market rate and luxury apartments are way of out of the reach of the average person in the area. We are already seeing people being forced out because of prices going up, and this is only going to make it worse if it doesn’t include social or affordable housing.”

12-15 ACORN members – some of whom had recently joined through this campaign; some of whom had been through community organising training – held a planning meeting, with some members who live next to the site offering to host and provide hot drinks for the community at the event.

Community organising training helped us in taking action. It’s good thinking about strategy and tactics, and to have a framework for planning things out to make sure you don’t miss anything.  Also having different jobs for people that they can do, so you’re involving as many different people as possible.  It was very well organised.  We had people out leafleting the local area the night before and people phone banking, ringing people up to invite them and get them to turn out.
Anny Cullum, Bristol staff organiser for ACORN

100 people gathered at the Christmas procession which involved speeches from residents, a brass band and re-written carols such as ‘O come and join the union’ (to the tune of ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’), and ‘We people of BS5’ (to the tune of ‘We Three Kings’).

“It was a really good, Christmassy event,” said Anny. “People were bringing out candles, carrying placards and fairy lights. It brought a lot of local people out and got them involved in a creative way.”

National ACORN Organiser Nick Ballard highlighted this action as a perfect example of their work as a Social Action Hub with Community Organisers: “this is exactly what being a Social Action Hub is about, providing training and ongoing support to community members to allow them to take action on the issues they identify and decide, design, and deliver it from start to finish.”

The wider campaign regarding the development is ongoing, and has included other protest actions, a listening campaign, and negotiations with the Council – all with the aim of building power with the local community to demand affordable housing on this site.

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