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Mr Grass Roots in the running for Our Heroes award
Friday, 24 June 2011
By Lindsay Burns
THOUSANDS have united to fight for education, libraries, leisure services and political change thanks to one seasoned campaigner.
In the last election, more than 6,000 people supported 22 candidates from Lewisham People Before Profit (LPBP), founded by John Hamilton.
The party set itself up as an alternative to the mainstream in pledging to oppose the cuts handed down to town halls by central government.
John, who lives in Telegraph Hill, near New Cross, with partner Kate Pearce and children Rosa, 15, and William, 11, started campaigning in 1999 when he fought against council charges for nurseries.
He then campaigned against a leisure centre closure, he demanded more schools, he fought for the preservation of historical buildings and libraries.
In 2008, he became so disillusioned with mainstream politics that he set up LPBP. His aim was to give people a grass-roots political party that fought, as he saw it, for the interests of the borough, not a national party or private company.
John has been nominated for an Our Heroes Award as part of our annual campaign to highlight and reward the good work of South Londoners.
He said: “LPBP was the coming together of people in Lewisham who had been involved in different campaigns.
“One of the main issues that concerned people in Lewisham is that services we think should be run by the town hall are being contracted out to private companies – for a profit.
“So we felt we could do more as a political party and not just a pressure group.
Carnival Against Cuts – the demonstration we organised against cuts to services in February – was one of the biggest demonstrations Lewisham has ever seen.”
The former teacher was behind a campaign to persuade the council to drop charges for under-fives’ nurseries.
He went on to lobby for a new secondary school, which is set to be built in Manwood Road on the site of the current Prendergast-Vale College.
The Ladywell Baths campaign in 2005 led to the council scrapping plans to close the swimming pool in Lewisham High Street – and included a political pantomime called the Lewisham Christmas Carol.
John was one of the protesters who camped on the roof of the Grade II-listed Lewisham Bridge Primary School on and off throughout 2009 to stop the council razing it as part of redevelopment plans.
The Elmira Street building was subsequently listed and the council will now redevelop and build a new school around it. He also runs a socialist choir called the Strawberry Thieves, which performs at rallies and public events – such as Lewisham People’s Day, which will be on July 9.
Most recently, John has been campaigning against the closure of five libraries in the borough. In nominating John, LPBP members Ray Woolford and Alexia Wdowski said: “John Hamilton has succeeded in uniting a whole community, giving hope and aspiration to many. He has created a new voice, a new way to campaign, and continues to give that voice to the people at the very bottom.”
Copyright Tindle Newspapers Ltd Sunday, 19 May 2013
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