Jason Collins on Dorchester Court
On November 17th, Jason Collins, gardener and musician, his partner Helen Kinsey, teacher, and their two teenage daughters will be forced to leave their residence of 21 years in Dorchester Court, Herne Hill. Why this has become neccessary, in particular because Collins is Dorchester Court's gardener who says he has not had a pay increase in seven years, is not fully clear.
Our attempts to get perspective from the landlord Manaquel Property, based in NW11 at a address shared by numerous other companies, have been fruitless. There has simply been no straightforward way to contact them for comment. The closest we've come is the management agent D&G Block based in Vauxhall, but despite ringing and writing, there has been no response.
So we have to leave it to your imagination. Collins recorded a video of landlord's agents at Dorchester Court this week and had no response to many questions. He fears he may have lost his gardening position as a consequence of this "spontaneous call to action" resulting from many weeks of stress. It's a good thing his family may at last have found a place to live in Sydenham - smaller, more expensive, yet a place - or he'd have gone mad by now.
A massive headache for landlords can be a destructive tenant. The problem with this case, however, is that the Kinsey family are being forced to leave, even as they're good tenants who contribute to the health of their community. Their self-defence attempt in Lambeth County Court on the basis of Article 8 of the 1998 E.U. Human Rights Act (meant to preserve the right to a private and family life, especially when teenage daughters may be made homeless through eviction) failed so the Kinsey family now also have to pick up the landlord's court costs, deemed by the charity Shelter to be excessive. Nonetheless, on the brink of departure, they have been thinking about friends and neighbours. They've co-written a petition addressed to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government designed to restrict no-fault evictions and above-inflation rent increases: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-landlords-evicting-good-tenant. Jason also recently spoke with BBC Radio London's Vanessa Feltz about his family's situation: https://soundcloud.com/herne-hill-forum/jason-collins-on-vanessa-feltz-bbc-oct-2015
We met up with Jason after his band's (The Umbrellabirds) performance as part of the Herne Hill Music Festival's final event - its "wrap party" - at Off The Cuff in Railton Road last month. We spoke with him about his family's history in Dorchester Court, the community there and the eviction process.
In the following audioblog, click on the mp3 link to open a player window for each clip. You can also hear all of these on the Herne Hill Forum's Souncloud page at https://soundcloud.com/herne-hill-forum.
In the first clip, Jason talks about his family's history in Dorchester Court, the flats and garden, his work as resident gardener, and the close community there: 1_background_at_dc.mp3
Jason talks about the dilapidated state of Dorchester Court, its Art Deco heritage, and the togetherness of residents there. He feels that the landlord recognises the quality experience Dorchester Court offers but does not support the existing community. Jason believes Manaquel prefers more frequent turnover to aid higher rent receipt. 2_dc_architecture_community.mp3
Jason finds it ironic that he undercuts gardening costs for the landlord and does lots of extra work around the manor block for the caretaker but cannot negotiate a way to remain a resident gardener. He calls it "a kick in the head." Jason explains that this is down to a systematic eviction process. 3_im_unappreciated_eviction_process.mp3
There's been a fair amount of coverage in hyperlocal media like the Brixton Buzz about DC Resists, which is a network of Dorchester Court tenants who oppose unrealistic rent hikes: http://bit.ly/1iL3tQd. Tenants like Jason and Helen want to stay despite its dilapidated state because of the close sense of community. 4_dc_resists.mp3
Meanwhile the clock is ticking and the financial costs are huge. Not only are they on the hook for nearly £8,000 of court costs but efforts to find affordable housing in the area where Jason and Helen work and their daughters go to school have not succeeded. 5_priced_out_in_area_court_case.mp3
Their first JustGiving crowdfunding campaign to cover these costs fell well short - so short that Jason has launched a second on GoGetFunding. Take a look and give if you can - GoGetFunding encourages donations of as little as £1! http://gogetfunding.com/kinsey-family-benefit/
There's also a day-long Kinsey Family Benefit at Off The Cuff in Railton Road today, November 8th, from noon till late. Jason has invited half of the South London alternative folk scene to come and perform, and it is all free - although there will be a hat pass and an auction. Drop by and show your support if you can! We'll add updates to this article as well as to the GoGetFunding campaign page when we can - the family is expecting a Guardian article and their MP Helen Hayes to discuss their eviction with Manaquel.
More information on Jason's Facebook events page! https://www.facebook.com/events/546339612183551/
The Umbrellabirds at OTC last month
Jason gardening in Dorchester Court - captured by Google Maps!