All about 853

Ottie and the Bea, Blackheath

Journalism classes for seven-year-olds in Blackheath. See, anyone can write this stuff nowadays.

“If you live locally, you’re lost if you don’t get news alerts from the tireless Darryl’s”
The Greenwich Visitor, February 2012

Hello, welcome to 853. This blog’s developed over the years to contains news and opinion about issues involving south-east London, particularly around Greenwich.

It started in 2008 as a basic personal blog. I was about to take redundancy and wanted a place where I could show off a bit, and write about things like walking the Capital Ring.

But after I attended a council meeting in 2009 and was struck by the barely-disguised contempt councillors were showing for the public – and how this had gone unreported locally – I realised I could use it to follow stories that weren’t being covered elsewhere.

The site offers news and opinion and provides a forum for debate on issues concerning Greenwich, Charlton, Blackheath, Woolwich, and the wider south-east London area. I go to council meetings, I read their documents, I put in Freedom of Information requests, and I talk to people.

The site has followed issues such as controversial regeneration schemes, bullying in Greenwich Council’s ruling Labour group, local transport worries and the rows surrounding the Olympics in Greenwich Park.

853 also exposed Greenwich Council’s mishandling of the refurbishment of Greenwich & Woolwich foot tunnels, followed the failure of a plan to pedestrianise Greenwich town centre, tracked the aftermath of riots in Woolwich and kept up with the legal tussles surrounding the On Blackheath music festival.

It also revealed how a potential Labour candidate for the council had helped found a right-wing party in Scotland, and detailed Greenwich Council’s refusal to meet the London mayor’s cycling commissioner when it was the only borough doing so.

Some of the biggest stories on the site, and other pieces I’m proud of… (last updated March 2015)

Some infrequently-asked-questions…

Who are you anyway?
I’m Darryl Chamberlain, a journalist living in Charlton. I started 853 in October 2008 when I decided I needed a “legit” blog after ranting and raving online under daft pseudonyms for years. I later took redundancy from a full-time job, and began to realise there was a gap in local news coverage. By day I’ve worked for the BBC, and innovation charity Nesta. I’m currently looking for new assignments – take a look at my personal site for more about what I do.

Isn’t there a dirty political past?
One of the exciting things I did after taking redundancy was standing in May 2010’s council elections in Peninsula ward. I ran for the Green Party, inspired by the fine work their councillors were doing down the road in Lewisham. We lost, but I learned a lot from my experience. I’m no longer involved with the Greens and this blog strives to be, if not exactly neutral, aware that there’s other arguments about issues.

Why 853?
853 was the telephone exchange code (along with 858) for most of Greenwich, Charlton, and Blackheath until 2000. The number stuck in my head.

What else do you do?
I also edit the Charlton Champion, a collaboratively-written local site for SE7 which I hope provides a neutral forum for those who care about their community. I was part of the team behind The Scoop, a London politics blog from monthly arts and culture paper Snipe, which I wrote a column for. I’ve also done some work for, including some editing, and popped up on The Greenwich Podcast when that was running.

To e-mail me, try darryl.se7 at gmail dotcom, or tell me things. I can also be found on Twitter as @darryl1974, if you like that kind of thing.