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 also dabbles in transport and other London-wide issues, and whatever else takes my fancy. Much of this was founded out of frustration with the inability of the established local media to get to grips with this part of the capital. So I’m trying to fill the gaps by looking at things they don’t bother with – more often than not, involving Greenwich Council.

Although it’s had its moments, this tries not to be a ranting site – while the stories I pick here are often down to my personal prejudices, and there’s a few flights of fancy on the way, I hope this site provokes discussion about, and a deeper interest in, what goes on in these neighbourhoods. This blog won’t have a go for the sake of it – I’m much more interested in a good story that isn’t being told elsewhere, or asking questions that nobody else is asking.

In south-east London, there’s an awful lot of those…

If you want to know a bit more about why and what the hell this is all about, here’s an interview I did with the Online Journalism Blog in March 2011. 853 was also named one of Guardian writer Dave Hill’s top London blogs in 2010. It regularly features highly in Wikio’s top London blog rankings, for what it’s worth.

Some 853 exclusives and other things I’m proud of (yes, this badly needs updating):

No horses, no Irish – NOGOE goes back to the 70s – Followed up by the Mail on Sunday (Febrary 2012)
Greenwich Council funds Peninsula Festival after denying it – A story missed by the News Shopper in its own coverage three weeks beforehand (February 2012)
Stephen Lawrence – a measure of justice at long last (January 2012)
First look inside Woolwich Common’s Olympic shooting venue (December 2011)
Did Southeastern overcharge your Oyster at Blackheath fireworks?Picked up by the South London Press five weeks later (November 2011)
High Court orders judicial review of Greenwich law centre cut (November 2011)
Ken: I’d give TfL Southeastern metro trains (November 2011)
Ken Livingstone ‘rejected Boris’s cable car’ (November 2011)
Greenwich moves closer to hiving off libraries (November 2011 – exclusive)
Bluecoat pupils ignored as Greenwich councillors rush for wine (October 2011)
Under-fire council officers flee Blackheath Bluecoat meeting (exclusive for – October 2011)
Give me control of overground trains, says Boris at cable car launch (exclusive for – October 2011)
‘Failing’ Blackheath Bluecoat School faces closure (September 2011 – exclusive)
Greenwich traders nervous following disorder (greenwich – August 2011)
Woolwich riots aftermath coverage (August 2011)
Behind the scenes at Greenwich Park’s temporary stadium (July 2011) – Olympic test event coverage
The battle over the On Blackheath music festival – hardly covered by the area’s local papers
The strange tale of Bryan Ferry and Greenwich Council (The Scoop – June 2011)
– The shambles of the Greenwich and Woolwich foot tunnel restoration – again, ignored by local papers
– The doomed plan to pedestrianise part of Greenwich town centre
– The first interview with Peninsula Festival supremo Frank Dekker (May 2011)
Greenwich Council plans lavish mayor’s party despite cuts (April 2011 – exclusive) – even though he wanted to scrap it (January 2011 – exclusive)
Greenwich rail users could face Olympic cuts (April 2011 – exclusive)
The first recordings from a Greenwich Council meeting (March 2011)
‘Proud to be different’ Nationwide abandons SE London (January 2011 – covered before anyone else)
Greenwich Council’s £10/download iPhone app (January 2011)
Maryon Wilson Park animals under threat (Charlton Champion, December 2010 – exclusive)
Surrey Canal- south-east London’s great lost chance? (July 2010)
Those who can, teach. Especially in Deptford. (July 2010 – which became a Guardian comment piece)
Walking the Capital Ring (2009)

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 Nesta – and I’ll be looking for new assignments in 2015. 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 hyperlocal site for SE7 which I hope will become a forum for those who want to get involved in their community. I’m part of the team behind The Scoop, a London politics blog from monthly arts and culture paper Snipe, which I write a monthly column for. I’ve also done some work for, including some editing, and popped up on The Greenwich Podcast from time to time.

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.