Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Newbould Guardians? No, thanks.

Over the bank holiday period two weeks ago, Lewisham Environment team received a record number of calls due to the explosion of Sound Systems cranking up the volume to unbearable levels in the north of the borough. On Bank Holiday Monday they were called about the noise on Upper Brockley Road on Lewisham Way and at Ffinch Street off Deptford High Street, and at the old Tidemill School, Frankham Street, where the legendary Saxon Studio International were playing for a ceaseless nine hours for the second time in three days.

What distinguishes the Tidemill event, and makes it distinctive from any other Sound System that night, was that it was totally condoned and facilitated by Lewisham Council itself.

The organisers of a so-called "Three-Day Community Event" at the old Tidemill School are Newbould Guardians. Over the bank holiday weekend they tortured their local community with 18 hours of extremely loud sound system noise.

Badly photocopied grey leaflets were distributed to most of Crossfields on Thursday morning – just two days notice of the event, which promised three days of 'alternative' celebration, featuring Saxon Sound International at the top of the bill. There was not much time to plan an escape.

Meanwhile, the organisers had already been publicising the event far and wide via the internet. The Facebook page proclaimed:


A lot of Crossfields residents like reggae and some are old enough to have skanked along to Saxon Studio International in their hey-day 30 years ago when they fostered Smiley Culture and Tippa Irie, but there's a place for the loudest sound system this side of Brixton, Notting Hill and Bristol, and it's not in the middle of a residential area. Thirty years ago, hard-to-let Frankham House was mostly occupied by students who may have enjoyed the school playground next door being taken over by a reggae Sound System, but that was then, and this is now. Families and the elderly live here now.

The Facebook post stating "this is a community event" was actually not a claim made by the printed publicity. At no point had the community been consulted about what they would like, nor given good notice it would be happening, so obviously this was not a community event. This was an event inflicted on the community.

Newbould Guardians put on less noisy bands and acts (from "far and wide") in the rain-proof school hall, and meanwhile gave the 'community' an inescapable two 9 hour days of Jamaican Sound System, as if Tidemill playground was Mountsfield Park. It would have been three days if it hadn't rained on Sunday.

Newbould Events' Jubilee Street Party: Sat – Mon 2-4 June 2012

Newbould's Street Party as advertised by Transpontine online.
Residents received a pale poorly photocopied black and white imitation of this effort.

On the Saturday at Frankham House, the noise became uncomfortable just after midday. Saxon were set up outdoors in the old school playground with their speaker stacks facing Reginald Road, Frankham House and the high street, whilst indie bands, circus acts, comedy and performance artists were confined to the school hall – where, incidentally, the Fire Doors were kept open continuously in contempt of Health & Safety.

Although the event was "free", once past the strict door policy (which lapsed later on), attendees could buy food and drink, with alcohol priced at around £3. Bringing in your own food and drink was totally discouraged. Frugal students and street drinkers alike – carrying cans and bottles bought in the high street – were sometimes refused entry, depending on who was on the door. Often there was no one on the door. Unless it was a condition of the license, it seemed the aim was to make as much money as possible on refreshments sold on the premises, but the prices were prohibitive for most.

At around 5pm, Saxon cranked up the sound so that everyone in Castell House across the road couldn't hear each other talk or their TVs over the usual noise from the traffic – even with their windows closed. At Frankham House, the vibrations from the loud bass were rattling windows, interior doors and furniture, and setting off car alarms.

In the playground, at around 8pm, there weren't that many in attendance, most seemed to be friends of Saxon. Some young white guys played football in the netball court next to the playground (annoyingly rattling the wire fence adjacent to Frankham House), whilst other studenty types hung out smoking in the back garden. Most of the attendees in the school hall seemed to be fans of the acts.

Some local sound system fans and street drinkers who'd been turned away earlier, were happily standing outside the fence in the car park on the west side where they could drink more cheaply. A couple of guys had got a barbecue of their own going at the car park's entrance.

Locals were thin on the ground – they were not here. And with nowhere to sit down, indoors or out, it was a pretty shit party for anyone over 30. Frankham and Castell House were extremely grateful the loudness stopped round about 9pm.

It rained all day on Sunday, and Saxon didn't play, much to the relief of the local residents, but the party must've been in full swing in the school hall, since the Environment Team were still being called about noise from Tidemill at 2am in the morning.

On Monday, it all started again. For another nine hours, residents were subjected to yet more bass vibrations from sound system royalty, Saxon, playing at a volume more suited to a park venue.

At around 5pm, with the sun coming out, there were about 40 people in the school yard, and another 40 in the school hall. By 6pm, kids were playing in the netball court and the outer gates were open with no security, but a sign was going up to remind people they could not bring their own booze and food into the playground.

By 8pm, with the sun still out, numbers had slightly swelled in the forecourt with the gates wide open for once, creating a party vibe, though the playground itself was still empty with everyone hanging about its edges, whilst the school hall audience was much diminished despite the uplifting music of a three piece playing traditional Irish jigs. Outside, Saxon were as loud as ever, so Frankham Housers could not open their doors to greet the evening sun (or the birdsong, which was equally stifled).  A young couple who'd been refused entry because the young man had a can in his hand, went mooching round the lawn area of Frankham looking for somewhere quiet to sit (no chance of that). Even Bird's Nest regulars across the road thought it was too loud.

The Environment Team reported a record number of calls. They promised to confiscate Saxon's equipment if they didn't stop at 9pm – but they would've needed a truck to cart away the gear. Saxon stopped at around 9.15.

Post mortem

For a 'Community Event' there had been a remarkable lack of understanding of – or consultation with – the local community. Local residents only had two days' notice of the event. The outdoor programme lacked any imagination – where was the African, Asian, Vietnamese, Latin or Irish music? Some R&B, a bit of Tango, a little Jazz?

Some of those dropping by (and leaving soon after because it was too loud in the playground) didn't even notice the sign pointing the way to the School Hall where the more varied music was – after all, the event was described as a "Street Party" so no one expected an indoor venue.

Why was the loudest sound system in South London given exclusive use of the outside venue? Why not have a Latin band and some tango dancing in the playground? Why not have all the bands playing outside under the canopy, come rain or shine?

If it was a "Street Party for the Community", why was it necessary to describe "Deptford" to outsiders on the Facebook page? How come the participating bands were telling their mates on Facebook "not to worry about the rain, it's an indoor party?"

Where was the "Street Party"? Why stop 'the community' bringing their own food and drink to their own "Street Party"?

There was something deeply patronising about this event that saw all the whiteys sheltered from the rain indoors with a variety of music (though they could escape to the garden to smoke), and a singular taste in Black music catered for outside in a cliched back 'yard'.
The empty playground

Newbould seemed to assume there would be a ready-made audience for the full-on Sound System outdoors. There was not.

Trying to recreate something the Jamaican community is quite capable of creating on its own (as was going on at the usual beacons, Upper Brockley Road and Ffinch St on the Monday), Newbould Guardians managed to garner no more than about 50 people to the playground, despite a sound level equivalent to People's Day, where a properly organised festival has people coming in their hundreds, if not thousands.

The empty playground

Who are Newbould Guardians?

The company's website says it places professional people in empty buildings that are vulnerable to squatting, arson, vandalism, fly tipping and theft, and claims to offer rates up to 95% cheaper than paid security guards (in other words, it does charge for its services). The council has claimed there are "no ongoing costs" but has refused to reveal any other financial details (see The Mercury's report from March 2012).

Newbould charge the few young professionals living there 'a reasonable rent', and we're told space is also rented out to 'community projects'. Newbould's website tells prospective property owning clients:
Live-in guardians temporarily occupy your property, meaning that your insurance premiums will be considerably lower than if your building is left vacant. Newbould Guardians protect your property against squatting and other illegal activities, however unlike conventional security our guardians also maintain your utilities infrastructure by keeping them in use and can alert you immediately of any problems with the building. Having your property occupied prevents it from becoming dilapidated and depreciating in value and maintains a sense of neighbourhood community.
Back in April, some squatters took up residence in the old school keeper's house at the east of the property. It was not Newbould who alerted the council, but a Frankham House resident. So much for security.

Eight Romanians were spotted coming out of the old schoolkeeper's house only last week (a Frankham House resident stopped to chat with one of them) – they have cleverly cut the metal railings at the front of the property so that they appear intact.

Perhaps the council do not care what happens to this little building? Squatting by East Europeans is on the Safer Neighbourhood Team's agenda, mostly behind Reginald Road, where they say local landlords do nothing to help the problem, which renders the SNT powerless. The Frankham House resident warned the guys that new laws may result in prison, and we're not proud of outing them here, but someone else would have, and the point is that Newbould aren't doing the job they're engaged to do.

We also gather the main building is not being maintained properly (it has the same leaking ceilings it had when the school occupied it). And, with the gates shut most of the time, there is no sense of 'neighbourhood community' being maintained.  

Back in March, the 'Guardians' put on an evening event that was so exclusive only a handful of local people got an invitation. The 'artists' living in the building showed off their art and performance work, and told visitors that they were not allowed to use the playground, ballcourt or the garden (even though all three of these outdoor venues were used and abused on the bank holiday weekend). This exclusive event in March was supposed to end at 8.30, but the private party went on past 11pm, causing the Environment Team to be called.

When asked by the few local visitors if Newbould had any plans to involve the community, the 'artists' promised more open community events and a programme of activities to cater for the community in the future – but, some three months later, this shambles of a three-day weekend is the first.

The banner on their otherwise unpenetrable front gates says "Community Arts in the Unused" but they are not listed on the Lewisham Council website as a place that might be used by the community – mind you, neither is the Deptford Lounge. Of course, any 'community rents' Newbould might pull in will be going to Newbould Guardians (a private company, part of CIS Security, who are contracted by the council), unlike other buildings occupied by artist groups elsewhere in Deptford, where rent is paid to the council and not by it, buildings are looked after, and disturbances are rarely caused.

At a time when other (much quieter) artists groups are threatened with the loss of their space (Creekside Artists and others in Faircharm, those in all the buildings that are part of The Deptford Project, and Utrophia) the arrangement Lewisham Properties has made with Newbould Guardians beggars belief.

The conditions of their contract are presumably (but maybe not) as stated on their website ("under no circumstances are parties or big group gatherings allowed"). (

Meanwhile, on another page of their website they are advertising "an innovative new scheme" to deliver "effective, innovative and creative events...with our commitment to involve the local community" which until recently showed pictures of the event they held in March to which none of the community was invited ( We found another webpage displaying pics from the bank holiday weekend showing what happened in the school hall: (no photos of an empty playground).

In the four months they've been here, they've neither made contact with the local community nor proved they can put on an event that doesn't totally alienate the entire neighbourhood.

The Council's Response to complaints

Frankham Housers have written a letter of complaint, via Cllr Paul Maslin, signed by residents in 17 of the flats. As well as reporting their distress at how their bank holiday weekend was ruined, they also asked:
  • which are the specific terms of the leasehold (or other relevant contractual arrangement between the two parties) which will in future allow the council to ensure that this third party supplier provides a service to local people which is fit for purpose; and,
  • how will the council ensure that these terms are more diligently adhered to and policed in future?
A reply has come from Steve Gough, Director of Programme Management & Property, who says he has liaised with 'the Contractor, Property Services and our licensing team' to collate his response. The tone of his letter is fairly unrepentant on behalf of his 'contractors' and somewhat arrogant:
"the council...are pleased the guardians have been able to use the building for the community to benefit from". 
They have done nothing so far to benefit the community, Steve.
"Newbould Guardians attained a temporary events license for 4 days between Friday 1 July and Monday 4 July, to celebrate the Queen's Jubilee."
Er, you mean Friday 1st June and Monday 4th June, surely?
"This allowed them to hold events from 12noon until 11pm. Out of consideration to the local residents the guardians ran events for 3 days and shut down at 9pm, two hours earlier than the 11pm license allowed."
If decibel levels were found to be acceptable within the required levels of the license (see below), they could have continued to be open to the public till 11pm. So it was not "out of consideration to local residents" that they closed at 9pm, simply that they chose to stop policing their event so that they could enjoy it themselves. They then managed to party privately with their friends till 2am, as reported by the Environment Team.
"(The guardians) arranged a free community event, completely open to the general public. Over the course of three days they had approximately 1500 people from the local area through the gates enjoying music from Saxon Sound International, Prankster, and many more local artists and performers."
FYI, Steve, PrankSTA are not a band, they are costumiers. Saxon Sound International are a Sound System, Steve, and are therefore extremely LOUD, that's what Sound Systems are. The performers who played in the school hall weren't all - if any - from Deptford, most of the audience was not from the immediate community, and there were never more than 50 people in either the school yard or the school hall most of the time (except, perhaps after 9pm when the exclusive few were allowed in to party till 2am?). But anyway, at least Pranksta are actually local.
"Prior to the event Newbould Guardians applied for a Temporary Events License which was posted on lamp posts for all members of the local community to see."
Only if you're looking for it, Steve. Frankham residents walk up Frankham Street every day and they didn't see 'em. First they knew was two days before when a leaflet came through the door.
"As part of this license they were asked to perform a decibel sound check which was undertaken on the afternoon of Tuesday 29 May. This sound check fell within the levels required of the license."
So, Steve, did Saxon come down with a lorry load of speakers and set them up in the yard on Tuesday to be tested for decibel levels? We think not (we'd have heard it!!!).
"They posted flyers a week prior to the celebration; containing details about the event and included an invite for local residents to come and enjoy the event."
No, Steve, they posted on Facebook and other social networks advertising to their mates in other parts of London, and only told local residents two days before.
"The guardians have expressed they have been extremely disappointed to learn that some of the local community felt that there was a lack of consultation between Newbould Guardians and Frankham Street residents."
FYI, Steve, numerous phone calls and requests for the music to be turned were made at the time to the manager of this event and were ignored. Not only that, but the council's Environment Team will have records of the number of times they were called out and run ragged that weekend.

Steve ends his reply with: 
"As a result of your constituent's letter, the guardians have expressed their desire to find better ways to communicate and involve more of the community in their projects. They have agreed to hand deliver letters to residents not only inviting them to events and asking for input...but also making explicit any noise any future events may bring."
No apology then (not that it would be accepted). Mr Gough has chosen to believe the word of 'the Contractor' over that of the residents, and Newbould are let off without even a slapped wrist.

Residents asked for an iron-clad guarantee that this sort of noise level will never, ever be repeated again, but Newbould are being totally supported by Property Services, and more or less being given free reign to police their own events with no promise of external monitoring that might protect local residents from further disturbance. Like it or lump it, then.

Perhaps Mr Gough would like Saxon Sound International to come and play in his own backyard all weekend and see how he likes it.


  1. sue grow up? it was a time of celebration for the queens jubilee. I in fact think it is a fantastic idea and wish people or the local council did more to establish a community.

  2. Interesting post- Keep up the good work!

  3. I am a guardian with Newbould and they treat their guardians just as badly as they do the local community. In exchange for reduced rent you lose all rights- Newbould move you at will, regularly, and talk to you like you're scum. They place you in unsafe buildings (no electricity, vermin, damp, no showers, no locks on windows etc) and if you don't like their terms you're out on the street and you've lost your deposit. There is no regulation of this huge new business (guardian companies) who are making an absolute killing out of the council's inability to manage their own properties whilst taking advantage of vulnerable people who can't afford London's exhorbitant rents.

  4. I think what you said is a lie. I agree the manager emma is a joke she spoke to me like crap after viewing 3 great properties in a great location with electricity, heating, and the legal safe environment required. I agree no customer service, no sense of value. there was an employee I can't remember his name but when he showed me round he was great. Ithink the management needs a change or some people need to learn how to deal with their customers.

  5. I was a guardian with Newbould and I agree with the first guardian's comment. Many of their properties and fine and safe, however some aren't- I was living somewhere for two months before they sorted out hot water- in the meantime I had to wash using a bucket and the sink. If you complain then they tell you to leave, so you have to put up and shut up. I requested reduces rent as a result of their failures to sort out the problems and was given a whole £20 off my rent!! Emma has since left, but Sabreena (another women that works for them) is even ruder- I didn't think it was possible! I left because I could no longer put up with the way they treat you and the local community- it's all about profit- forget the people. I'd prefer to pay more and stress less!!

  6. His name is Joe in regards to the second comment i think he's still there. They think that because you get a reduced rent, no real rights of tenancy that you should shut up and take it whatever they throw at you. I agree Pay more + Have Rights + be Happy. Sabreena how rude is she, Emma on a complete power trip and the new women she thinks she owns the place.

  7. I am sorry the that new bold gaurdian tenants feel so under valued what a shameful situation.
    What I would really like to know is did Lewisham give any funding to this event ? is that why they are playing it all down because it is their project ?
    cllr M can you investigate please ?
    local resident Lewisham, council tax payer, where is my hard earned money going ?

  8. I am also a guardian with Newbould- and relieved to see I am not the only one who feels this way (no one says this openly as there are Newbould guardians who inform on other guardians in return for housing perks...). As a guardian I would lose my home if I submitted a Freedom of Information request on how much the councils (mainly Lewisham and Camden) spend on using companies like Newbould- so I call on a concerned member of the public to do it please! They are paid by the council to 'protect' properties, and by the guardians as rent- someone, somewhere is making a lot of money out of the council and Londoners on low incomes- disgusting stuff!

  9. Another ex-guardian here. During my time with Newbould I was asked not to talk to local residents and that a representative of Newbould would handle dealings with the community. As far as they were concerned we were there to reside in the building/area without interacting with the people. We were also moved into buildings where the residents hadn't even been informed and had no idea who we were. Quite how this makes the communities feel I don't know, but I can hazard a guess.

    I experienced the same as other guardians (uninhabitable properties, extremely rude staff, being moved constantly with little notice - nowhere near the 2 weeks they claim they'll give you). And yes, it's known that some guardians receive reduced rates for "informing" on others in a bid to discourage you discussing how badly NG are treating you all. After 5 months of it I'd had enough.

    The sad part is that in theory property guardians are an excellent idea that should benefit everyone. Rents are high and buildings sit empty to rot/be vandalised/squatted in. However, Newbould Guardians only appear concerned with making money, with little regard for the properties, their communities or their guardians.

    If anyone's interested there's already been a FOI request regarding Camden Council.

  10. Wow. Whilst I am sorry for those guardians and ex-guardians who have experienced or continue to experience the disrespectful and unprofessional behaviour of Newbould which is nothing short of bullying and aggressive, I am bolstered in hearing that I was not alone. These people should be supporting affordable housing solutions for individuals whilst providing a security service to the Council. Instead, for Newbould it is a lucrative money-spinning venture whereby guardians have been forced to live without hot water for long periods, repairs not attended to, unsafe or uninhabitable areas not inspected and made good, along with threats that guardians would have to move (which is costly) if they failed to pay for repairs for problems which existed before the guardian was in situ and which costs should fall to the Council/Newbould. I have been informed by Council tenants that they have complained to Camden about Newbould employees' behaviour which included loud late night visits to guardians to request rent monies and the removal of a guardian's property from a bedsit, said items were then dumped in the street. Newbould charge for noise or threaten 'eviction' for non-payment, do not provide keys nor pay for those returned, they do not remove rubbish or unusable items left by previous residents, but they threaten action if current guardians do not dispose of such. They are stupid, uninformed, appear to have little if any health and safety knowledge and are incapable of managing any queries and issues in a professional manner. The Newbould ethos appears to be 'be a bully, be greedy'. Sabreena is an unpleasant, not very bright arsehole, with the others close on her heels. Camden should be ashamed allowing their paid bullies to exploit decent people in the manner they do.

  11. I think you are all a disgrace. You are all sitting here bullying members of staff of a company and to be honest being very personal! Do you not have anything better to do!?
    I have been a guardian with Newbould for 14 months now, i am in a lovely space in highgate and yes it has been a rocky road at times i have wanted to hand in my notice and just leave but you know what you get what you pay for. As well as myself you previous and current guardians all pay a very minimum fee for properties in central locations with no utility bills included. For that all we are required to do is to be the eyes and ears of the property and use our common sense to fix minor repairs ourselves. Tell me where you would find rent like that now in london. You all sit here throwing accusations around if you are so hard done by the staff go and tell them. To come on a site like this and be calling names, how old are you people!? Whenever i have had a issue with newbould or any members o staff and believe me i have had a few i have informed the managers and they have always arranged a meeting with me to come in and reviewed my licence agreement and how issues could be resolved if they could at all. The fact that i am still a guardian shows you they have always been resolved. I don't think the staff are rude at all. Yes they can seem a little unfair sometimes but you know what the job those guys do they can't afford to be every guardians best friend thats when people start to take the mick. I think the staff do the best job they can do with what they have you are all sitting here moaning about repairs you clearly know nothing because if you did you would know that repairs have never and will never be done by Newbould. I have been copied into emails when emma had been chasing camden council to come out and repair the bathroom in my lobby. They chase them and that is all they can do. It is down the the council to actually send someone out! When i first met emma i honestly did not like her i thought she was blunt and a bit too firm but again i quickly saw why. The job they do they have to be. They have never been rude to me but then again i have always treated them how i to would like to be treated.. maybe that is something you all are missing! About 3 months ago i was locked out of my property in highgate at around 11.30pm on a saturday night. I did not even call the office as i knew no one would be there but i sent an email to all the staff just informing them of the situation and if they could drop me keys on monday as mine i had lost and i would get a locksmith to let me in. I got an email straight back from Sabreena saying she would come and let me in and in her words ' she couldn't read the email while in her warm house and me be locked out in the cold. I am sorry but as far as i am aware their office hours are 9-5 and for her to even be replying to emails and still working at that time of the night let alone drive up to me and let me in i was and still am very grateful to her. I think what you are all doing here is wrong. It is one thing slandering the company name but when you start involving personal names to me that is cypher bullying! I do not like people who sit behind keyboards picking on other people but yet are not big or brave enough to let the world know who they are! Like i said when ever i have had any issues i have always been called in for a meeting. Try letting the staff know your issues and speak to them on a one to one you. I think a lot of you on here have mis understood what guardianship is and need to go and rent privately!

  12. I am not surprised:
    Lars Newbould