Ed Gold Positive Futures 05
Ed Gold Positive Futures 05 Left: 56% [13 out of 23] of the people who are currently caretaking and ReSpacing this derelict old pub in Romford. The pub was known as The Bitter End but has now taken on the new name The
Positive Futures 05 is part of a documentary photography series about off-grid and alternative living. This magazine leads on from the original Positive Futures publications made in 2005 (01), 2011(02), 2016 (03) and 2017 (04). www.edgold.co.uk/books
ReSpace’s aim is to begin the production of a community-led infrastructure that creates and supports innovative environments to solve social problems – bringing benefits for everyone involved.
Ed Gold: email@example.com www.edgold.co.uk www.facebook.com/EdGold.co.uk www.instagram.com/edgold.co.uk Text ©Ed Gold 2018 All images ©Ed Gold Magazine design: Ed Gold
19 months ago a group of environmental activists and
Since then up to 23 ‘caretakers on rotation’, people from the
squatters initially moved in to this derelict pub ‘The Bitter
UK, Germany and eastern Europe, South Africa, Jordan and
End’ after consulting with the owner. Until then the building
Australia have been renovating the now called ‘Better End’
had been a shooting gallery for addicts since it closed down
premises to enable it to be opened for community use. This
6 years before. The history of the building goes back as far
social project intelligently reuses and regenerates empty
as 1426 when a timber framed pub stood here and which
buildings and wasted resources to create an independent
burnt down in Victorian times. It was rebuilt and later became
environmental and cultural space. The building will facilitate
a brewery, a sauna, a gym, a snooker hall and a pub with
a complete reverse of how spaces are normally used,
live music venues that hosted local bands. It has over 40
instead of telling people what will be happening requests will
rooms and two main staircases from the ground floor. When
be taken from the public for what they want. Activities will
the squatters moved in it was in collaboration with ‘ReSpace
encompass an art gallery, re-introducing a people’s market
projects’ who in the past have successfully regenerated other
to Romford, a community fair without heavy overheads to
empty urban buildings, a ‘not-for-profit organisation’: http://
encourage local productivity, t-shirt printing, workshops,
rally.respaceprojects.org whose previous project The Hive in
independent cinema and much more. Currently ‘The Better
Dalston had been a great success and which produced evi-
End’ is in liaison with the council who support this initiative.
dence this system works: https://hivedalston.wordpress.com
Ned 53 “The basement is flooded so I’m clearing the floor to gain access to the sump pump which has stopped working, to drain the basement. The water is a combination of a small number of leaks in the building, a couple of points on the roof that need attention. There’s a ‘burn’ (smaller than a stream, a natural water source) running under the building which gave reason for the site being built originally as a public house in 1426. The water was used for making beer. It’s always been passing under the building so it might have just broken through at some point. I can only imagine that it was a retained feature in the Victorian rebuild when the original site burned down. It’s been rebuilt with a Victorian facade. Hopefully we’ll be cultivating button mushrooms to begin with and we’ll use it for storage and the rehearsal rooms for live musicians. I’ve been here a month in this particular project but I have 30 years experience in community projects ranging from housing projects to social centres. I’m a logistics man, what drew me to here was Big Charlie, he basically needed help with this project, he had been preparing for slightly more experienced people to come on site and lift the building to the next step, so that the outside community could safely share the space. Recently the building has come under the joint responsibility of respaceprojects. org, which is an umbrella registered company to assist in the acquisition of vacant properties for local community use, for social good. Something I’d like to mention is a newspaper article that was in one of the London free evening papers that said that certain councils were using properties, before planning permission, to make small Japanese style pods to house homeless people until the buildings were developed which is how the ReSpace idea works and which I think is worth highlighting. We’re supporting each other, mutual support, we’re not squatters, we respect particularly, we are not interested in squatting, we are interested in assisting property owners with the protection of their buildings that results in social cohesion. One of the uses of ReSpacing buildings is my personal ‘Nedolution’ and best summed up by the Nedolution chant: “remember how to grow your own food, learn or teach how to create your own energy and encourage how to meet the neighbours”. It’s other peoples ideas which I’m drawing together as one vision. We’re going to support the man next door, we are going to direct people from us to the next door cafe and they can direct their customers to us, we can do things he doesn’t so we don’t upset anybody. We are recognized as ‘caretakers on rotation’ and we have ‘security in attendance’, it explains what it is, we are providing a guardianship in exchange for being able to open the building for social good and the
benefit of the community. The company that owns the property has been very happy engaging with the company set up by the caretakers on rotation. We are acting as guardians, the relationship and the owner and the guardians was established before anybody entered the building. We don’t walk into somebody’s house and ask if we can stay, that’s why we have the company, so we can talk to people and be taken seriously. The company that owns the building told the council that they are happy for us to be here. The council stipulated that the building cannot be publicly rented, we have a good relationship, it’s an ongoing process, we are looking to open the building to the general public. Currently we have health and safety requirements to meet, they want to make sure we are safe. Previously I was involved with The Hive in Dalston which was similar and a huge success story. The idea was to have a showcase building to show to property owners so they could see what is possible in ReSpaces work. For me it works as a platform to restructure modern society. This building will be developed one day but for now we are setting up schools in these types of buildings to teach people how to be self empowered. We’re teaching everything that people can bring home and use in their own lives.”
Charlie 28 “Counter culture has become ‘over the counter’ at Primark. It’s mono-cultures suffocating the fire, I want to go back to raw recording in the basement so people can come around and learn for themselves how to do it. It’s slack in the UK, it’s been diluted, my influences came from going to America for a punk festival at the time when Hurricane Katrina had hit New Orleans. Random people were doing up people’s houses for them, a mass of alternative people wanting to help others out, we don’t really have that sort of culture in the UK, but that is what we are doing here, bringing that culture here. I don’t want it to be about squatting or festivals, I want it to be about the local people, that have lost their local venue and a place to go. I want a place for people to come and do yoga, to converse, to do mechanics for all the people that don’t have a creative place to feel that they can come to this place and use here. For people that are lacking a creative outlet. For festival goers who can drop in and have a shower or mend their vehicle on the way to their next festival. And the rest of England will see what the counter culture is doing. The alternative is squeaky clean which is too expensive. Taking the philosophies of the ‘beat generation’ and making it ‘the cool’, who like the idea but they don’t actually like it. I’m punk, a jungliest, I’ve always been a punk. Three years ago we came over this way as we’d heard about a piece of land that was potentially squattable as we’d all come from eco-village Runnymede by the Magna Carta memorial and then we squatted in the city for a while but wanted to get back to the trees. I got a telephone call to say there is potentially a building to squat. It took a year for it to pan out for something to happen, lots of set backs and lots of waiting. A friend showed us the property and we took ownership of it. We had too scare the kids out and the owner, a company called Milegate, a company who do shipping trawlers off Norway, frozen fish, who bought the building as an investment, said that we could be here. There was a fire after the pub closed, because of trouble and drugs, and the company didn’t want to pay for security for the building so agreed to let us stay here. They liked the idea that we come in and clean the place up. Now it’s Respace, which is, rather than taking buildings to squat we are recycling buildings and here it will be a workshop. We have friends with all sorts of skills, it’s like Xaviers school for mutants (laughs). 25 to 30 is the main age range in the building. My experience is that I couldn’t get housing benefit as I was in the wrong
age bracket, they told me to go share and that was already what I was doing. ‘Occupy’ happened and I wasn’t getting enough hours in my job to pay rent so I packed a backpack and just left. I went from a pub upbringing to losing a job in a pub so now is like getting a second shot. My politics for social change - I’m an accelerationsist, rather than patch a leaky bucket I want change right now. We need to start doing it ourselves, to lend real support to local families, there’s lots of homelessness and I want to raise the point that there’s alot of empty properties that people can use. Councils should allow these projects to happen, essentially we’re being cheeky but we come in and tell the council what needs to be done. They come and check us regularly to make sure we hold our end of the bargain to keep it secure and safe. This used to be a drinking spot for kids and a heroin users place for needle users. With us here it’s not being destroyed and rotting and the police are happy they don’t have to come down here and deal with this building everyday. We haven’t been kicked out as we behave ourselves, it’s cleaner and tidier. The local populace are on board with it. This here is a life alternative, it’s finding people you can connect with on the same level to talk about life’s issues, a creative outlet frees up the mind. There are 80,000 empty buildings in London alone so all the homeless can have a place to stay. I don’t want any help, I want the people here to help, to do it for themselves but we don’t need the council’s help. The council said that the floorboards were freaking them out as they are wobbly so I’m cutting off the broken bits and replacing them. As long as they keep us as “care takers on rotation” we should be OK to stay here. We might end up getting charged a pepper corn rent but we can set up tables to have street sales to cover any taxes we have to pay. The council seems to find it really cool and fascinating that we are doing this for ourselves. Respace is written with a small ‘r’. It’s not a company, it’s a thing that you do. To re-cycle. We’re looking at doing this across the country and it will really freshen up the culture, alot of the influence for people being here is music. Music is emotive, it’s about experiencing similar feelings, sometimes with political influence and lifestyle choice and ideology. Now it’s either MTV rocker or Radio 1. Here it’s a place for every genre of counter culture to come together and do their one thing.”
George 28 “I was living in Roehampton with my Mum and not getting up to much. I was flicking through the news one night and saw Occupy developing. I went down to see what was going on and spent one night there and went back to what I was doing. I didn’t stay at Occupy but helped set it up, get the food tent off the ground in the first days.
About a third of the squatters, well maybe not a third but a significant proportion in London are Spanish and Italian and eastern european and after a while their natural political leanings come out and they decide to live like this as it’s so expensive to live. And also quite alot of them are involved in the underground rave scene.
I was always anti-authoritarian and just didn’t have an outlet for it. I’d always lived in a house and a bit of couch surfing. Then a friend showed me Runnymede, it was Jeddi who was living there, I stayed two weeks and then went back to live full-time and through that I met the urban squatters, Little Charlie’s crew. They were central London squatters to begin with, jumping from building to building every two weeks. Being in the woods was the same thing but it takes alot more work, you have to dig wells, dig latrines, do your rubbish regularly and not completely strip the area of firewood. In the city there’s more places to dump rubbish, it’s a different set of stresses as you’re generally never there (in the building) for more than a month or two.
I’m kind of split on this, there are enough empty buildings and alot of homeless people but also alot of people have taken a long hard look at life and don’t want help from the way it is right now, from welfare, state help which is what the majority is for the solution of squatting is based on. There is talk that we need a housing boom but all we need to do is open up all these empty buildings rather then build on green land.
I’ve been here pretty much the entire time, I turned up 2 weeks after they first got here. It’s coming up to two years. It’s definitely my favorite one after the special school in Bethnel Green which had been empty for a year, we checked the land registry which tells you who the owner is and what they’re planning to do. If they’re not going to be ripping the building down in a month or two then we move in, if it’s not going to be turned into something. Initially this way to live wasn’t a choice, the options were my Mum’s with 3 other brothers and 2 dogs in the building, couch surfing with friends who are either all dead now or in prison or my Nan down the coast but the environment, Hastings, was just horrible. It’s just a town falling off a cliff in the 90’s. It’s the only place with sharps bins for needles in public toilets I’ve ever seen. Then I met a load of lovely people and their problems became mine so it was right ‘it’s time to find a building’. It’s a clan mentality thing, it’s not really ‘us and them’ but more of them than us (separated in cultures by a lack of money). Newcomers are welcome and we don’t turn people away because they have a job but we have a greater respect for people that have lived this lifestyle. I do miss the woods but at some point I wish I could go to a toilet with a lock on it and have a shower. That’s the point with a van I suppose, you can kind of live both. My long term plan is to use Emily’s and my van to move around Europe. Big cities first and then meet up with people we know.
Denmark and Germany have recycled their industrial districts so we should too. They don’t do up old buildings but instead put shipping containers inside and make those nice inside. Just fill up empty buildings with containers and you can get alot of people inside. It’s a great solution for young single people who don’t want to pay three quarters of their wages on rent. This comes on to the recycling of the buildings, with respace, it’s an official stamp on something who are already doing and talking to landlords in a language they understand. It’s a statistical thing that uses numbers so show what’s possible and which can also lead to tax breaks for businesses if you know what you’re doing and it takes the confrontational aspect out of it. If you’ve got someone who is backed by charitable foundations it looks good. But they’re (the government) probably going to make this illegal, the outright banning of commercial squatting, as most of the MP’s are property owners. Everything comes back to the culture in an area, if there’s nowhere to go people will create their own spaces to do things, especially if it’s too expensive. Generally I get involved in the little odd jobs that need doing, hoovering, washing up, clearing fire exits and making sure everything is available, like tea and coffee. I’ll probably always do this unless I’ll end up with some kind of windfall, I’d like to end up on an island somewhere but I’ll always come back to the town or city because our running costs are generally lower here, we can work and still save money rather than it go on rent and bills. I met Emily in the woods at Runnymede, it was a physical attraction at first, I had a girl and Emily had a bastard that wouldn’t go away. We’d
always known we liked each other. If women know the lifestyle it seems to be easier, it’s unusual for women to live like this, the ratio is 4 to 1 generally. It gets a bit lower in the urban situations, it’s more even. It’s perfectly possible to convert alot of old buildings as the government have done it already for small businesses so they could easily do the same for homes too. When this building has been respaced I hope my van will be able to be moved as I have itchy feet and will want to move on. That’s part of this thing, doing this on my own terms and moving on. Go to maybe another project from here but not this big a project. It’s a company, respace, a brand for a load of slightly different ideas.”
Mark 35 “I started squatting back in 2009 and I’d just come back from a trip to India. Before the trip I’d been working in an art gallery as an assistant curator. It was a charity and I got made redundant and I didn’t want to get another job. I wanted to find a different way of living, a co-operative of some sort, a community living on the land in a free way. It was going to be difficult to find another job as an art curator because of the depression. I found a community called Kew Bridge eco-village, opposite Kew Gardens. As soon as I saw them I was in love, the vibe was electric and I decided to move in straight away. It was a squatted piece of land, it had been empty for 20 years plus. There was no pressure, the lack of pressure, there was loud voices shouting about social issues and the destruction of the planet that is going on. I wanted to talk about it and do something about it. We got evicted and I moved into another squat with a girlfriend and moved into a mansion owned by a Nigerian who had been jailed and his mansion had been left unoccupied for a long time. It was already squatted so I moved in with my girlfriend’s crew. I’ve squatted in 15 to 20 buildings and I don’t know if I particularly enjoy it anymore, I can’t answer why, I have always maintained a job which is quite an achievement living this lifestyle because it can be quite volatile. I’m not involved in the ReSpace project, it’s very temporary I am here, it’s been a month now. I think ReSpacing is excellent for the most part, it does depend on the people but the fundamental issue is that it is good to put new space into old space. It’s creating a creative space, with this space here and it is apparent a restructuring is going on. Before people were just squatting here long term but now with the ReSpace project it means that when this building has been renovated the residents will move on to another building. I need to distinguish what I am. Am I a squatter, an activist, a concerned citizen, a career protester? There’s many different issues going on. One thing I hate about society is how we have to label everything, give everything a name so we can understand it, it’s a false dichotomy. Parts of society looks at us and thinks we want a free ride, because we don’t want to spend all our lives paying off a mortgage, but that doesn’t really ring true, that’s a bit of it but sacrifices have to be made in this economy. Especially when in general people are 3 months away from hitting absolute dereliction without any help from the state whatsoever. Just yesterday a friend of mine who rents lost his job, he has £600 a month rent to pay and was just let go (gig economy). What’s he going to do? I have no idea. But I definitely know he’s on the breadline and I lend
him money each week and I also lend money to other friends that rent each week too. ‘Free ride’? I don’t know man. It looks like you lot are struggling more than me. I don’t have £600 flying out of my pocket every month. I would literally prefer to live on the streets than give £600 of my hard earned money to a landlord. Free range organic food doesn’t come cheap. Society has to have the option of eating well and I’d rather spend my money on organic food and I still struggle to do that. At what moral price do we have to pay for battery farmed food? I think we owe the animals a break, some of the land projects I’ve worked on we’ve ‘rescued’ animals (I’m not on a moral high ground here) which regained health after a month and who were not in a healthy condition. I’ve been afforded a luxury that’s not been afforded to many that means I can up and leave whenever I like. Which means I don’t have to be part of the renting generation. Next week I’m going to Vietnam on an open ended ticket and I don’t know when I’m coming back. I would like a wife and a family one day but I’d need stability for that. I can’t exactly invite a girl back to the Halifax doorway. Ironically I don’t feel entirely safe on Britain’s streets as opposed to Argentina’s streets, Bolivia or Vietnam, due to Britain’s violence. I have definitely slept out in doorways while I’m travelling abroad and been OK. You have to have a real mind set to brush it all off, there is a certain mindset to living like this. I’ve been homeless since 14 years old and with no help from the state. I educated myself and I’ve always gone with a book in my hand wherever I’ve gone. I would like to be a criminologist, a sociologist, an anthropologist, a photo journalist. I’d like to conduct studies into different social reactions to different circumstances that people and groups find themselves. I’m interested in the current climate of what causes youth crime. I was once studying to get into youth care but I never really worked out how to create that change within them. The solution (for me) is not mainstream society so I never became a social worker and it’s a shame. I was a product of that environment because of neglectful foster parents and social services. I slipped through the cracks. How am I supposed to rent when I’ve never experienced any stability in my life? Even the person who is dictating this interview has this philosophy too, he will never pay rent as it is a waste of money. I’m waiting for the protest to come.
What is ever apparent is that I would like a stable relationship but I have to be much more stable in order to attract someone. It’s the illusion of thinking it’s a great plan but in reality I wouldn’t want to settle down, trapped in a dead end job and having to pay so many bills. The violence on London streets, drug barons, it’s not conducive to anything. There’s an extreme amount of bad. I would like to buy a boat but coming to the process of buying the boat I just felt I wasn’t ready to settle down. England is a really difficult place to settle down. I was speaking to a recruitment guy today who said that he’s only taken 3 months off in 18 years and that’s just not me. And what landlords take off you each week means you cannot afford to slow down in work or take time off. For reference I was at Occupy and I made alot of friends there. For me it was an amazing community, a gigantic interactive theatre show. I wasn’t involved with alot of meetings there but I did take a flight back from South America especially to be there.”
Rob 45 “I’ve been squatting for 8 months, since August last year. Never heard of it before, in Ireland it doesn’t exist because if it was legal nobody would pay rent.” I was homeless in the streets of London for the last 3 years but squatting is like ‘posh homeless’, the aristocracy for the homeless. I just ended up in London, lost my credit cards and stuff and ended up on the streets. I was a fugitive and had people after me. It was safer for me to be on the streets than in a hotel. I sleep in public places where there is people around so I can be seen all the time. Low probability attack areas, like airport and stations and parks in the daytime. I also lost my passport. I was in Thailand for ten years before I moved here and I was in India for 3 years before that. I was in Ireland until 2007. I lived in Germany, USA and Australia. I was an engineer, with Intel, a computer engineer in Dublin. I kind of got by, I tried to save as much money as I could, I started my own business, teaching seminars about value investing in the stock markets. In 2007 I could see there would be a depression, the market was high risk and so ‘over-bought’ so I closed my client accounts, sold stock and that and went to India. I wanted to do a spiritual journey. I’d learnt the financial side of things but wanted to learn the spiritual side of things. Zorba the Buddha, was total in all his endeavours and I learnt tantra, yoga, Tai-chi and Qigong. I also went to China to learn Kung Fu. I loved Thailand, because you can get the east and the west, with creature comforts like air conditioning. Not like India which is very ‘east’. I’d like to be in Thailand right now, playing my guitar in a hut next to the beach but I’m thinking of moving back to Ireland because I have some connections there and I’d like to record an album first here in the studio. I just have to finish the electric here. I have enough money now to eat properly and look after myself so I have to get myself right before I record music as your state reflects itself in the song. ReSpace is a great idea. It gives us a chance to create a business that is not financially based, it gives people a voice when they have never had a chance to have a voice before. It’s a chance to create our own economy. I’ll stay here for as long as the project is here for and as long as I’m allowed to be here. I like that it’s a good community of guys, we all get along together. I’d rather be on main roads and main streets but beggars can’t be choos-
ers, just more visible, I like to be visible, I don’t like to hide you know. I’m involved with electrics and plumbing here, I’m good at all of it, it’s easy in a house. It’s sturdy here, the concrete walls, but the roof needs repair because of the damp but it’s getting better now. I miss the crack in Ireland but it’s not the same as it used to be. Places used to have an epic kind of history to it, there’s no soul left to it, it’s hard to find, it’s too clean. I’ve adapted to this life causally, by smoking lots of herb, it’s made it ‘smootherer’. I’m a bit of a gypsy and a pirate at heart, I’m noble and honourable. I hate the law, they’re just annoying. I love freedom the most, it’s like unconditional, you can do what you want, be free to learn, experience and grow. I’ve been playing guitar since I was 14 or 15. I went to music college in Cork, I like funk best, like Stevie Wonder, Nile Rodgers, Pharrell Williams, Daft Punk, Chic, that kind of stuff. I use the guitar to busk with but haven’t done much of it, I just play by myself most of the time. I go day by day, I never know what I’ll do next, I’ll just see how I feel. I can’t be ordinarily bothered by the inconsequential habitation of the intellect of the masses. Which means I can’t be fucking arsed, or emotionally moved by the disinterest of the machines. I have no political views, I only like music and comedy. I used to have the house and a BMW but I wasn’t happy, I was too busy in my head to play the guitar well. I also slept walk and had a serious accident and my naturopath told me that if I slept walk and fell from 20 feet up it means I wanted to get out of what I was doing. I didn’t have a choice, I couldn’t go back to work because I was in a wheelchair for 3 months and crutches for the rest of the year. My message is a retransmission or a reiteration - ‘be good, see good and do good. Do not infringe on the freedom of another being, smoke the herb and everything will be alright. Be Iron like a Lion in Zion’. I just want someone, someday, hopefully before I die or disappear to contact me to say they heard my song, my music @PeterAimMusic on Facebook and it changed my life.”
Luca 31 “I never squatted in Germany, the first time was in England in 2012. It was through Occupy, I was living on a boat with a few friends, but could not stay there because the boat had to move to a dry dock, to get works done on it. At Occupy I had made connections to friends that were squatting, so I asked if I could squat with them. I had no job and no money and no address so squatting was better than being homeless. It was nice, I liked living with people and living in a community. I didn’t have another place to stay so I stayed with friends. I used to study in university in Heidelberg but I started to smoke a lot of weed and I lost the motivation to go to lessons also because I wasn’t really into what I was studying. It was what I thought I was supposed to do, I left school, went straight to university and had never stopped to think about my life. But when I started to smoke it made me stop and think and I realized I had to life my live for me. Just doing what was expected of me, would not be enough for lasting happiness. There was a big crack in my world view. I started to question what was going on in the world, through looking into 911 and the lies that started the second Iraq war. I got into conspiracy theories and my views switched. I started to see the state as being an oppressive force of control, the wars, the lies, the whole thing made me swing in the opposite direction, not wanting to have anything to do with states and society, just seeing the whole thing as evil. The students were rioting here in England at the end of 2010 and I though that was awesome. I was getting hyped up by the YouTube videos and wanted to film what was happening. Through this I met a friend that invited me to stay on his boat, which later, after about 2 years brought me to squatting. I squatted buildings in Central London but not for very long as it was too stressful, we were constantly worried about being kicked out, lots of people had to share rooms, there were lots of drugs and mental health issues. Also too many people around when you went outside, crowded and loud all the time. Then I had the alternative to do the same things in the woods, at Runnymede where I could have my own shelter and where it was green and lush with room to breath. I spent the better part of two years living in the woods without running water and electricity. This experience showed me how little we actually need for a happy life. In 2014 sitting outside my hut at Runnymede, I was struck by some sort of epiphany. Spending about 8 hours in my favourite armchair just smoking weed and looking at bushes on an absolutely gorgeous summer day. I felt as though I had achieved everything I had imagined for my retirement as a teenager. When suddenly following this realization guilt hit me. I felt guilty for not having done anything in my life that would merit me retiring. This led me to make the decision to start a carpentry apprenticeship in
Germany, there I could get paid while getting a very well respected qualification that could open doors for me worldwide. The first time I had used a hammer and nails was in Runnymede and I was dreadful at building but I did enjoy it, that creative part of building a structure, together in a team. Carpentry was a reasonable decision as it is a universal thing, it covers one of our basic needs as human beings, shelter. It can be done in any kind of situation, I can build myself a shed any where in the world and I can barter my skills even if money stops working. Now I am actually quite good. I feel freer in England than Germany but that is connected to the scene I live in. It is nothing specific about England, other then maybe the anonymity of a mega city like London, here I feel, however weird I might be, they have seen it all before. There are communities in Germany, they are a bit more organized and a bit more strict which maybe isn’t a bad thing. I can’t really generalize, if it’s a thing for England or Germany. You don’t have any squatting rights in Germany, you can’t just move in, you either had to hide or have an agreement with the owner, but I can’t really say anything about that I just wasn’t really involved with that scene in Germany. But in my personal experience, there is a big alternative scene in Germany and I went to visit one community, which was nice but they are all paying rent to be there, it’s like they are running it as a business because they don’t just completely shut out the reality that they need money, if they want to build something and develop. Here we don’t pay to squat as we don’t really need money and can survive without it and as long as there is enough weed everyone is content enough to accept the current situation, rather then work towards something more. It’s pretty bad here for housing, the prices in London are insane and I see a lot more people in the street who are homeless than a few years ago. More regular homeless people, beggars also who I recognize. The problem with the homelessness is that it cannot be solved with empty houses alone, there are mental health issues, that’s a big part of it. There needs to be more general support for the long term homeless and more affordable housing to avoid people falling into this situation. Looking at the world generally I think it’s going to get a lot worse and then hopefully better. Mentally I am preparing myself for surviving times like my grandparents had to go through, when there were food shortages, rations and so on. Around here I help out with the Fire doors, just making them a little bit better, so that they open and close properly. I fit intumescent strips to the doors and help out with general carpentry and building stuff.
Now I’m in full-time employment and work a 40 hour week and live in an apartment with my girlfriend, it’s her Dad’s flat so we only have to pay bills and council tax. This allows me to save money and because I can do that, I can improve my socio-economic situation, and work towards building a simple and sustainable life. It used to be normal to work, save and build a house and start a family. But people now are realizing that if you are on an average wage they are only just surviving, there aren’t a lot of people that earn enough to build up savings building a better future for themselves. I am saving up to buy some land or buy into a housing co-op with other people, live a simple life, have a well, have wind power and solar power and have no bills to pay. After you have that, you are free. I would still work and then use the money for the nice things, like traveling. I’ll also need money for repairs to the car as those things will always happen. Or to get some nice things like cheese and wine, I do like cheese. And I don’t think I would make a good dairy farmer. What does it really matter afterwards? Your big car and your big house?! We’re all going to be eaten by the same worms at the end. Being able to look yourself into the eye before you die is worth more than all of that. What’s nice about this building is that people are looking after it here and improving it rather than trashing it. One quote from Canadian psychology professor Jordan Peterson I really like, ‘if you want to save the world start by tidying your room’. Take steps to improve the world and yourself by first structuring your life before telling others how to structure society.” (Luca is asleep on couch against far wall)
Laura 22 I’m Lithuanian, I didn’t come here for more kind of reason, too much family stuff going on. I came here when I was 16, I had a friend from my country that knew about squatting, who used to live in London so they said come on over. I just wanted to party hard, I wanted to know what it was like here, squatting means you could meet people and have amazing buildings to live in, amazing rooms and eat well too. Of course sometimes you meet bad people too but you just have to deal with it. I wonder now how I managed to do this back then, 16 years old. I came over with a suitcase, I was looking for a squat in Bethnal Green and I had to borrow a phone from someone on the street to find them. I wasn’t scared of anything, people were really nice. I wasn’t thinking about renting at that point, there was only one option for me, to squat and I just wanted to leave Lithuania. I didn’t even finish my school, I just dropped it. It was a tough period for me and my Mum. I would just hang around with people, open buildings for parties, which they’d pay me for and help out, just doing it. I didn’t need money as you’d get it from the bins. Occasionally I’d get cash from family but you don’t really need it. For me what was hardest was I didn’t know any English, to communicate. There was some drama at some points as stuff would go missing. Our squats are clean so it was never a problem to look after myself. One place I squatted didn’t have a shower so we would go to sports centres to wash, once every 2 or 3 weeks. If I can’t have a shower it’s not going to be the end off the world for me. It just becomes a part of your day routine. I’m visiting friends here I used to squat with, I’m renting a room in central right now but I’m thinking abut squatting again, but I’m not sure as it’s hard to get out of squatting to rent so I’m not sure if I’ll come back again. It’s a lifestyle, about meeting amazing people, the same people who have the same ideas, it’s interesting. I never heard of ReSpacing project before but I think it’s a really good idea, it’s a huge building here, a massive space so people should know about it, for music, art and maybe to involve more people to make them more interested. In the future I don’t think I will be squatting, I’d like to travel around and meet people. All their stories, just finding out what people there are in the world. I don’t really know what I want to do but I do know I don’t want to do anymore random jobs like bar work. After a while I realized that I don’t need money as all I did was spend it on stuff I didn’t need, I wasn’t happy. I need to find a way to make some cash and just travel, to work at festivals - to pick litter, a different type of job, to feel like I’m doing something good. Money doesn’t really mean much but I have to travel to find out what I feel about it after all these years of squatting. I won’t go back to
Lithuania to live, I consider London is my hometown. I did live in Marseille for one year, I liked it, it was a good experience, I squatted there, it was really amazing. Here in the UK you cannot just open a residential house but there I opened a house with my boyfriend and two girls we met, we just popped a window open in a minute, the market used to give us vegetables. It was more political there as there are alot of refugees, there were lessons to learn for languages but that was the main barrier, language as I don’t know French. Our squat got messed up by other people eventually. Living by the mountains and the sea was the best bit, I knew I wouldn’t be able to afford it in a normal life so I enjoyed it. For me it felt like a holiday, a tourist city, like somewhere I would visit but not to live, it was a good experience. I see so many people sleeping in the streets in London, it is crazy. It’s because the government sucks here. I have squatted alot of places in London in 6 years, more than twenty maybe, that’s because some places didn’t last long, where we couldn’t stay for more than a week. It was good times, I really miss it, squatting is different right now, it’s harder, the government is more on it now. I draw, I just love it, it is the most special thing to me, it makes me happiest to draw with someone else, I drew my friend recently, that was my favourite drawing, but I leave it for a month sometimes. I have a friend who really inspires me, the first person that met me when I first came to London. I like to draw together on the same page. I used to go to galleries and museums, a little but of tourist stuff. Art galleries because there was free wine, just to go to look at ridiculous paintings and drink alot. I’d like to start making my own clothes, screen printing maybe. I want to draw really big, on wallpaper and this space here would be perfect for that. To stick it to the walls, of animals.” (Laura is far right with fur hooded jacket)
Djeddi 29 “I’ve never actually opened a building so I can’t call myself a squatter as such. I’m more of a traveller, I’ve always gone with the ebb and flow of existence and gone along with what I have to do for my own spiritual growth. Understand myself and the world around me and then to study whatever else I fancy. Mostly to do with archetypes, sociological phenomenon and psychological phenomenon so I can make some sense of it so I can read it better. So I can sit back and know how it’s going to pan out and I can only do this by living in an extreme way. It’s the nature of who I am, born to resist. I left school at 13, it introduced me into alot of fringe culture, when you’re living like that alot of people take you in - running away from care homes and foster placements, from the tyranny of society. It was very difficult to place me as I would never tow the line. I don’t mean to be who I am but I need a good reason to be told what to do. As a child I was statemented with ODD, ADD and ADHD and labelled as basically that I didn’t fit into the system. I feel as though I was the only real person in assembly at school and everyone else were ‘bot’s. I was questioning everything. I started to question reality from a very young age, testing sod’s law, trying to work out the patterning. What is it? Do I ‘think it and it happens’ or do I ‘want it to happen and it happens’. My family had broken down and there was alot of violence to me, up until the age of 13. Then I got arrested for fighting back to my Dad so I ran away and I’d go to where friends would take me, always fringe places, bedsits, somebody’s flat who was letting people stay, a couple who had a young kid who’d look after me and I’d babysit. I made a network of places I knew where I could be and be useful and do whatever kind of differences I can make. The ‘action of non-action actively’ sounds almost like a misspelling but its a zen philosophy I am studying which teaches me that everything will pan out. Runnymede was probably the most off-grid I have lived, the way we were living and the way were eating in the eco-village meant we were the only people in Britain whose CO2 output was worked out as living within the standards of Agenda 21, 21 countries, to meet a global standard of output. It was the most beautiful place to live and I would never have left there unless it had been closed down. Runnymede was the pinnacle of my study at that time. It was the foundation for understanding myself, to be at peace and to find my place on the earth. In this modern world I think many people are striving for that. I have realized how magic this universe is.
I’m still on my own personal recovery journey here, I’ve had alot of trauma in the past 2 years, Romford became a real bastion for me as a place to stop whilst I was traveling the festival circuit. I could come here for a couple of days and rest and go on my way. I don’t see myself as squatting a building as I live in a caravan on the site here. I have never really squatted a building, the longest I ever did was 3 or 4 months. I generally don’t enjoy living in buildings as they are boring as everything is already made but it’s a fixer upper (here) so there is plenty to do. There’s alot more value in squatting land so you can grow crops and there is only so much you can do with a building like this. You can have music events and art shows and stalls to sell things but for me it can only regenerate so much from the system. But it does propagate that feeling of regeneration that people can realize they can do it for themselves. It empowers most people squatting but for some it degenerates their lives also. It’s a space here to understand the world around them and allows them to explore their particular interests. It means that some people can live here and still work part time to earn enough for basic things but also allow them time to do what else they wish to do. For me it is to discover myself as an artist. I can only see it as a positive thing. I reach for extremes in life, not extreme sports, I don’t know why, it’s who I am. You can experience yourself through the people you meet. I think ReSpacing is brilliant, I always thought wouldn’t it be great to create an ‘Ad Hoc’, a guardianship company, they charge land owners or building owners to take on the contract to rent out spaces for tenants. Basic infrastructure is put in but the people within the building are responsible for keeping squatters outside. Ad Hoc is ripping people off but ReSpacing is better, it’s opening the space up for the community again, eventually, for the local community to otherwise use a derelict space that otherwise might end up being used for other illegal activities. Housing and homelessness is really bad right now, I think opening up empty buildings to house homeless people is a good thing. But if people do that for themselves it can manifest into bad things and also there is a ban now on residential squatting so to have a ReSpace company is better as it’s organized. What it does is take that commercial building and gives it a social upliftment and regenerates it. It’s where squatting should be, local councils who are responsible should be giving empty buildings to homeless people, centres like Camden and Brixton which were massive squatter’s places are now bank rolls for those places. I think ReSpaces are the beginning of the regeneration of places and give
people at least the possibility to use them for some kind of social function that at the end of the day is crucial for any community. ReSpacing is the beginning of gentrification, it’s where it starts, but most people don’t get that. Artists flood an area that need creation, dynamic spaces, all sorts of different sociologies and life skills to flourish, from basic skills of electrics and plumbing. ReSpace is opening up squatting and making it legal and accepted. It should be celebrated. I know people that squatted archways in Brixton who ended up being extremely successful in their creativity to the point that they founded multi million pound companies. Shutting down squatting is an attack on civil liberty, people should be allowed to make use of empty space. They made a legislation about squatting residentials as people were abusing the law but that is a cross between fact and opinion. This type of squatting, ReSpacing isn’t an attack, it’s a way for the regenerative side of the creative arts and activist networks can flourish. It’s funny squatting, you get to see the foundations of how global social groups were formed. Rave culture led me to squatting culture, which is the regenerative program for the planet. I changed my approach from protest to recycling. Art is the point which makes people question why.”
Liam 26 “First time I ever started squatting was in late 2011 at the Rat Star in Camberwell Green. That was after coming back from Dale Farm near Wickford, that was a travellers site/protest site that had been facing eviction for 10 years. 50 or 60 travellers got evicted on that day but over 150 people had lived there. Alot had left through fear of their property getting damaged or were away working. That was through my twin brother, he found out by scanning the internet and saw that these families were resisting eviction, we had always hated bailiffs growing up, it was in our blood, through the poll tax campaign. My Mum and Dad had always taught us to resist against bailiffs, government, resist them from basically shitting on people, and the jumped up Tories. The Rat Star, we turned it into a squatting community centre, they had a people’s vegan kitchen there and documentary film screenings. It was a brilliant place but I got bitten by the bug and wanted to do it myself. I have been doing it 7 years now basically, I’ve lost count of how many places I’ve been to now. At Elephant and Castle and Peckham. We did a few benefit gigs in Peckham, something to do with Dale Farm, the best thing we did was a protest to fight deportations, marching through Peckham high street. Both my mum and my dad have a background in protesting, my dad didn’t get on with his dad and his mum died when he was young but he got on well with his left-wing history teacher and he got into trade unions and then he joined the merchant navy. He started to campaign against Maggie Thatcher. She was cutting all the crews down, the numbers, so he protested against that. He was involved in fighting against the National Front, like ‘Screwdriver’ gigs and handing out anti-racist literature. Him and my Mum got into it together, they ran a community shop, doing community gardens and helping local kids. My first protest was when I was 6, the second Gulf War in 1997. I was in a Nottingham newspaper with my brother holding placards, we were charged by horses and I was terrified. I’ve does work at old people’s homes in their gardens and laid footpaths. I do like the political thing of it, about squatting. I personally don’t think the people should pay for rent or for water or food or heating bills and utilities. With the advent of robotics in the work place everybody should get a basic wage, just the basics met. Even leisure should be free to people as if you don’t you’re creating inequality and friction and resentment between those that can and those that can’t. It should be universal. I don’t subscribe to that we’re getting lazy, it’s only when people go to excesses when they get expensive yachts and fleets of motor cars it becomes a problem. I don’t precisely know what I am but I have Marxist and Anarchistic tendencies and ‘communalism’, an idea by Murray Bookchin. He started off by socialism then went to anarchism and became interested in ecology.
Environmental issues and stuff. This at The Bitter End was basically... we were leaving one squat in Stratford, the crew split as there was a little divide between some people and I went with Little Charlie, Kasia, Big Charlie, and we tried to open a place at Leytonstone College. That was fine for a couple of weeks but they wanted to reopen it so we went to The British Queen in Wanstead which was a bad idea. It was a bunch of bald headed fellas armed with sticks and evicted us, attacked us and smashed all the windows. We all got tossed out of there, they owned it and were pissed off. Bunch of bone head racist morons - some of them were huge, never seen people so big before. Then we went back to the 491 Gallery at Leytonstone and did a little stint at Harold Wood. Lived in the woods for 2 or 3 weeks which was idyllic. There were also travellers there but allowed us to stay because of our connection with Dale Farm. From there we came to The Bitter End and Little Charlie had heard about the ReSpace group who’d been involved with The Hive at Dalston. I’ve been here from the beginning, it was a dive, only one plug for electricity, no water for the first 9 months. We’d use local amenities to use toilets, like McDonald’s and Costa and good for free toilet paper and sugar. We went skipping the market but before that it was garages and supermarkets. We had to buy food a bit more then as we couldn’t cook much. Then we started to get a good relationship with the market who give us free fruit and veg and old ladies came down here with clothes and sandwiches. Rooms were disgusting with an unreal amount of heroin needless and human excrement. On the top floor there were less needles but lots of dead pigeons and pigeon shit. I haven’t signed on for years, for 6 years. I did have a couple of jobs, worked at a kitchen and at some festivals. Most of how I survive is through busking, it’s too laborious to sign on, you’re made to beg for it and it’s boring, I can make more money by busking. You don’t have to sit in some boring, bureaucratic demeaning environment. Job centres are soulless places, they’re just stressful places, I’ve seen people manhandled as well, when people don’t get their benefits. Police being called to tackle people, a lack of ID makes it difficult but it’s more of a principle thing, it’s just a waste of time. If there was a set amount of benefits that everybody was entitled to it would be easier. It’s so humiliating for people, being interrogated. Obviously some people abuse the system but they waste a lot of money setting up interviews themselves - instead do away with all of them and take people on their word. If everyone got a house people aren’t going to claim disabled if they have what they need. Large financial businesses are making tens of millions of pounds a year and their workers earn very little in comparison. Arms manufacturers and hedge fund managers. It’s corrosive. Some people are born to wealth and they take it for granted. I think people should be more encouraged,
money should be less of a motivating factor and people should do more to help each other for the sake of helping fellow human beings. I’ve lost count of the amount I’ve down for people for free. I think that homelessness can be solved if people didn’t feel the need to own multiple houses and if they just owned their own residence. It’s not so much that there’s a housing crisis but that it’s equally shared out. Look at how much the royal family owns in properties and how many of those buildings should be shared out. It’s outrageous that people are living rough on the street and there are empty buildings doing nothing. People in 3rd world countries starving so that people in this country can have luxuries. Man kinds first priority should be that everyone is entitled to a house. I think ReSpace is great, it enables disused buildings so be brought back into use, to bring the community in to socialize with a left wing political slant which is nice. The plan is ultimately to have a community people kitchen. Everyone gets a donation based dinner for free and also film nights and maybe even some gigs, live music gigs. We’ve had a couple of live jam sessions here before the main ball room got packed full of stuff. I’ve been involved cleaning spaces up, getting the garden looking nice, fencing, windows and fire doors, we’ve had a lot of Fire Brigade inspections as they said it was a fire risk bit it isn’t so much now. Been filling up skips and clearing the place out. Alot of the stuff we have now is more useful, it’s actually building materials. It was a smack den when we first got here, it wasn’t pleasant. I’ve been decorating the place and am organising a graffiti artist to come here. We need roofers here, that’s been one of the main problems, with flooding water. I should think I’ll be involved in squatting forever, I’d quite like to buy a bit of land or a canal boat. I will always be involved in opening up spaces for homeless people. I do really want to get involved in more community ideas, we’re really comfortable in Britain but the ramifications stretch far further than just this country. People are fighting to survive far more in other countries than here, just not to starve.” (Liam is at centre wearing sunglasses)
David 32 “I see the body like a machine and I am a mechanic. People think that problems are separate but everything is linked on the body. I take them on a journey, with lighting and incense. I start with the person sitting and then to the massage table. I was born in Iran. Interesting story, back in Iran the student riots were happening and also I’m an Arab, a neighbour to Iraq, Ahvaz. I was born during the Iran/Iraq war quite a long time ago. Iran is similar to the UK, it has different ethnicities and there comes a time when we became a minority and it became a little bit oppressive since Iranians are a bit nationalistic. I have been away so I don’t know how much it has changed now but I have noticed people are a little bit more open minded - the Iran/Iraq war didn’t help. My parents were sending my bother and I away and my Dad went into hiding. My people from my city took over the Iranian Embassy in London in the 1980’s. I came to the UK in 2002 after 9/11. I kind of got in the back of a lorry, for a couple of days and went on the sea for a couple of days as well I think and had a supplement of bread and cheese. I came here illegally original as an asylum seeker. I was refused but because I was under 18 they said I could stay and wait for an interview. I squatted whilst I studied and waited for 5 to 6 years to get a decision. I worked a little bit and finally managed to get permission to remain. I was homeless and in the Parliament Square at the Democracy camp. I did some research and realize there are alot of incompetent individuals and groups running the country who came to that position to make as much money as they can, as their predecessors did. Unfortunately they never get prosecuted for their illegal activities they are involved with like Tony Blair when he went to the war. These people don’t give a damn about what happens to people. I became homeless for a second time in 2009, since then I have been squatting. Usually it’s not because the lack of resource but the lack of resource management - everything is available. Commodities have become luxuries and luxuries have become commodities. For me it’s a necessity, I tend to look at things in a logical aspect, the human needs, once you give people the basic essentials like shelter, water, food - the rest will follow. Then the rest will follow and progress, society as a whole. There are not really bad people, it’s the system that leads the way for people to make bad decisions. When the squatting ban for residential home came about it was a clever move because now more homes are empty, for marketing reason. For example now people cannot use the squatting law to protect them from illegal evictions by the landlord. A lot of buildings are kept empty for some sort of defrauding tax purposes. Me personally, I like to travel, I cannot stay in one place so I would like to have a vehicle to move. Unfortunately the system, the bureaucracy prevents me from doing so. I don’t have an ID so I cannot do anything even though I am allowed to
be here. I cannot prove who I am. It’s more difficult since the Tories came in, they made it more difficult to get benefit, they obviously try to give away as little money as possible. Look at what they done, they cut budgets to the NHS, they are still dealing with other countries, selling arms, so they have more money. It’s absolutely disgraceful greediness. It’s the insecurity complex when they want to feel like gods - why is it that most politicians that come to a position of power want to make more money for themselves? I get no benefit right now, the only way I get money is it to do massaging. It’s divide and conquer in this country, just the same as in mine. Humans are still in a primitive stage, like animals, the only difference is that we are able to communicate how we feel. I ran away from Iran for a better place where people are more civilized but actually people from my city are more educated and better behaved. You can put a monkey in a suit but it’s still a monkey. There is a hoarding of the resources and abuse of technology and people own so much land but also there are people that are doing amazing things with their wealth and who are environmentally friendly. Prevention is better than cure. Most of the issues we have is due to lack of prevention. A lot of atrocities can be prevented if…I tend to get in hassle if I repeat religious texts but we have alot of sins right now, like the 7 deadly sins. Greed, gluttony, it’s a distraction technique. The best way to control people’s realities is through their perception. Vision, our vision is always bombarded by newspaper, TV, movies. Freud did a really good work on symbiology, we like to associate whether we like it or not. We relate as we are sentimental creatures. We are contrived through our reality which has been manufactured, we have been advertised what to dream and what to desire and wish for. I’ve been squatting for 7 years and living with people from different countries and what I find is that everyone is the same. What I mean is that we feel the same emotions but we express it differently because of our cultures. If I get ID I would like to get a job. I would enjoy to pursue the skill I’m really good at which is massaging and also humanitarian work because so much needs to be done, bettering human lives. My personal view on money that it is stupid and ridiculous and unfortunately it has lead to alot of atrocities in the world. The love of the money, it’s a resource that has been twisted and used in the wrong way, it’s a broken system. Humans have lost their way because of greed. This is the third place I have been which is ReSpacing. I have also been to eco-villages as well. The way I see it is I used to be at a ReSpace called The Craftory at City Airport but I didn’t have a skill set to be there, it was more crafty and making things. It’s a good place, people should check it out. I prefer to be around the right people that I can fit in with, that matches my personality, but here most of the people here are at the same level of
understanding about life as me. We have quite a common understanding and common unity. Our experiences of the past here are very similar, we are usually a product of our upbringing and past experiences, there are no coincidences, we are all just attracted here. We have a different way of looking at life and the connection between things. This is why most of us have gathered here, because of our connection and understanding of patterns that is going on in life. To live here you have to play the part, it’s what you can bring to the table, what you can bring in, what set of skills I can bring in. This is a kind of universal deal as well, I like to look at ants, one of the perfect organisms on the planet, they work as a unit, they work all together and they all have their jobs. Mostly I do the sweeping and tidying up whenever I get the chance and I’m quite handy with the tools. Mostly I’m good at massaging the people that work hard. If the carpenter here damages his back and is unable to do anything I can fix his back and he can carry on doing his work at a good pace. I had the opportunity to live with homeless people and I can tell you there are so many bright minds that are not getting the opportunity in life because the country is so badly managed. It produces selfish people. Greed, gluttony has one thing in common, selfishness. It’s the downfall of our species. Everyone should have their place in life but thanks to the corporations you have to get a job that grinds the soul which can lead to alot of mental stress on alot of people. People aren’t being themselves which is why alot get depressed and have mental issues. We need more nature in the city. When I was 3 years old I was trying to carrot juice out of a meat mincer. I was watching my Mum using it and she went to open the door so I got the carrot and pushed it into the machine and my hand slipped and cut my fingers off. I’ve been trying to work out a system for people in general to create an environment where we can thrive as an individual and also all together in groups. This is where working with esoteric knowledge comes in handy. It’s very simple, we have a communal area, a kitchen, an entertainment area and a creative area. This formula can be used anywhere. The issue is that people say ‘this is the way’, ‘mine is the way’. The whole purpose of humanity is to learn, to develop and evolve but unfortunately we haven’t got to evolve very much. The way I see humanity is like mouldy bread, it gets mouldy, it gets bigger and then it dies. Creativity has been removed out of schools, you’re not allowed ideas, it’s been suppressed, apart from maybe private schools. The reason why most people are depressed is because their jobs are not creative. The most important thing is the next generation.” (David is seated behind Arlo)
James 25 “People don’t protest unless they’re hungry, if it doesn’t directly affect them they won’t understand how bad the situation is. For people that are living comfortably they won’t need to make change. You’re only passionate if it’s affecting you. My circumstance was a combination of things, I was struggling financially and only working to afford a place to live and I wasn’t being given enough hours in a supermarket. I lost my Mum at 17 and then had no home so that and work was a catalyst for my decision to start squatting. I saw alot of creative potential in squatting, there is so much more to it as well. I think people should see squatting as a positive thing and not just a catchment for tragedies. It’s a way to find the solutions for the damages that have been caused in this messed up world. I want to squat well, not to destroy buildings but use spaces well so we can focus on art and not annoy the owners. It is liberating after the stress of renting. My life wasn’t contributing to my creative ambitions, I had no sense of community and think it is a really integral part to being human to be around other like minded people. This is why so many people are disconnected and unhappy doing what they don’t love, stuck in their day to day bubble. As far as I know humans have always lived in tribes and animals do as well, in packs, it’s about survival. Western society doesn’t fit into the world, there are so many obvious reasons as to why it doesn’t. There is a huge imbalance in the world, with people how they are living, the state of depression it is causing people’s lives is huge. Capitalism isn’t working and is bound to collapse. We’re depleting the worlds resources and all the people who have committed their lives to a job that gives them no inspiration, unhappily, only to keep them renting a place to live are not doing themselves any favors or progressing their culture. They’re not fitting into earth or helping it, with an ‘us and them’ attitude. What is working about the western world? With squatting there is more of a sense of collective activism, a time and space to be creative. Apart from making alot of music here with people I have learnt some skills like building, I’ve been learning from skilled workers who are here. Most days we try and achieve some kind of productivity. For example we had an inspection by the council and they needed to know that the place was safe for people to stay at so we had to get it tidy and fix the place up. We are building a studio downstairs too. This place was very derelict before anyone moved in almost two years ago. It can be stressful when it’s cold and you can’t get water but I’ve really enjoyed my time here as it’s really
inspiring. There’s a huge influence by the Catholic and Anglo Christian church, religious influences have taken over in this country, before the welfare system there were more communities and people living off grid, before WW2. Now people are controlled by the government and kept in the system, being told what to do, to be able to stay on welfare. It’s not as liberal as it seems, it’s designed to keep people reliant on the state. ‘Squatting is sticking it to ‘the man’, 40% of food sold in the UK goes to waste. 10’s of thousands of buildings in the UK are empty and unused. How many people go to food banks? How much waste is there in this country? Squatting and skipping is an insight into just how wasteful this country is. If we all get together and share then we can sort out all the problems in this country. There’s a reputation about squatters but the general public don’t know what it’s really like, but the way the housing market is, the future generations aren’t going to afford anywhere to live. Some places (to skip) aren’t very accessible, with high fences and even security, I’ve been told before to leave otherwise the police will be called. Food is overpriced, I suppose that people who work in jobs don’t think about how much food costs but it’s just the fact we are throwing out so much food. I mean, imagine how long it would take to work at minimum wage to be able to afford all this food!? The government can make it alot easier for people to survive. Why are we throwing so much food out, it’s really imbalanced. Why are food banks necessary if so much food is thrown away and so expensive? It’s just the way the world is nowadays, stuff is designed to break these days, there is so much waste. It works better when people live in communities and share. If we go skipping we can come back and have all this food and then one day open our doors and hand it out to the homeless as there is so much waste going on. We can help to feed many people. It’s consumerism gone mad, there are so many hungry people in the world, it’s so unnecessary.”
Ned 53, far left “I was giving the opportunity to younger members off the community to pick up a chance to a lifelong skill of changing and maintaining an electric plug. This is to lighten my load, I currently direct the maintenance and improvement of the building. The younger members can then take these skills to other communities they might find themselves a part of and also have the confidence to teach also. The ethos of the building being to invite craftsmen in to share their skills and empower others.”
Ceilidh 20 “I came to squatting since moving out of the woods where I went straight from home. I left home when I was 19. I was living in a 2 bedroom flat with my 2 little sisters so I shared a room and never had my own space. 5 people in a 2 bedroom flat. My mum, her partner, my 2 half sisters and me. There is 10 years and 7 years age gap so it was hell living with them, especially when I was turning 13 and coming into puberty. The council wouldn’t do anything else about it because they said all girls go through the same thing, but you still need privacy. I didn’t leave before because I had a strict mum and not a big social group at school so I spent alot of time at home. All social aspects were done online.
other out, building up your skills and learning from each other, like hunter gatherers, it’s that element I am really interested in.
When I met Harry was my ticket out of home, he is my first partner. Harry was staying at this squat when I met him and we moved to the woods together, for 4 months, at the HS2 protest site at Uxbridge. I feel as though it’s in my blood to squat as my parents both squatted until they had me after they emigrated to Britain from Canada. Both my parents are Canadian so I am only English by birth. Homelessness is much more positive in Canada, people are more humble and it’s less miserable. It’s the cliché that Canadians are really friendly.
There’s no attraction to regular life, our direction has been lost. I enjoy most waking up with people, it really kick starts my day, even when it’s a quiet day if nothing’s happening. It’s all about expansion, being able to work with people like Ned and learning new skills, if I’m inclined to live like this I have to be prepared to learn how to do it. It reminds me of being a tribe, I’ve always had really big obsessions with tribes, particularly Amazonian tribes, they are so raw, it’s real, getting your hands dirty, that’s what humans are, we’re animals. It allows our animalistic traits to be shown rather than commute on a train, oysters card nonsense and sit in an office. All the rules we live under are so unnatural, we are living unnaturally, that’s why people get so depressed.
HS2 wasn’t the most positive outcome, Harry got his stuff nicked, people got violent and distressed, we got lots of stuff stolen. We then went to a squat at Wembley at an old private primary school where James was living, Harry and him have been friends for years. We were there less than the woods, 2 months, then we moved to friends and family which ran its course then we tried to organize a new crew and open a pub in Lewisham but it was too cold and our crew we had manifested turned out to be really unreliable. There was an argument, everybody left and it was just me Harry and James there. After that we came to The Bitter End, we asked Charlie about moving in here. Harry and Charlie had been living at Runnymede together which ended in 2014. We’ve been here 3 months. We found out that it was a ReSpace project whilst we were waiting to be a part of the project, we had to live at Harry’s Mum’s until we got permission to move here. I absolutely adore it here, this way of living. The one thing I didn’t have at my Mum’s was much conversation as she was always at work and my sisters were at school. I had always loved the outdoors which is why we lived outdoors first, feeling free. Also the way life is, working to live isn’t life at all, being born into an assembly line and then only being able to enjoy your time when you’re too old. Sitting in a house where your water and electric is hooked up isn’t living, it’s not blossoming, squatting means if you want something you have to go and do it, like if you want to go and get water you have to go get it and the community aspect, helping each
Self sustaining, it’s boring having everything on a platter, that platter is defined by social constructs. I’d rather be a free human being, make my own life choices. I want nothing to do with the general public, I feel awful in public, I feel like an alien because nobody knows what they are doing, they just do whatever everybody else is doing. They go to work because they think they have to but they don’t. There are other ways to live, with like minded people and share everything, to feel humane.
At one point I went through a phase of normality and I did used to wear make up and I did want a flat, but it never excited me really. Girls wanted to be pretty and have a place to live and guys wanted to be tough footballers. This squat opened my eyes and made me feel like life is never going to be over. I like to live with people of all ages, I never had a social group so to be able to live with people of all ages that are my friends is really cool. I can learn from them, I realize I should bring this way that I feel into my generation more but they don’t comprehend, they are lost, the human race has been dumbed down over the years. I take pride in having dirt under my finger nails and that I don’t have to get it out, what’s wrong with having a bit of dirt. People use bleach too much these days, is that safe? OCD is a huge illness these days, in the past hunter gatherers never suffered from that. I always suffered from depression and potentially it has disappeared now since I came to live here, I don’t have time for that shit. Me and Harry are currently learning to drive to get on the road and do some travelling and meet more people that help make me see life as positive and work at stuff and put effort in. I became so pessimistic with school life, it was a nightmare. I think ReSpace is an amazing idea, the outcome for the public is awesome, it will entice local people to come here and learn and share space. I enjoy working in the basement here, plumbing is an overall job, it’s one of the most important things to work on
here. I had never done that before and I was learning new things and we are going to build a garden shed and I think I will enjoy that the most, to become a handy woman and be productive. I want to be the person that people come and ask me how to do stuff rather than me ask what to do next.”
Jay 46 “I’ve been squatting since I was 15 man. I was a prolific runaway when I was 14 and when I was 15 I was squatting. Running away from a situation I didn’t want to be in. I ended up seeing an alternative lifestyle and I never went back. I was involved in the activist scene from that time on. I was involved with the anti-apartheid protest outside the South African embassy picket in 1986 or 1987 but I wanted to leave when it got mainstream as everybody wanted to free Nelson Mandela. Then Winnie Mandela was found out which made me disillusioned. I’ve squatted at 20 or 30 squats because they were temporary, some of them were off grid and detox rehab. I got invited to Runnymede and that was 5 years ago. I’ve lived under the Imax theatre at Waterloo, loads of pallet houses under there but it smelt of death. The police couldn’t go down there, punks and rockers, 150 people down there. Debauchery and lawlessness in the late 80’s. Society isn’t my planet, I went past Mars and ran out of petrol and never went back, most people are aliens, it’s a rat race and I’m looking in at it. I feel like I’m having to burst the bubble to break into society but actually I’m trying to break out. The day I cut off my dreadlocks people’s attitudes changed, the security guard would no longer follow me in Tescos. We all have to wear the same uniform and if you don’t they don’t understand you. This is my first visit here, I’ve been threatening to visit my friends for about a year. Anyone that ever went to Runnymede who lives here are my friends. 7 or 8 people, maybe 10. Squatting was a necessity but it was choice as well. I have been given a flat for two years, it’s temporary and I’m not used to that as you never see anything as permanent when you’re squatting. I like the community side to it in a squat, you can be isolated living in a flat, if I never had this lifestyle I wouldn’t have friends visit me. I’d be stuck there thinking I don’t want to be there. I was in a temporary homeless hostel for men, it’s a community living space and a few of these guys had been offered flats but you’d find them at other hostels because they’d give their flats up as they couldn’t cope with living alone, paying bills and being responsible. It’s more mind blowing to be offered a flat just hearing that than going to live in one. Alot of them just give up their flats and go back to square one. They’d rather be with their friends. Their community is the hostel people. The Criminal Justice Bill fucked up the housing situation. It meant that if you lived in a van that wasn’t roadworthy your home could be taken off you. It disrupted the alternative people and exacerbated the homeless situation. It stopped communities and free thinking. Just because the engine doesn’t work it took people’s homes away and there’s no going back. Not many people come through the other side, I’ve seen alot of people
fall by the wayside. There’s not alot going to change with homelessness, it’s hot press at the moment because of the cold weather but as soon as the sun comes out they forget about it. Nothing ever gets done about homelessness. There’s a lack of housing but everybody wants to live in the south east. There’s plenty of homes in the north but nobody wants to live there. A lot of people walk past homeless people and think they are unintelligent to live that way but they’re the stupid ones, to go to work everyday, hours and hours everyday and most of that is travelled. They’re educated fools. ReSpace is a good idea, it will give people a different opinion on squatting if they see this space, to give people the opportunity to live an alternative lifestyle and maybe it might inspire them to join in and instead of dropping out, dropping in. I’ve enjoyed coming back to catch up with old friends, eventually I’ll come back to live at a ReSpace project because my accommodation right now is temporary. There’s nothing wrong with living like this, we’re tired of being taken advantage of.” (Jay is at left with back to camera)
Harry 25 “I got into squatting going to parties, and then I ended up moving to Runnymede. One of my pals sent me a message one day and asked me if I wanted to come to the woods, there’s a load of people living in the woods. I’ve lived all over the place but never squatting before Runnymede. I think it appeals to most people to squat if they come across it, to live off grid in the country side, grow your own vegetables and cook with fire. I moved out of my flat and came back there in a week and I was there for about a year. I’d rather be outside in the woods, but squatting is alright, it’s got its ups and downs but everywhere has. Living in the woods has alot less downs that it has ups. It’s a lovely building, it’s a really good project full of really good people I already know and there is alot going on which I will try to learn. Music, the community spirit you get, alot of good vibes all the time and the fact is in Romford, I’m from Romford, it’s a really good project, lots of potential. I want to help in a little bit of everything and get a nice routine where alot of people are waking up at the same time and working at the same time and then we can all live together. Work hard, play hard. “Find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”. I came here in the beginning, about 2 years ago when this became a squat and then went away for a year and then came back, because I needed somewhere to stay. I’d rather not struggle to pay bills and sign on, job centre and working for the man and all that, it’s not my thing. I try to be good to people, do unto others as others do to you. I don’t believe in karma but I do good in the hope that others will be good back to me. My ultimate place to live is in a triple decker hippy hover train. I enjoy sweeping, cleaning up, brick work, I thought I’d be good at it, it’s something that needs doing, this place has to look nice, we are fixing up the place so we can re-open it for the community as an alternative cool place as there isn’t much the same around town, in fact I don’t think there is anything around the town I want to do. I want to make music and chill out with my pals. I do a little bit of crafts, I’d like to open up a festival stall to sell tie-dyes and hippy candles, I want to brew my own cider and fruit juices, and keep afloat doing that in the future. Me and Ceilidh work well together but I think living in a squat it can make or break people. It can be stressful sometimes like when it’s a bit messy and you wake up late, which can make me grumpy, but that can happen anywhere. I’ve got a general idea about the ReSpace project but I don’t know all
about it, I know it’s to make an alternative space, like the Rochester Square garden centre in Camden, that was really nice. They had open days on a Sunday, I built a bicycle there once. I think more places should be opened up for the homeless, nowhere should be closed, definitely make use of empty spaces. It would give people opportunities to open up cafés and small businesses for the community. I come from Romford and have lived here all my life but have moved out many times too but always come back. I find the majority of people to be weird, it’s just a big shopping mall with loads of houses around it. There was never anything to do and there is still nothing. It’s all buildings and more glass and everyone’s on their phone.”
Jamie 28 “Now we are all talking about living the way we should, we’ve moved on us squatters. A few years ago it was all the party scene and everyone was talking about what drugs they were taking. Now we talk about eco-villages, land squats, moving on from squatting, like here for instance. ReSpacing, building back up empty buildings and opening them up for the community. A space for youths and elderly people, a place for where they can go, somewhere different. A lot of people are isolated through many reasons, anxiety and depression so if we can make a place for them to come to it’s a win. For the people, of the people. You have to own your feelings, you have to understand we’re all human and have the same feelings. Expressing your feelings is good and that’s what this building is about. I personally think you don’t get taught the proper skills at school. I was in care at 15 and went to a hostel and that broke down and I stayed with my mum and was hard work so I became homeless. I wasn’t really engaging with society well, I was very anxious with my co-workers, I was socially inept. I could talk with older people but not with people of my own age. I found myself sleeping rough and begging in Holborn at nights occasionally to get money. A few people from Occupy would pass by and I’d chat to them and so I became interested. I was a bit of a conspiracy nut in my younger life and my mind was opening up to meet up with new people. I wasn’t involved with Occupy but became involved with squatting when Occupy finished. I stayed at the ‘Hobo Hilton’ and ‘Age Concern’, that was a squat, an empty building. After there I went to Vauxhall very briefly with a party crew and it didn’t last long, we filtered way from that building. I ended up in Roger Street with Big Charlie who was a part of Occupy. I ended up staying with Charlie and becoming less of an introvert. Certain things made me homeless which lead me to be here. I’ve been squatting for 8 years, loads of buildings. I can’t even count how many. I ended up meeting someone in a squat and we decide to rent together, if it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have rented. Squatting can get a bit on top if you’ve been living with the same people for years, sometimes you need to do your own thing. I did enjoy renting, the fact that I had our own space, we could been our own people, I enjoyed doing it with her. But it was too soon, in a squat it orientates you with certain things, you get good at living with other people, it teaches you to be social. That’s where I went wrong at the halfway house and why I got kicked out. It was very scary - what made me worry was not having anywhere to go and crash, that’s when I started to realise
about homeless and it hit home very quickly - either you adapt or you don’t. Being NFA made me grow up. No fixed abode. I want to become a comic book artist and I want to get my own graphic novel out there. I’ve been working on it for the last 6 years and I’ve got a lot of work together. I think though deep down I just enjoy being creative and I don’t really wants to complete anything as that’s all I enjoy doing, I’ve let certain things slow me down. This life is to make or break you man. I have done kitchen work and some customer service work, front of house and some weird telephone shit. Most of my experience does lie in kitchens, I like it in there, fast paced environment, keep a calm head which you learn from, it builds character. I get stressed out, it’s a symptom of society and the things you eat. The first time I came here I was invited by my friend Charlie and I have come to know about buildings that are going to open to the public to do arts and crafts and many other activities, to give something back to the community, bring something back to the area essentially. A lot of people used to drink here so it will be nice to open it back up for them to visit once more, it is a listed building. I’ve unloaded and loaded the vans with people and shift things around and put stuff up and fit windows, help clean up. I’m looking forward to when it opens, I’m really impressed by how the work’s coming on, I’m really noticing the change here, the energy is changing which will only push it forward as more people get excited about it. I have had thoughts about squatting. I’m not sure what will happen in the future. Hopefully I’ll be able to travel all the time, I just want to keep moving. Wherever I am I will build a better place for me and for the people around me.” (Jamie is left with Christian and Jessie, Jamie’s dog)
Arlo 28 “I first started squatting when I was about 17 or 18. I was in Reading at the time, it was before they made it illegal for residential squatting. We’d go around opening up buildings for parties. It was a nice way to spend time out of your parents house, there were beautiful gardens and architecture but it got a bit tricky after a while with the law. The homeless population right now is massive. In the last 2 or 3 years the homeless population has doubled. It’s the whole new high speed train HS2, it’s going through Reading which is making it more expensive to live there, that’s not the only reason but you can notice the change in the town. I was renting a place in Reading and working at the time and it became too expensive to rent, I was spending most of my money on rent and I figured what’s the point as I could do other things like this. It’s just so refreshing, such a positive vibe, something actually going on here rather than other squats which are just doss houses with no projects. This place has got some drive behind it and it’s a really cool building. It’s nice to go back to a nice squatting scene. I think ReSpacing is wicked, it’s a really good thing, I’ve always been sceptical about guardianship type things, like Camelot as they put cameras in your room and you’re not allowed anyone around. It’s really bad, very controlling and they take advantage of wonderful people. I can understand from the building owners point of view as they need someone to look after their buildings but this is better as it gives people a chance to do cool things with it. I’ve been a gardener for the last ten years so that’s my main expertise, there’s not been a great deal of gardening here yet as I only got here in October and did the winter here but now gardening and plants are only just starting to happen. I think housing and homelessness is really bad in the UK right now, I’ve noticed alot more homelessness and empty buildings. I’ve met alot of homeless who want to move in here, it’s essential, everybody needs shelter and warmth, it’s the stable things you need in life. It’s a basic right, we’ve got the infrastructure to be able to provide homeless with shelter but for some reason we’re not doing it. I’m really excited to see what this place will be like when it’s fully up and running, there are so many people with good ideas, it’s going to be really fun. I just hope it stays open for a long time. I’d quite like to get involved in the live music side of things and learn from other people.
I try not to think too far ahead in the future, I prefer to take it as it comes, I used to aspire to things but I had a bad time - my girlfriend died, my Dad was diagnosed with cancer and my best mate’s brother was killed in a hit and run accident, all in 3 months. Afterwards I went into a state of depression and lost hope in things, but now things are coming up rosie and life is getting better. It seems to be alot harder to get anywhere these days by working your ass off. I’ve worked jobs that if I’d started 20 years earlier I’d have had a job for life but job security isn’t so strong now. It’s harder to move up the ranks. It makes it tricky which is why I don’t look into the future too much. It’s hard to tell. David does really good massages, I don’t know what it is, he can just get into spots and it makes you feel zen afterwards. I’ve had a few off him, 4 or 5 maybe. So far he does it as a favour, I’ll give him some tobacco as he doesn’t have any ID and can’t earn any money so it’s a fair exchange. That’s what I’m all about, if you can do things without money being involved it’s all the better. I’m really happy to be here.” (Arlo is left)
Mark 25 “I started squatting after the Occupy movement and I was with alot of people that held the same views as me. I was a complete novice. Central St Martins, the art college was closed down for refurbishment in Holborn and that was the first building we ever went into. I’d always been very political, I lived in Tottenham for the majority of my life, and then I moved to Scotland. I had it explained to me how the banking system worked, explained to me very simply in layman’s terms and it made no sense to me. This was my introduction to the fact that things are not how they seem. Machiavelli was born in the 15th century and he had been cast out by the political elite of Italy. He wrote a book sucking up to the head of principalities and it was a guide to ruling. About how to distract people with festivities and glamorous shows. It was the Diamond Jubilee coming up for the Queen in 2012 and things started to click with me and I saw how relevant that book was to me. I was kicked out of my house when I was 15 and I only had friends in London so I came here, I didn’t really have an option. My father had passed away, I had some trouble with the police and they said to my mum if we see him again they would put me in care so she told me to get out as she didn’t want that. At that time I hadn’t done what they came to me for but my mum didn’t want me in care. I was very independent and she sent me to live with my godmother, who had alot of issues. I lived with her for a few months and then I was out on my own again aged 16. I was working and doing an apprenticeship in business and administration and earning £3.60 an hour. I went into emergency housing and it was £145 a week rent and my earnings were £135 a week. Housing benefit decided they’d cover £37.50 a week so once I’d paid for my weekly bus pass, food costs - (I was living off noodles, that was the reality, my nutrition was not great at the time) cleaning, new clothes and shoes (you’re working in an office so you have to be well presented) I got into more trouble with paying rent and started to steal push bikes to make ends meet. A complete contradiction wearing a suit by day and then wearing trackies and trainers so I could run away from the cops and so I could steal bikes at night. I’m very well behaved these days, I spent a week in jail on remand and I will never go back again. Being told when I could eat, when I had to sleep...I have to be free. I was found not guilty but I was on remand and I sued the police and got paid £3000 for false imprisonment. It was for protesting outside the Ecuadorian embassy for Julian Assange. I was making a point and being loud.
In two years I went through 37 buildings to squat in and I’ve been squatting 6 years now. I enjoy doing it 100%. There is no such thing as a housing shortage. There are more empty buildings than homeless people, we need rich people to stop hoarding buildings for themselves and keeping them as empty properties. I am totally justified in squatting, as long as the elite in the financial system are keeping houses and buildings for themselves - there is no need to be constantly in the poverty line.
getting very savvy. Corporations have been using buildings as their straw man. If it’s only a name you can get rid of the name of that corporation and start again, it’s a way that the super rich have been able to stay out of prison for a very long time. We want to take the power the corporations are using and use it for ourselves. ReSpace will never be a straw man but it helps the people to move power out of the super wealthy. It’s a sharing of power rather than have it bundled into two groups of people.
I enjoy this because to me this feels justified. I have been poor for so long and the country has had the shitty end of the stick for so long that we deserve a turn around. People have to fight to make a difference, it was the same with slavery.
I would like to teach people martial arts to defend themselves from the police who I believe spend 70 or 80 percent of their jobs keeping people in power. We have to train our minds to learn about politics and we also have to train ourselves physically to get way from police powers which have been abused worldwide. Martial arts and the protest scene gave me a purpose in life.”
I’ve been in this building for 2 years. I was also in Asia as well. It’s not been solid for this time as I have other commitments. I have to go back to Asia within the next few months, I have a manager position to go back to there, a martial arts training, kick boxing and Shaolin. If I don’t get back soon I will lose the money I have put into it. I’ve done 6 months already, 8 hours a day for 5 days a week and I teach at the weekends. I paid 3 and a half grand for one year and that’s less than what I would pay for rent in this country. It’s called Middle Kingdom Kung Fu school, Shandong Province in China. It definitely started as political as to why I squat, now it is a mix of economical and political. I still hold the political values but now it’s not so much to save money, but to have money. It has helped me save I suppose. But I’ve also had to do alot of work in this building, when we first came here there was no water at all or electric, so we had to deal with that and put it in. It’s not like it’s an easy ride, all these things have to be sorted out. The windows had been left open and it was completely covered in pigeon mess. It works out well for the owner of the building as it adds value to his building as we are looking after it. We are constantly doing things to improve it. I think ReSpace is a very good idea, it adds an air of, not quite authority, but everything becomes more official. It works on statistics, how much money can the building owner save, how many homeless people can they feed. If you start coming with statistics you can show how much the owner can save on empty building tax. It adds this air, it makes it so much more official and it allows us to carry on doing this. It means we can be here for longer, we don’t want to come in to ruin the building but to fix the building, it’s a mutually beneficial project, ReSpace gets the point across and that’s what it helps with, showing how legitimate our presence is. ReSpace is a project only just really getting off the ground and they are
Max 28 “It was through solid connections I came to The Bitter End, after getting involved during the tail end of ‘Camesquat’ - the takeover of the Camelot property guardians headquarters in Old Street building I was invited here after a turn of unexpected events. I’ve been here just over a year and 3 months. I love it, the freedom and the ability to improve and renovate the building as we as a group see fit, to a safe and respectable standard. I take pride in restoring areas that clearly has great potential and give my viewpoint to what is capable of being achieved here. The housing situation is clearly being ignored, they are clearly not planning on lifting the law about opening up houses for people and keeping the people pinned down. It shows that there is an attitude against it, because it’s to do with building and land ownership, housing associations and projects. I think ReSpace is one of the more positive things to come out of the London area that I know of, after the mass closing of music venues and gentrification that’s plagued real estate news of late. I think it’s brilliant, why not get involved? It’s essentially what should be going on around all the towns and cities. There is potential to put people’s skills to create open space for people to enjoy, especially like the winter we just went through, we need to pre-plan this so much better so that we don’t have to open emergency shelter in a hurry to house homeless people in a freezing situation. We need to have these resources set up ready to go on demand to accommodate these people in an emergency. As for other responsibilities the government should be handling. Why is charity left to the heavily taxed hard working humble patron of this democracy, when we know weapons we don’t want are being bought to fight wars we have no interest in to justify lies that we know we’re being told? I strongly believe that avenues could easily be opened in regards to even just letting the community having project spaces for communal reasons. It was initially for economical reasons to start squatting whilst I am at Uni. I wouldn’t be able to be in London and study at the same time due to costs and I wouldn’t have any time apart from work if I was having to pay rent so this is the only way I can afford to study. Though after the work that’s gone on over the past year, I’m excited to see and live in the positive continuous progression on this beautiful building. I work part time as a chef in Angel whatever is needed in alternative event hosting space which suits me well.
When it opens here there will be a good grounded community base, hopefully full of people learning and developing skills. I’d like to be involved in more ReSpace projects and to stop this building being dilapidated, it’s ‘live in maintenance’, just keep a healthier nicer environment and somewhere where hopefully people can express what they like to do what they’d like to offer. For me, I’m very excited, and also curious to see where the future leads.”
Tyrone 28 “I was probably 17, I was always in and out of Romford, I came in here with my uncle for a pint and a game of pool. I looked at the stage and though it would be epic for a gig. It was pretty much a weekend hang out for me and I played 2 gigs here myself. I never got to see the basement or the other floors, I only ever saw the ground floor. It was called The White Hart years ago but The Bitter End since I’ve been coming here, for 11 years. It was heaving, they’d just cram in, at least a couple of hundred people, maybe 300 people. The bar was on the left hand side as you walked in, it wads one big room and the bar stretched all the way down to the end. It used to be a sauna here, back in the 1900’s and there has always been a pub on this land since the 15th century. It got rebuilt in 1870. A very historic place, it’s so sad to see it like this now. It had character, just general good people, it was a rockers pub, a metal heads bar, a bikers bar. 60’s and 70’s bands played alot here, local bands. Everyone knew The Bitter End, this pub has been here as long as all the other pubs, it’s a market town, everybody knows everybody and then the internet came and eBay and messed it up for everyone. It’s cheaper to buy meat and veg off the market than go to the shops. I prefer the market and that’s why there are so many pubs here as it was a stopping point from London. The pub closed down because of a fire that started in the tunnel, it was a coach house, supposedly it was arson, that is the rumour on the street. 2013 it closed, junkies and kids came in and stripped out all the copper, having no respect. Big Charlie and Kasia and Little Charlie were the first people here. I’ve been homeless before but I never squatted, it was the first time. My other half and me decided it was actually cheaper me moving out than me living there with her and my daughter. With what I was earning it was cheaper to move out so we decided I’d come here but we’d stay together and live separately. I met someone who lived here, they invited me around and I moved in. The first thing that came here was my drum kit. I started to help out, fixing up and doing general jobs. I started by sleeping on a sofa then I got my own bedroom later on. I worked up, the more work you put into the building the better the room you get. I don’t see that as unfair as you have to work for what you’ve got. I wouldn’t say I will squat long term, I have a kid and my other half so we’ll eventually get a large RV and go touring Europe.
I’m a handy man here, anything with a drill, I’m redoing the toilets, alot of concreting, floorboards, painting and decorating. Probably everything in the house I’ve done it, hung doors, stuff like that. ReSpacing, I met the guy Gee who is the Director and he told me about it. There is massive homelessness in the UK and so many empty buildings so why not use them. To be honest when I first came here I wanted to open this place back up so ReSpace is a brilliant idea. You know they’ll turn it into flats at some point, it’s just a case of hanging onto the building for as long as we can and have as much fun as we can until the inevitable. This building deserves some respect, it has so much history, this version is 148 years old. I do find it astonishing that we cannot build proper houses anymore, how the quality of houses these days is shocking, new builds for example. There is nothing wrong with old buildings like these, they are still here, we need to go back to the Stone Age and learn how to build things properly again. I like the idea of something that is not being used and breath life into it as too many places are being wasted. This is a listed building because it has been here so long. I would like to play here, once it opens back up I will contact all the bands I know and get them to play here. I generally don’t skip, I buy my own food and earn money with this and that, by playing gigs, I’m a drummer and play anything from blues to metal. It’s disgusting, the fact that now the councils are putting the pins down, metal spikes down on the ground and on benches to prevent people from sleeping rough. It’s the Tories, like having another Thatcher on our hands. To rent a place you have to work constantly and by the time you get home you get 4 hours there maximum before you go to bed, before you have to go to work again. It’s just not worth it, that’s why I don’t live with my girlfriend and my daughter as I cannot afford to live with them.”
Kasia 35 “I’m from Poland. I came over almost 14 years ago. I came over for friendship reasons rather than economic reasons. I decided to take a half year break and ended up staying and I’m still here with no regrets. I didn’t squat in Poland, I was living in London for so long on my own, working, studying. I used to be a carer and it was fulfilling to do something useful even if on a small scale. I became disillusioned when I realised that I was unable to sustain myself financially. I think the care work is unfortunately undervalued. I have been squatting since 2014 when I met my partner. Firstly in a off-grid community squatting the land near Windsor. I arrived in May and it was bluebell season and I fell in love with it, it gave me this sense of freedom. That I didn’t have to wake up any longer very early to go to work just to earn money to pay rent for a miserable small place where I never was because I was always out working. It was a liberating feeling not to be concerned with all that seemingly necessary things like bills or money. The best thing about it is to take new space and that it has so much potential, it’s up to you how you make it for yourself. It’s also nomadic, the less I have the better I feel. The more stuff I was accumulating it was holding me back and giving me pain, from stress and also from carrying too much stuff. It’s better not to attach yourself too much to material aspects, I am very comfortable without having to stress about gathering things. I have no problems with detaching myself. It’s more important to have good relationships with people and yourself. When I started ‘skipping’ the food I couldn’t believe the waste we as a society produce. There is a huge overproduction in western world to meet the ever growing demand for consumption. Tons of food are being thrown out on daily basis, most of it still good to eat. Skipping food reduces the waste and feeds many people. I find that living in a western world is becoming increasingly disturbing knowing that comfort and affluence here happens at the expense of people from the so called third world countries. We found The Bitter End through a property developer company who mediated between us and the owners who wanted someone to come in here and look after it and not change anything too much inside. We got here in 2016, we had a few initial meetings with the people who mediated between us and the owners and they said we could move in with a few other people. We were very excited by the whole idea as we had been squatting a land in Harold Wood and wanted to move. It was a feeling of relief to know that we could stay here and not be evicted as it is an official idea and there is something inspiring about taking a space and doing something creative with it. That was the plan and still is. At the beginning it was really tough as we had no water. Everything was disconnected. We had this ongoing thing with the water company and it
took half a year to get water. We pulled through it, it was the most challenging thing to restore this place with no water. When we first got here there was only 4 of us in September 2016 and we lived outside under shelter on the ground floor, we slept in tents and people were always calling the Police to say we were here. Then later the Police were on our side and were glad we were here so that they didn’t have to be called here every night. When we got here we found excrement and a lot syringes, the building was in a derelict state, random people had come here and were destroying it. Unfortunately humans have this natural tendency for self destruction. The first initial month, we over estimated our abilities as it is a huge building and we have limited resources but what was good is we were a part of a wider network of people, it was a very positive feeling, a larger community, to know that we could support each other and ask for help if we needed it. I’ve researched this building. 1496 the foundation was built for this building, it was originally built as a brewery and then a hotel in the 19th century or maybe earlier, in 1791 and then where was a pub here. I like most that there is a fact that there is a space here that can be transformed for people that want to get together and be creative. At the beginning there was alot of cleaning but now people have clear aims and goals and it is good to see how this place is transforming. The council were the biggest problem as they were concerned about our health and safety but now they understand better what we are trying to do and are on our side. The psychological and social side of the dynamic of people and communities is fascinating, there is a pattern of people coming together and trying to make communities and it evolving and then maybe it disintegrating and then building up again. The transformation of living here is the most fascinating thing I find. It’s an allegory for life as nothing ever stays the same, sometimes you have to sacrifice your comfort for something that is more important, building something inside yourself, the opportunity to grow. I hope that this building will function as an alternative cultural space with alot of young and old creative people that will be a hotspot for creative ideas and also for political ideas. I want people to concentrate on the bigger picture and overcome the bigger issues. It’s terrible, the housing problem right now. There is homelessness everywhere. You cannot put everyone into the same basket, sometimes people find themselves in hard situations that they have no control about. The homeless are being swept under the carpet, some benches have railings on them so they cannot sleep there, it is horrible and it is everywhere. If people don’t fit what the government wants then they are ignored, if they don’t fit in. It’s so good that here people can organize themselves and
open a building and try and make their lives better. There are so many places in London itself where you can find places to give shelter to the homeless. We have to confront this problem because it seems like so many people have a bad issue with it and want to ignore it. I feel that ReSpacing is a way to sustain yourself, the thing is I can find a job and pay the bills but I ask myself what am I doing this for. It’s not particularly helpful to me or other people, there are so many useless jobs being created, just masked jobs that don’t really do anything. That’s why so many people want to come here, for economic reasons, it’s easy to find a job just to earn money. I’m angry about the huge imbalance, the western world seems to be speeding towards an uncertain future, where people only focus on possessing and materialism. People need to think what direction they are going in. It was never an option for me to be on the street as a homeless person, to resign myself to not having any other choice, to be on my own because society has marginalized me - I prefer to believe that I always have a choice. I am disillusioned with how it is to live in the western world as I feel like I am wasting my time as it has so little meaning. It’s very conservative here (in Romford), you can feel the attitudes. I get the feeling that people don’t understand why people like us are living this way. That’s why I think it’s good that there’s a space here that can offer an alternative platform for people to network. This conformity everybody expects is against my nature, there is something about following your inner voice and living the way you want to live, taking your own choices and your own decisions and living my life on my own terms. This is the life I chose and I’m happy for it. I am glad that here there is an opportunity to show people that there is an alternative way of living. Here we are also working on creating the space for breaking the stereotypes. I don’t miss Poland as you have to conform, it is very traditional - to be an included member of society. There has always been something about non-conformity driving me. The government does not offer me any solution, government is the crisis, it’s the problem in a veiled form. You don’t need the government, we are able to do what we want on our own. We are not rebels, government is anti-human I find, things that have been normalized that aren’t normal. Life is going faster and faster, everything is being recorded, there is no privacy. People live more and more detached from themselves but keep increasingly connected to the little screens before them.”
Liam 30 “I have kind of known people and social groups that have been involved in squatting for ages but I have never squatted myself until now. Since Christmas, just after Christmas. I’d had some loosely based plans from a festival romance I had with this interest in a slightly older chick from New Zealand who was at some festivals I played at and I was going to live with her in New Zealand as she presented this really cool plan but I didn’t do it. I had some bad news last year and never really processed it so when the season was over I had a chance to sit down and think. I’d been trying to manifest a life where I could utilise my carpentry skills and incorporate the music into that as well and have a good balance of the two. That had been really difficult balancing two jobs over the years. I had a friend who was squatting, Djeddi and slowly began visiting here and eventually I was invited to move in and get involved with the project. By the time I moved in the ReSpace thing was happening and that enabled me to use my skllls to follow my passion and be able to support that without the everyday stresses of bills, taxes and rent which is constantly going up and the wages don’t seem to go up so it doesn’t seem to make much sense there. I’ve gone from kind of emitting that frequency and putting it out there and meeting people through the music scene has lead me to this point. It has involved me in a network of people who are all on the same wave length on a creative mission. The less stressed in life you are the more creative you are going to feel. I think it’s really crazy that there really is a homeless crisis when a large proportion of London is bought out by billionaires and whose houses are left empty when people who need it most are left homeless. I don’t think that anybody anywhere in the world should be homeless especially as there are so many empty homes. I know it’s not as easy as just putting people in homes, it’s more about the way government treat people with mental health issues. I feel as though there is a slight crossover with the homeless and squatters. There is a slight overspill, I think you’ll find a lot of people who have mental health issues who live on the streets who have managed to get help through people in squats so with that interaction there is some kind of connection and there is a hand that is given. But at the same time squats are not here to look after homeless. It’s pack mentality, everyone looks after each other.
I think there is definitely a certain attitude you have to adopt to squatting. I get the itch to move a lot so I’m used to moving around but you definitely have to be used to being uprooted. There is such a grey area but I think that until there is a contract between ReSpace and the owner you always have to be on your back foot. I feel to squat you have to have a certain code of ethics, you can’t be a materialistic person. You can’t be attached to the material things. At the moment currently I miss running water and a sink for the kitchen but to be honest any of the things you face here you face in any living situation you have outside of squat life. Like mould in the wall, simple things that you can get in any sort of property. I’m upstate with my cleanliness, I feel like I can be anywhere and take care of that, it’s minimal living. I’ve lived on boats and have lived in vans and this is a luxury compared to that. I see this as a brilliant learning opportunity to have this balance of being able to balance the energy of work and a career in music and until I earn enough money in music I will do this but I love the idea of growing food and being self sufficient. I hope that ReSpace will become a global thing and that I can go anywhere and be a human being and not have to face financial stresses whilst still improving the area that you’re in.”
Emily 25 “I’d moved to London in 2010 to study Geography at LSE. In the first 2 years I was in student accommodation and it was eating up all my money. I looked into other options and researched squatting in London. I went to ASS - the ‘Advisory Service for Squatters’ in Whitechapel and they were very helpful. A guy was working there who lived at the Hobo Hilton, an old BT office in Holborn. There was a lot of people from Occupy there and I moved in with him in mid 2012. It’s been a good experience to move in to lots of different places, a bit hectic during my final year at university and I got a 2.2 as a lot of stuff was going on which made it hard to study - getting evicted and social issues. After I graduated I cycled around the UK and hitchhiked around France and Spain. When I returned I decided to squat in the woods as it was peaceful and suited me. But I like squatting urban buildings as it’s a chance to learn new skills, make the place clean and tidy and do up an empty building that has gone into disrepair that would otherwise be rotting. These buildings get forgotten about so are often the easiest ones to stay in. I’ve been here about a year and a half on a off, as well as visits to my parents and friend’s squats. ReSpacing is all the elements of good squatting which has a proven track record with references so that it can survive in the future and be beneficial to people so they can have a chance to access free services and have access to recycling things, to use for free which isn’t common in the normal economy. Donations based. I’ve enjoyed fire safety which has been a major concern and I’ve got into plastering, taking out rubbish and recycling, gardening, making the outside space look nice and decorating. I think that there are deep problems in this society which claims to lead in social wellbeing but it cannot look after its poorest people and one with mental health problems, like military personnel who have trauma from “serving” their country. People can’t afford to live in designated ways and there are so many unnecessary things they have to put up with. I live in a van as I would like to live nomadically and this applies to many other people who do not fit in. I don’t agree with conquering and dividing land which is capitalistic and there are alternatives for others to live simply and learn more skills along the way. We need more of a holistic approach rather than a narrow minded career based way in this life. It’s very ingrained in our approach to learning and needs to be turned on its head and alternatives adopted.
A lot of people are in jobs that they feel aren’t useful which has an accumulative effect on them not caring. I want to be nomadic because there is so much of the world to see and I’d like to settle for months at a time in different places, to get involved in community projects, but my goal is to redistribute resources and I want to open a freegan cafe to distribute intercepted food waste from business and serve healthy meals to wherever they are needed. I like the beautiful historic building itself which is in need of a lot of love and attention, the creativity with it, and knowing the people very well who I have lived with for many years in various places as well as meeting new people locally and from other projects. It’s has been hard, the conditions the first time we got here were very challenging, to collect water from outside, the constant removal of rubbish and bleaching the floors where the pigeons had been living inside for 5 years. It’s come a long way now and is a comfortable place to stay.”
Geraldine 73 “I have never visited a squat before so I am unable to give an opinion. My first thought was how could anyone live there? But walking around I could see that with a lot of work there was much potential. I think the occupants are very brave to take it all on. As regards the homeless, we have a serious problem here in Romford . The churches and particularly the Salvation Army just across the road from you are doing a marvellous job. Christmas 1965 - I was working next door at The Managed House department of The Brewery Inde Coope, East Anglia. I was just a clerk in the office, next door I used to do all the manager’s takings sheets every week. I had all 78 done by Friday, starting Monday. This was called The White Hart, not sure if it was a hotel or just an Inn. We came up for the Managed House department’s dinner for all the mangers here in the second floor Ball room. It was all laid out beautifully for a Christmas dinner. We didn’t come in here for any drinks ever but we used to go nearby for a Friday lunch after we finished work, I used to drink draught Guinness, steak pie and mashed potatoes and cabbage. It was the Brewery social club. It was just a pub here, it’s all I remember, I never came here other than that. It was just an ordinary pub, I lived in Collier Row at the time, buses used to go through the market. I worked next door for two years. I’m originally from Dagenham and I’ve lived in Romford for 38 years. It’s changed alot tremendously.”
Nikita 26 “I think it was first through Occupy, no actually that’s not true, I’ve known about it since I was 18. I had friends that were doing events. I only started to squat properly last year, before that I was living at my parent’s place for quite a while and with my ex for quite a while. Squatting has always fascinated me since I was young. I don’t think it’s really possible anymore to squat in Germany, there’s no loop holes in the law to allow you to go into buildings. If you did that you’d just get arrested in most parts of Germany. I think there’s alot more loop holes in the law, it’s easier to get around certain things in the UK. Germany is very strict with their rules. I first came to Britain in 2007, my dad got a job offer from a company so we moved here as a family. I’ve been involved in some of the squats happening, I was at Occupy when that happened and then from the St. Pauls camp people moved into various squats but I always had my parents place to go back to. I got involved with Occupy, it was something that was going on at the time I felt like being a part of. It’s still going on in a way. The idea that people all around the world were standing up for something. I was a protester against the stock market, the upper 1% of the world population having enough money to pretty much feed the rest of the world many times over. I think that feeling is just there, possibly also because of communication through the internet, information becoming more accessible. The more information I got to inform myself with it became clear that something was really wrong. This isn’t really a squat, we have an agreement to be here so it’s more like a guardianship. Before I came hereby I was at a guardianship on Old Street. I have stayed at 2 squats in my life. In Stratford and the Elephant and Castle. I was living in west London before and there aren’t many squats over there. I’ve been here a year and a half almost. I like it, the space itself, the feeling of community, being able to be free here. For me personally it’s the freedom of being able to make music at 4am without anybody being able to complain about it. And it’s also the feeling of not having to pay rent and not having to pay bills which gives you a great sense of freedom as if you don’t have a constant source of income you worry about how you’re going to be able to afford to be there. I think ReSpace is a great project, I think it’s about time, there are quite a few guardianship agencies that put people into places but they charge the people to rent the building. The empty building owners don’t want other people to move into it so they pay an agency who then charge ‘guardians’ to live in it.
There are people who want to use this ReSpace for community purposes and the amount of good venues in London keeps on decreasing which makes it difficult. So with The Hive project in Dalston it brought alot of good people together in the community. I’m a trained sound engineer so I’m mainly on the side of music and making sounds. I’ve been helping here and also working for different events and I can salvage some building materials at some places I work at, for this place - like wood, stage flats, white boards for the art gallery. I also work as a DJ - ‘Captain Glitch’. I like a mixture of jungle music with break beat. I make music and play it at events, my own stuff and I get alot of good feedback. I think it’s appalling the homeless situation, putting spikes in places so people cannot lie down to sleep and police going in to take people’s sleeping bags away in winter. It doesn’t solve the homeless situation. There’s more empty houses than people, 250,000 empty buildings in London supposedly and 90,000 homeless people just in London. Those are statistics from 2 or 3 years ago, there are at least 2 or 3 empty buildings per homeless person. At The Hive project. when they had bigger bands performing, they called me to be their sound engineer, building music studios. I started at The Hive to make a studio space on the 3rd floor that I set up. It’s the same thing here, to set up recording facilities. I think, well, it’s quite simple. The places that are empty can be used to house people but it’s not normally that simple as people usually have some sort of traumatic experience. I find with squatting and homelessness it seems to be slightly different. Alot of homeless people end up on the streets for drug problems and bad experiences, without anything to fall back on to but with squatting sometimes it’s a lifestyle choice. I don’t know if I’ll squat forever but I can’t really see myself paying rent for a silly little flat. I definitely like the community aspect, I prefer to live with other people but sometimes it can be difficult, when you spend alot of time with people you start to get on each other’s nerves - like the kitchen sink if it never works. I think for a while, not for me personally as I wasn’t really squatting at the time, but with the change of legislation it basically only became possible to squat commercial buildings properly. People squatting residential properties were getting kicked out every two weeks so that they’d never really get to settle. But here we have a chance to settle and have a
chance to work at it, to make it better. I don’t want to build something up only to get kicked out, so this is worthwhile. I don’t know if I’ll be going back to Germany and I also don’t think I will stay in Britain for forever. The world is a big place. I would like to go anywhere warm and sunny. I would recommend squatting, it’s not for everyone - you have to be able to live with less. If you know how to live with nothing you can live with everything. If you have nothing every other situation is easy to deal with.”
Jack 27 “I lived on a Traveller’s site for most of my grown up life. My ex-girlfriend came from a Traveller’s family and her dad kicked her out so we went squatting. She then made peace with her dad who got her back onto site, we stayed there for years. We then split up, she went off and did her own thing and I stayed there. It was awesome, freedom, every kind of freedom, to choose your neighbours and live where you want. I lived in a caravan for most of that. It was a load of up to 20 of us, it was always fluctuating, as many dogs as there were people. I used to love going for a dog walk, well good feeling with a huge pack of dogs. It suited me because I could do what I want at all hours of the night. This is sort of my first time squatting, since I came down to London. It was always caravans and sites, squatting and siting is similar but different. It’s what I’m used to here but all the dramas under one roof. When me and Nikita and Rich got evicted from a Camelot studio we came to The Bitter End. Nikita was a friend of Big Charlie, as a crew they go back quite a few years. We didn’t have anywhere to sleep for a few weeks so I lived in the back of a van and then came to The Bitter End. There was no running water when we came here in 2016. It wasn’t very appealing. It’s really cool to live here, I’m at Uni, the School of Audio Engineering, the SAE Institute, audio production. I’ll work in anything to do with creative media, recorded sound, live sound, post production, pre-production and mixing. It’s one of those new courses that had been designed just to put money into pockets. It’s ‘self-assisted learning’ so not worth 9 grand a year for fees. I’ve got a student loan but even then I still have to go to work even though I don’t pay any rent here. If I had to pay rent I wouldn’t be able to go to Uni at all, I feel really sorry for other students who have to pay for everything and rent. I do crew work, event crew, anything from really posh hotels, rearranging their furniture to a live event, any live performance. I’m able to study here and I have to get involved here in the project in order to be able to be a ‘caretaker on rotation’. I don’t have any particular skill so I just help out. I don’t know how long I’ll be here for, it would be nice so that I can see our goal of wanting to open it up to the public. I try not to plan anything too much., I want to go travelling at some point, Europe so my dog can go there and then everywhere to be honest, that’s my goal. I like the people most about squatting, that’s what resonated with me between sites and squats, a very dynamic bunch. To an extent they are the
same people. It’s the bonus that I don’t have to pay rent but I hate being rooted to one place and much prefer to be able to get up and leave if I want to. In the back of my mind it’s always there, that you can be evicted as it’s not your land that you’re on, whether on a site or in a building. But this is completely different as we are caretakers making proactive choices to move this building forward. I least like being snap bang in the middle of Romford. I’m used to being in the middle of nowhere when you look up in the middle of the night and there’s loads of stars. I also don’t like the dramas that you get under one roof. On a site you can go to your own trailer but here even if you have your own room it’s still hard to get away. It’s terrible, the homeless and housing crisis. There are so many empty properties and so many people on the street. It’s just baffling, it just doesn’t compute at all. I don’t really know what can be done, probably let people use the buildings. My understanding of politics doesn’t really go very far but as an immediate temporary solution why can’t we get the homeless into the buildings that aren’t being used, it’s seems very obvious. It’s an epidemic that has been caused by something, it’s the new universal credit thing, a lot of them have drink and drug problems and they get paid once a month in one sum and then are expected to manage it as they don’t have that sense of responsibility. To mange their money properly, it’s almost like a trap, the government are letting them do it to themselves it seems. I don’t want to be rooted here to one spot, I’ve got a 1991 Ford Transit Ambulance Mark 3 which I want to do up and I can then live in it and travel around. My day to day possessions are not a lot, just my Ambulance, my dog and my music equipment, turn-tables and records, various speakers and amps. I’m not materialistic, people get too attached to stuff rather than real stuff. I don’t like being cold but it’s never been that cold here. I’ve had it hotter than Brazil in my caravans before with a wood burning stove and I miss those but unfortunately I’m not allowed one here. I buy my own food and also go skipping too, I think it’s disgraceful the amount of waste food that is thrown out, it’s sickening. I used to work in a kitchen and I’d see it first hand. Madness, sheer madness.”
Adrian 24 “Squatting in the age of wreckage: building new futures in the ruins of the old” is the title of my PhD. The PhD begins with this notion that we are confronted by a crisis: a financial, environmental crisis, and a crisis of housing. Squatting is unique because it is a way of dealing with the wreckages of this crisis. The most important theme for me is recycling, not just in the sense of recycling spaces and materials, but recycling communities who have been discarded by society. I heard about The Bitter End through word of mouth, it wasn’t a formal process, I read newspaper articles, contacted people through email and Facebook. The scene is constantly changing but the people stay the same. When I first pitched the project to the University I didn’t know exactly what it would involve. I knew I wanted to participate in squatting, but what I found when I arrived was slightly different. The people here prefer to use ReSpacing, an ‘evolution’ of squatting. The owner of this building knows that we are here and so does the council. It means that what we are doing has a solid basis in the community. And it means the people staying here can enjoy a certain degree of security. The intention is to eventually give this building back to the community so they can use it as a creative outlet, a place to socialize, learn new skills, paint protest banners, hold art exhibitions. Squatting is unique, it comes with a certain kind of politics. When cities are designed, efficiency is key. There are roads and factories, residential areas, parks, public facilities. But cities constantly change. They go through periods of crisis and unrest. Squatting shows us that communities will find ways to survive as long as there are gaps, empty spaces, holes in the plan. The challenge of this project is to build a sustainable community. On one hand, we’re trying to build a serious political movement and show that another world is possible. But this also involves radically coming to terms with the damages and ruins of austerity. Squatting is like montage, it can only be built from what is already there. There is no such thing as an ideal community, we have to make do with what’s in front of us. Part of the challenge of living here is figuring out what the boundaries and dynamics of that community are. This PhD isn’t directly aimed at social policy, it’s written by and for activists. I consider myself an activist first and an academic second. This community faces serious challenges, some of them irresolvable within the current system. Part of the challenge of this project is learning what
those challenges are and how to deal with them as a community. As an anthropologist I do ethnography, which means keeping a written journal, recording interviews, or taking photos to remind me of people, places, and events I see. It’s an isolating thing to sit down and write notes, but I try and keep them open. I’ll often discuss what I’m writing with the people around me and bounce ideas off them. Sometimes they agree, sometimes they disagree. The perspective that I bring to this project is unique, but no more valuable than the perspectives of the people living here. It’s a learning process for both of us. There’s an informal work day here, lots of productive conversation and moments of inspiration. People do things without being asked. They get up and organize, put in new floor boards, clean out rooms, re-wire the electrics, build fences. We have an informal work day, nobody is expected to work 8 hours a day. But a sense of responsibility to the building is important, and it takes work to maintain that sense of responsibility. My aim is to record the stories of people here in the context of austerity and housing crisis. How has squatting changed in the context of this crisis and what function does it serve? For squatters, the current system has failed them, they are looking for immediate alternatives. On a practical level, squatting is a way of dealing with housing crisis. It fills a gap that governments have created by privatizing essential services like housing.”
Raad 23 “We met Sri Lankan Charlie and came to say hello as Dac knew him from before as Dac had fitted the first electric cable here at The Bitter End. We were travelling and living in a car and not paying any rent so wanted to carry on like that. Also Dac was in the woods too with those guys but found it too much of a drug scene so he left it and heard that people were squatting at The Bitter End and saw how it was looking. We had been in Acton and gave our room up there, we had been paying rent there even though it was a family kind of a vibe but still we were paying a lot of rent. The money situation to pay rent made no sense as we are on the move the whole time. We were afraid to even put a nail in the wall while we were renting in case we did the wrong thing and we also like drumming which makes some noise so we’d rather be where we can feel ourselves and do what we would like to do. You can’t do as you please though so you have to show what you are about and put into situations what you want back for it to work out. I have been to squats before but I don’t call this is a squat to be frank. There is no breaking and entering of the place or the threat of eviction. I was around places that have been opened but I never stayed at them. I ran away from Jordan when I was 18. My dad is a strict Muslim and my mother since she met my dad has been more like him. Every summer holiday I would go to the Netherlands on my mother’s side of the family. I wouldn’t say I completely have a Jordanian background as I have the Netherlands mentality also. I was around both. The difference on each side was too extreme so I ran away and left to Germany when I was 18, so for five years I have been away from Jordan. I came here on a student visa as I knew for a fact that my dad wouldn’t want me to come here so I studied really hard and got a scholarship which is how I came here. When I came here I had to go to a school which had a ‘biometric absence’ so if you’re there or you’re not there they know so you have to attend. I did it just because I needed to come to Britain, it was the only way, so I had to attend the London School of Commerce for two years even though I didn’t want to do it. Since I was a young woman I wanted freedom and I also had to work to support myself and I realised that I want to work for money for me and not to pay for other things like rent. I then heard about an organisation that helps woman like me and offers them protection and asylum, running from things that have been forced on them, that they don’t want to do.
If I went back home my dad would have to kill me as an honour killing for the shame I have put on my family. If he suspects I am not a virgin he can get me tested and if he finds I am not he can shoot me as an honour killing. So many young women put up with this but I knew better. Since I was a little girl I couldn’t have friends, so I had to run out of the house to see life. I got took advantage of by men, I never really think about it much, my life is dark, I was running away and you don’t get support from your family. Now I have my asylum for 5 years and maybe after that I can apply for a passport but my asylum can be taken away from me at any time, but at least I have a work permit. When I came here to The Bitter End with Dac it was based on his skill as an electrician. I want to help as I don’t want to live in a free communal place without doing anything. I can brainstorm, but I already see this place is getting fixed a lot already, so I can be an assistant to Dac while he is working and help other people as well. So at least I am not living like a heavy weight on people here. There is a lot of opportunity for me to do things, I am finding a lot of connection with people here and I can offer a lot of solid friendship. I don’t want money as I can see how much trouble it brings. At the moment I really want to commit to being a traveller as I have so much to see and learn. Me and Dac are talking about buying some land in Indonesia, but with my current visa I am only allowed to travel for 3 months a year until I have my British passport. I relate alot to the ReSpace project, being what I am and what I know and what I can offer. I have always understood why I should stay here, it’s alot of effort. There are people who are running the whole thing and I have found a place to fit in. It works both ways. I know a lot about this type of life and people’s choices. Alot of homeless live like this through choice because of drug addiction. I know if you are English you can get a house but some people lose themselves as they are always rushing to make money to pay for everything. I think that homelessness is a choice in this country but if you want a little bit better you can squat instead. The amount of times I have see a homeless who doesn’t take drugs is very rare. Also people don’t want to sell their soul to paying rent and you cannot use a nail in your room or make too much noise that you are paying constantly for, so instead you can end up squatting. At the moment we are happy to be here - if it fits you, it fits
you. My Dad was the first lawyer for Saddam Hussein. He is a big man, I have a lot of respect for him but he is programmed to kill me out of love. It’s a tough thing to break out of. He is 70.”
Dac 29 “Alot of my friends have been squatting and it’s something I have been contemplating for a while. I squatted with these guys in the woods and they wanted to start another eco-village on the land somewhere else. That’s how I came here as I was friends with these guys. Charlie said there was a room here if I was keen so I moved in New Years. I’m here as an electrician. Making sure that everything is safely done and making sure that there is lights and power in all the right places. Safety is the first thing as I have to sleep at night. I’m from South Africa, my dad is a builder and his dad was a builder, he is a brick builder and does everything pretty much and my mum does office work. We have a beautiful sea view and a lot of friends would stop on the way back from work to call in. I spent a lot of time in the ocean, that is a big thing for me and my Dad made sure that me and my border knew how to work. We were forever doing repairs on the house and in the holidays we would work for my dad to earn our pocket money. Many times I hated it but looking back now I think I was quite lucky to be brought up that way. I think squatting in South Africa...I can’t imagine eviction being without violence so I think it’s something that people don’t really do. You get squatter camps where everybody builds their shacks on bits of land. But they aren’t very safe so it’s better to get a job and buy a bit of land somewhere. I first came over to the UK back in 2001, in Zimbabwe they were chucking out the white farmers and white people in general and the crime in South Africa was so high it seems as we were following the same path. So my whole family got South African passports so we could get away. I was living south of Durban at a place called Warner Beach, it was getting bad and still is bad now. Since the turn of government everybody expected it to change but it is getting worse. The media doesn’t report most crimes and creates an illusion of safety. All the murders and rapes you hear about is by word of mouth. Crime in South Africa is effecting everyone but crime on the white population feels like genocide. Alot of brutal torture, burning with irons. Alot of hate. I can’t point a finger to say anybody is wrong but definitely there are a lot of people in high rank that could have a lot more influence on changing what is happening. The white people cannot just leave, and there are also Asian people, mixed race people too who wouldn’t do well on another continent, even if they could get visas to leave. At that time one of my sisters was here, one of my brothers was in America and my mum came over to Britain with another brother and then when my mum found a job here my dad then came over. My mum is in Australia
now and my dad is in South Africa, they split last year.
A tiny lesson in prejudice.
Originally the initial move was to get out of South Africa and my grandmother comes from Scotland. I have been here solid for about 10 years after going back and forwards for a time. But now I feel it is time to leave Britain and go somewhere to surf.
It is economical, maybe not that much, but it does help a lot, the pressure of not having to pay rent. Right now I don’t have a job so I don’t have the pressure to work to get money. I have my drum so I can go and busk if I need money. It ranges between £20 to £50 a session. We do it for the love and I think it shows. When it’s sunny we go play and we love to drum for people. It started off us not even wanting to do it for money but when people came past and chilled with me at some point somebody wanted to put five pounds down. I wasn’t playing for money as I was enjoying the acoustics at 3am and the sound was so rich but so many people came up to offer money. I even tried to explain that I wasn’t playing for money but it caused embarrassment so I have found that sometimes to receive is to give. But we totally let that go now and it gives us food for the day.
I feel that this country gives you space to grow as an individual and you come across a lot of worldly views in London. Generally I have just found myself at parties and even in the streets bumping into a lot of people that are into this way of living. There are many things about it that have drawn me in, my political stance on it is that there are these empty buildings that nobody is living in and they aren’t even using them as homes when there are all these homeless people. It’s exciting that I’m involved with something like this. I have friends who have an off grid community in the countryside and I was going to stay with them about a year ago but I think there were a few bad apples in the group and I didn’t want to live in an environment where I didn’t trust everybody. That was Denham Valley, near Uxbridge. I had never squatted a building before coming here, I had camped out at Harold Wood on a rich families land but we got evicted pretty quick, after 3 weeks. I preferred that, it was beautiful, I would love to have built a simple dwelling. There was a little river you could take a wheelbarrow of dirty dishes down to wash up. When you live a simple life you really appreciated the little things, like washing dishes in a stream and also getting your food. We would have got into growing our own food there, we would have set up our own ideas there about how to make food. There was alot of talk about that. Everyone who works here forms stronger bonds and the ones that don’t work stay in the shadows at the cost of everyone else. There are lots of reasons why I am squatting. It’s nice to live Iike this where everyone has rooms but everyone is also fully engaged with each other and in each other’s lives. It’s nice to have the community feel, it’s that feeling of community which can all too easily go in a place like London which can be very lonely. I don’t know if I could say that I’m political in this case, but if people can see the building first and then see us coming here and have a fear about what we are about but slowly see it getting nicer and nicer and then we open the doors to the public they will think ‘Wow, I didn’t see that coming!’
When we get to a point in this world when getting food, water and can’t access a shelter over your head I think we are at some point of slavery in some ways as these are absolute necessities which they force you to work for. It underpins that it is the way of the world that ‘you put something in to get something back’, people have been doing this for a long time but if you were a hunter gatherer all the time you would be a very fat hunter gatherer. I think that we cannot have the basic necessities for free is disgusting, I think all this throwing away of edible food at the end of the day makes me feel sick. But throwing it away is one thing but also the supermarkets putting all this security in to makes sure you can’t get access to this waste food is disgusting. I don’t even have a word for it, I think it’s disgusting. I think ReSpace is beautiful. I think it’s a spark, an idea that could spark a beautiful idea to grow and it gets everybody working towards some kind of a beautiful future. I think it’s very easy for people to say that we’re a plague in the world but nobody is really trying. But here you have a handful of people but it could be a lot more people working towards a better future for everyone. I think it’s going to change, I do think that there is going to be isolated cases where homeless choose to be outside and we can’t expect to change that. There are people who choose to stay out at night but we can’t paint the homeless with that brush as there are a lot of people who’ve been hit with the hard side of the bat but would love a chance at a better life.”
Rob 32 “I come from Romford, lived here 32 years. Spent a bit of time in Brighton, a bit in Hemel Hempstead way and Caledonian Road, been all over the place really.
I like being here as it’s right in the centre of my home town. Hopefully we can leave it for people to carry on with and then we move on to a next building as I’m multi talented and quite skilled.
I’d say I’m homeless, helping out the community whist being helped out myself. I wouldn’t call myself a squatter, maybe when I was 13 or 14 but now I have other places to go, like friends and girlfriends. I don’t have to be here as I have other places, if that makes sense.
I don’t do skipping now, I’ll do the building and cooking and other people can do the skipping. I most enjoy partying, I love playing rugby but I do love parties, I like illegal raves, squat parties. I begrudge a £25 ticket and a £7 drink on the possibility you might get chucked out. I begrudge the prices and they are shutting down a lot of the best clubs in London now.
From 13 to 17 I squatted, because of my attitude probably. My mum had a younger son and I was causing too much chaos around him, which I can understand completely. She basically chucked me out, a bit of a mutual leaving. She tried to put me in care and I refused so I went to squat with a few of my friends in Romford, they was all ten years older than I was. One of them had to sign paperwork to be my ‘appropriate adult’ as I was reported as a missing child. I’ve had a very interesting life, I’ve been in it for a long time. I’d go skip diving to M&S and Greggs, all the local stores around here, the rest of the crew I was living with was ‘signing on’ and used to support us. I was a little shit in those days, I didn’t worry about the law as I was too young to get arrested. I didn’t have a bad time, it’s made me the man I am today. I’m very polite and know about what is in the world. The housing crisis is ridiculous. I was released from prison a few years ago and sent back to my borough and I couldn’t get housing as it was full of immigrants and they couldn’t give me a place to live as they were up to their quota.. I’ve been around all the shelters, fuck that shit, worse than jail, life’s better than that. I’ve got admiration for the church people who help but I cannot put up with all the government shit. The other thing I think about the housing crisis is I know that landlords will rent rooms for as much as they can and not for people who’re getting lower housing benefits for the under 35’s. If another man is over 35 it means the state will pay more for his age so of course those landlords will get more money to have him. ReSpace is a fantastic idea, what a perfect way to sort out the housing problem and sort out the derelict building space as well. I didn’t know much about it until meeting Ned who I met at a squat party in London and we got talking. He said they have a building in Essex and I laughed because it was in Romford where I’m from.
I’d rather be working and then do this at 4pm onwards, I like to keep busy, I get myself into trouble if I’m not busy. I used to come here drinking when I was younger when it was a pub. It was an alternative pub, it always has been, alternative bands. It was very friendly, you wouldn’t have anyone in skinny jeans with the top button done up with attitude. It was full of hippies, grungers, metal heads and punks. I came here hundreds of times, every Saturday and Sunday night. It’s been interesting to come back here after not drinking here for so long. I’ve got all sorts of friends, I can go out with the rugby boys, the ravers and my old mates from my younger years. The people here are becoming my mates, we’re getting closer. They’re pro-active.” (Rob is at middle, in blue joggers. Erecting panelling for art gallery)
Huseyin 52 “I have been working at this cafe for 17 years, it’s a partnership with my brother. I was born in Turkey and came here in 1979, early days, best years those was. Britain was just changing then. There weren’t many in my community then, you had to go to north London then to the concentrated Turkish community. We came to Enfield first where they are mostly populated and moved to Whitechapel. Then we were moved to Bethel Green by Wimpy. We had to move as part of the deal, to get cheaper rent. We had alot of difficulties, no heating or hot water. My Dad came in 1971, he came only for a few years just to earn some money but he ended up staying and my mother suggested we all move to England as it was too difficult to be apart for so long, over 8 years. We are Turkish but became ‘foreign European’. It was very difficult to adjust to the culture, I was 14 and was just about to pick up my lifestyle of being Turkish and then all of a sudden I just stopped and came here and I didn’t have much to support me in the community but I adapted to England at such a young age. Originally The Bitter End was a pub, it changed a few hands and wasn’t bringing much money in as a business. The owner sold it to someone else and then did it for a while and he walked off as it isn’t working. That was about 7 years ago. That’s what I remember. It was a rock venue, it wasn’t so much planned, it wasn’t much of an interest to everybody’s taste, it looked a little like people weren’t so upper class, they weren’t that well dressed. And because there is so much competition around they weren’t in a better position building wise, overall the building didn’t look that pretty from outside. When it was open and serving it was bringing people here and helped with our business, it was helping in a way to bring people round here, it was open. If one shop is open it will bring round people. In the future I don’t know it (The Bitter End) will help here, there is no parking here out the front and it is only for taxis. There was never parking and it would have been a bonus for us as well. It (The Bitter End) was empty for a long time, and as far as I know people have been there for a couple or three years. After it (The Bitter End) shut there was a fire a couple of years ago. I think it wasn’t making money because of its position and because it wasn’t well managed. It used to be called the Ford and Firkin. I think it’s been listed and ‘Chas and Dave’ played there.
I suspected there were people in there as we could hear noises in the basement, we thought it was ghosts but people could have been in there before the squatters came. They haven’t been a problem at all and they are polite to us. Loads of times the Police came to get them out but I don’t know what the laws are. I don’t mind people being homeless and if they are smart and tidy I think it is OK. You could be poor but at least if you dress alright it’s better but some of them wear baggy clothing and they don’t look normal in a way. It might give a good reaction (to dress smart). It’s not for me to comment on their way of life. We are all human beings and we can fall into situations you cannot control. At the end of the day we don’t know what will happen to us tomorrow. If they clear it (The Bitter End) out and make it tidier I hope it will bring in people. I don’t know if they are able to have large bins and able to deal with rubbish and hygiene but if they can make it a decent place it might not get people’s reactions. On the whole every business these days has declined so we cannot say here that business has gone down because of next door. It’s come down to the ‘Brexit fear’, people are waiting to see what will happen and trying to adjust to what will happen if we leave the European market. To be honest the cost of living has gone high. It’s putting alot of pressure on people. People think twice now on what they are spending. Before people didn’t care and people don’t tip us anymore. People are worried, everybody on that wheel. Everyday there is more and more people becoming homeless. I think it’s gone really mad crazy to rent here due to too many people coming here from abroad. It’s easier to get jobs for them and it could be the way in this society to live their lives, getting into domestic violence which is why they might end up on the streets. I read an article that in Cuba there is no homeless and no university or studying fees, you don’t even have to buy a pencil. Even the animals on the street get looked after and we are saying we are the 4th richest economy in the world. There was so much I heard about Cuba recently, it was too much to list. In this country there is a big gap, some people spend millions on cars and houses and others cannot even afford to buy food. Other people from other countries wouldn’t even believe that.
I don’t now how they are going to control the ReSpace project, I think they will have to talk with the council. There are alot of rats coming out of there, they are now in our back yard and I think rats were hiding there and now they are moving around and coming out because people are living there. It’s got to be controlled. I respect everybody’s ideas and their opinions and they are living human beings with a heart and soul and you cannot blame them for how they are living. I hope they make something better for themselves and everybody else by being there. If you have good intentions you have good feedback. I’m not going against them.” (Huseyin is at left foreground with his brother Bekir at right)
Gee 45 “I’m a director of ReSpace, it’s a not for profit organization set up to prove the concept of recycling buildings and other wasted stuff, to keep the last resources on the planet out of the hands of the super rich. A project to inspire people to facilitate lots of really amazing events, pass on things that were created to others and then give back the building to the owner and move on to another property. That’s why ReSpace was set up. It evolved from the squatting scene. A few of us had been squatting, got together and we decided to pool all of our resources and make something long term and sustainable. Before, when squatting, there was little longevity to any work and no security at all. Corruption, drugs and negative influences can be daily obstacles. Free space attracts all kinds of people – good and bad - and without any commitments or structures people are taken advantage of with no way of dealing with it. ReSpace was set-up to counter this. The idea was to introduce some stability into this concept and make it very people-led and egalitarian. Make it into a network and use all the resources available to us and find some way to support that network. People are good at doing things for themselves – if given the freedom, but it is also vital to link everybody together so they aren’t just doing things for themselves but sharing everything. This is what “ReSpacing” is about. There is too much waste in the world - the idea is to get it back for free so people can use it to build things that they really need. To use empty buildings to store material and to unblock free material and pass it on. Corporate companies have been using and abusing the system for too many years. Could we build a network that could also take some of those advantages? The key is to have a common “language”. It’s like the internet – lots of different system communicating through the same codes and all the “data” spread and shared. We want to build something that is really beneficial for the people and build it around something that is strong and flexible. Being in a network means there will be no single machine or space that can be shut down, everything is distributed. This is about ideas that spread between people and get passed on. People have tried this a lot to varying degrees of success, the secret is infrastructure. It’s the things that link everything together – vans, phones, systems, contacts, shared resources. McDonald’s can open store after store - they have the infrastructure because they are a large business. They can buy centrally – save money and distribute cheaply. They can use that model to run anyone out of business. So the idea is to build a free infrastructure that isn’t owned by anybody. To give some of the power of large corporations to ordinary people. We want to do up vehicles and make them run on biofuels, to have transport links and communication links. To have a whole group of people doing what they do because ultimately everybody needs it. We will need vans to transport stuff around, to move free food around. That’s the secret, the infrastructure that is built by having a network, it’s greater than the sum of all of its parts. The driving factor is how do we build a network when we have no money? By using empty buildings. It’s the art of taking a broken thing and making it more beautiful, we don’t want to wait for society to collapse - we have to act now, there is too much at stake. We need a new society that we all can live in. There is 500 square hectares of land in London alone that is unused and that doesn’t include buildings. The number of wastes are very hard to track down. Knowing that there are all of these problems we needed to take a building and use it as a showcase. To show that empty space is usable by people for whatever they need to do. To try and convince landlords and owners that this is by far the best way they can use their buildings while they are empty. And to try and inspire
communities and groups to do the same! We managed to negotiate a building off a landlord with no rates, to turn the building with no money into something of value. We used it as a model and split the space and built rooms so that people could facilitate the space for other people to come in from the community and use the space. www.hivedalston.org.uk It was called The Hive in Dalston and it ran for 1000 days and then shut down. Originally it was due to be open for 200 days but the landlord delayed his building plans because it turned out that the project was much better for him to keep open as he was saving money from security and insurance and was improving relations with people in the local area and the council. He became part of influential panels and boards because he was the Landlord of the Hive. It’s a system where everybody wins apart from the bad people. We wanted the Hive to produce a statistical package to show how many meals we supplied, how many workshops we had, how many nights of shelter we gave to homeless people and how many local community events and exhibitions we delivered. We’ve got the stats and figures we need now. The evidence is absolutely incredible! And repeatable. All we need to do now is make it easier in law for everyday people to “ReSpace”. We have a campaign running to get a new classification for buildings called the “ReSpace classification”.. this would make it easier for owners to give their buildings to communities and for councils to interact with those communities and deal with empty properties in their areas. There will be more and more of them as we grow closer to Brexit and future recessions. If we aren’t careful those empty buildings will end up as over-priced slums and bijou shared “workspaces” where you pay £100 for a desk and chair once a week! Monetising wasted space is a really bad idea – it starts a race to the bottom. The era of capitalism is over. Endless growth is a logical fail - there are no endless resources. What we are going to see is a lot of turmoil in the future as fossil fuels fail and how else are we going to shelter people whilst everything around them is shrinking and failing if we don’t learn to quickly re-use everything. 7 years ago I ended up living in a squat and if it hadn’t been for that place I would be dead. I’m an intelligent person and can stand on my own two feet, I had a penthouse suite and had a great job, my parents then got ill and I had to look after them full time, I had to give up the job and my girlfriend and my car and so I lost that battle. I couldn’t live where my parents had lived so moved out and stayed with friends at a squat. It was a well known cultural place- the 491 Gallery. In 2013 the government banned residential squatting and that was when I met a documentary team who filmed MP Mike Weatherley’s visit to our squat. Mike was behind the ban on squatting but promised to support us getting a new building! I then started a campaign called ‘Night of Suspense’s’ where we opened buildings for spectacular events bringing together artists, creative people and local business and residents. Eventually, through the campaign, Hackney Voluntary Services contacted us and asked if we wanted to do this legitimately and they made the link to the Hive’s Landlord – Michael. ReSpace is about building an infrastructure, about putting together the basic pieces so that people can recreate Hive’s everywhere. We have noticed there is a certain pattern that follows each project that allows it to happen. It means that any empty building can be classified as a ReSpace building, it’s a temporary classification and it means the community will benefit too. It’s a collaborative tool we are trying to build. The first question that people ask is why is it temporary.
But if that infrastructure is ‘pop up’ and can turn up quickly in one place and then go other places at different times it’s a very efficient way to use space. Why have permanency in one building when you can spread across many buildings? And by spreading widely the network is able to reach further and generate more resources. The temporary nature also keeps power for being too concentrated and also prevents project burn-out as people can become jaded after too long. We want it to be flexible and fluid. It’s really about helping to enable people to use whatever waste there is. It’s not like we have all the answers but it’s just that we know that this works. And now we can prove it! Right now there are situations and emergencies going on that a ReSpace project could really help. Giving those people just a bit of time a space to heal, experiment and innovate. Companies like Apple have the money to constantly push ahead and experiment in the name of better profits - but we have the time and the space to do the same in the name of a better society - with freely available resources. The Better End will be a place where you can actually meet people and that is what is being lost, there are pubs but they are disappearing also. When things like emergencies happen, like riots or power cuts or water shortages, if we don’t have places where people can get support, society will collapse. Building projects is an organic process, we have a few on the go right now. We are very limited on our resources so we have to be very careful how we work, we have set up a consultancy program - we are able to tell people about what we have done previously, about what you may want to do at the start and what you need to have to make it happen. We are a social enterprise, but it’s not old world politics - as we need to come up with new ways of thinking. We can save social groups enormous amounts of rent on buildings which means they have more money to work to deliver what they need to do. We are living in a time of abundance – Plastic tat everywhere, mountains of food and clothes, washing machines, TV’s, dishwashers – piled high in dusty warehouses. Enough for everyone. Its not an ‘age of austerity’ but a ‘system of austerity’ we are living in. So many people have no space and so few resources whilst others have so much. We want a more efficient use of resources, that’s why we partnered with the London Waste and Recycling Board. This is a street level way to work with circular economy principles that are infiltrating government and corporate thinking. We hope our involvement will give Romford the kick start it needs, squats tend not to evolve but being part of a network can be a driver for change. ReSpace only come where we are asked - in the future we hope people can ReSpace themselves - but to use our logo they need to abide by our ethics. We want to make sure this architecture is open so that anybody can get involved but we have a responsibility to make sure they act with integrity. This is based on behaviour, we are spreading through local projects so that we can see what this project gives. It will generate loads of resources, it is based on trust and self-regulation. We are going to use the technologies that are available, so we can have peer rating systems that will help keep things transparent and open. It’s a social movement to bring about social change. Digital platforms need physical platforms to grow. ReSpace is a mentality rather than a company.” (Gee is at centre with black cap/glasses)
Left: There are 100 selected photographs from this project. If you would like to view them just email me for a link - info@edgold. co.uk
Many thanks to my sponsors, at right, who have consistently supported my work over the years. Without their help my projects would not be possible.
Ed Gold Positive Futures 05
Positive Futures 05 is part of a documentary photography series about off-grid and alternative living. This magazine leads on from the origi...
Published on May 2, 2018
Positive Futures 05 is part of a documentary photography series about off-grid and alternative living. This magazine leads on from the origi...