Its two weeks today since we, a ragged band, moved into the gardens surrounding the old, disused Brunel University Runnymede Campus.
In the past it was a thriving university campus where sciences, design and technology, theatre and sport were taught and enjoyed until the site was sold to private property developers in 2007. For over five years it has remained largely vacant and disused (with the occassional film shoot or police dog training taking place in the buildings).
For more info on the site please visit: runnymedecampus.com/history
Around the buildings we discovered acres of woodlands interspersed with fields and overgrown lawns. It is beautiful and on a hill with views overlooking Runnymede and the river Thames. The forest and fields, as well as being host to a variety of trees and fauna, are also our home and provide all the resources to grow food and build sustainable, low impact dwellings. Since moving in we have planted vegetables and begun building shelters and communal spaces (including a timber framed long house). Leaving the buildings to themselves, we have established our camp on the old lawns of the garden where we live together: cooking our meals on the fire and enjoying the environment. The security guards – whilst being largely friendly – have struggled to accept our presence on the site. It seems there is a conflict between what they may know is harmless, reasonable behaviour and what is required of them in order to keep their jobs. But we take no pleasure in causing anyone irritation. We simply wish to live on the land.
What we see is a beautiful natural space with the potential for people to live in a way that does not harm anyone or anything. It is enclosed and held away from people who could make good, reasonable use of it whilst it remains vacant and disused. The property developers who are planning to build on the site have said that they aim to start building 600 homes here (starting in August). If this is the case, we will leave voluntarily. Whilst it remains empty however, surely it makes sense that it is used for good ends?
We have now been served with court papers for an injunction aimed at forbidding us from remaining on the site (through the use of force) and an eviction order. On Friday these cases will be heard in Guildford County Court. Like our forebearers, ‘The Diggers’ of the mid 17th Century, we too will face the same forms of oppression as we attempt to make use of the disused land. And like the Diggers, we are committed to continuing our mission to make use of the disused land in the face of brute force. So if the baliffs come, we may go, but we may too come back and keep coming back. For you can tear down our structures and rip out our crops, but you cannot kill the spirit of our vision. We are not here to fight anyone. We know in our hearts that our activities are just and reasonable. So we will carry on.