London: Squatter’s Digest, to our friends, and former room-mates

Summer is waning, holidays have been had, and so we all go back to the grindstone — and by grindstone I mean opening new squats. So let’s start by taking a look at who needs to open a new building.

Location, Location, Location (That’s A Squat Crew Moving Thrice In A Month)

In London, the Church, home to an endless number of benefit parties over the last year, finally met its demise at the hands of the bailiffs just a few weeks ago, leaving a particular void in terms of readily-available squats that are able to host such events (of course it does not escape me how a building can be fairly easily opened just a couple of days in advance of such festivities, but it does entail a whole lot more work). All and sundry are invited to fill this gap, such things are needed as at least one planned fundraiser was scuppered by this eviction.

In a similar area of south-east London, the Charity Shop squat on Deptford High St was re-opened temporarily. Used previously to great effect by the previous crew to organise local action in the neighbourhood, unfortunately the new crew have not been given much time as the owner seems to have gotten his shit together and gone immediately for an Interim Possession Order. [Read More]

London: Squatter’s Digest, Festivals and Frontlines

As the riot police continued to batter the last of our barricades, blasting through the structural brickwork of the back entrance to our squat I knew it was time to go. I tried to lug my bookshelf down the stairs to safety, but sadly was forced to leave it behind as I was dragged past the lines of helmets and shields to await my fate in the outside world. Sorry for the delay, but welcome back to Squatter’s Digest. Stick around as I try to rattle off all the comings and goings in the squat world over the last couple of months.

So we were finally evicted from our squat in East London, overwhelmed by the riot squad, local bobbies, and high court bailiffs. Two of our number were arrested, although have since been released. In the words of the rossers themselves “apparently it’s okay to assault the police these days” (you can taste the bitter sarcasm with which such words were offered). It may be just coincidence, but it does feel like there has been a push by councils in east London (particularly Newham and Tower Hamlets) to rid the borough of squats. In fact at the time of writing there were no less than four squats either going through court or due to be evicted in the week. [Read More]

London: Squatter’s Digest: Grow Heathrow halved, ciao to Asilo

I do have a pretty good excuse for being a little late in writing this month’s column, namely being arrested and remanded for a squatting-related offence (of which I am not guilty for the record, as I will be testifying at trial later in the year).
At least I’m not all talk and no walk huh.

A couple of nights in the cells isn’t so bad though – let’s start this round-up with some hard-hitting news from abroad. The Fraguas case in Spain. For those not aware of the situation, since 2013 a group of squatters calling themselves the Association of Rural Repopulation of Sierra Norte, more commonly Fraguas Revive, occupied an abandoned village in Guadalajara near Madrid. The intention was to breathe life back into the village that was left empty since the expropriation by the Franco regime, and to provide space for people to imagine and act out utopias of the future through self-organisation and sustainability. [Read More]

London: Squatter’s Digest: That’s a wrap

Welcome to the second, and final edition of Squatters Digest (for 2018). You made it, faithful readers.

In a shock headline, squatting in the UK continues. Evictions still take place every month, but due to the huge number of empty properties in the country, people are still finding ways to self-house. These properties sit vacant while people struggle with rents, and with capitalism. Sometimes people die, and still these buildings remain empty. As the temperatures look to drop below zero in the next couple of days, and I sit here with a horrible cold, I am reminded that it is coming up 6 years since the death of Daniel Gauntlett, a man who froze to death outside a building in Kent, too afraid to enter for fear of being prosecuted for the crime of squatting in a residential building, the infamous Section 144 LASPO law brought in back in 2012 that so many people with an interest in squatting will know all too well. [Read More]

UK: ‘Be the change you wish to see’ – Manchester’s squatters are doing just that

The idea that ownership breeds value is essentially true. However, it is not true in the Thatcherite sense, where ownership is the means to the end of an individualistic anti-society. It is true if you develop an area which’s express purpose is to be the collective property of those who inhabit it or utilise it, then you create a system of value and engagement you cannot achieve through a space engineered to profit from its visitors.

The examples of The Addy and The Wonder How They Got Inn (formerly The Wonder Inn) highlight the increasing need for autonomous community spaces in a city which has suffered greatly from the degradation, defunding and closure of public services. Precisely because of this there is a need for community-owned spaces not under the auspices of local government or private ownership in the main because these institutions are transient. While the state is capable of good governance in providing a range of services for its people, the reality of the situation we find ourselves in currently demands a different, more active attitude. [Read More]

Manchester: Cornerhouse 2 evicted

At 4am this morning [jan15], police and bailiffs raided and evicted the Town Hall squat, the Corner House 2. At that time, there were 10 people living in the squat, and a further 10 rough sleepers sheltering in their night shelter. All these individuals have now been made homeless again, down the to actions of the police and bailiffs. [Read More]

Manchester: Lessons of Cornerhouse

The Cornerhouse is a former theatre in Manchester squatted from January to August 2017 by self-organised homeless people linked to the Manchester Activist Network. This is their story.

As the final pieces of our belongings, donations and clothes were brought out of the infamous Cornerhouse it was time for Manchester Activist Network to reflect back on six months of occupation. From the Loose Space festival and surviving three eviction attempts, to the rough sleepers we housed and three other squats opened over that time, this had been a busy, and at times stressful but productive period that none of us will ever forget.

The biggest thing that came out of the Cornerhouse was a reaffirmation of the need for solidarity when we are faced with big issues. In order to fully tackle rough sleeping and stop the rise in homelessness we all need to be prepared to give a little of ourselves. Not money, but from inside of us. We need constructive dialogues, we need to drop the egos, forget about the “company line,” reflect on what we put our energies into and how we can change as individuals. Only then can we better the systemic problem that is homelessness. [Read More]

UK: Manchester homeless call out council ‘one way ticket’ scandal

Following revelations that Manchester Council has spent £10,000 on one-way tickets to push rough sleepers out of the city, activists have been expressing their disdain for executives’ excuses that the measure is aimed at “reconnecting” people with relatives who can help.

In a statement, Manchester Activist Network (MAN), which has been heavily involved in homeless self-organising in the city explained the real way in which the system works:

Person becomes homeless. Person goes to local town hall. Person is told no housing available, all the money is in Manchester. Person goes to Manchester and asks for help. Person told they have no local connection, go back home. Person kicks off a bit. Person is offered a train ticket to stop them from staying in Manchester long enough to be considered as having a local connection (six months). Decision time. Go back to the place that’s already failed you (and has a waiting least of two years+) or stay and take a chance in a city where at least the public care even if the council doesn’t. [Read More]

Manchester: Council gears up for eviction of the Addy

Andy Burnham’s Labour administration found itself in yet another mess over homelessness today as it made its first abortive attempt to scare a self-organised homeless group off an occupied site in Hulme — just days after pledging to “end homelessness” in Manchester.

The spectacle has been particularly humiliating for City bosses because the squatted empty property was once better known as North Hulme Adventure Playground — a community space which was shut down by council funding cuts cuts in 2014.

The council-owned land was occupied in August by around 40 people who had been evicted from Hotspur Press — itself an embarrassing episode for Mayor Burnham which prompted protests outside his office only weeks after his election on a ticket of helping rough sleepers. [Read More]

UK: The social centres roundup

For all its small size and general impoverishment the libertarian socialist movement actually runs a surprisingly large amount of real estate around Britain, all on non-hierarchical lines, by and for the people of the cities and towns we’re in. Housing co-ops, bookshops, bike collectives, archives, distros, printers and the like are all part of the collective mix. Below, Freedom News briefly rounds up some goings-on at 15 radical social centres and spaces over the last few months. [Read More]

Manchester: Shock eviction of Cornerhouse centre puts 20 people on streets

Homeless people rounded on Andy Burnham’s Labour administation in Manchester today after 20 people were rousted out of the well-regarded Cornerhouse squatted centre in an early-morning raid.

Manchester Activist Network, which has been heavily involved in the space, said today they will be looking to hold highly-paid council bosses to account for promises made during Mayor Burnham’s election campaign in May that his team would “end rough sleeping by 2020”:
[Read More]

Manchester’s self-organised homeless challenge Andy Burnham to join them

201705_Cornerhouse_Cinema_ManchesterOrganisers at squatted former arts space Cornerhouse have called on new Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham to go a step further than simple charity donations and engage directly with homeless people in finding solutions to the city’s rough sleeping crisis. Cornerhouse, owned by Network Rail, has been occupied by homeless people and Manchester Activist Network (MAN) since January and successfully saw off an eviction attempt late last month.

Writing in response to Burnham’s recent pledge to give 15% of his pay to homelessness charities and “put words into action” to help the rising street homeless population, MAN said:

This sounds great Andy, however what do (former mayor and new business and economy deputy) Richard Leese, (power player and former Manchester council chief exec) Howard Bernstein and (Manchester city centre tsar) Pat Karney think about this?

From the information we have been provided with it seems that Leese will continue to have the large sway of the Devo (devolutionary budget) mayoral power and you will be pushed out to the outer regions. Maybe this is why Oldham and Rochdale were mooted as potential places for shelters. Will you have any real Mayoral power or is this just a token? [Read More]