Lost property

I’ve decided to get another squat started. I began by sending a text message to the people I’d met outside 18 upper Grosvenor Street, about 12 people replied. Thanks peeps, great to hear from you! Please outline briefly how you’d like to make use of a squat in the comments below. I’m writing this post so you can introduce yourselves to each other, and so that we can begin a meeting which will take place in real life on Sunday 6/10/13 at 5pm. Everyone else reading this is also welcome to get involved and come along, so if you’d like to chip in with preparations somehow, join the conversation.

In response to my text message, people asked me the following questions, which I expect others are wondering about, hopefully they’ll serve as good conversations topics too.

Where will the squat be?

It’ll be in central London, I have 2 places in mind, I’m not saying where yet. I’m focused on getting people together first because, as they say, it’s not where you are, it’s who you’re with. 🙂

What’s the point?

That’s a good question! I want this to be a practical, media savvy, pro-squatting campaign to reverse the direction in which the law is currently heading. I want to see the law changed so that it resembles French law where winter squatting is allowed for 6 mths of the year. I’d also like to see aspects the Dutch squatting laws resurrected here.

With this campaign in mind, I’d like to see a massive increase of ethical squatting with high moral standards I’d like to see squatters target buildings that are being neglected by their owners. For example buildings that to all intents and purposes are nothing but digits on a balance sheet, or tax scams and generally dodgy property. Or government owned places that have been red-taped into neglect and left unused for years, or listed buildings that are facing dereliction, etc.

However, all that can only truly be communicated by actions and examples. So what I really want is for you to briefly express an interest in how you’d like to make use of a building and follow through on those ideas, I want this to be something that fits around your ordinary life.

Will I be able to live there?

Owing to the law it will be necessary to have a few people in occupation at all times, but the building will be a place to be used, not a place to be lived in. And besides it is unlikely that we’ll be in any one place for more than 2 weeks (until that law kicks in!)

What kind of activities you are involved in?

I’m a father, I home educate my daughters. I’m getting deeper and deeper into photography as each day passes. I’ve been hairdressing for 17 years and am totally into nopoo. I’m entertained mostly by radio, fashion and poetry. I’ve just started dabbling in entomophagy. So you can see my daily occupations require the majority of my attention. Personally my practical use of the building will be to take photos by the windows and of course sharing what I know about squatting.

This can easily be something we organise and participate in, rather than switching off and monging in front of Eastenders or whatever. And it will be much much more satisfying!

Thanks everyone who has passed the text message on. Thanks for the random giggly phone call. And thanks most of all to the icebreakers who’ll leave a reply first and get this conversation started.

28 thoughts on “Lost property

  1. Hey Simon and everyone, we are primarily interested in running events and workshops (printmaking, bookbinding, graphic design, illustration) and since we are currently looking for a flat, it would be great if we could also live there since we really only need little space to sleep because we have shower and kitchen facilities at university.
    Since we are studying at the RCA, we could also talk to other students to bring a variety of activities to the space if desired.

    1. Thanks for your reply! Its really great to hear from you and I’m very excited about meeting you in real life next Sunday. Will let you know where we’ll meet nearer the time, depending on how many hundreds of people will be in attendance lol¬!. Please do talk to the other RCA students – there are sharing buttons at the end of the post, please feel free to use them liberally 🙂

  2. Dear Mr Simon McAndrew,

    Whilst you state the message of your action is to ultimately help the homeless, from what I have observed from similar projects (this is nothing new) is that the effect is actually the opposite.

    When I have needed to, I have had to squat in the past and have experienced many other squatters and squatting organisations that find, not only such projects as patronising, but only serves the aggrandizement of those involved in the project, whilst bringing unwanted attention to a less than sympathetic and understanding public.

    When such stories make it in the news, agreed, there are positive stories and negative ones however, guess which opinions won and led to squatting becoming illegal in residential properties?

    The best thing you can do is keep it out of the news and if you genuinely want to help and this isn’t a self-serving ego boost then volunteer for the A.S.S.

    1. Thanks for your comment Luke, I hope we don’t get into one of those situations where two groups of people who basically agree in principle start fighting about the details.

      I didn’t mention homelessness, this is not about homelessness, this is about making positive use of commercial buildings. It’s not that I don’t care about homelessness, but there are plenty of organisations focused on homelessness.

      I understand your scepticism of the media. It may not be a perfect means of communication, none-the-less, if we go about it in an intelligent manner, I’m sure we can convince large numbers of people that there is a useful place for squatting in society, and thereby promote squatter friendly legal reform.

      I am sure it’s always the case that when you’re involved in some clandestine activity that hiding away seems to be the best approach, but I’m not convinced that if we were to sit tight and keep schtum about the positive aspects of squatting those politicians who’re pushing for the criminalisation of squatting in commercial buildings would say to themselves, “Ok, let’s forget about squatters” The point is to counterbalance antisocial squatter reports with stories of lovely squatters.

      I have offered my time to the ASS in the past, I didn’t hear back, but thanks for your suggestion it’s a good one, I’m just about to send them an email now.

    2. ^^^^ what he said – if we want to keep squatting going, homelessness is the only issue that the general public will understand and the only grounds that it can be fought on – a load of tarquins wanting to ponce about making art is something that joe public won’t give a shit about.
      the implicit connection between anarchist politics and squatting is also deeply depressing and totally counterproductive, in addition to being massively pretentious.

  3. Hi Simon – Homelessness is the issue and it always has been – if you look at the history of squatting – from the occupation of abandoned army camps in the post war era to the Redbridge squatting campaign in the late sixties – that’s what it’s been about.
    I think it’s so blindingly obvious that it barely needs explanation. The need for shelter is something shared by every human being, the need to screenprint, is not.
    A ‘media savvy’ campaign is an absolutely terrible idea – it was high profile squats like the ‘really free school’, mouthing off, that gave the right wing press the ammo it needed to engage in the smear campaign leading up to the criminalisation of residential squatting.
    I’ve been around the scene for nearly 30 years and squatters & travellers have always come off worse in the media – the reason I say don’t bother with the media is because it has never worked – ever – it’s been tried again & again – there’s no reason to think that this time will be any different.
    If you want to open up an art project, then go ahead, but keep it out of the papers, all you’re going to do is bring it on top for people who really need a roof over their head.
    I mean if you want to make some art, then do that, but that just seems to be an aside to some other agenda.

    1. Perhaps it’s so blindingly obvious that you have been blinkered into thinking homelessness is the only issue. Homelessness is obviously connected to squatting but squatting gives much more than shelter, it gives opportunity to explore many alternatives.
      The Really Free School’s media campaign, as I recall it, was not to speak to the media, which is what you are also proposing. I think you stoop pretty low to criticise the RFS they put on an incredible array of events. Residential criminalisation was more to do with the way foreign squatters were portrayed, a news search for squatters shows that to be the case.

    1. I’ve appreciated your piece. I’m happy to say the ASS got back to me. I probably wouldn’t have got in touch a third time were it not for your suggestion, so thanks for that.

      Your thoughts about ‘Tarquins’ have been especially useful. You made me realise the extent to which I am projecting my own idea of how I want to use a building. In fact more important than establishing an artysquat is creating a place where people to learn how to squat well, and go on to establish their own types of squats for example restaurant squats or nursery squats or old folks squats.

      Now I’m going to turn my attention to my fellow artsquatters as we have some serious screen printing to discuss in advance of the Sunday meeting.

      Good luck to you too.

  4. woow ! quite a project ! Of course, the idea pleases me, and I guess it would do the same to the rabbit, but what kind of commitment do you suggest for parisians musicians ? of course, we could come and play, but we will need money for the trip. So if you can programm an event on a day we are available, we would surely come ! to be contunued…

    Ben from the Lapin superstar

  5. Ok love all looks good to me
    I agree on principles too

    Although what I can do it will all depends on the building we get – let me know if u need any help xxx

  6. Dear Simon , here in 59 Rivoli in Paris, we’ve been squatting for 14 years now , and we’ve made it legal for three years now ! and WE TOTALLY SUPPORT YOUR GREAT PROJECT ! I am so amazed that you still have this grate energy to star a new story ! Keep on dreaming, Simon, just like we do, because the day we won’t be dreaming anymore , we’ll be dead. If we can help you in anyway, ask us, and we will do our best . ( and by the way , I don’t agree with the fact that homelessness is the only subject , I think that there are so many people with energies that are frustrated these days, while in the same time hundreds of buildings are empty, THIS IS SUCH A WASTE, we must stop it, and get together 8 Love, dear Simon, and I wish I knew by heart this sentence of William Blake in « marriage of Heaven and Hell » that says something crucial about « Desire / no action / and pestilence …. » Gaspard Delanoë , foundator of 59 Rivoli.

  7. hi, this sounds great
    i’ve got this link from konrad and i am so happy he gave it to me.
    i am visual artist and have been thinking on some site-specific projects
    (without damaging the building!)
    and gaspard is so right-there is so much unused empty space
    and some of it so inspiring

  8. Hi everyone,
    Looking forward to being involved in this project and supporting the ideas through music and other visual art forms. I’m currently a Goldsmiths Education student, WWOOFer, and sime’s little sister.
    Look forward to meeting you all on Sunday,

  9. Everything hectic. Being kicked out of my flat mid October and am frantically looking for a job.
    So a. Would be happy to ‘squatsit’ at night and b. I will have freetime to conduct art classes, and look for a job…etc.
    I’ve always been interested in ethical squatting, and this actually seems to be the perfect time. Rent in London also shocking me! And I could actually b homeless soon, just sick of the sky high rent and deposit required! I’m also not a Tarqinn, which is handy.
    I live out of a suitcase, not very precious about stuff.

  10. Sadly I just got to this and I already have plans for today. I am a programmer and I don’t have much time free but I really would love to be part of this. Since some time ago I want to have a space to give free lesstechnical-morepractical courses about basic programming as a wonderful tool that is useful to any kind of works and how to have this knowledge betters the understanding of how the modern world is fast evolving and how to catch up with it.
    I will add you in facebook so we can speak well,
    cheers and best luck today

    1. Hey again Cristian! So at yesterday’s meeting, Andy pointed out that we need a way for people to say what they want to do and when they’re available to do it. There will be at least 10 rooms so let’s start with that and take it from there. How would you suggest we go about it? This would obviously form part of a website we’ll be putting together… Hope you are interested in this side of things…

  11. Hey Simon,
    I really like the idea, sadly I won’t be back in ldn till 25 November… If any of this is still alive by then I would be happy to do a photo workshop, possibly a small exhibition… Have documented ldn squats in 2011/2012 and squatted myself…

    good luck!



  12. Just wondering about dates.
    I am out of my place on the 14th and would ideally like to be squatting by the end of that week so around fri -Sunday 20th
    What do people think?

  13. I think the role of squatting in providing space for people to tap into their creativity (which is squashed in mainstream schooling and jobs) is really vital and so am wholly in support of this project.

    Love how public you have made it with this blog too.

    I won’t be back in London until 5th Nov but if its still going would be interested in documenting the project’s progress through podcasting and possibly offering workshops.

    Good luck with the squat and I hope to meet you in November


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