Café Francesca in Broadway Market, Hackney has been occupied for two weeks by local people to prevent its demolition by property developer Dr Roger Wratten and conversion into luxury flats.
The occupation has received widespread press coverage, overwhelming local support and looks set to continue for some time. Hundreds of people have visited the café in the past 14 days bringing food, furniture and donations, over 60 people are on the shift rota and local residents associations have passed resolutions in favour of the occupation with offers of practical support. The Guardian, Evening Standard and others have carried features with a steady stream of journalists and film crews in the past few days.
The court hearing on Friday 9th December led to a possession order being granted to Dr Wratten. However, instead of the usual 10-20 minute hearing, it took from mid-morning to 4pm for the judge to reach his decision, and the developers and their lawyers received searing criticism.
The court heard that Kirrie Wratten, wife of Dr. Wratten and a co-director of his company Market House Ltd, had entered the café posing as a supporter in order to spy on the occupiers; giving a donation and signing their petition. This was described by the judge as ‘foolish’.
One of Wratten’s many plans for Broadway Market was a 200 hundred seat theatre and in an interview with the Evening Standard Mrs Wratten said “I would have had a role in it as a guest director”. Since that particular application has been withdrawn her short appearance at Francesca’s is likely to be her first and last theatrical appearance on Broadway (Market).
Wratten can now go to court again for an eviction warrant although this could take several weeks and an appeal may be launched before the 23rd December. Francesca’s has been successfully defended against eviction three times in the past, so even if it goes ahead this should not be taken as a sign of defeat. The police have re-opened criminal investigations into the original property sell-offs, and the council is reviewing the planning permission for Francesca’s, having admitted there are serious questions to be answered and referring it to Independent Planning Directorate for review.
Tony, Spirit and the Bahamas
Tony Platia, who has run Francesca’s for 30 years, isn’t the only person in Broadway Market facing this treatment. Spirit, from the Nutritious Food Gallery, 74 Broadway Market, handed a cheque for a deposit on his shop to estate agents Nelson Bakewell on the day it was being auctioned off by Hackney Council, and at the end of the day discovered it had been sold to Bahamas based “Broadway Investments Hackney” for £15000 less than he’d offered. Little Georgia, part of the first wave of gentrification on the street, was recently priced out by Wratten and replaced one week later by a French bistro.
Broadway Market, and Hackney in general, is at the sharp end of gentrification in London. It is likely to have six City Academies within the next couple of years, out of a total of only two hundred across the UK. Nearby Laburnum primary school was closed recently and will be replaced by a City Academy in 2006, to be sponsored and run by Swiss investment bank UBS. UBS also sponsors Hidden Art Hackney, which happens to have a significant presence in Broadway Market and has contributed to its redevelopment in terms of providing studio and retail space to ‘designer makers’ and developing the Saturday ‘Farmers STYLE Market’.
As Londoners prepare for a heavy council tax bill to pay for the Olympics, which will be focused above all on Hackney, Haggerston Pool, five minutes walk from Francesca’s, and Clissold Leisure centre in Stoke Newington remain closed. East Marsh, part of historic Hackney Marshes and a major centre for Sunday football will be turned into a carpark for 2012. It’s unlikely that the olympics will provide significant improvements for people living in Hackney and the other affected boroughs, but developers and the construction industry stand to make a killing.
Video interview and photos
libcom visited Francesca’s this afternoon and conducted a short video interview with Carl Taylor from Hackney Independent, and local advocate and spokesperson for the occupation Arthur Shuter. We present the interview in quicktime format (30mb, 3 mins) and some photosfrom the café.
The corruption and sell offs on Broadway Market and the rapid gentrification of inner cities around the UK is one of the most visible signs of the continuing decomposition of the working class under New Labour. Along with the mass sell-offs of council housing, highest ever levels of consumer debt, casualisation at work, the pensions crisis and many more symptoms of recent capitalist development, this constitutes a sustained and continuing attack on our living and working conditions which may lead to many more stories like Francesca’s.
The occupation on Broadway Market provides a glimpse of the potential for resistance against the encroachment of capital and commodity society on our public space and free time. Although a handful of experienced political activists are involved, the overwhelming majority of people drinking tea each day in Francesca’s “haven’t done anything like this before” (letter to Hackney Gazette, Thursday 9th December).
Although highly localised and borne out of the daily experience of life for people in and around Broadway Market, the occupation has been extremely visible in both local and national media and mobilised the support of hundreds of people in the area. Although the fate of Tony Platia’s café is far from decided, the relationships and experiences that are developing through this occupation should lead to a political climate in Hackney which can continue to resist the process of gentrification and social exclusion which is likely to accelerate as 2012 approaches.
As struggles like this circulate around the country and internationally, it points towards the potential for a society where people have taken control of their lives collectively, with human need being at the basis of organisation rather than ‘market forces’.
This article was taken from www.libcom.org/news
For more information about the events on Broadway Market, and some other organisations and campaigns active in Hackney there are links, pictures and a video interview all linked from the libcom news story here:
St Agnes Place, Kennington, London’s oldest squatted street was raided by riot cops and bailiffs on Tuesday morning.
Reports on Indymedia and St Agnes Place websites.
Big hello to BBC London and Evading Standards for the unbalanced reports of the eviction.
Big hello also to that greedy property developing Lib Dem councillor Keith Fitchett and the coruption riddden Lambeth Council ( Eyes passim! ).
The eviction of St. Agnes Place, – by Mark S Brown
On Tuesday 29th November, the illegal eviction took place of St Agnes Place. Residents here were thrown out onto the freezing street with nowhere to go, even though their hearing for possession of the property was not scheduled until mid-december. This was a totally illegal action by baliffs and police, as papers were not served. The police operation involved 200 police officers, with mounted police.
One resident, who remained barricaded in one house until late in the evening, was removed by a territorial armed police unit after having threatened to set alight to himself, and was extremely badly beaten in the street, receiving several brutal blows to the head with truncheons.
Squatters were not allowed to retrieve their belongings by the evening, meaning some people were without their own sleeping bags, bedding ..etc. This remained the case until late afternoon Wednesday. The reason given for this was that baliffs were still going from house-to-house, and that the house were a health and safety hazard (presumably because of the removal of floorboards).
The active members of the community are set to pursue a legal challenge.
The right-wing media and councillors portray the squatters of St. Agnes as free-loading parasites. While this may be true for some (certainly not all), the fact remains is that the real parasite is local councillor Fichett, who “misplaced” £3 million of taxpayers money, and yet, has incredibly been allowed to keep his job.
Lambeth Council cite the lost rental income from properties on the street over 30 years, which is a half-truth since Lambeth waved away it’s rights to rental income when they abandoned these properties (infact, squatters over the years have neglected to get their shit together and attain ownership of properties on the street under the old 12-year rule).
The council publicised their new plans for the area where the street exists, which include new leisure facilities for the community, plus 60 social housing units. It is unfortunate that the council was seen not to embrace the positive aspects to life on the street, and weigh the pros and cons of the cost of eviction, demolition and re-build and the architectural quality of these rows rows of housing in the decision. With the alcohol-soakled wave of anti-social behaviour washing across UK’s urban areas in recent years, the council should have considered the long-term legacy of the positive aspects of this street such as the remarkable lack of hard drugs (as opposed to any sink-estate or town block housing estate). St Agnes Place was voted
as UK’s safest street in a survey 2 years ago. Councillors neglected to work more closely with residents, such as through positive engagment in community projects which couild have transformed the fertile ground of community-based solutions.
Meanwhile, the kids adventure playground next door to the street remains under threat from development.
WAKE FOR ST AGNES PLACE, took place on the evening of the eviction “To celebrate 30 years of diversity and community, a celebration for St Agnes Place by the supporters of St Agnes Place community and evicted residents gathered outside the Town Hall in Brixton. They celebrated their community and praised residents still refusing to leave their homes. “Lambeth Council are not only corrupt
but are unlawful in their actions” one supporter was quoted as saying. There was a large and sympathetic press presence and all present resolved to continue the struggle until Lambeth Councillors responsible are brought to justice.
History of St Agnes Place
Squatters first moved in to St Agnes Place in late 1974, some of its houses having been empty for 14 years. St Agnes Place was given new life by the squatter occupants. By April 1976, 65 people were squatting there. In April 1976, Lambeth Council announced a five-point plan of attack:
Immediate eviction for single squatters.
Power supply cut-offs to squatted premises.
More houses to be ”sealed up” or ”made uninhabitable” to deter squatters.
Council-funded groups to have their grants cut if they tolerated squatting. The use of private investigators to help deal with squatters. In addition, the crackdown on squatters involved the demolition of houses long before sites were actually required. In particular, Villa Road and St Agnes Place were due to be pulled down
for two open spaces. Although the Council readily admitted that it would not have enough money to complete either scheme for five years, it insisted it wanted to demolish the houses to get rid of the squatters as quickly as possible.
By December 1976 almost 100 people were squatting in St Agnes Place and, anxious to ensure this number did not increase, the Council gutted a number of houses immediately the tenants moved out. On 10 December, it expected to do the same to No 85 without too much difficulty. The tenant, 78-year-old Ruby Thompson who had lived there for 30 years was leaving, but as she went out squatters entered the house from the rear and occupied the two top floors, while workers wrecked her ground floor flat. (The workers were non-union because UCATT, the building workers union, had instructed its members to black work involving the gutting of good homes.) The press had been alerted to the event and lambasted the Council. The Evening Standard headlined its story ”Council “vandals” are defied by squatters”, and the Sunday Times later ran an editorial under a similar headline.
Councils were being urged to cut spending, and yet here was a council deliberately wrecking perfectly good homes for no reason other than a vendetta against squatters. Council-bashing in the press, particularly of Labour councils, became a suitable alternative to squatter-bashing, at least for a while. There was strong opposition within the Labour Group of the Labour-controlled Council for the anti-squatting measures policy. Norwood councillor Ted Knight (later to become the Leader of the new left-dominated Labour administration in 1978) was quoted as saying:
”The Council”s policies are bankrupt. They talk to the waiting list and say it is because of squatters. They talk to the homeless and say it is because of the waiting list. And yet we still have vast quantities of empty property.”
Indeed, the administrative resources needed to implement the policy were not available and, although some unlucky squatters suffered, squatting continued largely unabated in Lambeth. Any reduction in their number was due to the Council carrying out its redevelopment programme rather than to its punitive policy. The policy finally foundered when the Council underestimated the strength of the opposition to it and overplayed its hand at St Agnes Place.
On 19 January 1977, the occupants of St Agnes Place were awakened by the sound of a huge crane rigged up with a demolition ball moving into position outside. The street was closed off by police coaches parked across the road. The squatters resisted, and with the help of Lambeth Community Law Centre, hurriedly and successfully applied for an injunction to halt the demolition but not before 16 houses had been wrecked, 10 irretrievably.
The outcry which this affair caused brought an end to the Council’s most rabidly anti-squatting policies. On 25 January the Labour Group voted to think again about the future of St Agnes Place and later it agreed to allow the squatters to remain until the park could be laid out. Many councillors were angered by the deceit that had surrounded sending in demolition contractors as the decision had been kept secret from all but a handful of high-ranking officers and councillors. Even the police were said to have been misled when asked to attend. They were told to come to assist in an eviction and the officer in charge of the operation was later quoted as saying that he hoped never again to be involved in anything similar.
The fight for St Agnes Place has been a remarkable one. At times official attitudes were completely at odds with the needs of local people. For example, Councillor Carey, leader of the Conservative Group, had seconded the proposal to demolish St Agnes Place at a Planning Committee meeting with the memorable suggestion that there were already too many people living in Lambeth and ”to make sure that the extra population doesn”t stay, we should demolish houses that encourage them to do so.”
In the aftermath of the St Agnes Place affair, the entire ”get tough on squatting” steamroller ground to a halt, not only in Lambeth, but elsewhere. The continuing presence of squatters in St Agnes Place, constituted a victory for all squatters. The outcome of these struggles, moreover, comprised a victory for the homeless in Lambeth, because it prevented the loss of housing that the original plans entailed. The role of squatting in forcing policy changes out of Lambeth Council had been absolutely crucial. As Lambeth’s Assistant Director of Housing remarked ”If it wasn’t for squatter pressure we”d have all these [houses] down months ago and nobody would have noticed.”
Londons longest surviving sqatted streets threatened with demolition
Jim, Kathy, Danny, Victor, Uwe and Fred
St. Agnes Place, Kennington, is London’s oldest squatted street. Two hundred people are threatened with imminent eviction and the twenty-something Victorian terraced houses are soon to be demolished.
St. Agnes Place is a community. For over thirty years it has evolved into a stimulating, challenging and rewarding mixture of cultures with creative people and vulnerable people, from all over the world. St. Agnes Place is home to the Rastafarian movement in Britain. Bob Marley used the International Rastafarian Headquarters as a second home in the seventies. Many other former residents are now working as doctors and in other careers which were only made possible by the welcoming arms of the streets patron. It is indeed a unique community; nowhere else in London can there be found a street of such diversity, where people from multi-cultural backgrounds live together with such a degree of interaction and mutual support.
Since the mid-seventies, Lambeth Council have constantly used the force of the law and avoided talking to the residents on a more personal level. Consequently the possibility of arriving at an amicable solution between the two parties has never been fully explored.
Lambeth Council has stated in their recent determination to evict Saint Agnes Place that the residents have no legal defence in this case. But is not the right to enjoy the security and safety of your home a reason to oppose such an eviction? The Human Rights Bill says that it is.
Lambeth Council are moving the eviction order forward with ruthless haste, before the residents can effectively protest or make their voice heard in the media. Should this eviction go ahead hundreds of people will made homeless during the cold winter months solely for profit. As of yet Lambeth Council have not responded to enquiries about their development plans following the eviction.
20 – 10 – 05 :
Lambeth County Court yesterday gave in to the Councils demand to have the eviction warrant executed by High Court bailiffs and sherrifs. Also, permission was granted to execute the evicxtion on Sundays. That means, Lambeth Council could roll in every minute from now. The residents ask all former residents and sympathisers to rally for the survival of the community. Some people will leave their houses in the next few days. We need people to fill the vacancies and help to resist the greedy developers!
Very important: Please send this on to other sympathetic media!!!
The fourth Okupational Hazard Squat Fest is on Saturday October 22nd 2005
It’s from 9pm sharp and features bands, cafe, cinema, stalls etc. etc.
All the details are below – make sure you check back regularly as we have more bands confirmed and will be adding more details shortly. Visit their website.
Location :- ( London area ) Call 07908 116440 or 07961 651 791 after 8pm on the night or check back here!
LIVE MUSIC FROM: Inner Terrestrials, Dread Messiah, P.A.I.N. , Restarts, Flatpig, Short Bus Window Lickers, Dirty Love, Headjam, Cupid Stunt, Subsource, Dead Silence, Fil Planet, United Vibration, Babar Luck, Carpet Face, Zora Jakal
SOUND SYSTEMS: Siren, Reknaw, Braincell, Rich Kidz
FUNKY STUFF: Cabaret ( inc. 12 Volt Vandals ) Fire Show Light Show by B.I.T.S. Art Cafe Cinema and Stalls ( including Advisory Service For Squatters celebrating their 30th birthday. ).
Wey hey – the only place to be on the night which coincidentally is after a certain Anarchist Bookfair….
This years venue is at Open Arts Platform, Old Seager Distillery, Deptford, London . It’s on Saturday, 29 October 2005 from10am till 5pm and admission is FREE. You should attend.
Visting the Alternative Housing Conference site will give you an idea of what previous yeards have covered with everything from Squat Social centres, planning law for eco-projects, earth ships, and fund raising for alt. communties. There is also audio from previous years.
This year’s conference will be following a slightly different vein to the usual “Alternative Housing” focus; instead it tries to fuse the aims of independent community/ co-operative groups in South East London that are aiming to realise the “Social Economy” in our area and “media-centric” groups which are trying to realise a means of networking the wide, disparate range of community groups. We shall examine what is happening in South East London, how community groups are using media (or not) to gain presence, how art/ media/ design could aid the social economy, demonstrating how the social economy is beneficial to the world of art/ media/ design, using real projects to demonstrate these points. The aim of the conference is to see how the two areas (Social Economy and Art/ Media/ Design) can aid one another in their aims/ goals and how media is being used in a constructive and positive manner.
The conference will be accompanied by workshops that will give those wishing to start a projects practical advice on how to go about setting up and how to finance themselves.
The theme reads: “Progressing the Social Economy through Art/ Media/Design and vice versa…” thus:
“Progressing”: progress, taking further, enhancing, developing, evolving
“Social Economy”: the economic system made up community/ co-operative/business groups which embrace both financial and social goals, such as housing co-operatives, workers co-operatives. The social economy is the sector of activity that functions for social purposes. It seeks to achieve all or some of the following criteria: sustainable and self financing; activity of benefit to those who are involved in it; to address the needs of those who are currently disadvantaged; to encourage the ethic of self help; to replace dependency with self reliance; to enhance the social fabric of a community. For the full description visit the Social Economy Info Sheet
“Art/ Media/ Design”: “Art” (any medium, galleries, studios), “Media” (radio, TV, music, print, advertising, internet (web and infrastructure)) and “Design” (graphic,interior, advertising, product) are wide, generic terms to incorporate a range of media options and infrastructure which relate to the making the Social Economy visible.
“vice versa”: as art/ media/ design can help the social economy, the social economy can certainly help make art accessible to more people through its supportive network and cheaper living, working and running costs.
For more information visit their site or contact James McDonald on 02086927316.
“[T]emporary [A]utonomous [A]rt featuring The Plot Thickens” is an art show in an (as yet) undisclosed reclaimed space in London – Details of the secret gallery will be revealed closer to the time. The (weekend) show runs from the 2nd to the 4th of September.
Following their history of utilising under-used spaces to celebrate art, Random Artists will once again reclaim wasted space to create a open access community gallery as part of this years Walthamstow Festival arts trail. They are interested in all forms of work from new and local artist as well as previously exhibited artists.
The show will also feature documentation and artwork from “The Plot Thickens” returning from a European tour in Berlin and Prague. “The Plot Thickens” is an ongoing exhibition of sound installations, paintings, photographs and sculptures by Hekate, Pitchless and Random Artists inspired by the story; The Reset Button.
The Plot Thickens shown again over 14th-17th September in the Bristol area. If you are interested in exhibiting work or would like to know more check out www.randomartists.org.
Springing out of RTS London the Reclaim The Future party promises to be a cracker. It’s on Saturday 11th June in London at a DIY space and runs from 8 in the evening to 8 on Sunday morning.
There’s something for everyone with live techno sets from Geezer and Edit, punk from PAIN and the Inner Terrestrials, reggae from Nomadix Roots, agit folk from Riot Folk from the USA and much more including special guests TBA. The main stage features your comperes Viz and 2000DS/Crowzone Gary. There’s also vegan cafe, Indymedia cinema, comedy, samba, drum and bass, more live music, world beats, more techno, more punk, more folk, more chillout, serious visuals galore, magicians, gabba, Recclaim the Streets artwork plus and a nervous breakdown.
There are 3 live stages including the cabaret ( later doubling as chillout ), drum and bass room, techno rooms, Indymedia cinema,vegan cafe, info stalls and clean toilets and running water. OK this may not be the whole line-up but here goes :-
Edit ( live techno )
Geezer ( Live techno )
Sondrine ( Mal faiteurs )
Rhythms of Resistance samba band
Pok ( mandolin tunes )
Riot Folk ( US folk collective with sets from Evan Greer, Ryan Harvey, Mark Gunnery, and Christa Daring )
Electricity Comes From other Planets
Pink Pork Chops
Geraldine ( Reclaim The Streets )
12 Volt Vandals ( low fi folk punk )
Ian Saville – Socialist Magician
Lower Depths ( kick-ass 3 piece )
Dead Cops Now Drum and Bass
Serum Sound system
Siren Sound system
On the day call 02076445155 or 07951868252.
Reviews and more info can be found on the Reclaim The Streets London website http://rts.gn.apc.org
The University of East London is evicting students from its Park Village estate at Clays Lane, Stratford, East London. The estate is to be handed over to the London Development Agency and will be part of the site for the Olympic Village if London gets the 2012 Olympics. The students are being removed even though the decision on the Olympics won’t be made until 6th July and if London doesn’t get the Olympics the estate will be let out again through a housing agency. If London does get the Olympics then the LDA says it will demolish the estate within six months even though the rest of the Village site won’t be available for construction till 2007. Notice to quit for the students expires on 19th July.
The estate consists of two tower blocks and a large number of four or six person houses. It is in perfectly good condition! Have a look for yourselves.
Rampart 1st Birthday
Rampart Social Centre in London E1 is known for a variety of activities such as Internet Radio, video editing, band rehearsal, benefit events, and skillsharing projects. It is one of a few squatted political spaces that have sprung up around the country in the past few years. This weekend, May 21st, will see Rampart Street celebrate it’s first birthday.
A year is a long time in squatting in the UK with 2-5 months being typical.
Ramparts operate under the principles of ” non-hierarchical DIY culture” with a “strong emphasis on conscensus decision making” working on a purely non commercial basis.
So to celebrate in typical Ramparts style we can expect live music, film screenings documenting Social centre projects, vegan food, chillout and live music. Check the calendar and the Ramparts website for more details.