On Saturday evening I attended a session on squatting in London, hosted by the estimable Influx Press and featuring writer and activist ‘Furious’ George F and poet Paul Hawkins, who together combined passion, humour and rage in roughly equal proportions.
Each, they reveal, came to squatting for similar reasons — necessity, primarily, as seems to have been the case for most of us who’ve ended up living that way down the years — though via very different routes. Hawkins, despite being a veteran of the often-lamented and invariably misunderstood 90s scene, rejects the very notion of nostalgia. The relevance of his experiences of twenty or thirty years ago is palpable in the sections he recites from Claremont Road and in his forthcoming collection, Place Waste Dissent due to be published by Influx in October.
George F could hardly have presented a greater contrast to Hawkins’ calm, restrained delivery. A force of nature, he kicked off by recounting the highlights of his week — evictions, bailiffs, policemen and roll-ups — in a high-wire verbal torrent, before assaulting us with an impassioned rendition of his wondrous John Cooper Clarke rip-off Octogenarian Anarcho Punx. A transcript of the latter appears in his recently released book Total Shambles (which I’m currently about a third of the way through and enjoying immensely) — just one of the many reasons you should buy it.
The evening reminded me why squatting mattered when I used to do it, and why it still matters. As George F points out, the truth is that every one of us is a squatter — or a self-houser, if you prefer a more neutral term which amounts to the same thing. Wherever you happen to live, you’re doing it on my land, and I’m doing it on yours. Which makes the queen, with her 6.6 billion acres — one-sixth of the earth’s land surface — the biggest squatter of all.
Housing is a human right. Squat the lot.
For more information on squatting, contact the Advisory Service for Squatters.