An East London squatters group are organising a “party of resistance” to eviction tonight . The squatters are due to be evicted tomorrow from the Grade II listed building that they have restored and inhabited over the last four months.
The group, made up of artists and musicians from London and Berlin, took over the disused Bedford House in Shoreditch earlier this summer.
Bailiffs are due to arrive at 9am on Friday 28, but will be met by a barricade.
A street party will also take place at 9am on Quaker St, Shoreditch, to demonstrate the community’s commitment to the squat’s ‘free space’ ideal.
Bedford House, whose (undisclosed) owner is reputed to be among the top 10 in the UK’s ‘rich list’, has sat empty for 25 years, frequented only by vandals and ravers, at severe detriment to the property.
The grand redbrick site was built in 1864 to house the Bedford Institute – a charitable organisation aiming to alleviate poverty in Spitalfields by providing educational courses, lectures and religious meetings. The building was converted in 1946 for industrial use as a warehouse and bottling plant.
In June this year, ten people who call themselves Penge Security (after the last place they lived) moved into the residential quarters on the top floors of the former factory. One month later, they were joined by Masse und Macht, a collective of artists from Berlin, who began organising small-scale cultural events to open the building to local people.
“It makes common sense and it’s responsible to make use of space that’s neglected,” said Anastasia of Masse und Macht. “We want to work with the history of the space and improve it. We want to keep the history alive, instead of letting it just rot and be torn down”.
The group has restored Bedford House; removing six inches of debris and reviving original features. Three factory floors have been transformed into a clean and bright gallery and exhibition space, a ‘free shop’ and accommodation for 13 people. The squatters have hosted communal meals for locals, evening orchestras, art installations, free concerts, live punk gigs, and a series of techno parties – many of which have had up to 500 guests.
Octave, a Bedford House squatter, said, “We want to open a cultural centre that is an alternative to gentrified Shoreditch. We try to do without much money at all. We want to open a free shop, recycling things we find in the street. We want Bedford House to be open to everyone”.
Connie Hart, who has lived at the squat for four months, says, “It’s not like we’ve taken over someone’s home! This astounding building has been abandoned for over 25 years, and will be left for another 25 years by the owner.”
The eviction comes at the same time as Government plans to change squatting to a criminal, rather than a civil, offence. Currently squatters are able to stay in a property under Section 6 of the Criminal Law Act, which states that access is a civil matter between the property owner and the occupant. Proposed 2012 laws will mean that police can enter a squatted property by force and evict occupants within days, without necessitating a court case.
Ironically, Peter Bedford, who gave his name to the building, is famous for forming the Society for Lessening the Causes of Juvenile Delinquency. The eviction that will make 13 young Londoners homeless seems to go against the very cause for which this historic site was constructed.
EastLondonLines will be reporting live from the eviction on Friday morning, and providing up-to-the-moment blog and twitter updates.
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