“The same measures governed the possession of land too: whatsoever he tilled and reaped, laid up and made use of, before it spoiled, that was his peculiar right…”
John Locke, Two Treatises of Government
Here’s the reason rich people aren’t fit to rule: despite their excellent education and marvellously moneyed manners, they will never – unlike the rest of us, those they rule – know the feeling of dread terror when an unexpected bill lands on their doormat. Having, and having always had, the means, their lives will never feel like a bad, mid-morning debt consolidation advert. Ever.
One landed on ours recently. Metaphorically, I mean – it was passed on by the owner of our building. For reasons best known to themselves, either the utilities company or the owner decided to wait a full six months before handing us the cheque. In the meantime, we kinda just trucked along, not-so-naively not asking any questions and assuming we were somehow ‘off-grid’. We’re very much on grid, and over the past six months we’ve done no small amount of accumulation.
The bill is a concern, and it has been decided we need to raise some quick cash. Clearly we have no access to capital, but what we do have is space, and plenty of it. It’s about time we put it to use, and not to merely make a little bit of spare money; that is but the spur. Probably the best defence of squatting – possibly its only defence – is that it makes abandoned space useful again, breaths new life into the once dormant.
Many others have done it, and I’m sure many still do. Some of the best – most original, most creative, most fun (above all, most fun) – users of space that I’ve come across in recent years have been the Da Collective’s Temporary School of Thought, the VHS Video Basement and the Oubliette. I’ve heard hide nor hair of the first two for a while, but the Oubliette are still going, and stronger than ever. They’re currently at interim base number 7, holed up in the old Limelight Club down Shaftesbury Avenure way, but you may also have seen them in Leicester Square, at the old Mexican Embassy and the former Reader’s Digest HQ in Mayfair. Their motto is ‘a space, a platform, a community’ and they play host to every category of artistic talent, and all totally gratis. This very week I’ll be swinging by to see an epic photography installation by Lorenzo Durantini.
Ours will be more modest at the outset, but we’ve already had a space-use trial run, in which a friend and filmmaker showed his Armenia travel documentary, projected onto a large screen/bed-sheet in our hall. We have no right to charge for the space, but Eva did her homemade pizza thing and we created mulled wine by the vat load, which we sold for a very modest price indeed. Primarily focusing on screening films, we’re open to all suggestions of being more open, and using the building in a creative way. So, if you’re a filmmaker, poet, photographer, or otherwise art-inclined, we’ll be very glad to let you help us stop squandering the space…
“Because waste is a thief…”
If you’d like to make a property-use proposition, please get in touch with Vyvian Raoul, quoting ‘open me up, already’ in the subject line.