Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Squatting in the Square

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  • Russell Brown, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Was she there well before you were?
    Piko was started in 1979… (March 4th)

    Ah. I stand corrected.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22724 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Russell Brown,

    But it was interesting as well because a bit of me really hated the depressing grimness of London at that time (including the political correctness of the Square)

    I ran into both in London. The grimness was awful, reinforced by the Thatcher years. Then I went to work at CND, where the political correctness astounded me. Many wonderful people there but I couldn’t be that doctrinaire. And I found, to my amazement, I was put in the “colonial” box.

    I watched the film last night and it exerted a healing effect. I remembered the good times – and how the alternative London “vibe” charmed me – and that’s not my usual recollect of those years. Thanks Alastair for that and your comment I quoted: it’s put some conflicting feelings to rest.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2895 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Hebe,

    I ran into both in London. The grimness was awful, reinforced by the Thatcher years. Then I went to work at CND, where the political correctness astounded me. Many wonderful people there but I couldn’t be that doctrinaire. And I found, to my amazement, I was put in the “colonial” box.

    British “alternative” political scenes could be bloody awful like that. I’ll never forget my well-meaning flatmate bringing home one of the socialist chappies who touted newspapers outside tube stations, along with his two female acolytes. He was an out-and-out sexist prick.

    I remembered the good times – and how the alternative London “vibe” charmed me – and that’s not my usual recollect of those years.

    I loved some of the music around the squatting scene -- there were some simply amazing parties.

    Fond memories of these guys:

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22724 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Russell Brown,

    British “alternative” political scenes could be bloody awful like that.

    +1 To clarify: I lasted six to eight months at CND as commissioning editor before I bolted -- and didn't cover myself in glory during my time there. I was way too naive to be doing that job. After all that I stayed out of politics in London.
    One great thing was a huge night celebrating something momentous (I have no idea what ) "under the arches" at a railway station. We whitewashed miles and miles of brick walls in the caverns. Red Wedge musos played, lefty celebrities swished and swirled and thousands partied.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2895 posts Report Reply

  • Alistair Oldham,

    Yes I remember Pauline and as it happens I'm probably going to be filming at the Heygate estate on Monday (for a film about the urban sketching movement). I don't know if anyone remembers the squatted nightclub at no 37 Bonnington Square, where they sawed away a lot of the first floor to create a mezzanine effect? A pretty amazing venue, especially with a flat roof overlooking the London skyline at the top. And that doctrinaire thing is exactly what I meant ... weird, though I guess it was all part of an experimentation with different ideas and ways of living. My mother is a kiwi so I'm pretty familiar with the 'colonial box' thing ... she's 84 and she still gets it !

    Bristol, UK • Since Oct 2013 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Alistair Oldham,

    I don’t know if anyone remembers the squatted nightclub at no 37 Bonnington Square, where they sawed away a lot of the first floor to create a mezzanine effect? A pretty amazing venue,

    No! That does sound amazing.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22724 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Thanks for the tip. As you say, the Le Corbusier-dictated brutalist blocks were a disaster that blighted generations.

    Definitely something that the architects of the Auckland Unitary Plan can learn from, if they don't want Suburbistan to set the agenda.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5414 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Russell Brown,

    British “alternative” political scenes could be bloody awful like that. I’ll never forget my well-meaning flatmate bringing home one of the socialist chappies who touted newspapers outside tube stations, along with his two female acolytes. He was an out-and-out sexist prick.

    It’s those kinds of attitudes within such movements that unfortunately contribute to a ‘Peoples Front of Judea’ atmosphere.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5414 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    Suburbistan: nice. No compost heaps there. Nasty, smelly, dirrrty things.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2895 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Hebe,

    And I found, to my amazement, I was put in the “colonial” box.

    Shouldn't be that big a surprise. I've got an expat friend who was faintly shocked to find, on meeting his Guardian-reading, Labour-voting upper-middle class in-laws for the first time and getting interrogated like he was applying for a job at Buck House. Even better, apparently, it was a mutually bewildering experience because all the status markers he accrued in New Zealand don't mean a lot on the other side of the world.

    He wisely decided to keep to himself that, at the time, he was working as an accountant in an obscure outpost of the Demon Rupert Murdoch's Evil Empire. Liberal tolerance only goes so far. :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Rich Lock, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    I’ve got an expat friend who was faintly shocked to find, on meeting his Guardian-reading, Labour-voting upper-middle class in-laws for the first time and getting interrogated like he was applying for a job at Buck House. Even better, apparently, it was a mutually bewildering experience because all the status markers he accrued in New Zealand don’t mean a lot on the other side of the world.

    Coming back to the UK after nearly 10 years in NZ was a rather rude reminder of how integral and pervasive class markers are here at all levels of society, both vertically and horizontally (geographically where you're from - accent). Most people will have another UK-er pegged within the first half-a-dozen words, whether you or they realise it or not, and will adjust their social interaction accordingly. The faint kiwi accent I've picked up is to a large extent letting me sidestep that and actually have two-way interaction with people as individuals rather than a set of mutual preconceptions. It's refreshing.

    back in the mother countr… • Since Feb 2007 • 2728 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Rich Lock,

    In the end I embraced my previously-rejected Kiwi and found it enabled me to interact easily with everyone from nobs to barrow blokes. Most British don't have that luxury unless they reflag themselves like you did.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2895 posts Report Reply

  • Conrad Heine,

    Great little film and fond memories, of an early-90s vintage. Most recent Bonnington dining experience (well, a couple of years back now) featured an unpeeled potato wrapped in filo. Gentrification…

    Speaking of which, the Heygate as it was it not to be mourned, but the “regeneration” of replacement is, too often, almost social cleansing. Seems developers can promise a certain level of social housing… and then simply cut back, on alleged profit/loss grounds. What’s more the local council, if it weren’t for local action groups, would simply roll over…

    http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/development/council-to-refuse-demands-about-heygate-estate/6528392.article

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/davehillblog/2013/feb/28/london-regeneration-principles-southwark

    London/New Zealand • Since Mar 2008 • 18 posts Report Reply

  • Alistair Oldham,

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    Most recent Bonnington dining experience (well, a couple of years back now) featured an unpeeled potato wrapped in filo.

    ah yes, the pomme en croute …. delicious

    Bristol, UK • Since Oct 2013 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Hebe,

    One great thing was a huge night celebrating something momentous (I have no idea what ) “under the arches” at a railway station.

    The Mutoid Waste Company party I went to in a squatted annex to King's Cross Station in 1988 was one of the best nights out of my life. Squatted venues were just the best for parties. Oddly enough, I missed the one in an old school building that The Face called "the party of the decade" because I'd promised my friends at 62 Bonnington Square I'd go to their party. I was grumpy about that, but that ended up being the night that Fiona walked back into my life. So it really worked out pretty well, all up.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22724 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I missed the one in an old school building that The Face called “the party of the decade” because I’d promised my friends at 62 Bonnington Square I’d go to their party. I was grumpy about that, but that ended up being the night that Fiona walked back into my life. So it really worked out pretty well, all up.

    Heh: it worked out pretty well. Beloved asked me to take him to Ashburton in order to lure me into his web...

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2895 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I was grumpy about that, but that ended up being the night that Fiona walked back into my life. So it really worked out pretty well, all up.

    What you lost on the hipster party swings, you exponentially made up on the relationship roundabout. You're still enjoying the ride, aren't you? :)

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    What you lost on the hipster party swings, you exponentially made up on the relationship roundabout. You’re still enjoying the ride, aren’t you? :)

    Indeed. And I do love being able to say: "I missed out on the Party of the Decade -- and it was totally worth it!"

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22724 posts Report Reply

  • Dastardly Bounder,

    Sometimes a you'd come across a great squat in a nice location. My cousin and mates opened up an old 16 bedroom Victorian boarding house in Kew, really close to the gardens and station. They took down the hoardings, gave it a lick of paint and worked on the garden. The neighbors came over to thank them as they saw the abandoned property as an eyesore and potential fire hazard. The squat probably raised their property values. Eventually the HKSB opted to sell the property and everyone was moved on, but in the meantime they'd actually cared for and protected the property. It really is a shame to see this law pass.

    Auckland • Since Dec 2012 • 61 posts Report Reply

  • Dastardly Bounder, in reply to Russell Brown,

    The Mutoid Waste Company party I went to in a squatted annex to King's Cross Station in 1988

    I envy you that party...I've met a couple of the Mutoid Waste people, and got to stay on their land near Rimini in Italy. One of them is Emma who's been a part of NZ's festival scene and is a fantastic aerialist - hopefully she'll turn up for Splore. The other was Lucy Wisdom, who passed away last year. Lucy was one of the unsung heros of counterculture, she started The Bat Cave in London, was an original Mutoid member, helped make a tank henge when the wall came down and spent her last decade saving and rehabilitating orangutans in Sumatra.

    Auckland • Since Dec 2012 • 61 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Dastardly Bounder,

    I envy you that party…I’ve met a couple of the Mutoid Waste people, and got to stay on their land near Rimini in Italy. One of them is Emma who’s been a part of NZ’s festival scene and is a fantastic aerialist – hopefully she’ll turn up for Splore.

    Oh, wow. I'd like to meet her if she does.

    The Mutoids gave me some amazing times - most notably staying up till dawn at the Carhenge up on the hill at my first Glastonbury. Drumming wildly on a mutated car with two bits of metal, Awesome industrial paganism.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22724 posts Report Reply

  • Alistair Oldham,

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    There were quite a few bands that passed through or had contacts with Bonnington Square. I lived next door to no 68, where there was a whole bunch of New Zealanders, some of whom were in The Band of Holy Joy, some with connections to industrial metallists SPK2 ( see attached ... the urban legend is that their chain saw / angle grinding antics once set light to the stage ), The Jesus and Mary Chain, Test Department and The Thompson Twins. My neighbour Karl also told me that William Burroughs once came round for a visit and also that most of the house turned up to be extras on Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket : I have never had any reason to disbelieve him ! And there was a load of other people busy singing, writing, playing music, putting on festivals, making films, gardening, cooking, designing living spaces and so on (several of whom have gone on to be really successful ..... not that that is actually the main criteria). The real point is, that beyond just being a place to live, the squatting scene was also a valuable place for creative and social experimentation.

    Bristol, UK • Since Oct 2013 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Alistair Oldham,

    There were quite a few bands that passed through or had contacts with Bonnington Square. I lived next door to no 68, where there was a whole bunch of New Zealanders, some of whom were in The Band of Holy Joy, some with connections to industrial metallists SPK2 ( see attached … the urban legend is that their chain saw / angle grinding antics once set light to the stage ),

    Graham Revell – who now makes film soundtracks.

    The Jesus and Mary Chain

    Trying to remember the name of the guy – John? – who played drums for the J&MC for a short time. He also had a deal of his own, which included a generous reacord company wage but never seemed to come to anything.

    Test Department and The Thompson Twins.

    The Thompson Twins’ friend and publishing exec was Craig Taylor, who went on to become the Chills’ manager and the founder of Flying Nun UK. Marin Phillipps of the Chills was a visitor to No.70 and as I noted recently, The Clean stayed in the square..

    My neighbour Karl also told me that William Burroughs once came round for a visit and also that most of the house turned up to be extras on Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket : I have never had any reason to disbelieve him !

    Amazing!

    Sadly, Karl/Karel passed away in Munich recently.

    The real point is, that beyond just being a place to live, the squatting scene was also a valuable place for creative and social experimentation.

    Yes.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22724 posts Report Reply

  • Alistair Oldham, in reply to Russell Brown,

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    Yes I'd hear the news about Karl from Jimmy Fraser the avant-gardener (another BS kiwi) at the recent Bonnington Square Festival (it's still going and still reassuringly anarchic around the edges ). Also Annie Anxiety lived for quite a few years in Vauxhall Grove, as did Tim Wraight the NZ sculptor, Chumbawamba were occasional visitors, Jake Arnott, the novelist was at no 81, and the giant hand above the entrance to the garden was from the set of Ken Russell's Tommy ... the danger being that there were loads of other squatters/ people who did all sorts of other amazing things who didn't necessarily become 'successful'. This is a photo of my friend Graham Harwood who was a fine art student at Camberwell and who's work is in the Tate and the Pompidou Centre and won the Berlin Transmediale Award ( he's flying a kite off the London rooftops).

    Bristol, UK • Since Oct 2013 • 6 posts Report Reply

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