Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Squat Property - Rotherhithe 1983

The Times Live, za (Ben Trovato)

A fascinating if somewhat bleak and disturbing look into another way of life in Rotherhithe 20 years ago. Unfortunately the link is now dead, and I've been unable to find a copy anywhere else.  So this is a snapshot of an article that appeared on The Times Live, ZA.  It was an interesting enough snapshot of Rotherhithe before the LDDC redevelopment of the area to be worth publishing here, even as a fragment.

The author, Ben Trovato, used to live in a squat in Rotherhithe and paints a portrait of what the area was like back then. He then went on to make some interesting observations on what he found in Rotherhithe today.

We’ve already picked out a ground-floor flat. Sticking to the shadows, we reach the door and go to work on the lock. It takes three minutes for the hacksaw blade to snap. The crowbar is no help. Nor are the screwdrivers. This leaves the sledge hammer. I pick it up with both hands and am about to deliver a death blow when a police siren cuts through the fog. We grab the tools and make it to the stairwell just as a sleek, white Rover veers into the estate. Cops pile out of it and begin searching an area 50m from us. They leave. We exhale. Ten minutes later, the lock shatters and the artist uses his Doc Marten boot to open the door. We replace the lock and become the legal occupants. Vote Labour.
It seems too good to be true. A clean three-bedroom flat with a view of the Thames for which no rent will ever be paid or demanded. Sure, there is no electricity, gas or hot water, but we can’t exactly complain to the council. After weeks of living by candlelight, which doubles as our central heating, we meet a gentleman who shows us how to bypass the meter for the price of a bottle of rum.
Rotherhithe is a rough area, no doubt about it. There are half a dozen heroin dealers living within a five minute walk of one another. Some squatters have their cars set alight at night. Punks, skinheads and anarchists share an uneasy existence alongside angry, rent-paying Cockneys. These legitimate tenants hate us for living in flats identical to theirs, but for free. I come home one night to find “Squatters Will Die” spray- painted across the door.


Anonymous said...

I was a 22 year old American living with an Irish band from 1983-1984. We lived in 27 Silver Walk Terrace. A squat. Our next door neighbor was a glue sniffing psychopath with a blanket for a door. Our downstairs neighbor was a hippie with a blue eyed goat. My boyfriend was the "manager" of the squat. He was a civil engineer and was rather handy with getting the gas and electricity working. Great times at the pubs. The Blacksmith and The Mayflower were favorite pubs. It was an unique time and for a California beach girl ,it was a different kind of world, I had never seen anything like it. I will never forget it

Andie said...

Thanks so much, Anonymous - those squats were a part of this particular corner of the world that is long gone but just as important in its way as all the other local history. A lovely insight into what it was like!

Zorba said...

In an interview for the South London Hardcore podcast, Sean O'Hagan mentions living in Silver Walk squat in the early 80's - I wonder if that Irish band was Microdisney?


Anonymous said...

I lived in Bryan House during 84-85.
what an amazing time. As rather naive 18y old moving out of home for the first time, this was certainly an eye opener. I met so many interesting people have many fond memories of my time in this unusual world.
Punks, skins, hippies, anarchists, artists, musos, travelers and more, we all lived together in happy chaos.
Does anyone remember the 666 block. It was an old disused block of flats next to Bryan House. It had no name and started from the number 666 and went up. Thus the name 666. It was a very eerie place. People had been using the disused flats for ritual magic. Weird place!

Andie said...

It sounds as though it would have been a brilliant place for someone with a camera. Sounds fascinating.

John said...

I lived in silver walk too... Top floor opposite Paul Novaks place.
I wish there were photos of that time..there's just nothing on the net this blog is it practically