In 2004 Bramley’s Housing Co-Op threw a party to celebrate 20 years of life in the redeveloped Frestonia. Many of the original citizens, and their now grown-up children and grandchildren still live there today, or like me, returned to visit.
The communal garden remains a core of the community, only a great deal prettier. There is now a commemorative spiral walk beneath a willow tree, for Nick Albery who died in 2001 and whose crazy idea the Declaration of Independence was.
The event was recognisably a Frestonian cultural event : a really good band playing loud enough to cause an international incident, no food but plenty of booze (there’s still no money), and disorganised to perfection in the traditional manner. Still, you could catch an occasional, faint, patchouli-scented whiff of idealistic freedom of spirit on the evening breeze, as out of time and place in London now as it ever was. In 1978 Sir Horace Cutler, then the exasperated head of the GLC, wrote to Frestonians ‘if you did not exist, it would be necessary to invent you’. He was not wrong : the Frestonian constitutional principle ‘We are all one family’ certainly merits wider adoption. Globally would be a good place to start.
Against a backdrop of high unemployment and a reported million empty properties former squatter Robert Elms charts the history of squatting. He assesses the ideology and mythology that has surrounded this subversive search for a home. As the Government consider new legislation to further criminalise squatting, could it soon be a thing of the past?