The first squatters came to Bonnington Square in the early 1980s. At the time, it was owned by the Inner London Education Authority, and had been condemned. As the original tenants moved out, the council gutted the houses, bricked up the windows and put up metal gates. After a few years we formed co-operatives and housing associations and lobbied the council to buy the houses. From my co-operative alone I have seven big boxes of paperwork … Now a 10th of the properties are privately owned while the rest are organised in housing associations with affordable rent.
When I arrived, there were only two houses left, which no one wanted. This house was full of rubbish. All the floorboards, bannisters and doors were missing, the electricity, gas and water pipes were all gone, the ceilings had collapsed and there were two gaping holes in the roof. Those first years were very, very difficult. We salvaged everything. These are standard Victorian houses, so if I found a window in a skip, I knew it would fit somewhere. The window frames were still there, so I just had to figure out how to install the sashes and have the panes replaced.