The negative representation of squatters at present and squatters’ subsequent hostility towards the media is a very real threat to the movement as a whole. It is a threat recognised by us all but not easily addressed.
It seems symptomatic of these discussions to descend into debates surrounding class and capital (both financial and cultural) which are largely irrelevant and a diversion from what is in question: the fundamental and unquestionable truth that an empty building is waste at its worst.
In our current squat and squats previous, we have used buildings to host lectures, workshops, meals, games... activities that we put great effort into ensuring benefit both the immediate community and wider society. Such activities could not have been executed without the use of squatted spaces and such spaces would have been lying dormant were we not in them!
Our squat is our home and it houses students, artists, musicians and youth workers alike. There is a widespread false assumption that squatters do not participate in society – we are very much engaged with society, on many levels, and could not do so in the same way were we not squatting. It is interesting that the word ‘squatter’ itself seems to have become a politically charged and negative term, while ‘tenant’ has not. In my previous, rented accommodation, 8 out of 10 claimed housing benefits and were relatively unproductive. The previous tenants had caused £30,000 worth of damage to the house – because their parents paid their rent and they had no value nor respect for buildings. Yet where were the news stories terrorising tenants?!
Britain’s empty buildings are a hive of activity – for this we should be proud and supportive.