Posts Tagged ‘squatters’

2015: Grow Heathrow at Five

Sunday, February 28th, 2021

On 28th February 2015, Grow Heathrow, a non-hierarchical free community in an occupied derelict nursery at Sipson, just north of Heathrow Airport celebrated 5 years with open workshops and a party.

It had been set up as a symbol of community resistance to the economic, ecological and democratic crises and to oppose the increasing development of the aviation industry and Heathrow, at a time when local residents, myself included, were protesting against the building of a “third runway” to the north of the current airport.

Local protests had begun back in 2003, and by the time squatters occupied the long-abandoned market garden victory on the specific issue of the new runway seemed more or less assured. Transition Heathrow’s ‘Grow Heathrow’ had longer term and more far reaching goals, hoping to create more sustainable and resilient Heathrow villages after the dropping of the third runway and more widely to build long-term infrastructure and networks to deal with peak oil and the threat of climate change. On their site they set out to demonstrate how we could live differently, ‘off grid’ and with a different and cooperative lifestyle.

I wasn’t particularly closely involved with Grow Heathrow, though I visited the site a number of times for various events, as well as taking part in the local protests and events at the nearby Greenpeace ‘Airplot’, where I was one of the 91,000 of beneficial owners of a very small area of land. It’s an area I knew from my youth, when I often cycled through Sipson ,Harmondsworth, Longford, Horton and Colnbrook.

Grow Heathrow weathered a number of legal battles to stay in occupation, but were evicted from the front half of the site where most of these celebrations took place two years ago at the end of February 2019 after around 9 years of occupation and growth. I’ve not visited since the eviction but so far as I am aware there are still some residents on the back part of the site – which had a different owner, but visits have not been possible since the start of the pandemic.

The project was an important one and brought together many people from different backgrounds, including local residents and international visitors, some who stayed for months and years. Among those who came to the 5th birthday party to join the celebrations and speak were local MP John McDonnell, Tristram Stuart, a pioneer of the radical food movement with his 2009 book on food waste, anthropology professor David Graeber and activist Ewa Jasiewicz.

Grow Heathrow was an inspiration to many, though some of us were unable to envisage its rather spartan lifestyle for ourselves there were lessons that could be learnt in particular from its involvement with the wider community. Heathrow expansion is back on the agenda today, though it is hard to believe it will go ahead given the growing realisation of the vital importance of the climate crisis. Aviation as we know it is incompatible with the kind of Green future our government now plays lip-service too – and will need putting into action for civilisation to survive.

Many more pictures at Grow Heathrow’s 5th Birthday.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Friern Barnet Celebrates – Feb 5th 2013

Friday, February 5th, 2021

Friern Barnet Library supporters celebrated victory in overturning Barnet Council’s closure decision in a ceremony in which the Occupy squatters who had prevented its sale handed over the library keys to the local community who will now run it.

The victory by local residents, squatters and activists from the Occupy Movement against Barnet Council is not just a local matter, but one of national (and possibly even international) importance. A great example of democracy in action it shows how a combination of campaiging, lobbying, direct action and making use of the law can win against bureacracy and greed.

Today residents and squatters came together to celebrate their victory after Barnet had agreed to lease the building to a community company set up to run it as a library, Friern Barnet Community Library (FBCL).

Friern Barnet Library Victory Celebration

Eight years on, the library is still run by the community and up until closure for Covid lockdown, a thriving centre of community activities. Local residents had set up the ‘Save Friern Barnet Library Group’ when they heard that Barnet Council were proposing to close the library, and organised petitions, lobbied councillors, organised events and got the media involved, but the council wouldn’t listen to them and went ahead and shut it in April 2012. The council saw the site – including the large green space outside as a valuable site for sale to private developers rather than the community asset it was.

In September 2012 community activist squatters, including some who had been part of Occupy London, entered the library and re-opened it, beginning a long occupation. At first some local residents were wary of associating themselves in this direct action, but soon began to work with the squatters to re-establish library services.

The council went to court to regain possession of the building, but in December the judge ruled that they had to try to negotiate some form of licence to keep the library open to preserve proportionality between the rights of protesters and of the council. Eventually they agreed to allow a community company to run it as a library

At the celebration inside the library, the occupiers (at left above) handed over the library keys to the FBCL (at right), and we all cheered before getting down to the serious business of eating the cakes and dancing around the green outside.

But some of the press photographers covering the event weren’t happy with the pictures they had (or rather hadn’t got) of the handover, and later got the two groups to restage it outside the library. It just goes to show that you should never believe what you see in the newspapers. Of course as you can see I photographed it too, but made sure my captions made clear it was staged for the photograph rather than the actual handover. Some photographers don’t see it as important, but for me it crosses a vital line of journalistic integrity – it’s my job to record not to stage events.

People went out to dance around the paved area and green spaces in front of the library which are used to hold community events.

The local councillor who had supported the residents then cut a tape to let us all back into the library, where there were some more speeches before getting down to continuing the serious business of celebration.

This was the ‘bookworm cake’ and it took a lot of candles and quite a while to light them all,

but was blown out fairly quickly, and later we all ate some.

Many more pictures at Friern Barnet Library Victory Celebration.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.