Monday, 1 April 2013


From the book's title it is pretty obvious that the "squatting movement" forms an important part of the tale.....especially that part devoted to The 101'ers. The band was actually named after the house number of the squat where we lived: 101 Walterton Road, and the group would be described at times as a "Squat Rock" band.
The tale doesn't aspire to being a detailed treatise on Squatting, but the reality of our living conditions, or should I say "way of life", formed an undeniable backdrop to the band's existence.

Extract from Chapter 1,  of  "SQUAT CITY ROCKS".
"Maida Hill, west London, summer 1974.  The area mostly dilapidated with rows of corrugated iron–clad houses awaiting an uncertain future. Streets of empty council houses mingling with boarded-up shops, a half empty hospital and the inevitable abandoned cinema, but it had a couple of good Irish pubs, while the sizeable West Indian immigrant population added a spice that the drab and drizzly Harrow Rd couldn’t quite douse… My house had known better times, but still retained traces of its former grandeur.  Number 86 Chippenham road, between Shirland road and Elgin Avenue. Squatted, but definitely classy. A flight of ten or so broad stone steps leading between a pair of Doric columns to the front door. On entering, your first impressions might begin to waver. A strong smell of petrol. No door to the first room on your left, and what was left of its door frame splintered and hanging off the broken plaster. Black oil marks on the floor led the way to a partially destroyed staircase.
The squat had been opened up by the Prowlers some months before I arrived......

Almost every central London borough back in the mid-70's would have its squatting community, and "community" is the relevant word. The fact that often a whole row or street of houses would be squatted, often (but not always) would result in a strong sense of community between the "occupìers". There was no doubt, in my mind at least, that the simple act of squatting was a "political" statement in itself. Maida Hill in 1974 had various "self-help" groups. The main political shove came from the brilliant Piers Corbyn who apart from editing the local EASY magazine organized multitudinous demos & events to further  local squatters' rights, and at the end galvanized a united opposition to the GLC's attempts at  mass-eviction of Elgin Avenue. There was the infamous squatting Estate Agents: "The Rough Tough Cream Puff Estate Agency"; the "Release" legal aid office up the road from us; but without doubt, socially the most important institution was "That Tea Room", the perfect place for a cuppa, a natter, and some good music...

                                                                                               ...That Tea Room....

As for the band, we would never refuse the offer to play a "Squat Bop", our affectionate term for the many parties/benefits/happenings that were regularly organized by the various London squatting groups. We wouldn't get paid, but apart from the opportunity to strut our stuff, it was a natural expression of solidarity with the broad squatting community.

Extract from Chapter 1 "SQUAT CITY ROCKS"

"...The houses that we took over came from various sources. The great majority belonged to the GLC, London’s municipal corporation. There were hundreds of houses, often a whole street, left empty for years awaiting re-development. Another landowner of note, especially in our area of west London, was the Church commission. Goodness knows how the gentlemen members of the commission rationalized their flagrant disregard for their Founder’s commandments, but there they were sitting on the deeds of millions of pounds worth of prime west London real estate, and most of the time quite happy to remain sitting on it while house prices rocketed hand in hand with the numbers of London’s homeless.

As I’ve mentioned the houses could be in an awful state of repair, so anyone who did decide to squat would usually have to put up with, putting it lightly, a  pretty basic standard of living.  Often the GLC would send in workers to trash the installations so that they couldn’t be squatted. Obviously this could be more or less of a problem for us, depending on the assiduity of the council labourers.  We quickly learned the basics of plumbing and even the electrics became less of an unknown. However, few squats in our Maida Hill neighbourhood had a bath, some were without a cooker, no carpets, no washing machine, dodgy wiring,  security of tenure just didn’t enter into the equation..."

In general terms, I suppose the relevance of the Squatting movement to the book  is that it represents the maximum expression of the "DO  IT  YOURSELF" ethos. 
The 101'ers were never a "PUNK" band  per se (i.e. in terms of style of music and image), yet in the run up to the Punk explosion of 1976, they were most definitely strong espousers of that Do it Yourself attitude that would become for me the most important aspect of the Punk phenomenon.

                                        Taken from "Squatters' Handbook, Dec'75".  Author unknown

Fellow occupant of 101 was photographer Julian Yewdall. Here is a link to an interesting photographic record of those times that he has recently published: 

1 comment:

  1. A great bit of UK social history previously undocumented. I moved into 101 just after the band left so had a personal interest in the story. A good read for anyone though...