Friday, 25 September 2009

The Amsterdam Years

During the 1970s and 1980s, the squatters' movement in the Netherlands won a number of rights to prevent property speculation and buildings remaining empty for several years. As a result, squatters are allowed to take over a property if it has been empty for more than a year.

I was lucky to meet a group of Dutch squatters when I was in Amsterdam for a weekend, back in the late 80's. 

They invited me and my friend Nicki, to their squat 'Tugelaweg'  in East Amsterdam. It consisted of a row of old tenement houses,that had been empty for many years. 

Chris,an English Hippie, who had been living in the Dam for years ( probably after visiting for a weekend) ,Helmut, a Berlin punk who played guitar like a demon, Jim, Dirk and The Doc had the idea of turning the whole street into massive collective and music venue  but had only occupied a couple of the houses so far.
We put our plans to travel round Europe on hold and got involved with making this dream come true.

Amsterdam soon became my  
" Reason D'etre".

We knocked 2 of the houses into 1, this was to become our " Clubhouse". We built a bar and a stage from tatted furniture, scavenged from the streets and set up a kitchen.
A few weeks later, we were ready to open.
Taken when I was living there. ( my house is 3rd from the right)
A few months later we were the second largest squat in Amsterdam at the time. Every night over 200 people would come to our clubhouse to listen to bands, eat and discuss the future of the movement.We became a centre for artists, political activists and free thinkers.
We would go to the market at the end of every day, and bring back fruit and veg, on our bikes and turn it into gorgeous vegetarian food to serve in the evenings.
We worked closely with CONRADSTRAAT, our sister squat situated in disused warehouses along side the Amstel Canal.  
That was a fairly long time squat in Amsterdam. Whole families had made it their home. Kids were born there and brought up there.



Conredstraat was evicted to make way for luxury apartments on the site.

There were hundreds and hundreds of cops

                            CONRADSTRAAT EVICTION
The cops started moving in with water cannons. We held out, it was the last stand, we were not going to give up Conradstraat without a fight.
It ended up being the biggest eviction in European history at the time.

                     CONRADSTRAAT EVICTION


Fond memories :)

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

The Age of Stupid, London Greenpeace and what it all means to me.


1998, I attended a meeting of London Greenpeace, which was situated in a room above the radical bookstore, Housemans, in a side street in Kings Cross.

In a somewhat cluttered room with leaflets and files, I was introduced to a handful of people, of various ages, who welcomed me with honest eyes and hopeful attitudes. I was 32.
The inevitable question was asked " What brings you here?".

I explained that I wanted to help raise awareness of our responsibility as world citizens to protect the future from complacent mismanagement. I also explained that the awareness of my own responsibility had come about from travelling the world  and that I had just become a parent.

I was offered a chair and the meeting began.
The McLibel trial was discussed and I first heard the name of Franny Armstrong, a British film maker who was making a documentary about Helen Steel and David Morris, 2 London Greenpeace members often refered to as " The McLibel Two", who had an English Lawsuit filed against them by McDonalds over a pamphlet critical of the company. The original case, lasted 10 years, making it the longest-running court action in English history.   

                                                              David Morris& Helen Steel

I attended weekly meetings from then on and helped out in whatever way I could. I distributed leaflets, answered e.mails, posted letters and made tea.

A year later we helped to organise 'Carnival Against Capitalism', an international day of protest timed to coincide with the 25th G8 Summit in Koln, Germany on June 18th 1999, in which we worked closely with 'Reclaim The Streets' and 'Stop The City' .


On the day, Millions took to the streets and partied in over 40 countries, worldwide.

Global Actions took place in more than 122 cities, in 40 nations on June 18 including: Bayelsa State, Nigeria; Dakar, Senegal; Durban, South Africa; Harare, Zimbabwe; Dhaka, Bangladesh; 25 states in India; North Sumatera, Indonesia; Tel Aviv, Israel; Malaysia; Kathmandu, Nepal; Gujrat City, Pakistan; Seoul, South Korea; Thailand; Vienna, Austria; Minsk, Belarus; Barcelona, Reus y Castell=F3n, Catalonia; Prague Czech Republic; Bristol, Brighton, Cambridge, Hull, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Norfolk, Nottingham, Oxford, Reading, Sheffield, Stoke on Trent, Sunderland, Winchester, York, England ; Tampere, Finland; Dijon, Nantes, France; Berlin, Frankfurt, K=F6ln, Germany; Bologna, Milano, Roma, Torino, Italy; Malta; Amsterdam, Utrecht, Netherlands; Poland; Portugal; Romania; Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Scotland; Asturias, Granada, Huelva, Lleida, Valencia, Madrid, Spain; Stockholm, Sweden; Lausanne, Switzerland; Cardiff, Wales; Calgary, Ottawa ,Regina, Toronto, Vancouver, Canada; Mexico City, Mexico; Albuquerque, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Eugene, Hattiesburg, Lawrence, Lincoln, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New England, NewYork City, Oakland, Portland, Reno, San Diego, San Francisco, United States; Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney, Australia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Paulo y Sorocaba, Brazil; Medel lin, Colombia; Montevideo, Uruguay.

It was the first of many future anti-capitalist and anti-globalisation protests.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone involved in the making of 'The Age of Stupid' ...