We are proud that we are reclaiming one of the many properties left empty throughout London by profit-hungry speculators or negligent local councils, and transforming it from a sight of dereliction and misery into a vibrant communal space.
The Colorama building in 44-50 Lancaster Street was built at the end of the 19th century and represents a landmark of Victorian light industrial warehouses. Throughout the years, they have seen a huge number of occupiers and modifications, firmly entrenching them in the local landscape. Yet, the Victorian character is to be lost forever with the dooming demolition of both Colorama buildings 44-50 and 52-58 Lancaster Street in favour of five-story-high luxury flats.
This is not an individual story, but part of a much bigger picture: Our libraries and community centres are being closed all around us, our parks are being sold off. We are being squeezed out of whatever social housing remains, and pushed out of rented properties by cuts to our housing benefit. In the face of such blatant theft of our space and homes by the state and private developers, the only response can be to take back what rightly belongs to us, the people, the communities, the neighbours. Especially in the area of Elephant & Castle, where massive processes of restructuring and gentrification [recent urban developments of people of the middle and upper classes (“gentry”) driving out the lower and working classes in a neighbourhood] are on the way, squatting is an act of resistance in itself.
Some people may be worried about the legality or image of squatting. The law around squatting has indeed changed recently, but this only applies to residential buildings. Library Street is in a commercial property and we are not in any breach of any criminal law by being there. The issue of trespass remains a civil matter between us and the property owner.
It cannot be stated enough – visiting Library Street is not a crime!