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Abstract:

When I began my research, I considered squatting to be an important 'forgotten' history that needed restoring to the historical record. I had squatted myself during the 1980s, obtaining my squat through the Advisory Services for Squatters whose newly-archived material formed the basis of my research. Squatting was widespread in the 1970s with 50,000 people estimated to be squatting in Britain, 30,000 in London alone. It was not only the scale of the movement I thought important, but I also considered squatting as a significant factor in the creation of the urban landscape, as an important radical grass-roots social movement, and the site of so much important cultural change from Gay Liberation squats in Brixton through Feminist Collectives experimenting with living outside patriarchy, to punk bands from The Clash to the anarcho-punks Crass. 

I had expected my research to be celebratory, as my experience of squatting had been an empowering one, but the archive material led me in a different direction. My research highlighted the multiple fault-lines within the squatting movement and the fissiparous internal politics that prevented it from holding together as a movement, leaving it powerless to respond to a full media-panic that irrevocably tarnished squatting's image from the mid-1970s onward. I suggest that this was typified by the contrasting aims of the two key squatter slogans 'Homes for All!", and "No Evictions!", arguing that the first is a fundamentally social democratic aim that any left-wing government could seek to implement, but that the second slogan calls for an end to the rule of law - or at least our conception of property rights, and is therefore revolutionary in its implications. My gloomy conclusion led me to subtitle my research 'An investigation into the causes of the squatting movement's failure'.

Biography:

Among a varied career, including as a fish farmer, advertising executive and history teacher, David spent ten years in the late 1980s and 1990s running projects for homeless people in London and Bristol. He has degrees in both Biology (Southampton 1985) and History (Open University 2004 1st class). Having published an (unsuccessful) utopian novel, he returned to academia in 2018, completing his MA in Modern British Studies (with distinction) at UoB in 2019 - dissertation on squatting in the 1970s. He is currently in his second year of his AHRC M4C funded doctorate researching 'Homelessness under the New Labour Governments 1997-2010'.


All welcome- this seminar is free to attend but booking in advance is required.