Self-Build Co-op

Life as an artist organising groups without a salary was not very practical in economic terms. My income was minimal. There came a point when I realised that I needed to get my housing situation together. During the Eighties I had been living in a run-down short-life house that was part of the St Agnes Place Housing Co-op, basically a famous street of squatted houses. I had been idealistic in expecting to either make my fortune in some way or at the least to have the luck to be re-housed by the Housing Association that managed our property and continually promised some kind of redevelopment.[1] 

When the opportunity to join a local Self-Build group came up I jumped at the chance to provide a decent home for myself. This was the Sharsted Street Self-Build Co-op, my ninth cultural collective.[2]

Ten local families were given the chance to build ten houses on a shared ownership basis. The labour you put into construction was accounted as part of your final share of the house. Twenty hours were required each weekend for two and a half years - if a member fell behind they were fined. Although this was only ten families the group was like a cultural cross section of Londoners - Italian, African, Caribbean, Irish, Polish and English people were part of the group. [3]

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Footnote:

 

[1] Squatting: the real story (Bay Leaf Books London 1980) pp 82-85. The January 1977 resistance to the council demolition of St Agnes Place was a turning point for the London squatting movement. I moved in around 1981.

 

2 Oddly, I heard of this through Maria Pacan a member of Bigos. An unlikely cross fertilisation  between collectives.

 

3 My account of the self-build co-op was published as an article, 'Sharsted Street Self-Build Housing Co-op' (Variant Issue 2 1997). A video was shown as part of an installation at the Info Centre, London Feb 4-14 1999. See review in Art Monthly 224, March 1999, p35-37

 

 



[1] Squatting: the real story (Bay Leaf Books London 1980) pp 82-85. The January 1977 resistance to the council demolition of St Agnes Place was a turning point for the London squatting movement. I moved in around 1981.

 

[2] Oddly, I heard of this through Maria Pacan a member of Bigos. An unlikely cross fertilisation  between collectives.

 

[3] My account of the self-build co-op was published as an article, 'Sharsted Street Self-Build Housing Co-op' (Variant Issue 2 1997). A video was shown as part of an installation at the Info Centre, London Feb 4-14 1999. See review in Art Monthly 224, March 1999, p35-37