Thu06Dec12 - ITV 9pm Richard Madeley Meets the Squatters

Tony Gosling tony at
Tue Dec 4 17:44:15 GMT 2012

Richard Madeley Meets the Squatters
Thu 06Dec 2012 - ITV1 at 
Today in Britain, it's estimated there are 
anything between 20,000 and 50,000 people 
squatting. They are often portrayed as 
anti-social, drug-taking freeloaders, who 
contribute nothing to society. But is that really 
the case? With a new law having just come into 
force making squatting a criminal offence, 
Richard Madeley is on a mission to meet Britain's 
squatters, to see what their lives are really 
like and find out why they squat. He also hears 
from landlords and even brings them face-to-face 
with the people occupying their property against their wishes.
Richard travels the country to meet squatters 
from wide-ranging backgrounds, all with a 
different story to tell and conflicting views on 
the morality of how they live. In doing so, he 
examines how the change in the law will impact on 
the current situation faced by both squatters and landlords.
Richard visits a former pub in Walthamstow, used 
as a squat for five years despite being 
surrounded by local businesses. Nigel Jenkins 
owns the garage opposite and explains what he has 
seen in the past: "Nine o'clock in the morning 
they are drunk out of their skulls. First thing 
in the morning we come in...they have used the 
driveway as toilets." Despite this he admits: 
"Everyone sees them as an inconvenience but 
nobody sees the amount of trouble these people 
are in. What are you going to do with them? 
Unless you can re-house them, there's nothing you can do with them."
Richard heads to Bristol, where he discovers that 
local squatters have organised themselves into 
groups, with their own planning committee that 
meets each week to help members find new squats 
to live in. Richard attends one of the meetings 
to find out more and a squatter explains to him: 
"I like to think of us as urban wombles, we roam 
the streets that aren't being used and we make a 
use of them. How can you argue the morality of 
that? We don't pay rent, no, but at least people aren't sleeping rough."
There is a tense atmosphere when Richard 
introduces Dave Durant to the squatters who have 
occupied a property he owns in south Bristol. 
It's the second time he's had squatters in his 
building and with Richard as mediator he 
confronts the people occupying his building: "I 
know that the place was locked, you know that the 
place was locked. I know, that you must have 
broken into my house." Squatter Tristan refuses 
to confirm how he gained access but is keen to 
respond: "If people are suffering they should be 
allowed to sleep under a roof, especially if it 
lies dormant like this one." He tells Richard: "I 
see it as greed. When there are five of us 
wandering the streets, hungry, needing somewhere 
to live, when he has multiple properties, I see 
that as greed. Until you've been in our position 
and suffered like we have, you're going to find 
it hard to have a balanced view."
Richard visits the houses of parliament to meet 
Mike Weatherley, MP for Hove and the architect 
behind the new law, which has made squatting in a 
domestic property a criminal offence. Mike says: 
"The first thing we want to do is protect 
people's homes, they're just freeloaders, they're 
not contributing to society and they are taking what's not theirs."
It's estimated there are nearly a million empty 
properties in the UK, despite homelessness being 
on the rise. Richard visits a squat in the heart 
of the Barbican, a five-storey commercial 
building worth millions where even the new law is 
powerless to evict the squatters because it is 
not a domestic property. Catherine Brogan is one 
of its inhabitants: "Owners of empty properties 
destroy their property so that no-one wants to 
live in it..." It is Catherine's view that: "The 
owner isn't interested in bringing this property 
back into use. To them I think it's just a number 
on a balance sheet. This is a £20million asset to 
them and why do they want to do anything with it? 
I think that if you're going to leave a property 
empty then we've got a responsibility to come in 
and use it and I feel happy that I'm taking 
something that's been laid waste and turning it 
into a home for up to 20 people who wouldn't have 
anywhere else to go otherwise."
Richard is keen to learn more about the concept 
of 'skipping' from local supermarkets and he 
joins squatters on an evening visit as they 
forage for free food in bins. They acknowledge 
that skipping is breaking the law but claim "We 
are stealing bread that is destined for landfill. 
It's absolutely ridiculous isn't it, which is why 
I'm doing it so openly. If the police want to 
arrest me, I'll take the charge."
Richard also meets Dory, who is now in her 50's 
and gave up a high-flying career to be a 
squatter. And Mary, a victim of domestic abuse 
who was assigned a council flat to escape her 
situation but on the day she was due to move in, 
found that a squatter had got there first.

Richard Madeley understands squatters’ viewpoint
Richard Madeley said he could relate to 
squatters' philosophy - Published on Tuesday 27 November 2012 00:00
TELEVISION presenter Richard Madeley has said he 
sympathises with squatters who move into empty 
offices. The 56-year-old former This Morning host 
is making a comeback, meeting squatters for a new 
ITV1 documentary. He said: “I have some sympathy 
for squatters who move into empty office blocks, 
derelict pubs, abandoned factories. “Sometimes 
the owners have no immediate plans for the sites. 
And often they are barely aware they own them – 
they’re just entries on a balance sheet lodged in 
a commercial bank in, say, Dubai.”
Madeley said the squatters he met in commercial 
properties would not be affected by a new law 
which makes squatting in residential buildings a 
criminal offence. He acknowledged the “nightmare 
endured by neighbours of a burnt-out pub” in 
north-east London which has been squatted in by 
up to 12 itinerant Lithuanian labourers for five years.
However, he said: “Squatters are a mixed tribe. 
“Some, proud anarchists and anti-capitalists; 
others, lost souls drifting through broken lives 
– alcoholics, druggies, eco- warriors.” But he 
described all squatters as people who were 
seeking a sense of “personal freedom and 
independence”. He added: “And you know what? I 
thought there was something quintessentially British about that.”

Madeley Meets The Squatters
Episode: 1 of 1 - Thursday, 6 December 2012, 9:00PM - 10:00PM
Production house: Plum Pictures
Press contacts: Fiona Galliver fiona.galliver at
Press contacts: Hannah Green at
Picture contacts: Peter Gray peter.gray at
Viewer enquiries: viewerservices at

What appealed to you about making the documentary?
“This documentary was a chance to reconnect with 
the reporter in me and go out and tell a story. 
When ITV asked me, I said yes straight away 
because it appealed to that part of my career.
“I used to be a reporter and I started out in 
newspaper news when I was 16. Then I went onto 
local radio and into the newsroom. Finally, I 
went into television news. I was a straight hard 
news reporter, getting my boots muddy and that’s 
what I was doing when I met Judy at Granada. I 
didn’t leave hard news until 1988. So news is in my blood.”

Have you had any experience of squatters or the 
effect they can have on a community, either 
personally or via family / friends?
“No, although I did buy into the headline myth 
that you could go out for a pint of milk and when 
you get back, squatters have moved in and changed the locks.
“Or you take the kids for a long weekend to 
Disneyland. And when get back and look through 
the window, squatters are drinking your wine, 
watching your TV and eating the food from your freezer.
“It really doesn’t happen like that. That’s a bit 
of an urban myth. I’m sure there are one or two 
examples but largely, it’s on a totally different 
level, as you see in the programme.
“All I had in my head, before making the programme, was that image.”

What story or person surprised you most during filming?
“I think it’s the group of squatters in Bristol 
who have taken over a big building which used to 
belong to the NHS and is now owned by a private 
owner who wants to turn it into flats.
“The squatters have basically got in and locked 
him out. There’s a scene in the programme where I 
introduce him to them through the locked gates. 
And they were completely arrogant, saying to him, 
‘Now we’ve moved in, it’s ours and you can’t come in.’
“He was a really nice guy and I thought he was 
very patient with them. But even once they 
understood that and I’d got them talking and to 
shake hands, I said, ‘Come on let him in so we 
can just check you’re not damaging the property’, 
they said, ‘No, absolutely not.’
“I thought that was real double standards. And that stuck in my head.”

What are your thoughts on the new law which makes 
it illegal to squat in a residential property? Will it help the problem?
“I think it will help in the sense that it will 
give people peace of mind. It will remove the, 
largely baseless, fear that you could go to the 
shops and the squatters could move in.
“There was one example in the documentary where 
there was a lady with learning difficulties, who 
was in a violent relationship and needed to get 
out of it. She went to her housing association 
who found her a flat, where she would need to pay rent.
“On the day she went to move in, they found a 
squatter had got into the flat and changed the 
locks. And even though the housing association 
explained the situation to him he, point blank 
refused to move out. So this poor woman was 
homeless for two months while they had to go 
through this lengthy and expensive process to 
evict him. Finally they got him out.
“The new law would be brilliant in that situation 
as all they would need to do is call the police, 
who could come round and turf him out. That woman 
would be in her rightful home the same day. So I 
think, in any cases similar to that, it’s a very, 
very good idea. A law preventing squatting in 
domestic properties has to be good and has to be progress.”
“Will it actually stop squatting per se? No, 
because most people squat in commercial and 
industrial dwellings. So I think squatting is still very much here to stay.
“And if you did pass a law to say that squatting 
was illegal, in empty or derelict commercial 
properties then where would they go? It is part 
of the homeless problem in this country.”

Did you find yourself feeling more sympathetic to 
the landlords or the squatters, that you met during filming?
“The only landlords I didn’t feel sympathetic 
for, were the faceless banks, holding companies 
and investment portfolios who see empty buildings 
in cities like London or Bristol as an asset and 
nothing else. At a time when there are so many 
people homeless that’s clearly wrong. So I didn’t 
feel any sympathy towards them at all.
“However, I did feel a lot of sympathy towards 
the landlord in Bristol who was a very reasonable 
guy and was being treated really badly by being 
excommunicated from his own property.
“I also felt very sorry for the woman who 
couldn’t get into her housing association flat 
because of a totally selfish squatter.
“But the fair thing to say is that I had mixed 
feelings, I had a mixed bag of emotions about it. 
I felt sorry for some squatters, angry with 
others. Angry with some landlords and sorry for 
others. I came out of it with a very mixed set of views.”

There are some heated exchanges with squatters. 
Did you feel concerned or unsafe at any stage during filming?
“No, never. My producer was concerned for me. But 
I felt fine and I think that goes back to my reporting roots again.
“I was out reporting on quite hard stories with 
pretty rough people, in my teens, twenties and 
into my early thirties. So I’m used to that. And 
I’m used to handling those situations psychologically.
“So I never felt that the situation was dangerous 
or likely to spin out of control. Most people are 
fine and the majority of people who appear to be 
aggressive are actually just blustering. There’s 
no need to be frightened. You just keep your cool and they always calm down.”

One of the squatters you met, Tristan, said he 
believed that wealthy people are greedy and he 
was entitled to take an empty property of theirs 
and refuse them access to it. You were outraged 
to be accused of being greedy. Can you tell us 
about that exchange and why you felt the way you did?
“Well, Tristan was talking rubbish! Actually, he 
amused me and I actually quite liked him because 
he was talking nonsense and at a certain level he 
knew he was talking nonsense.
“I think Tristan is one of those squatters who is 
playing a bit of a game. He does believe the 
things he was saying but deep down he’s having quite a lot of fun.
“I think he quite enjoys casting himself as the 
penniless street urchin up against big 
businesses. He quite likes himself in that role 
and I predict that in 10 years time Tristan will 
not be squatting. He’s too bright and savvy for that.
“The bottom line of what he was saying is that to 
be wealthy is to be greedy, which is just 
ridiculous and actually he couldn’t really stand 
it up as an argument. When I said to him, ‘Are 
you really saying I’m greedy just because I have 
a bit of money which I have worked for?’ he 
couldn’t really justify it. I left school at 16 and I’ve worked for it.
“But he made me laugh actually. He even made Dave 
the property owner of his squat laugh. He had his charms.”

What do you think of the issue of skipping?
“I never knew that squatters go to the skips 
behind supermarkets to find food. I never knew 
supermarkets threw out such vast quantities of food.
“And the supermarkets have been known to cover 
the food in washing up liquid, which is headed 
for landfill so that poor people can’t eat it. We 
didn’t find evidence of that when I went skipping 
with the squatters but it has happened.
“I think that is disgusting. I have no issue with 
people taking food out of a skip because they can’t afford to eat.”
You met several types of squatters during the 
making of the programme. Were there any you had more sympathy for then others?
“I was always impressed by the squatters who 
cleaned up a derelict site. One of the stories 
featured in the programme is about an area called 
‘Grow Heathrow’ which used to be a dreadful place.
“It was a big urban space used by drug dealers 
and car thieves who used to take their cars there 
and dismantle them. It was an absolute eyesore on 
the outskirts of a very pretty little village called Sipson.
“Then a group of squatters, mostly highly 
educated people with degrees, cleared out the 
site and cleaned it up, as there was lots of 
toxic waste on it. In fact the soil was so toxic 
they’ve had to put down fresh topsoil so they can 
grow vegetables. There were several derelict 
greenhouses, which they rebuilt and tidied up.
“And suddenly, in the space of a year, there’s a 
really pretty, semi-rural, agricultural community 
there. And it’s open to the wider community and 
the villagers love them. They have community 
evenings and they invite the villagers in, to 
show them how to grow better vegetables. There’s 
a bicycle workshop and the kids can come and 
learn how to maintain their own bikes. It’s a brilliant place.
“The owner of the land is trying to evict them 
but even the local MP was making ringing speeches 
in their defense, on the steps of the court when 
the case came up saying, ‘Let them stay, they’re an asset.’
“So there are squatters who go into places which 
are, disgracefully, left to go to rack and ruin 
by owners who are abroad, or a nameless bank. 
Having seen it now, I personally couldn’t see 
anything wrong with that. It was only for the 
local good and giving homeless people somewhere 
to live. To me it was an open and shut case.”

Were you surprised to find out that not claiming 
benefits is a point of honour amongst squatters?
“I was really amazed. For many of the squatters 
we met, one of the first things they wanted to 
say was ‘We don’t claim benefits’. It’s a code of 
honour amongst squatters and partly I think it’s 
that they get a kick out of living off the grid 
and essentially living on air. In their minds, to 
go the benefits office is cheating.
“Like a lot of outcast groups, they have their 
own code of honour. And it’s definitely a strong one.”

How did your preconceptions or opinions of the 
squatting issue and the squatters themselves 
change by the end of the making of the documentary?
“When I went into it, I only had some fairly 
rudimentary preconceptions that, on the whole, 
squatters are basically idle, thieving, scumbags 
who sponge off society like leeches. And that 
clearly isn’t the case. In fact, if I’d gone in 
there with the intention of proving that theory, 
I wouldn’t have had a documentary at the end of 
it because you can’t find many people like that.
“Many of them operate in quite an ordered, 
integrated way with each other so my 
preconceptions just weren’t borne out by my experience.”

Finally, can you tell us why viewers should tune into the programme?
“There are actually some very funny moments in 
it. Some of the ways the squatters argue their 
cases are intrinsically funny and they are 
actually quite funny people. Some of the 
scenarios are quite ridiculous. But it’s not a 
news programme - it’s me getting stuck in with 
squatters. I’m not observing from the sidelines. 
It’s me in their homes, skipping with them and 
rubbing shoulders with squatters from all walks of life.”

Richard Madeley - Madeley Meets The Squatters
27 November 2012

Presenting two hours of live TV a day is no mean 
feat. But after 20 years of doing just that, 
Richard Madeley has been looking for new 
challenges. And the former This Morning star 
certainly found one, reliving his days as a 
reporter to lift the lid on life as a squatter, 
with Madeley Meets The Squatters

How did Madeley Meets The Squatters come about?
The idea came from the production company. They 
phoned me immediately and it got commissioned in 
a day, which is amazing in telly. I loved it 
because it appealed to my reporting instincts. I 
started out as a reporter at 16 on newspapers 
then radio and I was a reporter for about 14 
years until This Morning came along in 1988. So 
it was a chance to get back out there. And 
filming it was the most different summer I have ever spent.

Did you finish the project feeling nothing but sympathy for the landlords?
I came away with a mixture of anger and sympathy 
for everybody involved. There are some landlords 
and property owners who through sheer neglect or 
greed leave their properties empty when they 
could be perfectly good for homeless people, and 
go to some trouble to keep homeless people out. 
These are properties they have no intention of 
selling or using. And that’s wrong. But I felt 
sorry for property owners like one I met, who is 
fundamentally a decent man, and the squatters 
wouldn’t even let him into his own property, to 
see that everything was all right. And I thought 
that was pretty unreasonable. That made me pretty cross.

And how did you feel about the squatters?
I felt angry with some squatters like the bloke 
who broke into a housing association flat that 
was specifically meant for a girl with 
educational and personality problems who was 
being beaten up at home. A squatter got in 
minutes before she was meant to take possession 
of it, and he wouldn’t come out, even when they 
explained the situation. It took eight weeks to 
get him out. And that seems to me a classic case 
of when this new law would come into play — that 
if you squat in residential property the police 
will come and get you out. If that law had been 
in place then it wouldn’t have happened.

Did you ever feel threatened when dealing with the squatters?
Whenever it looked like things were getting a bit 
out of hand, I kind of knew it would be all 
right. The thing to do is not to over-react, if 
you stay calm and friendly people usually calm 
down. We had a few moments but I never thought 
things were getting out of control. Other people 
were a bit concerned for me, but I was never 
really concerned for myself, because of my experience in journalism.

Was this a world you knew anything about before making the programme?
If the subject had come up at a dinner party six 
months ago I would have had nothing useful to 
say. All I knew was headlines. I didn’t know what 
squatting really involved. But they are like any 
group of people, you can’t put a single label on 
them. It’s layered and complicated. There are 
some good squatters and some bad squatters
are some great landlords who are taken advantage 
of by squatters and irresponsible landlords who 
don’t deserve to own buildings. It’s not an easy black and white situation.

Would you like to make more programmes like this?
We’ll see what happens. If people watch it, and I 
know ITV like it, then yes, I’d very much like to 
make a series, looking at different groups that 
most of society looks at sideways and doesn’t 
like. We could do bankers. How do you spend a 
bonus of £15m? What do you spend it on?

You are clearly still enjoying being on TV, while Judy has walked away from it

Judy was always the most reluctant television 
presenter I ever knew. She kind of fell into it, 
like most people do. She loved the process, doing 
the interviews. She loved making the programmes, 
talking to the camera, but she hated being in the 
public eye. It was a very good career for her, 
and it was an extremely well-paid career for us 
both, but when it was over, she kind of gave a 
big sigh of relief. She’d always wanted to write 
a novel. She’s got a two-book deal.

While you’ve been branching out and doing different things

I am loving being a freelance. And I am so lucky, 
I don’t have to say yes to anything I don’t want 
to do and I’m having a really interesting life. 
I’ve had a great summer making this documentary, 
I’ve been sitting in for Chris Evans on Radio 2 
and I am writing books as well. So I am doing 
things that give me pleasure, professionally and 
personally, and it is a lovely place to be.

ITV1, Thursday

Tricia Martin
+44 (0)7786 952037
Twitter: @TonyGosling
uk-911-truth+subscribe at
"Capitalism is institutionalised bribery."

"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic 
poison which alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung

Fear not therefore: for there is nothing covered 
that shall not be revealed; and nothing hid that 
shall not be made known. What I tell you in 
darkness, that speak ye in the light and what ye 
hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. Matthew 10:26-27

Die Pride and Envie; Flesh, take the poor's advice.
Covetousnesse be gon: Come, Truth and Love arise.
Patience take the Crown; throw Anger out of dores:
Cast out Hypocrisie and Lust, which follows whores:
Then England sit in rest; Thy sorrows will have end;
Thy Sons will live in peace, and each will be a friend.  
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