Thu06Dec12 - ITV 9pm Richard Madeley Meets the Squatters
tony at cultureshop.org.uk
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
theyre 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 itv.com
Press contacts: Hannah Green hannah.green at itv.com
Picture contacts: Peter Gray peter.gray at itv.com
Viewer enquiries: viewerservices at itv.com
INTERVIEW WITH RICHARD MADELEY
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 thats
what I was doing when I met Judy at Granada. I
didnt 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 doesnt happen like that. Thats a bit
of an urban myth. Im sure there are one or two
examples but largely, its 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 its 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. Theres a scene in the programme where I
introduce him to them through the locked gates.
And they were completely arrogant, saying to him,
Now weve moved in, its ours and you cant come in.
He was a really nice guy and I thought he was
very patient with them. But even once they
understood that and Id got them talking and to
shake hands, I said, Come on let him in so we
can just check youre 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, its 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 didnt 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 thats clearly wrong. So I didnt
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
couldnt 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 Im used to that. And
Im 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. Theres
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 hes 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. Hes 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 couldnt really stand
it up as an argument. When I said to him, Are
you really saying Im greedy just because I have
a bit of money which I have worked for? he
couldnt really justify it. I left school at 16 and Ive 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 cant eat it. We
didnt 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 cant 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
theyve 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, theres a
really pretty, semi-rural, agricultural community
there. And its 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. Theres
a bicycle workshop and the kids can come and
learn how to maintain their own bikes. Its 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, theyre 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 couldnt 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 dont claim benefits. Its a code of
honour amongst squatters and partly I think its
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 its 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 isnt the case. In fact, if Id gone in
there with the intention of proving that theory,
I wouldnt have had a documentary at the end of
it because you cant find many people like that.
Many of them operate in quite an ordered,
integrated way with each other so my
preconceptions just werent 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 its not a
news programme - its me getting stuck in with
squatters. Im not observing from the sidelines.
Its 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 thats wrong. But I felt
sorry for property owners like one I met, who is
fundamentally a decent man, and the squatters
wouldnt 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 wouldnt 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 wouldnt 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 didnt know what
squatting really involved. But they are like any
group of people, you cant put a single label on
them. Its 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
dont deserve to own buildings. Its not an easy black and white situation.
Would you like to make more programmes like this?
Well see what happens. If people watch it, and I
know ITV like it, then yes, Id very much like to
make a series, looking at different groups that
most of society looks at sideways and doesnt
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. Shed always wanted to write
a novel. Shes got a two-book deal.
While youve been branching out and doing different things
I am loving being a freelance. And I am so lucky,
I dont have to say yes to anything I dont want
to do and Im having a really interesting life.
Ive had a great summer making this documentary,
Ive 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.
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shall not be made known. What I tell you in
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