Occupy Bristol protesters now squatting £3m mansion in Clifton

Tony Gosling tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Wed Feb 22 00:41:23 GMT 2012

In pictures: Inside the Occupy Bristol £3m Clifton squat

Occupy Bristol protesters now squatting £3m mansion in Clifton
Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - Bristol Evening Post
IT was once Bristol's most expensive property – 
on the market for a cool £4.2 million – but now it is home to 14 squatters.
The new tenants of ten-bedroom property Clifton 
Wood House, which is now thought to be worth £2.9m, moved in ten days ago.
Nine of the 14 people now living in the exclusive 
Clifton Wood mansion were previously part of the 
controversial Occupy Bristol camp located on College Green.
But one of the squatters told the Evening Post 
they moved off the land when they realised the 
movement was part of a sinister "social experiment".
"I'm the king of the castle," one squatter said 
as he stood on the sunny roof terrace looking 
down on the smaller houses of his new neighbours 
in the exclusive area of the city.
Although the squatters – who say they are simply 
"caretakers" of the empty property – found the 
house unfurnished, they have begun to move their own furniture in.
Two years ago the elegant rooms were full of 
antique tables and chairs and expensive mod cons. 
Now they are being filled with furniture found in 
peoples' front gardens and at car boot sales.
The squatters have laid mattresses on the floors 
of each of the bedrooms and have even moved in 
televisions, DVD players and an Apple Mac computer.
Although the group living in the house has tried 
and failed to fill the mansion's indoor swimming 
pool so they can take a dip, they say they are 
enjoying living in one of the most luxurious properties in Bristol.
"When we walk around Clifton people usually turn 
their noses up at us, but now we're living in one 
of the biggest houses in the area," said one, who 
called himself Haile Bless, adding that he was 
not talking on behalf of the whole group.
"I believe what we are doing breaks the social 
divide. People who sneer at us normally live in 
their posh houses and think we're not on the same 
level as them. Now my house is bigger than theirs 
– that's got to dent their egos."
The squatters maintain they are doing their best 
to look after the Grade II-listed house, which 
includes a grand sweeping staircase and marble floors.
Mr Haile said the group found out it was empty by 
looking on the internet, where they claim to have 
downloaded blueprints. They now have sets of keys 
to the house, as well as codes used to work the electronic gates.
Although many of the squatters were involved in 
the Occupy Bristol movement they say they are not 
connected to it in any way now.
Mr Haile, 21, originally from St Paul's, said: 
"We stayed at College Green until the shacks started to be taken down.
"Some of us came upon some information which 
proved that the movement was actually an inside job.
"We believe the Occupy movement was engineered by 
something called the Tavistock Institute which is connected to MI5.
"We have evidence to show that it was a social 
experiment aimed at gathering anarchists and 
political rebels in one place so that they could be identified by the system."
Mr Haile said some of the Occupy protesters then 
moved into a group of five old houses in 
Cumberland Road, but felt that a "negative 
energy" was spreading because they were living too separately.
"Most of us are homeless – victims of the 
system," said Mr Haile, who said he did not have 
a job but was not claiming benefits.
"Many of us are musicians and buskers – we hope 
to set up a sound system in the basement and 
record some videos which we will put on a Squatters' TV website."
Asked if the squatters have been causing any 
disturbances, Mr Haile said they are trying to 
keep noise to a minimum and are trying to work 
with neighbours to reassure them.
"The police have been here a few times, but we 
put up a notice telling them we had squatters' 
rights and told them they were trespassing," he said.
Mr Haile said the group are trying to completely 
furnish the house themselves – the next item on 
their wish list is an Aga cooker.
The kitchen already holds a toaster, sandwich 
maker, microwave and fridge. Mr Haile said these 
were found at house clearances and car boot 
sales, and on websites such as Gumtree and Freecycle.
A neighbour of the house, who did not want to be 
named, said: "The only reason I phoned the police 
was because I knew the house was empty and saw lights on.
"Since then I've seen young men climbing over the 
property's wall and I understand they are squatting."
One man, living in nearby Randall Road said: 
"This is a very quiet cul-de-sac that would be 
ruined by lots of loud music. I just don't 
understand how they get away with it in a big place like that."
Another resident said: "As long as the basement 
was soundproofed it would be fine, but of course 
it will not be. I have got two young children and 
we all need our sleep so loud music all night is 
not a good idea. I would think if it did happen 
everybody around here would be up in arms."
Title deeds for the property, seen by the Evening 
Post, name the current owner as Petros Georgiou Birakos.
The Post contacted his son, Jason Birakos, who 
said his father used to own the property but did 
not want to comment. Mr Birakos junior had a 
run-in with squatters in 2009 when a property he 
owned in Clifton was occupied by around 50 squatters.
It is thought the building is now in the hands of 
administrators. It was previously for sale 
through estate agents Knight Frank, and in 2010 was on the market for £4.2m.
The company said it could not make any comment about the house.
A police spokeswoman said the issue was now a "civil matter".
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