News and Other Busyness
Exodus Defend Community Farm
Squall 14, Autumn 1996, pg. 13.
The levels to which the authorities will go to put a stop to the activities of the Exodus Collective are symbolically unjust. For nowhere has the depths to which our society has sunk been more specifically illustrated than it has in the history of the derelict farm, rebuilt by Exodus.
Just prior to their recent visit to Switzerland, on invitation to organise a dance in Zurich, the Collective received notice from the Highways Agency ordering them to quit the farm they have lived on for four years. The Long Meadow Community Farm was squatted by Exodus in July 1992. They set about rebuilding it from the derelict state into which it had deteriorated , after originally being compulsorily purchased by the Department of Transport for a long abandoned M1 expansion scheme.
By October 1993, the Collective had gained a licence to occupy the farm, renewable every six months. Using recycled pallets to rebuild the barns, Exodus stocked the stables with a variety of animals and began inviting the local community to visit. On a number of occasions they transported the farm animals, some of which are now third generation, to local estate family fun days.
Whilst most of the Collective were in Zurich in September, the farm was raided by over 60 police, who arrived armed with a warrant to search the property for stolen car parts and drugs. They left the premises with one bag of sugar, one bag of coffee whitener and an old car bonnet.
Whilst this might sound farcical, it is not the first time police have raided the farm. In January 1993, police claimed to have found 30 tablets of Ecstasy in Exodus’ farmhouse. As a result, they charged Paul Taylor, a resident at the property, with the possession and distribution of Ecstasy. A year later the jury threw the case out of court after police evidence contradicted itself. Following this incident and other operations, Bedfordshire County Council voted for a full- scale public inquiry into the activities of police and others against the Exodus Collective.
However, the Home Office refused their request for funding and the inquiry is now stalled in bureaucratic limbo.
At the end of 1995, police once again targeted Paul Taylor, this time with a murder charge, after a man he helped eject from a Luton pub was later found dead in a nearby park. As a result of the local heat surrounding the charge, the farmhouse was fire bombed twice (see Squall 12). At the time, Paul Taylor, still a resident of the farm, was on remand for murder. As you can read on pages of this issue, he was finally fully acquitted after another year with a serious charge hanging over his head. Bedfordshire Police were once again proven to have been involved in malicious evidence manufacture, after it transpired on the first day of the court case that they had manipulated a prosecution witness to give false testimony.
When it became apparent that the Highways Agency were intending to sell Long Meadow Community Farm, Exodus put in a £70,000 bid, aiming to borrow the money from the Ecology Building Society. They were told by Department of Transport officials they had a good chance of having their offer accepted. The farm is restricted for agricultural use and has problems with ground methane seepage after being used as a rubbish dump during its years of previous dereliction.
However, without being informed that any other offer had been made, Exodus were suddenly told to vacate the premises in September. Understandably they are refusing.
So what now? Exodus, as is their way, are exploring official avenues for saving a project they have worked, defended and proudly presented for nearly four years. Representations are being made to the Secretary of State for Transport, Sir George Young, and to the Highways Agency. However, it is hardly any surprise to hear Exodus are not holding their breath for official recognition.
Ditches have been dug and fences raised as preparation should their appeals for justice be ignored once again.
To keep in touch with developments, stay tuned to Squall’s web-site or keep your ear to the ground.
To help defend the farm against eviction register your name on the Exodus help tree by ringing Squall on 0171 561 1204 and leaving your contact number.