Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006
Alternative Ideal Homes Exhibition, at Hackney Homeless People's Festival, 1994
An ideal home? Photo: Nick Cobbing

The Alternative Ideal Homes Exhibition

Squall 7, Summer 1994, pg. 17.

Clissold Park, 8th May 1994

As we stood under the old weeping willow and watched the rain chuck it down on the day before the big day, I thought why cry? - there’s enough water here already. I wondered if I had wisely spent so many free hours contacting, hassling and generally worrying about hosting so many housing and campaigning groups in a park for a day, for what we had rather grandly called The Alternative Ideal Homes Exhibition. The lake was looking very full and the ducks were unusually quiet.... perhaps we ought to call those houseboat people after all...

Nearby, Gilbert and the builders of the nomadic ‘Village’ area were looking dejected and the 2-storey recycled house was still a rumour. The double-decker house-bus needed repainting and we couldn’t put up the charily stalls until the rain stopped. The Berlin squatters group had arrived, but where could we put their excellent photo display? Okay, so Hal’s 4-pod Mongolian yurt was there, but would these be the only alternative housing ideas we could offer the long- suffering bricks-and-mortar dwellers of North London?

By the next morning the sun was shining and my fears had gone - it was going to be a hot and busy summers day after all! We had all the stalls up by noon, the tepees and domes in the Village looked beautiful and Steve had built his giant snail short-life exhibition. The recycled house was impressive and the huge painted facade entrance to the Exhibition looked brilliant. Voices became people as I finally met everyone we had coerced and begged into coming.

Finally, the information and pressure groups started arriving, from Liberty to Homeless Owners for Pets, from Shelter and SQUASH to the Romani Rights Association. London- based co-op’s, hostels and homelessness advice groups rubbed shoulders with squatters, travellers and green groups. All in all, about 40 diverse organisations showed the 25,000 visitors that there are in fact many alternatives to the depressing picture of Tory housing ‘policy’, lack of affordable housing and restrictions on access to land. Many people commented on the innovative combination of music festival, housing information and exhibits.

On May the 8th, I got a real feeling of a coming together of different groups of people, a sense that we really can change this ridiculous situation. Why can’t the British embrace the politics of housing in the same way they’ve embraced other environmental issues? With the highest incidence of empty properties and homelessness ever, as well as the symptom-crushing of the Criminal Injustice Bill, there has never been a better time to act.

The message of the day was definitely ‘Pack up your tepees, return to your squats and prepare for a housing policy!’ I hope the Alternative Ideal Homes Exhibition becomes a regular event so that many other people can see the obvious potential and practice of these ideas. Thanks to all those who helped out, especially Hackney Drugs Prevention Team, Hackney & City MIND and all the volunteers on the day-you know who you are!

If you want to get involved in any future Alternative Ideal Homes Exhibition please get in touch with me c/o SQUALL.

Glyn and Friends.