Since the implementation of the new strict squatting laws in 2013 that prohibited anyone from squatting non-commercial property, many people have found themselves homeless. Some would argue that most of the ‘open squats’ that had existed, actually promoted a positive community attitude promoting self sustainability and an ethos of working together. The 80’s squatting scene in the UK displayed a collective attitude between like minded people that they felt they had somewhat failed by the system. Now that this alternative way of living has been made more difficult to pursue, and now that these people feel even more so that they have not been supported by the system, maybe even ostracised …Where are they now?
In Bristol, with the implementation of the new squatting laws came with it a (coinciding but not related) gentrification of all areas and things that had come from this era or this culture of squatting or van dwelling. The Canteen in Hamilton house now a very popular and what would be described as a bohemian part of stokes croft culture was once a squatted building and part of what could be considered ‘the people’s’ property. It was even more so popular then with great music and an energetic underground atmosphere, even though you could only buy cans from behind the bar. Now it has been bought out by millionaire, Architect and Bristol mayor George Ferguson and it seems to have taken a more middle class and posh outlook on its whole attire with the Bristol post somehow rating it as one of the ‘best budget places to eat in Bristol’ with Prices in the menu ranging from £6.50 to £8?
A far cry from the squatting scene that once existed there, where meals or snacks were probably sold for a donation. More comments could be made on the disappearance of the famous free shop that was originally a squat which is now abandoned and boarded up and telepathic heights which also used to be a squat of which has now become ‘uber bohemian’ private housing. Articles such as the one that the Guardian printed in 2012 titled ‘Lets move to stokes croft, Bristol’ certainly heralded the beginning of this new gentrification era of Bristol, the end of the squatting era in Bristol and a new influx of new age travellers. The ones of which who were casualties of the new squatting laws introduced in 2012 and the disappearance of some of Bristol’s most well know squats. The only places left now is site 1 at Westmorland house which is a static travellers site (for the time being) and the Magpie just opposite.
Subsequently it would be important to highlight that from this point and the years that followed, is was also a time that specific areas of Bristol saw an increase in the dispersal of van dwellers across the city, more specifically St Werburghs road was a hotspot for travellers looking for park ups to the point of eventually creating unrest and concerns within the community for the sheer volume of vans parked up on the street.