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Saturday, 22 March 2014

Pizza Express puts on a performance.

Last night in the old Pizza Express building on Kentish Town Road, something was going down. A squat party to put it bluntly. My involvement started when a few months ago I found myself on the roof of a Camden squat whilst writing an article about graffiti for the Kentishtowner . . .

It was my first venture into a squat and I was impressed by the guys' ethics and ingenuity; whilst the initial break-in may have been just that, they are quick to try and establish a good rapport with the landlord and in many cases the 'squatters' have to fix the place up because they're often neglected buildings. Anyway, the article was published and my number made its way to one seasoned squatter, Gee who last week informed me that a party was being organised in the new squat in Kentish Town. I went down to check it out and was very soon excited by the energy, plans and sensible thinking that I found there - summed up in my latest pre-party article.

I've watched over the last week as some truly ambitious plans have been put into action, many of which seemed impossible on the tight timescale and with no money. As Friday night approached there was a huge amount of the uncertainty which always blights projects that are run voluntarily - will the actors learn their (very last minute) lines? Will the models for the fashion show turn up? Will we get the projector fixed to the wall in time? 

In addition to these concerns, was the fact that squats are transient places by definition, and inevitably people don't always know each other very well. That said there was clearly a real sense of trust and camaraderie amongst the group - many of whom have known each other through the squatting community for years. It is important to highlight the distinction between the dirty squats of the Daily Mail and the guys involved with the Height of Suspenses; the latter consider themselves property guardians and there is a real sense of a political movement behind their lifestyle choice. The was an inherent sense of trust and respect amongst the group, and the amount of energy, passion and commitment to creating the event was inspiring. 

On the Thursday I received a phone call from yet another member of the Suspenses team - this time it was the fashion show organiser who was in dire need of models for the catwalk. With a thoroughly last minute panache the event came together - although as I got sent down the spiral staircase for my turn I didn't even know where the catwalk was, if there was a plan, or what I should be doing. It was that moment - we've all been there - you're wearing tassled leggings, a top better suited to a pixie and a black swan crown and there is a large paying audience, lots of cameras and local residents who actually know you. That moment where you're blinded by a camera and totally wing it. Luckily there was someone performing some sort of gypsy swing set, which always makes me dance, so I was able to lead the way for another, equally confused model as we traipsed around the performer, stole his hat and pranced about on stage. I think we managed to escape the stage before audience expectation turned us into backing dancers, because it might have been pushing my improv skills just a tad. Plus I was due back at Shebeen half an hour prior.


Mixing up a storm in the old pizza kitchen - a gingerbread daiquiri will do it.


A contortionist freaks out the audience.


Models getting ready in the old customer toilets #glamour


Bringing back bumbags. Fluffy bumbags.


Absinthe fairy take two.


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