A community pushes back against the threat of development.
If you’re in any major city, the threat of gentrification is often looming, whether it’s pushing people out of their homes and forcing them to relocate or making it impossible for community ventures – such as local clubs, community centers or galleries – to continue to operate.
The latest casualty of gentrification is Hackney’s Passing Clouds, which celebrated its 10 year anniversary this year. Beloved by the local community, the venue is a focal point for a diverse range of events, from musical performances to cooking classes (it hosts the People’s Kitchen to make use of food waste). Working on a business model that’s socially conscious above anything else, it offers up the premises completely free of charge for environmental and community groups, making it an important node for Hackney.
For the last few months, Passing Clouds has been struggling with property developers Landhold Developments. After secretly purchasing the building, Landhold initially informed the venue that it had no intention of selling the property. Soon afterwards though, the company informed Passing Clouds that it would be turning the building into their offices, and Passing Clouds had until May to vacate the property.
This would have been crushing for Passing Clouds, which would incur large business liabilities if forced to leave in such short notice, so a deal was put in place with Landhold’s Garry Simpson, that gave the venue an extra three months of operation. This didn’t last long – Simpson changed his mind and not only did he intend to break his written agreement, but he would offer them a single month extension on one condition, that they commit fraud and pen a letter stating “Passing Clouds were leaving the building voluntarily due to being unable to sustain the business and buildings”.
Passing Clouds’ director Eleanor Wilson refused this, and informed Landhold that Passing Clouds would carry on with the original written agreement, but this seemingly wasn’t enough for Simpson.
At 6:30am yesterday, a private security firm working under orders from Landhold changed the locks on the venue without legal paperwork. When Passing Clouds staff arrived, they were locked out of their business – so took drastic action, mobilizing the local community to help them get the venue up-and-running again.
Around 200 people rallied together and broke into the venue, performing a common law eviction and occupying the space while they continue to run events as usual. Passing Clouds is now petitioning Landhold Developments, asking to be provided with either a long-term lease or sale of the building.
Passing Clouds has set up a change.org petition, and London’s Time Out investigated the story, talking to representatives at Landhold Developments who downplayed the story, saying their action was completely lawful.
You can see video footage of the siege below.