Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Priory Grove Squat in Stockwell 1991/92

In the early 1990s, when I was living in Brixton, I went to some parties at a squatted school in Stockwell. I couldn't remember too many more details, other than them being very messy and crowded - I recall climbing through a toilet window to get in to one because they'd stopped letting people in.

Thanks to Urban75 I now know that it was the former Priory Grove school, a site later developed as flats. It seems to have been occupied in 1991/92, with travellers living on site as well as puting on parties. Someone who lived there recalled that 'The redevelopment started shortly after the eviction, I used to live in the main building until shortly after the last party got busted and we lost electricity. Some great parties there, winter of 1991/2. Rave on the ground floor. Bands on the first floor. Fairshare reggae sound system on the top floor'.

Some photos and a flyer have surfaced recently on facebook, the latter from 'The Dynamic Pig Posse of Priory Grove' advertising an event in January 1992 with bands including festival/squat circuit favourites RDF and Co-creators as well as 'hardcore acid'. I know one of the parties I went to there was in December 1991, because I found a copy of a letter I wrote at that time (to a Brixton guy who was in prison for the poll tax riot) in which I said 'I went to a rave at a squatted school in Stockwell last week, which was good. Downstairs they had a serious rave, upstairs there were bands playing. There was also a massage room, although I didn't use it myself'.





Lot of intense parties in that period in some amazing places, many of them completely undocumented online or anywhere else. So if you were there, let us know what you remember...


(Images from Chris the Poet)

14 comments:

John Eden said...

I went to a few parties there because I knew someone who was involved. There was an especially mad one over NYE I think.

I also saw the TOPY-related band Reducer there on one occasion.

It seemed quite messy but probably not by today's standards.

One particularly memorable anecdote is that a bunch of us were sitting in the chill out room once when someone came in laughing and pointed out that she'd been to school there herself years ago, and we were all smoking joints in the teacher's common room :-)

I think the squat eventually descended into some disagreements between starry eyed idealists and people who wanted to make money...

Transpontine said...

Ha! Another place where our paths crossed before we eventually met.

Most places ended up with some conflict between 'idealists' and people who wanted to make money, but it wasn't always so straightforward a division. I remember falling out with some of my situ friends who denounced people who put on free parties for charging - but then again there were costs involved with putting parties on that had to be covered somehow. Also for some of the people involved, living as travellers, this was their main source of income. Nobody got rich out of squat parties, but part of me thinks it was OK for some people with no other source of income to support their way of life through charging a few quid in. Of course when making money became the main motivation, or prices were at club level, it killed the vibe.

There was also at the time this brew-crew mentality of trashing and stealing everything, even from people who had nothing. I remember being involved in a squat benefit gig in Vauxhall where these drunk punks just stormed the bar and nicked all the beer.

Not sure whether things were messier now or then, probably much the same, but there was a different energy as there were a lot of quite desparate fucked up people(some of them lovely nevertheless) for whom the squat scene was some kind of 'community care'. Some stupid drunken violence too, as described above. So edgier, if not messier.

Anyway with Tories back in and cuts everywhere we'll soon be back in a similar situation!

John Eden said...

Yes I wasn't trying to suggest that there's anything wrong with charging an entry fee or anything. I might be wrong but my recollection is that some people in the squat wanted to broaden it out into more of a community resource whilst others wanted to stick solely to revenue generating things like parties. I wasn't involved though so this may all be rumour!

Some of the stories I've heard about crack and ket ridden squat parties this century are a bit hair raising compared to what I experienced back then, but I may just be old and more shockable :-)

And yes we may see similar conditions again, but I do wonder that people might hold on to the propery more aggressively after a decade of "location location location" culture...

burn bay, be burn said...

Flyer for last party there:
http://gig-squat-parties.blogspot.com/2011/05/party-8th-february-1992.html

Transpontine said...

Nice one, 'burn bay', have just checked out your excellent site and left a comment.

Anonymous said...

hi, just click on your site by chance as suppose and "yes" i did go to one of your party at the school as i was squatting with very actif people in "north london" so that was commun to go round another squatt to c what were up to. To tell u the thruth its so long ago i dont remenber very much . I remenber 0ne floor were at stay most of the night were crowded and this girls playing and dancing with fire.Most of the people i met on the squat scene are been quiet successful. Like "the mutoid" "spiral tribe" "bedlam" and "2000DS" and plenty more artists...

Anonymous said...

I live here now! Do you guys have any pictures from that time? Would be great to put them up on the residents website.

JOHN PAUL Jones said...

I was squatting in Hackney, 89-94 and remember waht was known as the stockwell school and went to at least one party rave. Also, anyone remember Lady Flows in Deptford or The Cooltan in Coldharbour Lane? Although involved in puttin on stuff in Hackney/ stoke newington, we used to come south of the river to check out the scene too. More earthy andtribal down that way as I remember. Great times indeed!

JOHN PAUL Jones said...

I went to at least one party at the stockwell school. I was squatting in Hackney, 89-95 and we used to come and check tue south London tribal scene. Different flavour to north London. Anyone remember Lady Floes in Deptford? (Old fur factory) or the more famous cooltan in coldharbour lane? Great times indeed!

Janet Brodrick-Ward said...

I was looking for my old school that was Priory Grove Girls School near Stockwell tube station where I had a terrible education and left aged just 15 in the January I think that you should have left in the summer this was 1962 and I was just 15 by one day, could you imaging that today, Our school did not take any o;levels or GCSE or any a levels, I wonder if there is anyone out there who also went to this school please excuse my spelling I have dyslexia and found that our at 34 when I first read a book contact me janetbrodrickward@gmail,com thanks

ninatranter said...

we lived in stockwell park cres and opened priory grove and brixton dole office with other squatters we didnt care about money and normally opened places put on seminal parties/gigs then let the breadheads take over also want to remember mick riddle who died at 10yr anniversary at 121 anarchist bookshop on railton road anok stuart

Transpontine said...

Hi Stuart, remember you and Nina from that time. I was at 121 helping with that party when Mick Riddle died, I didn't know him personally but it was very sad. There's quite a few posts here which mention the 121 Centre here. Neil

ninatranter said...

Hi Transpontine, we have lost a lot of our fellow compadres over the years... seems this was a battle we were destined to lose, but what times we had on the way!
I remember one great gig, (with a back story) at the Dole Office, Brixton. 2000 DS had turned up too drunk to punk, had a fight with RDF on the stage, and nicked another bands microphone at the end of their dreadful set. Word went out across the river that South London were saying DS were total pants. Well their ears must have been burning because somehow they got the message, (carrier pigeon perhaps?). Not being the types to take drunken slurrs lightly they re-massed and, turning up sober the next week, unannounced, took to the stage with a point of honor to prove and played an absolute blinder, blowing everyone else off the cobbled together tables that passed for a stage at that point. Not sure 'bout the microphone mind! I like to think that it re-appeared, as if by magic, too! Not only all that but,us women did the door and even managed to get the Wood Green crew to pay up that night, unheard of - we're talking brew crew bruisers, with a bad version of a good day to die... for someone else that is. Mutoid wasters with one foot in their graves, really put the zap on ... oh sorry wandered off topic there (apologies for Vague-nes) Mad Max visions replay to a skipping beat - drones and strobes make dream machine rorschats flutter behind the eyes. Remember the gym at Priory grove, you could swing on the ropes and bars. I did the fluo skeleton paintings along the wall in there., watch them dance... and the gyroscope, that used to be everywhere, in fact I think Stuart spent a lost weekend trapped in that thing.

Re - the money bit, we always tried to make a profit as the gigs were benefits and what may have looked like chaos did take a lot of work to get together. The general rule was no one got paid to play or to help run the bar, cafe, door, security on the night or for skipping for veg - all free from New Covent Garden skips, - stage building, decorating etc.etc. Any one was welcome to muck in and help run stuff. Everyone was expected to pay in for a benefit, at least a donation, including us I seem to remember.
The idea was to make back all the beer money & costs for the next gig and to have made money on top for the benefit. The choice of benefit was usually chosen by whoever was in charge of the particular event. The Hunt Sabs ran a regular cafe. Gigs were often for squatters advice groups,prisoner benefits (Poll Tax, Strangeways & political) and groups might come along and run an event.
Everybody wanted a chance to run a cafe or gig and some were a lot more successful at it than others! My thought was that if you didn't let people have a go then how would they learn that they could do it. We would have a lot of lively meetings, there were always hierarchies and cliques rising and falling, there were big talkers and quiet do-ers, fights and arguing was a staple of every meeting, it was a crazy experiment really, probably a miracle we ever managed to put an event together at all! But hey, we tried, and we had some great nights but the no leaders approach surely took a mental toll and an awful lot of thrashing out to get a result! Running a caff at a free festival/rave was a lot easier on the brain and we did that for a good few years more until the free festies began to go the way of the moa.... but thats another story.. (Nina puts down pipe and slippers, vacates rocking chair & heads for bed).

Anonymous said...

Hey Nina, Priory was my first rave. I went to the one that got busted. I have a vivid recollection of the Day-Glo skeletons. I dropped a bit of acid, went in there and there was early jungle techno sounds on. Was quite surreal. I remember being on the stairs when the police tried breaking in, and everyone singing 'your name not Dan, you're not coming in' We also ended up on the roof during the bust. It was a life changing moment for me. Thanks to all of you who put it on x