‘Camesquat’: Squatters at Camelot’s Hoxton HQ boycott meeting to discuss ‘community centre’ compromise
PUBLISHED: 16:18 03 October 2016 | UPDATED: 10:22 04 October 2016
Bosses at anti-squatting firm Camelot say they will help set up a community centre at their occupied Hoxton HQ – despite the fact none of the squatters turned up for scheduled talks this morning.
Activists set up camp in Camelot’s old offices in Westland Place last Monday, saying their occupation – dubbed “Camesquat” – was to highlight the homelessness crisis in the UK.
They also complained “property guardians” – short-term tenants who pay Camelot for the right to live in empty, often non-residential buildings – are not getting a good deal and do not have full tenancy rights.
One of their other demands was that the estimated 1.5million empty buildings in the UK to be used for temporary accommodation and arts activities – and they spoke about holding art and theatre workshops, yoga classes, exhibitions and acoustic concerts at the Shoreditch building.
In an unexpected move last week Camelot’s chief operating officer Mike Goldsmith invited the Camesquat collective to stay and establish the arts and culture space.
"I remember them saying: ‘We want to do an acoustic workshop.’ Since then we’ve been working continuously to get them what they want and they didn’t have the courtesy to turn up – but it’s not to say we won’t go ahead"
The plans were to have been discussed this morning at Camelot’s new offices in Ramsgate Street, Dalston – but the squatters failed to turn up.
Three security guards were on hand in case there was any trouble, and notepads, pens and briefing sheets had been laid out.
Camelot’s sales manager Edward Fenner said he had been up since 4.30am preparing and Mr Richards had allegedly flown into the country to attend.
Mr Fenner had come up with his own suggestions for the cultural project – one a 15-year-old musician DJ Rets, who he had seen performing at Westfield yesterday and another musician Ren he met in Brighton.
He told the Gazette: “I remember them saying: ‘We want to do an acoustic workshop.’ Since then, we have been working continuously to get them what they want and they didn’t have the courtesy to turn up – but it’s not to say we won’t go ahead.
“It’s disappointing. It was their stated aim. They could have been part of it.”
In an email sent to the Gazette at 1am this morning, the squatters said that they could not “envisage doing a deal with a company like this”, and accused them of “spin doctoring” the situation.
They objected to restrictions which Camelot insisted would have to be met to obtain permission for the arts space, which included removing posters in the window about homelessness and property guardianship, as well as not smoking in the property, having no more than two visitors at a time, or pets. Mr Goldsmith said the smoking rule was intended for safety purposes.
“We tried to be friends and look at their objectives but they decided we weren’t being truthful,” he said.
“They can’t know whether we were being truthful because they didn’t know what we would have offered. The intention was to debate and come up with a positive way forward.”
He added: “I can’t comment on the legal route – the intention was to avoid the legal route.”
A spokesperson from SquASH (Squatters Action for Secure Homes) said in a statement: “Property guardian companies undermine the rights of all tenants, stop squatters using empty buildings for social purpose, and create a situation where their residents are robbed of their rights and money.”
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