Monday, 21 February 2011

A personal account of the rave that never was

As one of the people up till the wee hours on Sat night working to protect the EMD, I thought I’d give an account of what happened…

One of our Cleveland Park residents noticed vans going into the Arcade site at 9ish (the rubble car park bit behind the blue hoardings). They seemed to have replaced the gate padlock with their own, they said they were squatters and they put up a fancy legal notice on the gate saying they intended to live there and couldn’t be evicted. Police said they couldn’t do much at that stage.

We contacted the police and also the council and MP. Within half an hour council leader Chris Robbins was here on site marshalling council officers to take action. Shortly after that, the squatters were seen to cut through the big metal fence between the Arcade site and the back of the EMD. It became clear that they intended to occupy the cinema and hold an illegal rave (there was one there in 2003, very soon after the UCKG church took possession of the building).

Stella Creasy, MP arrived soon after and together she and Chris did a great job of getting council officers and police to act fast and smart. Council workers used vans to block the entrances to the Arcade site which meant no more vans could get in. Police manned the front of the cinema and, once they had permission to do so, began stopping more people from entering. The council’s noise team arrived and served a legal notice against loud music.

Ultimately we think the rave was prevented because the squatters failed to get their generator inside so they didn’t have enough power for a sound system. We saw a generator on a van circling the block unable to get in. With no music, it was the rave that never was.

A hell of a lot of people did arrive though – the word having presumably been sent out on Facebook, text, etc – hundreds of people arrived on the last tube and then wondered around aimlessly looking for the party. Some snuck into the building, others wandered around like zombies. The most unfortunate ones got caught in conversation with Stella passionately trying to persuade them all to leave our beautiful Grade II* listed cinema in peace so we can crack on with the business of saving it!

As I understand it, the Arcade site is now secure and just 10-20 squatters remain in the cinema, hopefully leaving soon. I’ll leave it to others (Stella, Bill from McGuffins) who went inside to report on the condition of the cinema. But I believe that – while there was superficial damage like graffiti from this and the 2003 rave – the far more worrying thing was the state of disrepair that the UCKG have let the building get into.

Finally, I can’t praise council leader Cllr Chris Robbins and MP Stella Creasy enough. Our most senior politicians coming along in person definitely spurred the police and council officers into working fast and working smart. It’s clear that, together with great work from police and council officers, we averted a massive rave that would have damaged the cinema more.

Chris has a reputation for being a man of action and Stella has a reputation for being a woman of action. They both earned those reputations on Saturday night by working into the early hours of the morning, in the freezing cold, to protect the cinema. And now we look to them both to work with the community to secure the future of the EMD – to force the UCKG church to repair the cinema and to support plans to restore it as a cinema/arts venue.

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