good for bristol

Friday, 5 April 2013

Stokes Croft Free Shop evicted after fire

Yay - at last!  The sorry saga of the shit-soaked rat-infested rubbish tip the Free Shop had become is finally over.

A fire in a neighbouring building on Wednesday night / Thursday morning caused the attending fire officers to look inside the Free Shop.  On seeing the piled-up rubbish, sketchy electrics, half-blocked stairs and dazed inhabitants the brave fire service staff ordered everyone out.  Quite what the legal basis was is unclear but hey, fire officers come equipped with hoses and axes and are shouty so generally get their way. 

Later on Thursday bailiffs turned up, checked the building was empty and secured it.  As the bailiffs had a full possession order obtained by the owner at the start of March the legal basis for this is totally clear and unarguable.

The building is due to change hands to a new owner in May and this will wipe any court orders so could be squatted again then.

What was amazing about the Free Shop is the concept worked.  It got lots of support and people bringing in stuff to donate.  And a lot of people found it a really useful resource for household stuff, clothes, books or just a place to hang out.  It's obvious the demand is there.  Everyone involved in this aspect of the Free Shop can deservedly pat themselves on the back.

What went wrong is also obvious.  No-one was in charge and BHAM filled the place up with junkies and mad people.  Nothing wrong with junkies and mad people but you can't run a project in a druggy, crazy squat.  People who want to set up and run projects should have a think first.  Can you / your crew make tough, unpopular decisions and enforce them?  If not your project will get taken over by people who can and they won't be nice, friendly hippies who take out the rubbish and make good neighbours.

1 comment:

  1. Well said. The Free Shop could have been a huge success and was a great concept, let down by the weirdos that infest Bristiol's activist movement. I once mad the mistake of speaking to one of the strange people who seemed to pop up there. She was rude, barely functional and very possibly on Class A's.

    There is another reason why the Free Shop was flawed in execution, and you have touched on it - reputable charity shops, even down to the smallest thrift store like the Methodist Centre on Old Market, spend time disinefecting clothes by steaming them. This is to control bed bugs, lice and other nasties that might lurk in donations, however well meaning the donors might be. The Free Shop had no such checks and as such I know quite a few people that could never bring themselves to take any fabric or textiles from there.