Today in London educational history: Really Free School put mockney mansions to better uses, 2011

“In this space, aside from the fact that you will not spend one penny inside these doors, you can also come and engage in a collective learning process directed by your own desires, ideas, questions and problems.”

2011 : The Really Free School, a learning collective that opposed the increasing corporatisation and financial demands of organised education, squatted a building owned by ‘film director’, Madonna’s ex, Guy Ritchie, in February 2011…

Guy Ritchie’s recently acquired pile in Fitzroy Square, a former language school was undergoing renovation; however, the collective moved in and began its occupation with a night of film screenings.

They were taken to court very quickly, and lost, despite arguing valiantly against the validity of the eviction notice. Nine of the Really Free School squatters turned up to the City of London County Court wearing Vinnie Jones masks (taking the piss out of ex-footballer, turned ‘actor’, Jones’ appearances in Ritchie’s films).

But the judge rejected their legal arguments… Following which, the squatters staged a farewell party on February 19th 2011, dubbed a “celebration of creative resistance” as bailiffs began moving into the Georgian property, in London’s Fitzroy Square.

Hundreds of supporters gathered in the building for the party, before spilling out into Fitzroy Square.

The squatters had run a daily schedule of events open to the public, including films, workshops and discussions, after moving into the property last weekend, claiming it was being left empty and was a waste of a valuable resource.

Shortly after being evicted members of the collective took over the 200-year-old former Black Horse pub in nearby Rathbone Place, which closed down last year. The four-storey Black Horse had recently been bought by London and Central Estates property magnates, for £1.95 million, with the intention of redeveloping the residential accommodation. The School had previously occupied an empty property in Bloomsbury Square, where they also staged educational events.

The collective’s name was adopted in opposition to the Government’s plans for Free Schools to be set up and run by parents. Opponents claim the scheme will only be taken up by middle-class families and serve to drain resources away from poorer areas.

Quite apart from the worthiness of the Really Free School in itself, the episode also had the benefit of winding up the repulsive mockney Ritchie – a man who once enjoyed posing as a cockney geezer, and making gangster movies, despite growing up in a mansion as the stepson of a baron and being related to various aristos and royals… Saddo.  

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An entry in the 2016 London Rebel History Calendar – check it out online

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