The ‘Ex Grand Banks’ squatted social centre at 156-158 Fortess Road, Tufnell Park, North London, was opened on March 4th 2004.
“Our new squat in London is the winner of the flashiest squatted building ever award. It is in an ex-wine bar and is a great space with lots of room. We are getting a lot of interest from the people living near the squat, especially local kids and youngsters. We have been providing things they have asked for, including cheap schooltime lunches.”
Some of those involved had previously had some involvement with the squatted Institute for Autonomy in Bloomsbury, and another short-lived social centre down in Tufnell Park, which was evicted almost immediately before the former Grand Banks building was occupied.
The social centre had proven to be one of the most successful squatted community projects for some time, and hosted many events in its short but active life – including meetings of the anti-capitalist Wombles, talks and discussions on all sorts of active movements and struggles, plus an anti-copyright cinema every Friday, free Radio skill sharing and screen-printing workshops, numerous benefits and a regular café…
It had played host to some world-renowned musicians and singers and provided a valuable meeting place for many campaigns. Due to the involvement of some of the collective in organising against the G8 summit and other actions, there was some unhealthy police attention and surveillance. On July 17th, the latest Wombles social centre, the ex-Grand Banks in Tufnell Park, successfully resisted the bailiffs first attempt to reposses the building.
A week before the eviction, a police surveillance and intimidation operation was reported outside the social centre against a meeting for autonomous and self organised spaces for the european social forum due to be held in London in October.
In August 2004, forty police along with about 30 bailiffs smashed down the front door of the occupied social centre at 5.30 in the morning. The small number of people inside were searched and police intelligence teams filmed and photographed peoples notebooks and much of the other paper based material they could find.
Some of the Ex-Grand Banks crew went on to organise another high profile social centre, ‘The Square’, in Russell Square in 2005.
An entry in the 2016 London Rebel History Calendar – check it out online