This was the moment that artists occupying Ambassador House had all their possessions unceremoniously dumped on the pavement outside as they were evicted in an early morning raid after taking up occupation in the building over six months ago.
The adventure was over for the collective calling themselves CR7 Studio who had already received one stay of execution when Red Wing which owns the building mucked up the eviction paperwork and the judge at Croydon County Court last October ordered it be reissued.
However, at the next hearing and still with no legal representation the group’s objections were futile.
Officers from the County Enforcement Group smashed their way through doors making more of a mess than the occupants ever did. They were forced to wheel away belongings in shopping trollies. Another woman said she had to leave her possessions inside including heirlooms such as family photos because she had no where to go and couldn’t take her ‘stuff with her.’
There were around 11 people living in the office block which has stood empty for six years and many more using the space for art projects.
A public exhibition of the studio’s work had been planned but was cancelled because the occupants heeded heath and safety warnings and even issued visitors badges to guests who had to sign in on arrival.
One woman explained how the space had given her the confidence to share her poetry and had performed at the Well Versed spoken word nights at Boxpark. Others carried away paintings and art they had created during their time in the 1960s building offeringideal work spaces with vast open plan rooms which had long ago been busy offices occupied by a nursery, police, and council staff.
Since being brought by property developer Said Bashir, at auction for under £300,000, it had sat empty a refuge for pigeons many who had got trapped and died on the faeces stained carpets.
Julian King, one of the founding members of CR7 Studios, which had recently become a registered company and was under new management, said: “For me it has been a journey and a half, headache, heartache, love, hope, promise, fire… everything all in one.”
There are still many reminders of the buildings passed history. One floor was used as fostering agency and still has the nameplate on the door, another a foreign language college teaching English, where the owners left in such a hurry that applications with copies of students passports, pictures and details were abandoned in filing cabinets and on the floor.
Insecure and unmanned by security the building doesn’t even have emergency lighting and was a prime candidate to be occupied, with squatters saying they hadn’t needed to break in and simply climbed in through an open window.Not everyone saw the occupation as an improvement with some walls daubed in graffiti visible from the street outside and in recent weeks noisy Saturday night parties had led to complaints from surrounding residents and resulted in a noise abatement notice issued.
However, there’s no doubt it was a safe space. Natalie Cafun, an art student ensured there were no drug paraphernalia or needles allowed. For her it was a ‘creative experience’. She acted as a curator with one floor of Ambassador House set aside as a creative space with a gallery and workshop. It was clean and organised with a kitchen where the occupants shared food they cooked. They had also just finished a new space complete with artistically draped furnishings and polished flooring .The metal door between the old Barclay’s and Love Etsy became their front door and even had a bell on it.
As the corridor outside filled with canvases and possessions in bin bags and boxes; the mood was sombre but the group were defiant looking for the next empty building, to call home . As for Ambassador House, which has now been boarded up, its future remains the same empty. A number of windows are open and the lights on at night but no one can call it home.