The story of Villa Road, a squatted street, during the heyday of squatting in the late 1970s, when all over the country people lived together in politicised communities. These squatters were on the left, and were part of a generation whose views were underwritten by Marxist ideology. They believed that the revolution was coming and the state would be overthrown.
Villa Road in south London brought together an extraordinary community of over 200 people.
“The idea was that there would be a revolution. One was always a little bit vague about exactly what form that might take in Britain, maybe a general strike or whatever. It sounds and it was wildly utopian.”
Mike Reid, Villa Roader
Anarchists mixed with hippies and feminists, and homeless single mothers rubbed shoulders with marxist revolutionaries. The core group in Villa Road were white middle-class graduates. These politicised intellectuals with allegiances to various left-wing groups led the Villa Roaders in all their anti-capitalist campaigns.
Villa Roaders were against the nuclear family, which they felt denied the full potential of the individual. They were antagonistic to the police, who they viewed as an embodiment of the state. They identified politically with the working class, and supported striking workers. These were also the early days of feminism, and women on Villa Road struggled to free themselves from male domination by attending consciousness-raising groups and Marxist reading groups. As well as engaging in political activism, some on Villa Road were interested in transforming their unconscious minds through psychotherapy. This took an extreme form at number 12, which was a primal scream commune, run by the charismatic and wholly untrained Jenny James, who now runs a commune in Colombia and gives a rare interview in this film.
In the hot summer of 1976, the Villa Roaders barricaded the street to fend off eviction and demolition. They won a partial victory: half of the street was saved and still stands today. The communist revolution, however, failed to materialise.
The film also documents London’s most long-standing squatted community, St Agnes Place, a street close to Villa Road. They fought eviction and demolition for over 30 years, and were finally evicted by the council only recently, in December 2005.