Thursday, April 16, 2009

Remembering Pyrmont Squats.

I once lived on Pyrmont Point from 1978 to 1990 in a bunch of old workers' cottages that had been squatted by an eclectic gang of libertarians, artists, misfits and junkies. It was another of my great universities of survival and fun, I had the wildest of times, nothing as terrible as Northcott Concentration Camp, and for all the fear and punch-ups that we experienced I never regretted a moment of it. We'd tried for years to get the Sydney City Council to renovate the houses and give them to us to run as an artists' co-operative and they blew smoke up our collective butts, interminably promising to come to the party but at the end knocked us back and moved us all into public housing instead.

For all those years the Council had tried many times to evict us and bulldoze the houses, tearing the roofs off some domiciles so we couldn't live in them and causing them to rot further. Many times they sent the police in to terrorize us but we bluffed and beat them off every time and managed to keep the heritage-worthy mid-19th century structures standing, fixing the leaky roofs so they didn't tumble into the mire. As noted from my raves, I've since lived in Northcott for the last twenty years and always refused to go back down to Pyrmont Point to check out the renovations, being heart-broken at their loss and furious at the Council's betrayal. But last night, to console me for my beating by the ICE troll, a friend drove me down there to reminisce on old times.

I was shocked to see the small city built there, countless deluxe apartment buildings, the Star-city Casino, the Theater Wharves, even the tacky old Wayside Terrace up on the hill, home to the council-worker rednecks that had harassed us squatters for a decade, now turned into a post-modern/art deco wonderland. But the biggest shock was what had been done to the old block of squats. All renovated into lovely townhouses, their old structure hidden under new materials and hardly recognizable. Except for my quaint little cottage at No 6 Scott St. which I'd clung to for 12 years like a hairy barnacle.

It was exactly the same as it had been for 150 years only painted nicely, new windows and complete roof. In my days the roof had constantly leaked and a waterfall had poured down the walls like an art-effect. The little house next door had also been preserved but on the other side of me they'd renovated and gutted the little two-story terraces and turned them into a restaurant named, of all things, "Viva Goa - A Taste of Goa"!!! Talk about synchronicity, I was stunned, the very Indian paradise I'd just spent the last twelve years hiding out in for New Years' Eve techno raves.

My vision of an alternative evolution.
In about 1996, when the renovations had been completed, the press had announced what a wonderful effort at saving heritage buildings the govt bodies had pulled off and proclaimed they'd been left empty for 30 years with nobody loving or caring for them. I was furious and wrote a letter to the S & M Herald, calling them revisionists and filling them in on the real story, we squatters had lived there for fourteen years, and miracle of miracles, they printed the letter. On looking closer at my little cottage I saw a brass plaque that announced the buildings heritage value, told of the politicians who dedicated them, the funding bodies who'd paid for the whole shebang and that they now were used by some Design School for art students to study in. Last but not least the plaque mentioned that squatters had lived there for many years and in so many words saved the place for posterity. Nogod I thought, at last recognition of the truth.

All those battles, all that angst, hassle, labor, pain and joy, we'd even gone to the Supreme Court to get ownership or at least stop them from destroying the quaint architecture. The end result was not too far from what we'd dreamed, preservation and a sanctuary for artists. I got over my bruising from the bashing that day at Northcott from the ICE addict, I felt proud and honored, I had actually influenced the history and design of this mad South Seas Pirate Port City of Sydney, little nobody punk poofy me. Hee hee hee.

The cops yet again come to evict us squatters.

If you enjoyed this story please go to the WEB address above and consider buying my book of tales about growing up anarcho-queer, rock and roll punter and mystic adventurer in Australia and India of the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s.