Brick Lane Squat Party

London 3-4th April 1999 - what it meant for me

The Brick Lane party

The story of the "window jumper"

The "window jumper" incident as it became known was an important turning point for me which had a dramatic impact on my career and the rest of my life.

First, an important bit of background to all this. At the time of the Brick Lane party I was going through a tough time at work.

I'd recently been transferred between departments at the college where I worked and had been in Creative Arts since the previous September. I was the media tech, responsible for audio visual, which included the newly emerging video editing, something which had until very recently been a very expensive technology and the preserve of "industry professionals". That's an important term because one of the teachers considered herself to be one and I was an outsider apparently.

I came to call this individual "Miss Piggy" because of her attitude to me.

I met with utter hostility from this person and another teacher who went by a different name. We would have meetings with the boss where these two "industry professionals" would listen to my ideas and then argue against them. I didn't know then that they were husband and wife.

Anyway things got even more and more hostile because I was very enthusiastic about the potential of IT in the industry. This was 1999 of course, Windows 98 was new, the whole thing was in its infancy but I was going to trade shows and seeing the first signs of the revolution I thought was going to revolutionise the industry. I was right as it turned out, but Miss Piggy was having none of it.

The line was "It will undermine specialisms", IT was to be resisted.

At the end of summer 1998 I had a big row with her and was put on disciplinary. By March I was in deep trouble and moves were afoot to get rid of me. I was facing a big meeting which I assumed I wasn't going to win. I was not optimistic about the future.

With all this going on, raving was proving to be a huge stress relief and if truth be known, pure escapism.

So it was I went to this huge squat party in Brick Lane in London. Squat parties are not places of moderation and I was pretty much wallied come the morning. Then the accident happened, right in front of me.

In retrospect I think the real things of value I did were to get things under control, to stop him being moved and to remove a large bit of broken glass which was just about to do some serious damage, after that others came and helped. But that was all important, had I not done that he would have died, no doubt about it. I had kept calm enough to do this in what was a very stressful situation. I only just managed to do this, it pushed me right to the edge of my ability to cope, I had nothing left to give.

So when it was all over I came home a bit of a gibbering wreck suffering from PTSD. Luckily I mentioned it to the H&S officer at work and he and the nurse got me to talk about it and to tell all. That helped a lot, as did getting into touch with the lad who had been released from hospital after a couple of days and - through another of the amazing coincidences that seemed to happen so often back then - I bumped into him in London two or three weeks later at the cannabis carnival in south London where his friends recognised me.

Anyway, shortly after that I was hauled in for the big Miss piggy meeting, a showdown with management where I was subjected to a real attack on my ability and fitness for the post, they attacked my character, my attitude to the authority of the teachers and they rubbished the idea that one machine would be used for many different functions as it would "undermine specialism" and so on. The metaphorical dark clouds were closing in and I was close to breaking down, which of course is what they wanted. But as the dark clouds were closing in, I was transported back to that trashed office block, the people standing around, the smells and the kid on the floor and the sun came out in my mind: If I could deal with that, this grilling was nothing, who the hell do these people think they are? I knew more about IT and the industry developments than they did and I wasn't going to take this shit.

So I started defending myself, I ignored the attacks on my character and pointed out that industry experience with film and reel to reel tape recording ten years ago just wasn't relevant to what was coming, I talked about the developments I'd seen in computer based editing and how it was going to transform the industry - kids would have this kit in their bedrooms in a few years and the college had to plan for that, which of course has happened. I was talking about the future and said all the right things and I won, the meeting fell to bits and they didn’t know what to do.

There then followed years of standoff between myself and these teachers, but I was left alone. A couple of years later a new boss came along but didn’t have clue what to do so he did nothing. So I was left to help students with  editing in HD and make recordings of live events and generally have fun in the job, It wasn't until much later another new boss came along and sorted it out and  miss Piggy and hubby were gone. I won, there’s no doubt these bullies damaged my career, but I made up for lost time

So I can thank the squat party for giving me the biggest lesson about who I was and what I am capable of when push comes to shove. Without that terrible experience I would have lost my job and never would have had the confidence in myself that I discovered I had.

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