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The Drive Housing Co-operative at 8 The Drive, E17 3BW

Interview with Phil and Jess 13/08/23
Running time 38 minutes 25 seconds

A Little Essay on Comunal Living by David

The piece of paper that I handed around before the interview just explained the difference, as I see it, between a communal group and a cooperative. I wanted to open up the topic and find out how the people at 8 The Drive viewed what they were doing; whether they saw it as a deliberate life choice for a way of life that attracted them or simply as an answer to the need to find somewhere to live, now that the combined forces of local politics and big business have priced out the traditional communities of London and turned it into a city for the rich. The attack on the whole notion of rent control and later of social housing that started with Harold Macmillan's 1957 government and was consolidated in Margaret Thatcher's 1980 Housing Act has developed into a sophisticated policy reversing that of Robin Hood by stealing from the poor and giving it to the rich, both here and overseas. If youíre not well-heeled and willing to dedicate at least half of your lifetime earnings to owning a little concrete box in the sky donít come to London. I call it The London Clearances in memory of the ones in the Scottish highlands in the 18th and 19th centuries.

But I digress. My own most significant experience of communal living happened when I was a student in Belfast. Along with my then girlfriend and another couple we rented a large but run-down house near Queens University, and, to cut a long story short, became what would now be called a polyamorous group, although we didnít know the word back then. We were very strong together and ran the student newspaper as well as several departments of the Students Union and a satirical pirate radio station. The other man was named Roger Green, a history student and enthusiastic disciple of Gerrard Winstanley, the 17th century political theorist and originator of The Diggers commune at St. George's Hill in Surrey which was imitated elsewhere. (Read about them).

I absolutely loved this way of life, and tried to create something similar when I came to London, but success was always partial and short-lived.

This was an era of idealism and positivity, with the hippies of Calfornia determined to build a new society of love and peace, equality and personal freedom and writers like E. F. Schumacher, Murray Bookchin, Thomas Szasz and A.S. Neil assuring us that it was all completely possible. Like Martin Luther King, we had a dream.

But times have changed. The dreams have grown faint or vanished. When you are at your witís end worrying about where to live you arenít going to put too much thought into how to live. Respect though to anybody who is still seriously considering the question.


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Telephone number: 020 8521 5433

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