Links to parts: One, Two and Three.
Presented below is a collection of 20 pictures celebrating Pansas the home, and the people who made it what it was.
After a two week break caused by lack of internet, I present the fourth and final part of my goodbye to Pansas.
Links to parts: One, Two and Three.
As well as being a unique and extraordinary space, Pansas was a home. Over four years this building provided shelter for hundreds of people - living there or just passing through - and the people of Pansas defined, decorated and adapted the space to fit their lives.
Presented below is a collection of 20 pictures celebrating Pansas the home, and the people who made it what it was.
In the last few months some attempts were made to bring some order to the insanity of the Pansas electric wiring. I made some records of the cables before they were replaced.
Yes. The notices above are hanging from an electric cable.
And shown below is a creative combination of water pipe, electric cable and screw.
Alongside the charming quirks of the Pansas wiring system. Each of the appliances had their own special eccentricities. One set of electric hobs would become completely electrically charged when on, electrocuting any unsuspecting soul who touched a pan that was on it, or for example put their finger in the water to see if it was getting hot. The other hob could only be switched off by unplugging it. One of the ovens had a broken timer and would keep cooking forever unless stopped, the other had a shelf that was too big for it and sat at an angle inside (allowing me to produce some fine wedge shaped cakes).
I wrote the following text in March:
To boil the kettle on our floor follow these simple instructions. First find a bowl and a colander. Place the bowl on top of the fridge then upend the colander and balance it on top of the bowl. Next balance the electric base for the kettle on the colander. Fill the kettle and transport it quickly to the fridge, trailing water as you go. Put the kettle on its base and boil as usual. Once it is done QUICKLY use your boiled water before it dribbles into the bowl. Once you have your water, tip the rest away and remove the kettle from it's base to stop it continually turning itself back on again and boiling itself dry.
Using the washing machine involved a head torch, a big metal pole and a long screw.
Oh Pansas, how I miss you.
During the time I lived in Pansas, (evicted in September, see previous post) the house was constantly changing. Being adapted and recreated by the people who lived in it.
Some of the people who stayed as guests painted pictures on the walls.
In August we created a free shop in a previously unused corridor.
And each time I photographed a scene or a room it was different to the previous time. Below I share with you some of the ever changing spaces of this evolving house.
Sometimes walls changed colour.
Over the course of August 2013, this bedroom was recreated as a hacklab. The frame for the beds was reused to create a gymn in another part of the house.
This room evolved throughout my stay. As a bedroom it changed hands continuously from Feb 2013. It was my room for a while (when I took the above photo) and was used by others before and after me.
It lost a wall ad became an enlarged living room in June 2013.
In July 2013 we were expecting an eviction that came two months later. The night before the eviction date the house got stripped of useful stuff and this space was left as above.
In August a massive fumigation action in the house stripped this room bare and it was still awaiting transformation into something new in early September.
In August this room became the Art and Meditation room.
Our living room also experienced the 'pre-eviction clearance' in July and was left as above. However August brought order.
As you can see, even the light fitting got sorted out. The work of resolving the chaos that was the Pansas electrical wiring was being carried out throughout August. I took some pictures of the wiring as it was before, and will blog them very soon. Watch this space...
The crazy beautiful house that was my home for the last 6 months was evicted on Thursday 26 September. Standing in the heart of Barcelona between the Rambla and the beach, Pansas had been a squat for four years. After a year of existing under a continual threat of eviction Pansas has finally succumbed to the aggressive gentrification policy which has been driving the local population and the squatters further out into the margins of the city.
Over the next few days I will share more of my photos and stories about this place. I present below a text I wrote in June during one of the many recent eviction threats, alongside some photos of this eccentric squat.
11 June 2013
Pansas is a 6 or 7 story house in the middle of the old city. It is a shambolic building originally divided into a number of self-contained flats, with some floors falling through , some floors held up with old scaffolding braces, no doors anywhere (sheets separate the rooms) and an ever changing population of 15-30 people.
If the people who come and go in this house share a singe trait with the permanent population, it is music. Most of the people in the house play guitar, some sing. In the two months I've spent in this house out of the last 4, I have heard drums, bass guitar, saxophone, cello, accordion, trombone and people beating out rhythms on every possible surface.
The sound of a voice raised in song or the strumming of a guitar is usually drifting through the house, carried onto every floor by the light well that runs up the middle of the building and facilitated in it's passage by the building's lack of doors. Casual jam-sessions develop in people's bedrooms, kitchens, hallways and living rooms producing a continuous background hum of punk, blues, flamenco and anything else that comes to mind.
This untidy, musical house sits incongruously in the heart of the old city of Barcelona. It is surrounded by recently refurbished hotels and flats and peers down upon boutiques and restaurants aimed at the tourists.
They fill the nearby streets and squares, queuing for museums, herded by tour guides, wandering lost in the alleyways, eating ice-cream and photographing everything. Most of the public squares in this neighbourhood have been colonised by the tables of cafes filled with foreign visitors who drink and pour over the multilingual menus, and are waited on by locals who can no longer afford to use the squares.
The city's economic strategy is clear. Barcelona is on sale to the tourist industry. It is a vibrant city of sunshine, bars, beautiful buildings, beaches and fascinating historical tales. It has Gaudi, Picasso, Miro and Dali. In a country for which 'la crisi' has become shorthand for six years of shrinking economy, growing unemployment, falling wages, rising prices and hundreds of thousands of families evicted due to mortgage defaults, there is little future in trying to sell to the local population. If all the money has coalesced into the hands of a small number of wealthy foreigners then you may as well convince them to come and give it back in exchange for sea view, culture and tapas.
To those of a business mind, the city's strategy is a success. Businesses that are aimed at tourists thrive, property prices and the prices in bars and cafes are kept high. Jobs exist for those who can speak enough English to serve the tourists. The city still feels alive and money can still be made. The only price paid is that the heart of the city no longer belongs to those who live here.
Housing is systematically converted to hotels, bars double their prices, squats are closed down and forced out of the centre because they make the place look untidy, despite their invaluable provision of free clothes, free food and free emergency accommodation to those in need. Local grocers are replaced by yet more ice-cream shops. The entry price for local museums rises above the means of the local population. The only truly affordable things you can buy round here are postcards.
If you walk through the narrow bustling streets of the 'Gothic Quarter' it is easy to decide that this is a price worth paying for the visible prosperity of the city. The hotels and cafes are prospering, the bars are full, the streets are alive with the sounds of foreign voices. Barcelona is an excellent holiday destination. Why should it not benefit from that?
But before you draw your conclusions, take another look around you. See the chatarreras pushing their bundles of scrap through the streets. They go through the bins looking for anything of value and loading them into shopping trolleys. There are more of them now than there used to be and you see more and more as you go out from the city centre, but I guess the centre must produce some good scrap because once you start to notice them you will see them on every walk you make.
And wait with me a while, until the evening when the food shops start to put out their rubbish. See the orderly queue forming outside the bakery, see the people walking the streets with bags and boxes, hoping to collect enough that they can eat tomorrow. See the people rummaging through half rotten fruit for the edible remnants. Come with me as a group from Pansas offers a free meal - cooked with food reclaimed from bins - in one of the few squares that are still controlled by the local people. See the mother and her children shyly approach, see them eat as though it was the first time that day, see the gratitude and shame in their faces as they are given enough vegetables to see them through tomorrow.
And now it is dark and the bin men are doing their rounds, collecting what's been left by the hungry and the chatarreras. Walk past some banks with me and look inside. See that man sleeping there? Usually the people sleeping in the banks have been evicted for mortgage non-payment, homeless, helpless and held liable for their full remaining debt, their last protest is to 'occupy' the bank, refusing to leave until they receive some justice.
The tourist businesses thrive but it is only the business owners who prosper. In a country with a minimum wage at about 2/3 of that of the UK [see reference bellow] and suffering 60% youth unemployment the staff of these businesses can be asked to work for painfully low wages and if they complain there will always be someone desperate enough to take their place. The local people are forced out of their homes with rent increases and price hikes and their old apartments are replaced with yet more luxury hotels. The squats are evicted. The free public spaces are gradually privatised. If too many people are seen to be eating from the bins, the local council puts locks on them.
So the building next door to Pansas has just finished it's refurbishment into a hotel. This beautiful, chaotic, living home filled with musicians is no longer ignorable, it may put off some of the tourists who are looking for a more sanitised 'cultural holiday'. And so the warning letters have arrived, Pansas will be evicted this weekend or next week. Like so many of the people from Barcelona centre they will be driven out to the fringes of the city where their poverty and their creativity can no longer be seen by the holiday makers.
Today - 11 October 2013
And now the threat has been realised. Pansas is no more.
With the loss of Pansas the city centre has become a more ordered and much less interesting place.
Goodbye Pansas, I love you.
Links & references
Minimum wage info from here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_minimum_wages_by_country
Difficult to make a direct comparison because Spain's wage is based upon the monthly rate for a 40hr/week job and the UK uses an hourly rate but roughly: Spain's wage is €9265.60 per year to the UK's €13,927.20.
Interesting discussion of gentrifiction and the 'Barcelona model' here: http://brianholmes.wordpress.com/2008/12/06/megagentrification/
On a rainy Sunday afternoon in September I paid a visit to a little community called Grow Heathrow.
Grow Heathrow is situated in West Drayton, just West of London in a village called Sipson. Sipson is one of the villages selected as the future home of Heathrow's controversial third runway and faces complete demolition when the airport extension plans are realised.
In response to these destructive and environmentally disastrous plans, a group of environmental campaigners called Transition Heathrow came to Sipson on March 1st 2010 and occupied an abandoned market garden called Berkley Nurseries. The site had been empty for a long time and had become a derelict dumping ground for unwanted trash and a popular site for drug use and other anti-social behaviour. The Grow Heathrow website explains what happened next:
'30 tonnes of rubbish were cleared and over two years later the site has been transformed from a derelict mess into a beacon of community strength and a great example of how to live sustainably on this planet.'
Grow Heathrow grows vegetables for the local community, provides eco-workshops an art space and a free shop. They run open days every Sunday, bike fixing workshops every Wednesday, foraging Fridays and other regular and one-off activities (see here for timetable: http://www.transitionheathrow.com/events/)
'Through four free workshops every week, we have taught each other how to grow food with all ages, how to depend on each other as equals instead of depending on fossil fuels, and how to resist the polluting third runway. Each relationship established builds bridges of hope for life. Each heart that falls in love with the land fuels a body willing to keep it safe.'
The people there live communally and autonomously and are completely off grid - getting their power from solar panels and other sustainable sources and they campaign tirelessly against the third runway and other environmentally destructive activities. As they explain:
'Our objective is to build permanent and sustainable communities within threatened areas to offer and show a viable alternative to the bulldozing of green spaces, houses, lives and history.'
They are also very friendly and their space is welcoming and homely, ingeniously combining interior and exterior spaces so it is impossible to say where the living room ends and the garden begins. Their online wishlist includes: sleeping bags, climate justice and spoons.
This community is currently under threat of eviction. On July 3rd 2013 they lost their appeal against a possession order and the owner can now seek an eviction order and send the bailiffs in to remove them.
They have an appeal on their website looking for funds to help with their ongoing legal defense, or for messages of solidarity, or for people to come and join them and help them continue to resist and to exist.
London will be a poorer place psychologically and environmentally if this beautiful community is pushed out and and is replaced with tarmac and planes. But don't take my word for it. Go see them yourself. Relax among the pumpkins, browse the free shop, make some art, drink some tea and help them to plan a brighter future.
See more about Grow Heathrow here: http://www.transitionheathrow.com/grow-heathrow/
See a breakdown of Heathrow's three expansion proposals here: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/jul/17/heathrow-third-runway-expansion-proposals