Brougham Road, Hackney, London E8

I had an idea of setting out some history of this road in the then, wasteland of Hackney, between the Grand Union Canal and London Fields.

The history has not actually been written yet, as I have no real leads on when the road became a small part of the underground counter-culture. All my leads so far were residing in the road from 1981 when it had already been set up as squatted accomodation.

I would not like to hazzard a guess to how long the road had been active with squats or who was the first person to bust open a door, before the brightly coloured haired visionaries took over the street in the early 1980’s.

I am hoping that some passing comments on this post may start to give me a more detailed view of what I will have to write. For now, a few bits of mail from folk (in no particular order) who were there in the early 1980’s to jog your memories.

J.C. (Treasurer of Co-Op/sometime soundman and security at gigs):

I got there in 1982, so don’t know too much about the early history. I thought the Mob/Zounds crew would be able to help more with that. Or maybe even Hugh, but not sure how much him and the Tibetan hippies would actually be able to remember, or if it would be accurate.

OK – When I got there, co-op was more or less set up. Main culprits were Richard, number 70 I think, a guy up at number 106 whose name I can’t remember and Elizabeth.

The ´face´ for the street was definitely Richard – I think he was going out with Fiona at the time, so again, Hugh might know more about him. He convinced me to become ´administrator´ and later secretary/treasurer /general dogsbody!

I think Patchwork ran several houses, but were (gently) persuaded to hand them over to us! Six houses (at the bottom) were knocked down for road, but this was balanced by 4 ´derelicts´ being brought back into commission.

Loads of money wasted by council (as usual) during repairs. There was a rolling program of repairs to bring all houses to some sort of standard, but some houses were worse after renovation than before.

Josef Porter (Zounds/The Mob/Blyth Power):

The real story happened before we moved in – I heard some of the old hippies squatting there before us hid Astrid Proll from the Baader Meinhof Gang, and other such madness. We just picked up their leftovers. Steve Lake might know more, and you need to find Dave Morris A.K.A. Dave the Anarchist Postman, who predates us all. He was the one in the McLibel case.

Dave Morris:

Well I was squatting in 64 Brougham Rd from 1974-1980. I was a postman in Islington. The house was very run down, with an old outside toilet and a sink for a kitchen. But we decorated the inside with posters, murals, press cuttings and inspiring slogans etc.

I shared the place with Alan, a really decent and quiet young bloke who became an alcoholic in the late 1970s. Alan once got nicked when drunk at a train station wearing my post office jacket and wheeling about a post office trolley with bags of letters on it. This led to a raid on the house and some laughable police hysteria about him and me being in an anarchist train robbers gang… I testified in court that I had known nothing about it (and that probably nor did Alan), but he still got 6 months suspended (Mentioned in Albert Meltzer’s autobiography). After I left I think he went downhill, and last I heard he tragically got run over by a bus.

The other bloke we shared with was Des Kelly from Ireland who I recall was writing a book… I have a mad photo of him trying to ride his bike UP our staircase. I did bump into him in Hackney 15 years later but cant remember what he was doing them.

Spanish Elizabeth was next door I think. Zounds folks moved into my place or next door after I left. I vaguely recall a guy (Bruce?) living at No 66 who did animation and who told me he was working on an amazing path-breaking new film called ‘Star Wars’.. it didn’t sound to me like it would get anywhere with a crap name like that…

There was a very strong Broadway Market Squatters Association (with maybe 50+ homes in it from the area) which met regularly for mutual solidarity and campaigning. I remember we decided to boycott an amnesty offered by the GLC (London Authority) to squatters if we would accept licenses… the Association saw it as a sell out and divide and rule – we were all pretty militant and independent. But eventually many did accept licenses and then formed housing co-ops in order to keep together and survive.

There were lots of radical feminists in the area, many squatting – I admired them a lot. Some were involved in the Women In Manual Trades group. Former german urban guerrilla Astrid Proll did apparently spend some time in the area and many people in the area helped form the Friends of Astrid Proll to campaign for her after she was arrested.

I think a building which had been squatted at the south end of the street sometime in the early 70s became a collectively run playcentre..

There was a revolutionary socialist guy who was a tenant in the tower block at that end of the street and had had some run ins with NF fascists.. I vaguely remember getting involved in anti-fascist stuff in the area, painting out nazi slogans etc…

There was a good community, with squatters, tenants, feminists, anarchists and all age groups and nationalities all mixing and getting along pretty well.

There was famous graffiti on a wall at the end of the street by the market which survived for over 10 years: ‘Broadway Market is not a sinking ship – its a submarine.’  It has been restored in recent years, but unfortunately gentrified a lot. It was amazing to go back there last year after decades away and visit Tony’s cafe which had been there when I was there I think, been evicted in order to be ponced up, and then re-occupied as a high profile squatted political centre opposing gentrification in the area (by some anarchists and ‘Hackney Independent’ activists.. see the Hackney Independent website for full info on this).


I remember the Mob had a house there and they lived next door to Andy from Null and Void (I think the bass player lived there too who’s name if I remember rightly was Mark) and Steve from Yeovil (long dreadlocks).

Rob Vex, Rob Challice, Paul (Faction, This Bitter Lesson and Christie) and J.C. lived at 96 Brougham Road.

Next door was Spanish Elisabeth (who was an old school revolutionary/anarchist type from Spain-hence the name) she later ended up having a kid with J.C. and I lost touch with him.

Neal (original guitarist of Blyth Power) also lived on Brougham Rd with his Mum and his sister Liz (great people) but I’m not sure of the exact number.

I also remember Tim Hutton (ex Mob drummer before Josef and ex-Zounds) living somewhere on Brougham Road great guy and amazing musician.

That’s about all I remember about Brougham Road. It was quite hippyish and if I remember rightly the whole street was squatted, or at least that one side of it was. There was on old bus station on one end and Broadway market on the other and it was a five minute walk to a 24 hour bagel shop.

I think the Ukrainian Mountaine Troupe were part of the hippy bus convoy crew that lived in the bus station, which at one point I lived next door to, very briefly as they had a tendency to break into the local squats and steal stuff. After I lost my radio/cassette and Kelvin lost some stuff, it seemed like time to move.

Mark Wilson (The Mob):

The Mob were living in a rented house in Seend in Wiltshire and we bought a bus to tour on. When we got it ready we took it for a test drive to visit Josef who was living in Brougham Road.

The next morning a guy walked out of number 74 and asked us if we wanted to buy the house for £40. This was the amount he had spent on getting water on and changing the Yale lock. Yale locks have a big place in the history of squatting!!

Sylvianne (pictured in Friends of the Puppies in photo gallery) lived next door at number 72. Number 76 was inhabited by some radical feminists who disliked us and most other people intensely. Spanish Elizabeth who was involved in the Centro Iberico lived up the other end, possible number 94.

There were many interesting characters such as New Zealand Andy the mechanic who would take copious amounts of mind bending drugs and stay up all night fixing trucks. My personal favorite and life long inspiration was Ray who was a cockney wide boy with loads of kids. We would often get work with him fixing transit vans and old Ford Capri’s outside his house. We were best known for tipping cars on their sides to change the gearboxes to the horror of their owners.

The oven in number 74 was permanently turned on and the whole street would use it to cook bread – we had a special arrangement with the electric bill.

Sara, Liz Rosie, Neil, and Chris lived up in the number 90’s After I left the street, number 74 became a den of skag for a while with Guy, Max, Mark H, and Glen from Weymouth I believe.

The bus garage was squatted after we arrived by members of the Peace Convoy including my sister Jen. We were a bit pissed as we seemed to get the blame for the invasion having just landed in a bus.

The Tibetans were living temporarily in the street on or around the same time.

Rob Challice (Faction/All The Madmen Records):

Sara, Liz, Neil and co lived at number 94

Sara and Liz lived for a while round the corner to the right of the bus garage entrance.

I remember that it was somebody from number 102/104, Spanish Elizabeth, JC and a couple of other organized heads who made the push to get the houses into a housing association.

We were proud of our house, number 96, and the street. We made plenty of home (and garden) improvements. J.C. was always responsible for gas, electric and such amenities.

I regularly explain to people who have no experience of squats that actually in some squats the standard of accommodation was higher than some rented accommodation that I’ve seen, and I imagine better than much student accommodation on offer.

Ray and family were in the number 60’s I think. ‘Diamond geezer’ he was.

J.C. took over 96 Brougham Road. Paul, Rob (Vex) and I joined him in 1981. I was 17.

I ran 96 Tapes and WOT Distribution from number 96 from 1982/1983 onwards.

I can’t remember many break-ins at our house I moved out approx 1985/1986

Val Puppy (Kill Your Pet Puppy contributor):

The Tibetan Ukrainian Mountain Troupe was around when I was living at number 66. Various members of whom run the kids’ field at Glastonbury now (including Tibetan Tony and Wandering Will), They promote it as a free festival within the larger festival.

Photographs from the collections of Val and Penguin

Taken during summer solstice.

Probably not taken during summer solstice (Janet H collection)

  1. Jan
    April 5, 2024 at 10:09 pm

    Penguin – thanks for crediting the photo of Brougham Rd to moi. Think I had more photos. I’ve just finished reading Joseph Porters book and that had brought me back to KYPP nearly 7 yrs after my last post 🤣🕉

  2. Chas
    May 6, 2024 at 3:06 pm
    This is a link to an article about the pre-anarcho squatting community around there in the 1970s (you asked about how it all got squatted)
    Sisterhood and Squatting in the 1970s: Feminism, Housing and Urban Change in Hackney
    Christine Wall

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *