Did we like it?
While the idea of exploring pariahs who isolated themselves from the rest of society to adhere to their idealistic beliefs was worthy of focus, the main drawback was that very few of the ‘Lefties’ were at all interesting.
What was good about it?
• The single-minded determination of the former residents of Villa Road in Lambeth who set about living in a way in which they chose, rejecting the constrictions that society had placed about them.
• And their ingenuity demonstrated by the manner in which they repaired the homes – which were scheduled to be demolished – by digging up the streets and fixing the main sewage pipes to the toilets in their homes that had been sabotaged by ‘wreckers’ who tried to thwart their occupation by filling the toilets with concrete.
• Pim who used to live in a tepee in his garden, but who now squats in a home with no running water (he shits in the garden, in case you were wondering). He lives today as he did at the height of the squatting craze.
• The practice of ‘primal scream’ during which subjects are encourage to re-live their own births through a capricious hotchpotch of strangulated moans, guttural screams, and tremulous whimpers. It was both a fascinating historical curiosity and a jarringly acute prediction of the state of living rooms across the nation next Wednesday as innocent viewers tune in to check out Davina McCall’s new chat show.
What was bad about it?
• The sense that most of the ‘Lefties’ failed to carry through their ideology beyond the autumn of their youth. This was a discrepancy expertly picked up in the documentary, as each reeled off how they had graduated from their squat on Villa Road to a proper, conformist ‘career’ whether as a weather forecaster, a lecturer or a journalist. Only the adorably batty Pim and a few of the more militant women still were steadfast in their Marxist faith, and even Pim had now embraced capitalism as it provided him with a pension.
• And it is such certainties like pensions and rearing young that condemns rebellions to failure even as the bile sizzles in the throat of that menagerie of directionless recent graduates. It was admirable, even commendable, that Pete, Helen, Mike and Xander yearned to change the world when they were independent firebrands in their early 20s, but as their necessities altered – family, pensions and health – so did their need to embrace the evils of capitalism. Indeed, ex-Etonian Xander seemed not to have just embraced capitalism, but sucked its stock market-flavoured £50 note toes as he was interviewed while luxuriating beside an opulent swimming pool.
• When one of the former residents of Villa Road tried to intellectualise the spirit of ‘free love’ amongst the communities. Such activities had nothing to do with Marxism; it’s more to do with a libido gone haywire, and absolving the guilt of having sex with a friend’s partner.
• The Villa Road squatters were largely graduates, often from Oxbridge, that gave the impression that the resolve to live estranged from the world was not born of necessity but of a puerile dalliance that could be concluded at any moment by getting Uncle Tarquin to get them a £50,000 a year job at Rothschild’s. Such youthful impulses can be observed today; but instead of invading London streets, they venture off to Thailand to go scuba diving with turtles.