Monday, 2 April 2012

Revolutionary vegetable distribution in Brighton

For more than a fortnight now a group of community-minded squatters have been distributing free fresh vegetables to the good folk of Brighton from a shop in St James's Street (pictured).

Basically, they have moved into an empty shop (pictured left), from which they give away (rather than sell) vegetables (as many locally-grown as possible) bought wholesale with any donations.

They say the model is working: that many people can't really afford to donate much but that the occasional spark of generosity - like the punter who took an apple and donated a tenner to the project - keep the model alive.

Everyone seems to like what they're doing: during a visit yesterday I was told it was about four things:  making sure everyone had access to cheap, healthy food, fighting to preserve Brighton from the onward march of clone-town Britain and takeover by the supermarkets, to develop and enhance the local community, and to promote squatting and anti-capitalist economic models. All without a profit in sight.

They're all worthy aims: and I really wish them well.

But one group of people who don't wish them well at all are the Tory and Lib-Dem MPs, egged on by Hove MP Mike Weatherley, who have supported emergency plans to criminalise squatting.

To criminalise it? I think that while there are empty buildings owned by long-term absentee landlords and buildings sitting empty awaiting stalled development schemes, it should actively be encouraged, in order to  bring those buildings back into use and develop alternative models of providing not just housing, but things like fresh vegetables too...

Anyway, after visiting the shop, I took a quick walk to march with the Squatters Network of Brighton to protest against the new law.

We marched along the seafront to Hove Peace statue and back along Western Road. About 200 people marched along the road, blocking the traffic, and all was very peaceful. The police even decided to abandon the march entirely, after about an hour, presumably satisfied of the  intent of all present.

I hope the march, which was very visible, both to holiday-makers and residents of the city, drew attention to the terrible social consequences of the new law - and how they are likely to affect homelessness, and new models of getting good food into the kitchens of local people - in our city.

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