Film: Living History at Crossroads Women’s Centre

Living History at Crossroads Women’s Centre from Rob Logan on Vimeo.

At the 40th anniversary of the Crossroads Women’s Centre back in January 2015, the Centre previewed its commissioned documentary “Living History at Crossroads Women’s Centre”. The documentary was made by film producer, Rob, and a team of young apprentices connected with the Centre, and the end product is a strong 25 minute story that weaves archive footage, photos, interviews and animation to tell the remarkable tale of the Centre.

Started in 1975 at the squatted 129 Drummond Street, Euston, the Crossroads Women’s Centre has been a story of positive action for women’s rights in the face of consistent obstruction by the authorities. The squatted centre provided essential space to provide vital services to the community, especially women, who were the most ignored. Selma James, who founded Wages For Housework in 1972, remembers these early days in a Kentish Towner article:

“Back in 1975 the three year old Wages for Housework Campaign, though it already had an international network, was still meeting in front rooms. There was a squatting movement that made use of empty properties, and we joined it. We squatted 129 Drummond Street, near Euston, and made a home […] We learnt how to be useful to the community in ways that promoted women’s visibility and strength. For example, Bengali families were being evicted, and the women who went into hospital for childbirth were injected with Depo Provera without their knowledge or consent. Working with the women and the men together we got them re-housed and stopped the Depo Provera.”

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The Centre went through numerous twists and turns from that point, from eviction, setting up in new premises, attack by fascists, occupations of the town hall, and finally to its current resting place in Kentish Town. Having acted as a springboard for all types of feminist campaign groups, Selma James, in this Fawcett Society article, underlines the principle that drives them to this day: “[The Centre] brings together women (and men) from all walks of life, stressing women’s contribution, beginning with the work of caring which makes society.

What the “Living History” documentary makes clear is the importance of squatting, the act of taking wasted space to meet social needs. Without this simple act, the Centre would never have been able to help the many thousands of women who have passed through their doors over the years. Since anti-squatting legislation (section 144 LASPOA) came into effect in 2012, the lifetime of squats has decreased dramatically from around a year to just 2 or 3 weeks, and the ability to create another Crossroads Women’s Centre is fast diminishing if not checked.

Well done to all those who contributed to the making of this documentary. Support your local squats, keep squatting!