It is sweeter to wander with the wretched and outcasts than to sit crowned with roses at the banquets of the rich
Elisee Reclus

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Walworth Graffiti again: Ambulance Station squat

Site of The Ambulance Station Sq, 306 Old Kent Rd, London SE1. You can see the Squatters symbol still painted on the wall

The Ruinist spent the night after their first riot at The Ambulance Station on Old Kent Rd. The Ruinist had not been hurt in the riot and taken in. No, they had returned to the parental home and then ventured out again to their first solo voyage squat gig. It was November 2nd 1985 and The Wedding Present played with the June Brides. They walked there from New Cross. It was the first time walking up the Old Kent Rd something that became an everyday thing when The Ruinist landed a council sub-let in Bonamy Estate, Bermondsey in 1990 (now demolished in it's old form).

Anyhow the gig was great. It was also the first time a gay guy tried to pick up The Ruinist. The night bus supplied the way home to the suburbs.

The Ruinist later went there again in 1986 after the failed London Anarchist Festival was thwarted at the failed Lewisham Odeon squat. The festival decamped to The Ambulance Station for a discussion about whether the Station should become a London Anarchist centre. All seemed well with that during the discussions until a punkette who was living there said that the meeting would have to check with some guy who was living in a caravan in the yard whether using the squat as a centre would be okay. In classic anarchoid fashion, nothing ever came of the 3-hour debate and plans.

In a twist of events it was at that meeting that The Ruinist met A., a comrade who had been arrested at the anarchist picnic in Greenwich park the day before, someone who would be a key part of how The Ruinist ended up in Bermondsey four years later.

Anyhow, The Ambulance Station was a fairly long term squat (2, 3 years?) doing loads of stuff, the history of which is contained in dribs and drabs on the Internet if you look hard. From that very squat, a trajectory of South London super-organised squatting, demos, riots, hardcore techno raves, radical publishing and writing, autonomous astronauts, Infoshops and archiving can be traced to this very day. (Check out this link - “Live Series 2″ & the London Ambulance Station)

The place is now called The Fire Station which it patently was even when it was a squat and it sells fireplaces and is famous on the Old Kent Rd for having a mannequin of a fireman who waves at all who pass.

(By the way, it was the Anti-Apartheid demo in Trafalgar Sq and it had kicked off. The Ruinist watched it from above on the road by the South African Embassy. An anarchist cartoonist they knew was nicked and later convicted of throwing a Mars bar at the police!)

2010: RatStar Squat, Camberwell Rd, SE5. The trajectory continues....


Jessica NGL said...

I am student in journalism, for an assignment I have to find a derelict building. I have chosen the old fire station "The Ambulance Station".

You seem to have lots of information about the past of this place, please help me.

my email address

Please contact me!

Thank you,


Colin Belton said...

Great to find your article. I remember the ambulance station well. I blogged about here