Monday, 22 October 2012

The Cross Keys squat in Chelsea

What do you do after Johnny Hallyday at the Albert Hall? All that pretend-edge, masking geniality? You go somewhere really edgy, of course. A squat. Except we didn't try to get in. Because as we arrived, in the dark and the rain, two police vehicles drove up and we decided we weren't that edgy. Even though nothing happened.

The squat is the Cross Keys, Chelsea's oldest pub. It was bought by a developer who wanted to turn it into a mansion with a basement pool. But locals wanted it to remain their local. So did the council. Planning permission was denied and it's back on the market.

I return in daylight. The developer has offered the squatters an unknown inducement to leave. Ella explains. 'They said: there will be something in the middle of the road. It's yours if you all come out.'

In my experience, what is in the middle of the road is a flat fox. And why walk out of a pub with a walk-in fridge and a flame-effect gas fire? The developer has now resorted to conventional court procedure.

'What's the axe for?' I ask.
'We used it to cut up a five-kilo block of chocolate,' says Arthur.

No time for more than one quick drawing - I'm on a mission, in a Raymond Gubbay frame of mind. This place is ideal for entertainment.

They're playing vinyl on the sound system. Adam Faith sings, 'What do you want if you don't want money?'

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