Dear Gerald Toms (Millenium Stadium General Manager and former Chief Superintendent of South Wales Police and Commander of the Cardiff Division) and Roger Lewis (WRU Group Chief Executive, ex- Managing Director of ITV Wales, ex-Managing Director at EMI Records and ex-world wide President of the Decca Record Company),
Firstly, may I thank you for making some of us homeless yesterday for the sake of maintaining power over a building that you have shockingly neglected. The old Inland Revenue Building on Westgate St, Cardiff, which you ‘own’, was occupied with the intentions of turning it into a community and art space, as well as a much needed communal home for some of us that can no longer afford to heat our homes and barely feed ourselves. After researching both of your histories, I think I can safely assume that neither of you have ever wanted for anything.
The government’s outrageous austerity measures are hitting those not as privileged as you extremely hard. The cuts to vital community projects and support groups mean that many of them cannot continue unless they are offered free space to do so. You have that space, yet feel it is more important to exercise power than negotiate.
Attempts were made to locate the owners of the building before we entered it, but it seemingly doesn’t exist. We didn’t break and enter. We walked through an already open window. It was obvious when looking around inside that other people had been in there. There was already graffiti on the walls and half eaten food present.
As soon as you made yourselves known as the ‘owners’, we opened negotiations with you. We asked for a 6 month rolling contract with a two month mutual notice period. We said we would pay no rent as this was a not-for-profit project, but would cover utility bills and general maintenance. You said you’d get back to us, and you did. A couple of hours later, you sent your solicitor with a court hearing date scheduled for three days’ time. Then a court bailiff came by and told us that we’d probably have until between February and April as the courts were so busy. We were evicted with immediate affect yesterday. Two well used phrases come to mind:- ‘Money talks’ and ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.’ Both the law and the media have clearly been ‘on your side’ during our occupation, so I’ll add ‘We’re all in it together’ for good measure. The media have consistently lied and misquoted us. This was never intended just to be a media centre for the Occupy movement. It was just one tiny aspect of what our intentions were.
So why didn’t you negotiate? You could have added clauses etc. to a contract. You could have helped us stick it to Westminster and Cameron’s ‘Big Society’. You could have showed a side to the WRU that isn’t just about making money from rugby fans via over-inflated corporate prices, but instead is aware of its roots and gives a shit about its communities.
Welsh people have been suppressed by England’s powers forever. Now it seems that the WRU, instead of being community conscious, have joined the bully boys.
The old Inland Revenue building is beautiful, unused and falling apart from the top down (a bit like society, really). I can only hope that now we’ve highlighted this that you will put some effort into maintaining it rather than just using it as a base for the builders of your £multi-million projects in the future as it has been used in the past.
I can only hope that you consider what our intentions were, are taking time out to research how Welsh communities are affected by Westminster’s savage cuts, and that you will avoid turning the old Inland Revenue building into a luxury hotel or apartments and will put it to good, non-profit use.
(and any signatories in the comments)