Last Saturday was a great party. In the back yard, a log fire crackled amid the sound of laughter and stories. In the kitchen old friends were being reunited, catching up on lives well spent whilst remembering struggles from the past. In a room upstairs, a young man sang with passion and beauty with his guitar. In another room, beats old and new blasted out as dancers twirled like dervishes.
This was the 15th anniversary of The Hive Housing Co-op, Spring Gardens, Bradford.
Was it really so long since we moved in? Jonny, Rupert, Jane, 2 Simon's, Sarah and I moved in to Bradford's first radical roots housing co-op. It had been two years in the planning - most meetings in the New Beehive Inn - hence the name. I had spotted the property by chance whilst coming back from looking at another building further down Manningham lane.
It was too near to the centre, and was too big - there was no way we thought we could afford it! It was going for auction, so we put in a low bid - £56,000, made up of a mortgage from the Ecology Building Society based on £8,000 raised Loanstock and a £10,000 loan from 'Radical Roots' (A great organisation that helps housing co-ops get set up) We lost to a higher bid, but 1 month later, the auctioneers came back to us as the first bidder had defaulted!
We were now the owners of a great Victorian townhouse, with 6 bedrooms, and some communal areas! I have such happy memories of that time - sanding floors, giving a home to radical campaigns, hosting the 'Local Exchange and Trade' project, organising demonstrations and greening the street. Amazing times.
And 15 years later, the Hive is still doing its job - giving a base to activists, a home for those who can envision a better society. A place of action and hope and safety. There were even people at the party who were launching a new Loanstock appeal for another Bradford Housing Co-op, 'Branches'!
It will soon be time for me to leave this city, the city where my heart is. But I will leave knowing that some of the wonderful projects I have been privileged to be part of are still bearing beautiful fruits.
15 years on - don't get nostalgic - get organised!