Inner Spin: Inside the City Rd. Squat
Draped in anarchist banners and bedecked with graffiti, the abandoned Spin Bowling alley on city road is now home to activist squatters: ‘The Gremlins’.
I arrived outside the ex-cinema and ex-bowling alley on City Road known as The Gaiety or Spin a couple of weeks ago. I knocked on the side door to ask if I could come in and take some photos. No-one answered.
I walked around to the back of the building looking to see if I could find any way in. Eventually I came to one side of the building where, through a large hole in the wall a storey up I could see a man peering out.
“What do you want” the squatter yelled to me down in the alley-way. I held up my camera and said I wanted to take some pictures. He said: “Come round”.
I got back to the door and listened as the multitude of locks on the door were slammed open, then the door opened.
I was greeted by a long-haired, bearded and friendly man. I asked him if I could come in and get some photos; he said there was no reason why I couldn’t.
‘The Gremlins’ have now been squatting in the alley for some time. The group have re-named the old building ‘Gremlin Alley Social Centre’.
The building is at the heart of their campaign and they hope to establish the stunning listed building as a new community centre for Cardiff.
Another aim of the group is to highlight the imprisonment of Alex Haigh, the first person jailed for residential squatting in the UK. residential squatting is now a criminal offence and carries a maximum punishment of six months in prison, a fine or both.
Going up the staircase I noticed a small amount of Graffiti, one strip light was hanging down over the stairwell, torn off the wall.
The ‘Gremlin’ turned back to me and said: ‘this way to the bedroom’
The bedroom is a massive hall in the heart of the derelict building. The first thing that hit me was the sheer amount of graffiti, some of it political quotes, bizarre drawings and I spotted a few famous bits of Cardiff graffiti (couple of Lembo tags in there). Every inch of the walls are covered.
In the room the squatters sleep on some mattress strewn across the floor. In one corner is a sofa and down the far end
someone had erected a tent.
I walked around the building looking at the graffiti, and the building. Some of the building is in a terrible state, there are holes in the floor and nails sticking out of panels.
While I looked around, the squatters sat in the corner chatting and laughing, the gremlin showing me round walked about the place rolling cigarettes and swinging a hockey stick around.
Another of the Gremlins told me: “There was some talk of making permanent bedrooms, but I think everyone is bit worried about the bailiffs and police turfing us out any day soon.”
As I left the alley the Gremlin who had shown me around pointed at the series of locks on the door and assured me “no-ones getting us out of here.”
The group have faced several attempts by the police to kick them out of the building, but the Gremlins are still resisting eviction, across the street a banner in someone’s window reads ‘Viva La Gremlins’.
Do you agree with ‘The Gremlins’ that something should be done with Spin Bowling Alley on City Road? Do you think they are going the right way about getting something done? Have your say below…
I am grateful to Ollie Latus and Nick Morris for helping with this story; please have a look at their blogs: