Frestonia was the name adopted by the residents of Freston Road, London, when they attempted to secede from the United Kingdom in 1977. The residents were squatters, many of whom eventually set up a housing co-op in negotiation with Notting Hill Housing Trust, and included artists, musicians, writers, actors and activists. Actor David Rappaport was the Foreign Minister, while playwright Heathcote Williams served as Ambassador to Great Britain.
Frestonia consisted of a 1.8 acres (7,300 m2) triangle of land (including communal gardens) formed by Freston Road, Bramley Road and Shalfleet Drive, W10, which belonged at the time to the London Borough of Hammersmith. This land crosses the boundary of London postal districts W10 (North Kensington) and W11 (Notting Hill), and now belongs to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
Most of the residents of Freston Road were squatters, who moved into empty houses in the early 1970s. When the Greater London Council planned to redevelop the area, the 120 residents first all adopted the same surname of Bramley with the aim that the council would then have to re-house them collectively.
The Council threatened formal eviction, so at a public meeting attended by 200 people, resident Nicholas Albery - inspired by both the Ealing comedy film Passport to Pimlico and a previous visit to Freetown Christiania in Copenhagen - suggested that they declare the street independent of the rest of the UK. A referendum returned 94% of residents in favour of the plan, and 73% in favour of joining the European Economic Community. Independence was declared on 31 October 1977. Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir Geoffrey Howe wrote expressing his support, saying "As one who had childhood enthusiasm for Napoleon of Notting Hill, I can hardly fail to be moved by your aspirations". In a legal dispute regarding the unauthorised performance of his play The Immortalist, Heathcote Williams won a ruling from the UK courts that Frestonia was for this purpose not part of the UK.
The state adopted the Latin motto Nos Sumus Una Familia - We are All One Family - and applied to join the United Nations, at the same time warning that peacekeeping troops might be needed to keep the GLC at bay.
Culture, communications, transport and economy
Frestonia had its own newspaper The Tribal Messenger.
It also had an art gallery, The Car Breaker Gallery, from which came the performance art of Mutoid Waste Company, visual artist Julie Umerle, comic book artist Brett Ewins, multimedia artist Giles Leaman and graphic novelist Brendan McCarthy. The Car Breaker Art Gallery opened to the public at 4 Bramley Road on 14 December 1979. In 1980, the conceptual artist John Latham was a member of the audience at the private view of one of the performances presented there. Professional lighting for the gallery was donated by Sandy Nairne, later to be Director of the National Portrait Gallery.
In addition, there was a "National Theatre" at Frestonia which performed Heathcote Williams's The Immortalist. The Frestonian National Film Institute was also formed; its first screening being - appropriately - Passport to Pimlico and a film of The Sex Pistols.
Local transport was served by the Number 295 bus, and the London Underground, Latimer Road tube station being at the north end of Bramley Road. There were Frestonian postage stamps (honoured by the General Post Office), as well as plans to introduce a currency.
When the state celebrated its fifth anniversary in 1982, the population numbered 97 people occupying 23 houses. The same year, The Clash recorded their album Combat Rock in Ear Studios (also known as The People's Hall) in Frestonia. The Clash and Motörhead practised in the rehearsal studios there.
Decline and fall
Following international press coverage, the residents formed the Bramleys Housing Co-operative Ltd, which negotiated with Notting Hill Housing Trust for continued residence and acceptable redevelopment of the site. Some Frestonians were unhappy with the consequent loss of independence, and moved away. According to Tony Sleep, a brief Frestonian onlooker whose online photo-journal documents his idea of the history of the area, those leaving were often replaced by people with drinking and drug problems. The remaining Frestonians grabbed what they could for themselves instead of maintaining the ideals of the Frestonian "nation" which consequently went into decline. In its place, a more conventional local community reinstated the usual hierarchies.
Bramleys Housing Co-operative manages the properties owned and built on the Frestonia site by Notting Hill Housing Trust, and its members live as a close-knit community. Some are children or grandchildren of the original Frestonians, although there has also been a significant influx of new residents.
A large new office development, also named Frestonia, was built on the adjacent site at the junction of Bramley Road and St Anns Road, and is occupied by the headquarters of Cath Kidston. A second large office development also named Frestonia by its developers was erected at 125/135 Freston Road in 2001. The Louise T Blouin Foundation is located in nearby Olaf Street, off Freston Road.
Major developments occurred in the 2000s with the completion of environmentally-friendly headquarters buildings for Monsoon Accessorize (in 2007) and TalkTalk (in 2009) at the rear of 91-121 Freston Road. The 150,000m² Westfield London shopping complex was also finished around this time, and links Frestonia, including the two HQ buildings in Notting Dale, via a nearby footbridge over the West Cross Route.
- 1978. Simon Watters-Bramley, Frestonian Ambassador to Canada, the Arctic and Chicago, was featured on the cover of "Salty Dog Magazine" (Vol.I issue No.2) an arts and culture tabloid newspaper published by Joanne Light in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada where he resided at his ambassadorial residence before leaving his post to work for Greenpeace.
- 1995. Frestonia was the name of the final album from Aztec Camera.
- 2014. Robert Kerr won best Screenplay (UK) for his debut documentary The Republic of Frestonia at the 11th London Independent Film Festival.
- 2015. To the Bramley Family of Frestonia. A publication documenting the public art project in London by Turner Prize nominee Nathan Coley with an introduction by art critic, writer and curator Sacha Craddock.
- 2015. Arcadia. An article by Robert Barry, viewing Frestonia as the forefathers of Arcadia Spectacular.
- 2016. Robert Kerr's documentary The Republic of Frestonia was shortlisted for a Golden Trellick Award at the Portobello Film Festival.
- The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Library, "Frestonia the past is another country". Dave Walker. 23 04 2015
- "The Notting Hill Squatters Who Declared Independence from the UK". 28 October 2014. Harry Sword. VICE
- Fourth World News, Vol. 1 No. 18. February 1983. Edited by Nicholas Albery. Frestonia: Smallest Nation in Europe
- The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, Freston Road
- Cooke, Robin (2001-06-04). "Beneath the Mirror Ball". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2007-05-10.
- NBC News archives. "NOTTING HILL SECTION OF LONDON DECLARES ITSELF AN INDEPENDENT COUNTRY--FRESTONIA; RESIDENTS ASSUME SAME SURNAME with the aim that the council would then have to re-house them collectively"
- Vague, Tom (2007). "Getting it Straight in Notting Hill Gate 1958-2008: Subterania". HISTORYtalk. Retrieved 2007-08-14.[dead link]
- "The Eddie Woods Archive". American Literary Studies. Stanford University Library. 2007-08-06. Retrieved 2007-08-14.
- The Guardian. 'From Frestonia to Belgravia review'
- Portobello Film Festival 2006. Counter Culture Portobello - Psychogeographical History, by Tom Vague.
- IT Archive (International Times), 01.01.1980, Vol 5, p5
- Portobello Film Festival 2006. "Counter Culture Portobello Psychogeographical History". Tom Vague
- Splotches In Space.
- The Republic of Frestonia. Car Breaker Posters
- Car Breaker Art Gallery.
- Car Breaker Gallery. Frestonia
- The Republic of Frestonia
- Portobello Film Festival 2010. "Frestonia Car Breakers gallery/Mutoid Waste Company/Joe Rush/Brett Ewins". Tom Vague
- Portowebbo.co.uk – Passport to Frestonia - November 2002 (archived copy)
- Time Out London, Chris Parkin, Mon May 15 2006 – Frestonia declares its independence: It happened here
- Welcome to Frestonia. Comprehensive history and archive of photographs from Frestonia, by Tony Sleep, a resident photographer
- Notting Hill Housing association – affordable homes and shared ownership schemes | Notting Hill Housing
- Hugh Pearman. Art and London Pschogeography
- Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Planning.
- London Independent Film Festival 2014
- 'Art Monthly', Artists' Books Jessie Brennan: Regeneration! Nathan Coley: to the Bramley Family of Frestonia, review by Chris Fite-Wassilak (February 2016, No 393)
- Nathan Coley. to The Bramley Family of Frestonia
- Artlyst. 26.08.2015. "Turner Prize nominee gifts sculptures to West London estate residents"
- Nathan Coley. Frestonia. Parafin Books
- "Meet the pyrotechnics crew behind Glastonbury’s fire-spitting spiders". Robert Barry. July 7 2015
- Portobello Film Festival 2016