Really Free School

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The Really Free School
Hand and Racquet before occupation
Hand and Racquet before occupation
Founded at5 Bloomsbury Square, WC1A 2LX, London
TypeSocial centre
Legal statusDormant
PurposeFree school
  • 5 Bloomsbury Square
  • 34-35 Fitzroy Square
  • 6 Rathbone Place
  • 48 Whitcomb Street

Really Free School was a collective squatting a series of buildings in central London in 2011. They organised lectures and workshops, stating "in this space, aside from the fact that you will not spend one penny inside these doors, you can also come and engage in a collective learning process directed by your own desires, ideas, questions and problems."[1]


The name 'Really Free School' was intended to mock the contemporaneous interest from the Conservative Party (ruling the country in the Cameron–Clegg coalition) in free schools.[2]


The first occupation was at 5 Bloomsbury Square in central London close to University College London and Birkbeck College. Speakers included Paul Mason.[3]


The second occupation was at 34-35 Fitzroy Square, two adjoining townhouses owned by film maker Guy Ritchie which had previously been a language school.[1][4]

When Ritchie sued for possession, the group attended the court wearing Vinnie Jones masks (since Jones has appeared in several of Ritchie's films, including Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels). District Judge Marc Dight was unimpressed by the squatters' defence, which was presented by a law student. He ordered the squatters to leave by the evening, so they organised a peaceful leaving party which spilled over into Fitzroy Square.[5]

Later occupations[edit]

The group then occupied two pubs, firstly The Black Horse at 6 Rathbone Place and then The Hand & Racquet at 48 Whitcomb Street.[6]

The Black Horse was in Fitzrovia and received support from the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association when bailiffs attempted an illegal eviction.[7]

The Hand and Racquet was in central London, next to Leicester Square and behind the National Gallery.[8]


The Fitzrovia News praised the squatters for making a stand against austerity cuts to education facilities.[9]


The owner of the Bloomsbury Square property, Peter Nahum, said that the squatters were "essentially nice, middle-class kids, who would go and wash at friends' flats nearby." He complained that it cost a lot of money to evict them and asked "Why have a free school in central London? Why not go to the poorer districts if you want to educate people?"[2]

The Daily Telegraph wrote that "A ragtag bunch of up to 40 activists and undergraduates has exploited legal loopholes to live for free in a string of historic buildings in London. Dressed in scavenged clothes and ripped vintage tweed jackets, the squatters have struck four times in the past six weeks."[6]


  1. ^ a b Lyndsey (15 February 2011). "Really Free School Squat Guy Ritchie's Fitzrovia Pad". Londonist. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  2. ^ a b Bell, Matthew (29 May 2011). "Home truths: 'Squatting is the perfect example of the Big Society'". Independent. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  3. ^ Mason, Paul (3 January 2012). "Global unrest: how the revolution went viral". Guardian. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  4. ^ O'Brien, Paraic (15 February 2011). "Squatters take over Guy Ritchie's house". BBC. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  5. ^ Sawer, Patrick (19 February 2011). "Squatters evicted from Guy Ritchie's £6m home". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  6. ^ a b Jamieson, Alastair; Leach, Ben (6 March 2011). "The middle class serial squatters exploiting the law". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  7. ^ Editors (21 February 2011). "Supporters of Really Free School called to Black Horse after "heavies" forced their way in". Fitzrovia News. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  8. ^ Obituaries Editor (16 December 2010). "Time, gentlemen". Economist. Retrieved 22 April 2019.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Editors (20 February 2011). "Trainee journo screws up Guy Ritchie and squatters story". Fitzrovia News. Retrieved 22 April 2019.