Skip to main content

Escaping Frestonia

In 1977, squatters in Freston Road, Notting Hill declared independence from the UK, after facing eviction by the Greater London Council (GLC). The squatters lobbied the UN and established a 1.8-acre microstate - "The Free and Independent Republic of Frestonia" - complete with its own postage stamps, visas and passports.


The 100-odd citizens of Frestonia varied from actors, artists and addicts to normal working class Londoners. Playwright - and one of London's first graffiti artists - Heathcote Williams was Ambassador to Great Britain. Actor David Rappaport was the Minister of Foreign Affairs. A two-year-old child named Francesco Bogina Bramley was the Minister for Education.

If the same thing happened today police would likely move in with eviction papers and battering rams. But back then, living in abandoned buildings apparently wasn't seen as the transgression we now know it to be. Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir Geoffrey Howe wrote to the Frestonians expressing his support, saying, "I can hardly fail to be moved by your aspirations."

In the end 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. The remaining Frestonians grabbed what they could for themselves instead of maintaining the ideals of the Frestonian "nation" which consequently went into decline.

The internatiional popularity of the Frestonia debacle is undoubtedly owed to its funny nature. It is funny to think that some squatters instead of obeying the law decide to declare themselves independent! Part of this appeal is that is that there is in all of us this rebellious streak. The romance of acting contrary to what is expected of us, no matter how moral or legal those demands are.

This reality is perfectly described by the Prophet Isaiah, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” [Isaiah 53:6]. Isaiah is not just describing Israel, he is say all of us have abandoned God and are now living for ourselves. There is a sense in which all human beings have done a Frestonia, and our immediate predicament is how to free ourselves from Frestonia.

In a way this is the essence of sin. Sin is always about wanting my way, in my own way, and in my time. That is why the soundtrack to a sinful life, is the song that is played around at most funerals in the UK, Frank Sinatra's "My Way". As the final verse of that song says, “For what is a man? What has he got? If not himself, then he has nothing. To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels. The record shows I took the blows. And did it my way. Yes, it was my way!”

Whether we like Frank Sinatra or not, the truth is that we are all Frestonians at heart! We have all committed transgressions and iniquities. A capital crime against against God as the supreme authority. The consequence of our criminality is that we are now spiritually, emotionally and relationally broken people living under the sentence of eternal death. It is the legacy of human fall in Eden!

Yet, Isaiah has good news for us. The amazing thing is that God has not abandoned us! He has sent His Suffering Servant, identified later in the Bible as Jesus, to bear the punishment of our rebellion! God has reached out to us through Jesus, whilst we are sinners, and in Jesus has lifted us out of the empty pit of rebellion! God has laid on him the iniquity of us all who repent and turn to Him! So no more illegal squatting in the terrain of evil or holding to false comfort of spiritual Frestonia! Freedom has come in Jesus!

Copyright © Chola Mukanga 2016

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Prayer of Anselm

Come now, little man, turn aside for a while from your daily employment. Escape for a moment from the tumult of your thoughts. Put aside your weighty cares. Let your burdensome distractions wait. Free yourself awhile for God and rest awhile in him.  Enter the inner chamber of your soul. Shut out everything except God and that which can help you in seeking him. And when you have shut the door, seek him.  Now, my whole heart, say to God, ‘I seek your face, Lord, it is your face I seek. ANSELM OF CANTERBURY

A Faith of Contradictions

I want a faith that can fully credit contradictions, and that can prove the darkest night to be perfectly light, and the greatest of trials to be perfectly right, and to be evidences of unbounded love. Yea, I want a faith that can fully rely upon a promise with a rational prospect of the promise being fulfilled...I thirst, pant and groan, for the faith of which Christ is the Author and Finisher. WILLIAM GADSBY  William Gadsby was a 19th Century  Particular Baptist who experienced acute sufferings in his home life which exerted a heavy burden on his faith and ministry. He ministered for 25 years while nursing his wife, who suffered with acute mental illness.  Gadsby died before his wife did and before she gave most encouraging signs of not having lost the faith she embraced as a girl, the faith Gadsby had been so confident that the Lord would preserve in her.  The strain for him, though, was at times unbearable, as her illness led her to erratic and destructive behaviour, including atta

Jesus Never Fails

Many a times in my life, the words of this childhood hymn has been a tremendous encouragement. I pray this may encourage you too. Keep looking to Jesus! Jesus never fails, Jesus never fails The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails. Your mother will let you down Your father will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails. Your husband will let you down Your wife will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails Your brothers will let you down Your sisters-will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails Your church will let you down Your work will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails Your friends will let you down Your country will let you down The man of the world will let you down, but Jesus never fails Your wealth will let you down Your health will let you down The man of the world