When I first saw Søren Svendsen’s photograph of the building on Korsgade in the district of Nørrebro, I was in no doubt I had found the front page picture for my BZ book. (BZ is the Danish name for the squatter movement).
The photo, which was taken on 23rd April 1982, sums up the atmosphere from one of the happiest periods in BZ history and tells us better than words can why many of the young people came to view the BZ Community as their new family, often a closer and more loving family than they themselves came from.
The chapter with the stories from the Korsgade block was one of the chapters I found most wonderful to write. Many old building squatters call the months in 1982 ‘BZ’s Spring’, when large numbers of them moved into abandoned buildings in Inner Nørrebro and gave them names such as Bazooka, Lille Fjer (Little Feather) and Allotria.
The Story behind the picture:
The picture shows the first squatting actions in Inner Nørrebro, which more than any became the BZers’ hood: on Friday 23rd April 1982 a large flock of angel-faced young people moved into the building at Korsgade 25, which had been condemned for demolition.
In advance the occupiers declared themselves to be non-violent, and when the police arrived they were offered homemade cakes. When the first police officer somewhat hesitatingly accepted the offer, the young people burst out cheering and dancing. There were no clashes, and later that evening forty young squatters rolled out their sleeping bags.
Shortly afterwards other buildings on Korsgade were occupied – the most well-known was Allotria at no 45, from which eight months later a flock of BZ’ers dug an even more famous tunnel under the street.
“The spring of 1982 was an incredible blossoming for the BZ movement, and without doubt for many of us the best time in the movement,” one of the young people in the book tells of the Korsgade time.
In the following months not only in Korsgade, but also in Stengade, Baggesensgade, Slotsgade and Blågårdsgade abandoned houses were occupied by for the most part quite young teenagers, who dreamed of living a different and freer life than the boring petit-bourgeois life.
“We felt like settlers in a new land,” one of them tells us who a few days later helped occupy Allotria, also in Korsgade. “You could just wander into any of the abandoned buildings and choose a place to live. And then drag a sofa or an armchair outside and sit there in the middle of the street. There was a great feeling of freedom and lots and lots of wonderful people. We owned the area and there was Wild West atmosphere.”
The Story behind the title:
Of course the book could have just been called ‘BZ’, but it also has two subtitles:
‘A Family Drama’, because most of the squatters saw themselves as one family – for better or worse, as one of them said. And as in many other families life was filled with drama, including when I 25 years after the last occupied house was demolished wanted to write a book about that time: A powerful resistance arose in the family’s inner circle.
‘You haven’t got a chance – take it!’ was one of the paradoxical slogans which the BZers were good at collecting. We were condemned as “the so what generation” in the eighties, but the BZ movement put that straight.
When resistance to my book project grew so massive in the autumn of 2014, one of the BZers said to me: “You haven’t got a chance.” And the he reminded me of the continuation, “Take it!”
Learn more about the intricate work process and my current meetings with the BZ family elsewhere in the blog, e.g.here:
’BZ’ is published in Danish by Gyldendal and will be out the 4th of Oktober.