Search

The Hampstead police station squatter who kissed Simon Callow and offended the Turkish prime minister

09:19 01 May 2014

Living in the former Hampstead Police Station annexe, former actor Michael Dickinson. Here holding one of his provocative collages, which landed him in trouble in Turkey. Picture: Polly Hancock

Living in the former Hampstead Police Station annexe, former actor Michael Dickinson. Here holding one of his provocative collages, which landed him in trouble in Turkey. Picture: Polly Hancock

Archant

Tom Marshall finds out more about one squatter who has taken refuge in Hampstead police station – but has been told to leave

Michael Dickinson has come a long way from kissing Simon Callow on stage to living in Hampstead’s abandoned police station.

It has been a circuitous journey from the political theatre of the 1970s, starring opposite stage star Callow in ‘Passing By’, a groundbreaking two-person show about a gay romance, via the courts of Istanbul and London – for offending the Turkish prime minister and breaking a Remembrance Day silence with anti-war chants.

The Durham-born artist and former actor, 64, was sleeping in a cardboard box next to Sainsbury’s in Camden Town when the police station squatters invited him into their crew after a chance meeting at a soup kitchen.

He continues to eat food discarded by shops and cafés, rummage through recycling bins and tell fortunes on the street to survive – but for now he has a Grade II-listed home to go back to.

Michael Dickinson (right) with Simon Callow in Passing By, by American writer Martin Sherman. It was presented by Gay Sweatshop at the Almost Free Theatre, London, in June 1975, directed by Drew GriffithsMichael Dickinson (right) with Simon Callow in Passing By, by American writer Martin Sherman. It was presented by Gay Sweatshop at the Almost Free Theatre, London, in June 1975, directed by Drew Griffiths

He has quickly transformed one of the first-floor rooms at the police station annexe, in Rosslyn Hill, into his own comfortable bedroom.

“I’m squatting because I can’t afford anything else,” he said.

“I’m very glad I met these people because the social services would not help me.

“I was money-less and homeless and the government didn’t give me any help.

“I would still be in that box were it not for them.”

Mr Dickinson has not long returned to the UK after being banned from Turkey, where he lived for the best part of three decades from the mid-1980s, working as a teacher, artist and at times telling fortunes to pay his rent.

His first encounter with the Turkish legal system came in 2006, when he exhibited a provocative collage in Istanbul that depicted national leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a dog receiving a rosette from ex-American President George W. Bush in a pet show.

That resulted in prosecution for “insulting the Prime Minister’s dignity”, in a notorious case which took four years to run its course.

He was initially cleared in 2008, but the verdict was overturned in 2010. Then, after shouting a political slogan at police in a separate incident in 2013, he was finally deported and barred from returning to Turkey for five years.

His brush with the British authorities came during a brief return in 2011.

He was arrested, handcuffed and bundled into a police van after shouting “No more war!” during a Remembrance Day silence at Parliament Square, where he was camping at the time. He was charged with a public order offence, but the case was eventually dropped.

Mr Dickinson had studied at the Manchester School of Theatre from 1969, alongside the likes of Julie Walters and Richard Griffiths, and worked as an actor – as well as his notable performance opposite Simon Callow, he was cast as Jesus in one play – before switching his focus to collage art.

He held an exhibition in Primrose Hill in 1982, which was well-received in the pages of the Ham&High where reviewer Linda Talbot said it was “wickedly adept at exposing the two-faced tendencies and follies of our leaders”.

Although the squatters face a swift eviction, he had been keen to engage with the Hampstead community, and hoped to stage an open-air play in the annexe’s front garden.

He said: “I don’t really want to move again so soon, especially when this building has not been sold yet and nothing is going to happen here.

“Why can’t we stay until they need us to move? Why do they want us on the streets again?”

Latest Hampstead & Highgate News Stories

St Pancras Hospital, where Camden and Islington Trust is based. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Health chiefs are taking action at the Royal Free Hospital after inspectors found ‘ligature points’ that could help patients kill or harm themselves

12:54
Alamin, Shalim and Khaled Kazi (l to r)

Three members of a Camden family have been jailed for being part of an organised moped gang responsible for a “prolific” crime spree across London.

Yesterday, 18:00
Activists Dr Wolfgang Kieran and Chris Roche hand petition to Catherine West MP, who supports their campaign. Photo: Nigel Sutton

Activists say the library must stay in its Grade II-listed building – but Haringey Council’s choice is to move the service to the site of the former Green Man pub on Muswell Hill

Yesterday, 17:32
Jude Rogers impressed Tim Peake on board the International Space Station

An entrepeneurial pupil had his film broadcast to Tim Peake on the International Space Station – and was invited to Downing Street to welcome the astronaut home.

Yesterday, 11:25
A Highgate resident believes this unwelcome visitor may have beeen attracted by overflowing bins

Nearly half of Camden residents face having their weekly rubbish collections reduced to fortnightly from next April under radical proposals designed to save the council £5 million and “incentivise recycling”.

Two diners were injured in the accident involving an unmarked police car   pictures: Emily Banks

Diners at Pizza East restaurant in Highgate Road were injured when an unmarked police car on an emergency call was in collision with another car .

Mon, 18:35
Geography teacher Kato Harris wept as a jury cleared him of all charges

A Geography teacher has told of the “massive stress” of being accused of repeatedly raping a 14-year-old pupil in the classroom of his Camden school.

Mon, 17:45
Nearly 4,000 pupils were excluded for reasons including racist abuse and sexual misconduct across Camden, Haringey and Barnet. Picture: PA

Racist abuse, sexual misconduct and drug and alcohol offences – these are some of the reasons why nearly 4,000 Camden, Haringey and Barnet pupils were excluded from schools last year.

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Most read Hampstead & Highgate news

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Property Newsletter Sign-up

Get the latest North London property news and features straight to your inbox with our regular newsletter

I am also happy to receive other emails...
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot

Competitions

Which book character do you share cleaning habits with?

Whether you have more in common with put-upon Cinderella, emotionally turbulent Jane Eyre, or easily distracted Mole, you’re sure to appreciate that one lucky winner will receive four sessions of free cleaning. Enter our quiz for your chance to win. All runners up will get £10 off their first clean when making a repeat booking.

£15k prize bundle

Imagine having the opportunity to win an incredible £15,000 bundle of some of the most amazing prizes available. Well, for one lucky contest entrant that dream could soon become a reality because we at MyOffers are offering an incredible free prize bundle that will make even the most hardened person wild with excitement.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now