If you live in London then Foxtons's estate agents cars will be something you'll instantly recognise. Garishly coloured, the branded minis zoom across London selling luxury living at a premium price.
The housing crisis is devastating London and its inhabitants. In Hackney last year, rents went up 8.9% while wages went down 2.1%.
People are being priced out of their homes and neighbourhoods to make way for buy-to-let landlords, property developers and the wealthy. Foxtons and their ilk are constantly dropping letters through front doors addressed to the landlord telling them that they could get more rent for their property than what their current tenants are paying. This is tearing apart communities and changing the very fabric of the city we live in.
We don't believe the lies that all this increase in property values and rent will trickle down and benefit everyone. We need investment in community services and we need affordable housing. Instead, we get gentrification.
It was time for a hunt….
A FOXtons HUNT
We put out the call on our mailing list and through social media - "meet 2pm in London Fields, we are going on a hunt. Dress in your finest hunt attire and bring a trusty steed (a bicycle)." We would be hunting down a Foxtons car as it wove its way through the streets of Hackney.
The hunt assembled on the day - a mishmash of charity shop tweed, cricket helmets, jodhpurs, hunting horns and fancy dress. Bicycles were adorned with cardboard horse's heads and toy dogs.
A few days previously, Agent Jessic used a fresh SIM card to call Foxtons and lay the foundations for our game. Calling up looking to rent expensive flats with "Mummy darling's money".
It was time to hand out the rules:
While the hunt practiced riding in formation around the park and learned to blow our hunting horns, Agent Jessic hopped on a bus and headed down to Foxtons in Shoreditch. We'd set up her phone to have a tracking device on it so that we could trail her scent as she zipped across Hackney visiting as many over-priced houses and flats as possible.
We soon learnt that word of the hunt had got out, and Foxtons in Hackney closed down for the day as a precaution (1-0 to the Space Hijackers). It then turned out that the Foxtons in Shoreditch had police parked outside all day, and estate agents were driving customers around in unmarked cars. In the privacy of the car, the estate agent driving around our fox described the Hunt as "a bunch of chavs and oiks".
Whilst we cheered the closing of the Hackney branch apparently this threw a bit of a spanner in the works for our fox, as the keys to some of the properties she'd booked to see were locked away in the closed office. Undeterred, she booked as many others as she could. Foxtons were determined to make their sale.
To a roar of "tally ho!" and a cacophony of horns the hunt rode off through the park, with the scent of Foxtons in our noses (on the gps tracker on our phones) we rode south. Our hunt pack wound through the streets unsure of which of the flats the Fox was due to visit first.
Whooping and blowing horns, we crossed the canal at the bottom of Broadway Market and past a policeman on the corner who instantly whipped out his notebook and frantically started writing. We galloped past and headed west towards Haggerston as Saturday market shoppers cheered us on.
Agent Greenman at the head of the pack veered off to the right and we pulled into a side street to check again for the scent of the Fox. It seemed the Police warnings were slowing things down, but our Fox was heading off to see properties near Victoria Park and Haggerston Park. Unsure of when they would be moving off, we pulled into the park and practiced for the final take down of the car.
Riding in formation with agent Jewksy playing the role of the fox, we fine-tuned down our manoeuvres. Ideally we would catch the car at a red light between the first and second property views. Coming from behind, our riders would split pulling off to the left and right of the car alternately, before circling around the front and blocking them from pulling away. This would be the signal for Agent Jessic to turn to the driver, quickly thanking them for playing before leaping from the car pulling the tail from her bag and stuffing it into the back of her trousers.
The Fox was on the move, we heard she was in a white two door car and heading east towards Victoria Park. The Hunt grabbed a quick drink in the Acorn pub for refreshment and then set our trap. Unaware of which of two roads the Fox would be taking to arrive at the next flat viewing, we split and waited at major junctions on each route. We knew she would be with us soon, so we had to be ready to pounce. We could smell blood.
As dusk rolled in, we scanned the cars coming past looking for our white two-door. One hunt pack spotted her and gave chase. But in the confusion of traffic they missed the car pulling off into a side road to park. Riding up to the second half of the hunt we realised the sly fox had given us the slip and we had just seconds to double back and catch her before she went to ground (entered the flat).
Hollering and riding like the wind, we took to the roads, pavement and any which route flying back down the street. 150m ahead we saw our Fox standing outside a flat with a sharp suited estate agent.
Blowing horns, we took chase as our Fox pulled the tail from her bag and started sprinting down the road away from us. The bemused estate agent, was wide eyed as the hunt approached and flew past, a copy of the rules dropped at his feet.
We caught the Fox further down the street, the past few minutes a blur of adrenaline. Posing for photos with our captured Fox, we congratulated her on managing to keep up her role for so many hours.
We toasted our successful hunt at the Perseverance pub...aptly named.
We may well be hunting again soon.
Images by Immo Klink, Jenny Matthews & Agent Rachmetoff