Mike Carlton aka Predator at work at Turrella IMC base 2001-2003
Topic: independent media
This and similar coverage yesterday relates to 'urban caving' and prompted our memories of Mike Carlton aka Predator, so named due to his front teech being somewhat curved. In fact he was very laid back and mild mannered, more the intellectual albeit adventurous in so many directions. As will be seen below he came a cropper in a legal disagreement with this writer but there is no gainsaying his profound contribution to global community media self publishing via Sydney Indy Media from the mid 1990ies which became a phenomenon and still is to some degree. He was an information technology champion of the community sector and revered by many to this day as a secular saint for his intrepid work in the IT field.
We knew him vaguely at a Lord St wharehouse in St Peters, now gentrified, at a neighbouring office but much more at Turrella as pictured below. My favourite memory of him was being confronted by no electricity feed and no help from the energy company while negotiating the lease. We went to look at the factory (legally via real estate agent license) in about August 2001 and he immediately vaulted up to the gap at the top of the door, no easy feat, to look into the substation inside. This was a privately owned facility feeding the factory, a high user. We ended up hiring a qualified electrician but you couldn't doubt Mike's enthusiasm for the task and experience in tight places. Something I was to learn alot about doing temporary plumbing after the factory employees (according to rumour) ripped off all the copper piping in 1999 or so.
Our experiences of Mike were brief and might have been alot more positive but for the influence of what we think of as 'dark arts' during that time. Our practical antitode was to get into gardening and murals:
Though grim and ugly from outside, the recycled factory spaces inside were very comfortable. It's a real tragedy images of the inside working spaces have been lost. This image is indicative only.
This gate [pictured below 2008] is a sensible addition to the safety of the site as the neighbourhood children used to come exploring when the place was empty for 2 years 99-01. We would warn them off from the occupancy starting late 2001.
This (below) is the location of the vaulting Mike Carlton up to that narrow space at the top. He was a whippet like character. Lithe and strong.
With all the attention on public safety, and criticism of extreme risk taking, it's worth noting this was a decommissioned factory site, and these files/diagrams pictured below were a legacy of the operational factory space of 1995, closed in 1999. Even so the 2001 lease terms were careful to exclude any liability for the 'abandoned' state. This was indeed an industrial adventure 'playground' and we were the colonisers of a dormant space making it more palatable for a furniture business and other tenants thereafter: As often happens with property redevelopment phases from disaster to gentrification.
Above is the rural inspired polypropylene temporary plumbing, not as easy as it looks, strung through a hole in the external wall and then 50 metres of the (usually) non trafficable services level not visible here (imagine a dirty liftwell turned on its side, with room to crawl) to toilets and kitchen.
Old machines were still in place and quite ugly but they were softened at the time by local attempts at the Gaudi treatment.
If we'd had out time over we would have been alot more discerning about who was brought into the project and on what conditions. We took a totally open minded view initially, so much so we were left very unprotected when the time for enjoying the result and accounting for (labour/financial) equity. Now we are very careful to invest in our own equity up front when it comes to community work because it's very easy to be exploited by the carefree (careless) commons or those with nothing to lose. Live and learn.
Gaudi influences straight from Barcelona in 2002 are shown here below, channeling all that legal and political frustration in a constructive way into the outdoor spaces that no one cared to contest.
Not so long after this notice we had our stuff dumped on the street briefly which also happened to one of the Sussex St ALP hard cases at one point (Albanese, Faulkner?) too and look at both of them now. Fortunately there was plenty of initiative left in the tank and supporters over the years after an inspiring world trip and soon it was us refusing to sign a confidentiality clause in a settlement deal before the Supreme Court in 2003 a few months later hence the detail here.
Sometimes we suspect Mike's supreme self confidence hit a reef with this outright reversal regarding the position of influence he took on the lease dispute. He couldn't have known the money I put up personally to secure the bond, float the substantial initial rent or long hours cleaning buckets (about 10) of rust off high metal girders to make spaces rentable, crawling through grease to connect the water, or research and negotiations to sub let so many spaces. I think such a logical character was misled by a critical mass of grifters most of whom were foreigners with little or no loyalty to the existing ngo landscape or genuine credentials. To them it was all about privatising control over rental space earmarked for public bodies.
...............#1 of 2
[Imc-sydney] Re: [Catkore] situation I Henry St Hub/IMC
[Imc-sydney] Re: [Catkore] situation I Henry St Hub/IMC
Mon, 12 Aug 2002 15:47:55 +1000
sorry about what must be a difficult homecoming for you.
Let us know if we can help resolve it somehow.
Hope you don't mind me forwarding this to the IMC list. Thanks for
filling cat in, but we really aren't the IMC itself, and we need
to keep IMCers who aren't in cat informed too. Best to write to
both of us.
Tom McLoughlin wrote:
> Please note: this list is archived and searchable via the web.
> Hello, after 3 months travelling distant lands.
> Yesterday 8th August I had a good chat with the real estate agent for 1
> Henry St which includes IMC and he confirmed that until I complete legal
> formalities I remain a joint leaseholder of 1 Henry St with Friends of the
> Earth and Donald Urquhart and jointly/severally liable for finances
> including payment of rent.
> I said I would get off the lease AFTER considering the situation and when I
> am ready. Now I have asked in writing for a financial report from Donald -
> who is now my ex business partner (and who is also on the lease with FoE) -
> as the rental account I maintained in a healthy state is now at zero (but
> with August rent paid).
> IMC doesn't pay rent but over 9 other non profit tenants do (including
> artists) and I negotiated lease agreements fully or partly with most of
> them. So my concern is that future rent, provision for bond, provision for
> power bill, provision for maintenance, advance rent, which were all
> consolidated in that rental account all still exist as legally required.
> Otherwise there could be a rental default on the head lease affecting
> everyone or misappropriation of funds. I want to keep my good relations with
> these community groups.
> I've asked for this financial report within 3 days as it has not been
> forthcoming yet. It may be all is well but before I get off the lease I need
> that reassurance.
> Secondly, in the two weeks before I left on my trip a proposal was made by a
> live in tenant to keep the room next to IMC promised to the City Hub as a
> dining room and put the Hub inside the IMC space. I actively blocked the
> scheme because:
> 1. the original incentive for IMC to move out to Turrella was exclusive
> space for IMC's uses. I saw dumping the Hub and its substantial office needs
> into IMC as a breach of faith and unethical business, possibly illegal given
> the original implied contract between the head leasees and IMC. I was
> incredulous at the suggestion.
> 2. My then business partner Donald had also agreed to the Hub moving into
> the empty room on certain rental terms, and the commune of live in tenants
> had also specifically agreed to the room being available to the Hub also at
> a formal meeting a week previous.
> 3. The Hub takes a significant amount of radical politics to a city audience
> that would normally never use the IMC or similar information providers.
> Given the threats to our democratic political system this is incredibly
> valuable. There was obvious synergies with other activities at 1 Henry St.
> The installation of the Hub was difficult with some hiccups because no one
> else helped me. I made some mistakes in the set up and had to fix them. I
> was forced to confront a late attempt to establish a dining room despite
> polite forewarning of the Hub move being operational. Still the office and
> phone lines were installed and the owner of the Hub was completely satisfied
> with the set up.
> But it seems some or all of the live in commune as distinct from majority
> other tenants, despite earlier approval of the Hub deal by the leaseholders,
> were determined to retake the room for dining and/or reject the Hub or its
> owner. A phoney rent dispute seems to have been created at a time when the
> owner had 15 days of rent still paid up and 30 days rental bond in place.
> How this could happen is a mystery to me. Another live in tenant at Turrella
> lost her sales job with the Hub at this time mainly from lack of sales which
> didn't help. The owner gave up and moved everything out but according to him
> still has rent paid/bond paid up until Sept. 15th! It does look like a rough
> deal on the Hub.
> I have an interest in all this because I am doing paid delivery work for the
> Hub again, because I jointly made the original deal and believe in business
> ethics, and because Sydney needs the Hub or similar. I have being surveying
> the situation, the empty Hub office, the phoenix like dining room, the
> excessive corridor space, the extra fit out work here which does look
> impressive, the Hub phone lines which have mysteriously gone (it took me
> alot of time and work to connect those lines physically myself).
> Overall its my strong view Turrella Centre has lost an important political
> voice and opportuntiy in the Hub and it may be that Sydney could still lose
> the Hub too as it is not particularly financial. A democratic political
> system is a privilege and it has to be nurtured and defended especially at
> the moment - its not God given - and the Hub is part of that struggle for
> democracy. If you can help in some way to support the Sydney City Hub I
> think it would be energy well spent.
> Yours truly,
> Tom McLoughlin, Ecology Action
> joint leaseholder 1 Henry St Turrella
> Hub distribution manager
> 9th August 2002
................#2 of 2
[Imc-sydney] that's 2pm 5th Dec: free speech - its hot, its great, lets keep it
Tom McLoughlin Tue, 19 Nov 2002 06:40:29 +0000
I welcome Predator's feedback which is his right. Please also note:
- catkore is a specialised mail server for cat members mainly and cat has
free rental/electricity space at turrella, hence polite notification of a
meeting relating to the future of their space.I imagine potential demolition
is of interest at least to some of them. The free rental/energy subsidy
results from all the hard establishment work I helped with in sept01-May02.
- Pred didn't mention he represents the wonderful FoE Sydney who seem to be
- I'll be careful to bcc in future.
- The dates of the meeting were raised simply as a proposal weeks ago in an
open memo to everyone around, allowing for a couple of weeks lead up. There
were no complaints about those times being a Thursday at 2pm. Jill of AR did
email from overseas about returning on Dec 3rd, so it is with respect to her
(they pay 1/4 the total rent) I have rescheduled. There was no feedback from
Pred. Maybe his prediction will be correct that
" it will not be attended by most of the people/groups with an interest in
the premises,and any decisions made there will be unrepresentative."
I don't have his crystal ball. Why pre-empt? There is no perfect time. I
just wrote a proposal, copied it around, waited for feedback, and followed
up. I think a discussion on the upcoming election and demolition plans are
We should be clear the real estate agent "represents" the owner and no one
else, especially in relation to future development. He takes my rent, gives
me my own copy of the electricity bill on 11th Oct (for $3,100). He
obviously has some legal relationship to me.
It is true my name was crossed off the lease while I was overseas, in July I
think, without permission. Imagine my surprise. The agent somehow (?)
thought I had moved out (when in fact I had paid rent till end August and
was still owed alot of money with bond.) On 3/10/02 the agent wrote all the
joint leaseholders including me on my fax machine to say:
"the lessor's support for the proposed arrangements [the change in the names
on the lease] has been withdrawn [underlined]" and "support[s] the original
intent of the lease"
He said to me the owners quite rightly don't agree with "people taking
matters into their own hands". Probably something to do with the law of the
I gave Energy Australia a briefing on the redundant half of the transformer
yard - which is quite big - a fortnight ago. They wrote me on 8th November
saying "thankyou for your assistance" and to the agent same day saying:
"a recent site meeting with Tomas McLoughlin ...proved most helpful
....access has been gained by several people at various times [including
Predator I expect]...Energy Australia has no ohjection in principal to the
southern [redundant] area ... being segregated ... in order for the area to
be used by others ... Energy Australia will be pleased to assist in this
They also note the factory substation unlike normal substations belongs to
the factory not them, but they need to be consulted re safety. Basically
there was absolutely no proximity of my signage work and the dangerous area
30 metres away. An extra internal fence is a good idea - my idea actually to
Energy Australia. The next entry into the space will probably be to build
such a fence!
I mean really what's a little meeting amongst all the assembled friends of
Tom, ecology action sydney
To: <Undisclosed recipients:>
Sent: Monday, November 18, 2002 5:44 PM
Subject: meta-spam email
>Another day, another load of spam from the indefatigable Mr McLoughlin!
>My apologies for perhaps emulating this behaviour in attempting to keep
>Tom has persisted in posting multiple unsolicited emails to catkore (a
>publically archived and searchable list), and since he has included _your_
>email address in cleartext (sometimes several of your email addresses) in
>these messages, you can expect an increased load of unsolicted advertising
>in your email intray. This is due to the fact that spam-robot email
>address harvesters trawl the Catkore archives (and every other archive,
website, newsgroup, etc), so your email addresses will be added to the
>lists of valid emails to which junk email will then be sent, and within
>short order you'll be made aware of fabulous savings to be had on human
>growth hormones, Nigerian banking scams, obscure surgical procedures, etc.
>The rescheduled date for Tom's proposed meeting is not one which has been
>arrived at by any sort of negotiation process with most of the groups Tom
>would like to attend the (proposed) meeting, and it appears to be changed
>mainly to suit his own schedule. This maximises the number of people who
>are disadvantaged by Tom's inability to _negotiate_ (rather than simply
>impose) a date and time to attend; if it goes ahead at all it will not be
>attended by most of the people/groups with an interest in the premises,
>and any decisions made there will be unrepresentative.
>Until such time as Tom actually asks all parties concerned to suggest
>convenient dates that they can all attend, any dates/times he proposes,
>and any draft agendas he offers, should probably be ignored.
>The agent remains silent because the agent is not in a position to
>represent Tom since (despite his repeated claims) Tom is not a leaseholder
>and it is therefore not the agent's onus to represent him.
>Tom should not be encouraged to do any additional signage work since, in
>order to do it, he trespasses into a fenced-off, energised 11,000 volt
>transformer yard and in so doing risks severe injury and death by
>electrocution. He has now been told not to enter into the enclosed
>transformer yard by Sydney Electricity.
>Please feel free at this point to return to your other, infinitely more
>exciting, electronic correspondance. Sorry to bore you with this stuff.
>Kind Regards -
Ever since the Rum Rebelliion Sydney seems to have been defined by land use politics. Who would have thought it was no different amongst the good guys? The above materials do indicate ngo, Green Party, local council/developer and community media machinations of diverse characters all over this cheap rental space: 1000 sqm p.a. at $30 sqm, or $2860 per month. Very cheap 30 minutes from the CBD yet still a big ask for poor activists in a large raw unserviced space. Mike Carlton played a strong role in helping the set up before the conflicts set in.
This period of our career was equal parts vaudeville, fear and loathing and legal gymnastics. We felt very sorry for Predator aka Mike Carlton suffering a fatal illness in 2003-4 perhaps conned into signing the false eviction notice above. It can't have done his state of mind any good.
In 2001 Mike helped investigate (legally) how to re connect power to a 1000 sq metre fraction of the mothballed Streets Ice Cream Factory. We were stuck in a grey area between Energy Australia and Pacific Power after market contestability was introduced but neither wanted the universal service obligation for a minnow. Now we notice a wholly new power pole on the frontage in 2008. We had a lease for the space but needed to connect water, power and make it safe for use with incredible residual plant all over this huge food factory space.
This writer who alone discovered this factory site opportunity for the community sector despite what you might read then tipped off a reputed desperado looking for real estate in about August 2001 namely Dillon about an even rougher space adjacent to 1 Henry St, technically 3 Henry Street which is now known as Mekanarky going 6 years now. They had a huge task setting up too.
We took many inside photographs at the expiration of the formal 3 year + 1 year option in late 2005. Sadly we either lost or had our camera stolen which may explain why we can't find the evocative images of factory spaces renovated for reuse. We had some 15 different tenants which this writer negotiated the great majority, as well as 50% of the fitout over 6 months then 3 month world trip to return to litigation to defend the achievement. The Indymedia and Catkore IT spaces were impressive, as were the 5 art studios, tv studio, with office spaces.
It was all a bit too close to M5 East Stack pollution in nearby Turrella Reserve shown below but a very educational experience for the 4 years we worked and lived there. The school rezoning and DA 2002-04 never went ahead. Just another vested interest seeking to gazump the lease amongst many.
It was very fitting that Predator's wake was held at Turrella. It was the better part of discretion to not attend but he was a very significant contributor in his own way.
Posted by editor
at 6:47 AM EADT
Updated: Thursday, 24 January 2008 10:47 AM EADT