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Hello and welcome to the OffMarket newsletter which we hope you will be receiving every week from now on.
If you want to subscribed to our official announcement mailing list, you can go there:
+++ OffMarket +++
111 Lower Clapton Road, E5 0NP
Opening days at the moment are: Sunday 12-6pm, Monday 12-6pm, Tuesday 12-8pm
OffMarket open meetings are on Monday 7pm if you want to meet us, check the space out or have any proposal to use the space!
Bike fixing workshop (starts 18th January)
Juggling workshop (starts 19th January)
Clowning workshop (starts 2nd February)
++1st and 3rd Tuesday of every month, 7pm++
Practical Squatting evenings (starts 18th January)
++ THURSDAY, 20TH JANUARY, 6pm ++
QueerInvisbleAcademy meeting (http://queerinvisibleacademy.org.uk/)
++ THURSDAY, 20TH JANUARY, 7PM ++
Race Revolt Reading Group Series
Race Revolt started in 2007 as an intervention into the silences around race in the queer, feminist and activist communities. This reading series considers texts that address the ways in which gay rights are being used in nationalist, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric by racist organisations such as the English Defence League, politicians like Geert Wilders and even increasingly by gay activists.
Thursday January 20th 2011, 7pm
Thursday February 3rd, 7pm
Thursday February 17th, 7pm
++ TUESDAY 8th FEBRUARY, 7pm ++
Counter Olympics Network Meeting (see http://www.counterolympicsnetwork.wordpress.com)
++ WEDNESDAY, 26TH JANUARY, 7.30PM ++
January 26th is “Australia Day” – the nation’s annual public holiday to commemorate the founding of the white australian state. Anyone interested in questioning the celebration of the founding and maintenance of a nation through policies of genocide and dispossession, and in hearing about aboriginal resistance to the australian government’s most recent racist laws is invited to this Invasion Day event. We will be screening the… newly released documentary “Our Generation” (see below), giving updates from the Rollback the Intervention and Stop Black Deaths in Custody campaigns and facilitating discussion on solidarity and strategy.
A documentary film by Sinem Saban and Damien Curtis (2010)
A rollercoaster journey into the heart of Australia’s Indigenous relations, a hidden shame that is pushing the world’s oldest living culture to the edge. Through the stories of the Yolngu of NE Arnhem Land, the film looks at the Government’s ongoing policies of paternalism and assimilation, examines the real issues underlying Indigenous disadvantage, and opens dialogue on ways forward that respect Aboriginal culture and dignity. A fresh look at unresolved issues, with music by John Butler Trio, Yothu Yindi, Archie Roach,
Gurrumul, and Goanna
++ THURSDAY, 27TH JANUARY, 7PM ++
An evening of information, talks, discussions and movies about the cuts and the resistance against them. There will be a speaker from the Hackney Alliance to Defend Public Services, some movies from Reel News, and general cosyness around hot drinks and sofas
111 Lower Clapton Road
SOCIAL CENTRES IN A TIME OF CRISIS
A weekend of workshops, discussions and socialising for everyone with an interest in radical autonomous social centres.
How can a new generation of social centres learn from the successes and failures of established ones? What are the ways in which we can best face up to the challenges?
How can we sustain energy and dynamism? Can we stop the daily grind of actually running a social centre from eclipsing the politics and passion behind it?
Is there a way in which we can capitalise on the current widespread disaffection with mainstream politics? What is the role of social centres in a time of crisis?
What is the current situation with your social centre? What’s going right, what’s going wrong, and what support do you need?
At the Common Place, Leeds 17-18th April 2010
*Saturday: 10am – 6pm, followed by dinner and entertainment *
*Sunday: 10am for brunch, 11am – 4pm*
Food by donation, accommodation and evening entertainment included!
Email your ideas for discussions and workshops that you think would be useful/interesting, and whether you would be up for facilitating any of these.
Minutes of UK Social Centres Gathering
Bradford 1 in 12 Club, 27 January 2007
The second UK wide gathering of social centres was held at the famous 1 in 12 Club in
SCN UK meeting, Bradford 1 in 12 Club, 27th January 2007.
1 in 12 Club introduction: Welcome to everyone – we wanted to host it because we are
struggling with volunteers and it was an opportunity to get some energy back in and to help
us to discuss solve our problems.
Alessio: agenda was proposed by a few of us from Leeds, Bradford, London; no one has
spoke against it. We want to open up by talking about what kind of network we want to build;
we have a network of places but no real foundation for it; so we want to air these discussions
about the politics of building a network – the political character. The workshops are to come
out of the plenary. The afternoon session is to build on the morning and talk about the
thematic priorities that we are working on, specific struggles. Some of us in London have
produced this survey – some of the spaces are out of date and so we wanted to update this
and also add some more details about what these spaces are like in terms of numbers and
campaigns etc. The skills database was suggested at a previous gathering; a directory of
skills for social centres that people can call on; for new places; contact people to get that
Q: Is the idea of the survey to get feedback now?
A: Yes, but the skills can be done at a later date. These are mainly for social centres.
Man from Age Concern
Ben, Rampart: 3rd year in May; first bit of harassment from local authorites over fire and
Alice, Cowley Club, opened new building out back; doubled space plus debt; there were
Ellie, Dave, Antony, Richard, Lou, Paul, Stuart: Common Place
Ben, Kebele, going up; just celebrated 11 years; paid off mortgage;
Gerry, Liverpool social centre, brand new
Alice, Reading, not got on yet
Kiko, Seba, Hackney, Dalston Theatre; for a year trying to cut off dependency to society
around us; we are now 8-9, doubled; evicted September, now got new place round corner;
resisting occupation as an alternative to the society of work and city we reject; difficult
experience for m any places; we are now in new place, not managing to open place; full on
discussion – who are we, what do we want to do, do we really believe it is possible to
Mark, LARC; usual problems of holding central space going; up and down; LRT has recently
squatted some land nearby to turn it into a community garden, creating alternatives to the city
and madness around us.
Mick, Eleanor, Basement; computer group now running Linux- system; one computer is the
brain, the others are just terminals so you can use old hardware; 6 people; fallen out with the
person we share the space with; few rodent issues, we can’t use rat poison, animal rights
tensions; trying to move away from café being main source of revenue, closed down some of
the opening time; less of a café, more of a social centre; logistics group has been opened up,
challenge of wingnuts;
Dan, Basement; bookshop, getting bigger, library is growing, now a librarian
Patrick, Sumac; 6 years; lots of activities; lots more capacity and potential; fave place for
Amy, Cardiff: not really got a social centre; has been a history; didn’t squat a space in the
end; energy dropped down but it has recebtly picked up; railway arches offer, we might take it
Catherine; 1in12club; got amazing building but challenge is to get old and new members to
use it not just for a pub;
James, 1in12; trying to get the library updated and useful for accessible – once a month open
it up; we’ve been here so long, institution now, elements hard to get through; old school are a
bit set in their ways, strength and weakness; worn out, good having your own building
John, Dave: Autonomous Centre Edinburgh (ACE), got grant from SCN, looking better, food
cooperative, become really exciting space
Michellin: Forest in Edinburgh; structure overall; huge number of volunteers, trying to
collective this is difficult; active working groups; politics wise, come back a lot this year;
political group doing filn and events night; hacklab active; linux geeks trying to get indymedia;
café is constant revenue
Mike, Bristol now Manchester; interested in getting to know more
Simon, member of 1in12 dominoes team
Ben, Birmingham, used to have a social centre, kind of
Alex, Nursery and Cottage, Birmingham; targeted local authority buildings, very political, they
were selling off our buildings; lots of it was co-opted by people for their own lifestyle ends;
some of kind of split, two groups; attempt to get a new social centre to restrict membership to
Alessio, London; involved in the Vortex, former jazz club, stoke Newington; 20 years; was a
community hub; campaign since 2002 to keep it open; 70-80 people defended place
yesterday in eviction attempt; very good, popular, well received; lots of activists and
anarchists and swp in the area; a lot of locals getting involved seeing it as their space; 75-85
at last meeting; broad base of opinions, reactionary views but interesting process of
interaction; likely to be turned into a starbucks, 40 people at the anti-starbucks meeting;
leaflets going round’ a campaigning place; no real events yet but; there is a jazz working
group, got people from Crass involved.
Polly, Sam, Norwich: don’t have a social centre
Carl, Steve, Matt, Liverpool
A new space has been opened in Dublin, centre; strong group, going really well;
Glasgow, Unity Office, Refugee Union space;
Lost and Found space in Manchester from November, new sound system alliance, massive
party, 6-7 rig party got busted and they have become radicalised, they want to do Defy ID
The idea was to move away from local issues and to look at the network; it seems to be just
paper-based; how does a network fulfil our aims; how does a network relate to anti-capitalist
struggles and anarchist struggles.
Mick: previous meetings came up with strategies: (1) collective tours: Rossport film; (2)
Alessio: that is to do with syndicating stuff around cities
Paul: technical solutions have been proposed; social centres list is being used at all, 150
people subscribed; I’m kind of interested in something political above and beyond our own
bricks and mortar; maybe there isn’t a desire for that
Ben: a resource for all social centres are the people who come to the space and those on the
mailing lists; so how can our mailing lists be useful shared for campaign; e.g. regular mailout
of events – a shared piece of all newsletters
Ben, Kebele: we’ve got so much on day to day, we find it quite hard to engage in a network
although we see the value of it, but we don’t see the need to manufacture it if it is not needed;
perhaps the list shows that we don’t feel the need to use it; people involved in Kebele do lots
of different things so to make that a macro level thing is very difficult;
Alice: ‘make sure you don’t commit to anything on behalf of the Cowley Club’; there is feeling
that if a network emerges, we want to be in it; but we also don’t want to commit; we are
bogged down in all of the day to day issues of running the space, the contradictions,
Alex, Birm: there are things that are common to all of us, surely there are things around that
we can work together on; what it comes down to is why do a social centre in the first place –
what is the aim? Is there anything we can mutually help each other;
Lou: been reflecting on the importance of SCs to wider gathering e.g. climate camp,
neighbourhoods; would these have happened without social centres; they are vital to
communications; again with the G8, so it is vital to have a communication network;
Patrick: it is interesting we use social centre as a term: we all seem to share what this means
– a common ground exists; do we need to formalise that? There are lots of other networking
opportunities, so no need to have too many meetings like these.
Alessio: we do have shared interests and experiences; where don’t we have the capacity by
ourselves, we need a network; we could promote social centres as the base moblising
centres e.g. people say we wish we had a social centre to help with things: climate camp, G8,
no borders; these structures and groups are emerging; let’s look 4 years down the line, to see
what kind of structures we want in place so that when something does kick off, social
movements emerge, social centres can help; we are communicating 1000s of peoples at any
Mick: we can have an interactive chart of what networks and issues we are involved in; that
there are core members and groups that keep it running it; the core of people running them
are apolitical almost – they are running spaces for others to use; so basement has become
this apolitical space that political organisations use; it has been helpful in being accessible;
but weird as well. So how can we be useful? (1) Communication – (2) Politicise the social
centre and social centreise the political – get those putting on events to take more ownership
of the space
Mark, LARC: we got into this for politics, but we find ourselves in an administrative role, doing
thankless things, energy loss; what practical things can we do – a zine, a website; etc but
what makes these things grow is the core groups / campaigns that drive them
Lou: second all that, but think it’s important to talk about volunteering; but also to create
networks around the café’s, subject specific;
Ben: we do have a network, not just on paper; so we do need to use it when we need it; let’s
get that infrastructure sorted; no need for an actual formal statement because very hard to
get that and it isn’t needed;
Amy: the network can inspire and help us, just by sharing experiences; once or twice a year,
it is nice and useful to have these conversations;
Alice: there is some paid people in some social centres, it is a debate; it would be good to
have a write up of that decision; to explain, a case in point, to inform the debate on it;
Ben: this all fits into the website: forums, resources, different clubs constitutions etc. people
can then have a centralised space to work together;
Paul: all this logistical stuff is important, but I also think we have a responsibility to tackle the
big issues collectively as a network; everything place that a social centre is involved in is
changing – fighting gentrification; shouldn’t we be taking that on;
Lou: key tension is between energy that takes to run it; and running events and campaigns
Mick: yes, gentrification is important to all of us; but could the Basement campaign on this as
a whole? Can a group here decide things and take things back to the basement? Would it
Alessio: social centres reader is a good start to informing these debates; maybe this network
is about raising the profile of social centres; lets start at a very basic level: (1) make social
centres public: who we are, what we offer
Amy: how do you do that nationally? Most of this will be done locally?
Alessio: a shared leaflet that we could do
Eleanor: people don’t know about these other spaces, we assume it;
Patrick: having a map of places like that on each notice board, with other events going on
elsewhere, would help to promote;
Alice: the little pamphlet is helpful for this; but other things are taken for granted and
assumed: like we are all volunteers but we are not rich; how to guides etc; we need to
communicate even better;
(from) Forest: we don’t explain about the cheap café; also, using the forest as an international
hub of people coming and going around Europe.
Lou: paper-based stuff is very important, less emphasis on websites
Ben: (1) a reciprocal agreement on membership between centres; (2) Mutual aid to help open
up other spaces, a box of things that are always needed – social centres seed fund, provide
revenue generation and credit for cash flow crises.
Patrick: we should talk to Radical Routes about loan stock before reinventing the wheel
1. Communication: website (map – laminated for each space)
2. Zine / booklet
3. Syndication of tours;
4. Info / shared skills on different aspects of running the place;
5. Visibility of social centres generally: the idea of them
6. Setting up news spaces: fundraising and resources
Web – e-communication
- email lists
- virtual communication
- tours: speakers, exhibition
- shared events
- paper publications: distribution / info points
- common leaflet
- zine / booklet
Supporting new spaces and existing ones:
- solidarity / eviction spaces
- database of skills
- surveys – what do you HAVE – bars, photocopiers – RESOURCES
PLENARY 2. Feedback from groups
1. Visibility working group
a. Social centre magazine – Paul’s proposal – been taken forward – social centres are
being asked for contributions
b. Leaflet – text 150 words which was written at gathering. The text is as follows:
WHAT ARE SOCIAL CENTRES?
Social Centres are self-managed spaces either owned, occupied or leased which take
many different forms. Social Centres are a means whereby people can come together to
create, conspire, communicate and offer a collective challenge against capitalism.
The idea of Social Centres is not only to occupy social space but to create a critical visible
presence in the community where people can engage in radical ideas and events.
Social Centres offer a sense of community and solidarity, affordable food and
entertainment, a non-commercial place to relax, talk, meet people or find information on
political campaigns, issues and actions.
The UK Social Centre Network is a network of independent social and community centres
in the United Kingdom whose aim is to link up “the growing number of autonomous
spaces to share resources, ideas and information”. The network draws a very clear
distinction between the many independent social and community centres around the
country on one side and the state or large NGO sponsored community centres on the
other. Despite there being a tradition of social spaces in occupied buildings (also known
as squatting), the recent upsurge in (legal) social centres has come about in the last five
years. List of current UK social centres, either squatted or legal:
<–List of Social Centres — Plus map –>
Similar text could also be the basis for a poster for display at Centres on bookstalls etc.
c. Poster – alice and others to make a brief for design of posters
d. Beer mat
make better use of existing e list
need knowledge of our counter parts – direct communication would be good –
PROPOSAL for a direct communication between individuals.
Send round common publicity of events.
We have made a list of emails of people
Paul to send round address labels to social centres list
Ben from Brighton will be contact point for getting together a list of people to contact for
3. Supporting new social centres and existing ones
Proposal to gather case studies of how social centres deal with issues including:
Pros/cons of renting etc
Getting started – membership
Payment of volunteers
Conflict resolution/self policing
Need for a seedcorn money pot for new groups – and emergencies for existing groups
4. Web working group
- what will people use the site for
- the website is currently Drupal based
- rather than try to reproduce other things, we have sought to bring in what exists
- Ben: a mistake possibly
- We could add a social centre tick box to Indymedia
- Debate about duplication and redefining / moderating feeds
- We have a calendar but again there is duplication worries here
- Ben: idea – to have multiple front ends with single database for certain things
- Need for a multiple search engine for individual calendars
- Need to talk to local websites about how they work and feed information to enable the
central site to suck in and out info without duplication
- Need therefore to create a special search engine: Ben mentioned Google Coops; are
there open source versions? There are
- Drupal calendar not going to work
- So can we ask social centres to adopt a calendar system that is searchable etc, but
that is updated and already exists
- Who is it for: (1) existing activists – it is useful because social centres are to support
local and national politics
- Events: have this calendar for shared events of use to all of us; and major political
actions; have a section that helps users get to different social centre’s events and
news and explain this;
- Talk to Yossarian about new calendar system – can it be flexible to accommodate us?
- Need to survey social centres and their websites on needs and functionality
- Invite people into social centre development list
- Audit of what is out there, what people want
- Who’s up for putting work in?
- Rampart people were up for it
- Survey: develop a survey system
- should we open it up more to the list?
- Announce and discussion list?
- Give emails to the admin – ben from rampart
not wanting to duplicate effort – how to maintain new stuff. It would need to be
autonomatic so as to not make new work.
What is website for – to find out for local info or just general stuff
Events calendars – big point – don’t want to develop anything new as this would duplicate
There is now a website hosted by mick.
Website – Is it for social centres or the wider public
On website the ‘uk social centre network’ page on wikipedia is a click through on the
spaces link on the website
It also has a feed through from free spaces newswire on indymedia.
There is a list for those developing the website which is:
Social centres general riseup list is now public
you can sign up.
POLITICAL PROJECT FEEDBACK
No Borders working group
What is No Borders?
A network of grassroots groups taking direct action
Eleanor: Manchester No Borders group: did exist for a while; lots of sounding off and not real
action; we did a spoof newspaper; individual campaigns; Brides without Borders has been
taken on by those who directly concerned; free esol classes, food and coffee etc; work quite
closely with NCADC; Leeds Minibus
Patrick: No Borders and Defy ID natural allies because the database will be keeping us in
and keeping them out; ID card will combine both roles; overlay map of existing national ID
Got a very strong independent refugee forum on welfare
Birmingham: were doing a weekly picket; voucher system being rolled out across more
people; West Midlands anti-deportation network; fed it into anti-racism; when we had events
there it did shake up the centre; hard to get some refugees involved because it was squatted.
Cowley Club: migrant English project, free lessons and food etc; great for finding out if people
are at risk; re set up nb group quite recently; started targeting the woman who decides on
asylum seeker health treatment because she is racist; legal advice etc and finding advice;
new Gatwick detention centres being planned on the runway; radical pop ed project around
racism, borders, migration, looking for people to get involved; not enormous
Alessio: no borders London set up an office in the square for 6 months, first time we had
done this; fundraising; office has moved to LARC; along with Medical Justice Foundation who
provide medical reports for refugees tortured in their countries; staffed mainly by detainees
released through; February 10th at Harmondsworth, trying to mobilize
Kebele: very limited experience of dealing with asylum seekers and refugees; did speak to
refugee action a while ago about it; are quite considerable barriers – accessibility, no
smoking, drinking on certain days; put refugees up at Kebele; but want to do more
Stuart: big rant about the problems
Alessio: massive burnout; we have a detainee support network; a lot of people have got tags;
we have separated it off from No Borders; meetings are about the big-style
1 May – soley on Migration; justice for cleaners, TGWU;
March 10th – Glasgow – larger campaigns and see how social centres can assist
Make social centres support centres for migrants
Alice: a lot of sense to divide things up; very important that we carry on with the welfarist
function; it gives us legitimacy; enable social centres to become solidarity spaces.
Alex: migrants tend themselves to be nationalistic or focused around their issues; they don’t
Alessio: to create a mobilization network around Harmondworth etc.
Alice: practical space: lack of written materials; films to be shown;
Mick: has done a video podcast – new films;
Alessio: local speaking tours of social centres with no borders groups; put out on the list that
social centres network exists, supports migrant struggles, and wants to propose this tour
Alex: why are migrants and social centres linked? What is it about the excluded? etc
Mick: they are the perfect place to organise anti-deportation campaigns.
Alice: Newcastle gathering – ask them to do it
Alessio: why not get a text on this together for March?
Alice: we want to get a no borders zine;
Mick: no border.org website
WEBSITE – have a separate section on website for each issues: no borders; etc
Alice: wants to see a mapped out strategy for when to get involved and how;
Alessio says: London detainee network
Mick: CDROM how to run a cam
Joint speakers tour;
Events – Feb 10th; March 10th; March 31st; May 1st
Help people to set up a social centre themselves, squat accommodation;
Coventry has a housing coop mainly for migrants
Whole area is very very hard work – prone to burn out
Propose Social Centres / Migrant Struggles workshop at the Glasgow gathering
English speaking service: Brighton to share info how to do this.
Mick to take on a DVD of films;
Stuart to contact some possible speakers;
NCADC and CAN
Films, talks, organizing
Social centres to finance the tour; want them to get involved in the organization and
pipeline; Amy – we need people to come down; Mark B – musical extravaganza, a show;
main point, a contact for eco people in each centre; Monster Bike workshop; internal energy
audits; we need to be aware of our own climate issues, and share knowledge, skills and
funding; how can the network be used; low carbon building trust – 50% grants for solar
Can this network make contact with land-based rural housing coops and autonomous
developments; eco villages; low impact developments – create links;
Make each theme a visible part of the space – use social centres to make up the
neighbourhoods; climate camp video tour
To help to facilitate local support; people have experience of direct action
Housing – massive new movements in Spain and France
You can get blagged funding from youth precarity housing, cooperatives etc –
- talks and film showing on any issues
- Edinburgh Waterfront film; ACE wants to become a resource centre for community
The whole network idea breaks down when collectives become caretakers of buildings.
Mick – Open City; link to website
Survey Mark 2
could include the skills
Alessio to do V2 of social centres survey: this to include
1. Details of contact person for events at each SC
2. Getting info for survey of how social centres deal with problems
3. developing websites
Website could also be used for this;
Draft text has already gone out on the list; one month deadline; 10,000; Alice / Amy to
coordinate designer brief? Alessio to the printers; possible UHC etc;
Quotes for a poster, not as urgent
Zine – 2 month feedback; 6 month deadline – paul to circulate proposal
Postcard – look into
Stu to redirect web-page; put announcement out and people can become login; want
feedback on design and input;
Mick to write a summary about what to do when online;
Using the survey, social centres should write something about different experiences;
How do you run your social centre;
Each social centre to do a benefit
Contact details to go out
Info to be used for anarchist article; and then a brochure.
E-list – use social centres list for announcements
Date of next gathering: July – need to get a SC to propose to hold it.
Let’s all commit to one benefit per social centre; recognise we had money and try to help
others to do it
Proposal – to raise £1000 start up fund; decisions to be made at the next gathering.
Participants from social centres across the UK held a productive meeting during the Camp for Climate Action in Selby in August. More than 30 people attended but nobody from rampART due to an action.
The meeting was called to inject momentum once again into the evolving social centre network. We had last met in January 2006 (see previous report at end) and had resolved to go away and do a number of things – set up a website working group, set up a process of resource and skill sharing, share tours, and meet again at the end of spring with a more sustained opportunity to talk about the politics behind what we are all doing. For various reasons, nothing had happened. The Climate Camp’s workshop programme offered those of us involved in social centres the chance to meet again within an ‘action- oriented’ environment. Also, the social centre connection to Climate Camp was strong as the Common Place was used as the office and storage space, plus Leeds- based info-point.
At the beginning, those present were asked to introduce themselves and update the network on news from their particular social centres. Here is a brief summary:
Still going strong, remains huge work effort, problem of volunteers
Occupied community centre, been going for a year, resisted eviction; a new group has emerged in Nottingham up for getting a 3rd space
Kebele been going 10 years; just paid mortgage; looking to switch from housing coop to community coop
ex-council community centre, squatted in July, going well, got computer lab, benefit gigs café, following on from Nursey occupied social centre
located in building of cheap rents, lease up in 2 years, took 6 months of hard work to get open, problems paying rent, looking for funding without being compromised
very extensive library, trying to get local community to use; still useful meeting space, only a few groups using it at moment; The Square diverted a lot of groups its way due to central space
Everything 4 Everyone
focal point for anti-gentrification struggle in Hackney; resisted eviction once; there is an emerging social centre of a Everyone sort in Kensington
had a number of squatted spaces/rented events; aim to do both; plan to look for squatted space, then do more of a resource centre, having monthly benefits in working man’s club
got off ground with G8 money, going 18 months, been a blast, lots of gigs, now got full club licence, rent is getting paid; heart of common place is the café, huge problem of regular volunteering, very stretched, seems social centres are dependent on tiny amounts of committed people; now asking – what are we going to do next, is it sustainable.
novelty gone after 25 years; still going, peaks and troughs; paid/unpaid volunteers an issue, club had to employ people to do jobs that weren’t getting done, shit pay, jobs still aren’t always done, become nasty managers; regular benefit meals / gigs; put on plays, anarchist library, footy team, bar; small town, small collective; most got full-time jobs making volunteering hard; when it works, it works
came out of squatted OCSET centres; used G8 money, rent room in community centre, now run the community centre, success but lots of problems, burn out happening
basement under café, thinking of setting up new place run by different political groups; learnt from experience of The Square that you need an idea b4 starting otherwise loses coherence and purpose
Discussion about volunteering
Recurring theme of meeting was issue of volunteers – all spaces struggling with workload, and attracting people to get involved with the work. Reasons for this discussed were:
- lack of responsibility – can be difficult to volunteer, barriers – lack of political commitment to social centres or lack of shared vision – people hate work, especially unpaid
Solutions discussed were:
- skill-sharing – breaking down the ‘production’ system into small, manageable jobs that anyone can DO e.g. café – a single menu, volunteers do a ‘part’ of the menu – call emergency meeting, say that the place will close, usually works – pay transport, even pay volunteers
There were mixed views about having paid workers. Creates a division, which becomes a producer / consumer divide, we become employers, disciplining staff (!) give in to wage labour system. breaks down self-organisation ethos. But some people cannot ‘afford’ to volunteer – at what point do you compromise to survive?
Sharing events / tours
The meeting heard proposals for a number of shared social centres tours / events:
- Rossport Solidarity Camp in Ireland, supporting local community against Shell pipeline, want to do a tour of UK social centres in November – Women from Russian G8 and German G8 mobilisation – September – Screeners network: social centres to volunteer to show films / have shared seasons
Long discussion was then had on ‘how’ social centres can share tours, put on joint events. One problem encountered was that there was no up to date list of current social centres with contact details of who / how to get in touch. This made contacting each other very difficult. Most people at the gathering weren’t even on the main social centres network list.
The meeting heard various proposals:
- have a dedicated person from each social centre dealing with social centre tours / shared stuff – have a database of contacts for tours, screenings, resource sharing – have a promoting group made up of people from different social centres who took on organising, promoting tours / book launches etc – book out a set day of the month per social centre when shared events can take place – set up a new email list for shared tours /events – set up / update an up to date website or holding page with all contacts / ways of getting in touch with different spaces . phone numbers essential.
It was argued that booking a regular specific time / date space for each social centre as part of a shared events initiative will not work for some social centres due to (a) huge booking demands (b) huge booking bureaucracy.
It was agreed: – to update existing e-list as first step: no new lists! [done] – put an up to date list of social centres and best way of contacting them online [ done - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ UK_Social_Centre_Network] – come back to next gathering with a more concrete system of sharing events
At the last gathering, a website working group was formed to come up with proposed designs and specification for a shared website. For various reasons, not much has happened. Paul (common place) brought some designs for an interim website (see http://www.orangeideas.co.uk/ clients/scn/Design%202.htm) based on a portal idea. The home page would be a map of the UK and Eire. Each space – social centre, resource centre, radical café, autonomous community centre, info shop – would be located on the map and as the mouse rolled over any particular space, it would become larger, with a brief pop description and a link, taking you straight to the website of that particular space. The site would have a number of links to section about social centres, resources, links, history, and a newswire RSS feed from Indymedia Free Spaces.
Social centres booklet
Paul and Stu distributed a short overview essay they had written on social centres that will be published in a journal called City. This had been an offshoot of the social centre tour they completed in January as research for a chapter in the forthcoming popular education handbook by Trapese (www.trapese.org)
During that tour, they had done interviews, many recorded, with a dozen social centres and other similar spaces about their histories, ambitions, activities and had sent transcripts back to each social centre for their own use. There was strong interest among social centres for a booklet or pamphlet on social centres – Paul / Stu wanted to know what people wanted to do with the huge amounts of information they had gathered, how to proceed with a publication, who wanted to be involved, what kind of format etc. They mentioned their research project on autonomous spaces and that this could help finance the design, printing and distribution of the pamphlet.
The feedback was positive. Some ideas were discussed:
- practical pamphlet for social centres and interested people: contacts, short histories, explanations, location, how to get involved, tips / advice etc
Following Liverpool’s request for solidarity with the construction of their new social centre, we discussed how to share resources and help. It was agreed that some kind of database with info on who has: building skills, legal training, licensing, funding experience, actual resources, where to get things from like Zap coffee, coffee machines, cinema, techie skills etc. The idea of social centres combining a gathering with an invitation to come up and help out on a project in the social centre or as part of a wider political campaign, action, mobilisation was also mentioned again.
It was agreed that a gathering twice a year would be useful and necessary. It was hoped that each social centre would offer to host on a rotational basis and that it was preferred to keep meetings in the centre of the UK as much as possible.
Bradford 1 in 12 Club offered to host the next gathering in December as a symbolic end to their 25th anniversary year.
What might be the first UK-wide gathering of social centres took place at the Commonplace social centre in Leeds and was a very friendly, informative and constructive experience. It was also a positive step in the creation of a working network of social centres. Some 60 people attended from past centres like ex-Grand Banks, Institute for Autonomy (London), PAD (Cardiff), current spaces like Kebele (Bristol), LARC (London), Matilda (Sheffield), Basement (Manchester), Sumac (Nottingham), Chalkboard (Glasgow), Common Place (leeds), Hanover Squares (leeds), 1-in-12 (Bradford), the Square (London) and future initiatives in Preston, Liverpool and Newcastle.
After enjoying the commonplace café collective’s regular Sunday vegan brunch (which has been packing the place out for the past month), some 60 people watched a montage of clips about social centres and other autonomous spaces from across Europe in the Common Place cinema.
There was then a go round which took about an hour in the end such were the range and depth of presentations by those present. Here is a summary of what was said –
London. Successful temporary squats in Central London have created different effects depending on where they have been located, some being in central commercial locations reaching passers-by, and others in residential areas making a real connection with local communities. WOMBLES have been involved in various attempts to use the tactics of social centres.
In January 2002, The Radical Dairy was occupied and ran for some 14 months in Stoke Newington. Between Jan and March 2004, we occupied an old community centre in Kentish Town on Fortess Rd, which gave birth to the “anti-copyright cinema” (films were “premiered” weeks, sometimes months before being officially released) which proved to be a success in the area.
We then occupied an old wine bar “Grand Banks”, a few blocks down the same road. The Ex-Grand Banks was a big success. It ran regular events, had hundreds of people from the area attend every week, and was used by a mixture of local kids (every lunchtime we have upwards of 50 school children, lunch was organised by donation and some of the older kids started helping behind the counter), parents, some teachers. During the week it was more like an extension of the school and was used like a common room. A recent newspaper article by a youth in Camden New Journal bemoaned the closure of ex-Grand Banks as a place where kids could hang out and feel respected – a kid was recently stabbed nearby.
Between Feb and July 2005, we were involved in the Institute For Autonomy in Gower Street, which was run by a collective made up of Univerisity of London students and other assorted refugees from Grand Banks (!). The IFA, located close to the university/student area became used by a variety of political groups as well as hosting various labs (hacklab, screen printing, photolab, infoshop/bookstall) held a cafe three times a week offering top-quality food attracting workers, students and lecturers from around the area. It also housed upwards of 15 people and provided housing for people who were on their way to attend the anti-G8 actions in Gleneagles.
Other social centres in London include RampART (squatted) since May 2004, and London Action Resource Centre (owned) since 2001. In the last month, in co-operation with a student anarchist group, a new squatted social centre has been launched in Russell Square – called the Square. The university has already won a repossession order but squatters are trying to create alliances with University staff and students to keep the space.
Bristol. The Kebele Social centre has been operating for 10 years and is mainly funded by a housing co-op situated above. Facilities include a library and resource centre, and space for community activities such as circus skills workshops and refugee support.
Nottingham. The Sumac Centre has been in its current building, which it owns, for 5 years. A private members bar and café rent space in the building and rooms are regularly let to a range of different groups from archeology clubs to refugee artists. It also rents out space to ASBO social centre activists who are in the process of setting up another social centre in Nottingham and there are some residential rooms upstairs that are also being let. ASBO social centre has been going for 4 months. It’s in a council owned building and has very strong community involvement, something helped persuade the council to give them the building. Its Situated in a large building containing many different flats, the space is divided between residential flats and space for a free shop, print resources & computers, an art workshop, a bike workshop and kitchen which provides cheap food and has regular user groups such as a Kurdish film club.
Glasgow. The Chalkboard social centre is situated between a yuppified West End, the centre of town and a run down residential area – Mary Hill. The centre’s primary focus is to attract and welcome the involvement of the local community by engaging in campaigns that are immediately relevant to local residents such as supporting tenancy associations and battling corruption and gentrification. They want to produce a citizen’s user manual for people to cope with different aspects of living in struggle.
Liverpool. A group emerging out of Liverpool social forum is looking into the possibility of setting up a social centre in the basement of ‘News from Nowhere’ radical bookshop
Sheffield. Situated in a very central location in Sheffield, Matilda social centre operates an info shop, exhibition space, bookshop, cinema, hack lab, meeting space and café. They’ve managed to be financially sustainable through the money made by selling food at the café and books in the bookshop. The building has been run by a guy from a local record label for a while and was illegally sold by Sheffield Hallam Uni so they are occupying it – they don’t pay rent.
Preston. A group of people in Preston are trying to get together and set up a space. One of their main problems is building support for such a project, since a lot of the potential energy in the area, especially amongst students and young people is being sucked dry by independent parties and their shitty politics.
Bradford. The 1 in 12 has been a collective for 25 years, initially putting on events around different venues in Bradford. They’ve owned their own premises for 18 years which they managed to buy with an inner city regeneration grant. They have a very active gig venue and a football team is run from there. One of the things they are challenged with at the moment is trying to maintain people’s enthusiasm and commitment.
Manchester. The Basement is in central Manchester and it runs an infoshop, exhibition space, bookshop, asylum seeker project and a vegan café used by lots of city workers. The café pays rent on space, but they’ve also received help from the Ethical Property Co. which offered to buy the property for them. They also have a whole load of equipment which belongs to the social centre netwok such as: marquee, kitchen equipment, sound system, solar panels to run it all.
Cardiff. A group in Cardiff have been experimenting with squatted and legal spaces to get a feel of how they want to run their centre and also to get the confidence of organizing events and spaces that they feel they need in order to set up a permanent space.
Leeds. The Commonplace has been going for about a year, renting a disused factory in heart of yuppy corporate quarter called the Calls.
Newcastle. A group in Newcastle that have been working together for a year & a half, are currently negotiating a building in a central park of Newcastle which is between the city centre and the more ‘underdeveloped’ west end. It needs £30 grand worth of repairs and the group are in the process of putting together a business plan and legal constitution and will appreciate any technical help. Plans for the space include a resource centre and meeting space, which are both really needed in Newcastle, and also a cinema, gig and art space.
The presentations gave a lot of us a sense of being part of a broader political movement and were followed by a wide-ranging discussion about what we are trying to achieve, some of the problems and shortfalls involved and in what ways we can work together.
Not everyone agreed on why a network was needed but everyone seemed to think that better communication and sharing of resources was a good start. Three aspects were identified as being the main priorities and reasons for the formation of the network:
(1) The need to share information, advice and support on the legal, operational and practical questions surrounding the setting up & running of political social spaces. There was a clear call for a pool of resources, where advice documents such as the Guide to Licences put together by the Common Place can be downloaded and used by others trying to set up. It was also noted that there is a need to put together a list of contact details of individuals or groups with specific skills that can offer specific advice to any group that needs it.
(2) The desire to share programming information from selection of films for festivals to being able to book local and international speakers from one centre to the others. There was also a suggestion to put together a programme listing what’s happening in all the different social centres across the country, similar to the Infosurpa events list for squats and social centres in London.
(3) The desire to exchange ideas, opinions and political views by reflecting on our different experiences of being involved in these projects. To create a platform from which to exchange not only practical skills, but also angles and political positions on the issues involved in setting up and running social centres. One suggestion was that the debate will assist each project to reach its full political potential.