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Social Centres, Where Next?

freespaces | 26.01.2006 11:29 | Culture | Free Spaces | Social Struggles

Five years ago, you could count the number of places in the UK which associated themselves with radical politics (anarchist, libertarian) on one hand. However, the mobilisations around the G8 saw a surge in activity (and cash) for setting up new social centres. Now there are around 20 such places from Brighton's Cowley Club, RampART, 56a Infoshop and LARC in London, to the Sumac Centre in Nottingham and the Saorsa Centre and George X in Glasgow. Perhaps of most note has been the increase of rented or purchased premises such as the Common Place in Leeds and the Basement in Manchester. That doesn't mean that aren't still new squatted spaces appearing. In Nottingham there is the ASBO Community Centre, and a new space (ex-SSEES) in London is opening this week.

Interest in the idea of social centres is still very high amongst the radical/anarchist milieu. Meanwhile a small group from the popular education collective Trapese have been travelling the country interviewing people involved in current social centres for a new book provisionally titled 'a handbook for autonomy and creation' due out in June 2006. But why haven't we got many places that can live up to the name "social centres"? What were the problems politically with previous attempts of social centres? What can we learn? What is next? Last month thirty people attended a wombles meeting in London to discuss just these issues and now a similar discussion planned to take place in Leeds at the end of January has started to turn into a national gathering of social centres.


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