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Yorkshire Forward, Matilda and the Discurs of Health and Safety

Mole | 14.06.2006 23:39 | Culture | Free Spaces | Social Struggles | Sheffield

Now that Yorkshire Forward (YF) has put the dispute over using Matilda to escalation it is important to reflect upon their discursive strategy.
The argument used in this mornings attack on the Social Centre is that health and safety in the building was poor.
By putting forward this argument YF is trying to avoid talking about the real issue of the conflict: Who takes part in the development of the city?

Matilda stays
Matilda stays

This city is ours
This city is ours

Not only in several talks with the PO, several members of the collectives and other individuals, but also in their official statement to the BBC this evening YF has argued that their main concern with the present running of Matilda was Health and Safety. While various representatives of YF repetitively explained that they liked the work that was done in Matilda and that they understood their agency's objective as enhancing this kind of community based cultural work, they couldn't agree in letting Matilda go forward because the building wasn’t safe and they were taking the risk as the owners of being held liable.
While safe conduct and people's health are important values, adhered to by Matilda in various talks and hours of work of improvement of the building, the way this argument is used by YF is simply a rhetorical trick.
Obviously there is no absolute safety in this world. Obviously there is no 100% guarantee of healthy living in our system. So what they actually mean by health and safety boils down to certain law-standards, which need to be met or in any way addressed.
As we understand a Health and Safety assessment has been conducted by YF in regards to the building. Yet why haven’t the people working in the building been informed of the results?
As we understood the results have let to the present escalation, but why haven’t they been used to open talks towards commonly working on solutions?
It is very simple:
YF doesn’t have an interest in improving the health and safety of the building. They actually don’t have any interest in the building, its potential and actual use by the Matilda collectives. The only thing that YF is interested in is the economic development of a pitch of land in the centre of Sheffield in a way that generates tax revenue for the central government, profits for large-scale co-operations and treat-mill jobs for people in the area. This is their agenda.
Now they can’t say this can say? They say they like small entrepreneurs, they offer to find cheap spaces, and they want to support what we are doing...if it wasn’t for health and safety...even in Matilda...
If that was true, why are we not negotiating and start working on the health and safety?

YF today’s move is a political one. It is motivated by a political agenda of city development that puts Big Business first. People, community and collectives do not exist as autonomous players in this agenda.
The way YF is putting Health and Safety forward as their main reason to close down the social centre is an attempt to cover the weakness of their political argument. One year of Matilda shows: People are autonomously acting; they are experts to define what development they want for the spaces they life in. They are not only able to assess and meet standards of health and safety; they can actually run their “cultural industries” without needs for funding or profit making.

So what is at stake here at Matilda at the moment is where the city development is going to go. While YF might have a political agenda and the money for safety assessments and lawyers, but the people working for YF don’t do anything but a job, their cause has no heart and no soul.
Let's hope that a lot of people from Sheffield will come down to Matilda over the next days and weeks and take part in creating a political statement of lived autonomy that tells YF and the whole city:
This city is ours!
Matilda stays!



Display the following 2 comments

  1. Matilda Health and Safety crap — Rayne Wooney
  2. Appalling Health & Safety @ Matilda — DuplicitousSuit