The Square occupied social centre, based at 21 Russell Square, London [Map], was facing eviction fom Friday, June 23rd. A call out was made to resist the eviction and to hold a Festival of Resistance, involving autonomous groups, social centres activists, live bands, DJs and participants from The Square.
On Friday, 23rd June, around 60-70 people followed the call for solidarity and to resist the eviction from the early morning. The building was festooned with an array of flags and banners, and the mood was light but determined. Apart from a couple of oficers from Camden Council that eventually turned up, made some telephone calls and then left, no other form of 'authority' showed up or attempted eviction. [Mid morning update | Pics 1 | 2 | 3]
On Saturday, around 400 people attended the concert in support of The Square, which featured live music in two stages and a couple of sound systems in the basement [Report]. A talk and film screening about repression in Mexico also took place in the evening, organized by Z.A.P.
On Sunday, around 30 people including most of those who had had a sustained relationship with the space, came together to decide the term of the resistance that had begun on Friday. This gathering eventually came up with a dissolution communique of The Square Occupied Social Centre, which informs that "the space has now been passed on to a handful of residents who wished to remain and a few people who wanted to continue to run the place as a political and cultural venue", and it ends stating:
"Something has passed from central London into our hearts. The red and black will not fly over Russell Square much longer but we carry them in exile, and we will have another building in due course".
The Square opened its doors on February 4th, 2006, with the aim of developing the potential of an autonomous space, encouraging a connection with its locality (mainly students and lecturers), as well as being a visible part of the movement developing alternatives to capitalism and supporting local and global struggles.
Over the past 5 months of occupation, The Square has hosted several key events and initiatives and has tried to move beyond existing just as an activist infrastructure to become a political entity. This has been done by initiating and supporting such political actions as the Stop the War march, the NoBorders demo on April 8th, and the Mayday Autonomous Bloc as part of the Euro May Day parades. The Square is also home to the No Borders detainee support office.
Other inspiring events at The Square were the Radical Academics in the Neo-liberal University, the first UK-wide No Borders gathering, the Anarchism 06, the London Zine Symposium, Precariot, the Paradise Now film showing, the Divorce Iranian Style film showing and talk, as well as dozens of benefits, cafes, info-nights, live music, film showings, discussions, exhibitions and meetings.
THE SQUARE has been a continuation of previous experiments of social centres.
Radical Dairy/Kynaston Rd (Stoke Newington, N16) [Jan '02-Feb '03]
In recent years, the term social centres was used to describe such initiatives and have been based in occupied (squatted) buildings. In London, we (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.
Hundreds of people from around the area (Stoke Newington) came to events over that period it, and a stronger connection was made with political activists in the area as well as an engagement with people who have never had interests in anti-authoritarian politics. 7 months after loosing the electricity (we had to buy a generator) due to a met police raid, orchestrated to harass and undermine plans to organise Mayday 2002, the Radical Dairy was evicted on February 2003.
Occupied Social Centre/Fortess Rd (Kentish Town, NW5) [Jan '04-Mar 04]
The Social Centres "project" for us continued in 2004 with the occupation of an old community centre in Kentish Town. So short lived, it provided host to several large events and 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.
Following a strong presence on the day of eviction, we couldn't operate much like a social centre behind huge barricades so we took a decision to occupy an old wine bar "Grand Banks", a few blocks down the same road.
Ex-Grand Banks/Fortess Rd (Tufnell Park, NW5) - [Mar '04-Sep '04]
The Ex-Grand Banks, became one of the most successful political social centres. It ran regular events, had hundreds of people from the area attend every week, and seemed to go beyond what we thought possible. The composition of those that used it was 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. Though political groups met regularly in the space, there never seemed to be any tensions between locals and "activists" and the space was a convergence of many communities.
The experiences at Grand Banks are still remembered in the area and many of the teenagers who used to come to the place are involved in THE SQUARE. A teenager was interviewed by a local newspaper (Camden New Journal) after the tragic death of a Tommy Winston Tommy Winston (a teenager who was stabbed to death in a gang fight) and had mentioned how the Grand Banks was a vital and space for young people in Tufnell Park to go to as opposed to getting involved in anti-social crime.
Institute For Autonomy/Gower Street (Bloomsbury, WC1) - [Feb '05-July '05]
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.
As part of the weekly publicised programme of events, the Radical theory forum held debates and alternative "lectures" on diverse subjects. Art not Oil held its second annual anti-BP exhibtion, as well as the first London Zine Symposium, various benefits for the G8 (raising in total £4,000), film showings, discussions, planning meetings. 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.
Along with this particular history was also the branch out and formation of new collectives most notably RAMPARTS creative and community space in Whitechapel who have recently celebrated their second year of occupation and also that of the Autonomous Lab (Apri 2005 - Sept 2005) in Chalk Farm who are now in occupation at the Dalston Theartre in Hackney.
MORE INFO ON: Ramparts Creative Social Centre/Rampart St (Whitechapel, E1) - [May '04-ongoing]
For two years the rampART has been operating as a non-commerical not-for-profit venue hosting cultural and political events, including film festivals, art exhibitions, benefit gigs, political discussions, public meetings and workshops. The squatted East London building provides a large hall for events, a makeshift stage, and small PA, library, meeting room, workshop space, band rehearsal and recording room, video and audio editing suite, radio studio, internet access including open Wi-Fi, and a shared office. The project is managed by volunters without funding and a strong emphasis on consensus decision making and DIY culture. See http://www.rampart.co.nr/
At the moment people are hanging out both inside and in the street in front of the building. A couple of meetings are taking place, and lunch is being served.
The façade of the building has been decorated with big banners that read 'Existance is Resistance', 'Social Centres Network', 'Autononous', and a big black flag that reads 'Occupied'. Photos will follow.
That's all for the moment. Tonight a weekend of events is starting with a meeting to discuss how to proceed with the resistance to the eviction. Tomorrow Saturday and Sunday there will be a series of events as part of the 'Festival of Resistance' (for full programme se feature above)
The Square occupied social centre in Russell Square has been open since January and has hosted many political and cultural events, including fundraisers for anti-fascists Antifa and support groups such as Bolivia Solidarity Campaign.
Migrant rights campaigners No Borders have an office in the four-storey building, from which they have organised demonstrations outside Harmondsworth and Tinsley House detention centres.
The Square also operates a daily vegetarian cafe serving Zapatista coffee, an "infoshop" with political books, CDs and DVDs, plus a weekly documentary cinema.
The building is owned by the University of London and had been empty for several years before being occupied by students and grass-roots activists.
A social centre spokesman said that the large resistance to the eviction showed how much the local community values having an open space, where campaigners can organise meetings and put on events free from the commercial pressures that are associated with almost all capitalist venues.
To celebrate the successful opposition to the eviction attempt, the social centre will be putting on a "festival of resistance" this weekend, with live bands, films, discussions and a barbeque. Visit www.londonsocialcentre.org.uk for more information.
Its Goodnight Matilda well not just yet!
Hello here is what has been asked of from the representatives of Yorkshire Forward
Further to the Court hearing yesterday and the subsequent conversations, I have now had the opportunity to take my client's instructions.
My client reiterates that it does not wish to have to use bailiffs to evict you and would prefer to agree an exit strategy.
I understand that you intend to hold a meeting on Monday night and my client is prepared to allow for this meeting to go ahead to allow all squatters to be made aware that the possession order has been granted. This is only on the basis however that you confirm that no events involving the public will be held at the building as my clients are extremely concerned as to health and safety issues. We then require your confirmation that the building will be vacated by all no later than 9 am Tuesday 27th June 2006 - the date my client has stipulated they require possession.
Again, these requirements are being driven by my client's serious concerns about the safety of the building and the risks posed to those occupying it.
I look forward to hearing from you.
In the last twelve months, MATILDA have turned an abandoned building into a thriving social centre. For a year we have put on performances, film showings and exhibitions, as well as providing much needed working and meeting space for local artists and activists. So if you've ever been to a gig / film night / art showing / Thursday social / meeting / bike workshop / clown training or anything else,
If you desire to come down to Matilda over this weekend and on Monday all day you can sign our guestbook giving your thoughts, feelings and even images. Once completed this guestbook and the diary of Matilda will be given to Councilor Jan Wilson who sits on the board for Yorkshire Forward/Creative Sheffield as well being the Labour leader for Sheffield, on the morning of our eviction.
We hope to see you over the weekend to say thank you for your support over our last year.
The Matilda moles have risen from their shadows and though we shall go back into the darkness for a while we will no doubt meet again soon as our next venue is owned by Yorkshire Forward too! We hope to see you there keep in touch our web page will be updated often also for more news goto Sheffield Indymedia.
Its good night from Matilda
Dear Jan Wilson,
As leader of Sheffield City council, and a board member of Creative Sheffield/Yorkshire Forward we cordially invite you to join us for our
handing over ceremony of 111 Matilda Street from The Matilda Collective to the deserved and rightful legal owners â¬ Yorkshire Forward, at 9am on Tuesday 27th of June.
We wish to apologize for borrowing the empty building and using it for such unsavoury purposes as free and affordable arts and activist space for the people of Sheffield and the UK. We also apologize for any possible loss of revenues that could have been extracted from the creative folk of Sheffield had we not been offering these resources for free.
Given Sheffield City's councils decision not to put out 111 Matilda Street to public tender and instead to generously accept Sheffield Hallam University's lower offer, than the one made by the long term tenant - Adrenaline Studios , and given the subsequent profitable sale of the property to Yorkshire Forward who have tasked Creative Sheffield with the development of the site, we thought that you would enjoy bearing witness to the vacation of the premises by The Matilda Collective at 9am on Tuesday 27th of June.
Hope to see you,
Person Unknown of 111 Matilda Street
From 8pm Monday night full on all NIGHT PARTY stay the night enjoy the morning lets say hello to them hope you are about:
Some actions we are told could face arrest others are just NVDA you decide.
See you Tuesady MORNING 9AM AT Matilda then?