The Cottage of Content was boarded up in May 2005 when the building was declared ‘surplus’ to requirement by Birmingham City Council. During this time it was vandalised and neglected. It was then handed over to Birmingham Property Services to make a substantial profit out of yet another one of our buildings that are a part of our municipal heritage. Without any public consultation, the Cottage Community Youth Centre was shut down and scheduled for auction.
The auction would have inevitably meant that the property developers with the most capital would have bought the building instead of community groups and levelled it to the ground to make way for yuppie flats. A local councillor, responding to pressure from a local Somali group, managed to get the building withdrawn from auction and along with local people supported the occupation of the Cottage as a means of ensuring the building wasn’t sold off to the highest bidder and that it was looked after properly.
The bailiffs were met by plenty of non-violent resistance from inside and outside the barricaded building. Local people congregated on the pavement opposite to witness the unnecessary eviction and give us support.
Mrs. D from Sparkbrook commented; "there was no need for the force used to evict these people, do they do this kind of thing to families? What if that poor guy had been a pregnant women, would they have done the same? Shame on them!" She went on to say that the council surely could have negotiated with the collective so as to avoid this kind of violence from the police and bailiffs, and she added that the racist Anti-Semitic comments made by the locksmith were appalling.
Bailiffs and their council entourage arrived at the occupied social centre at about 7:45am this morning. They attempted to persuade members of the social centre collective to leave the building, who refused, making it clear their intentions to resist this unnecessary eviction. The bailiffs then called the police, who also refused to verbally identify themselves, claiming a reporter from Birmingham Indymedia was "breaching the peace" by documenting their efforts.
The bailiffs finally entered the main building after at least an hour of frustrated attempts to gain access, by taking the front door off its hinges with a crowbar and hauling out a metal bed frame, a fridge and sofas used as barricades. Initially they attempted to gain entry by calling out a locksmith who took the lock off the front door although they couldn’t get through the barricade material behind the main door. The demented locksmith then focussed his efforts on the front window and smashed the glass with a hammer. He cut his finger badly in the process and gave up. Both the bailiffs and the locksmith were negatively shaking their heads at this stage and the building’s defences seemed almost secure.
Another bailiff climbed over the metal sitex gate that bridges the main building with the hall. He was then photographed vandalising the wooden fence the collective had recently repaired so a less agile older bailiff, replete with pathetic looking black leather gloves, could gain access.
After the bailiffs had gained entry to the building, members of the collective locked arms and legs and passively resisted. The two bailiffs and PC 550 dragged and forcibly twisted the arms and necks of the people passively resisting. One of the collective’s arm was badly twisted by the older looking bailiff who attempted to pull him away from the door but the bailiff ended up falling on his lower back and badly grazing the shoulder of one of the collective. An ambulance later took the ageing bailiff away clutching his lower back with his ungloved hands in severe pain.
Another one of the collective was injured by PC 550 who twisted his neck and forced his fingers into his pressure point under his jaw, whilst he was saying that he would get up and leave if he let go of his neck. The injured member of the collective was ferried to casualty after the assault. A complaint with a doctor’s report will be made about PC 550’s violent behaviour.
At this point it is worth mentioning that Birmingham has the highest number of empty homes in the UK, 17,490 and as much as 20% of them are owned by the local authority. Once the collective have had time to take stock, there are plenty more council properties around to occupy and transform into community social centres.
The Social Centre’s impact on the local community is destined to live on in the form of networks local people have made with one another and the solidarity they have shown towards the occupation. Community involvement with the occupation has proved that there is an acute need for the building to be returned to social/community use. It has also shown that the City Council and its underhand attempts to sell off a public resource, like a community youth centre, to the highest bidder can be taken on and stopped. Enough is enough.
one of the cottage social centre collective
let's hope the re-secured building stays safe and intact.
I just hope it doesn't go down the same path as lots of other buildings that get boarded up and neglected. I've lost count of the amount of buildings i see that get left to rot, and then suddenly someone tries to burn them down and the next thing you know some developper has moved in and razed it to the ground to build some yuppie flat development.
Sounds familiar people?
You know it does...
everyone hates bailiffs
A big hug to everyone from your collective! we are writing from london, where we have occupied a building that is due to be demolished soon. so far, we have spent 7 months here. now we are waiting for the eviction to happen. we lost court case last march.
we write to show u our respect for the work u did and to show our solidarity. we hope you will carry on occupying buildings to give them life.
we hope to have the chance to meet u. now it is difficult for us, and for you, to move but maybe in the future we can visit u in your new space?
buy the way, in anyone of u comes to london please let us know our mail is email@example.com u r always welcomed!
they touch one of us they touch all of us
He should have identified himself if he was on council business, that's council policy.
David Fletcher Head of Facilities Management
Tel no: 0121 303 2007