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Reading: Common Ground, squatted community garden, to re-open 12 April!

Common Ground | 04.04.2008 12:20 | 2008 Days Of Action For Autonomous Spaces | Ecology | Free Spaces

Spring re-energises squatting gardeners to dig-in and continue the struggle!

1. Common Ground Squatted Community Garden Re-Opening, 1pm, 12th April!

Time: Open from 1pm, Community BBQ (traditional & vegan) from 3pm, live acoustic music from 6pm.

Date: Saturday 12th April

Venue: Common Ground Community Garden, entrance through alleyway next to (Ex)
Womens Information Centre, Silver Street, Reading, RG2.

Contact: Telephone 07774023475 on the day for latest information.
Email any other time.

2. ‘Plan B’...

If necessary, we will take the celebration to the spoilsport authorities!

3. Common Ground Collective joins anti-capitalists!

We unite to fight for “Everything for Everyone!”

4. Plans for new ‘authorised’ community garden in Katesgrove progressing.

Anyone interested urged to get in contact.


1. Common Ground Squatted Community Garden Re-Opening, 1pm 12th April!

Gardeners reaffirm “We will always value community, democracy and common sense over property rights and beurocracy!”

Common Ground Collective plan to re-open the squatted community garden (1) in Silver Street to the public from 1pm on Sat 12th April, with a free BBQ (traditional and vegan) from 3pm and live acoustic music from 6pm. (2)

Following the garden being closed down by landowners Reading Borough Council (RBC) in Oct 07, it turned out that RBC intend to privatise the site, flogging it off to the multimillionare ‘Unite Group', a company specialising in providing privately owned student accomodation and renowned across the country for ripping students off in the process (3).

However, five months have now passed during which the people of Katesgrove have had one of our few potential green spaces denied from them and despite RBC and Unite saying a contract would be signed in December 07, no progress seems to have yet been made. Even if a contract were to be signed tomorrow, which we vehemently oppose as being undemocratic (4), no planning permission could be granted for months, leaving the land desolate and unused for the duration when families from the neighbourhood could be enjoying it.

For this reason, we have resolved to once again take direct-action and re-open Common Ground Community Garden to our neighbours and anyone who cares to enjoy it, beginning on Sat 12th April. We have chosen this date to tie in with a European ‘day-of-action for squats and autonomous spaces’, where similar activities will take place across the UK and in more than 20 cities Europe wide. (5)

As always, we hope that RBC will see sense and allow the garden to be re-opened. Clearly we disagree on what should happen to the site long term, but surely it does not make sense to see the site once again abandoned for a significant amount of time when it could be providing much needed green space and relaxation to people and families from around the area. We encourage RBC to support us and to discuss methods of alleviating any concerns they might have.

However, as previously, we aim to go ahead regardless of the the views of the authorities. We will always value community, democracy and common sense above property rights and beurocracy.

2. ‘Plan B’...

We recognise with sadness that there is a (hopefully very small) possibility that the authorities will not see sense and could succeed in physically preventing us re-opening Common Ground. But never fear, ‘Plan B’ is here!

In this situation, the entire event will simply be relocated into the Town Centre, taking place exactly as advertised but in the area immediately in front of the Civic Centre and law courts, behind the Police Station and just off Hosier Street. (6)

If members of the public cannot find us at Common Ground in Silver Street, they are encouraged to join us at this second location. Alternatively, people can ring 07774023475 on the day for up to date information.

3. Common Ground group joins anti-capitalists!

In early March, Common Ground Collective agreed to affiliate to anti-capitalist organisation ‘Reading Grassroots Action’ (RGA). RGA aims to organise in a directly-democratic way (i.e. everyone involved is equal), taking direct-action to defend and improve our lives, supporting other communities and groups of workers locally and globally and uniting and linking with others to continue the growth of the global ‘anti-capitalist’ movements.

Several people involved in Common Ground, including many of those who originally started the garden project, were allready members of RGA, and Common Ground view this step of joining RGA ‘en masse’ as an entirely logical one. The principles which underpin Common Ground - including opposition to developmentimposed from outside and above the community, a belief that land should be under the ‘common ownership’ of the people (its use decided by and for the benefit of everyone affected not by minorities for private profit), as well as our use of direct-action and direct-democracy - are taken to their logical conclusion in RGA’s more general anti-capitalist, egalitarian, communistic hallmarks. (7)

As Common Ground said in our very first press-release, "by cultivating unused derelict land without the consent of authorities and landowners, we present a positive demonstration of resistance to the (dominant) set of priorities which sees our local environment as just another (exploitable) commodity". And by joining with RGA we declare our intention to continue this struggle in all areas of life, uniting to fight for "Everything for everyone"! (8)

4. Plans for new 'authorised' community garden in Katesgrove

Meanwhile, several people involved in Common Ground/RGA, are working to ensure that an 'authorised' community garden is established in Katesgrove. As a response to Common Ground Community Garden, RBC offered two other sites of derelict land, to be used for such a project. Following meetings with both RBC, local councillors and Katesgrove Residents Association, plans are progressing.

The conditions of the RBC offer have now been clarified, satisfying all involved that there is definite potential worth working for. Katesgrove Residents Association have happily agreed that any 'authorised' community garden could be managed under their name, and research is ongoing into the method of legally insuring any such garden. All involved are very positive that this project can be realised over the next year or so, and we strongly encourage anyone iterested in any capacity to get in touch via Common Ground's email address:


Common Ground continue to meet at 3pm, every Sunday, in ‘The Turks’
pub on the
London Road. Everyone who can agree to work within the RGA hallmarks
(found at and Common Ground aims, is welcome to join us.

We can be contacted by email at


Notes for the editor:

1. Taking inspiration from New York, where working-class, mostly immigrant, communities had illegally transformed hundreds of derelict lots into wonderful community gardens (see, Common Ground was originally created by squatters and local residents in Jan 07 on land owned by RBC. RBC had left the land and surrounding buildings a needle-covered derelict junkyard for more than five years beforehand. Despite legal threats (including an injunction barring the opening and an viction notice being served), the garden was opened in May 07, recieving huge support throughout the community and beyond, as well as favourable media reports including television news clips. Over the summer, the garden was enjoyed by local people - young and old - everyday and several well attended community events were held in the garden including BBQ’s, live acoustic music shows, an art day and a talk by a visiting indigenous ‘land-rights’ campaigner from Mexico. Two ‘eviction days’ were seen off by local protest and refusal to cooperate, before the garden and nearby squat was finally evicted, through physical force, on 18th October.

2. Seven acoustic acts, ranging in influence across folk, punk, ska, country and hip-hop, are confirmed: Neil Sutherland (, Naomi-Hates-Humans (, Sam Russo, Kelly
Kemp (, Smoky Bastard ( and Clayton Blizzard (

3. Unite Group hope to construct a huge (300+ capacity) development on the site, renting rooms to students at overall prices potentially £1000's above the average cost of university owned accomodation. This is despite two student halls buildings having lain empty for two years less than 200 yards away. For information and links to complaints and campaigns against Unite Group from around the UK, please contact Common Ground.

3. RBC is negotiating the privatisation (flogging off) of land which is currently publicly-owned, behind closed doors and away from the community and public. There has been no public consultation about whether the land should or should not be sold, let alone 'who to' and 'for what purpose'. We do not consider a planning consultation to be be anything like adequate, as this would come after the land had been sold and planners can only consider specific concerns, not taking into account wider social or environmental factors. Democracy can only mean something if local communities have direct control over their own resources.

4. Please see for more information or for articles about specific actions planned. So far we know of actions planned in London, Leeds and Manchester, as well as Reading and 20 other cities around Europe.

5. We have chosen this location as we feel it would be an apt protest
against the authorities actions surrounding Common Ground, as well as
expressing our opposition to the possible further privatisation of publicly-owned land
in this area and any potential negative effects against the market, which is of major benefit to low-income residents like ourselves.

6. For more information please see RGA is currently based on the 'Hallmarks' of global anti-capitalist network 'People's Global Action'. These hallmarks and more information can be found at RGA currently meets at 8pm every Thursday, in the Turks pub on London Street. Anyone who agrees to work within the hallmarks is welcome. Everyone is free to make proposals and discuss items on the agenda, all members (i.e. those who have attended four or more meetings) have an equal vote and roles of 'chairperson' and 'minute-taker' are rotated each week.

7. "Everything for Everyone, Nothing Only for Ourselves!" is the
slogan of Mexico's 'Zapatista' rebel communities. RGA and particularly Common
Ground was greatly inspired by their struggles.

Common Ground
- Homepage:


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  1. Brilliant! — Gregory Beetle