squatter | 20.12.2013 03:21 | Free Spaces
Before it was squatted, 195 had many lives. Built in 1699, it was originally one of the many family homes along Mare St. In 1845 the building was taken over and used as the Elizabeth Fry Institute for the Reformation of Women Prisoners. This was closed in 1913. Up until 2003 it was used as a working men’s club. Since 2003, the building moved through the hands of many different developers. So far no work has been done on the building. The building was left in disrepair, with ceilings caving in, roofs leaking, floors crumbling, steps collapsing and many other problems, until a group of squatters moved in in 2009. This group of squatters was evicted in 2010, and in the time they were in the building they did many necessary repairs that had been until then ignored by the owners. From 2010 until August 2013 the building was again left to rot. As the most recent residents, we did our best to fix the building and had accomplished a lot in the short time we had been there. We respected the heritage of the house by not changing any of the façade or the original protected features.
We opened a social centre on the ground floor of the building. The social centre was open to the public four days a week, offering a space for anyone to come in for a cup of tea and a chat. We have ran many ongoing projects. An art exhibition ran once a week for upcoming locals artists to showcase their works - a rare thing for young artists who are just starting out and may not have the portfolio or networks to let them showcase in other galleries. One night per week we hosted a People’s Kitchen and a cinema night. The People’s Kitchen made delicious, healthy vegan food for dozens of people every week. The cinema night brought large groups of people to the space to come together to watch films and documentaries. We have had directors come in to show their films followed by discussion groups. This enabled people to meet the film-makers and involve themselves in this cultural activity where they would otherwise not have had the chance to do so. Well-known UK directors Ariel Pintor and Ken Fero have both shown their works at 195.
195 was a safe place for people of all genders and sexualities. There was a queer reading group for people to study and talk about texts and ideas together in a non-judgmental and open environment. A weekly queer cinema night was also held. An integral part of the 195 Social Centre was the Language School. It offered classes in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Italian and Arabic. The language school was in constant operation throughout the week and had a steady flow of students and teachers. The classes were all free or by donation; open to anyone who would like to learn. We had one week dedicated to being a Free School during which hundreds of people passed through the doors. The week of workshops, classes and seminars was open to anyone interested in the subjects offered. Over 50 activities, workshops and discussions took place, with subjects ranging from critical cartography to queer tango, housing information, benefits advice, juggling, dj workshops, meditation, yoga, krav maga, kickboxing, parkour, bike repair, welding, home brewing and many other workshops.
The 195 Social Centre was an integral and necessary part of the Hackney Community.