London Indymedia

>WOMBLES // Dec 13th:: Social Centres - What Next?

11.12.2005 23:05 | Free Spaces | London

>Discussion:: Social Centres - What Next?

This discussion will be presented as part of the WOMBLES meeting at:

7.00pm on Tuesday December 13th @ Autonomie Club,
Upstairs at Freedom Anarchist Bookshop,
84b Whitechapel high Street, London E1.

All welcome.


Social Centres have been defined as being occupied or rented buildings which are used as radical, anti-capitalists centres. They provide a common resource, (meeting space, popular kitchen/cafe, social space, cinema, gig venuie, internet, classes, self-education...ect) some attracting thousands of people over the period they're open and a consistent engagement on with radical politics. They have been utilised in building up infrastructures to social movements, most notably in italy and spain, but have been organised now and again in various parts of the UK.

5 years ago, you could count the number of places in the UK who associted themselves with radical politics (anarchist,libertarian) on one hand. Now there are around 20 such places from Glasgow (Saorsa Centre & George X) to Leeds (Common Place & Hannover Squares), London (Ramparts, 56@, Larc) to Manchester (Basement). For a full list see [social centres list]

In London, the interests in Social Centres is still very high amongst the radical/anarchist milieu but why haven't we got many places that can live up to the name "social centres"? What were the problems politically with previous attempts of social centres? What can we learn? What next?

>Discussion:: Social Centres - What Next?

This discussion will be presented as part of the WOMBLES meeting at:

7.00pm on Tuesday December 13th @ Autonomie Club,
Upstairs at Freedom Anarchist Bookshop,
84b Whitechapel high Street, London E1.

All welcome.



>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 harrass 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 "GrandBanks", a few blocks down the same road.

>Ex GRANDBANKS/Fortess Rd (Tufnel Park, NW5) - [Mar '04-Sep '04]
The Ex-Grandbanks, became one of the most succesful 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 regulary in the space, there never seemed to be any tensions between locals and "activists" and the space was a covergence of many communities.

>RAMPARTS CREATIVE SOCIAL CENTRE/Rampart St (Stepney, E1) - [May '04-?]
For over a year and a half 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 squated East London warehouse 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.

>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, nfoshop/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 Glenagles.


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