This week has seen two new spaces open in London as opposition to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
An empty Italian food restaurant was opened by the action group 'Resisting Anti-Trespass' last week in Soho, Westminster, in the heart of Central London's West End, but publicly launched today [23rd March 2021], as 'Pizza Libre', part of a day of action against the Bill, serving pizza for free to passers by and others who came to visit after hearing about it online.
In the meantime, other south London squatters occupied the empty Clapham Common Police Station in Lambeth as a symbolic and practical action against the Police Bill.
Both spaces are occupied by activists who have been part of Social Centre collectives in London as well as other cities, and have planned to function in some way as Social Centres going forwards also.
The Met Police, still under fire from civil rights groups and the left for it's treatment of the Sarah Everard vigil, and it's response to the repression of that vigil (as well as the so-far untold story of the violence seen by Avon Police - driving towards and into anti-Police protesters in Bristol) have also planned to illegally evict both new London spaces.
In Clapham they threatenied to come back with "full force" if occupiers didn't leave, as well as attempting to issue eviction under 'common law' today - with a couple of bailiffs showing up, but then getting cold feet and leaving.
Meanwhile, the day-of-action continued in Soho, with the owner attempting to barge into the building, seemingly completely unaware of squatter's rights, as well as speaking privately to the Police many times, and showing them plans of the building after lying about faulty equipment that he said "could easily cause a fire", which is some news to the people in the building, who have been practicing making pizzas (after setting up an electricity account) for nearly a week now!
You can read more about the Clapham Police Station at: instagram.com/not.a.cop.shop
And Pizza Libre at: ra-t.org (and on connected social media)
Visit the spaces while you can also!
not a cop shop (working title) - 47 Cavendish Road, Clapham, Lambeth SW12 0Bl
Pizza Libre - 84 Wardour Street, Soho, Westminster W1F
The social centre network met online during January 2021 to discuss the ongoing turbulent situation within the Cowley Club in Brighton.
At the end of the meeting a statement was written which was shared with the Social Centre Network email list. It was also decided to set up a working group to research the situation in Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England regarding what groups there are available to provide mediation,
carry out accountability processes or offer appropriate training.
The network hopes to organise a future meeting to specifically discuss this issue, bringing together other interested groups and individuals, and potentially finding ways of sharing resources and building capacity.
If anyone would like to be part of this working group please get in touch via the list.
From Lockdown to Lock-out...
Just after 7am on Friday 29th May and 15 or more bailiffs, and a token two cops, work to suddenly smash into the GRASS social centre, now much valued as a local mutual aid hub in Islington, north London.
Despite warnings that evictions were somewhat dodgy during a time of viral pandemic, the bailiffs seemed to enjoy breaking into the door, smashing a glass panel in it for no useful reason, and instantly undermining all the hard work that gone into the making of, and the community value of, the space.
Occupants of the 3-month long squatted space were told they had to collect their belongings, which were out in the street until a van could be arranged.
The group put out the following on social media:
Thanks from the bottom of our hearts to everyone who helped us and sent their support yesterday. We are gonna discuss our current situation and decide how to continue the GRASS project in the future. In the mean time, I want to say how humble and thankful we are for the support we've had so far and the connections we've managed to create through all of this.
Keep in touch with the group and GRASS project by facebook at '/grasslondon', or by following GAF (Green Anti-Capitalist Front) on twitter, instagram, mastodon, or any more traditional ways...
They can kick us out (sometimes) but they can't keep us down...
Social Centre Network meeting moved online
Several social centres across the W.I.S.E. network met online last week as Covid 19 has forced the closure of all the spaces in the network (or at least the closure of usual activities in the spaces).
Islington borough has become the host to a social centre for the first time in many years as activists from the Green Anti-capitalist Front have moved into a squatted pub there in preparation for their week of action. The group put a statement on their website saying that the "felt it was unfair to bring members of the public into a situation where they could be exposed to the aggressive and threatening behaviour of the police and bailiffs" in reference to the expected eviction of the Paddington Green Police Station which was their former home.
GRASS is located in the former George Pub very near to Holloway Road tube station.
"It is a warm and welcoming building which we are very happy to be using, and look forward to welcoming you in."
You can follow it's progress over the coming days and weeks at: greenanticapitalist.org
Contact details: grassgreenldn[at]protonmail[dot]com and 07938 830 066
UPDATE: Week of action now over, but the space is still open! New email address: grass_london[at]protonmail[dot]com.
& events announced on new facebook: http://facebook.com/grasslondon
Green London is a 15-storey squatted social space in central London. It was previously the notorious Paddington Green Police Station. Activists from Green Anti-capitalist Front are using part of the building to develop a social centre called GRASS (Green Radical Anti-capitalist Social Squat)
The space is currently being cleaned and organised etc in preparation for various events in the coming days.
Green London is yet to do any public launch of its own but has been covered in the following media:
You can follow the Green Anti-capitalist Front's progress here:
Squatted Centres past, present and new in 2019/2020
After a move away from squatted spaces in recent years, some social centres have been popping up in squatted places again.
Earlier this year a group of squatters opened an empty Pie and Mash cafe that had a long and significant history in the local area. The Pie n Mash squat was born and as a social centre it opened almost every day for a number of hours to the public and ran evening info and fundraiser events.
After being unable to persuade the council (who owned the building) to let them stay, and a short court battle, the group moved along the street to an empty betting shop and continue the work under the same name.
You can read more about them here: radar.squat.net/en/london/pie-n-mash-squat
Just to the west of London in Reading, Berkshire, another group opened an old pub just outside the city centre. This was in unity with many of the local Kurdish population and to build on the local solidarity, campaigning to defend the Autonomous region of Rojava in Western Kurdistan (Northern Syria) from the sustained attack this year by the Turkish state.
It is called Kobani House, in solidarity with the part of Rojava that is significant to many solidarity activists, and has run a huge amount of events, after a massive cleaning operation in just a few days to get the space ready.
The group is currently celebrating the solstice with a public event, and plans to host a communal dinner on Christmas Day.
You can read more about them here: facebook.com/Kobanî-House-115108603262607
Many news articles can also be found by searching online for Kobani House.
Both the above spaces have also joined the Social Centre Network! You can find their details listed in the directory by clicking on Social Centres in the menu above.
Going forward, among other plans for London spaces, a group in Liverpool plan to build on some recent experience of running squatted spaces to open a new squatted social centre in 2020. Watch this space!
Social Centre Network Gatherings
Minutes of the gathering at Next To Nowhere, Liverpool (November 2019).
FACILITATION / MEDIATION
- existing organisations: navigate - dealing with specific conflicts;
seeds for change - training in conflict resolution
- impartiality is important
- idea proposed to bring people together for training
- good to find out if a mediation group exists in your area
- can statement as drafted be put on website?
- objective of preventing forms of oppression
- current statement has been built from last 2 gatherings, consensus is
body of text is good
- title: 'anti-oppression' or 'safer spaces'
WHY HAVE WE AS SOCIAL CENTRES / INDIVIDUALS INVOLVED IN SOCIAL CENTRES
- Next to Nowhere highlights patterns of how uptake of new users can
tend to happen
- energy being absorbed unto digital methods - individualisation
- S+S pointing out that there's actually quite a high energy around the
space currently although group work can be a bit tiring
- users vs volunteers, can be draining if responsibility is left to
- Next to Nowhere pointing out that energy tends to come and go while
the space itself remains constant and enduring
- some energy generally being absorbed unto mainstream politics in
- focus on anti-capitalist ethos may have been lost where for example
intersectionality has become more pertinent
- class issues
- extinction rebellion absorbing energy from anarchist movement?
- good to organise events which are radical, be the change you want to
- write something explicitly stating radical politics
- get off social media?
HOW TO KEEP RADICAL EDGE
- be explicit with politics
- review values periodically
- challenging class privilege
- critical thinking
- discussion about these issues and how they are affecting each of the
social centres present
CONNECTING WITH PEOPLE - HOW TO ENGAGE WITH OTHERS
- Next to Nowhere both distributing both physical and digital publicity
but still more can be done
- discussion about merit of social media use
- perhaps of spaces in attendance Larc has most limited outreach
processes underway currently
- Base have some infrastructure for new users + internet presence
- S+S also have both means on the go
- discussion about how to cross over to communities less familiar in
terms of raising awareness
- stalls with leaflets can be effective
- the left has broadly not been winning the struggle for hearts and
minds in recent years
- for future could be good make discussion agenda beforehand
- e-mail list is a but clunky, are there any more affective means?
- for next gathering could there be a thematic of some kind?
- group has been set up
- discussion about improvements etc
- 'about section' may need re-drafting to capture the essence netter
- safer spaces section has been added
- idea of London hosting to be brought to next London Social Centres
- aim to have venue for April / May gathering confirmed by end of
SCN (WISE) gatherings are currently every 6 months... everyone who is connected to or part of a Social Centre is welcome.
Minutes of the gathering at Star & Shadow Cinema, Newcastle (May 2019).
The gathering was hosted by the Star and Shadow who were extremely welcoming hosts. We started with a go round so each person could share their expectations of the gathering and anything they particularly wanted to get out of it. This seems like a good model for future gatherings given the often stretched resources of all our organisations making it difficult to put lots of time into advanced planning. This also allows everyone in attendance to feed into and set the agenda which is hard to achieve in advance via email with people coming from different places and contexts. Though hosts are of course welcome to organise in a more structured way in advance if they wish and have particular things they want to share.
The go round included some re-affirmations of what people feel the network is for – that it should be mutually supportive, not an obligation or burden through being overly bureaucratic; a way to share knowledge and resources and feel part of something bigger. At the start of the gathering some people were unsure of the purpose of the network and if people had lost interest, but by the end of the weekend there was lots of enthusiasm for the network and we had a clearer idea of where we wanted to go.
The different social centres in attendance shared information on what they do, how they run and an overview of current challenges.
Next To Nowhere presented a session on safer spaces as this was something that came out of the go round that people wanted some help with which those from Next To Nowhere have experience of.
Saturday night some of us attended the LGBTQ+ Chaos Party at the Star & Shadow which comprised a cabaret and was great fun reminding us yet again of the importance of fun and putting the 'social' in social centre.
We did some work on the 'mission statement' for the website and collaboratively came up with the section on safer spaces to be sent round separately to the list for people to feedback on and agree/amend – this was the one section that was not put together collaboratively at the last gathering at GAS (as we just ran out of time)
Went through list of current social centres – MYOS was new in London and wasn't on the list yet!
We talked about twinning social centres with fellow European social centres, there was enthusiasm for this idea but we didn't have time to discuss it further. This would be a good thing to discuss at a future network gathering.
We agreed that the network should be a platform for sharing practical help, knowledge and resources, one concrete suggestion was that we wanted to see which social centres would be willing/able to provide facilitators for other social centres' safer spaces or conflict resolution processes – Ellie to send an email to the network email list about this. We also said we'd like to come up with a list of external resources/organisations we could sign-post people to eg counselling services.
Progress made on website – (this one!) Hosted on GAS's username for weebly. Website working group setting up, anyone else who wants to help with the website contact Skye via the email list.
We made a page for a zine :) You can have a look here: https://share.riseup.net/#qS-KGuwoKX-5At5FxKfLlg We're hoping to have it published in a zine called Deviation Street – we weren't in time for the current issue which has just come out but it will be considered for next time and Marl has offered to write something to go with it – thoughts on that welcome. It was fun doing something creative – would be great to try and make our own whole zine next time (Nb Next To Nowhere has a risograph ;)
People fed back at the end and seemed everyone got a lot out of the gathering and though it would have been nice to have more social centres represented this didn't take away from what people got out of it individually in the main.
Social Centre Network website launches
and featured in:
Welcome to the new website for the Social Centre Network (of Wales, Ireland, Scotland, England).
After a discussion at the last Network gathering in Newcaslte, we were able to build on the progress that was started at the Glasgow gathering, and are now ready to launch this website!
Thanks also to friends and allies linked to Freedom News for starting a regular Social Centres bulletin and mentioning us there.
The last two bulletins can be found here:
freedomnews.org.uk/the-social-centre-bulletin - June 19th 2019
freedomnews.org.uk/the-social-centre-bulletin-raise-the-roof - July 17th 2019
This website is to replace an out-of-date wordpress website - that people who are now active in the network could no longer get access to - though it is hoped that one day we will somehow!
We are open to feedback on the website and any suggestions that you want to give. There is also a website working group if anyone wants to get involved. Use the contact page, or drop a comment in the section below :)
Otherwise, enjoy browsing through, and consider linking to us!
*Look out for more news soon, and if you want to include some news from your Social Centre or project on this website get in touch about that also!
Archived post from setting up of website during Glasgow Gathering
The Social Centre Network (SCN) is a grassroots initiative that links together the radical independent community social centres throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland. Its aim is to improve communication and co-operation between autonomous spaces by sharing resources, ideas and information.
The SCN traces its roots back to autonomous clubs in the 1980s such as Centro Iberico, Wapping Autonomy Centre and the 1 in 12 Club in Bradford.
A second generation of networking activity was launched on 1 January 2007 at the 1 in 12 Club. The fledgling network was profiled in 2008, in a pamphlet titled What's This Place? (https://socialcentrestories.wordpress.com/)
In 2014 the Sumac Centre in Nottingham hosted the re-launch of the SCN in late November. The event organised around topics such as gentrification, transformative justice and safer spaces. It was initially agreed that the network would meet twice a year.
The SCN assembled again in April 2015 at the Next To Nowhere Social Centre in Liverpool. Discussions focused on the general election, squat evictions, the remit of social spaces and expanding upon safer spaces policies. A safer spaces working group was proposed, as well as collating a list of safer space policies and resources from related and affiliated groups to be made available online.
The next meeting was held at the Kebele Social Centre in Bristol on 1 November 2015. Themes at this event included the role of politics of social centres, practical networking and outreach, anti-oppression work and improving accountability processes.
In 22-23 September 2018 the SCN was held in Scotland for the first time, convening at the Glasgow Autonomous Space. Discussions and skill sharing on sustaining collectives and spaces including a focus on understanding intersectional oppressions and posing the question of how to make spaces truly inclusive. Members from GAS expressed that the event provided them with a better framing of their shared identity within a network of other centres.
Other related organising that has happened over the past few years includes the establishment of a London regional network of social centres. These centres meet quarterly and provide mutual support and share resources among each other. Future plans include support for more regional meet ups in-between international sessions.
(Archived post from setting up of website during Glasgow Gathering.)
We are excited to be hosting the next Social Centre Network (Uk & Ireland) Gathering at GAS in September (22nd to the 23rd). This event is for all those involved in social centres (or aiming to set one up soon) around the UK. Activists form across the UK will come together to discuss, debate, skillshare & plan in relation to our social centres.
We would encourage people from Glasgow to come! Never been to GAS? Come join in the fun. Want to influence and change GAS? This is going to be a great forum to do that. Its a great opportunity for anyone who interested in creating their own social centre or getting involved with an existing one.
It is going to be FUN / INSPIRING / ACTIVATING / POSITIVE / EXCITING / with a wee bit of nitty gritty problem solving thrown in.
This event has a suggested donation of £10 per person for the weekend, to cover refreshments, meals and programme. However you are welcome to donate whatever works for you, or nothing at all.