Social Centres

I had an interesting conversation today with one of Ipswich Anarchists' newer recruits (yes we do get them) about the usefulnesses and differences between squatted social centres and 'official' ones.

The conversation largely revolved around me explaining some of my experiences through reporting on and observing both kinds of social centres as part of my work with Freedom (had to get it in somewhere), and analysing it for them, which as is often the case, actually helped clarify a lot of my own thoughts on the matter.

I effectively managed a good ten minute monologue on the subject, which boiled down something like the following:

I have got a position on squatted social centres, which is mildly against in comparison to owned or rented. I say mildly, because I think if a squatted centre is done well and is properly organised, eg. Grand Banks or The Square, it can overcome the handicaps it generates for itself and become a net gain, and in some cases there may be little other option.

I'll start then, with the positives.

Squatted Social Centres' (ah bollocks to it, lets abbrieviate to SSC's and roll on jargonville) single biggest advantage is financial. You don't pay for the space, so any money you make from activities there can go straight into funding useful projects either then or in future. Raw on Libcom has pointed to some startlingly large amounts made on single gig nights utilising the space and freedoms of SSCs, which in themselves are a seductive draw for a movement so often bereft of cash.

There are also major physical benefits to having a central space open to the public. It gets your name known, puts you in intimate contact with potential sympathisers/allies, gives you a place to sleep and eat and allows for continual and close-quarter communication with people who you would otherwise be regularly seperated from, possibly allowing for more activity both pertaining to and extraneous of the social centre project.

In itself, a well-run SSC can build up excellent community links and become a hub for localised activity both political and recreational. The value of this augments similar benefits for more permanent structures because in itself it is a statement of the inadequacies of offical blocks to community organisation.

... sod, time for me to do something recreational I'm afraid, I'll have to continue this another time.


Jan 17 2007 22:07

Can I add a couple of negatives?

I think the big problem is that you need a lot more energy to keep something squatted going and it demands that from its members. There is no easy way to be involved if you don't have loads of time and energy.

Continuity is also a problem, with people needing to reinvent the wheel every time they do one. If it's done short term with clear and limited aims (like the ones you mentioned) then that's less of an issue.

The relative short lifespan also works against using them for regular outreach/meetings etc. We meet in a pub, because there's nowhere else we can find. We did use a squatted place but it was very unreliable. At least the pub is open (though it has its own problems wink )



Rob Ray
Jan 17 2007 22:35

Dammit I was very slowly getting to that!