Bristol news - Kebele breaks free!

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Jul 13 2006 10:05
Bristol news - Kebele breaks free!

Kebele breaks FREE - A new era dawns

As the Kebele Social Centre approaches it’s 11th anniversary later this year, it has already given itself an early birthday present – by paying off it’s mortgage well ahead of schedule.

Yes that’s right. Kebele has full control over its building from now on, free from the restrictions of capitalist profiteering. And you thought it was just a bunch of hippy lifestylists with dogs on strings? Think again, scratch the surface, and go beyond the perceived stereotypes. You may be surprised – at the commitment, motivation and political awareness of those involved.

In an exclusive article for Bristle magazine (see below), Kebelians have outlined their thoughts & plans for the future.

Kebele, located in Easton, is Bristol’s only social centre run entirely by volunteers, that both promotes and engages in radical anti-capitalist ideas & activities. Historically Kebele has incorporated both the Kebele Housing Co-op - that provides live-in residents for the building, AND the Kebele Kulture Projekt – that is responsible for the café, library, infoshop, bike workshop, meeting space, and much more.

Kebele now intends to re-constitute itself as a community co-op, and the ‘core members’ will spend the summer months sorting out the practicalities of this, and considering the exciting possibilities that are available now that the financial burdens of the ‘death grip’, aka the mortgage, have been removed.

At the same time, Kebele is looking for more (and new) people to get involved in the autonomous sub-collectives that increasingly take responsibility for its activities. This is a living example of ‘horizontal organisation’, where individuals/groups take on responsibilities, and report to the wider ‘core meeting’ on a monthly basis. It enables people to become involved in specific aspects of Kebele, and hopefully progress to involvement in the overall project (the Kebele social centre, and community co-op).

Finally, given the potential opportunities for the centre, Kebele would like to hear from individuals/groups interested in using space at the centre on a long term basis. What ideas do you have?

Kebele is now one of the longest-running radical social spaces in the UK, and it has all happened in the relatively small city that is Bristol. We need MORE throughout the south west and the UK, to provide self-managed spaces for both the discussion and practice of progressive radical politics and action, and as a vibrant, living alternative to the world that capitalism forces upon us.

For more info read the article below, contact Kebele, come and visit the centre. There’ll be an open meting in early autumn…and watch out for the massive 11th anniversary party later this year!

Kebele’s article in Bristle no.22 (see, summer 2006, page 20:


Chances are if you’re a regular reader of Bristle you’ll know of ‘Kebele’, as it has played a prominent role in Bristol’s ‘activist’ community for more than a decade…but for those of you who haven’t yet been introduced, Kebele Kulture Projekt is based in Robertson Road in Easton.

Kebele runs a weekly vegan café and bike workshop. There is a radical library, internet access, and info/book stall. There are film nights, exhibition and meeting space – all for hire by donation. The Projekt is run by volunteers, according to anarchist principles. So far this year activities have included banner-making workshops, café and film nights hosted by Queer Mutiny, a Beltane Gathering, ‘Art Not Oil’ exhibition by local artist David Thomas, campaign meetings, and catering for Packers Field May Day event and a climate change camp planning meeting.

From the illegal, to the secure

It’s eleven years since the former squat collective formed a housing co-op in order to keep the space going when faced with eviction by the bank that was repossessing the building. Since then the rent from residents has covered the mortgage and most bills, allowing Kebele to maintain a meeting place for people interested in creating an alternative to the capitalist consumer society we live in.

This summer Kebele is celebrating paying off its mortgage (aka the death-grip)! Without the financial burden of a mortgage there are new and exciting possibilities for its future direction. In January a few Kebele-ites attended a national social centre gathering in Leeds. They addressed the question of how social centres could support one another and achieve their political potential to be powerful forces for social change. The gathering was inspiring and revived the hopes and dreams for what Kebele could achieve in Bristol.

Staying horizontal, getting organised

As a result of the gathering Kebele decided to create separate collectives to be responsible for various aspects of what happens at the Projekt. Currently there are five collectives (plus the housing co-op), some in their infancy, others more fully-fledged and operational: café, maintenance, bike workshop, arts/exhibition, and publications. The aim is to make meetings more functional and more accessible to newcomers who want to get involved. Each collective is largely autonomous, making decisions relevant to their collective, and then reports back monthly to the main ‘core’ Kebele meeting, where decisions with wider implications are discussed. We hope to make meetings snappier, more effective and relevant – without the need for everybody to be involved in every detail of each collective. If you would like to get involved in any of these collectives Kebele always welcomes new people who have some time, energy and commitment.

Presently we are working to set up a Community Co-op that will create an appropriate (legal) structure for Kebele – whilst resolving the historical difficulty of describing the relationship between Kebele Kulture Projekt and Kebele Housing Co-op. In the past the lack of clarity about roles, responsibilities and membership has contributed to a lot of the work falling onto the residents. This has made their position an unenviable one. Part of the work of setting up the Community Co-op will be to describe the roles and responsibilities of its members, and put structures and policies in place that will make the workings of Kebele transparent and therefore more accessible to newcomers.

The current proposal is for the housing co-op to transfer its assets to the new Community Co-op. Whilst the new co-op would takeover the tenancies of Kebele’s existing residents, it would also consider the possibility of winding down the housing as existing tenants leave, and then using the whole building as a social & resource centre. There would still remain an option to provide affordable social housing in the future, but perhaps in a more suitable building that won’t compromise the comfort & sanity of its tenants!

New ideas? Get involved!

The perceived benefits include a greater sense of ownership of the building by the ‘community’, no more wondering ‘Will the residents mind?’ Kebele would remain as a base for campaigns, plus there would be potential for more user-friendly space to provide a greater range of activities. Suggestions have included low-cost complimentary therapy rooms, screen-printing, community arts & crafts space, children’s area, parents group, ‘drop-ins’ to encourage wider local involvement and skill sharing, adult literacy, community gardening, breakfasts, and free shop.

Kebele will be a holding an open meeting to encourage participation & feedback from interested parties (excluding political parties of course!)

For more info contact Kebele:

14 Robertson Rd, Easton, Bristol, BS5 6JY

(Note: Kebele website under reconstruction)