To document the history, highs, lows, laughs, tears, significance, lessons learnt, etc etc. of the four years of rampART.
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Early Days
- 2.1 opening the buildings
- 2.2 The Name
- 2.3 losing the houses
- 2.4 European Social Forum
- 2.5 rampart radio
- 2.6 weekly cinema
- 3 The Long Haul
- 3.1 collective processes
- 3.2 Communites of Interest
- 3.3 Womens Anarchist Nusence Cafe (WANC)
- 3.4 Rhythms of Resistance
- 3.5 the hacklab
- 3.6 food not bombs
- 3.7 accommodation, waifs and strays
- 3.8 Transformations
- 3.9 Problem neighbours and other nutters
- 3.10 The Authorities
- 4 End Days
- 4.1 Developers make their move on Rampart Street
- 4.2 Court Papers
- 4.3 Where Next
- 4.4 legal battle
- 4.5 Space Is The Place - side stepping the property ladder
- 5 Looking Back
- 6 Social Centres Network
- 7 How To Guides
- 7.1 Have A Productive Meeting
- 7.2 Build Consensus
- 7.3 organise an event
- 7.4 Get and run a PA system
- 7.5 Sound Proofing
- 7.6 Internet and phones
- 7.7 Rain Water Harvesting
- 7.8 Save Energy
- 7.9 Setting up a thin client network
- 7.10 Access Control
Social centres are abandoned buildings - warehouses, factories, military forts, schools - that have been occupied by squatters and transformed into cultural and political hubs, explicitly free from both the market, and from state control... Though it may be hard to tell at first, the social centres aren’t ghettos, they are windows - not only into another way to live, disengaged from the state, but also into a new politics of engagement. And yes, it’s something maybe beautiful. - Naomi Klein ‘Fences and Windows’ (2001)
As more and more of our time and everyday lives become commodified, it becomes increasingly vital to create places where people aren’t judged by their ability to consume or to produce, where real human discussion and self organised activity and creativity can take place.
These projects provide opportunities for all kinds of activities.
- Cultural activities and events such as: amateur theatre, art installations, concerts, film nights, poetry slams, photo exhibitions
- Political activities such as: discussions and public meetings, gatherings, screenings, organising, training, debriefs
- Skill sharing and workshops: dancing classes, juggling, tai chi, bike repair and maintenance sessions, language lessons, computer training, screen printing
- Resource exchange and other projects: free shops, info library, media labs, internet access, peoples kitchen / cafe
These free spaces provide places to socialise, sitting and chatting with friends, neighbours or strangers in a friendly atmosphere - a chance to read a book from the library or browse through the newspapers - enjoy a cup of fair trade tea or coffee - relax in comfortable surroundings to eat your own lunch, or enjoy an affordable, healthy and ethical meal made by volunteers.
These projects are run on an entirely voluntary basis by the people involved. They are not charity workers or social workers. The concept is about encouraging and creating a spirit of co-operation, solidarity and mutual aid. They are not a top-down services or commercial enterprises run for profit - instead they are funded day-to-day by donations given by the users.
The rampART just one such space. If there is not one near you, perhaps you could find some people and start one.
rampART Creative Centre and Social Space
The rampART was initiated by a group of artists and activists inspired by the growing network of autonomous social centres around the country. Although more established in countries like Italy and Spain, the concept of these social centres has recently started to take off in the UK, with new centres in Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham, Brighton, Oxford, Leeds and London.
Inspired by social centres like OCSA Forte Prenastina in Rome, the project was conceived as a non-commercial space to be used as a resource for campaign groups working on social justice and environmental issues in what might broadly be term the politics of the radical non-authoritarian left.
RampART is a squatted social centre in the Whitechapel area of East London. It was established in a derelict building in Rampart Street which was previously used as an Islamic girls school. The centre runs as a private members club providing a space for a wide-range of groups to carry out their activities. Like all such projects, it is managed by volunteers without any funding and with a strong emphasis on consensus decision making and DIY culture.
Variously known as the rampART social centre, the rampART creative centre and social space, or more commonly simply as rampART, it is in essence an autonomous social centre in a squatted school. It was opened on May 21st 2004 and takes it’s name from Rampart Street, home of the abandoned warehouse which was previously used as an Islamic girls school. The rampART social centre was established in a derelict building in Rampart Street, which had been previously used as an Islamic girls' school. It had been empty for two years before being squatted, along with the vacant houses in the block, during May 2004.
Located in the East End of London near Whitechapel, the derelict building has hosted over hundreds of cultural and political events during the two years it has been open - placing the rampART firmly and literally on the activist map of London.
The rampART provides a non-commercial not-for-profit venue hosting cultural and political events, including film festivals, art exhibitions, benefit concerts, political discussions, public meetings and workshops. It remains a school, a space for debate and to promote the exchange of views on a wide range of issues, topics and concerns.
Initial plans for the rampART included setting up a free shop, community cinema, an art gallery, painting workshop, radio studion and a free internet access. All these ideas have been realised, and more.
The rampART is managed by volunteers without funding and a strong emphasis on consensus decision making and DIY culture. The project is run by an open collective as an autonomous space and we aim to make decisions effecting the project by consensus.
Occupied by artists and activists, the East London warehouse provides a hall for events, a makeshift stage, a nice PA, library, meeting room, workshop space such as sewing and screen printing, band rehearsal and recording room, video and audio editing suite, studio, internet access including Wi-Fi, and a shared office.
The UK has had its share of squatted political spaces over the decades but the last few years has seen something of a resurgence in activity, inspired by the strong social centres movement (O.S.C.A) found in Spain and Italy etc. Social Centres have been springing up all over the country but their existence is often precarious, dependent either on maintaining rent or retaining a squatted property. The average lifespan of a squat typically clocks in at around three months but the rampART was open for over four years.
For many people the rampART has been a venue for many gigs and partys but the rampART is a highly political space and this is reflected even in the parties. The massive free festival for peace organised by The European Creative Forum and Peace Not War was accompanied by an afternoon of workshops. Likewise the recent benefit party for the Hacklab which combined information and discussion about the threat of software patents.
From the very start the rampART has always be run as a not-for-profit venue. Entrance is free or by donation, nobody gets paid and the venue never asks for a cut. Thousands of pounds have been raised during benefit events for groups and campaigns such as London Rising Tide, PeaceNews, Real2Reel, and Indymedia. Argentinian, Bolivian and Chillean solidarity groups have raised money for political prisoners and there was fund-raising for the anti-G8 mobilisations in Scotland. Many of the acts who’ve performed at the rampART have become regulars and the band Gertrude used the space to record tracks for one of their albums.
Beyond parties, the rampART has also hosted meetings, discussion and gatherings such as a week long 'Venezuela Solidarity' event during the Hugo Chavez referendum, a week-long series of talks, films, food and discussion about Africa; and the highly ambitious consious fashion week. Amoung the groups which have used the space for meetings are the International Solidarity Movement, the European Creative Forum and London Adbusters and the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army.
opening the buildings
London: New social centre opens this Friday 21st...
Just over a week ago an unused building in East London was occupied by a group of international artists and activists with the aim of openning up a new social space. The building has been secured, tided up and some essential repairs made. The rampart was born...
The Rampart will provide a rampant meeting and workshop space, free internet access, info shop, community cinema, vokue/cafe, extensive free shop, art gallery and theatre space... The building contains a cosy hall in which a stage has been built and the whole place decorated.
The Ramparts is really close to LARC, Freedom Book, the Hacklab and a squatted environmental project, and we'll be avoiding duplicating the stuff they already provide while adding to the diversity of autonomous projects in the area.
This coming friday (21st), there will be an opening event, consisting of screenings performance, live music, poetry slam/open mic in the ramparts hall. If you would like to get involved on the night, please let us know ASAP. We also hope to do food but currently don't have cooking tat to cater for large numbers (we need big pots, and loads of plates/bowls/mugs and cuttlery).
As is usual with such projects, the Rampart urgently needs people to volunteer some time either on an occasional or a regular basis so that the building can be open everyday. People are also welcome to organise events, run workshops etc.
Obviously the place also needs various things;
Tools, Paint, paint brushes, rollers etc. Curtains, fabric, bedsheets etc, backdrops etc to cover windows/walls Carpets, Furniture. especially sofas, chairs (stackable ones would be great) Cooking tat: gas hobs/burners, large pots/pans etc. Cutlery, plates, bowls A HIFI amplifier, speakers, tape/cd player vhs vcr, dvd player (a projector would be nice). computers; monitors, keyboards, mice, network cables etc deadbolts, padlocks, yale locks, mortice locks toilet roll!
Also welcome: stuff for the free shop - books, clothes etc.
We didn't want to spend ages in meetings discussing a name so we took it from the street. People often pick names which don't stick as ultimately it is what other people call the place that gives it the name. For example, there are a group of kids using the place that call it Sly Street (which is the little street directly next to the building).
Anyway, we capitalised art in rampART for a bit of style; something different. It suggests the place is some kind of art project although it's not really, or not much, and it helps to generate a veneer of respectability. There is an 'art room' but it's mostly used for painting banners. Of course we have had some art exhibitions etc but they are certainly the minority of events. The venue has hosted the fresh talents of wide range of artists - from the mixed media of ‘a beginning...’, the hardcore photos of ZDO9; the performance art from ‘chikukuango’; thought provoking sculptures in ‘the body’, a the hard hitting installation ‘the election’. Not to mention providing the floor space for the creation of many of the large banners seen at protests in london.
losing the houses
The plan to have ground floor space in all the building. The cafe. Broken promises and naivety.
European Social Forum
EUROPEAN SOCIAL FORUM: Different Paths Emerge Analysis - By Stefania Milan
LONDON, Oct 25 (IPS) - The third European Social Forum appears to mark the end of the ”love story” between grassroots social movements and the international gatherings that are now in vogue. In any case, discontent in both camps -- the activists and the official organisers -- will leave a mark on future events.
For the first time since its inaugural edition in November 2001, the European Social Forum (ESF) was openly criticised by grassroots activists.
Anarchist groups and ”media-activist” networks like Indymedia decided to gather autonomously in self-organised spaces -- the anarchists prepared events under the banner 'Beyond the ESF'; Indymedia set up a centre in Central London, and other groups held events at the ”squatted” (peacefully occupied) social centre RampArt.
”There have been autonomous spaces before, but they have always been requested from the official process. In this case, people didn't want to ask to be given a space to be autonomous in: they wanted to demonstrate their ideas of self-organisation by organising themselves,” activist Dave, from Indymedia UK, told IPS.
The main themes being debated in the so-called ”autonomous spaces” were the precariousness and flexibility of labour, migration and migrants' rights, communication issues and the movement's next steps -- including protests at the meeting of the G8 (group of eight most industrialised countries) in Scotland in July 2005.
Several thousands of people attended the ”autonomous” meetings daily.
Participants at the ”main” ESF attended more than 500 meetings and listened to more than 250 speakers. Although some of the same items, such as G8 protests, were on the agenda, those at Beyond the ESF opposed their approach to discussions.
”The debate here is more responsive to our needs. The fact that only the 'leading activists' can speak in the official Forum is extraneous to our way of action,” said an Italian activist.
Also for the first time, the Forum was targeted by protests. Around 300 activists from 'Beyond the ESF' entered Alexandra Palace to interrupt a panel that London Major Ken Livingston was supposed to attend, disappointing the organisers.
”We criticise the authoritarian control over the Forum process of a small number of groups: the Social Workers' Party, Socialist Action and Livingston's London Great Authority,” said Dave. ”Local authorities and political parties were dictating the (rules of the) Forum through the control of budget.”
”The process in the UK reflected everything we are fighting against -- the manipulation and the construction of the movement in someone's political interest,” Julie B from the Forum volunteer translators' group, Babels, told IPS. ”Political parties should not be there anyway.”
The Forum charter of principles adopted in 2001 by the Brazilian Organisation Committee states, ”neither party representations nor military organisations shall participate in the Forum.” It adds, the Forum is a ”plural, diversified, non-confessional, non-governmental and non-party context.”
The next meeting must be organised with a more participatory and horizontal process, say activists.
”Some people view the Forum as a political conference to be organised like a conference; all about selling tickets and booking big-name speakers. But we see the Forum as a process, and within the organising process people can build new networks and strengthen solidarities. If this method of organising continues, the Social Forum will become politically bankrupt,” said Dave.
Karen Banks from the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) organised, with Indymedia, the Forum on Communication Rights. According to her, ”Most of the preparatory meetings seemed to be conducted in a very alien and exclusive way. This is one of the reasons we organised the counter-activities.”
Such reactions to the official Forum are seen as a turning point in some movements' strategies towards the large gatherings, which are offspring of the World Social Forum (WSF) in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Italian activist networks GlobalProject, Invisibili and Ya Basta published an open letter on their website to discuss the ”London contradictory days,” and called for reflection on the future of social forums.
In London, the grassroots networks ”produced a common agenda which can go beyond the closed and sclerotising ESF -- a European event on precariousness and migration in Berlin next January and the European day of conflict against the migrants' detention camps, on Apr. 2,” they announced.
The next ESF is scheduled for 2006.
”Many people who are critical of the Social Forum want to take the opportunity to use the time in between to re-evaluate what the social forums are about and to re-examine the basis on which they are organised,” said Dave.
”If 'another world is possible' (the motto of the forums), the biggest question is: 'how do we arrive at another world'? If social forums continue as in London, there will be increasing voices of dissent and increasingly calls for a boycott of the forums,” he added.
What do the organisers say? IPS tried to contact the director of the organising body 'ESF Company', Kate Hudson, several times, by phone and by e-mail, but she did not reply. (END/2004)
Additionally, as one of the ESF autonomous spaces, rampART hosted the Home Education Forum and acted as homebase for the European Creative Forum and the Laboratory of Insurrectional Imagination.
During the ESF, rampART will be acting as a creative convergence centre and providing one of the info-points for the autonomous spaces. rampART is also home base for the Carnival Forum and the Lab of II. Each day there will be cheap food, free internet / indymedia access, plus resources to edit audio / video reports, or make props and banners etc. In the evenings, space may be used to exchange feedback about the days events or you can socialise and enjoy a range of cultural entertainment, films, live music or performance.
Laboratory Of Insurrectional Imagination
ESF radio from rampart
Announcing ’radio rampART’, set up to provide coverage of the ESF in London over the next few weeks...
Streaming from the Indymedia icecast server in the USA, our feed will loop various segments from previous events plus some live stuff as we test the system and learn the ropes during the next few days.
By next days, on the run up to the ESF, we should be broadcasting completely new content which will include information about the various venues and initiatives that are doing stuff during the ESF We’ll also provide details about the workshops, screenings, actions and cultural events taking place.
During the Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of the ESF itself, we will be broadcasting live from the rampART studio and and maybe even on-the-spot reports from the streets during the sunday demonstration and actions.
We are looking for contributions of segments, jingles or whatever from the various autonomous spaces. So get out your mididisc recorders and send us your content.
Want to get involved, contribute a segment or take a live slot? Please send us your content to rampARTmedia@gmx.net, or come to our meetings at rampart- watch the indymedia uk newswire for details, or email us asking for the next meeting.
Another project to have emerged from the rampART is the internet radio station, RampART radio, which was set up to provide independent coverage during the European Social Forum last October. Streaming 24/7, it’s output is a mix of independent news, spoken word, plus conscious and revolutionary tunes. Many of the events that happen in the hall have also been streamed live and there is a diverse programme of live shows appear with varying regularity and tardiness. It’s not unusual to catch impromptu interviews with interesting people who have been forced into the studio while visiting the rampART.
G8 Scotland and the 7/7 Bombing
Since the closure of The Other Cinema, Indymedia has been using the rampART as a venue for a series of film festivals. The first, covering social struggles in India, drew threats from right wing Hindus seeking to censor films about the massacre of 2,000 Muslims at the hands rioting Hindus in Gujarat. Other indymedia screenings include ‘Caminos De Resistencia (Paths Of Resistance)’ and the Middle East Film Festival. There has also been non indymedia organised festivals including Positive Global Movements, a week long exhibition of inspiring stories of resistance around the world.
Other screenings have ranged from fictional films to documentaries including The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, The Globalisation Tapes, and Forth World War. Prior to it’s official debut, Michael Moores ‘Fahrenheit 911’ was premiered at the rampART on the 4th July as part of an 'Independence FROM America' themed evening. At it’s peak, 120 people squeezed into rampART’s main room for a documentary about McLibel and a sneak premier of 'Supersize Me'.
Friday Night Anti-Copyright Cinema @ the Rampart Social Centre
On the 25th August, Tufnells Parks' ex-Grand Banks Social Centre was evicted in a pre-dawn raid by baliffs and police. The liberated space had been a thriving centre of community activitiy for over six months. One of the regular events, held every Friday evening, was the Anti-Copyright Cinema. Described as acts of disobedience against intellectual property rights and the monopolisation of accumulative knowledge - free films in other words!
This week only (in defiance against the closure of autonomous spaces and in solidarity with those who have had their social centre taken away from them), the rampART is hosting it's own Friday Evening Anti-copyright Cinema, featuring a premiere of Supersize Me which gets it's official release in UK cinemas seven days later.
- The Corporation (19 minute version)
- McLibel Two Worlds Collide, McSpotlight the video
Indian Film Festival
Threats from right wing Hindus seeking to censor films about the massacre of 2,000 Muslims at the hands rioting Hindus in Gujarat.
Indymedia cinema and the RampART Creative Centre have been hosting a week long festival of documentary films from India. From Monday 10th to Saturday 16th January, each day focused on a particular social or political issue. This festival brings to London’s East End some documentaries that are rarely seen, inside or outside India, with the intention of creating spaces for debate. Some disturbing, some impassioned, others humorous, all inspiring and controversial, these films provide a glimpse into some of the most difficult challenges facing Indian society.
During film festivals in India attempts have been made to censor films covering these events. Now the same is happening in London. Last week, the ramparts social centre started to receive threatening emails, and anonymous comments posted on the ramparts web pages  from people trying to force the venue to cancel the film festival. They claim that the films present Hinduism in a bad light and that the organisers have an anti-Hindu agenda.
The threats began after an email posted on nationalist Hindu mailing list alerted members of right wing Hindu groups such as the BJP and the VHP (both part of the Sangh Parivar, the family of Hindu fundamentalist organizations spawned and led by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh). However, of course, the organizers refused to bow to the threats and the festival went on as other venues came forward to offer alternative places to show the film should disruption take place. In the end, there was no disruption, and attendance was very good.
Among the films shown, there were several which focus on religious intolerance and fundamentalist violence which resulted in a massacre in Gularat. Rakesh Sharma's film 'Final Solution' (screened on Saturday) and several other documentaries that investigate the brutal bloodshed in Gujarat in 2002 were banned by India's censorship board (whist the BJP was in power) and faced threats from extremist groups.
The Long Haul
decision making process
The Money Issue
The story of the conflict over the screen printing 'workshop' and sale of products.
Communites of Interest
The community served by the rampART has generally not been a local one, but a community of politically motivated people from around the capital and beyond. There have also been hundreds of guests from all over the world enjoying free crash space while attending events in London, for example seventy Bolivians stayed earlier this summer.
Regular users include the samba band, the radical theory reading group, the womens' cafe, food not bombs and the cinema collective. The 24/7 rampART radio stream that started with coverage of the European Social Forum has expired a long time ago, resurrected occasionally for live coverage of major mobilisation like the G8 or DSEi. Other radio collectives now the space to broadcast their weekly live shows - Wireless FM which came from St Agnes Place and Dissident Island Disks.
Womens Anarchist Nusence Cafe (WANC)
Women's cafe is about... using the power of music, cooking, eating and laughter as a way of understanding and uniting women from all backgrounds and walks of life, dissolving or celebrating our differences of sexuality or class. A place of mutual participation. A DIY space that is a panacea to passive consumerism. A space to play,to be spontaneous or daring,to share creativity and energy,and/or to bask and enjoy other women being daring,sexy, and spontaneous. Like all places where freedom works,a structure is created and held, wherein anything can happen. It is a friendly space where anyone is accepted.
The cafe builds a community from our often fragmented inner city lifestyles. It anchors and roots us, providing us with positive reference points for who we are, all on our own terms, which is a political feat in itself! Many friendships have been born,networks forged and a sense of identity consolidated (as well as providing the inspiration for one club,the fabulous club wotever!) Over the years many amazing women have put their time and energy into women's caff, gracing us with their performance skills, spending a good few hours cycling to south london to rummage in skips to find good free food, or lovingly chopping and washing veg for hours.The cafe has become a cherished breathing space for the women who go, and it attracts many dedicated regulars and volunteers.Some are political activists,some are feminists, other women are not political and just want to enjoy relaxing in the company of other cool and fab women. The fact is the cafe belongs to all of us and is what we make it -something to be cherished and nurtured, somewhere to be fed on a soul level.
Why women only space? In order to break out of alpha male defined reference points,it is invaluable to create a space where we as women can become empowered in relation to ourselves....to be able to discover our sense of self whilst not being judged by definition and reference to the dominant culture.While celebrating ourselves,and taking pride in our gender,(however we choose to define it) we weave our own cultural identity,recharge our batteries ,lift our spirits.We cease to be ‚'women' only in relation to the men around us and thus transcend limiting behavioural stereotypes, stereotypes that keep men and women distinctly estranged from themselves and each other. This space also allows us to play out all aspects of gender dynamics without having to deal with the gender polarization that instinctively happens between men and women. By the way, we are not a trans space per se, but we happily accept and welcome trans people who want to come with an open heart and share our fun.
How we work. – mainly by phone or email. Every month we need a chef (or two), some kitchen help, a driver and volunteers to skip vegetables. Usually there will be a slightly different team each month, which means no-one gets too exhausted. Whoever wants to volunteer will be put on a team e-list for that month, and can contact the relevant people. Some women take it on themselves to plan the menu, others the logistics of food skipping. It you just want to turn up on the day of the cafe to lend a hand with whatever needs to be done, this is really welcomed too. The other part of cafe work is developing the exciting themes, which are always sketched out in advance,- if someone has an idea for a theme they want to develop, or would like to chef/chop/skip etc contact Caroline, who coordinates the cafe.
All this might not be the most academic PC way of structural organization, but somehow it works pretty successfully. Herstory This is a rough herstory from a personal perspective to help explain the social complexities of our scene. The cafe started in the Spring of 1998. At the time it didn't have a name.Caroline had just come back from djin in Berlin and was vibing and inspired about the women's politico scene there. She was one of the founding members of a small women's sound system called Mizbehaviour, and was involved in setting up 'Mother Earth Guerillas', - which was a vegan women only caff with kickboxing, belly dancing workshops,djs and live music. This caff ran a few times in Tyssen Street Dalston. However, it all proved to be too ambitious and expensive to be viable for the long term.
One day in church street Caroline bumped into a friend of hers (Ed,thankyou) who insisted that she meet a woman living in his squat who was trying to set up a women's cafe right there and then. So she met Rosi,who was living in a squat on Lordship Road (which had been squatted by the people from the infamous Toxic Planet Squat, - an exhibition centre against GM Food) whilst awaiting for her plough shares trial for trashing a nuclear submarine at Faslane. Rosi was at first suspicious of this unknown "jetsetter" who wanted to help run a little women's caff in a crusty squat in Hackney,but nonetheless a small cafe started running regularly with the added help of Caro's chef girlfriend at the time,Bridget,who used to own her own cafe in Deptford,and luckily still had all the catering equipment. Ali was always on it doing the bar. The caff ran for a few months there before geting evicted. There was a lull,then some cool and fab women opened up a squat on Queensbridge Road,specifically for the WomenSpeak Out event in the November of 1999. This was a fantastic autonomous women only event,with workshops, performances, music and cooking, lasting for a week and attracting 200 plus activists,anarchists and feminists from around the country(it formed the base of the current WSO mailing list!)
The building became the Spiral women's squat for 11 months and the cafe started up again. It was here that it acquired its acronym Wanc, (Women's Anarchist Nusiance Cafe)from a pink bus meeting. the sisters of no mercy After that got evicted, the caff ran at the Bathhouse on Shacklewell Lane for 6 months. Here, Caro and Rosi organised an International Womens Day Benefit for Rosies trial,(where the Sisters Of No mercy was born.) Then came half a year at the freezing Boys Club behind Dalston Rio,where we had to make our own toilets . There was noticable tension with the boys in the house, although, on the plus side, there were pool tables and Sally was running fun creative writing Workshops. read about rosies trial.Homeless again, there was a resquatting of the beautiful garden at toxic planet for one night of the summer solstice (magical but rainy).
Fate twisted again and one of the womble women involved in WSO (Lou nice one) offered us the Radical Dairy in Stoke Newington: it was there that the Wanc in its current format was born. This was march 2002. The Radical Dairy was a fantastic place. Brightly coloured, light, really good energy,and with a good possee of Womble people making it a proper community centre,although its potential was sabotaged within the first few months of its life by a vicious mayday Police Raid, whereby all the community computers were stolen and the electricity source cut. Despite this wanc continued and the theme idea was born. It was all systems go,candle light and gas rings. The first theme was the Night of the Cosmic Femmes,with papier bosom making and aromatherapy sniff quiz,closely followed by a tomboi night with tree climbing in Clissold Park and a "wash on the go" workshop. Thanks to Ippy and peace news for all the hard work and flyer layout and printing over the years.
The cafe went from strength to strength. Drag and dress up,lots of drag, HAG collective from Brighton with their moon cups ,speculums and cervical examinations,an Anarchist strip night with a super successful nipple casting workshop run by Megan,Beguine the Beguine night with our very own Anchorite in the basement(Fiiija),Joelle Taylor hosting slam poetry.Sian and Ippy from Aldermaston teaching us how to "Lock On"In the Streets of stokey for the Activist Cafe. Judith Silver and her christmas choir,Ingo as a swedish Angel,WendyOMatic and her book on polyamory,and novelist Sarah Waters reading from her then latest novel 'Fingersmith'(it was freezing but pink sammy was still naked in her honour!) as well as lots of women meeting and forming networks. This lasted a year and half until eviction (disgustingly the building remains empty).
The cafe was homeless again for quite a few months (bar one night in the Plush qweer squat on Ballspond Road,) until a German Grandaddy punk by the name of Shen, who had opened a punk squat called the Poison Club on Ballspond Road, invited the cafe to run there - feeling it was his duty to 'support his sisters.' So we relocated to the chinaman early 2003 and yet another era was born. This place was bigger than the one on Defoe Road and the numbers increased from 30 to around 60- 70 women and we also started getting a bit of attention from the likes of g3 and Ginger Beer. There were lots of memorable nights there. For example we had a motorbikers cafe,with 5 bikers offering pillion lifts around Dalston, a dodgy heavy metal band karoake, a tug of war, a flamenco night with performance from Carmen,(proper spanish flamenco) loey and Lucy and a Bull run...with the bulls chasing the matadors up and down Dalston Lane...and many other amazing happenings, such as lesbo Pig,Trevor4ever, a rude Lapdancer at a christmas pagan Ritual for peace,Sud showcase with Lakuti,queer performances from Joey and Elliot, and a classic Derby and Joan night where Nana Doris made her first sleazy appearance, to name but a few!
It was at this time that the cafe started having a smoke free space. After the Chinaman got spectacularly evicted we had to wait 5 months before hearing about the brilliant RampArt Social centre. We duly re-located ourselves and started running there from December 2004. We started with a bang with a christmas party with Dyke Marilyn and Since the cafe has been at Ramparts we have had lots of amazing cafes, transforming RampArt into a Roller disco with a special performance by Rollergrrll ,a notorious speak easy gangsta cafe, conka competitions,playground games,the women from the Rhythms of Resistance Samba Band, limbo dancing,and general DIY goings on including film screenings, rope workshops and much much more!
Rhythms of Resistance
The rampART also hosts the creative media lab, one of two such labs maintained by the London Hacklabs Collective. The hacklab contains about a dozen recycled computers running FreeBSD and open source applications such as Firefox, Open Office, GIMP, Kino and many others.
rampART Creative Media Lab
"Don't hate the media, be the media!"
""Want to experiment with digital audio or graphics, produce electronic music, make computer animation, edit a video, make a radio show or create stunning realtime visuals? Well now you can... ""
The "Creative Media Lab" is located on the first floor of the rampART creative centre and social space which can be found at 15-17 Rampart Street. The lab is setup and maintained by members of the London Hacklab Collective as well as people involved in the rampART centre.
The lab, which is connected to broadband internet via a community wifi network, contains about ten PCs. The machines are generally Pentium III 500Mhz or better and have all been salvaged from skips or donated by people throwing them out. All of the computers are running free and open source software (such as Mozilla Firefox, OpenOffice, Audacity, Kino and GIMP). Most are running the freeBSD operating system which makes the lab suitable for training and general use. There are free courses taking place (mostly saturdays) and if you fancy running a course email firstname.lastname@example.org and/or email@example.com
As well as free internet access and courses, there is also the opportunity to learn how to build or repair your own computer (perhaps one that you found in the street). Get in touch if this interests you or you need parts - we usually have 14/15inch monitors available, powersupplies, cases, keyboards etc. (if you have equipment you'd like to donate to the hacklab or to the rampART in general, email firstname.lastname@example.org)
Among the projects and events hosted by this squatted space is the Creative Media HackLab - a room full of recycled computers given a new lease of live with open source software. Be it flyer, posters, zines, websites, digital video, or radio production, the hacklab facilitates those dissatisfied with the mainstream media to involve themselves in DIY media activism and guerilla interventions.
The hacklab evolved from a handful of old computers found in the streets during the first few months after the rampART was occupied. It became the second such space to be maintained by the London Hacklabs Collective.
During the European Social Forum in 2004, the rampART creative media lab provided a public Indymedia access point while another room was transformed into a radio studio. Open source software (MuSE and the excellent Dynabolic live CD linux distro) was used to provide an Internet stream via Indymedia. The station broadcast independent coverage of the forum produced by people who had been trained to use minidisk recorders and sent out to the ESF and beyond to make their own audio reports or interviews and then edit them in the studio.
After the ESF, the radio station at the rampART continued with local DJs, rappers and poets getting involved. It was still going strong by July 2005 and provided 5 days of live coverage of the G8 mobilisations, getting up-to-the-minute news direct from Indymedia dispatch teams in Scotland via IRC and doing interviews using voice over IP.
RampART radio ran 24/7 from October 2004 to October 2005 when it was temporarily switched off due to bandwidth issues on our community wireless network. Now however the radio is be relaunched since the connectivity issues have been permanently resolved.
This month, the rampART subscribed to a ADSL2 internet service provider providing a theoretical 24Mb/s download speed. That's 50 times fast than standard broadband and 1,000 times faster than a dialup modem. In practice the speeds obtained are less than 17Mb/s but that's till pretty amazing. Better still, the connection provides a 1.3Mb/s upload speed which is ten times faster than we could possible have expected before.
The increased bandwidth enables the rampART hacklab to host websites, online media archives, provide mirrors of online activist resources, reduce the load on other content providers via peer2peer and much much more. As well as enabling the radio stream to go back online it also makes it possible for meetings at the rampART to have live video conferencing link up's with simultaneous gatherings elsewhere in the world. Additionally, combined with the open WRT wifi technology provided by the Mute community wireless network, the rampART could provide a local free to view digital TV station.
The hacklab itself now has eight or more well functioning computers, all 500MHz and above with 17" monitors and not a single bit of micro$oft in sight. About half a dozen or so additional computers plus network cables, monitors, keyboards and other essentials were sent over to the new social centre in Russell Square to help initiate yet another hacklab.
The hacklab provides space to address digital exclusion by providing free access to information technology, training and skill sharing. It is hoped that the facilities can empower people with creative tools for grassroots culture and radical social change.
The computers at the rampART hacklab run a variety of software including Open Office, Scribus (desktop publishing), various graphics programs including Gimp and Inkscape which is a vector graphics app, video editing and VJ'ing with LiVES and kino and associated programs, web development with Mozilla Composer and Nvu. There is now even plush carpet and a cupboard with tea, mugs, a kettle and sometimes even biscuits!
Saturday is drop in day meaning you can be fairly sure that there will be somebody there to from about 1pm. You can get help on using these packages, ask questions, share your skills or just use the internet, check your email or whatever.
Often there are specific workshops arranged and if there is something you would like to learn or offer, you can suggest a new workshop.
The London Hacklabs Collective would like to develope the hacklab is to become a centre of knowledge of free software applications and are now looking for people who know individual applications and if possible their Windoze counterparts. The idea is to be able to show activists and others how to achieve with free software what they are used to doing with Window$ programs.
With it's fast internet connection and fileservers, the rampART could provide a useful venue for people to become more involved in indymedia, either performing admin tasks or by utilising techie skills and joining the over stretched development team. If you have java skills, postgres, css or even good old xhtml knowledge then you could really help things move forward. If there is any interest then a local indymedia development server can be installed to make it much easier to work through the imc-uk-tech todo list.
Around the world, hacklabs are striving to put technical tools and skills into the hands of ordinary people to hack reality and fight back against corporate rule.
community mesh wifi
We tried to be part of an initiative setting up a community wireless network in the East End. The network is being created in association with residents of the Limehouse Town Hall studio space and Youarehere, an initiative of Mute magazine. Both of these groups have long focused on participatory approaches, running workshops where people can learn about network building and administration.
This points to a future network which can connect residents and cultural centres and can provide the infrastructure for an independent local media, whilst encouraging participation in the operation of the network.
The technology choice of Locust-World Mesh Boxes 19 provides a relatively easy technical path for extension of the network by other people in the area.
LARC and the squat on Sutton Street were also nodes on the network but there were few others. The nearest to Rampart Street was on Cable Street. The problem was the lack of nodes and the ratio of those providing 'uplink' and those merely leaching.
food not bombs
Through thick and thin, rain and sunshine, Whitechapel Food Not Bombs has been serving free vegan meals in the streets of London every (almost) Saturday for over a year. Part of the international Food Not Bombs movement, the group (originally called "London Food Not Bombs") has been serving since January 2007, in a small park called "Altab Ali Park" in Whitechapel. All the dishes are vegan, and most of the food skipped or donated.
The group initially cooked at the London Action Resource Centre, but quickly moved on to Rampart as the kitchen is bigger there. Throughout the year, FNB activists have been skipping every week, at places such as New Covent Garden market, to rescue edible food that is thrown away by merchants who can not make a profit on it.
The food is then cooked on Saturdays, and until recently has been served in the park - to locals, activists, homeless people, tourists, passers-by... The number of servings vary, from 20 to 80, depending on the weather and the time of the year. Food Not Bombs often comes along with a small sound system for entertainment, as well as a free shop offering free clothes to whoever wants them.
Beyond the weekly servings, the group has been cooking for various events - an action against Starbucks in Whitechapel, a No-Borders meeting, Reclaim Love 2008, a conference against immigration controls,...
From their website...
A 'freegan', anti-consumerist, community-based weekly gathering, demonstrating against the military-industrial complex, against the senseless waste, nonsensical distribution systems and decision making processes of capitalist representative democracies, against the apathy and feelings of helplessness to effect change. It is a celebration of good, healthy food, of innovation, a promotion of involvement in community...
1) Highlighting problems of distribution and waste in our society, thereby illuminating the dysfunctionalities of the state and economy: a) Large amounts of public funds are siphoned off of for military expenditure (hence the 'Not Bombs' part of 'FNB'), despite the public largely disagreeing with state armament and war, and despite the immediate and basic needs of people not being met. There is a ludicrous, nonsensical and sinister side to the functioning of the state; a democracy which is supposedly representative yet constantly prioritises war/military conquest/weapon development and technology, and imperialist expansion over very basic individual needs. b) Modern methods of food distribution, e.g. supermarkets. Food otherwise fit for consumption is thrown away all the time. It's not just the food that is wasted but the energy used to grow this food, to transport this food. The water for irrigation. In a more abstract sense it encourages general disregard for what the earth produces, the time and effort it takes to grow food. There are issues regarding the labour (often very exploitative)necessary to grow the food cheaply and in such abundance that we can throw large amounts away.
2) The fact that the food is vegan gives real examples of how nutritious and yummy animal-product-free food can be. Considering the siphoning of public funds to support grossly non-ecological, environmentally catastrophic industries such as meat/diary production and fisheries, and also the ethical issues of subjugating animals and secondary issues related to the consumption of animal products resulting in chronic health problems and disease, which then relates to the medical/pharmaceutical industry (it's all related!!)...
3) The fact that the Whitechapel FNB is primarily bicycle oriented highlights issues of fossil fuel consumption.
4) The decentralised and non-hierarchical/consensus-based structure of the group is a real example of alternative methods of organising and functioning, one in which every individual is involved and everyone's opinions and ideas matter.
5) By sharing food in an inclusive manner, people who might not other wise engage in conversation find a time and a place to do so. Connecting with locals and fostering a sense of community is a crucial step towards re-imagining our society/community and how we want it to function, and also to combat alienation that can take over and is (I think) a completely intentional by-product of our supposed representative democratic state institutions.
So basically to protest against the whole system, yes capitalism but in my opinion it is not only that... Anyway I am won’t go into that, the idea for me is to show how crazy the whole thing has become: this food is supposed to be wasted, but still we manage to cook it into (delicious hot vegan) meals. Just to point out the contradictions of such a system and way of life. I have not been involved in political activism for a long time but still, I was sick and tired of always being against this or against that, it is like I was not proposing any alternative - and FNB is really great for that as it is such a positive one. And well, I do it because I enjoying it of course- skipping, cooking together and everything :)
Waste and Consumption
Because production of waste is linked to making profit, and profit is at the heart of capitalism (which is not the nicest thing I've ever heard of). So tackling waste is fighting capitalism! Skipping is very empowering. Cooking with a lot of people is real good fun! Besides when you really get down to it, what is more important than food? I get free vegetables and meals for half of my week at rampart after skipping for FNB ;-)
Questions/Challenges the basic principles of a society that values wasteful consumption over common sense, and governments that prioritize profit and war over sustainability and life. FNB is a practical hands-on protest against the violence of poverty and hunger. ‘An empty stomach is as painful as a punch in the stomach’; Poverty and hunger shorten lives- eating away at pride and self-reliance. FNB not only questions and provides an alternative, but also challenges the capitalist system- taking what is wasted- which ensures poverty and hunger continue-redistributing it and empowering people. A system that actively discourages us to share and be creative, profits from our alienation, hunger, disempowerment and misery- we need to change this. FNB- is not a charity of ‘us’ giving food to ‘them’; the idea is to provide people the means to effect change in their own lives, and to breakthrough the barriers of class, race, gender, age, ethnicity and all other artificial boundaries that keep people separated from one another. We do it for ourselves as much as others- creating the community we want to live in, challenging those who promote profit and war above life, community and sustainability. Food Recycling is one of the basic principles. Enough food is wasted each day to feed everyone who is hungry- aside from revealing the callous nature of relations that capitalism promotes, is totally unsustainable. It means a lot to me that FNB is vegan, as the meat and dairy industries are inherently violent and wasteful. We are able to show that neither are essential ingredients, and that Veganism/Vegetarianism is a healthier, cheaper, more resourceful and sustainable option. Likewise, the we try to use bikes as our main mode of transporting food. Getting together to cook, share food and ideas really positively contributes to the communities in which we are involved, and the community FNB creates. Serving food in public spaces, reclaims some space for us create an alternative to the status quo, and to challenge it.
A home cooked meal made with vegetables and love is a very good thing to me. It is something that I would always be pleased to receive, so I take pleasure in giving it to others. My impression is that, particularly in a big city like London, there are many people cooking for one. Home cooking is a difficult thing to buy, and due to age / circumstances choices, many people have no one to eat and cook with. Food not bombs provides me with a positive way to interact with people outside of my immediate circle, to foster a sense of community, and in a small way to spread some joy in the face of overwhelming inner city loneliness and alienation. In terms of the beliefs behind FNB, the following points resonate with me: 1. Food is regularly being wasted. No one needs to go hungry. Our actions highlight this, hopefully encouraging people to realise that things don't need to be how they are. 2. Society would be better off operating within small cooperative groups. For me, living and eating more within community is the solution. We are much more powerful in small groups than acting as isolated individuals. We also waste less are more efficient due to economies of scale. Preparing food is work, and this can be shared and rotated. 3. Our planet has scarce natural resources and ever increasing, limitless consumption (necessary to feed a capitalist economy) is destroying it. 4. The money spent on defence budgets is obscene, given food, housing and educational shortages.
For me, FNB is about creating the world I want to see. Rather than wait for a politician or a revolution to do it for me, I am doing it here and now. This includes free redistribution of resources and creating an alternative space in the community (ie. what we do in the park), as well as acts of solidarity and being part of a movement for social change (ie. catering for meetings/camps, prisoner support, feeding people at immigration centres, etc.) That's it :)
dual power strategy
Since the anti-World Trade Centre protests at Seattle in 1999 there has been a large, visible but amorphous, worldwide movement dubbed the anti-globalisation movement or anti-capitalist movement (I prefer the latter name). Although my political activity pre-dated Seattle I have been inspired by what came out of the anti-WTO protests and many of the ideas that have been suggested to take the movement forward. One of these ideas is sometimes known as 'dual power strategy' it is the idea that whilst 'fighting' the system and its associated evils (however you decide to 'fight' - protest, petition, direct action etc.) people should also try to develop 'alternative institutions' to those in mainstream society. These alternative institutions can include things like workers co-ops, housing co-ops and food co-ops; credit Unions, LETS schemes, barter markets, free shops; squats, social centres, community gardens etc. etc. For me, Food Not Bombs - providing an alternative to the 'free market' of buying, selling (and wasting) food; leaving some in our society hungry - fits into this concept. The development of dual power involves the setting up of networks of alternative institutions to create communities which are to some degree or other autonomous from capitalist society. Thus internationally we have a network of hundreds of FNB groups whilst locally FNB links into other alternative institutions' like Ramparts, LARC, Freecycle etc. Among the many flaws in this theory is of course the fact that most people involved in FNB or whatever don't necessarily see it in the same all embracing context, or as being 'revolutionary' in the sense of being part of a movement aiming to overturn capitalism. I accept this criticism but the alternative institution idea is what motivates me. Chances are FNB and similar projects won't strike the death knell of capitalism but at least in failing to achieve, what for me is the ultimate goal, we at least create some space for an alternative vision and do some good on the way.
accommodation, waifs and strays
While the rampART has always sought to remain a nonresidential project, it has always welcomed guests and numerous overseas visitors have enjoyed free accommodation while on missions in London. This invaluable opportunity for cultural exchange has enriched and inspired everyone involved.
During the European Social Forum, the rampART opened it’s doors to accommodate over 50 European visitors as well as laying on free food and a huge range of entertainment.
Many people may have passed through for gigs or meetings and been unaware of all the structural work done to transform it over the years...
PeaceNews volunteers created a wheelchair accessible toilet and a ramp that could be placed at the entrance. Windows on the ground floor were bricked for sound proofing after the weekly samba band practice led to a noise abatement order.
Different layout were tried in the hall and modular stage created. The kitchen was rearranged to make it a more practical space and a permanent serving area built. Further work on these improvements were put on hold when the local authorities started correspondence about health and safety inspections. A series of risk assessments and visits from the fire brigade followed, then emergency lighting, smoke alarms, extinguishers and safety notices sprung up around the building. The biggest job was the construction of a new fire exit as previously there had been only one exit from the whole building.
The highly effective sound proofing was seriously compromised by the new fire exit and a second noise abatement order was recently served despite the best efforts of the collective and most of the event organisers. Most of the complaints, however, related not to music from the building but noise and nuisance generated from people in street during and after events and this has proved to be a much harder problem to solve than soundproofing.
The need to keep noise off the street during events has led to work making the roof garden a more attractive place for people to go for a breath of fresh air or a cigarette. A covered area with seating has been built and railings set up around the edge but it remains to be seen whether this is a practical solution. Excessive noise from the roof is still likely to generate complaints and in the past, providing access to the roof during events has resulted in major damage to the tiled area of the roof when drunks have dislodged slates, creating leaks which have bought down the ceilings and destroyed equipment.
Attempting to encourage more events other than parties, the collective recently made the biggest changes to the building to date. Although there have been various large meetings and even weekend long gathering at the rampART (for example, the last few months has seen public meetings relating to DSEi and organising meetings and gatherings relating to both the No Border and Climate Camp), many people have commented that the rampART was too dark for such meetings. To address the problem walls on the first floor have now been removed to make a large, light and airy room about two thirds the size o the downstairs hall and good for meetings of up to 50 or 60 people.
The bookcases and computers remain part of this new larger room but the collective has decided to close the hacklab in recognition that it’s a dead project without anyone organising activities. The intention is to scale down and redesign computer facilities throughout the building taking into account the way the building is now known to be used.
Problem neighbours and other nutters
First PA stolen. Other things stolen. Water pipe cut.
Mental Heath =
15.03.2006 The rampART social centre had one of those less than pleasant incidents last week...
A nutter recently released from a psychiatric hospital wreaked the film night and proceeded to keep the whole street awake until almost 5am when an ambulance finally managed to take him away. We had shut down the screening after just an hour when his torrent of shouting reached the point of physical threats and spent the next couple of hours trying to talk him down before eventually ejecting him from the building after he attacked somebody with a vacuum cleaner. However the trouble didn't end there as he remained outside the building and barricaded the door and the street with a wheelie bin and rubbish bags while all the time screaming blue murder. One of the neighbors must have called 999 as an ambulance tuned up about an hour later but left without him after another half hour or so. They said they didn't have the powers to section the guy and he wouldn't go with them unless the police turned up. The ambulance crew said they had called the cops but they refused to come as they only had one vehicle on duty and it was busy. For the next several hours the man remained outside the rampART, smashing at the doors and yelling. He repeatedly stopped cars and passersby and told them that there were terrorists in the building and that they must call the police. Surprisingly it was another two or more hours before police turned up, just two of them in a car. They spoke to the man for less than a minute and got back in their car and drove off while the man yelled that he would kill the "mother fuckers" if they didn't come back and arrest him. He continued to plea for people to call the cops to have him arrested and threaten to smash car windows. However, the police never came back. Eventually at about 4.30am an ambulance came and took him away.
One would like to think that was the end of it but he came back on Friday night and freaked out again till the wee hours.
On Saturday evening one of us look out of a window after hearing some noise and found three police cars and two police vans and the street full of cops. The man had bashed in the door to one of the houses in the street and got himself arrested for attempted burglary.
It seems unlikely that we'll have heard the last of this guy and the experience has made us think twice about putting on events when we don't have sufficient numbers to deal with such incidents. We considered canceling the Thursday night screenings as the pyscho is a regular and is likely to try to come back. However, we'll try to continue for now and see what happens....
There have been many large public meetings and weekend long gathering at the rampART. Last summer for example there were public meetings relating to DSEi and organising meetings and gatherings relating to both the No Border and Climate Camp. The space has also been used for street medic and direct action training. These types of events often attract the police and their attempts to intimidate exiting activists and newcomers. During DSEi week, poor intelligence resulted in embarrassed police staking out queer bingo instead of a convergence space. On the other hand, the rampART doesn't seem to suffer much surveillance compared to some other spaces. Perhaps it's because of the word ART in the name?
We do get police photographers during big london mobilisations and some big public meetings but there have been many events where the expected surveillance hasn't materialised. Personally, I would question whether it is even accurate to call it 'surveillance'. As with much activity that goes under the name, the aim is intimidation rather than information gathering.
I imagine the internet and phone lines are monitored but people using IT in squatted spaces are generally savvy enough not to broadcast information that can be used against them. I doubt the place is physically bugged but people best assume that it is.
Waste Disposal, Composting & Recycling
In the early days the project included a café in the ground floor of one of the squatted houses but this was soon swallowed into private domestic use. A couple of attempts to clean and improve the layout of kitchen gradually made it a more usable space. An ongoing battle with mice and cockroaches means that no food or food wastes can ever be left anywhere in the building which is hard to achieve especially when there are guests staying.
Early on there were compost facilities on the roof but worries about rodents and belief that the building would be evicted before long enough to make use of the resulting compost meant that composting efforts were abandoned. Recycling has also been half hearted and inconsistent with many event organizers choosing to dump recyclable waste rather than taking it to nearby collection facilities.
Disposal of rubbish of all kinds has been an ongoing issue, with the council threatening fines for putting stuff out for collection. The rampART routinely gets the blame for the fly tipping occurring across the street. This is somewhat ironic as the vast majority of content of the building has come from the streets in the first place leading to suggestions that the rampART claim land fill tax credits from the council.
Health and Safety
A series of risk assessments and visits from the fire brigade meant we installed emergency lighting, smoke alarms and extinguishers and safety notices sprung up around the building. The biggest job was the construction of a fire exit in the hall. Previously there had been only one exit from the whole building. Sadly the new fire exit messed up the sound proofing and we had several noise abatement orders and all events had to finish earlier.
Health and Safety at Work Act demands a health and safety risk assessment but it appears we are arguably not covered by the act (assuming that all event organisers respect our 'no one gets paid' policy). Nether-the-less, a risk assessment is a useful tool in identifying risks and possible solutions and priorities so it makes sense to do one. It also demonstrates our commitment to good health and safety practice.
Below are the steps required for a risk assessment.
Step 1 Identify possible hazards.
Step 2 For each hazard identify who might be harmed and in what way.
Step 3 What can reasonably and practicable be done to protect people from harm. What controls are currently in place?. Is there more that can be done? Is it possible to get rid of the hazard altogether? If not, how can the risks be controlled so that harm is unlikely?
Step 4 Record findings and implement them in order of priority.
Step 5 Review on an ongoing basis. Have there been any changes? Are there still improvement to make? Any additional lessons from accidents or near misses?
rampART Health and Safety Risk Assessment
- Slips, trips and falls:
Spilt drink in the hall may cause people, especially those dancing, to slip and fall. Spilt water in the kitchen may cause those working there to slip, injuries perhaps being compounded by scalding liquids or sharp objects. Trailing electrical leads, especially around the stage area of the hall, may cause people (perhaps performers) to trip. People may trip and fall on the stairs or over objects left in the hallways or stairwell. Somebody might fall off the roof, perhaps a drunk hanging over the edge or climbing the tiled apex.
- Other physical injuries:
Aggressive individuals might injure somebody. Fast cars using Rampart Street as a rat run may hit somebody outside the building.
Mice infestation may lead to people becoming unwell. People may become intoxicated on alcohol or drugs.
- Electric shock:
Faulty wiring or appliances might result in electrocution.
A fire might be started in the kitchen and spread to the whole building. Guests using candles may start a fire in the library or sleeping space. An electric heater or faulty appliance might start a fire anywhere in the building. An arsonist might start a fire, most likely at the front door or emergency fire exit at the back.
A fire in the stairwell might cause people to become trapped in the hall. A fire on the ground floor may prevent people from using the exits on the ground floor. Loss of power would leave people in the dark and unable to find the way out.
A noise nuisance is a significant and unreasonable amount of sound from a neighbouring premises that affects you in a significant and unreasonable way. It is much more that simply an annoyance or a noise that is audible.
There are no hard and fast rules about when a noise is a nuisance. The main factors that officers and the courts take into account are
- The time of day
- The location
- The duration of each individual noise event
- The volume of the noise
- The character of the noise
- The frequency with which noisy events occur
It is not necessary for officers to take noise readings to establish if a nuisance exists, although sometimes this can help. On the whole the judgement of an experienced and independent officer is enough to determine if a noise is unreasonable or not.
When it is proved that a nuisance is occurring, a Noise Abatement Notice may be served. The notice tells the source of the noise what they have to do to stop causing a nuisance and by when. If the noise persists after a Noise Abatement Notice has been served then the local authority may prosecute and potentially seize any noise making equipment. If served an Abatement Notice and the recipient disagrees that they are causing a nuisance, then they may appeal to the Magistrates Court.
Fixed Penalty Notices
Since the Anti-Social Behaviour Act came into force in mid 2004 all Councils have the power to issue Warning Notices followed, if necessary, by Fixed Penalty fines for noise offences. These can apply when noise coming from one domestic property exceed certain noise levels in a neighbouring property in the night time hours of 23.00 and 07.00. Few local authorities have enforcement officers working during these hours so it's unlikely that these fixed penalties would be used.
Becoming a place of worship
Lord help us! Running a social centre isn’t easy so we thought we get the some divine assistance and convert the rampART into a place of worship. It’s a cunning plan that might see the building get more use on Sundays and provide an excuse for dressing up as nuns or perhaps even pirates! We now have an officially ordained reverend and can even perform weddings if anyone feels the need. We encourage all event organisers to consider incorporating a pray meeting or two as a central part of their events (along with any incidental entertainment or music therapy).
There have been a lot of studies recently about the positive health benefits of religion. People who attend regular church services, pray regularly, etc. seem to live longer happier healthier lives. They appear to have better immune systems, and just generally have a pretty good deal. A pragmatist would join a church on this evidence if true to pragmatic principles. The problem with the deal is that it requires the acceptance of beliefs that are offensive, rationally, logically or emotionally offensive to some people.
We don’t wont to proscribe any or force people to adhere to any particular belief but we have some suggestions from our favourites. We could start with the Church of Civilization who are very civilized. More dark and sinister sounding is the Sinogogue of Satan. No, it’s not some dangerous cult frequented by evil murderers like G.W. Bush and the Blairwitch party. As members you have the right to believe in whatever you like as long as you don’t push your beliefs on others (sound's like something else). The aim of this religion is the ultimate destruction of religions through the advancement of individual freedom and social responsibility.
On a similar theme there is the First Rastafarian Church of Satan, not just a religion but a way of life, living by the wise words of Father Al Bundy. If you are more of a hippy then perhaps The Temple of Love is more your thing. It aims to save life on Earth from extinction by human beings. The Temple of Love makes peace among and unites Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and everyone else and the countries they all live in as the first step towards world peace. Meanwhile, The Church of Critical Thinking is not a religious organization, and it does not acknowledge the existence of any deities. It teaches people to use Critical Thinking skills to analyze what they’re being told, to be skeptic where appropriate, and to reject ideas that they may already hold as true if they don’t hold up when examined critically.
Speaking of critical thinking, take a look at the world’s fastest growing religion. No not Islam, we mean the Church of The Flying Speghetti Monster. Their completely rational explanation for the creation of the universe should be taught in every school and perhaps one day it will be. It’s all linked up with pirates and global warming too so perfect for the environmentalists among you.
Church of Stop Shopping
Hi rampART friends. Yes let’s make a London church. You say “wonder what would be required?” - We can’t REQUIRE because we’re all in recovery from giant religious and financial institutions that require until death... but I can playfully make some suggestions. We have a church starting in Ohio now too. We’ll talk together, here in the DEVIL’S SHOPPING SEASON.
I’m in the middle of working on a sermon right now so I’m going back to that. But very simply, we are keeping a lunar schedule with our Retail Interventions. Perhaps you’ve read some of our summaries of the inside-the-store escapades, some more muted some more glorious, at Revbilly.com. Click from “Campaigns” to “Retails Interventions.”
Let’s do an intervention, then, once a month. The cycle will involve 1) choosing a corporate Devil and researching the Devil 2) praying our way toward the Devil - spying and reporting inside the chain store, mail, or Retail Hell 3) the Intervention itself and finally 4) the Gathering at the End - a reflection on how it went.
The idea is that each step takes a week. If our church has 3 people in it, or 17 or 34 people... meeting weekly in person, or email and phones sometimes - feels realistic. Keep the rhythm going through the month. We are trying to develop the psychic force of what we call “the Push Prayer.” The aggression of advertising needs to be countered by a kind of socially conscious shamanism, a parallel world unseen in the workaday London society.
Let me return for a moment to my sermon here. Let’s just start with this general sketch. Please keep the conversation going if you want to go forward. We are about to go off on an American tour in two bio-diesel buses, all the singers... face the whirlwind of sinful addiction called “America at Christmas.” Can you do something in Oxford Circus, my god, that is the Lake of Fire!
Developers make their move on Rampart Street
In the last few rampART newsletters it was mentioned that a planning application had been submitted to Tower Hamlets Planning Authority for the redevelopment of properties in the rampART block. It should be stressed before rumors start that this proposed development refers only to the four houses in the block and not the rampART social center itself. However, the gentrification of the street can only hasten the eventual end for the social center which has now been open for three and a half years.
There is some potentially good news (although not for those of us that live in the houses now threaten with demolition). The alleged owner of the houses is no longer the same as the alleged owner of the warehouse occupied by the rampART social center and this suggests that the developers were not interested in the warehouse. Looking at a copy of the complete planning application it can be seen that there have been previous redevelopment schemes explored for the block, all of which did include the warehouse and all have been shelved.
Rampart Street is in a conservation zone and consent for demolishing building of heritage value is not normally granted. While the developers would like to have been able to knock down the whole block and build some kind of high rise block of luxury apartments, that's just not on the cards. With redevelopment of the warehouse unattractive, the developers have had to be content with the easier prospect of the houses and have put in a proposal to demolish the back half of all four and build three new houses facing the back street.
The block is in a conservation zone which means planning consent is a little tighter than some other places and that affects how easy and attractive it is for developers. There is actually a long history of the block escaping redevelopment - a builder who does stuff for the owners says he was here when it was all evicted 30 years ago but the redevelopment never happened.
The statutory notification and public consultation required seems to have been somewhat buggered. The application on the councils website states that the consultation period started on the 28 Sep and ended on the 19 Oct 2007, before anyone in the street was made aware of the application. A call to the council led to letters finally being delivered to the houses stating 14 days to get in objections. On the 31st Oct, almost a week after the letters, notices were finally put up in the street and they gave three weeks for letters of objection.
So much for the season of good will.
The rampART and neighboring houses have all been served court papers for a hearing on the 20th Dec. Bad timing to say the least as a bunch of us were off to do a presentation about the space and show films at an event in Barcelona next week and are potentially homeless by xmas.
We've started the process of seeking advice regarding the court hearing but don't hold your breath, the end is nigh.
This obviously impacts on a whole bunch of stuff. For example we've just had the a campaign group move their office into the rampART, Bicycology were planning on doing up the bike workshop this weekend and there's various groups got dates booked for events next year, not to mention the new years eve party.
Basically we need to have a meeting of all the effected groups/individuals to discuss our response and plan what will happen over the next month or so.
ram part 2
Since the climate camp there have been suggestions that the rampART should have an eco refit with rainwater harvesting, grey water flushes, perhaps even compost toilets and renewable energy. Instead...
The squat opened as a backup venue to the rampART social centre in east london today enjoyed it's second courtroom reprieve. Twice now it has been served with an application for a Interim Possession Order. The first time the claimants failed to turn up at the hearing and today they admitted that they had failed to correctly serve notice on the defendants so it was thrown out of court. The owners will be apply for the third time and the papers are expected to be served sometime Tuesday with a court date probably sometime next week (although it could be earlier if there is an available time slot at the court).
Whether it will be rampART or RAMpart2 which gets evicted first remains a neck and neck race. A new building is being sought. If you have suggestions please contact the collective via rampart at mutualaid dot org.
Following the granting of an Interim Possession Order on Thursday the 20th March, RAMpart2 was left empty by squatters after a final party...
The rampART has outlived it's backup venue which was opened new years eve. The new building hosted just two parties, a handful of meetings and a climate camp direct action training gathering. Meanwhile, the rampART itself is still open four months after being served court papers for a repossession hearing.
two point two
New squatted space opened in London
Over the last three weeks people have been preparing an abandoned warehouse in Shoreditch to host events over the weekend of the days of action for squats and autonomous spaces. This week, artists have been transforming the place for an exhibition themed around land use, gentrification, housing and reclaiming space. The building opens on Saturday at 10am with a program of films, discussion and skill sharing till 7pm and again on Sunday. The space will also be hosting a freeshop and squatters estate agency.
The four storey building had been deliberately left empty for years even though the planning authorities won't allow it to be demolished. Instead of using using/renting or selling the building, the owners have instead totally gutted the inside to deter squatters, stairs removed, floorboards pulled up, pipework yanked out and toilets smashed. As if that wasn't bad enough they have left the building open to the elements with smashed windows and a bloody great hole torn out of the roof. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the developers are waiting for the building to fall into disrepair enough to justify its demolition.
Despite all the damage it was considered worth squatting anyway, partly due to the symbolic value of occupying and renovating a building that the owners are leaving empty while they wait for it to fall apart, but also because it has most of the attributes we wanted and is very conveniently located.
Right on the edge of the city of London, the squat is overshadowed by a massive new 700 million pound development site pushing out into Shoreditch. A huge glistening glass tower block is the first of many that will be built here, transforming the area completely. The warehouse stands alone with earth movers parked in the open area between it and the construction trains and tower blocks, an almost exact real life replica of the image used on the April2008 website.
The squat is located in Bowl Court which is up Plough Court next to the junction of Great Eastern Street and Shoreditch High Street.
Find out about other events taking place over the days of action in London, here http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2008/04/395938.html
A diary of occupation and renovation
At least two groups of people went put to check out empties today and met up earlier in the evening to compare notes. Later, a small groups went out after dark and climbed through an open window on the first floor of a warehouse in Shoreditch.
The three found the building to be somewhat draughty due to many broken windows and also found that the stairs were missing. Fortunately they found a ladder on the first floor which allowed them to explore the rest of the building. Some of the floors were holed with floor boards pulled up and pipes missing. Toilet bowls were smashed or removed and the electric didn't look like it would just a mater of flicking a switch. Worse still, there was a gaping hole in the roof and signs of subsidence causing cracks in the wall. Despite all of these bad points the people checking it out all felt good about the space.
It's four floors, a nice mix of large and small rooms. It got residential properties to one side only and has parking for offloading when we move. It also has a piece of land which may or may not be part of the property but could provide outside space, gardening, composting etc. Perhaps most exciting is that there is already sound proofing! Inside the ground floor is a 'room within a room' professionally soundproofed dual room area which looks like it was probably a recording studio. If the dividing wall was removed you have a pretty amazing gig space (a bit narrow rather than square but a reasonable size).
The first floor has a nice large bright room which would be a great meeting space and there are approx two smaller rooms of this which could be office space/library/computer room/radio studio etc. The third floor is very similar. It could perhaps be workshop space, guest space or residential. The top floor is kind of a loft space and most suitable for residential if divided up. There are spaces for toilets (missing) on all floors and even shower trays and a bath on the top floor. There is no sign of an existing kitchen anywhere.
There is a lot of development in the area with a construction beginning on one 11 storey and one 16-32 storey block, plus a massive 51 tower gone during the last year. However there is no sign of a current planing consent or application regarding the warehouse. There was an application made in 1998 which was turned down in 1999. The proposal involved the bit of land (then a building) plus the warehouse and would have seen them both demolished and replace them with a 12 unit live/work four storey complex with parking. The permission was refused as it is a conservation zone and demolition not justified.
The location is good, fairly central with good transport and yet it is a little out of the way down a back alley. The plus points are the yard, the ability to park a van and off load (although it is just inside the congestion zone which is a bugger), and the sound proofing already in place. The bad points are the hole in the roof and floors, the broken windows and the missing stairs. The first flight of stair should be easy to replace and the other floors can utilize ladders for the time being. Floor boards just need relaying where they have been pulled up. Windows can be fixed by gluing glass over holes where possible. The biggest jobs would be the stairs (top floor looks a challenge), roof, plumbing and new partition walls for residential floors.
We moved into the new space this evening at about 6.30pm, getting off to a good if rather nerve racking start. There is now a sleeping area for three and very basic kitchen facilities, an area for tools and even a meeting room already sorted out. Light is supplied by a deep cycle batteries and an invertor. We cleared the entrance area substantially, fitted extra sliding bolts on the door and put out some blackout cloth to try to prevent light spilling out of the windows and giving the game away.
For some reason the police turned up in the alley, but it seems they weren't called out to check out the building but for some other reason. There is a lot of construction worker activity in the area despite being Sunday evening and we expect it to be the same tomorrow. They seem to be taking advantage of the holiday weekend to do more not less work.
High on the list of priorities is locating where the water comes into the building. Also on the list for the next few days; fix the first flight of stairs, put curtains up on the first floor so we can work without being seen, replace the floor boards, and patch up broken windows to reduce draft and keep cold out.
Other stuff. Fit a secret door bell and provide the squat with a dedicate mobile phone so there is good communication and no need for people to get stuck outside shouting to get let in. We are also keen to sort out internet access ASAP so that the status of the occupation rota and wish list is accessible by everyone.
Found the water--it's on the right hand side, near the front door. The floor is very damp, which could either be the result of a roof leak or an ongoing leak from the pipe. The curtains are up on the ground floor which is good as there is generally a lot of activity in the area and we need to be careful about keeping a low profile for a while yet.
First floor now has all it's floor boards. We need a plumber to get some water going ASAP even if it's just a tap to fill buckets / bottles from. We've found that the stop cock is leaking which explains the damp. On a similar note, the waste pipe from the missing toilet on the ground floor seems to work fine. We've poured stuff down it and it goes away so we should be able to fit a toilet there real soon.
Started work removing the dividing wall between the sound proofed rooms. There is currently no material for making stairs as otherwise this job is low priority. However, some of the plywood that has come off could be doubled up to make a few stairs.
The first flight of stairs in complete. Once the materials were available it took just a couple of hours to complete. There is a little finishing off to do (nothing is nailed down) but basically complete. With more timber available we might actually have the second flight of stairs in before the april 11/12th.
Additional good news is that there is now a toilet. It doesn't flush yet but if we had running water it would be possible to flush it with a bucket - in the meantime you have to flush with a bucket of your own pee ;-)
All floors are now fully boarded. Cannibalising a few floorboards from the top floor has had the added advantage of allowing us to provide safe if awkward ladder access to that floor. There's running water with a tap and bucket so it's possible to flush the one toilet that's been set up. A second toilet it ready to fit on the first floor. It just needs a couple of inches of waste pipe to complete and then needs fixing to the ground with a big lump of cement to make it stable (the base is broken but we can live with it).
The rain over the last few days has demonstrated that there is plenty of water we don't want all over the building and the roof is clearly leaking in multiply places. Our visits to the top floor for floor boards resulted in a closer examination of the roof and the damage. The roof consists of felt and bitumen over planks. Around the hole a fairly large area where the felt is missing, perhaps 5ft by 10ft. However there are many other places where water is coming in and taking a peek through the access hatch we saw that the roof is badly maintained with many cracks which would allow in water.
While we were checking out the roof we also took a look at the state of the floor boards below the main leak,.It is clear that the boards have started to rot and some may require replacing but it seems like mostly surface rot and doesn't seem to be particularly dangerous.
Police turned up at new place yesterday afternoon. They knocked on the door but were ignored and they went away. We think they might have come round after the high winds blow open a window on the top floor causing it to smash and scatter broken glass over the alley.
Inside, plumbing has progressed with water now piped to the toilet. It will be split off here and supply the kitchen next before we think about getting it upstairs,
No progress on second flight of stairs as it need materials. No progress on the roof as it was way to windy yesterday.
Work has begun on the second flight of stairs and there is no reason to suppose that it wont have been completed by the 11th. The diagonal support is in place and it just needs the six steps to be attached and some arrangement for a banister to stop people falling off.
The roof has been patched, at least the big hole but until it rains we wont know how successful the repair has been. Those who did the work noted the condition of the rest of the roof and made some additional repairs. It is clear that there will be an ongoing problem to address.
The work on the plumbing has progressed well. There is now one flushing toilet on the ground floor along with a tap in the toilet and a sink and tap in the kitchen. So far there the waste pipe has not been connected in the kitchen so a bucket is placed under the sink and must be emptied into the toilet before it fills (primitive grey water flushing system ;-)
The first step towards running water upstairs has been made with the water supply splitting off and now simply awaiting a hose pipe to take the water onto the next floor. We have yet to agree whether to have a cafe/kitchen on the first floor and if we do we also need to decide the location of that kitchen before too much work with the plumbing is done.
The electrical system has also been looked at and the invertor is now hooked up to supply power through parts of the existing wiring. This means that the downstairs toilet and kitchen have normally functioning lights and sockets. The rest of the building remains unpowered at this time.
Work patching up the broken windows has begun, prioritising the smaller rooms rather than the big halls. There has been a mixture of approaches. One quick patch methods has been the use of PVA glue and paper to simply reinforce the glass where smashed and cover the hole to prevent drafts. Where visibility or light is more important, this type of repair has been made with bits of glass or perspex. In some cases, the broken glass has been completely removed and the window reglazed with perspex. There are many more to do so we need more perspex.
Property developers plan to partially demolish the squatted houses next to the social center and build three new properties at the back. The rampART itself was under no immediate threat and regular activities continued as normal but in December 2007 the centre received court papers. On the 20th, the case was heard and a possession order granted from the 3rd of January 2008. However, the occupation has continued and the social centre is open as normal. An appeal has been lodged and eviction held off until a decision about the appeal has been made.
The whole out of the blue eviction threat smacks of a vindictive punitive reaction to the campaign of objection against the proposed demolition of the houses next to the social center. It turns out that the so-called new owners of the houses are in fact a wholly owned subsidiary of the 'previous owner', the Rampart Trust Co Ltd that still owns the warehouse which the social center occupies. Even though there is no planning permission in place or applied for in relation to the social centre, they claim that they intend to start demolition in Jan/Feb 2008. Obviously this is impossible and they know it, so their attempt to have us evicted is not really because of any impending work in the new year.
rampART losses in court
court jester | 27.12.2007 00:19 | Free Spaces | London If you’ve been wondering what happened in court on the 20th… rampART lost. No great surprise but it had been felt that there was a good enough defense to have had a shot and at least come away with a adjournment till the new year.
The defense boiled down to the issue of implied license. We’ve been there for coming up to four years and the owner not only knew this and did nothing until now to get us out or even mention that we were trespassing, but on repeated occasions he (through his agents) asked favors of us, made us responsible for buildings the collective was not occupying within the block and even returned possession to us when we provide unrestricted and unaccompanied access. On top of that we raised a number of technical issues relating to how the claim was served and whether there were prior tenancies that had not been terminated correctly.
At some point it really looked like we were going to win this first court room skirmish, but no such luck. After over three hours in court the judge ruled that the claimants would get their possession order after all.
It’s not all bad news, they don’t get their order for two weeks so it’s bought a little breathing space.
So, we’ll be going ahead with the planned new years eve party, another joint benefit with London No Borders.
> FUCK THE BALIIFFS! SMASH THE BORDERS! > a New Years Eve extravaganza of roots music, conscious hip-hop, mcs, djs and good times
8pm till late @ RampART Social Centre, 15-17 Rampart Street, Whitechapel, E1 2LA (nearest tube: Whitechapel/Aldgate East)
- the leano ( http://myspace.com/leanoland)
- dj captain crunch ( http://myspace.com/djcaptaincrunch)
- peyoti for president ( http://myspace.com/peyotiforpresident)
- park bench politics ( http://myspace.com/bandem1)
- dj arrhythmia
- and more to be confirmed
Refreshments available. Suggested donation on entry £5. All money raised goes to RampART and No Borders London.
> WE’LL MEET AGAIN
There is no monday meeting on the 24th as it’s cold, hard to travel and there’s probably a james bond movie on the idiot box.
Instead we’ll have the last rampART meeting of 2007 on new years eve, 6pm, before the party. Prior to this meeting we intend to to an audit of the resources in the building and in the meeting we’ll see how much we think we can save based on offers of transport and storage etc. that people have made. We’ll be discussing the move to another building and other efforts.
If you want to help please come to this meeting.
> LOVE NOTES
For those who like this kind of detail, , below are some of the notes some people took during the court hearing…
Notes from Court – Thurs 20th Decemper 2007
The Claimant’s Solicitor Mr Trumpeter (sic?) focussed on what he called the 2 ‘substantive’ issues from our defense: (1) The Implied Licence granted by e-mails (2) The Intermediate Tenancy held by 4 persons – Claimant doesn’t have immediate right to possession
In reference to number (1) he made 3 points: (a) That the Persons in communication via e-mail had no right to grant any Licence as they were Surveyors not the Claimant “no-one can give what they do not have” (b) That the Surveyors of course had to ask permission to avoid Criminal Charges or obstruction – this is therefore not a Licence (the Judge counterposed that equally the Surveyors could have approached in a different manner and gone to state that they were from Landlord and had right to access) (c) That the Defendants were referred to as Squatters in one of the e-mails. (Ben later countered that those referred to as Squatters in this e-mail were from 11 / 11a and not part of the Social Centre that was being liaised with as ‘the Collective’)
In reference to number (2) Trumpeter said that the Claimant doesn’t know who these 4 people are and that there is no evidence for the existence of Tenancies. He put the onus for providing evidence on to us. The Judge went with him on this and did not seem to understand the legal implications if there were tenancies “how does it help you if there are un-terminated tenancies out there?” When asked by the Judge to advise on the legal implications of tenancies existing, Trumpeter did say that that would mean that the Claimant couldn’t seek possession but this point was lost in the insistence that we had to provide evidence of the tenancies. Ben presented 2 letters with the names of 2 of the 4 people addressed to number 7, but the Judge said that this showed at most that the financial companies who wrote the letters believed that these people were contactable there. Trumpeter questioned why, if these tenants did have an agreement why would they not have challenged Mr Leary for occupying the building.
The Judge asked about a Sealed Copy of claim and one was presented.
Regarding the fact that the Claim was against Persons Unknown despite lengthy correspondence with named people, The Judge expressed evidential unease: “It raises the question as to Have I got before me the Full Story?” This was about the fact that the Claimant had had knowledge of the Occupation for over 3 years – “there may be more that should be put before the court about the Claimants knowledge about the premises”. Trumpeter argued that ‘ the Collective is amorphous’ – simply because a person may have been known to another person 18 months ago, how are the Claimants to know these people are still there? The Judge pointed out that the law changed a few years ago so now it’s not obligatory for the Owner of a building to seek knowing names.
About the Implied Licence: Trumpeter argued that “simply because you know someone is there, doesn’t give them any right to be there… the charge that by not doing anything earlier we have granted Licence is not valid” The Judge again said that his point is evidential. To this Trumpeter responded that there is no evidence of a Licence being granted. The Judge raised the point of the Keys being handed back. “If for 2 years previously your client had known there were trespassers and wanted to do something about it, surely they would not give the keys back” He saw this as ‘evidence of tolerance’ and said that they were definitely unanswered questions in his mind. “I haven’t seen anything from your side to say ‘you’ve got no right to be here, get out’” – he referred to the e-mail at the bottom of page 8 and pointed out that this was ‘hardly adversarial language’. He agreed that knowledge of occupation does not equal consent, but acquiescence in occupation could amount to granting of Licence… And where was the evidence to say this is the end of our acquiescence? Trumpeter said that as a matter of law he couldn’t deny that… but that the issuing of these proceedings must count as acquiescence.
Ruling: It is not disputed that persons unknown entered into the Claimants premises in April 2004. Whether these persons are the same as those in court today we do not know. But the premises have been occupied by people since that time – as a Collective… There is no doubt in law that the Occupation was a trespass… as no payment was made no tenancy or contractual Licence can be claimed but the Claimant acquiesced to the occupation…the motivation for determining the Licence is not important, the Claimant has the right to determine it… there were some technical matters (sealed copy) but these have been dealt with eg. Persons unknown – the judge agrees with Mr Trumpeter, the proceedings were correctly issued… in regard to the 4 tenancies, the Judge ruled that there was not evidence to support this (as above) … in regard to the implied Licence, the Claimant had gone further than mere knowledge and had acquiesced – eg. The threat of possession proceedings was couched in terms of ‘if you don’t give us access’, not just ‘because you shouldn’t be there’ – but any such Licence was one at will which means that it could be determined by the Claimant at any time.
Order of Possession granted in 14 days: 3rd January 2008.
Application for Costs granted: £150: also by 3rd January 2008.
> Judge ARMON JONES > claim against tresspassers > > the sollicitor started with saying, there are two substantial > points in > the defendant file, and replied to them: > - the licence > - the surveyers who came to check the building once didn’t have > the right > to claim possession anyway > - they had to ask the permission to enter the premices anyway > - the email p17 refers to squatters (so what??) > > - an intermediate tenancy/agreement > - there are no evidence of an agreement > > The judge and the sollicitor both agreed (well, apparently not > everyone > understood that they agreed on that, so need notes from other people) > - if a tenancy is not terminated, then the owner cannot take > repossession > (they agreed on that, but pretended not to understand that this > could be > helpful for our case, like if they didn’t understand that it would > mean > that they cannot evict the houses…) > - they don’t give a shit about a spoken agreement or any sort of > agreement > that is not contractual > > the judge said: > - we can’t ask the claimant to show, today, evidences of a terminated > tenancy as they didn’t know we were going to raise this point > - he agreed that they knew some names before issuing the > proceedings, and > asked himslef if this would need further inquiring. > The sollicitor answer to that was: > - well, the rampart collective is a very nebulous concept, with people > changing, so we cannot infer that the names we had two years ago > are the > same ones for the people occupying now > The judge agreed on that and added: > - the law that requires an inquiry from the claimants to know the > occupiers names has been dropped few years ago. > he seems to be wrong here, as we’re not asking an inquiry so that the > owners can get some names. They ALREADY HAVE the names, so we were > just > saying that if they have the names, they should have put them on > the claim > (together with persons unknown) > > The sollicitor said: > that the owner didn’t do anything for 4 years to kick people out is > not a > valid argument (to claim for an agreement) > knowledge of occupation is not consent > > But the judge took on the survey thing: if, after the survey, > the owner representant gave the keys back, isn’t that an evidence of > tolerance of occupation. maybe these questions should be explored > wouldn’t that be consistent with the owner being happy with them to > be there? > if there is knowledge of continued occupation, couldn’t we think of > some > sort of consent, or acquiescence (I’m not sure here, I’m > summarising the > general idea but it can be a bit misleading, check other notes) > > the sollicitor said I don’t have instructions on that (the “key” > thing) > I have no knowledge of acquiescence > there is no evidence of acquiescence > > The judge agreed that knowledge is not acquiescence > But he admitted that at the very best, the occupiers were licenced > (? is > that the word?), or there was acquiescence > > the sollicitor said that in any case, any sort of licence would be > terminated by the issuing of the proceedings. > > someone talked about different groups needing time to move stuff if we > were to be evicted then they had all this chat about “is 14 days > ok?” blablabla > > VERDICT > ——- > > it is not disputed that persons unknown entered the property in > april 2004 > don’t know if these persons unknown are today defendants > it appears that the premices have been occupied since then > the occupation was originally a tresspass > > what he understood the defendants said: > - we obtained a licence to occupy > - there was a knowledge and acquiescence of occupation > - we admitted there was no payment/rent. so we can’t claim a > tenancy or a > licence on contractual terms. > - we accepted that even if there was a licence, it wasn’t for ever, > and it > has to end one day > therefore we agreed that any licence we have could be determined > (is that > terminated?) > > then he said about the licence (that was weird): > - but the licence has not been determined > - but these proceedings shows that the owner want the licence to be > determined (not sure about the exact sentence) > > the Names thing, he said again that the law has changed. > > about the paragraph 13 and the tenancy not terminated > - the claimants have no knowledgee of these names, and/or any > tenancies > granted to these names > - we are not providing any evidence of previous tenancies (the two > letters > are useless) > > was there a licence? if so, upon what terms? > the claimant knew some names, and knew the occupation > but licence or acquiescence cannot arise from mere knowledge > it is true that the owner didn’t do anything toward the occupiers > during 4 > years but there was no licence granted at best, there was a licence > at will > then it means that even if there was this licence, it could be > terminated > by the owner at any moment and the issuing of the proceedings > is a determination of this licence at will SO => > order of possession, 14 days, 3rd of January. > and merry christmas >
On the 3rd of January, a possession order was granted to the alleged owners of the squatted properties in Rampart Street however the occupiers have not left and have submitted an appeal against the possession ruling that was made in the county court on the 20th of December. A date has not yet been set for the appeal hearing and the appeal application also contained a request to postpone any warrant for possession which would allow the owners call the bailiffs in.
It is not known how long the appeal process is likely to take but proposals for event bookings will continue as normal. The collective meets every monday evening at 7pm.
As well as the proactive struggle to keep the existing social centre running, there is a parallel effort to get new autonomous spaces opened up around London and lay the ground work for an ongoing London wide social centres collective.
The first assembly of this embryonic London collective takes place on Sunday 6th Jan at 2pm at the rampART (followed by a meeting of the North East London Squatters from 6pm at a different location).
It seems there has been a cracking start to 2008 with several new spaces emerging in different parts of London. You might like to join the London Social Centres mailing lists and/or the LondonSCN SMS alert system to stay informed of the latest developments.
Get involved, these spaces don't run themselves.
Space Is The Place - side stepping the property ladder
This is a one-off series of events to coincide with the Europe-wide days of action in defence of free spaces and for an anti-capitalist popular culture. The events are based at a new squatted social centre in Shoreditch and other autonomous spaces around London.
The themes for Space Is the Place are the appropriation of public space by big business through privatisation and speculation, the sell-off of council housing and how the current housing crisis affects the most disadvantaged, gentrification and redevelopment of East London for the Olympics in 2012, the mismanagement of land and its ownership by the wealthy elite…
There will be an open access art-space themed as above, discussions and skill-sharing to bring people together and share ideas on how we can solve the problems we face, info-station for DIY action, films, photography, music and cafe. There will also be a benefit gig to raise money for the Advisory Service for Squatters.
Squatters Estate Agency
As part of the “Space Is The Place - Side Stepping The Property Ladder” series of events taking place in various London autonomous spaces over the weekend of the 11th and 12th April, a squatters estate agents has been set up.
396098-200.jpgThe squatters estate agents is based at a new squatted venue in Bowl Court, Shoreditch and opens Saturday at 10am. A display shows a number of empty properties around London along with details about their location, history and suitability for squatting. The properties range for abandoned houses and flats, to pubs, shops and even government buildings. Some would suit small residential squats and others grand large scale housing communities, squat cafes, freeshops or social centres.
During the weekend you’ll have the opportunity to meet up with others in need of housing and go out as a group to put the empties of London back into good use. Before the end of the weekend you could have yourself and your friends a new home.
The display boards will also be made available at other autonomous spaces over the weekend and beyond.
It’s not too late to contribute to the project. Please submit your own empties lists ASAP to The Rampart
The squatters estate agents is just one of things happening at the new squatted venue in shoreditch and other autonomous spaces over the weekend.
Days of Action
The weekend kicked off on Friday evening with a social meetup and info night with films and cafe at threatened rampART social centre. There were also acoustic bands and performances at the nearby squatted NO:ID gallery.
On saturday, the newly opened social centre opened it's doors with an art-exhibition and films plus badly organised workshops and discussions. The space also hosted a free shop and very popular squatters estate agency with a display showing a number of empty properties around London along with details about their location, history and suitability for squatting. Available properties ranged for abandoned houses and flats, to pubs, shops and even government buildings. People could add details of other buildings or put down their contact details to meet up with other to go open buildings.
Also on saturday there was a demo at a homeless hostel and several hundred people partied at benefit gig for the Advisory Service for Squatters that took place at the Hackney Social Centre (also threaten with eviction this month). Another benefit took place at the soon to be evicted Wominspace.
In Reading, a squatted community garden was reopenned for the day, with a community BBQ and music show. There has been a ongoing struggle with the authorities over use of the land which had been left a derelict junkyard for at least five years previously.
Bristol UK. A vacant city centre building, the Little Theatre in Colston Street, was occupied by homeless Bristolians as part of a co-ordinated day of action round the world.
Nottingham UK saw the Old County Hall occupied as part of the international days of action. The Council sold it off in 2000 and it has remained empty for years. During the weekend people put this marvellous and significant building back into good use.
Manchesters Space invaders were really busy, months ago using the Archways squat as a hub for plotting towards the days of action intending to use it as the central venue but it was evicted before the weekend. Instead a spacious new squat in Hulme became the venue used for the weekend and Jackson's Wharf pub was also squatted by a hundred people after a 'free spaces' protest in the city centre on Saturday. It was turned into a drinking den again for a couple of hours but then abandoned. The big finale was supposed to be the a large warehouse party in Ancoats but while 500 people made it in before 1am a large-scale police operation prevented 300 more from entering and the whole thing was shut down by 2am.
A temporary autonomous zone was established in Digbeth, Brimingham and became the venue of three days of workshops, talks and discussion on diverse themes: from the struggles of the indigenous peoples of Mexico, to the Disability Rights Movement in the UK; from 12v power workshops, to ’seed bombs’ and guerilla gardening; from public sector workplace organising, to bicycle repair. Hot food was served each day with music in the evening and spontaeous sculpture and painting popping up around the building throughout.
In Brighton pixies reclaimed public spaces with some banner dropping. Police didn’t show up and the weather was great. The day had started with some tree climbing. After few hours the first banner was dropped. The bender was then erected on the Level and the food acquired from skips was displayed on the table to be eaten for free by the members of public. The second banner was dropped an hour later. The crowd gathered and there was some guitar playing to follow by the after-party.
In Leeds a closed down council housing advice centre was squatted and reopenned. Ironically the council had left a sign reading "The Housing Advice Centre Is Changing." and it certainly has - giving out advice on squatting, autonomous spaces, alternative housing advice and anti-gentrification info. A report said, "It was the most open squat i've ever seen- having the doors wide open on a busy saturday right in the middle of the city centre... loads of people coming in for advice on squatting, to read some of the info, watch a film or just sit and drink tea."
Also in Leeds offices of Angel Group were attacked - slogans painted, and locks glued. 12 company vehicles damaged with paint stripper, spray paint, and had their tyres slashed. The group make their money by providing poor quality housing for asylum seekers, profitting from vulnerable people and racist asylum laws. This company were targetted as part of the days of action in support of squats and autonomous spaces because housing is a right, not a means to make profit.
Living in Limbo
The difficulties of occupying multiple spaces.
Over the weekend one of the rampART collective caught friends of the neighboring squatters stealing the lead of the roof. Confronted, they justified their action by saying that the place was going to be evicted in a week anyway. Of course that's not actually true, there is no date yet for an eviction and who's is to say that an eviction attempt would succeed. It could have been months before the rampART was finally closed.
Now there is water pissing through the rampART bringing the ceiling down. Not just in the social centre but also the houses in the block as well, including the building used by a local accountant as his office. People personal possessions have been trashed and the buildings made almost uninhabitable for the sake of under one hundred pounds worths of lead.
The scum who did it might try to justify it by saying that it's the developers that pay but that's not really the case. The building are currently occupied and even when evicted they weren't going to be demolished. Now that water is pouring in the building would quickly fall into total disrepair and allow the owners to justify demolition which is what they'd really prefer to do.
So, for the sake of a quick buck, these parasites have basically hastened the end of the social centre and forced those living in the houses to move out ahead of threats from bailiffs. This incredibly anti-social behavior is sadly not untypical.
The St Bart's squat near All Saints DLR was originally squatted as a convergence centre for the Disarm DSEi mobilisation and then was used as a residential squat. Before the place was evicted almost two years later, all the copper and lead was removed and weighed in. The building, which was a council owned adult education centre, was left exposed to the weather and made total unsuitable for reuse when it was considered for the next DSEi convergence. Repairs would cost a fortune so the council will now never put it back into social use, they'll no doubt just let it rot for a few years and then sell it on as land for redevelopment.
thanks a bunch you thieving scum
Proximity to LARC
Throughout it's exitence, the proximity to the London Action Resource Centre (LARC) greatly affected the way rampART was used. For example, there has been virtually no interest in office space at the rampART with groups preferring the long term security offered by LARC. Groups have tended to prefer using LARC for regular meetings while larger one-off meetings often end up at rampART along with benefit gigs and screenings. Its strength as a gig venue has led to a bit of a party culture in terms of proposals, something that the collective is keen to keep in balance.
Social Centres Network
Leeds, January 2006
What might be the first UK-wide gathering of social centres took place at the Commonplace social centre in Leeds and was a very friendly, informative and constructive experience. It was also a positive step in the creation of a working network of social centres. Some 60 people attended from past centres like ex-Grand Banks, Institute for Autonomy (London), PAD (Cardiff), current spaces like Kebele (Bristol), LARC (London), Matilda (Sheffield), Basement (Manchester), Sumac (Nottingham), Chalkboard (Glasgow), Common Place (leeds), Hanover Squares (leeds), 1-in-12 (Bradford), the Square (London) and future initiatives in Preston, Liverpool and Newcastle.
After enjoying the commonplace café collective's regular Sunday vegan brunch (which has been packing the place out for the past month), some 60 people watched a montage of clips about social centres and other autonomous spaces from across Europe in the Common Place cinema.
There was then a go round which took about an hour in the end such were the range and depth of presentations by those present. Here is a summary of what was said –
London. Successful temporary squats in Central London have created different effects depending on where they have been located, some being in central commercial locations reaching passers-by, and others in residential areas making a real connection with local communities. 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 in Stoke Newington. Between Jan and March 2004, we occupied an old community centre in Kentish Town on Fortess Rd, which 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.
We then occupied an old wine bar "Grand Banks", a few blocks down the same road. The Ex-Grand Banks was a big success. It ran regular events, had hundreds of people from the area attend every week, and was used by 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. A recent newspaper article by a youth in Camden New Journal bemoaned the closure of ex-Grand Banks as a place where kids could hang out and feel respected – a kid was recently stabbed nearby.
Between Feb and July 2005, we were involved in the Institute For Autonomy in Gower Street, which was run by a 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, infoshop/bookstall) held a cafe three times a week offering top-quality food attracting workers, students and lecturers from around the area. It also housed upwards of 15 people and provided housing for people who were on their way to attend the anti-G8 actions in Gleneagles.
Other social centres in London include RampART (squatted) since May 2004, and London Action Resource Centre (owned) since 2001. In the last month, in co-operation with a student anarchist group, a new squatted social centre has been launched in Russell Square – called the Square. The university has already won a repossession order but squatters are trying to create alliances with University staff and students to keep the space.
Bristol. The Kebele Social centre has been operating for 10 years and is mainly funded by a housing co-op situated above. Facilities include a library and resource centre, and space for community activities such as circus skills workshops and refugee support.
Nottingham. The Sumac Centre has been in its current building, which it owns, for 5 years. A private members bar and café rent space in the building and rooms are regularly let to a range of different groups from archeology clubs to refugee artists. It also rents out space to ASBO social centre activists who are in the process of setting up another social centre in Nottingham and there are some residential rooms upstairs that are also being let. ASBO social centre has been going for 4 months. It's in a council owned building and has very strong community involvement, something helped persuade the council to give them the building. Its Situated in a large building containing many different flats, the space is divided between residential flats and space for a free shop, print resources & computers, an art workshop, a bike workshop and kitchen which provides cheap food and has regular user groups such as a Kurdish film club.
Glasgow. The Chalkboard social centre is situated between a yuppified West End, the centre of town and a run down residential area – Mary Hill. The centre's primary focus is to attract and welcome the involvement of the local community by engaging in campaigns that are immediately relevant to local residents such as supporting tenancy associations and battling corruption and gentrification. They want to produce a citizen's user manual for people to cope with different aspects of living in struggle.
Liverpool. A group emerging out of Liverpool social forum is looking into the possibility of setting up a social centre in the basement of ‘News from Nowhere' radical bookshop
Sheffield. Situated in a very central location in Sheffield, Matilda social centre operates an info shop, exhibition space, bookshop, cinema, hack lab, meeting space and café. They've managed to be financially sustainable through the money made by selling food at the café and books in the bookshop. The building has been run by a guy from a local record label for a while and was illegally sold by Sheffield Hallam Uni so they are occupying it – they don't pay rent.
Preston. A group of people in Preston are trying to get together and set up a space. One of their main problems is building support for such a project, since a lot of the potential energy in the area, especially amongst students and young people is being sucked dry by independent parties and their shitty politics.
Bradford. The 1 in 12 has been a collective for 25 years, initially putting on events around different venues in Bradford. They've owned their own premises for 18 years which they managed to buy with an inner city regeneration grant. They have a very active gig venue and a football team is run from there. One of the things they are challenged with at the moment is trying to maintain people's enthusiasm and commitment.
Manchester. The Basement is in central Manchester and it runs an infoshop, exhibition space, bookshop, asylum seeker project and a vegan café used by lots of city workers. The café pays rent on space, but they've also received help from the Ethical Property Co. which offered to buy the property for them. They also have a whole load of equipment which belongs to the social centre netwok such as: marquee, kitchen equipment, sound system, solar panels to run it all.
Cardiff. A group in Cardiff have been experimenting with squatted and legal spaces to get a feel of how they want to run their centre and also to get the confidence of organizing events and spaces that they feel they need in order to set up a permanent space.
Leeds. The Commonplace has been going for about a year, renting a disused factory in heart of yuppy corporate quarter called the Calls.
Newcastle. A group in Newcastle that have been working together for a year & a half, are currently negotiating a building in a central park of Newcastle which is between the city centre and the more ‘underdeveloped' west end. It needs £30 grand worth of repairs and the group are in the process of putting together a business plan and legal constitution and will appreciate any technical help. Plans for the space include a resource centre and meeting space, which are both really needed in Newcastle, and also a cinema, gig and art space.
The presentations gave a lot of us a sense of being part of a broader political movement and were followed by a wide-ranging discussion about what we are trying to achieve, some of the problems and shortfalls involved and in what ways we can work together.
Not everyone agreed on why a network was needed but everyone seemed to think that better communication and sharing of resources was a good start. Three aspects were identified as being the main priorities and reasons for the formation of the network:
(1) The need to share information, advice and support on the legal, operational and practical questions surrounding the setting up & running of political social spaces. There was a clear call for a pool of resources, where advice documents such as the Guide to Licences put together by the Common Place can be downloaded and used by others trying to set up. It was also noted that there is a need to put together a list of contact details of individuals or groups with specific skills that can offer specific advice to any group that needs it.
(2) The desire to share programming information from selection of films for festivals to being able to book local and international speakers from one centre to the others. There was also a suggestion to put together a programme listing what's happening in all the different social centres across the country, similar to the Infosurpa events list for squats and social centres in London.
(3) The desire to exchange ideas, opinions and political views by reflecting on our different experiences of being involved in these projects. To create a platform from which to exchange not only practical skills, but also angles and political positions on the issues involved in setting up and running social centres. One suggestion was that the debate will assist each project to reach its full political potential.
Selby, August 2006
Participants from social centres across the UK held a productive meeting during the Camp for Climate Action in Selby in August. More than 30 people attended but nobody from rampART due to an action.
The meeting was called to inject momentum once again into the evolving social centre network. We had last met in January 2006 (see previous report at end) and had resolved to go away and do a number of things – set up a website working group, set up a process of resource and skill sharing, share tours, and meet again at the end of spring with a more sustained opportunity to talk about the politics behind what we are all doing. For various reasons, nothing had happened. The Climate Camp's workshop programme offered those of us involved in social centres the chance to meet again within an 'action- oriented' environment. Also, the social centre connection to Climate Camp was strong as the Common Place was used as the office and storage space, plus Leeds- based info-point.
At the beginning, those present were asked to introduce themselves and update the network on news from their particular social centres. Here is a brief summary:
Still going strong, remains huge work effort, problem of volunteers
Occupied community centre, been going for a year, resisted eviction; a new group has emerged in Nottingham up for getting a 3rd space
Kebele been going 10 years; just paid mortgage; looking to switch from housing coop to community coop
ex-council community centre, squatted in July, going well, got computer lab, benefit gigs café, following on from Nursey occupied social centre
located in building of cheap rents, lease up in 2 years, took 6 months of hard work to get open, problems paying rent, looking for funding without being compromised
very extensive library, trying to get local community to use; still useful meeting space, only a few groups using it at moment; The Square diverted a lot of groups its way due to central space
Everything 4 Everyone
focal point for anti-gentrification struggle in Hackney; resisted eviction once; there is an emerging social centre of a Everyone sort in Kensington
had a number of squatted spaces/rented events; aim to do both; plan to look for squatted space, then do more of a resource centre, having monthly benefits in working man's club
got off ground with G8 money, going 18 months, been a blast, lots of gigs, now got full club licence, rent is getting paid; heart of common place is the café, huge problem of regular volunteering, very stretched, seems social centres are dependent on tiny amounts of committed people; now asking – what are we going to do next, is it sustainable.
novelty gone after 25 years; still going, peaks and troughs; paid/unpaid volunteers an issue, club had to employ people to do jobs that weren't getting done, shit pay, jobs still aren't always done, become nasty managers; regular benefit meals / gigs; put on plays, anarchist library, footy team, bar; small town, small collective; most got full-time jobs making volunteering hard; when it works, it works
came out of squatted OCSET centres; used G8 money, rent room in community centre, now run the community centre, success but lots of problems, burn out happening
basement under café, thinking of setting up new place run by different political groups; learnt from experience of The Square that you need an idea b4 starting otherwise loses coherence and purpose
Discussion about volunteering
Recurring theme of meeting was issue of volunteers – all spaces struggling with workload, and attracting people to get involved with the work. Reasons for this discussed were:
- lack of responsibility - can be difficult to volunteer, barriers - lack of political commitment to social centres or lack of shared vision - people hate work, especially unpaid
Solutions discussed were:
- skill-sharing - breaking down the 'production' system into small, manageable jobs that anyone can DO e.g. café – a single menu, volunteers do a 'part' of the menu - call emergency meeting, say that the place will close, usually works - pay transport, even pay volunteers
There were mixed views about having paid workers. Creates a division, which becomes a producer / consumer divide, we become employers, disciplining staff (!) give in to wage labour system. breaks down self-organisation ethos. But some people cannot 'afford' to volunteer – at what point do you compromise to survive?
Sharing events / tours
The meeting heard proposals for a number of shared social centres tours / events:
- Rossport Solidarity Camp in Ireland, supporting local community against Shell pipeline, want to do a tour of UK social centres in November - Women from Russian G8 and German G8 mobilisation – September - Screeners network: social centres to volunteer to show films / have shared seasons
Long discussion was then had on 'how' social centres can share tours, put on joint events. One problem encountered was that there was no up to date list of current social centres with contact details of who / how to get in touch. This made contacting each other very difficult. Most people at the gathering weren't even on the main social centres network list.
The meeting heard various proposals:
- have a dedicated person from each social centre dealing with social centre tours / shared stuff - have a database of contacts for tours, screenings, resource sharing - have a promoting group made up of people from different social centres who took on organising, promoting tours / book launches etc - book out a set day of the month per social centre when shared events can take place - set up a new email list for shared tours /events - set up / update an up to date website or holding page with all contacts / ways of getting in touch with different spaces . phone numbers essential.
It was argued that booking a regular specific time / date space for each social centre as part of a shared events initiative will not work for some social centres due to (a) huge booking demands (b) huge booking bureaucracy.
It was agreed: - to update existing e-list as first step: no new lists! [done] - put an up to date list of social centres and best way of contacting them online [ done - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ UK_Social_Centre_Network] - come back to next gathering with a more concrete system of sharing events
At the last gathering, a website working group was formed to come up with proposed designs and specification for a shared website. For various reasons, not much has happened. Paul (common place) brought some designs for an interim website (see http://www.orangeideas.co.uk/ clients/scn/Design%202.htm) based on a portal idea. The home page would be a map of the UK and Eire. Each space – social centre, resource centre, radical café, autonomous community centre, info shop – would be located on the map and as the mouse rolled over any particular space, it would become larger, with a brief pop description and a link, taking you straight to the website of that particular space. The site would have a number of links to section about social centres, resources, links, history, and a newswire RSS feed from Indymedia Free Spaces.
Social centres booklet
Paul and Stu distributed a short overview essay they had written on social centres that will be published in a journal called City. This had been an offshoot of the social centre tour they completed in January as research for a chapter in the forthcoming popular education handbook by Trapese (www.trapese.org)
During that tour, they had done interviews, many recorded, with a dozen social centres and other similar spaces about their histories, ambitions, activities and had sent transcripts back to each social centre for their own use. There was strong interest among social centres for a booklet or pamphlet on social centres – Paul / Stu wanted to know what people wanted to do with the huge amounts of information they had gathered, how to proceed with a publication, who wanted to be involved, what kind of format etc. They mentioned their research project on autonomous spaces and that this could help finance the design, printing and distribution of the pamphlet.
The feedback was positive. Some ideas were discussed:
- practical pamphlet for social centres and interested people: contacts, short histories, explanations, location, how to get involved, tips / advice etc
Following Liverpool's request for solidarity with the construction of their new social centre, we discussed how to share resources and help. It was agreed that some kind of database with info on who has: building skills, legal training, licensing, funding experience, actual resources, where to get things from like Zap coffee, coffee machines, cinema, techie skills etc. The idea of social centres combining a gathering with an invitation to come up and help out on a project in the social centre or as part of a wider political campaign, action, mobilisation was also mentioned again.
It was agreed that a gathering twice a year would be useful and necessary. It was hoped that each social centre would offer to host on a rotational basis and that it was preferred to keep meetings in the centre of the UK as much as possible.
Bradford 1 in 12 Club offered to host the next gathering in December as a symbolic end to their 25th anniversary year.
How To Guides
Have A Productive Meeting
One Way to Run A Productive Meeting
Roles in a Meeting
Facilitator The main role of a facilitator is to keep the group focused on the same problem at the same time in the same way. The facilitator must be prepared before a meeting, otherwise the effectiveness diminishes. S/he should review the agenda and think of the best way to accomplish the goals of the agenda. At the meeting, the facilitator maintains focus on agenda. The facilitator should try to remain neutral. If s/he wants to participate in discussion, s/he should make it clear that s/he is stepping out of role as facilitator temporarily. The facilitator also elicits participation from others and protects other members from personal attack.
You can also experiment with this role as a responsibility that rotates between all members, or between just a few. The next meeting's facilitator could be chosen at the end of the previous meeting, by lottery, by an individual's desire to do the job, or perhaps on a rotational schedule. This mechanism help to prevent the condition that one person becomes merged with the position and the possible corruption that can happen.
Note-taker The main role of the note-taker is to keep an accurate record of what happened at the meeting. Records what decisions were made, how they are to be accomplished, and who is responsible.
Blackboard note-keeper In certain discussions, especially when a lot of ideas are being generated, it is especially useful to have someone keep notes of what is being discussed on a blackboard or on large pieces of paper. This helps the group focus on the task at hand.
Time-keeper Each agenda item should have a time limit, agreed upon before- hand by the group. The time-keeper reminds the group frequently how much time is left for the discussion of a particular item.
Vibes-watcher Group discussions can sometimes become very heated. All group members should be aware of the vibes in the room. One person can be designated as vibes-watcher and lighten things up when necessary.
Group Members The rest of the group also has responsibilities in making meetings more productive. A group member should respect and listen to other members' views and should not speak out of turn. A group member should also be aware of other people's roles in a meeting and remind them when they step out of their roles.
Sample Format of a Meeting
1) Facilitator, note-taker, and time-keeper should introduce themselves and define their roles. This will let people know what to expect of them.
2) General introduction between all members: Make newcomers, or infrequent members feel welcome by having everyone introduce themselves, or do a 'check in' with all present - how is everyone feeling before the meeting? This is good to do at all meetings
3) Brief agenda intro (written on blackboard and/or give everyone copies of agenda, or use a single copy that everyone can add to and see) Include time limits (if nec.) and who's responsible for each item. Allow everyone to include items on the agenda.
4) Approve/revise agenda and time limits.
5) Review previous week's meeting. Any items not taken care of? Follow up.
6) For each agenda item, first define, then discuss: a) CONTENT = what is discussed (topic or problem) b) PROCESS = how the topic is discussed (ie, brainstorming, go-around, presentation) c) RESOLUTION = is a decision needed or are we just discussing? If a decision is necessary, define what kind of decision will be made (ie, consensus, voting) d) ACTION = record what action was decided on, who is responsible, and the date by which they have to accomplish the action
7) Summarize meeting (note-taker) and make sure everyone agrees on what happened.
8) Set roles and agenda for next meeting.
9) Evaluate meeting.
10) Closure: Do some sort of formal ending of the meeting (a poem, a song, a reading, a 'check out' where each person says something; how the meeting went, what they're up to next,
Before next meeting
1) review meeting 2) follow up on action items
Some useful strategies in meetings involve asking members what they are interested in doing right at the outset of a meeting (this is often best to do at the first meeting, or one with many new members -- What is their interest? Why did they join? What do they hope to accomplish with this group?)
Often the facilitator falls into the role of being the focal point for the meeting. This can be useful to get things moving, but don't be afraid to have other members answer questions. Allow there to be 'dead time' after a statement or question so that others can participate. Try to avoid becoming, The One That Everyone Looks To For Answers, or The Fearless Leader.
Another good trick: When someone is speaking they often look at the faciliatator. Avoid their eye contact and look at other members of the group. This will help the speaker to refocus and look at other people, thus including them in the discussion. If someone asks you (the facilitator) a question, return the question to other members of the group, perhaps they can answer it better than you can.
This is only one workable format. I'm sure there are many variations on this format that may be more suited to your group. Good books exist on how to run meetings. It would be worth anyone's while to look them up and read them.
Running a meeting is a skill that is only improved by practice. It's a also a skill everyone in a group should learn. If group members change roles each meeting, it will develop everyone's skills as well as give people more empathy to the difficulties of playing different roles.
How to build consensus
A brief guide to organizing your group with consensus proceedings. This is much easier, of course, with smaller groups, but can be quite easily done with larger groups if you have an attentive facilitator(s) and focused & willing participants.
Consensus is a decision making process that works creatively to include all persons making the decision. It is the most powerful decision process as all members agree to the final decision. This is truly radical democracy as all participants have a direct voice and veto power.
How it works...
Presentation The proposal is presented as clearly as possibly by its author.
Clarifying Questions Questions are asked by anyone about the proposal to make sure that everyone understands it before you discuss it.
Discussion The proposal is discussion and debated. Possible amendments to the proposal are made at this time. The author(s) always reserves the right to alter the proposal as s/(t)he(y) see fit. (If it is only a caucus, this is the last step.)
Take general feelings on the proposal These can be registered through a straw poll , by a round robin or once-round all members, or through some signal such as thumbs up/middle/down. This can be used to modify the original proposal, consider going forth with a vote, or scrapping it altogether.
Call for Major Objection or Strong Concern A single Major Objection blocks the proposal from passing. If you have a major objection it means that you cannot live with the proposal if it passes. It is so objective to you/those you represent that you will stop the proposal from passing. A major objection isn't an "I don't really like it" or an "I liked the other idea better." It is an "I cannot live with this proposal if it passes, and here's why ... !" A thumbs down in general feelings doesn't mean that it is a major objection, a proposal can still pass if there is a thumbs down with no major objections.
A Strong Concern does not block the passing of a proposal, but it is a public statement of why you dislike it (so you can say 'I told you so!' later..). All strong concerns are written in the minutes of the meeting or otherwise recorded by the group note-taker.
Does the Proposal Pass?
If the feelings of the group are generally positive and there are no major objections, then the proposal passes.
If general feelings are positive, but someone has a major objection to the proposal, the proposal doesn't pass. It may get sent to a reconciliation committee, or withdrawn and reworked on and re-presented at a later date.
If the group feelings are generally negative, the proposal doesn't pass.
If the group feelings are mixed, not generally positive or negative, discussion continues, or the proposal is tabled until the next meeting, or until more information is available.
If discussion seems to be going on forever without the possibility of resolution, the group can:
1. Decide to drop the proposal; 2. Move onto approval voting of specific options within the proposal, or; 3. Send the proposal to a 'reconciliation committee' - or perhaps the original author - for rewriting to work out the objections.
Some Guidelines for Reaching Consensus
Present your position as lucidly and logically as possible, but listen to other members' reactions and consider them carefully before you press your point. Avoid arguing solely for your own ideas.
Do not assume that someone must win and someone must lose when discussion reaches stalemate. Instead look for the next-most-acceptable alternative for all parties.
Distinguish between major objections and discomfiture or amendments. A major objection is a fundamental disagreement with the core of the proposal.
Do not change your mind simply to avoid conflict and to reach agreement and harmony. When agreement seems to come too quickly and easily, be suspicious, explore the reasons and be sure that everyone accepts the solution for basically similar or complementary reasons. Yield only to the positions that ahve objective and logically sound foundations.
Avoid conflict-reducing techniques such as majority vote, averages, and bargaining. When a dissenting member finally agrees, don't feel that s/he must be rewarded by having hir own way on some later point.
Differences of opinion are natural and expected. Seek them out and try to involve everyone in the decision process. Disagreements can help the group's decision because with a wide range of information and opinions, there is a greater chance the group will hit on more adequate solutions.
Decision making through consensus involves discussion and accountability of view points as opposed to power struggles. Postponement of decisions to give time to reconsider and recognize that all people participating are able to accept and work with the decision is vital to the consensus process.
Remember that the ideal present behind consensus is empowering versus overpowering, agreement versus majorities/minorities. The process of consensus is what you put into it as an individual and a part of the group.
Finally, use your minds -- you've got good ones or you wouldn't be here. So think before you speak; listen before you object. Througn participating in the consensus process, one can gain insight into not only others but also ones self.
organise an event
see also events pack
Put on a film screening
The best way to see radical video is LIVE with REAL people. Instead of sitting by yourself in front of a box, you can talk to other people about what you've seen and discuss actions that could be taken together.
Screenings are extrememly powerful, they inform and inspire and help to bring new people into active participation in progressive struggles. If there are no screenings happening in your area then perhaps you would like to organise your own. Get together with a few friends, find a venue and put on a film screening.
If you don't have a handy social centre to make use of, ask your local Indymedia Collective if they know any suitable venues in your area. You need somewhere which is accessible in terms of public transport. The venue should have full blackout if you plan to screen during day light hours. Other issues to consider include seating and the screen.
- independent cinemas, community centres, churches, universities, schools, squat projects, social centres, sympathetic pubs etc.
You will need a video projector, speakers and amplifier, a video player (perhaps a DVD player or a laptop) and something to project onto (ideally a proper screen but a white wall or a bed sheet will do).
- If you are going to a venue you haven’t used before, make sure you have power extension leads.
- If you are using a venue that already has a sound system, make sure you take long enough cables to reach their amp.
- If you are using a venue that has a video projector fitted somewhere, make sure you have the right adapter and leads.
It is good to have somebody to present the films or issues being covered. This could be the film maker or somebody from a campaign group working on related issues. It is also good to leave plenty of time for discussion, or a questions and answer session if you have a speaker.
Screenings can be a good way to raise money for campaigns or projects. If you are doing a screening about a campaign against nuclear power for example, you might also try to raise some funds for group active on the issue. Even if you don’t plan to make the event a fund raiser, you might still need to ask for donations from the audience. You might have to pay for use of the venue but even if this is free you should consider the running costs of the projector.
Additionally you should think about the film makers. Many independent film collectives provide free films but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t appreciate donations to help them cover their costs. Video equipment is expensive for non-profit groups so after you’ve covered your costs for screening, why not send the rest of your donations to the people who made the films you screened. This way you can help support the continuing efforts for people who make free films.
You might find these guides useful if planning a screening;
Get and run a PA system
The workshop was held by a group of activists at RampArt squatted Social Centre in London, England, on 3rd June 2006. This rough hewn video is mainly about 'Pedals', a powerful trailer system used on many demos and on Critical Mass.
The short clip 'pedals' shows 'Pedals' in action. The Workshop video '12vpart1' opens with a new experimental sound system being tested before going on to discuss the design and construction of 'Pedals' itself and sound systems in general in the following clips.
Internet and phones
Rain Water Harvesting
Each Londoner currently uses 156 litres of water every day, slightly higher than the national average of 150 litres and significantly higher than most European cities (Berlin and Copenhagen use just under 120 litres a day).
There are around 45 million toilets in UK homes using about 30% of the total water used in a household. The percentage will be far greater for flushing toilets in a social center without baths/showers/dish washers/washing machines/cars to wash/lawns to water.
Over seven million of the toilets in the UK use 13 litres of water for each flush. At the other end of the scale there are about five million low flush toilets in use which in theory use only six litres for a full flush and four litres with a reduced flush. Many of those are badly designed and actually use hundreds of litres a day through constant leaking.
The average household flushes 5000 times per year (about 13 flushes per day) so just reducing the flush size by just 2 liters would save 10,000 liters each year per household. Such a saving can be achieved simply by putting a couple of milk bottles filled with water into the cistern.
In the UK, rainfall is well distributed over the year and rain water harvesting very viable. The run-off of rainwater from a roof is directly proportional to the quantity of rainfall and the plan area of the roof. For every 1mm of rain a square metre of roof area will yield 1 litre of water (minus evaporation, spillage losses and wind effects).
A roof measuring 10 x 10 meters (small for a social centre but convenient for calculations ;-). provides a potential collection of 65,000 litres per year. Call it 50,000 after 20% losses and you have a potential 1000 litres per week! That's enough for at least 100 toilet flushes per week.
By fitting a large water tank into a loft space, top floor or outside wall, then diverting water the downpipes coming down from the roof, flushing toilets can be made to use captured rainwater and reduce water use massively.
It's all pretty simple and cheap to do. In terms of materials you need a large tank and pipe.
There a severally really good reasons why efforts should be made to conserve energy to autonomous space (which we wont go into here).
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions generated by fossil-fueled electricity are measured as a weight of CO2 per kWh. The Carbon Trust say that a single kWh purchased from the UK national power grid is responsible for 0.43Kg of CO2 emissions. The Energy Information Agency in the US says that one kWh is responsible for 1.43lbs of CO2.
Cars off the road is a helpful way to compare carbon dioxide reduction in terms of car emissions avoided, lets say a car on the road contributes 10,000lbs of CO2 per year. Acres of trees planted is another way to describe the positive environmental impact of CO2 reduction from reduced power use – since trees sequester carbon dioxide. The EPA estimates that reducing CO2 emissions by 7,333lbs is equivalent to planting an acre of trees.
Watts Hrs/Day Days/wk kWh/wk kWh/mth kWh/yr KgCO2/y Cost/yr
60 Watt bulb 61 8 7 3.4 1.5 177.6 76 £14.21
100 Watt Bulb 101 8 7 5.7 4.0 294.1 126 £23.53
Ceiling fan 20 9 7 1.3 0.2 65.5 28 £5.24
Standby device 10 24 7 1.7 0.75 88.8 38 £7.10
Modern PC 190 9 6 10.3 44.5 533.5 229 £42.68
Older PC 130 9 6 7.0 30.4 365.0 157 £29.20
17" LCD 40 9 6 2.2 9.4 112.3 48 £8.99
17" CRT 120 9 6 6.5 4.7 337.0 145 £26.96
Oldish Laptop 45 9 6 2.4 0.7 126.4 54 £10.11
Kettle 3000 1 7 21 882 1092 469 £87
Electric heater 3000 3.5 7 73.5 771.8 3822 1643 £305.76
Portable aircon 1200 7 7 58.8 493.9 3057 1315 £244.61
Low Power Computing
Computers use a surprisingly large amount of energy, especially if connected to CRT monitors rather than LCD screens. IT now accounts for 10% of UK electricity usage.
The average desktop computer uses about 120 Watts (a 15" CRT monitor uses 75 Watts, and the CPU uses 45 Watts.) Laptops use considerably less, around 30 Watts total for earlier models (Pentium 1 and 2) and more like 60 watts for more modern Pentium 3 or 4 equivalent machine with large 15" or even 17" displays.
At rampART in the early days we once had around twenty working computers in the building and you'd find around half of them on at any one time. Some were always on, file servers, radio streaming machines, ssh server etc.
Lets do a calculation based on those early days of the rampART.
20 computers X 0.12 kW X 365 workdays X 12 hours = 10,512 kWh
This amounts to: 10,512 kWh X 9 pence = £946 per year in electricity costs.
Greenhouse gas emissions for this electricity amount to: 10,512 kWh X 1.45 lbs of CO2 per kWh / 2,000 = 7.6 tons of CO2 per year.
1,016 - 5,090 trees are needed to offset these yearly emissions of CO2! (A tree absorbs between 3-15 lbs of CO2 per year.)
- A CRT monitor averages 75 watts, a 19” monitor consumes a whopping 120 Watts. They consume a lot less (~50% less) when displaying mostly black on screen.
- An LCD monitor uses about 25 watts but you don't tend to find them in skips yet.
You can save a lot of energy by doing the following.
1. When not in use, simply switch off monitors at the plug, don't use standby.
2. Reduce brightness settings, increase contrast settings.
3. Set your colour scheme so that text windows show as grey instead of white.
4. If fits in your budget, use LCD monitors on computers that are used a lot.
5. Use “blank screen” as a screen saver option.
6. If your computer allows power setting control then change power settings to “turn monitor off” after 2-5 minutes.
Setting up a thin client network
Instead of a whole bunch of skipped computers and monitors, a thin client network can be set up instead using low spec laptops which will keep power consumption down massively.
A thin client depends primarily on a central server for processing activities and offers the following advantages:
- Easier administration and maintainance. Thin clients are managed almost entirely at the server. The hardware has fewer points of failure and the client is simpler (and often lacks permanent storage), providing protection from malware.
- Easier to secure. Thin clients can be designed so that no application data ever resides on the client (just whatever is displayed), centralizing malware protection and reducing the risks of data theft or loss.
- Lower hardware costs. Thin client hardware is generally cheaper because it does not need to contain a disk, application memory, or a powerful processor.
- Less Energy Consumption. A thin client system has the potential to have much lower energy consumption than standard computer workstations.
- Easier hardware failure management. If a thin client fails, a replacement can simply be swapped in and users are not inconvenienced because their data is not on the client.
- Worthless to most thieves. Low cost and low spec, thin client hardware has little value to thieves - assuming they know enough to recognise the fact.
- Less Wasted Hardware. Computer hardware is very environmentally damaging. Thin clients can remain in service longer and ultimately produce less surplus computer hardware than normal PC workstations.
Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP)
LTSP is an add-on package for Linux that allows you to connect lots of low-powered computers (thin client terminals) to a Linux server. Applications run on the server and accept input and display their output on the thin client display. LTSP is available as a set of packages that can be installed on any Linux system.
LTSP allows one server, which needs to be a fairly high specification machine, to run terminals on very old machines; we find anything from a 90 Mhz Pentium I upwards makes a very fast client. The boot time on these is quick and the user experience excellent.
Having no hard drives or floppies, the clients are very maintainable and so for many boxes the only moving part is the power supply fan; for others there is also a processor fan. This keeps everything low-powered - an important consideration given rocketing energy prices.
CD-ROMs can be added and accessed by the user, as can USB keys, pen drives or cameras. They are easily accessible via the desktop and automatically pop up there.
In shared community spaces, where a number of workstations can be collocated and accessed simultaneously, LTSP can roll out a low-cost, highly efficient, environmentally friendly thin client solution. This enables the use of very low power, low specification machines to boot and connect via a network to a powerful central server. Each of the clients runs applications on that central server, rather than locally. Software updates, anti-virus protection and system security are all managed centrally.
Plus, since all the LTSP software and Linux itself are open source, the costs of operating system licenses and upgrades are also reduced or even eliminated.
PXES Universal Linux Thin Client
A free Linux distribution for building thin clients systems. It may be used to boot (diskless) workstations over a network or from disk. A graphical tool guides the user through the required steps. After booting, the thin client is capable of accessing a Linux server, a VNC server or even a Microsoft Remote Desktop server (if you fancy using windows).
Because no local devices such as diskettes, CD-ROMs or hard disks are needed, the hardware required is very minimum. If such devices are needed, the clients may be configured to use sound, local print services, USB, CD-ROM, etc.