The Grand Banks has been occupied for about one month by a collective that has opened the building as a social centre. The space has been used for cinema evenings, meetings and discussions, benefit evenings and much more. Open from mid day, the space is reguarly used by around one hundred people each day. Each lunch time the space is used by upto 70 people of school age and during the afternoons and evenings, dozens of people use the space for meetings, workshops or banner painting or simply socialising.
This is the second such social centre in the area. Previously a disused community centre was occupied and held for two months. Eviction was successfully resisted and the group moved out of their own accord a week later in order to move into the Grand Banks which was seen as a more suitable location and building.
The Grand Banks has been disused for three years, previously being a wine bar and before that an american style dinner (orginally the building was a bank).
A couple of years ago the workers beer company tried to buy the building, intending to reopen it as a pub and rename it the Red Flag. Geoff Martin, of the TUC said at the time, “The workers’ movement is proud to be sticking the red flag back in the yuppie soil of North London.”. [see http://www.hamhigh.co.uk/archived/2002/0614/news/p28news.asp]However the building remained empty as apparently the person trying to sell the building did not actually own the lease.
Fortess Road is full of empty shop fronts, many of which are owned by the same company/person who owns the Grand Banks. It is rumoured that the rents were hiked up in order to drive out the tennants. A row of four such empties will soon become a Sainsburys local, graffiti on the shopfront reads 'The GriM reaper approaches'.
You can find out more about the social centre and the program of events taking place there by visiting the wombles website http://www.wombles.org.uk or attending the social centre collectives' weekly meetings each wednesday at 7.30pm