Nursery Collective | 24.02.2005 21:58
Squatter’s success in bringing building back into social use, but questions still remain.
After 6 months of occupation, 1 Bournbrook Road in Selly Oak Birmingham, is to be voluntarily vacated by the Nursery Social Centre Collective this week.
The former council run community day nursery had been boarded up and left empty for over two years. It was re-opened by the Collective, which includes homeless people and children, back in August 2004. The Collective have since facilitated workshops, cultural events and meetings of community interest for the local community and much needed short term housing for its homeless residents upstairs.
After three unsuccessful eviction attempts the Collective have agreed to move on to pastures new on the condition that the building be returned to social use by the council. The Collective felt, along with local people, that the building should not be left empty again. Birmingham City Council has finally arranged for the RITE Project to use the building until 2006. The building is then due to be demolished, pending a public enquiry, as part of the controversial Bristol Road expansion.
While the Collective are pleased their wishes are being honoured and that the RITE Project have a new home, they question why the previous RITE site needs to be vacated and sold off to the private sector. The Collective feel it is a waste of tax payer’s money to evict the RITE project from their building and relocate them elsewhere at great expense. We welcome contributions to the debate about what the council should do with its empty properties at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Collective would like to highlight that by taking direct action and occupying an empty building they have established Birmingham’s first autonomous social centre. This has demonstrated alternative uses of disused spaces and has resulted in the continued use of the building by the RITE project.
The Collective would also like to highlight the globally recognised Agenda 21 initiative and its political implications for community spaces and sustainable building usage. The Nursery social centre in tandem with Agenda 21 illustrates that a group receiving no funding and consisting of people exchanging their labour and skills entirely for free shows that alternatives can and do exist. The Social centre has demonstrably shown there is a demand within the local community for autonomous spaces such as this.
We would like to thank everyone who came and contributed to the social centre and encourage other interested parties to occupy disused spaces in their own areas creatively and autonomously. We also wish the RITE Project success in helping young people for many years to come.
See http://www.stuffit.org/nursery/ for future developments and to get involved with future plans to open another autonomous social centre in Brum.
Notes for editors
1. The Nursery Social Centre began in August 2004 as an open space for the local community to realise its needs, including a large green space called “the secret garden” originally intended as a community garden. At the Bournbrook neighbourhood forum in October, the local community consensually agreed with the Collective that they preferred to see the building used by a social project rather then leave it boarded up.
2. Birmingham City Council ignored a formal business proposal from the Social Centre Collective to continue their social project for a peppercorn rent in the building. The Collective note that social use of the building would not be on the agenda if they had not taken direct action, highlighting the misuse of public buildings by local authorities.
3. The council instead attempted to solicit interest from several other social projects to take over the building. The RITE Project, which works with young people excluded from the education system, have a new home, but were only in need of one because the Council are evicting them from their previous building in order to sell off the building to the private sector.