Across Europe on the weekend of April 11th-13th, people will be taking over buildings and open spaces left abandoned by state or private concerns. For one weekend we will be united in a festival of resistance across Europe. (see http://april2008.squat.net/ )
Birmingham, UK will be responding to this call and invite you to join in. We're a group of people who have formed an autonomous voluntary collective. We have no bosses to obey, no shareholders to feed and make decisions by consensus, all pulling our weight.
We have chosen to occupy an empty building in the city (close to Birmingham's main rail stations and the city centre) for the weekend, hopefully to improve its neglected condition and open it up for the benefit of the city of which we are a part.
We hope you can join us for this event, and invite you to join our collective or form your own with similar aims.
Come and learn stuff, play games and enjoy the food and company - or come and facilitate a discussion, play a song, sing and dance.
Workshops including: bike repair and maintenance, consensus decision making, action against climate change, disability rights and politics, 12volt electricity, LETS, permaculture, guerilla gardening, introduction to social centres, housing rights, DIY arts (jewellery making, paper mache, sculpture and making banners)and many more...
Demonstration against gentrification and for free space outside Birmingham City Council headquarters on Friday 11th (see next article)
Entertainment including an open mic night, film showings and live bands (TBC)
Food by Birmingham Food Not Bombs
There is a long tradition and history of squatting in the British Isles, dating from at least the 14th century, as people occupied land previously worked and occupied in common. The mania for enclosing land as private has always been resisted. The Diggers, levellers and others in the turbulent period of the 17th century occupied land for common use.
The practice of occupying buildings became popular amongst de-mobilised soldiers in the 20th century. Returning home from the Great and Second World wars, finding none of the promised 'homes fit for heroes', squatting empty buildings was a common method of growing viable homes in the cracks and empty matrices of post-war Britain.
More recently, squatting enjoyed a revival in the 1960s and 70s against the disastrous housing and architectural policies of the time. And in the last ten years there has been a revival of squatting to answer the need for social space as well as housing need. Today squatting acts as a bulwark against and alternative to gentrification - the growth of exclusive housing for the rich, pushing out the poor. This is what's happening in Digbeth.
Squats are portals into other societies. Places where real alternatives can be grown and autonomous collective ways of organising and living found free of red tape, in places otherwise left empty and wasted.
There's nothing 'dirty' about squatting. On the contrary, the practice cleans up after the waste and dis-ease produced by capitalistic authoritarianism, transforming wasted space into liberated space. Thus many people prefer the term 'free space' as an alternative to 'squat'.
WHY SOCIAL CENTRES?
A viable social centre can be squatted (occupied), or facilitated through bureaucratic means such as renting or purchase. In recent years there has been a growth in social centres across Britain, from Manchester to Bristol, London to Leeds, Glasgow to Nottingham and in Birmingham too.
In creating a short term occupied social centre we hope to create a free space for the benefit of the city. The only real limit on what can happen in a social centre is the imagination. Since we respect the integrity of the building and don't trash it (unlike its 'owners') we can as a collective open it for positive community projects. Social Centres can and have been used for: film screenings, healthy food and drink, libraries of books and information exchange (including free internet access), freeshops (the free exchange of goods) and all manner of creative/artistic projects,
and political organising around local and global issues.
In these times, when councils are closing and privatising public facilities hard won by our forebears, social centres are an invaluable part of society today, fulfilling an increasingly ignored need.
Free Space Collective