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Birmingham Free Space - Building occupied!

Free Space Brum Collective | 10.04.2008 17:19 | 2008 Days Of Action For Autonomous Spaces | Culture | Free Spaces | Social Struggles | Birmingham

Building now in hand for the weekend of events in Birmingham - for timetable see

We have now occupied the building for this weekend's events - so people
are needed down there tonight and tomorrow morning to prepare for the demo
and weekend workshops...

The building is the former Kingfield Heath stationer's offices and
warehouse, between Bradford Street and Warwick Street in Digbeth (on the
50 bus route and very near the Spotted Dog pub). It's an absolutely
enormous building, we are only using a small fraction of the space within
it. The "main entrance" is on Bradford St, but the entrance that we are
using is the one on Warwick St - about 50 yards up from the Spotted Dog,
on the right side of the road. Hopefully by tomorrow morning we will have
the "Free Space Brum" banner to advertise it from the outside.

No electricity or water as yet but hopefully these will be sorted tomorrow
(and the landlord of the Spotted Dog, has kindly offered us the use of
his pub kitchen for water, and possibly also cooking).

Bring down anything you want to make the place look nice - posters,
candles, coloured fabric, cushions, mattresses, etc. We already have
chairs and tables which were already in the building.

The space will be open to the public tomorrow morning to prepare for the
demo outside the Council House at 2pm.

For any more info, directions from the city centre, or if you are there
and no one seems to be there to let you in, please call the social centre
phone on 07527580190...

Free Space Brum Collective
- e-mail:
- Homepage:


25.04.2008 23:03

Words and Pictures.




Hide the following 33 comments

Can you give us better directions?

10.04.2008 21:12

Like a post code or a link to googlemaps or multimaps.

All I can remember seeing around there is dilapidated warehouses that you can virtually walk into.

juggling for justice

been there, done that

11.04.2008 12:24

urban explorer, not the smackhead ;)

Addition - better directions

11.04.2008 12:56

The building's address is 230 Bradford St, but as my colleague above points out, we're using the entrance round the back on Warwick St, opposite side of the road from the Spotted Dog, a few doors up.|B12%200RJ#map=52.47299,-1.88147|16|4&loc=GB:52.47299:-1.88147:16|B12%200NH|B12%200NH


Nice one...

11.04.2008 13:04

Thanks urban explorer for the pics, we were aware that the space had been 'explored' by yourselves - it was quite a topic of discussion last night inside. We however are not merely there to explore -we're there to transform and use the space for networking, popular education and campaigning.
A word to the wise - the title of your comment may come accross as somewhat ego-driven. If I may be so bold, I think the difference between what you do and what we do is that while you ran around making comedy pictures, we brought a broom, hot soapy water and a plan.

Would be good to see you back there this weekend! Check the timetable for events.

free spacer

Been there, done that, missed the point

11.04.2008 13:15

Its not a competition you cock, and by the looks of your Trashbat style website you didn't do much with the building while you were there, except take some holiday snaps.

This action is political - part of an international weekend of action - and has a point beyond self-hype or flirting with 'danger'. if you want to live dangerously, spend a few days in the shoes of 'some vagrant / crackhead' as you call them, and then you'll see what living on the edge is all about.

You have totally and utterly, wholly and undeniably, PLAYED YOURSELF by posting here.


Maybe you could learn something from this?

12.04.2008 09:59

Hey Cockwatch, you're being just as arrogant as far as i'm concerned. In fact you come across as being even more arrogant and just a tad insecure about your 'project'.

Has it occurred to you that you might just be able to learn something from these urban explorers? For instance you might learn how to crack a decent building with leccy and water, or maybe one with some significance instead of a derelict warehouse?

You also come across as a bit of a sanctimonius twat too, and "if i maybe so bold" - wtf!

What exactly is groundbreakingly political about occupying a derilict building and putting on workshops such as face massage and poi?

My oh my, the bosses and the establishment in Birmingham must be quaking in their boots..

At least all the lifestylists are concentrated in one area for the weekend, now where's a structural building problem when you need it?


No system except a sound system. Except not that either.

13.04.2008 11:11

well appraently you didn't even have soundsystem in the end. What an appealing event.

whilst all this stuff has been going on over the weekend about 'free spaces' and shite, i can say all your events were dwarfed by the weekly squat parties up and down the country where thousands flocked to huge buildings for a bit of a dance. We do it every weekend cos its fun and thats just what we like to do.

Bill Posters

squat parties vs free spaces

13.04.2008 12:48

hmmm.... yes, they have some things in common, like the use of empty buildings and a disregard to the laws of the land but the comparisons pretty much end there. squat parties are generally a commerical venue - there is nothing free about them in the sense of a challange to capitalism. there is rarely and regard given to the building or the local community and it hit and run with no need to consider the future just get the night done and the money in. yes, squat parties are loads more popular than a reading group at a political squat, or a screening of a film about repression in Burma or whatever - is that a suprise? Can we extrapolate some meaning about the relative worth of a social centre and a squat party? Should we throw in the likes of the Ministry of Sound and see how our projects wieghts up to the popularity of super clubs or perhaps compare it to football?


Yes there was a fucking sound system

14.04.2008 11:29

So who's lying?


Bill Posters...

14.04.2008 11:32

seems to be under the illusion that, as Cockwatch said, it's some kind of /competition/! What's that all about?


good photos, nice one, like nottm looks like place that should be peoples hands

14.04.2008 16:56

In nottingham we have the sumac centre which workers coops & members are paying for slowly, even if we got it for a good price& time.
Though its debatable wether we could be more effective if we managed to get payed by council like YMCA now are to run our international community centre & then get free meeting there themselves although I think they have restricted their christian propaganda.

green syndicalist

seeing beyond the either-or mentality

15.04.2008 01:09

I still cant get my head round why people get so stuck on that polarised either-or way of thinking. Does it have to be just, squat partying, urban explorer style actions, or just political squating, class struggle or environmentalism, or just 'lifestylism'.

This social centre weekend was for me, one of the most exciting things to happen in Birmingham for a long time. Partly because those barriers between the different dogmas/approaches/ mind sets were dropped. And it is these barriers that have often stopped the progressive movement in Birmingham from reaching its full potential. On one day I went to workshops on permaculture and transition towns, face massage, guerrilla gardening, and finishing with a talk on struggles of public sector workers. There was no moaning from anyone about some things being too 'lifestylist'. Everything seemed integrated and accepted. There was a brilliant discussion in the permaculture/transition workshop looking at the need to involve issues of social justice and class politics into environmental sustainability.

Its quite sad when such a positive event happens, that the boringly familiar Im-a-better-activist-than-you attitude rears its rather ugly smelly head. Yet with this kind of event Im also hopeful that it could become redundant.

By the way, in the public sector workers discussion there was someone from the IWW who talked about their support of the postal workers strikes. For the future - and I think I speak for everyone involved - I would love for the IWW to have more of a space in these events.

a 'lifestylist'

Why do you keep name dropping the IWW?

15.04.2008 08:35

As far as I know west mids iww had nothing to do with this squat, and I really doubt if they'd ever commit to getting involved with a squat - it doesn't relate to the class based concerns a radical union like the IWW embraces. Why are you trying to associate them with your squat?

Don't take offensive weapons on actions

Squatters' Rites

15.04.2008 11:46

My, my, such anger displayed here. Would that not be better directed at actually changing our society instead of ripping into people trying to do the same in their own way? Any future society which empowers everyone will certainly require a massive degree of compassion and tolerance if it is to avoid the mistakes made by our present political systems. It might be worth cultivating that tolerance now rather than later. Just a thought.


I was at the squat for much of the weekend, and I had a great time. The atmosphere was unpretentious and down-to-earth, there was a mix of people with different ideas and backgrounds, and the food was fantastic :)

The support of the Spotted Dog pub just down the road was invaluable - giving us access to real toilets and running water - and demonstrated that what we were doing was not just about having a loud party or congratulating ourselves on how ultra-radical we are, but about supporting a cause that meant something to the local community.

No, the bosses and the establishment in Birmingham are probably not quaking in their boots because of what we did. Personally, I don't think that was the point. If you feel that direct action is meant to create change through the application of *fear* then join the police - they're a lot better at inspiring fear than activists are.

For me the purpose of the weekend action was to show that ordinary people can come together under their own power, without corporate or state interference, to discuss the things that matter to them, share skills, share ideas and enjoy themselves at the same time. It was meant to be an example to inspire similar action, not a tactic to instill fear in anyone.

I can confirm there *was* a sound system. I watched it being put together by a guy who'd come from Nottingham to do a workshop on 12-volt electricity (thanks dude!). Being battery-powered, it wasn't a 5kW rig that could make your bowels bleed from half a mile away, but it was there just the same. It was nice to have, but I don't think the weekend would have been so unappealing without it. Background music is not always a necessity (if you think it is, walk round a supermarket for an hour and see if you don't feel like chewing your own face off in disgust at the muzak they pump out). The intention never was to duplicate a club, so I don't really see the problem.

I don't think there's anything wrong with face massage. Or poi for that matter. Granted the weekend would have been very wasteful if it had *only* been workshops like that, but there were also workshops on permaculture (which I missed - gutted!), guerrilla gardening, 12-volt electrics, public sector workers' action and other stuff which is more directly related to the social and political ideologies the squat was meant to embody and further. Face massage was a welcome break, to be quite honest. Besides, you should never turn your nose up at new skills :)

I think the weekend went very well. There was a lot that could have been done better, but it's always possible to say that. The main thing is to rectify those mistakes the next time we try.

I for one can't wait :)


in support of free space

15.04.2008 15:42

A great account and evaluation of the weekend from grimalkin. Much in agreement from what I experienced of the space.

Can't see how wanting - and achieving, albeit temporarily - a genuinely free non-corporate grassroots social space in Birmingham is 'lifestylist'. Surely any such space is crucial if effective social change networks are to develop within Brum. It's quite a material need really. Nothing abstract or wishy-washy about it: groups of local people need a physical place to meet, face-to-face, outside of the constraints of commercial venues that either demand money for floorspace or require you buy drinks in order to be felt welcome. It's nothing less than absurd that people have to crack into a cold (but only in temperature) abandoned warehouse to do this!

I'd also question the blanket use of 'lifestylist' as a perjorative term. Social change/ lifestyle change is yet another blatantly misleading false dichtomy (is there any other type?!). As far as I can see, we need both social change (i.e. an end to capitalism) as well as lifestyle change (less consumptive, greater sense of community, more informed choices about what we do and how we do it, etc). And no doubt they are pretty indissociable in terms of how we think about achieving either anyway. Good old-fashioned dialectics, I'd say.

A social centre should be a place from which to gather energy for assaults upon the myriad abuses of capital against communities, workers, the environment... It should also be a space in which to explore the possibilities of a world in which truly democratic spaces and relationships can emerge... It should be a space in which collective creativity can be brought to bear upon the problems that beset ourselves and the world... any many more things unsaid and as yet undreamt...

free space supportee

Brum Free space I'm lovin it.

15.04.2008 15:47

The Brum Free Space weekend was for me a positive experiance. The workshops were varied and presented well. The practical skills from the Bicycology work shop i learned, will be put to good use. The talk on the Zapatistas, there impact on activism around the globe and the political situation in Mexico was wide ranging informative and entertaining.
There was a work shop by the Disabilities Activist Network, that discussed the impact capitalist society has on individuals with a variety of disabilities and impairments.

The Space was cleaned up and made a welcoming and colourful as possible. There was a arts space, a sound system and on Friday night an open mic session and also live drums music on Saturday with beautiful food all weekend.

The Brum Free space had a good mix of activism, education, entertainment and culture. I am sure any mistakes will be learned from and this type of event will only get better.

Thanks to all who made a great weekend.

Where's my ipod?

"Lifestyle" as a pejorative term

15.04.2008 16:55

I think it is important to make a differentiation between "lifestyle" and "cultural" or "recreational" as they are not synonymous and are being confused in these posts. Of course not everything at a social centre should be overtly political, that would be quite boring and people would become fatigued rather quickly. It is great to have social events, parties, film showings, and non-political workshops which will inspire people all the same. However, these are all cultural or recreational events.

A problem arises when events start to represent the interests (and lifestyle) of a narrow cross section of society. When a social centre starts advertising aromatherapy, astrology, face massage, and tarot workshops (as has happened before) anyone who is new to grass roots struggles and is not a hippy or into new age stuff will probably feel that this is not their kind of place to hang out.

What I have described above has happened in the past and will in all likelihood happen again. The motivations of the people pushing this agenda also need to be questioned, why are their own personal and lifestyle interests starting to define the very nature of a social centre? Is this really about grass roots local politics or about them providing themselves with a platform to live their lives?

Don't physically assault kids in social centres

clutching at straws

15.04.2008 18:17

It is a very ill-informed assumption that these lifestyle choices are solely of a particular class of people (you're talking middle class or hippy I presume, as has been labelled before). In my experience at the cottage social centre, there was exactly this issue that came up. And it was one person (and I pressume the same person writing these negative posts) that objected to holistic therapies, happening at the cottage. Yet we ended up with people from the working class local community coming and requesting that they happen at the centre. The fact is that many more people are now looking towards these alternative ways of helping oneself beyond the mainstream medical establishment. As far as Im concerned its about looking at alternatives on every level. Holistic therapies may not be everyone's cup of tea, but dont put words into other people's mouths that they wont like it.

You talk about people's personal agenda. Im getting a very strong sense of that from this person who has a very personal vendetta against particular people involved in these and other actions/movements. Many of these initiatives have been criticised and dismissed, due to this and disguised as something else, as is happening now. It is being very destructive to the movement in Birmingham, to the point where you might as well be working for the state.

Im confused with you ending your posts with "Don't take offensive weapons on actions" and "Don't physically assault kids in social centres". These sensationalizing statements sound like something from the daily mail.

a (name dropping) lifestylist

Clutching at straws (to weevil your agenda into social centres)

15.04.2008 19:04

"Yet we ended up with people from the working class local community coming and requesting that they [face massage, aromatherapy] happen at the centre"

Is a complete fabrication.

These were things you wanted. Not the local community. It was a deprived area and they wanted a place for their kids to hang out (instead of the streets), and a careers advice centre.

All you need is for one person to tell you they liked one of your interests and you inflate meaning into this and project it on to everyone.

Don't break consensus in social centres by taking drugs (there are witnesses)

Social Nature

17.04.2008 10:41

Nice to see some positive comments about the weekend :) I agree that the changes we wish to make in our society as a whole are intimately connected with the changes we wish to make in the way we live our lives. To dissociate the two is to make precisely the same mistake as the capitalists.

I don't know what the word 'lifestyle' really means, so I'm not going to use it.

I'm a little confused as to why it would be great to have "social events, parties, film showings, and non-political workshops" at a social centre, while a problem to have "aromatherapy, astrology, face massage, and tarot workshops". This gives the impression that while not everyone will appreciate the latter (which is certainly true), absolutely everyone will enjoy the former (which is not true).

Clearly, Don't [do stuff], your personal tastes include parties and films, but not hippy holistic stuff. There's not a thing wrong with that, but, believe it or not, not everyone shares those tastes.

I don't know what 'agenda' you are referring to, or who is pushing it. Perhaps you could clarify? The workshops for the weekend were all volunteered by people prepared to actually do them, so naturally they reflect the personal interests of the people involved. How could it be otherwise?

A social centre should be a framework, not just for grassroots activism, not just for socialising, not just for radical debate, and not just for holistic therapy. It should be for ANYTHING THE MEMBERS OF THE CENTRE WANT! (provided it does not clash with the founding, constitutionalised principles of the centre - I realise this could be construed as an 'agenda', but if properly formulated then I think there is a distinction).

A social centre should be participatory, which means that you get out what you put in. After all (with preemptive apologies for the horrific generalization) isn't that the nature of the new society we would all like to help create?

If it is, then the social centre is not rigidly divided into 'those who organize' and 'those who come along' (or, in Western language, 'managers' and 'consumers'). Instead there are simply 'those who participate' ('human beings'). The level of participation will obviously depend on the individual, but the more you contribute, the more you will benefit. It's up to everyone who goes to the social centre to make it work.

The kinds of events put on at the social centre will, like those last weekend, be those that the initial organizers feel capable of putting on. The smaller the number of people involved, the narrower the spectrum of events will be. This is a genuine concern, and you are quite right to point it out. What you do not point out is any sort of solution.

My solution would be to involve a wider range of people, initially by getting in outside speakers/workshop organizers to attract local people with similar interests, who may then be interested in getting related groups together themselves. Obviously the choice of content for those workshops would depend on knowing what concerns exist locally. A social centre must be integral to its community in order to be meaningful, not sitting up on some cloud telling the world how it should be.

You get out what you put in. If you go to a social centre sneering at all the hippies, you are not likely to get much out. If you go to a social centre wishing they had a group dedicated to the conservation of a local piece of greenery, then START ONE!

To save people the bother of pointing this out, yes I am being very idealistic. I feel it's better than being defeatist. It might be true that people will be disappointed by the range of events at a social centre, and it's certainly true that not everyone will immediately grasp the 'you get out what you put in' philosophy (since in our present culture, you only get things out of something when you put lots of money into it, and the real work is done by someone else).

But, Don't [do stuff], why, in all likelihood, will it happen again? Doesn't the simple act of you pointing this all out go some small way towards ensuring that it *won't*? Are we human beings so limited in our abilities that we can't learn from the past?

If you could go into greater detail about what you feel has failed in other social centres, perhaps you would provide us with the tools we need to make ours better equipped to face these issues.

You have not, so far, explained your own ideas for tackling these problems. I've no doubt that you would not be so vitriolic regarding our efforts if you did not have them, and I think you would be doing us all a valuable service by sharing.

Peace out.


Health is not apolitical

17.04.2008 13:51

Another good post G, but I would like to point out that a great deal of effort was expended in inviting 'outsiders' as you call them in to do workshops. Bearing in mind there is no real distinction, and if you look at the way the TAZ came together it was a fairly groundbreaking collaboration between several different groups. This and the further effort to invite others to put on workshops resulted in the bycycology workshop, the LETS workshop, the dis/abled rights workshop, the pblic sector strikes workshop. Some workshops were timetabled but didn't happen. These included Palestine (a member of the Palestine Soldidarity Comittee did turn up and spent some hours in the space though, and maybe that helped push the cause informally), Consensus (which we practiced, so that was instructive), climate change activism, and refugee support issues (again the person offering this turned out to be insanely busy and understandably could only attend for a few hours on Sunday). Hopefully there will be the time to put these ones on next time. The point is that there was effort expended to invite those from outside the core collective to put on workshops and that this bore fruit, especially the public sector strike workshop.

You're bang on the money to point out this troll has no positive solutions, and that it's no use complaining certain themes were'nt covered . Where were Indymedia? Where were No Borders? Conspicuous by their absence.

As far as the Cottage is concerned, I think 'lifestylist' is overegging the pudding a little, but it is highly offensive to accuse him of a 'fabrication/projection' in such an anti-social manner. It is certainly the case that at the initial meeting with estate residents in the Cottage there was one /entirely unprompted/ proposal from the woman across the road for 'alternative' therapies in the Cottage, and this was the only formal reference to 'alternative' therapies I can recall hearing in the Cottage. None of the residents present objected to the proposal IIRC.
More generally, I think it's a mistake to assume health is apolitical, and that the 'alternative/mainstream' opposition is apolitical. If you look at HIStory, the shift from what would now be considered 'hippy' therapies, ie the healing skills and health care services practiced by local/women healers, towards health being commodified and medicalised into a male professional class of experts isn't some accident of history, some apolitcal example of scientific progress. It was a concious takeover of health care, wresting it from local/female to the professionalised/male classes. It was intimately concerned with the progress of Capital.

The challenge now, as Lifestylist rightly points out more people seem to be waking up the the old, tested ways, is to ensure these workable 'alternatives' are not made to suffer the final indignity of ultimate commodification in the hands of Holland and Barret and their ilk, but democratised and brought back to where they belong. Critically and with us.

free spacer

Lifestyler and delusional fantasist

17.04.2008 14:11

"Im getting a very strong sense of that from this person who has a very personal vendetta against particular people involved in these and other actions/movements."

What actions are these?

I understand you and your partner weren't invited to the last couple of arrestable actions in Birmingham, because a whole load of people had serious reservations about working with you. That's probably because they've got experience of working with you in the past.

I know why don't you try and set up an activist network, it might provide you with a veneer of credibility...

Stand by your (abusive) man

Re: Social Nature

17.04.2008 15:43

Hi Grimalkin,

You said:-

"I'm a little confused as to why it would be great to have "social events, parties, film showings, and non-political workshops" at a social centre, while a problem to have "aromatherapy, astrology, face massage, and tarot workshops". This gives the impression that while not everyone will appreciate the latter (which is certainly true), absolutely everyone will enjoy the former (which is not true)."

I am not going to argue over the semantics :) The spirit of what I am saying is that everything should be in moderation, and in the last social centre it certainly was not, there was an unignorable bias towards new age interests and hobbies. These were the preference of two people who happened to be spending most time there, and treating the place like an extension of their home. When the place was strewn with incense, crystals, aromatherapy bottles, personal affects, and a library containing someone's books (including titles such as "Wizard's and sexuality" and "Cat Astrology") I can tell you for a fact that many people felt alienated. The purpose of the social centre (agreed consensually) was to campaign for the building to be reinstated for community use (a youth centre), but it later came to light that several members of the collective had machinations of living there and running the building as their own home and a "social centre". This was secretive and broke the original consensus agreed by the collective. There was also a huge problem with abusive and threating behaviour from an individual (including an assault of a minor) which was swept under the carpet because certain people were good friends with the abuser and preferred to side with them. Anyway, hope this illuminates what the controversy on this thread is *really* about (I don't think many people commenting negatively here are referring to the free space weekend - honest!). Anyway, there are too many bad things about that social centre to list here so I won't.

Anyway, I wholeheartedly agree with much of what you have said, and no I would not blame you for being idealistic, your solution of involving wider range of people sounds great.

Don't egg kids on to throw gas canisters on fires (in social centres)

Re: Health is not apolitical

17.04.2008 16:06

Hi free spacer,

"You're bang on the money to point out this troll has no positive solutions, and that it's no use complaining certain themes were'nt covered . Where were Indymedia? Where were No Borders? Conspicuous by their absence."

One question, were Indymedia and No Borders invited to this gathering?

Also, why are you so annoyed at No Borders and Indymedia? What about other activist groups in Birmingham such as South Asian Alliance and Birmingham, Guantanamo Campaign, West Midlands IWW, Birmingham Anti-Racist Campaign, and The Mikey Powell Campaign? Would you reserve such vitriolic anger for them too because they did not turn up?

With regards to your comment about healthcare I am really confused. No, healthcare certainly is not apolitical and yes it has been wrestled into the a male elite, but what has aromatherapy, astrology, face massage, and tarot workshops (which were the cause for complaint in such high doses - pun intended) got to do with alternative healthcare? No one here is criticising alternative therapies so please do not put words into people's mouths because you cannot come up with a valid response.

For the record, is it a fabrication to state that people from the working class comunity "came" and requested aromatherapy, astrology, face massage, and tarot workshops? Well yes. I don't remember those things being requested at the meeting (despite your protests that there were), and there was certainly no decision made to turn the place into mini version of the Zen shop. So no, it is not highly offensive to bring this up, just an inconvenient truth as it exposes your manipulation of consensus for your own ends.


Well done for a great weekend

17.04.2008 18:08

I came over from Nottingham (with one of the 2 sound systems) and was very inspired to see people working together to make a great space. There were lots of good and well attended workshops on all sorts of DIY politics, plenty of food and people getting to know each other so they can hopefully start an autonomous social centre. I found it particularly inspiring that were all sorts of different people and people from all walks of life. Good luck with your project and I look forward to coming over and working with you guys again.



18.04.2008 11:01

Good point, free spacer. I hadn't meant it to sound like there were no workshop organizers from further afield than Birmingham that weekend. There were!

Thanks, Don't [do stuff], that was a good post and I think I understand a little more what happened at the Cottage. It sounds like the collective could not quite rid itself of the hierarchical elistism prevalent in mainstream culture. That's a real shame, and possibly quite a tricky thing to avoid. Good to keep in mind, though.

I think the free space weekend in Brum went well, and *was* quite balanced in terms of what went on. Hopefully we can continue in that spirit.


watch your hands...

18.04.2008 12:53 the axe you've had to grind against these people all these years must be almost worn down into nothingness. It seems to be one of your passions. As before these people, it was someone else that you try to discredit and alienate. This hatred then broadens into the groups that the people are involved in. Which is when your horrible energy becomes very divisive and destructive for any progressive change to happen.

Many of us in these groups that this individual seems to dislike so much (eg food not bombs, free space brum,etc) have still raised awareness about the groups that he has tried to divide us from (eg No Borders, IWW, and Indymedia). This is because we see them as important, and we see that they are not his groups - contrary to what he may believe (as we've already seen in his above post on IWW, and that he has told people in No Borders that it will not be part of the West-mids activist network.

"For the record, is it a fabrication to state that people from the working class comunity "came" and requested aromatherapy, astrology, face massage, and tarot workshops? Well yes. I don't remember those things being requested at the meeting (despite your protests that there were"

There were in fact two people that requested it. One, on the first meeting, and the second was from the local mental health resource centre. The fact is that considering that we didnt get that many adults from the local community involved, two people may be enough to consider. That said we never really ended up doing these things that he despises anyway. It is in fact an actual fabrication that the place was turned into a mini version of zen.

The fact is that there were problems at the Cottage. And I had my frustrations there. But it is about working through them, learning from them, and moving on. Not ranting on about them for years, and trying to mess things up for other people.

black rainbow


18.04.2008 15:52

In response to:-

"There were in fact two people that requested it [tarot, aromatherapy, astrology etc].....The fact is that considering that we didnt get that many adults from the local community involved, two people may be enough to consider."

At the first meeting at the cottage the room was so full of local people that it was hard to move. In the meeting it was ascertained that the people wanted it reinstated as a community centre. I do not remember a single person who requested tarot and astrology but assuming they did, it still does not justify two individuals (who had enough spare time to devote to turning the place into an extension of their own home) breaking consensus in this deeply cynical and manipulative way. Their machinations to run the place as their own home and "social centre" (against consensus) were later exposed as they slipped up in hiding the evidence, but by then it was all too late. How could they do this? This was a severely deprived community. Were their dreams more important than the will of the local community?

hmmmm again

Re: watch your hands...

18.04.2008 15:54

As a few people on this thread have pointed out, learning from the past is is incredibly important to ensure the same mistakes are not repeated, and starting by acknowledging these mistakes is a good way of achieving this. So this is not so much of an axe to grind, just a yearning for the truth to be heard. Unfortunately this has not yet come to pass, which is why a number of people (not just one person as you seem to think) are keen to expose past events and have *everyone* learn from them. However much pain and embarassment this might cause for the subjects, it will be for the collective good of activism in Birmingham.

Two social centres in Birmingham have gone down the tube largely due to the actions of one individual, and their partner who will stop at nothing to cover up, make excuses for, and airbrush out of history their actions. When this fails they smear the names of these who dare to speak out. This individual has a vested interest in making sure that their victims voices are not heard. The will to expose the past is not "divisive and destructive towards progressive change", rather the opposite as it will allow people to learn from the mistakes of others.

Indymedia, No Borders, the IWW, and other groups are aware that no one "owns" them, they will make decisions democratically and consensually as they always have done. However these two individuals must understand that people have strong and valid reasons for not wanting to work with them (the fear of disruption, hidden agendas, breaking of consensus, abusive behaviour, and emotional blackmail to cover it up), and that these wishes should be respected. Since these two individuals are unwilling to admit past behaviour and actions what other choice do people have but to learn from the past and make this decision not to work with them?

As far as I know there are no activists in Birmingham who have any prejudices against Food Not Bombs and Brum Free Space. People involved in this thread have in fact been heavily involved in these groups in the past, but realised they could not be involved any more as they would be subjected to continuing abuse. So the grievance here lies with the one or two individuals who don't want the truth exposed, not with any groups per se. I am sure they would prefer their comrades in these groups to believe that there are people who dislike these groups, it would certainly help them stifle the truth. But we were once one of them, so how could we hate them?

The full story is yet to come out but it will be heard. Hopefully it will prevent another still-born social centre campaign and will breath new life into activism in Birmingham :)

Don't side with abusers over victims

ere we go (again)

19.04.2008 04:10

Hi hmmmm

>>One question, were Indymedia and No Borders invited to this gathering?

If I could refer you to the following article of January 3rd

I quote "Between those present at the meeting, there were about 15 groups which people were either members of or knew of which would definitely be interested in being part of an autonomous social centre in Birmingham. The email account [fsbATriseup]...has been created as a contact email for anyone interested in being involved; there will also be a mailing list created, probably to be called

"There will be another meeting on Wednesday 16th January 2008 in the [blah blah], to which everyone who would be interested in being involved in an autonomous social centre in Birmingham is invited, to discuss more concrete plans for both short term and long term free spaces. Please bring all ideas and suggestions you may have, especially for publicity and/or fundraising. The MAC is wheelchair accessible and is on the 1, 45 and 47 bus routes, see for how to get there.

Another Birmingham is possible - together we can create it!"

AFAIK (as far as I know) there was no direct invite to the two groups you mention, but I feel the above would not in any reasoned dispassionate view I can think of be construed as anything other than an open invite inclusive of those groups.

the 1st apr article [] stated
"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....[etc]"

"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."

In addition to this there was a reasonable amount of flyering going on and WOM no doubt. A few days before the event it appeared on the Brum Indymedia calender. No mention of any restrictions on offers of participation appear at any stage either publicly, or in discussion IIRC.

I was not being 'vitriolic' towards the groups I mentioned I feel. As is well known, text can sometimes easily be read into more than unmediated communication. Inn here I simply argued they were 'conspicous by their absence'. No more no less. As consensus within our group appears to stand at the moment, the invite to these groups stands.

>>With regards to your comment about healthcare I am really confused.

Uh huh. Well lets see if we can sort it out.

>>what has aromatherapy, astrology, face massage, and tarot workshops [...]got to do with alternative therapies?

I first heard of aromatherapy on Vic Reeves Big Night Out in the 90s. "Smell to get well. Essence of Nicholas Witchell". I thought it was a joke. I still do. Later I discovered though it was actually a real thing. I have no experience with it at all really, but I would say it is one of the most famous 'alternative therapies' going. I have no opinions much beyond that on aromatherapy.
Astrology and tarot i would not myself describe as alternative therapy IMO, no. Face massage is a health therapy that strikes me as not particularly alternative, if a little unusual.

You said:
>>For the record, is it a fabrication to state that people from the working class comunity "came" and requested aromatherapy, astrology, face massage, and tarot workshops? I don't remember those things being requested at the meeting [at the Cottage two and a half years ago]

And neither do I, for the record; hence:

>>(despite your protests that there were)

is a straw man (fallacious made up argument) since I have not 'protested' anything of the sort. I said

"It is certainly the case that at the initial meeting with estate residents in the Cottage there was one /entirely unprompted/ proposal from the woman across the road for 'alternative' therapies in the Cottage, and this was the only formal reference to 'alternative' therapies I can recall hearing in the Cottage. None of the residents present objected to the proposal IIRC."

I put the 'A' word in quotes because my memory tells me that she simply said that: 'alternative therapies' or some close synonym. No more no less. The only person reading 'astrology' into this my friend is you.

Oh and the other guy.

At no point in my comments have I mentioned anything about astrology or aromatherapy. To clarify hmmmm, if you are saying that I have then i request you withdraw that please.

>>there was certainly no decision made to turn the place into mini version of the Zen shop.
Again, i agree. Duh!

>>So no, it is not highly offensive to bring this up, just an inconvenient truth as it exposes your manipulation of consensus for your own ends.

I honestly have no idea what you are talking about here. Sorry.

Before I get back to some real work, may I say re the Cottage while I have no problem discussing fully the project in another forum/setting/arrangement, having nothing to hide and little to be ashamed of, I think and feel the idea of conducting a review of the thing - a 'social centre' of two and a half years ago - pseudonomosly on this thread is the most ridiculous idea I have heard since...oohh, say building the 2012 olympics on top of a much loved allotment in east london. As I say I 4one have no fear about discussing it, but I propose this this thread is not the place for it.

Anyway interesting chat as always.


Re: ere we go (again)

19.04.2008 19:12

Posted at: "19.04.2008 05:10"

Maybe your posts would make more sense if you got some sleep.


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