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First Court Hearing for The Cottage of Content's Occupiers

The Cottage Social Centre Collective | 23.08.2006 11:43 | Free Spaces | Social Struggles | Birmingham

Press Release: First Court Hearing for The Cottage of Content's Occupiers
23 July, 2006

The Cottage of Content, a community and youth centre in Sparkbrook closed by Birmingham City Council last year, was occupied on 9 July, 2006, by a group of activists, who, along with local people, aim to put the building back into community use.

Since the start of the occupation, the collective who organised the take-over have been issued with various letters from Birmingham City Council demanding they vacate the premises. The latest letter received was a court summons, scheduled for Thursday, 24 August. Members of the Collective are planning to defend their actions and the occupation of the Cottage at the hearing, which is taking place at Birmingham Civil Justice Centre (33 Bull Street, Birmingham) at 11:20am.

The first public meeting of the Cottage Occupied Social Centre took place on 10th July, 2006, where the occupiers and members of the neighbourhood expressed their common desire for the place to be returned to public social use. A petition to "save our community centre from property developers" was drawn up and circulated in the neighbourhood. This was followed by a general public meeting on 21 August, where local residents expressed their anger at the loss of a valuable community resource without being consulted by the Council, and their desire to have it back. There will be another general meeting on 29 August, where representatives from the Council, local Councillors and the local MP will be invited to face the local people.

Whilst building up a campaign to compel the Council to re-instate this valuable community resource, the space is being used for a wide range of activities, from DIY and educational workshops, screenings and socials, a community library and Internet café, to a meeting place for various grassroots groups, including Birmingham Food Not Bombs, Birmingham NoBorders, Indymedia Birmingham, Women Fight Back, Birmingham Solidarity Federation and the West Midlands Anarchists. A local playgroup is also using the building to meet up regularly, and a local dominoes team is going to meet up there soon. Regular, open meetings are held every Monday at 7:30pm.


Notes for editors:

1. The Cottage of Content Community Centre (147 Kyrwicks Lane, Sparkbrook, Birmingham) was closed in April, 2005, by Birmingham City Council, allegedly because of the former tenants' failure to pay the rent and bills, 22 years after the Council stopped its funding. It had since been boarded up and was due to be auctioned off on July 19th by Bond and Wolfe for commercial use with 'development potential', starting at £170,000. It was, however, withdrawn from auction a few day before the building was re-occupied, allegedly after Respect's Councillor for Sparkbrook, Salma Yaqoob, had intervened to halt the Council's selling of the centre to private developers.

2. The Cottage of Content was used by the local community as a youth club, a Yemeni Cultural Centre, for adult education and English lessons for asylum seekers. At no point were the community consulted by the City Council before closing it and putting it up for auction.

3. The two buildings, the community centre and the youth centre, had already been broken into and vandalised. The buildings were in a vulnerable state until the new occupiers made good the damage to the property by carrying out essential repairs, which included repairs to the roof, broken doors made good, replacing water pipes that had been ripped off from the main building, plenty of cleaning, plastering, decorating, recycling, cleaning-up the garden and mowing the grass.

4. Several members of the Social Centre Collective were involved in the Nursery Social Centre in Selly Oak, which was occupied for 8 months in 2004-05 (see for details). After several unsuccessful attempts to evict them, the Council agreed to return the building to community use with the RITE Project. 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 had evicted them from their previous building in order to sell it off. The RITE project are facing eviction again in May 2007, when the current building they are occupying will be demolished to make way for the contraversial Selly Oak Bypass. (See also: Brum Social Centre: squatter's success in bringing building back into social use:

5. There are currently over 300,000 empty homes across England alone. This is more than the number of homeless families, and homelessness applications to Birmingham City Council are twice the national average. Around 20 percent of these properties are within the public sector and many have been empty for more than six months, often with no good reason as to why they are left empty. Many are then handed over to the Economic Development Department (E.D.D.), a private company contracted by the Birmingham City Council to look after empty properties and eventually sell them.

For more information, contact us at:
Tel: 07971478341

The Cottage Social Centre Collective


Display the following 2 comments

  1. Good Luck — Chris
  2. :) — kidda