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Leeds social centre relaunched with incredible film festival

Commoner | 05.11.2005 03:50 | Free Spaces | Social Struggles | Sheffield

After months of delicate deliberation, hard work and hilarious DIY, The Common Place – an autonomous social centre in the heart of Leeds city centre’ – finally relaunched last night with resounding success.

Around 100 people attended the first night of The Revolution Will Be Televised, TEN DAYS of consecutive political films, talks, gigs and art exhibitions organised by a network of Leeds-based anticapitalist activists in conjunction with the annual Leeds International Film Festival. Attendees enjoyed Punk Attitude, a great documentary about the origins of the punk music scene, and then two shit hot punk bands, Geordie punk metal ska outfit Goddamn Minivan and true hardcore punk band Valdez. The Common Place bar served organic lager, ale and local fruit wine, Zapatista fair trade organic coffee and lots and lots of delicious vegan food. An appeal was made for solidarity donations towards the Zapatista communities in Mexico devastated by Hurricane Stan. Loads of new people expressed an interest in getting involved in The Common Place; some could not believe that everything was vegan and organic, or that internet access was free! There was an incredible atmosphere of solidarity, mutual aid and enjoyment, a fact that made the last few months of frustrating work worthwhile.

The Common Place began as an idea back in April 2004 when Leeds ARC (Action for Radical Change) initiated a gathering of interested people in Leeds about the possibility of having a rented social centre in Leeds as part of the Dissent! mobilisation towards the 2005 G8 in Gleneagles, Scotland.

Once the G8 summit ended, much of the wind in The Common Place’s sails initially fell out, especially as the local authorities deemed the disused factory building unsafe for public events. But having been approached by the Leeds International Film Festival to be the fringe venue and political progrannme of this year’s festival, the past two months has seen The Common Place buzzing with people mucking in to get the building ready as a political cinema venue. We have built fire lobbies, new toilets, new floors, a kitchen, 3 new toilets, an Indymedia centre for Leeds-Bradford Indymedua, a fully-functioning cinema complete with projector, surround sound, blacked out doors, proper cinema chairs, organic popcorn and a massive homemade widescreen. The space is now ready to grow as a radical laboratory of political activism in Leeds.


get in touch: 0845 345 7334;

The fringe festival programme at The Common Plce has two very distinct halves. From 4-8 November, The Common Place will be host to some twenty political films selected by the organisers of Leeds International Film Festival. Highlights include: The Beat of Distant Hearts (Sat), which examines the lives and works of the Saharawi refugee poets, singers and painters fighting for independence in south western Algeria; and films from the Middle East conflict (Mon), featuring the UK premiere of Refuseniks, which documents the testimony of several Israeli men and women who risk imprisonment by refusing to serve in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Then, from 9-13 November, The Common Place presents its own range of inspiring political documentaries, films, talks and gigs. Each day has a special theme: Czech surrealism, featuring Svankmaier’s Quiet Week in the House and David Jarab’s Vaterland – a hunting logbook; !America Latina Vive!, with films on the Zapatista uprising in Mexico, the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela and the history of the Argentinian military dictatorship seen through the life of Raymundo Gleyzer, the militant Argentine filmmaker kidnapped and murdered by the junta in 1976; Autonomia, revisiting the radical Italy of the seventies with Radio Alice, the story of the Italian free radio movement, and Antonio Negri – a revolt that never ends, profiling the controversial life and times of the autonomist Marxist philosopher and militant imprisoned for ten years for alleged links to the Red Brigades terrorist group; Precarity Planet, showcasing an incredible 13 films about the precarious state of our natural and social environment and a special live after-midnight concert by music industry-critic, musician and author Mat Callahan; and Fire in our hearts: Stories of anti capitalist resistance, which includes amazing footage from key moments in the recent uprising against globalcapitalism’s institutions of oppression, a talk & discussion ‘Making Poverty History or the New Scramble for Africa?’ with the exiled Pan-African freedom fighter, Kofi Mawuli Klu, and Naomi Klein’s film, The Take, exploring the phenomenal rise of occupied workers factories during the 2001 Argentinean uprising against neoliberalism.

The beauty of The Common Place’s film festival is that attendees get more than just great political films about revolution – they will be actively participating in that revolution as well. The Common Place aims to create an accessible, self-managed and non-hierarchical space in the city in which together people can recover those things being eroded by the market society: a sense of community and solidarity, affordable food and entertainment, a non-commercial place to relax, talk, meet people or find information on political campaigns, issues and actions.

This is why participating in Leeds International Film Festival is so important. Cultural experience in Britain is being priced out of our reach by the companies that increasingly control every aspect of social and economic life. But in contrast to the mega-expensive out of town corporate cinemas, entry to the Common Place film festival is by suggested donation of just £1, which includes a special free membership of the social centre. Instead of the corporate muck served in Virgin and the like, The Common Place’s licensed café – open daily throughout the film festival – will be serving organic, fair trade tea, coffee, beer, wine and vegan cakes & snacks. All monies raised will help keep this commercial free, non-profit social centre open to the local community, and prolong the political cinema experience – we plan to have film screenings every Sunday. Families and refugees are especially welcome, and it will be a great occasion to meet new people, find out what is really happening in Leeds and across the world, and get involved in an exciting new political movement for radical social change.

The Common Place is run horizontally and voluntarily. By this we mean without leaders and hierarchies and by everyone for everyone. This reflects the kind of society we want to live in – it’s all about self-organisation and mutual aid. You see, for us running the world is too important to be left to politicians, experts or corporations. Instead, it’s up to common people like us to do it. Membership is just £2. The Common Place is open to all local groups and individuals to use, but is not a space that can be used to represent political parties, profit-focused or repressive organisations. So far, we have provided free meeting spaces, started a community garden, set up a cheap healthy vegan café, bookshop and library, offered Internet by donation, created a place for local bands, poets, musicians and independent film screenings, and gone collectively to the 2005 protests against the G8 in Scotland. We have also been a base for Leeds-Bradford Indymedia The Common Place is organised into Collectives who run all these activities through face to face meetings and email. We will be putting on regular events over the next year, including a ‘Friday Social’ featuring gigs, music, and other cultural events, and our ‘Sunday Political Cinema’ screening the latest films from the global resistance movement.

Throughout the festival we are also hosting two political art exhibitions: the annual Art Not Oil exhibition that coincides with protests against BP’s sponsorship of the National Portrait Gallery awards; and multimedia work about the ongoing struggle in Western Sahara, featuring installations on landmine victims, refugees and disappeared activists.

Download the entire programme in PDF

The revolution will be televised
10 days of radical political films and talks in the heart of corporate Leeds

Between 4-13 November, the Common Place is host to the political fringe of the 2005 Leeds International Film Festival (LIFF). The programme has two very distinct halves. From 4-8 November, we will be showing great political films selected by LIFF; after that, the Common Place cinema collective takes over with a range of inspiring and challenging political documentaries, films and talks from around the world

Throughout the festival we are also hosting two political art exhibitions: the annual Art Not Oil exhibition that coincides with protests against BP’s sponsorship of the National Portrait Gallery awards; and multimedia work about the ongoing struggle in Western Sahara, featuring installations on landmine victims, refugees and disappeared activists

The Common Place’s licensed café will be open daily throughout the film festival serving organic alcohol, tea, coffee, vegan cakes & snacks

Entry is by suggested donation of at least £1 (which includes special free Festival membership of the Common Place) - all donations help us keep the social centre open to the local community. Most of our films are suitable for all ages – families and refugees are welcome.

Leeds International Film Festival @ the Common Place, 4-8 November

For full details of films and showings, see the LIFF website:

2pm Africa Shorts (Various, 65 mins)
Binta and the Great Idea tells a gentle story set in a remote Senagalese fishing village to a beautiful soundtrack featuring Salif Keita and Baaba Maal. A Woman Alone is based on the experiences of a Togolese woman who has been a victim of modern slavery. Calicot charts the mysterious journey of cotton from the fields of Burkina Faso and The Big Race witnesses the ingenuity of kids in Madagascar
3.30pm Witches in Exile (79m, 2004, A Berg, Ghana / USA, sub)
Follows the daily survival struggle of Ghanaian women accused of witchcraft and banished from their communities to remote settlements
5.15pm The Beat of Distant Hearts: The Art of Revolution in Western Sahara
(50m, 2000, D Smith, UK, sub) Examines the lives and works of the Saharawi refugee poets, singers and painters fighting for independence in south-western Algeria
+ Talk: Current issues in Western Sahara by Tim Braunholtz of The Western Sahara Campaign UK
7.15pm Sisters in Law (104m, 2005, F Ayisi, K Longinotto, Cameroon/UK, sub)
Uplifting and extraordinary film about one small courthouse in the little town of Kumba, Cameroon, where two people stand up for the downtrodden victims of family abuse
9.15pm The Swenkas (72m, 2004, J Rønde, Denmark/South Africa, sub)
A group of Johannesburg labourers transform themselves every Saturday night into the best dressed men in South Africa

2pm Being Caribou (72m, 2004, L Allison / D Wilson, Canada)
An epic 5-month, 1000 mile journey following (on foot) the 120,000-strong Porcupine Caribou Herd threatened by oil company development plans
3.30pm The Source [Zdroj] (90m, 2005, M Mareek, Czech Republic, sub) UK Premiere
A film about the world’s first oil well, opened in Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan over a century ago, now part of an increasingly complex battle for resources, witnessing local corruption, the exploitation of local people and the corporate negotiations over the contract of the century
5.15pm A Decent Factory (79m, 2004, T Balmès, Finland, sub)
Examines corporate attempts to balance profit-making with social morality, focusing on Nokia’s relationship to a Chinese supply factory

6.45pm Mardi Gras: Made in China (72m, 2005, D Redmon, USA) UK Premiere
Explores how the cheap plastic beads for sale on every street corner at the New Orleans Mardi-Gras are made in sweatshop conditions in a tax-free Special Economic Zone in the rural region of Fuzhou, China
8.30pm The Net – the Unabomber, LSD and the Internet
(121m, 2003, L Dammbeck, Germany) UK Premiere
Combines travelogue and investigative journalism to trace contrasting counterculture responses to the cybernetic revolution. From early champions of media art like Marshall McLuhan to the ultimate opponent of technological control, Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, encountering terrorism, conspiracies, secrets and cover-ups along the way

6pm Refuseniks (60m, 2005, S de Vries, USA, sub) UK Premiere
Documents the testimony of several Israeli men and women who risk imprisonment by refusing to serve in the occupied territories. 18 year old Shani, original signer of a high school letter of protest to Ariel Sharon, medic Tal Belo, who wonders if his actions in the territories influenced a young Palestinian boy to become a suicide bomber and Israeli journalist Tanya Reinhart, contributing an historical perspective
7.15pm Peace, Propaganda & the Promised Land (80m, 2004, B Ratzkoff / S Jhally, USA)
An expert deconstruction of the mainstream media’s coverage of the conflict in the Middle East, particularly in the US, where foreign policy interests and Israeli public relations strategies exercise enormous control over reporting style and content
9pm Zero Degrees of Separation (89m, 2005, E Flanders, Canada, sub)
Selim and Ezra, a gay Palestinian-Israeli couple, are fighting for the right to live together in Jerusalem: Edit and Samira, a lesbian Palestinian-Israeli couple, are trying to figure out how to bridge the divide between their cultures

6pm Favela Rising (80m, 2005, J Zimbalist / M Mochary, USA, sub) UK Premiere
Hailed as a response to City of God, this hugely inspiring documentary with incredible Afro-Brazilian soundtrack follows an ex-drug dealer who found freedom in music and brought it freedom to the infamous favelas (shantytowns) of Rio de Janeiro
8.15pm Walking the Line (58m, 2005, J Levine / L Van Soest) UK Premiere
A shocking expose of the chaos along the U.S.-Mexican border where a growing legion of ranchers with shotguns have taken the law into their own hands
9.30pm To the Other Side [Al Otro Lado] (70m, 2005, N Almada, Mexico, sub) UK Premiere. Using Mexico’s 200 year-old tradition of corrido music, recounts the story of an aspiring corrido composer facing two life-changing choices: to traffic drugs or unlawfully cross the border into the United States

The Revolution will be televised 9-13 November

Wednesday 9 November

Czech surrealism night

7pm Introduction by Leeds Surrealist Group, setting an
historical context for surrealism in the Czech and Slovak Republics and giving
a personal view of contemporary Czech surrealist activities

7.20pm Quiet week in the house
(19m, 1969, J Švankmajer, no dialogue)
Jan Švankmajer has been an active member of the Czech Surrealist Group since 1970. A Quiet Week In The House is one of his early live action shorts and, like many of his films, the story is told through contemplating the actions of the characters rather than by dialogue. Following the same routine for six consecutive days, a dishevelled man drills a hole in a different door that leads from the same hallway and observes a variety of bizarre tableau through each

8pm Vaterland – a hunting logbook
(94m, 2004, D Jarab)
Vaterland is the first feature film by theatre director and member of the Czech Surrealist Group, David Jarab. Having elements of fantasy, horror, thriller, and detective films, it tells the story of the descendants of an aristocratic family who return to their ancestral home in an unspecified rural backwater. Adopting the traditions of the local community, they prepare and embark upon ‘the hunt’, following the unique and peculiar customs and rituals of this near- forgotten world. However, a sense of menace grows as the mystery of what they are hunting for unravels

Thursday 10 November

!America Latina Vive!

6pm Zapatista
(58m, 1998, Big Noise Production)
It is New Year’s night 1994, the day the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) comes into effect. To the Mayan Indian communities in the Lacandon Jungle of Southeastern Mexico, NAFTA symbolises the culmination of over 500 years of exploitation. That night, 2,000 Indian soldiers occupy several cities in the state of Chiapas and declare political and economic independence. They call themselves the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN). The government responds in the way it has always responded to uprisings in the South, with brutality and violence. Definitive story of the Zapatista rebel movement in Mexico, the main inspiration behind today’s anticapitalist movement

7.10pm Venezuela Bolivariana
(60m, 2004, Calle y Media Collective)
What is the incredible rise of Hugo Chavez and the Bolivarian Revolution all about? Thanks to its incredible grassroots and networking power, it is a revolution that transcends the national frontiers of Venezuela and contributes with concrete alternatives to the fight against neoliberal capitalism

8.30pm Update about the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas + info on how to support the struggle Followed by food in the Common Place Café

9.30pm Raymundo (127m, 2002, E Ardito & V Molina)
Recounts the life and work of Raymundo Gleyzer, the militant Argentine filmmaker kidnapped and murdered by the military dictatorship in 1976. Through Raymundo’s life, the film follows the story of Latin American revolutionary cinema and the liberation struggles of the 60’s and 70’s. Raymundo was one of the major architects of the militant cinema. This documentary will bring back what the CIA and the Latin American dictatorships couldn’t destroy: the memory, the ideals and the courage to tell the truth

Friday 11th November


7pm Radio Alice (111m, 2004, G Chiesa)
Revisiting the Italy of the radical Seventies and its obsessions with class struggle, creative anarchy and macrame ponchos, Radio Alice provides a fascinating glimpse of a time of protest. In a working-class district on the outskirts of Bologna, Sgualo (Tommaso Ramenghi) and Pelo (Marco Luisi) hang out at the local cafe, allergic to gainful employment. They don’t mind the occasional shady job for local hood Marangon (Valerio Binasco), but they’re convinced there’s little future whichever way they turn. Then they discover Radio Alice – the poster child of the Italian free radio movement – and get in touch with a new radical political consciousness that is spreading among the youth

9pm Talk & discussion
Growing up in the radical Italian seventies by Massimo Deangelis from The Commoner

10pm Antonio Negri – a revolt that never ends
(52m, 2004, (A Weltz and A Pichler)
1 July, 1997. An elderly man arrives in Italy on a flight from Paris where he is immediately arrested by special forces of the Carabinieri. Antonio Negri had finally returned voluntarily to his home country after 15 years of exile. A Revolt That Never Ends profiles the controversial life and times of this university professor, philosopher, militant, prisoner, refugee, and so-called ‘enemy of the state.’ It traces Negri’s roots in the history of radical left-wing movements in Italy during the Sixties and Seventies, illustrated through archival footage of workers’ strikes, factory occupations, terrorist actions, violent street confrontations, political repression, and government trials of dissidents. During these tumultuous decades, finding himself branded as an evil ideologue with alleged ties to the Red Brigades terrorist group, Negri spent ten years in prison and fourteen years in exile in Paris. His book Empire, coauthored with Michael Hardt, is an international bestseller

Saturday 12 November

Precarity planet

12pm Booklaunch & talk The Trouble with Music by Mat Callahan
There is a crisis facing music. The signs are everywhere, from the saturation of public space by tuneful trivia to the digital controversy. Quantity has replaced quality… Mat Callahan unravels these crises as well as music’s liberatory potential, and discusses the problems involved in entrusting such an important part of our culture – of our lives – to those who seek only to make a profit out of creativity. Mat Callahan has been involved in the music industry for over 30 years, running a performance space/magazine/studio (Komotion), being in a band (The Looters) and working as a producer

1pm End of suburbia: oil depletion and the collapse of the American Dream
(78m, 2004, G Greene)
With brutal honesty and a touch of irony, the End of Suburbia explores the American Way of Life and its prospects as the planet approaches a critical era, as global demand for fossil fuels begins to outstrip supply. What does Oil Peak mean for North America? As energy prices skyrocket in the coming years, how will the populations of suburbia react to the collapse of their dream? Are today’s suburbs destined to become the slums of tomorrow? And what can be done NOW, individually and collectively, to avoid the End of Suburbia?

2.40pm Reach for the sky: climate change and aviation (40m, Undercurrents, 2005)
How can cream pies, sitting on top of an airliner, singing on a runway or squatting a crane stop climate change? How do cheap flights increase sea levels? How did British activists stop an airport from destroying a beauty spot? Documentary exploring the growing activism against the UK government’s plans for airport expansion despite the growing threat of climate change

3.30pm The Jeffrey Luers story (40m, 2005, Cascadia Media Collective)
In June 2001, 23 year old forest defense activist Jeffrey «Free» Luers was sentenced to 22 years and 8 months in prison for the burning of three Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV’s) in Eugene, Oregon. Features the background of Jeff’s case and the motives for his actions from his perspective. It attempts to explain how the state has attempted to portray Jeff as an eco-terrorist leader, and the effects this has had on both the length of the sentence and his life behind bars

4.30pm World of Solitude: Iceland be damned (52m, 2004, P Steingrímsson)
An environmental tragedy on an epic scale is unfolding in Iceland. Here, the last arctic wildland in Europe, in the lee of Europe’s largest ice-cap, is under massive threat from an industrial hydro-power development. Environmentalists argue that the whole of the East Central Highlands should be designated as a ‘World of Solitude’ National Park, which could be of world heritage significance. Would the irreversible effects of the hydro-power project be compatible with such a vision?

Followed by a speaker and update from the campaign

5.50pm Shorts The Western ear that smokes poverty (6m, D Arandojo); C-Flat (2m, J Minton); Cumpleaños/Aging (1m, J Minton)

6pm Preacher with an unknown God (16m, 2005, R VanAlkemade)
The Church of Stop Shopping is a concept of Bill Tallen, a.k.a Reverend Billy, which uses televangelical satire. He uses this technique to get people’s attention about the effects corporate businesses like Wal-Mart and Starbucks have on America and across the globe. Preacher With an Unknown God documents the travels of the Church of Stop Shopping across America. «We want to ask that this register be neutralised,» the Reverend calls into a Starbucks, telling patrons they do not have to shop there. Includes the Rev’s trip to the Republican National Convention

6.20pm The Bid (26m, 2005, Agitate Films)
A new documentary by community filmmaker Parmijit Singh raises serious questions as to the benefits to East London of London’s Olympic Bid. The Bid shows another side to the 2012 Olympic story, one of community dislocation, eco-destruction and creeping authoritarianism

7pm Talks & films Worker precarity & resistance in action
What on earth is precarity? Well, whether we are ‘chainworkers’ in shopping centres and supermarkets, or ‘brainworkers’ floating around as freelance computer programmers and journalists, we are all suffering from rising job insecurity, intermittent work, employer attacks on basic rights, living costs and a general assault on what is left of the welfare state. This ‘precarious’ existence is particularly felt by migrant workers - and now they are fighting back. Come and hear Polish migrant workers living in the North West talk about their ongoing struggle against Resource Recruitment and Woolworths in Rochdale for breaking promises of decent pay and accommodation once they had been successfully lured from their home country. Followed by a series of short films on the theme of ‘precarity ‘

8.30pm The Yes Men (81m, 2004, D Ollman, S Price)
Follows a couple of anti-corporate activist-pranksters as they impersonate World Trade Organization spokesmen on TV and at business conferences around the world, setting out to shock their unwitting audiences with darkly comic satires on global free trade. Weirdly, the experts don’t notice the joke and seem to agree with every terrible idea the two come up with

10.15pm Trading Freedom: the secret life of the FTAA (56m, 2002, IMC)
The Free Trade Area of Americas (FTAA) is a proposed economic zone that will regulate the economic activity of one-sixth of humanity, overriding local democracy in favour of «rights» for multinational corporations throughout the Americas. This is a story of resistance - indigenous struggles, working-class organisations, women in rebellion, media activists and a huge network of NGOs

11.30pm Fourth World War (60m, Big Noise Films, 2004)
From the front-lines of conflicts in Mexico, Argentina, South Africa, Palestine, Korea, ‘the North’ from Seattle to Genoa, and the ‘War on Terror’ in New York, Afghanistan, and Iraq. While our airwaves are crowded with talk of a new world war, narrated by generals and filmed from the noses of bombs, the human story of this global conflict remains untold. Fourth World War brings together the images and voices of the war on the ground from over two years of filming on the inside of movements on five continents. Featuring Music from Manu Chao, Asian Dub Foundation, Múm, Moosaka, Cypher AD, DJ C

12.30am The Common Place presents... Mat Callahan in concert

Sunday 13 November

Fire in our hearts. Stories of anti-capitalist resistance

1pm Summit-stopping: the movies
Amazing footage from key moments in the recent global uprising against global capitalism’s
institutions of oppression. This is What Democracy Looks Like kicks off the action, bringing the historic protests against the WTO in Seattle in 1999 back to life. Crowd Bites Wolf (2.20pm) returns to the riotous scenes of the IMF/World Bank Meetings in Prague, 2000. The Miami Model (3pm) tells the tale of how thousands of activists gathered in Miami to struggle against the ministerial meeting of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), and how they were brutally attacked with rubber bullets, pepper spray, electric guns and shock batons, embedded reporters and information warfare, all coordinated by the new United States Department of Homeland Security. Finally, Indymedia IMC Reel (5pm) brings us the truth from the streets during the battle of Gleneagles at the July 2005 G8 summit

6pm Talk & discussion Making Poverty History or the New Scramble for Africa? by Kofi Mawuli Klu, exiled Pan-African freedom fighter from Ghana and chair of the Pan-Afrikan Task Force for Internationalist Dialogue (PATFID)

7pm Schnews: the movie (75m, 2005, Schnews Collective)
A retrospective of the UK direct action scene through the eyes of direct action and radical publishing collective Schnews. Fighting corporate power and grassroots democracy
8.15pm Talk A member of Brighton’s Schnews collective will lead a discussion on how taking direct action can save the planet

9pm The Take. Occupy. Resist. Produce (87m, 2004, A Lewis / N Klein)
As the events of the explosive Argentinian uprising of 2001 fade, this documentary takes a look at workers who occupy and re-open a factory under workers control. An emotional insight into the lives fighting neoliberalism and constructing a more just world
Cinema Collective



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