Seomra Spraoi

Dublin's Autonomous Social Centre

Give Us Some Space

New Initiative to Create Dublin Social Centre

This Friday, 3rd December, sees the premiere in Dublin of Six Films About Social Centres — a series of short documentaries about autonomous social centres from Belfast to Barcelona. Ideally, this screening should take place in an autonomous social centre, but Dublin has none. (A parish hall is being borrowed for the evening). This will be the first step in an ambitious attempt to establish an independent social centre in Dublin.

Starting at 8pm, there will be a screening, photo exhibition and brief discussion, followed by live music, a DJ and a raffle. The venue is the St. Nicholas of Myra Parish Hall, Carman’s Hall (a street running between Francis Street and Meath Street). Admission free or donation. For more information contact 0872861238. Please come along!

Map to St Nicholas' Hall
Map to St Nicholas’ Hall

World premiere of films about social centres

The films explore and celebrate the phenomenon of autonomous social centres in Europe, independent of local authority, church, business, trade union or other controlling body. These spaces have provided a focal point for many of the social movements in the West, where public spaces have been eaten away by consumerism, property speculation and the culture of the car.

They celebrate collective cooperation and diversity and have numerous day-to-day uses: community drop-in centre, inexpensive cafe, political meeting space, library, gig venue, arts centre, internet cafe, to name a few.

Usually these social centres begin as squats in derelict buildings and eventually come to be accepted by the local authorities. Unfortunately, Ireland is unique in Europe in that the authorities are utterly intolerant of the tradition of squatting.

So, in a year or two will someone be able to come to Dublin and make a documentary about an autonomous social centre here? Or will fundraiser gigs, political meetings and workshops always have to take place in Teachers’ Clubs or the upstairs rooms of pubs? Will Food Not Bombs always be at the mercy of the weather? Will there be somewhere indoors to go after street parties?

Gathering to discuss development of social centre for Dublin.

Several attempts were made in Dublin in the past couple of years to set up an autonomous centres in buildings that had been derelict for years, but these have been evicted by the City Council or by “heavies” employed by the owners. Clearly the Council would prefer to see buildings remain derelict rather than put to any use.

Today in Ireland there is virtually nowhere indoors for people to congregate that isn’t a pub or overpriced café.

Seomra Spraoi is the provisional name of a collective which has come together to create such a space in Dublin. Many questions have to be answered on the long road to establishing a social centre in Dublin, for example should it – as a matter of principle – be a squat rather than a rental, with any eviction attempt fought against in the courts, thereby making more of a public issue of it? This is an issue treated in the films.

But at least a start is being made: Friday’s event is an attempt to bring together people who are interested in such a project and hopefully to inspire people through the examples in the documentaries.

About the Films

by Direct action against apathy and Belfast media collective.

Temporary squatted social centre in Leeds, England, December 2003. 10 days & 10 nights. Hundreds of people transform abandoned warehouse into kick-ass space for workshops, discussion, parties, & cafes; chop vegetables & huddle together to keep warm. (12 mins 2004)

Our Kitchen Squat Café
Belfast’s first squat café November 2003, music, vegetables, & talk about anarchy in a very cold dark & secret place… (8 mins 2004)

Canmasdeu ‘Rurban’
Squatted social centre on the outskirts of Barcelona, bringing ideas, skills & technology from the countryside into the city. Sunshine, community gardening, fancy d.i.y. plumbing, & experiments in communal living. Canmasdeu is the squat your grandmother would love. (28 mins 2004)

Three Social Centres in Amsterdam
Does exactly what it says on the tin. A tour of three legalised squats in Amsterdam; the Molli, the Film Academy, & the Binnenpret. Squat actions, children’s theatre & electro-acoustic concerts with musings on the merits & pit-falls of ‘dealing with the man’. (34 mins 2004)

A Winter Walk Through Christiania
A quiet stroll through the infamous squatted town in Copenhagen; frozen lakes, wooden cottages & winding paths in the brilliant winter sun followed by a raid from the Danish police. (6 mins 2004)
Sumac Centre
Vegan fries, vegan beer, vegans, & home to veggies the probably the best vegan catering outfit on the planet. The Sumac is a co-operatively owned ‘Radical environmental community type social centre’ in Nottingham. Some vegetables were cooked in the making of this film. (18 mins 2004)