Seomra Spraoi

Dublin's Autonomous Social Centre

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Posts from previous Seomra Spraoi websites that have been imported

More musings on social centres in Ireland…

generously seasoned with quotes from European examples

(by Darren)

The Seomra Spraoi event in Dublin at the weekend was great. There were really lots of people talking (& itching to get started) on Irish/Dublin spaces…

Thinking about it on the train I wrote this article…

I reckon a really important premise for starting a social centre is that you’re doing it ‘d.i.y.’ (Do-it-yourselves & for yourselves). If you’re setting up a space for anyone else it’ll probably be a thankless task…

Always when people start their own activities they start with the things they really need. Sometimes a place to come together sometimes it’s a place for their kids sometimes it’s a place for practising with bands but I think people mostly make what they need. That’s also the positive thing of squatting a space you don’t have to wait for someone else to tell you what it can be — you can project your own ideas.
Binnenpret: A/dam

I don’t think it’s our role as ‘activist communities’ to provide social space (or other services) to ‘wider society’. That’s not to say that our actions & spaces cannot have an impact outside of our own political & social circles.

I think people are beginning to see the need for creating our own informal places were we can meet or where people can be attracted who aren’t directly in our social circles. It’s like a form of outreach about anarchist politics, community organising, & environmental politics. Without this kind of space people often don’t get to know about that stuff & we’re not very good a lot of the time of communicating. So this is a nice way of getting to know new people.
Aspire: Leeds

I think a problematic assumption in Ireland is that people setting up a social space owe ‘you’ something. For instance ‘you’ may believe the Magpie squat in Dublin ‘did little to advance squatting/political ideology’, but I don’t remember them making any announcements or promises saying they would. (Anyway I disagree with this assessment I know at least 2 squats in Belfast & many more around the country that were pretty much directly inspired by the Magpie House).

Even in countries with long term squatted social spaces; 9 times out of ten a new squat is a short (albeit passionate) affair. People keep opening more & learn from every experience, & occasionally they last a long time.

I thought Disco Disco was a very successful action even though we only had the squat for 25 hours. Everyone went through the process of gathering the information which I might add was 10 times harder than doing any squatting action here as here there’s 35 years of history behind us.

I think that’s the only difference between squatting here & squatting in Ireland is 35 years. Once the crew there get going there’ll be no stopping them now they have the experience & knowledge.
Amsterdam Squatter & Disco Disco Veteran

I don’t think we need to get too embroiled in debate over we should be making legal or squatted spaces, they are certainly not mutually exclusive (& it’s not as though we’d only wanna see one social centre in Dublin). For instance in Amsterdam legalised spaces hold ‘squatting info hours’ where people can come along & get info & advice & practical help with squatting.

Giros/Warzone Centre was a rented space that existed in Belfast for 18 years, which essentially managed to pull off a lot of cool stuff, & spending 5 years of my life (hey & I’m not jaded!) organising activities there I never found the legal aspects of the place very constraining. In the end Giro’s closed because we didn’t feel like doing it anymore. (‘The Man’ never bothered us much).

I don’t think it comes down to whether it’s a squat or a legal space. The things that are important are the people involved & what they do. If we’re doing good stuff it doesn’t matter that we’re legal even if we’re working within the system we’re still doing good stuff.
Sumac Centre: Nottingham

In the end context is everything…
& We can always play with spaces until we find something that works for us in the places we live. We probably won’t get it ‘right’ first time. (We’ll probably never get it ‘right’ – who wants to be ‘right’ anyway?)

& I guess it also comes down to whatever floats your boat…
If breaking locks gets you wet & filling funding applications doesn’t you’re probably looking at a squat. If your not keen on being knocked around the head by some of our friendly boys in blue or having an exposé in the Irish Star, maybe you should think about a legal space…

I’ll end with some words of advice for different social spaces…

It’s important to have a good group to be sure that people are really involved to have good interaction with the local people that’s very important it’s a social place it’s the kind of place to build the social links we’ve lost in the society.
Canmasdeu: Barcelona

International networking can be useful to share experience & share knowledge.

As far as meetings go if you try to use facilitators use structured meetings just so when emotions run high there’s a way to deal with it. Because it’s quite common when pressure mounts these group decision-making processes become very dysfunctional. So it’s good to have a facilitator who can steer a group towards decisions rather than fall apart in quarrels & arguments. I think that’s one of the most important things about working with other people in a non-hierarchical setting.
Film Academy: Amsterdam

If you’re gonna embark on the crazy adventure that is setting up a social centre you mustn’t underestimate how much work it is. We never realised how much work it would be to get the building up & running some people said if they realised how much work it was they might not have done it & they were at the very limit of their capacity. You need to have a crew of people who are not just excited about it but also have the time & energy to dedicate to the place.
Sumac Centre: Nottingham

If people are interested in doing it don’t exclude them the more people squatting the better. Be inclusive.

Don’t be afraid to do it take risks. Nothing is achieved without taking risks. After the first couple of squats are established go public start organising things have info-cafés on site. Only squat things owned by the government.

Just squat things everywhere, not to be centralised it’s easy for people to think outside Dublin there’s nothing — just bog. But people in Cork are ready to go for it. Go squatting in the countryside all these people that have gone to America or have died & left behind farms reclaim the streets reclaim the city. Just keep going.
Amsterdam/Disco Disco crew

Seomra Spraoi: Social Centre Orgainising Meeting

There will be a meeting tomorrow evening, Thursday 9th of December 2004 in the Ecological and Environmental Non Governmental Organisations (EENGO) office, 10a Camden Street at 7pm. This office is located upstairs above a shop called Bounty Stores. Just buzz on the button that says EENGO.

The purpose of the meeting is to further discuss the possibilities of starting a social centre in Dublin city.

To date there have been a number of meetings and there was a video screening on the issue held last Friday, December the 3rd.

There have yet been no solid decisions made. All involved have agreed that a space is needed in the city for groups and individuals that wish to organise in an autonomous way. A number of excellent suggestions have been made as to what such a place could be used for eg. occassional cafe, library, meetings, art, printing, music, workshops…

There are lots of people interested in getting involved. There are lots of ideas and there is a desperate need for this type of centre. Now what is needed is that we organise, plan and realise the dream!!

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)