Manchester has a radical social centre again

A new collectively-run space dedicated to bringing Manchester’s disparate networks of activism together was opened yesterday, nearly a decade on from the fire which put the city’s last major radical social centre out of commission.

Based on the upper floor of 19 Cheetham Hill Road, the Partisan group has set up in a similar way to other recent radical co-ops such as DIY, building an initial fund to rent the space and then opening it on a membership model, with a combination of member subs and events helping to keep the project financially viable.

Talking on Why Partisan and Why Now, a special opening edition of what they intend to be a regular podcast update, organisers said Partisan would aim at “building Utopias now rather than into the future.”

Explaining the process of setting up Partisan, the group said: “About two years ago we were trying to set up a housing network, but at the time we found it really difficult to find somewhere to meet — they were either unsuitable, pubs or £50 to do which was really expensive. And we also had musical nights going on, and it didn’t make sense to be continually paying all this money.”

The group decided in 2016 that they would try a fundraising drive towards renting a central place in Manchester, and tapped into a latent demand for space which saw them raise more than £14,000 via fundraising site Spacehive. Once the cash was there “we just got into a gang and roamed around Manchester looking for places with ‘to let’ signs,” an organiser said.

On their hopes for the project, the group said they wanted to bring together a space for both progressive groups looking for a home and to enable a unique, member-controlled cafe bar, social centre and music venue where money goes to the community, rather than business pockets:

We really want this to be a permanent resource for the city. We want to provide a free space for political organising, that might be for feminist organising, sex worker organising, mental health advocacy groups — there’s so many things going on that need support.

The space will also be collectively owned by the people who use it and the people who work there and that’s really important when almost everything is privately owned now.

Partisan is having the first of its monthly meetings in the new space tomorrow 4-6pm, and is looking for support from anyone with useful equipment and/or a bit of time and energy — no experience required. The space will be open 8am to 10pm for the next month as people work on doing it up and making it disabled-access.

Upcoming open weekends will also bring affordable events, culture and art to the city. These weekends will also act as fundraisers to raise the money needed to make the new Partisan space fully accessible to wheelchair users. The first weekend will take place on 28th-30th July, and will feature workshops, art, music, and more.

Manchester has lacked a permanent venue since a fire destroyed radical social centre The Basement in 2007 despite various attempts, including SubRosa in 201315. Squatted venues have had some successes in the meantime, including Cornerhouse which has provided a self-organised space for the city’s street homeless population for the last few months, supported by Manchester Activist Network, and hosted a hugely successful arts project, Loose Space, earlier this year.

 

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