Social Centres update: Common house in trouble, Partisan nears opening

Radical social centres across Britain have run into financial issues recently, with business rates rises causing trouble for Larc in east London and the Cowley Club in Brighton this year. For the Common House however cash problems have followed on from the loss of their major funding grant — and they’re in dire need of solidarity to stay afloat while they reorganise. But brighter news is also afoot, as Manchester’s Partisan centre nears its first open day and Freedom hits its first funding target…

The Common House

Based in Bethnal Green, east London [map], Common House has been running since 2013 as a sort of front room for progressive movements all over the city. Organisers say the space has hosted over 7,000 hours of community action over the last four years including over 500 meetings, 350 classes and workshops,120 complementary healthcare sessions, 80 reading groups, and 110 film screenings.

The collectively-managed space has 13 member groups which contribute regular sums and energy to keep Common House running, spanning everything from sex work campaigners and radical education to theatre and community groups.

Most of its £20,000 annual running costs have until now been covered by grants, but that money is set to run out in September, and in order to keep going while new funding streams are found the building is looking to raise £15,000 to cover the next nine months of operations.

Full details of the fundraising drive are here and initial signs are very positive — a day into the campaign they’re already 11% of the way there.

Cowley Club

Brighton’s famed radical institution was bought as a shell in 2002 and has been rebuilt almost from the ground up over the following 15 years by countless hours of volunteer effort and community contributions. Organised as a private members club, it hosts some of the city’s best music nights and provides space for a number of progressive organisations — including for a long time the legendary SchNews team.

A member of Radical Routes and the Radical Social Centre Network, the Cowley has weathered a number of financial storms already and sometimes looked on the verge of closing down, but has survived into 2017 where it was, at the start of the year, hit by a double whammy of business rates and a major bill for roof repairs.

They are currently fundraising to keep the doors open and the ceilings dry, which can be done by either donating or through investing with loanstock.

Partisan

There’s more positive news at Britain’s newest radical space in north central Manchester, as they open the doors for their first open weekend on July 28th. A huge amount of sprucing, painting and furniture moving has already been done and the space is shaping up nicely.

Organisers are running the space on a similar model to DIY Centre in London and has three days of music and workshops ready to go already, suggesting they’re not going to be short of interest from groups which have been left short of space for years now.

Freedom

And last but not least, there’s also been some good news at the Freedom building itself in Angel Alley. Having opened a campaign to raise cash for major works on the (somewhat dilapidated) old spiritual home of London anarchism we have now raised the first tranche for key works!

It’s only the first third of what’s been suggested by the surveyor, but will allow us to do things like sort the roof out and have a go at the outside of the building, which is key to keep it upright and dry while we work on getting the rest of the cash, and securing Freedom for another 50 years or so. Onwards and upwards!