The Social Centre Bulletin: GAS and bookfairs

Is there really anywhere else quite like a good social centre? Peter Ó’Máille considers the value of rebel community hubs and updates on what’s happening in our libertarian networks.

Whether heady with punky vibes and revolution like the Red and Black Umbrella (pictured above) was or more holistic community focused like Nottingham’s Sumac with its open space and family friendly atmosphere, a good social centre immediately feels like a nest, a warm cwtch to your soul. More than just a Labour club hall or some general meeting space, a social centre has liberty and community woven into the walls. It’s there in the homemade counter top, the array of leaflets dating back a few years, the random assortment of pans on top of the kitchen cupboards (including the vast one that could feed an army) and nine times out of 10 the toilets covered in stickers and doodles from years’ worth of activists and organisers sat on the pot.

Often these spaces reach way beyond our politics and become a much broader community hub, the seed planted and left to grow they truly take on their namesake and become a social hub for the local community and the network of rebels and rabble rousers who use them. They live and breathe and find themselves home to a thousand stories.

One such place is the Glasgow Autonomous Space, or GAS as everyone calls it. It is home to a plethora of projects from a print collective to a foodbank, a woman lead welding collective to regular inclusive fitness classes. It’s the roost of a dozen DIY and Queer gig promoters. They provide a hub for the folk fighting the horrific Serco evictions and a space for work advice drop ins.

The space never rests and its crew work tirelessly for their community.

Being such awesome humans, they reject the tawdry ways of capitalism and like to keep the space as accessible and available as possible. This means that they are only just able to pay the bills and keep the place ticking over. Their quarterly rent hangs on a shoe string, the crew hoping that the fundraisers they’ve got lined up will do the job. Heck even the extra bits of change they do get go to things like covering bus fares for the families affected by the immigration system who come to the garden, so that they could attend organising meetings at GAS. That’s solidarity and mutual aid right there. It’s fucking beautiful.

Maybe if you’re in a decent position you might care to help them keep up this good work and either become a Patreon through their website, make a one-off donation by getting in contact and sorting out the details or if you in Glasgow, pop along and chuck a few quid in the blue donations box in the main bit.

Useful buttons at the 1in12, circa 2013. Pic: Cory Doctorow

Interview: Bookfair at the 1 in 12 Club

A few hundred miles south down Bradford folk have come together and set up a brand spanking new Radical bookfair which will be on September 7th. In between our busy lives I managed to pull aside one of the organisers, Mikey from the Rebel Cat Collective, and pick his brains a little about the event.

What made you want to organise a bookfair mate?

I was involved in the failed attempt four years ago to do a Leeds one and wanted to do it. Last year there was a series of events around the spycops campaign that a mate and me wanted to do but for various reasons the Rebel Cat Crew decided to do a bookfair instead.

Why a bookfair tho?

Bookfairs are an important way to distribute ideas and information specifically on radical ideas and politics. With the rise of the internet and social media I think that bookfairs are even more important as a way of meeting people, networking and engaging people away from the false world that inhabits social media

Where is it going to be held?

We are holding the bookfair at The 1 in 12 Club in Bradford. The club was formed by members of Bradford’s Anarchist orientated Claimants Union in 1981. The immediate objectives of the club were to generate and sustain a social scene, accessible and affordable to both the low waged and unemployed. When, in 1981 a government investigation into benefit fraud (the ‘Raynor Report’) found that ‘1 in 12’ claimants was actively “defrauding the state”, the union adopted this statistic for themselves.

The 1 in 12 Club is a not for profit organisation relying heavily on the time donated by its unpaid members. The 1 in 12 Club is owned, managed and run by its members, founded on the anarchistic values of self-management, co-operation and mutual aid. Together we are a community of people aiming to provide an affordable, non-commercial venue for events, socialising, meetings & information.

The history and set up of the club makes the 1 in 12 a really unique place in Bradford. Its structure means the members are responsible for the well being and running of the entire place! That goes right from stuff like fixing the loos, book keeping to cleaning, to working the bar, website maintenance and putting on events.

We (Rebel Cat) have been putting on gigs there for 3.5 years, and I used to go to gigs, meetings and events there from the mid 1980s, it is an important space and need events to keep it going and to keep its ethos.

Will there be other events around the bookfair?

All money from the stalls (£5 or a donation collected on the day) will be going to the club. There is a Rebel Cat gig following the bookfair and the proceeds from this will be split between the club and the Rebel Cat Collective. The gig is an acoustic gig set around the UK tour of the ex Chumbawamba frontman Danbert Nobacon accompanied by Kira Wood-Cramer and supported by acoustic sets from the following punk bands, Nieviem (Lincoln), Distort (Bingley), as well as Gerrard Bell-Fife (Bradford singer songwriter) and Rich Gulag (Nottingham).

Cool what stalls have you got lined up?

We have the following stalls confirmed: Anarchist Federation, Anarchist Communist Group/West Yorkshire ACG, Cubesville zines, 0161 Festival, No Sweat/Punk Ethics, Haven Distribution, PM Press/AK Press/Active Distribution, Freedom News, IWW, Olive Branch Café, Red And Black Leeds (RABL), Hunt Saboteurs Association, Radical Routes, LGBTQ+ online Bookstore from Leeds, Pirate Press, and Solidarity Federation (SolFed).

What talks do you have talks line up?

Anarchist Federation – Capitalism is Killing the Earth; An Anarchist Guide To Ecology & a Discussion on the General Strike for the climate on the 20th.

Between estrogenes and tough guy Hardcore – Trans*women(sic) in the punk scene by Maja Hagedorn.

Poetry Corner and Masterclass:
Kier Milburn a short talk on his new book Generation Left

Also IWW and ACG will hopefully be doing a workshop and a talk respectively.

Smashing mate, thanks for your time and I hope the bookfair goes well!
Make sure to check it out at the 1 in 12 in Bradford on the 7th of September. Here is the Facebook event.

Shiny books and dark inks at the Star and Shadow

The 1 in 12 isn’t the only social centre making itself available for Anarchist and Radical Bookfairs either, as we can now announce that next year on May 9th,the Star & Shadow Cinema will be playing host to the inaugural Newcastle Ewan Brown Anarchist Bookfair, which is being held in remembrance of Ewan Brown, a local Anarchist militant who died this year after police harassment.

It is being organised, alongside others, by the North East Anarchist Group which will be showing his films and his artwork during the bookfair as well as hosting stalls, workshops and music. They also plan to include a Mixed Martial Arts class at Newcastle Fight Centre, which is sure to be boy educations and – forgive me – kick ass.

Ewan was deaf and so one of the major issues for NEAG and the rest of the organising committee will be on working on making it accessible and it’s heartening to see them note: “This is, without question, a trans-inclusive event”. Due to limited space stalls will be by invite only, but we’ll let you know more about the event as the folk up in Newcastle pull it all together. If you share word about the event make sure to tag it with the hashtag #BeMoreEwan

They’ve chosen a fantastic space too, The Star and Shadow is a volunteer run, horizontally-structured social centre in Newcastle. They not only show some tidy films and hold fundraisers, they’re now playing host to an epic bookfair.

Social centres holding Anarchist bookfairs organised by rebellious mobs. That is for me the trifecta of awesome.

Look forward to them both!

Now for the third bulletin here I’ve decided to give the calendar of events a miss this month, see how that works. Instead I’ll direct people to the map of social centres on Organise!, most of which have calendars on their websites anyway.

So check out your Local Centre and maybe even give ’em a nudge and pitch in a shift.

~Peter Ó’Máille


Social Centres to check out

Birmingham
The Warehouse Cafe

Bradford
The 1 in 12 Club

Brighton
Cowley Club

Bristol
BASE

Cardiff
Gentileza

Edinburgh
ACE (Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh)

Glasgow
GAS (Glasgow Autonomous Space )

Hull
Ground

Leeds
Wharf Chambers

Liverpool
Next to Nowhere

London
56a Infoshop
DIY Space For London
LARC (London Action Resource Centre)
The Common House
The Field
Sylvia’s Corner
MayDay Rooms
Decentre
The Feminist Library

Manchester
Partisan Collective

Newcastle Upon Tyne
Star and Shadow

Nottingham
Sumac Centre

Oxford
Oxford Action Resource Centre

Sheffield
HeartCure Collective