Many readers will be aware of the success of autonomous social centres in other European cities, independent of local authority, church, business 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, and internet cafe, to name a few.
Several attempts were made in Dublin in the past couple of years to set up autonomous centres in buildings that had been derelict for years, but these have been evicted by the City Council or by 'heavie'_ employed by the owners. Clearly the Council would prefer to see buildings remain derelict rather than put to any use.
Seomra Spraoi is the provisional name of a collective which has come together to create a social centre space in Dublin
In early December there was huge response to the call for a gathering to initiate an Autonomous Social Centre in Dublin, over a hundred people came and watched films about centres across Europe and chatted over vegetarian food served afterwards. Then on the 21st of December we had a well attended gig in the Voodoo Lounge, where fans of both punk and dance were entertained and more funds were raised. How long before we can use/raise that money towards a building is the question.
After the Xmas break we had another meeting in the first week of January to see how far we got with research on the finance and structure of the proposed social centre. We have expanded on our wishlist of functions for the centre and now we have to start making these a reality under one roof. As we organise, we are coming across the very factors which have made it necessary to take this ambitious project on: small borrowed rooms, restrictions on their use and no consistent place for people to know where we are.
We have been talking to people involved in social centres and how they go about it and making contacts with them and remembering our own experiences on our travels to spaces around Europe and elsewhere. We are still refining the question of what do we want and how do we make it happen within the restriction of doing it the legal way, (insurance, finance, legal form etc.).
Next we will be concentrating on the search for a location, raising more money and getting more people involved. We are looking for more people who think they could help with the project in any way and also for talented people to entertain at our monthly gigs.
Housing, space and squatting in Ireland
This edition is No84 published in Jan 2005