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Binnenpret: Amsterdam Jan 04









The Binnenpret also know as the Occi (it's music/theatre venue) is a pretty immense space, with a restaurant, cafe, bike workshop, art studios, performance venue, & a sauna... I caught up with Bouke in his studio there where among other things he makes comics about the squat scene in Amsterdam. You can also read an interview with Errika about the Kinderpret the kids activities in this social centre.

Tell me a little about yourself & how you got involved in the Binnenpret.

I think the way I got involved in squatting was at the beginning of the 90ís when I was young & needed somewhere to live somewhere closer to centre than the suburb where I lived. So I squatted a place with some friends in Amsterdam. So we were evicted quite fast & after we started living in another place & so lived in quite a few places until I started living in the squat where I still live now.

So the Binnenpret is also a legalised squat so I new some people who were working here I sometimes I came here. So slowly I came around this place. & years later I was interested in comic work graphical art I was making posters. I was doing posters for actions & for concerts & doing comics for books giving information telling people how to squat. Then this place suddenly became vacant & I was really lucky to be chosen in a meeting Ė here everything is decided by meetings where everyone of the different activities participate in who can get another space what activities can take over the next month. So I got the space & I make comics & make paintings & now & then I still make decorations & graphical design for websites & posters.

What kinds of activities go on in the Binnenpret?

I start on the street side there is a concert hall mainly alternative bands playing there 2/3 times a week & also in the daytime there are childrenís activities like childrenís disco & you have a number of spaces were people make music or art & a place where you can eat vegetarian & vegan food there is a sauna a bicycle repair place.

The artists space is divided into 2-practice space for bands I think around 15 bands practice here altogether. There are also some spaces for different kind of artists. For example there is a group of women here doing different art with glass next door there is someone doing metalwork.

There is also a small coffee bar in the middle of the square where the buildings are.

How many people are involved in organising all these activities?

I think already only in the Sauna there is 50/60 people there is a group in the cafť, another doing the concerts & a group doing the kids activities so I think already there is maybe around 200-250 who work here.

But there not here all together at the same time so you wouldnít really notice it but when you start to calculate itÖ

Are they all volunteers?

Yes & we had between 5 & 10 people who were subsidised by the government who were doing the book keeping & the maintenance different things that needed to be taken care specialised work more or less.

There is a new government really conservative which is cutting budgets & social work so in the future we have to do it all ourselves again & I think thatís the way it started all by volunteers so I think we can do it but it will be more difficult than before.

Is it difficult to find volunteers?

Itís more difficult as students have less time to study & life since the introduction of the euro has become much more expensive & there loads of reasons why itís become more difficult to find volunteers.  & On the other hand when its really difficult & itís really a sort of challenge it also motivates people to do more because they have to really fight for your place. & Also people here realise when you rely on a government subsidised job there may be a day when theyíre out of money then youíre out of money too.

What is the legal status of the Binnenpret?

In the past they mainly made an agreement with the city authorities that we would maintain the spaces & in return for that all the spaces where given away for one guilder symbolically & it was a sort of contract for 20 years so in 10 years people have to negotiate again with the city for the future.

Is there a lot of compromise to reach these agreements?

I wasnít here when the place was still squatted so about here I canít say much about the difference but I know in general when a squat becomes legalised it means that you have to make compromises. It sometimes means that things you did before like giving big concerts are not possible anymore.

& Is everyone involved in the space happy with the compromises?

Here there was a conflict with the noise of the concert hall as there are lots of people living nearby so we had to insulate the hall inside & it cost a lot of work to do so but it was really necessary as people couldnít sleep so now there is the compromise the bands stop at 1.30 & afterwards you can only play music (djís/djaneís).

In this place the compromises were quite easy to take in my eyes because people where free to do it all themselves. Nowadays you see squats that get legalised & it impacts on what they have to do in terms with making it fire proof & fit in all the rules & regulations its much harder theses days definitely.

Is there a lot of interaction with the local people?

Yes but you can also say this place is really used by subculture yíknow they live nearby they may live far away itís more for example the kinda alternative bands that you can see here they attract a certain public of course. Itís not like all the people who work here do it because they live nearby. For the sauna itís different you see lots of people from the neighbourhood & also for the restaurant.

One thing that seems quite positive is kids activities can you tell me a little about that?

I donít know if its not so common Iíve heard stories before about squatted spaces that was mainly for kids activities between school times or for really young kids. Always when people start their own activities they start with the things they really need. Sometimes a place to come together sometimes itís a place for their kids sometimes itís a place for practising with bands but I think people mostly make what they need. Thatís also the positive thing of squatting a space you donít have to wait for someone else to tell you what it can be you can project your own ideas.

Youíre also involved in some of the music projects here.

Yeah I play here with a band one day a week.

Itís really fun.

Do the bands get involved in the other activities here?


People only come to play with their band. Some people in bands are really involved in a lot of the other things but you canít really tell because bands start & stop really easy it changes really fast.

So how do people get involved with the practice space?

From other people thereís not really publicity made about the activities here although there are some people who make posters some of the activities have there own website but its not really structured that really the whole neighbourhood knows whatís going on here.

& You make comics about squatting?

Yeah I was working for a magazine we have in Amsterdam with about 250 members & itís about all the houses that have been squatted recently demonstrations & court cases. It printed on an old stencil press. Every 2 weeks itís coming out its still there. Iím not working on it anymore I did it for 8 years I was doing comics & making jokes about things that happen. Because I always thought that sometimes you have to laugh & also keep things a little bit in perspective because sometimes you squat a place & your out in a week but sometimes you have to laugh about it a little bit you can be angry at one time & then do an action but a few weeks later you have to laugh. Because you have to have an optimistic vision to start squatting because certainly now the laws are becoming more difficult. They really try to make it impossible although it still legal in Holland.    














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