social centres project
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Film Academy : Amsterdam Jan 04
place was squatted in November 99 it used to be a film academy but they moved to
a new building & they wanted to demolish the place & make a bicycle path
where we are right now so we squatted it almost immediately after 2 weeks of
standing empty which is illegal in the Netherlands. We combined that with a
vigorous political campaign to avoid eviction. For a year it was not clear if we
were going to succeed but we were still inside & had not been evicted. Then
the political campaign started to kick off & we got much more support from
the central government in Amsterdam.
put pressure on the owners of the building to allow us to stay here so after 2
years we negotiated a contract to stay here for 5 years & we got a grant to
renovate the building to fix the roof put in central heating & make the
place fire proof.
Since November 99 weíve organised different activities here in the building. Thereís an organic vegan restaurant there is a sound studio for recording & rehearsing there is a dance studio we offer theatre concert & parties. There is a darkroom we offer an exhibition room there are different offices Counter Information magazines & thereís an animal defence group. There are a lot of private studios for artists to work in.
many people involved in the activities.
the film there are around 20 people who attend the regular meetings & are
involved in the day to day organising of everything & participate in the
decision making because itís a collective process. For the different
activities there are subgroups organising the activities for example the
restaurant or the cinema & these sub groups always have a lot of volunteers
as well so in the end thereís a big number of people involved in running the
place but only a few are coming to all the meetings & participating in the
whole decision making process.
many people come along to take part in the activities.
hundreds of people come. For the parties 1000ís. Many people using the place.
now there's a lot of building work going on - what's the story with that?
already been going for half a year & itís still quite a mess & itíll
take us quite a while longer to finish up. But we made the building fire safe
basically we put in fire escapes in the front & the back & we made
drastic changes within the structures of the place so with the fire regulations
we are aloud more that 100 people in the different spaces. Before we ran into
problems with the fire department. There are strong regulations about fire
safety here & before we didnít meet them & now we do.
the people from the social centre doing the building
A lot of the building work we did in self-management so basically there was this subsidy provided & we did the work we were contracted to do the work. Some things we couldnít do ourselves that had to be done by professionals but what we could we did ourselves.
the renovation we made sure that everything on the ground floor has disabled
access & also there will be a toilet on the ground floor that is disabled
access & there will also be a changing room for babies. The rest of the
building it is much more difficult because to install a new lift is too
expensive we donít have that kind of money youíre talking about hundreds of
thousands of euros excluding maintenance. We canít finance that
Most of our activities are on the ground floor.
you have to meet a lot of regulations to get legal status? Is this a
compromise between being completely squatted?
in the film academy we never really had the choice because the building had been
empty for two weeks & we had the information that the owner would put in
anti-kraak; which is basically tenants without any tenants rights often young
students who just accept anything for a couple of months & very cheap rent.
So we squatted it after it was empty for only 2 weeks which gave us a 429 which
is an eviction order according to Dutch law It became immediately from day one
it was necessary for us from day one to seek a dialogue while it was not
necessary for the owner to even listen to us we had to force a dialogue & to
legalise us & if we hadnít done that we would have been immediately
evicted so it wasnít really a choice whether to enter into this process or
not. & In the process we lost some members of our initial group because
different tensions did arise & different ideas did clash. But we have coped
so far successfully because we are still here & can manage to do all these
activities on a non-profit base.
regards to the fire regulations these kinds of things there was also not much
choice. Two years ago in a small town in Holland there was a big disaster a big
fire many people died over 100 or something & since then the fire
regulations have become much stronger & the police & the politicians
they all want to see it enforced because otherwise it will affect their heads
they are accountable after all. So basically we were put under a lot of pressure
to conform to these norms or again be closed down for public use & since the
whole idea of this space is to be open as much as possible for public (half of
the space of the building is open to the public Ė has a public function &
to then be closed by the fire department didnít make sense so we felt we had
to make this investment in the structure of the place to make it conform to fire
We do have quite a good political network within the city of Amsterdam we have quite some allies to help us to stay here we now are looking forward in 2004 to have one year in which we are full operational & have all the public events going & show to the city what we can do. & In 2005 we should negotiate a new contract which will be fundamentally about the rent that is being asked because we want to remain a non-profit cultural centre & if the rent became to high we could only pay that by going commercial & that could be a failure of the whole project. At the moment it does look good that we can manage to stay on our conditions.
for people new
you try to start something like this it always makes sense to have very good
contact with the neighbourhood because thatís in the end where a lot of your
strength will come from. Second of all international networking can be useful to
share experience & share knowledge.
far as meetings go if you try to use facilitators use structured meetings just
so when emotions run high thereís a way to deal with it. Because itís quite
common when pressure mounts these group decision-making processes become very
dysfunctional. So itís good to have a facilitator who can steer a group
towards decisions rather than fall apart in quarrels & arguments. I think
thatís one of the most important things about working with other people in a
else youíd like to add?
Just welcome for a visit.
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