UK Social Centre Network

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The UK Social Centre Network is a grass roots initiative to establish a network between self identified radical independent community social centres in the United Kingdom. There is no single policy statement but a general desire to improve communication and co-operation between the growing number of autonomous spaces "to share resources, ideas and information".[1]

Radical Spaces[edit]

Self selected participants draw a clear distinction between their radical autonomous spaces on one side and the state or large NGO sponsored community centres on the other. While there has been something of a tradition of social spaces in occupied buildings (also known as squatting), recent years have seen an upsurge in the creation of social centres in rented or purchased buildings. The network of social centres in the UK is very much in its infancy compared to some other places in Europe such as Holland, Italy and Spain, although it can trace its roots back to the autonomy clubs of the 1980s such as Centro Iberico, Wapping Autonomy Centre and the still extant 1 in 12 Club in Bradford.[2]

The fledgling network was profiled in 2008, in the pamphlet 'What's This Place?' which was produced as part of the academic project Autonomous Geographies (funded by the ESRC).[3]

Paul Chatterton and Stuart Hodkinson view social centres as part of the "broader 'autonomous movement,'" playing an "important role in the re-thinking and re-making 'citizenship' by bringing people together in spaces whose very raison d'etre is to question and confront the rampant individualism of everyday life."[4]

List of social centres[edit]

Name Place Address Website
1 in 12 Club Bradford 21-23 Albion Street, Bradford, West Yorkshire, BD1 2LY
56a London 56a Crampton Street, Walworth SE17 3AE
Autonomous Centre Edinburgh 17 West Montgomery Place EH7 5HA
Black Cat Cafe London 76 Clarence Road
Blackcurrent Northampton 24 St. Michaels Avenue, NN1 4JQ
Bradford Centre for Nonviolence Bradford 2 Ashgrove
Casa / Initiative Factory Liverpool 29 Hope Street
Cowley Club Brighton 12 London Road, BN1 4JA
Freedom Press London 84b Whitechapel High Street (Angel Alley), E1 7ZX
Kebele Cultural Project Bristol 14 Robertson Road, B55 6JY
London Action Resource Centre London 62 Fieldgate Street, E1 1NS
Newport Action Centre Newport (South Wales) c/o 125 Lower Dock Street, Pill, Newport NP20
Next To Nowhere Liverpool Basement, 96 Bold Street, Liverpool, L1 4HY
Oxford Action Resource Centre Oxford Upstairs in the East Oxford Community Centre, Princes St (junction with Cowley Rd), Oxford OX4 1DD
Red and Black Umbrella Cardiff 57-58 Clifton Street, Adamsdown CF24 1LS
Star and Shadow (Canny Little Library) Newcastle upon Tyne
Subrosa Manchester 27 Lloyd Street South, Moss Side, M14 7HS
Sumac Centre Nottingham 245 Gladstone Street, Forest Fields, NG7 6HX
Warzone Belfast Little Victoria Street, Belfast, County Antrim BT2 7JH
Wharf Chambers Leeds 23-25 Wharf Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7EQ
Map of social centres in the UK in 2006

Evicted Social Centres[edit]

Examples of long-term squatted and now evicted projects would include the Spike Surplus Scheme and the 491 Gallery. Other past squatted centres in London have included the Bank of Ideas, RampART, Peckham,[5] Our Bohemia,[6] and Ratstar. Some social centres occurred in a number of times and/or locations such 195 Mare Street, Offmarket and the Really Free School[7]

Elsewhere in the UK, a list of social centres would include the Free Factory[8] in Bristol, Pleb's College[9] in Oxford, Cwtch Community Centre[10] in Swansea, the Peoples Autonomous Destination (PAD)[11] and Gremlin Alley[12] in Cardiff, the George’s X Chalkboard in Glasgow,[13] Matilda[14] in Sheffield, the Mill Road Social Centre[15] in Cambridge, Sabotaj[16] in Brighton, Justice not Crisis, the Birmingham social centre[17] and most recently, Free Milk! (Platt Chapel) in Manchester.

Other past non-squatted social centres have included the Forest in Edinburgh, the Basement in Manchester[18] and the Common Place[19] in Leeds.

Occasional social centres[edit]

There are groups which choose to do temporary squatted events lasting a fixed time. Such groups may exist for years, such as the House of Brag[20] (London), A-Spire (Leeds), Temporary Autonomous Arts (London, Sheffield, Brighton, Bristol, Manchester, Edinburgh, Cardiff), Anarchist Teapot (Brighton), Wildcats (Brighton) or the OKasional Cafe[21] (Manchester).

Future Network projects[edit]

In November 2014, the Sumac Centre in Nottingham hosted a weekend gathering [22] of the Social Centre Network.

Proposals for action by the Network include:

  • Working together on a new publication
  • A new website to promote spaces and events
  • Better European networking of Social Centres and twinning of Social Centres
  • Another gathering in 6 months in the North of England

Proposals for ongoing discussion include:

  • Conflict resolution, disputes and safer spaces policies and practice
  • UK-wide support for Social Centres


External links[edit]