121 Centre

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121 Centre
Address121 Railton Road
TypeSquatted autonomous social centre

121 Centre was an occupied autonomous social centre in the Brixton district of South London between 1981 and 1999. As a social centre, the venue hosted a bookshop, cafe, library, meeting space, office space, printing facility, and rehearsal space. Constituent organisations include Food Not Bombs food aid and Anarchist Black Cross prisoner aid chapters, an anarcho-feminist magazine, a squatters aid organisation, and an anarchist queer group. Regular events at 121 Centre included the "Dead by Dawn" punk concert series, a women's cafe night, and a monthly queer night.[1] The centre kept a low profile[2] and was one of the longest-lasting squats.[1]

Since 1993, the venue hosted industrial, speedcore, and gabber electronic music events, such as the Sate industrial nights. The social centre was a networking centre for these marginal, experimental subgenres.[3] The Dead by Dawn club hosted London's hardest and fastest music between 1994 and 1996. Attendees shared aesthetic interests, including zines, lectures by Sadie Plant, and intellectual literature by the Situationists, Deleuze and Guattari, and William Burroughs. Unlike other club or party series, Dead by Dawn was conceived to be unique in its combination of discussions, videos, films, exhibitions, Internet access, and stalls.[4]

The centre was set on fire during a rise in right-wing violence in 1993.[5]

The Lambeth London Borough Council received a court order to repossess the building in early 1999, to which the squatters responded with multiple actions to rally opposition: modifying billboards, wheatpasting protest fliers, publishing the South London Stress, and occupying Lambeth Town Hall with a "drink-in" protest of a new law against drinking in public. The Evening Standard reported their campaign as "highly efficient". As the eviction date approached, the squatters barricaded themselves inside and held an all-day street party in April. An armed police force later removed the remaining occupants.[6] Rising property values were a core impetus for the building's repossession.[7]


  1. ^ a b McHenry, Keith; Bufe, Chaz (2015). The Anarchist Cookbook. See Sharp Press. p. 243. ISBN 978-1-937276-78-2.
  2. ^ Monroe 2002, p. 151.
  3. ^ Monroe, Alexei (2002). "Bread and (Rock) Circuses: Sites of Sonic Conflict in London". In Gilbert, Pamela K. Imagined Londons. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. pp. 151–154. ISBN 978-0-7914-5501-2.
  4. ^ St. John, Graham (2009). Technomad: Global Raving Countercultures. Studies in Popular Music. London: Equinox Publishing. pp. 228–229. ISBN 978-1-84553-625-1.
  5. ^ Bennett, John (2017). Mob Town: A History of Crime and Disorder in the East End. New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 272. ISBN 978-0-300-22195-4.
  6. ^ McHenry & Bufe 2015, p. 243–245.
  7. ^ Monroe 2002, p. 154.

Coordinates: 51°27′28″N 0°06′27″W / 51.4577°N 0.1076°W / 51.4577; -0.1076