Social centres in the United Kingdom

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In the United Kingdom social centres can be found in squatted, rented, mortgaged and fully owned buildings. Social centers differ from community centers in that they are run autonomously, usually without assistance from the state/corporations. The aims and policies of the centres are determined by those running them.

UK Social Centre Network[edit]

Map of social centres in the UK in 2006

The UK Social Centre Network (also known as the Social Centre Network or more recently titled 'Social Centre Network of UK & Ireland') is a grassroots initiative to establish a network between self-identified radical independent community social centres in the United Kingdom as well as also in Ireland.


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][2][3]


The group can trace its roots back to networking between the autonomous clubs of the 1980s such as Centro Iberico, Wapping Autonomy Centre and the 1 in 12 Club in Bradford.[4]

The second national gathering of social centres was held at the 1 in 12 Club, in January 2007.[5]:34

The fledgling network was profiled in 2008, in the pamphlet What's This Place? that was produced as part of the academic project Autonomous Geographies (funded by the ESRC).[6]

In November 2014, the Sumac Centre in Nottingham hosted the first weekend gathering[7] of a relaunch of the Social Centre Network.[8] The network met again in April 2015 at the Next To Nowhere Social Centre in Liverpool and became known as the "Social Centre Network of UK and Ireland".[7]

Future plans[edit]

After a lack of gatherings in recent years, a new gathering of the Social Centre Network has been announced as being on the 22nd and 23rd September 2018 at GAS in Glasgow.

There is also a plan to launch a new website for the network and to create a shared zine about the network and the spaces in it.

Evicted social centres[edit]

Examples of long-term squatted and now evicted projects include the Spike Surplus Scheme and the 491 Gallery. Other past squatted centres in London include the Bank of Ideas, RampART (Peckham),[9] Our Bohemia,[10] The Square[11] and Ratstar.

Other evicted centres include the Free Factory[12] in Bristol, The Black Cat Centre[13] in Bath, Pleb's College[14] in Oxford, Cwtch Community Centre[15] in Swansea, the Peoples Autonomous Destination (PAD)[16] and Gremlin Alley[17] in Cardiff, the George’s X Chalkboard in Glasgow,[18] Matilda[19] in Sheffield, the Mill Road Social Centre[20] in Cambridge, Sabotaj[21] in Brighton, Justice not Crisis, the Birmingham social centre,[22] Free Milk! (Platt Chapel) in Manchester and most recently, Solidarity Space in Kentish Town, north London.

Occasional centres[edit]

Some social centres occurred in a number of times and/or locations such as 195 Mare Street, Offmarket and the Really Free School.[23] 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[24] (London), A-Spire (Leeds), Temporary Autonomous Arts (London, Sheffield, Brighton, Bristol, Manchester, Edinburgh, Cardiff), Anarchist Teapot (Brighton), Wildcats (Brighton) or the OKasional Cafe[25] (Manchester).


There has been debate on whether legal spaces are a useful anti-capitalist tactic, or not.[1]

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 reason for existence is to question and confront the rampant individualism of everyday life."[26]

List of social centres[edit]


Name Address Established Notes Website
1 in 12 Club 21-23 Albion Street, Bradford, West Yorkshire, BD1 2LY 1981 [27] Building established in 1988
56a Infoshop 56a Crampton Street, Walworth, London, SE17 3AE June 1991[28] Squatted until 2003, then council rented[28] (archive)
Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh 17 West Montgomery Place, Edinburgh, EH7 5HA 1997[29] Preceded by Unemployed Workers' Centre occupation.[30]
BASE (previously Kebele)[31] 14 Robertson Road, Bristol, B55 6JY September 1995 (squatted); summer 2006 (owned outright) (archive)
Black Cat café 76 Clarence Road, Hackney, London October 2013 [32] Preceded by Pogo café, workers' co-operative,[32] leased.
Blackcurrent Centre 24 St. Michaels Avenue, Northampton, NN1 4JQ 1989 [33] Building being used as a Housing co-op
Casa / Initiative Factory 29 Hope Street, Liverpool December 2000[34] / 1998[35] industrial and provident society[35]
Common House(, The) Unit 5E, Pundersons Gardens, Bethnal Green, London E2 9QG 2013[36] Collectively rented
Cowley Club 12 London Road, Brighton, BN1 4JA 2002[36] Mortgage, co-operative. Houses SchNEWS.
Decentre @ Freedom Press 84b Whitechapel High Street (Angel Alley), London E1 7ZX Decentre opened April 2016. Current location of Freedom c.1968 Above downstairs bookshop, coffee and meeting space. Not in regular use.
DIY Space For London[37] 96-101 Ormside Street, London, SE15 1TF Collective est. 2012, opened 2015.[38] Co-operative, rented.
Glasgow Autonomous Space (GAS) Unit 11, 53 Kilbirnie Street, Glasgow G5 8JD Established in 2016, now launched after 1 year of building work. Rented on 5-year lease.
Ground 60 Beverley Road, Kingston-Upon-Hull HU5 1YE 2016. Became part of network in 2018. Arts, meeting and music space.
London Action Resource Centre 62 Fieldgate Street, London, E1 1NS 1999 (bought); c.2002 (opened) Resource Centre and meeting space
MayDay Rooms 88 Fleet Street, London, EC4Y 1DH c.2013 Primarily a space to safeguard historical material. With reading room and screening room.
Next To Nowhere Basement, 96 Bold Street, Liverpool, L1 4HY 2007 Underneath News From Nowhere bookshop.
Oxford Action Resource Centre Upstairs in the East Oxford Community Centre, Princes St (junction with Cowley Rd), Oxford OX4 1DD March 2005 [39] Resource Centre and meeting space
Partisan 19 Cheetham Hill Road, Manchester M4 4FY Collective exists since 2015. Crowdfunding campaign raised £14,000. Building leased. Opened July 2017.[36]
Star and Shadow Warwick St, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 1BB Originally late 1970s (by Amber Films) Stepney Bank location (November 2006) Warwick Street (May 2018)[40] Cinema and communtiy space
Sumac Centre 245 Gladstone Street, Forest Fields, Nottingham, NG7 6HX Bought in 2001, opened 2002 [41] Mortgaged. Preceded by the Rainbow Centre.
Warzone Little Victoria Street, Belfast, County Antrim BT2 7JH Collective est. 1984. First premise 1986-1991, second premise 1991-2003, current premise 2011. Part of the Northern Irish DIY punk scene.
Wharf Chambers 23-25 Wharf Street, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 7EQ Preceded by The Common Place


Name Address Lifespan Notes Website
121 Centre 121 Railton Road, Brixton, London 1981 - 1999[42] Squatted, closed due to eviction[42]
491 Gallery 491 Grove Green Road, Leytonstone, London 2001 - 2013 Squatted, focus on art, music and garden, closed due to new owners (sister building Vertigo remains peppercorn rented) 491 gallery
Bank of Ideas Hackney, London 2011 - 2012 [43] Squatted, closed due to eviction[43]
Basement Lever Street, Manchester - 2007[44] Non-squatted, closed due to flood, succeeded by Subrosa[45]
Black Cat Centre various venues in Bath 2009 - 2010 Squatted social centre in Bath, closed due to eviction, and dissolution of the project
Black Rose[46] 268 Verdon Street, Sheffield 2012 -
Centro Iberico Westbourne Park Road, London W8 April 1982 - August 1982
Common Place[47] 23-25 Wharf St, Leeds, LS2 7EQ Non-squatted, succeeded by the Wharf Chambers Archived website
Forest Edinburgh Non-squatted
Newport Action Centre Lower Dock Street, Pill, Newport, NP20 (South Wales) Autumn 2014 - Currently in hiatus. Activities moved to PAC.
rampART Rampart Street, Peckham, East London May 2004 - October 2009[48] Squatted, closed due to eviction.
Red and Black Umbrella 57-58 Clifton Street, Adamsdown, Cardiff 2011-2015
Spike Surplus Scheme Peckham, London 1999 - 2009
Subrosa 27 Lloyd Street South, Moss Side, Manchester, M14 7HS April 2014[45] - May 2015
Wapping Autonomy Centre Wapping Wall, London E1 August 1981 – March 1982 Run by the London Autonomists.
Radical Residency[49] 1 Montague Street, Bloomsbury, London, WC1B February 2018 - March 2018[50] Squatted British Museum building by an autonomous group of students and workers.[51]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Ebb and Flow - Autonomy and Squatting in Brighton". p. 167. Retrieved 22 April 2015. 
  2. ^ "What are Social Centres?". Social Centres Network. Retrieved 22 April 2015. 
  3. ^ "Squats and Spaces Solidarity Day: The Globe as a Temporary Autonomous Zone". Social Centre Stories. Retrieved 22 April 2015. 
  4. ^ "Autonomy Centres, Riots & The Big Rammy". 18 December 1932. Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  5. ^ "What's this place" (PDF). Social Centre Stories. Retrieved 8 June 2015. 
  6. ^ "About |". Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  7. ^ a b "Social Centres Gathering UK 2014". 26 September 2014. Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  8. ^ "Social Centres Gathering : Sumac Centre Diary". 
  9. ^ "Peckham Social Centre". 18 January 2013. Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  10. ^ [1] Archived 27 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ "Eviction Resistance at The Square - UK Indymedia". Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  12. ^ "factory | Just another weblog". Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  13. ^ "Black Cat Centre". Retrieved 1 February 2016. 
  14. ^ "Plebs' College". Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  15. ^ [2] Archived 17 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine.
  16. ^ "The PAD social centre | Peoples' Autonomous Destination- a radical social centre for Cardiff". Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  17. ^ "Gremlin Alley Social Centre | Resisting eviction since 4th October". Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  18. ^ "Chalkboard – the successes and failures of a Maryhill community tendency |". 29 April 2008. Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  19. ^ "Matilda". Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  20. ^ "Mill Road Social Centre | News, activities, stories and pictures from Cambridge's new social centre". Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  21. ^ "Court evicts Brighton Taj squatters (From The Argus)". Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  22. ^ "Birmingham Social Centre | A site for the grass roots social centre in Birmingham". Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  23. ^ "Really Free School". Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  24. ^ "The London Queer Social Centre". Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  25. ^ "OK Cafe Manchester | Manchester's OKasional social centre". Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  26. ^ Hodkinson, S. & Chatterton, P. (2006). "'Autonomy in the city? Reflections on the social centres movement in the UK'". City. 10 (3): 305–315. doi:10.1080/13604810600982222. 
  27. ^ "Our Constitution". 
  28. ^ a b "Local Tradition, Local Trajectories and Us: 56a Infoshop, Black Frog and more in South London". Social centre stories. Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  29. ^ "History of ACE". Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  30. ^ Young, Sarah. "It's ACE !". Peace News. Retrieved 25 April 2015. 
  31. ^
  32. ^ a b Micner, Tamara Felisa. "Black Cat Café – review". Hackney Citizen. Retrieved 25 April 2015. 
  33. ^ "Blackcurrent". 
  34. ^ Shennan, Paddy. "Viva la Casa! The new film that will celebrate much-loved Liverpool venue". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 26 April 2015. 
  35. ^ a b "Welcome to the Initiative Factory Society incorporating the Casa Bar & Venue and the Community Advice Service Association (CASA)". Initiative Factory. Retrieved 26 April 2015. 
  36. ^ a b c
  37. ^ Mumford, Gwilym. "Eagulls, Hookworms, Joanna Gruesome: how UK music scenes are going DIY". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 June 2015. 
  38. ^ "5 Ways to help DIY Space for London". 8 June 2015. 
  39. ^ "OARC about us". 
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^ a b "Brixton: 121 Centre". Urban75. Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  43. ^ a b Lizzy Davies and Peter Walker (30 January 2012). "Occupy London: evicted protesters criticise bailiffs' 'heavy-handed' tactics". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 January 2012. 
  44. ^ "History". Manchester Social Centre. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  45. ^ a b "Social Centre to open at new home this weekend". Mule. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  46. ^ "The Sheffield Black Rose Centre". 
  47. ^ "The Common Place, Leeds". Social Centre Stories. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  48. ^ "Rampart Eviction – The Priest and the Chainsaw". 16 October 2009. 
  49. ^ "Radical Residency". Retrieved 2018-04-02. 
  50. ^ "Radical Residency". Retrieved 2018-04-02. 
  51. ^ "Radical Residency". Retrieved 2018-04-02. 

External links[edit]