Social centres in the United Kingdom

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In the United Kingdom social centres can be found in squatted, rented, mortgaged and owned buildings. Social centers differ from community centers in that they are run autonomously, usually without assistance from the state and or 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) 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][2][3] Network participants draw a distinction between their radical autonomous spaces and state or commercially sponsored community centres. The network of social centres in the UK is in its infancy compared to in Holland, Italy and Spain.[citation needed]

The next gathering of the network is at Kebele, Bristol on the 28th & 29th November 2015.


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?' which was produced as part of the academic project Autonomous Geographies (funded by the ESRC).[6]

In November 2014, the Sumac Centre in early Nottingham hosted the first weekend gathering[7] of an effective relaunch of the Social Centre Network.[8] The network met again in April 2015 at the Next To Nowhere Social Centre in Liverpool.[7]

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),[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] and most recently, Free Milk! (Platt Chapel) in Manchester.

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]
Black Cat café 76 Clarence Road, Hackney, London October 2013 [31] Preceded by Pogo café, workers' co-operative,[31] leased.
Casa / Initiative Factory 29 Hope Street, Liverpool December 2000[32] / 1998[33] industrial and provident society[33]
Cowley Club 12 London Road, Brighton, BN1 4JA 2003 Mortgage, co-operative.
DIY Space For London[34] 96-101 Ormside Street, London, SE15 1TF Collective est. 2012, opened 2015. [35] Co-operative, rented.
Freedom Press 84b Whitechapel High Street (Angel Alley), London E1 7ZX Current location c.1968 Bookshop, meeting space & various office spaces.
Kebele Cultural Project 14 Robertson Road, Bristol, B55 6JY September 1995 (squatted) Summer 2006 (owned outright) Hosting the Social Centre Gathering in November.
London Action Resource Centre 62 Fieldgate Street, London, E1 1NS 1999 (bought) c.2002 (opened) Resource Centre and meeting space
Newport Action Centre c/o 125 Lower Dock Street, Pill, Newport, NP20 (South Wales) Autumn 2014 Currently in hiatus. Activities moved to PAC.
Next To Nowhere Basement, 96 Bold Street, Liverpool, L1 4HY 2007 Hosted the April 2015 gathering of the Network
Oxford Action Resource Centre Upstairs in the East Oxford Community Centre, Princes St (junction with Cowley Rd), Oxford OX4 1DD March 2005 [36] Resource Centre and meeting space
Red and Black Umbrella 57-58 Clifton Street, Cardiff, Adamsdown CF24 1LS October 2011 [37] Closed for the time being
Star and Shadow Newcastle upon Tyne Orig. late 1970s (by Amber Films) Stepney Bank location (November 2006) Currently in process of moving to new location.
Subrosa 27 Lloyd Street South, Moss Side, Manchester, M14 7HS April 2014[38] Closed at end of May 2015[39]
Sumac Centre 245 Gladstone Street, Forest Fields, Nottingham, NG7 6HX Bought in 2001, opened 2002 [40] 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 n.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
491 Gallery 491 Grove Green Road, Leytonstone, London 2001 to 2013 Squatted, focus on art, music and garden, closed due new owners, (sister building Vertigo remains pepercorn rented) 491 gallery
121 Centre 121 Railton Road, Brixton, London 1981 to 1999[41] Squatted, closed due to eviction[41]
The Autonomy Centre Wapping Wall, London E1 August 1981 - March 1982 Run by the London Autonomists.
The Basement Lever Street, Manchester to 2007[42] Non-squatted, closed due to flood, succeeded by Subrosa[38]
The Black Cat Centre various venues in Bath 2009-2010 Squatted social centre in Bath, closed due to eviction, and dissolution of the project
Blackcurrent Centre 24 St. Michaels Avenue, Northampton, NN1 4JQ 1989 [43] Building being used as a Housing co-op
The Centro Iberico, : Westbourne Park Road, London W8 April 1982 - August 1982
The Common Place[44] 23-25 Wharf St, Leeds, LS2 7EQ Non-squatted, succeeded by the Wharf Chambers[dead link]
Forest Edinburgh Non-squatted
The Black Rose[45] 268 Verdon Street, Sheffield

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". 1932-12-18. Retrieved 2015-04-24. 
  5. ^ "What's this place" (PDF). Social Centre Stories. Retrieved 8 June 2015. 
  6. ^ "About |". Retrieved 2015-04-24. 
  7. ^ a b "Social Centres Gathering UK 2014". 2014-09-26. Retrieved 2015-04-24. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Peckham Social Centre". 2013-01-18. Retrieved 2015-04-24. 
  10. ^ [1] Archived December 27, 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "Eviction Resistance at The Square - UK Indymedia". Retrieved 2015-04-24. 
  12. ^ "factory | Just another weblog". Retrieved 2015-04-24. 
  13. ^ "Black Cat Centre". Retrieved 2016-02-01. 
  14. ^ "Plebs' College". Retrieved 2015-04-24. 
  15. ^ [2] Archived March 17, 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "The PAD social centre | Peoples’ Autonomous Destination- a radical social centre for Cardiff". Retrieved 2015-04-24. 
  17. ^ "Gremlin Alley Social Centre | Resisting eviction since 4th October". Retrieved 2015-04-24. 
  18. ^ "Chalkboard – the successes and failures of a Maryhill community tendency |". 2008-04-29. Retrieved 2015-04-24. 
  19. ^ "Matilda". Retrieved 2015-04-24. 
  20. ^ "Mill Road Social Centre | News, activities, stories and pictures from Cambridge’s new social centre". Retrieved 2015-04-24. 
  21. ^ "Court evicts Brighton Taj squatters (From The Argus)". Retrieved 2015-04-24. 
  22. ^ "Birmingham Social Centre | A site for the grass roots social centre in Birmingham". Retrieved 2015-04-24. 
  23. ^ "Really Free School". Retrieved 2015-04-24. 
  24. ^ "The London Queer Social Centre". Retrieved 2015-04-24. 
  25. ^ "OK Cafe Manchester | Manchester's OKasional social centre". Retrieved 2015-04-24. 
  26. ^ Hodkinson, S. and 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. ^
  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. ^ a b Micner, Tamara Felisa. "Black Cat Café – review". Hackney Citizen. Retrieved 25 April 2015. 
  32. ^ Shennan, Paddy. "Viva la Casa! The new film that will celebrate much-loved Liverpool venue". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 26 April 2015. 
  33. ^ 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. 
  34. ^ Mumford, Gwilym. "Eagulls, Hookworms, Joanna Gruesome: how UK music scenes are going DIY". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 June 2015. 
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^ a b "Social Centre to open at new home this weekend". Mule. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  39. ^ "Dear Friends of Manchester Social Centre and Subrosa,". Manchester Social Centre. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  40. ^
  41. ^ a b "Brixton: 121 Centre". Urban75. Retrieved 24 April 2015. 
  42. ^ "History". Manchester Social Centre. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  43. ^
  44. ^ "The Common Place, Leeds". Social Centre Stories. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  45. ^

External links[edit]