Wapping Autonomy Centre

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Metropolitan Wharf, home of the Wapping Autonomy Centre
Crass lead singer Steve Ignorant performing at the Autonomy Centre in 1981

Wapping Autonomy Centre (also known as The Anarchist Centre) was a social centre set up in a rented space in Metropolitan Wharf, Wapping area of London Docklands from late 1981 to 1982. The project was initially funded by money raised by the benefit single "Persons Unknown/Bloody Revolutions", as well as benefit gigs by Crass and The Poison Girls.


Most of those involved with the project were anarchists who participated in protests and direct action against targets such as vivisection laboratories, the meat industry and the policies of then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. During its short life, the Autonomy Centre became an important focal point for the anarchist-punk movement in the UK and Europe. Anarcho-punk bands - such as Crass, Zounds and Flux of Pink Indians - played live at the building and a large, informal anarchist support network grew up in partnership with other communities in London. Apart from live concerts there were book fairs, fanzine conventions, discussion groups, films, debates and political events.

Albert Meltzer records that the centre was "Ronan Bennett's brainchild." He goes on to say that "the punk support, especially from followers of Crass and Poison Girls, was substantial. Punk has lasted a couple of decades, long outlasting the proposed club. With the punks' money came the punks, and in the first week they had ripped up every single piece of furniture carefully bought, planned and fitted, down to the lavatory fittings that had been installed by Ronan from scratch, and defaced our own and everyone else's wall for blocks around. In the excitement of the first gigs where they could do as they liked, they did as they liked and wrecked the place. Loss of club, loss of money, loss of effort. End of story."[1]

Many of those involved with the centre went on to become active at the Centro Iberico, a squatted project with similar aims and ethos in west London.




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