SchNEWS Of The World


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The Radical Dairy - the movement moves in

A subjective account of 5 months at the Radical Dairy by a one of the Dairy Collective

In the creation of the social centre there is direct action. Confronted with a landscape designed for alienation, division and subjugation, the reclamation of disused space is a political act in itself; to then make such space available to the community is to further this action.

We squatted a disused corner-shop in North London and built in it a library and infoshop with free internet access; a large social area with tables, furniture, noticeboards, bar, etc.; a fairy-lit magical basement complete with sound system; a healing room (doubling as crash space); a toolshed, a bikeshed and a handsomely stocked kitchen. More people got on board as the project got underway, and we soon had a full diary of events happening every week. Regular workshops such as yoga, massage, voice and drama workshops, discussion groups, english for non-speakers, as well as more sporadic (and often spontaneous) socials and cafes to raise funds for various groups and causes. Wednesday night, which alternated weekly between a women's cafe and a queer cafe, became one of the most popular nights, along with our regular Friday night acoustic social and the fully plugged-in and turned-up Saturday night party. Sundays would find our friends from Indymedia cooking a vegan roast and screening films up in the library, whilst the Dairy collective recovered from the week's energy and the weekend's excess in the basement.

The police harassment that the Dairy was subjected to in April, beginning with intimidating surveillance and culminating in a full T.S.G. raid in which the computers were taken (sorry kids, no more internet...) and the connection to the National Grid was cut off (no more D.J. workshops either...). This was a deliberate attempt by the police to alienate the centre from the community around it, and was also part of their Mayday crackdown. This attempt backfired on them immediately as local residents came out to express their disgust at the police state being brought to their doorstep and to demonstrate real passion and solidarity with our project. The community came into its own that day; many people who we may not have otherwise met, but who had heard about the place or whose kids had been using it, came around in the days after to offer their support or even to get involved. Though the nights since the raid have been gas-lamp and candle-lit, the warmth of feeling about the Dairy has continued. We hosted a Health Day a week after the raid, which was a real success.

The five month running of the Dairy hasn't always been plain sailing. There are lots of lessons to be learnt on the way. How far can people be trusted with the building and equipment? How are things dealt with when friction between people becomes apparent? Easy when it's black and white, not so easy when it comes in the subtle shades of everyday practicality. People are no longer 'out there', they're in here with you, drinking tea. Your revolutionary duty happens now, over a hob-nob or two. There's a fine line between social centre and activist ghetto. The key to keeping the latter at bay is the open-door policy, but it must be accompanied by an open-heart, open-mind policy on the part of those who are looking after the place.

Another factor to bear in mind is stress. All the members of the Dairy collective have had other things going on in their lives. The stress caused by day-to-day living can unfortunately find expression in the social centre, especially if the division of tasks and time spent taking care of the place is unequal. A balance must be sought between the desires of all involved, otherwise a situation can develop in which one or two people feel that they are putting all the work in, while everyone else feels cajoled into applying themselves to someone else's work ethic. For similar reasons, the establishing of a time-limit on a social centre could be a good idea, as it may prevent the dismal drizzling-off of burnt-out people from what began as an explosion of energy and enthusiasm.

The Dairy collective is now changing, new places are opening up along the same lines which are much more conducive to hosting busy events, etc.. From the time of writing, it looks like the Dairy may continue, but perhaps with the emphasis on the library/infoshop side of things, or a more relaxed day-to-day diary as opposed to the hectic one we've had for the last five months.

Whatever happens from this point onwards, we have learnt more about ourselves and each other in five months than we could have possibly imagined. The Dairy has been an experiment; an example to ourselves and others that our mutual desires and combined energy can bring about something more lasting than a single day of action. The more that this occurs, even if places last a matter of weeks, the stronger, more permanent, more lasting and more broad-based the movement will be. Every time anarchy becomes a living reality - even if between a handful of people - the closer we get to changing the big picture. "Viva la Liberacion!"

Police Raid Radical Dairy Social Centre

Communique 12th April: This morning over 30 riot police stormed into the Radical Dairy Social Centre in Stoke Newington as part of the Mayday campaign of repression.

30 riot police in conjunction with London Electricity used a hydraulic ram to force entry to the Radical Dairy. The police said that they had a warrant to investigate the abstraction of electricity and the misuse of drugs. No drugs were found but a computer [which was used as part of a free internet service for local residents] was seized as "proof" of abstracting electricity!!

The police also read out a statement saying that because a Mayday leaflet was displayed in the window of the Social Centre that it proved that the building was used as "part of the infrastructure to Mayday" , which now seems to be an illegal act! No one was arrested but the centre is now without electricity. During the raid angry residents came out onto the streets and gave the cops hassle. This is the third visit the cops have made to the dairy. The first being on Friday April 5th. They used the guise that they had broken down outside the dairy and were waiting for a repair vehicle, that obviously explained why they were outside for three hours taking peoples photographs!! On this occasion they left after the local residents came out in support of the Radical Dairy, which has been offering free events like Yoga, Shiatsu massages, vegan cafe, DJ workshop for kids, Drama and singing lessons.

The second occasion was on Tuesday April 9th, three cops from different police stations inc. a video camera were filming the structure of the building. The police were there for only 10 minutes as again local residents including a women with her child complained at the continued harassment of the collective which runs the centre. A statement will be issued by the Radical Dairy within the next few hours. Meanwhile the centre needs all the help it can get.

Come down to 47 Kynaston Road, Stoke Newington, London N16. Phone 020 7249 6996 for more news.