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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
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
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.