The Social Centre Bulletin: GAS and bookfairs

From Freedom Press UK


Is there really anywhere else quite like a good social centre? Peter Ó’Máille considers the value of rebel community hubs and updates on what’s happening in our libertarian networks.

Interview: Bookfair at the 1 in 12 Club

A few hundred miles south down Bradford folk have come together and set up a brand spanking new Radical bookfair which will be on September 7th. In between our busy lives I managed to pull aside one of the organisers, Mikey from the Rebel Cat Collective, and pick his brains a little about the event.

What made you want to organise a bookfair mate?

I was involved in the failed attempt four years ago to do a Leeds one and wanted to do it. Last year there was a series of events around the spycops campaign that a mate and me wanted to do but for various reasons the Rebel Cat Crew decided to do a bookfair instead.

Why a bookfair tho?

Bookfairs are an important way to distribute ideas and information specifically on radical ideas and politics. With the rise of the internet and social media I think that bookfairs are even more important as a way of meeting people, networking and engaging people away from the false world that inhabits social media

Where is it going to be held?

We are holding the bookfair at The 1 in 12 Club in Bradford. The club was formed by members of Bradford’s Anarchist orientated Claimants Union in 1981. The immediate objectives of the club were to generate and sustain a social scene, accessible and affordable to both the low waged and unemployed. When, in 1981 a government investigation into benefit fraud (the ‘Raynor Report’) found that ‘1 in 12’ claimants was actively “defrauding the state”, the union adopted this statistic for themselves.

The 1 in 12 Club is a not for profit organisation relying heavily on the time donated by its unpaid members. The 1 in 12 Club is owned, managed and run by its members, founded on the anarchistic values of self-management, co-operation and mutual aid. Together we are a community of people aiming to provide an affordable, non-commercial venue for events, socialising, meetings & information.

The history and set up of the club makes the 1 in 12 a really unique place in Bradford. Its structure means the members are responsible for the well being and running of the entire place! That goes right from stuff like fixing the loos, book keeping to cleaning, to working the bar, website maintenance and putting on events.

We (Rebel Cat) have been putting on gigs there for 3.5 years, and I used to go to gigs, meetings and events there from the mid 1980s, it is an important space and need events to keep it going and to keep its ethos.

Will there be other events around the bookfair?

All money from the stalls (£5 or a donation collected on the day) will be going to the club. There is a Rebel Cat gig following the bookfair and the proceeds from this will be split between the club and the Rebel Cat Collective. The gig is an acoustic gig set around the UK tour of the ex Chumbawamba frontman Danbert Nobacon accompanied by Kira Wood-Cramer and supported by acoustic sets from the following punk bands, Nieviem (Lincoln), Distort (Bingley), as well as Gerrard Bell-Fife (Bradford singer songwriter) and Rich Gulag (Nottingham).

Cool what stalls have you got lined up?

We have the following stalls confirmed: Anarchist Federation, Anarchist Communist Group/West Yorkshire ACG, Cubesville zines, 0161 Festival, No Sweat/Punk Ethics, Haven Distribution, PM Press/AK Press/Active Distribution, Freedom News, IWW, Olive Branch Café, Red And Black Leeds (RABL), Hunt Saboteurs Association, Radical Routes, LGBTQ+ online Bookstore from Leeds, Pirate Press, and Solidarity Federation

What talks do you have talks line up?

Anarchist Federation – Capitalism is Killing the Earth; An Anarchist Guide To Ecology & a Discussion on the General Strike for the climate on the 20th.

Between estrogenes and tough guy Hardcore – Trans*women(sic) in the punk scene by Maja Hagedorn.

Poetry Corner and Masterclass:
Kier Milburn a short talk on his new book Generation Left

Also IWW and ACG will hopefully be doing a workshop and a talk respectively.

Smashing mate, thanks for your time and I hope the bookfair goes well!
Make sure to check it out at the 1 in 12 in Bradford on the 7th of September. Here is the Facebook event.

Shiny books and dark inks at the Star and Shadow

The 1 in 12 isn’t the only social centre making itself available for Anarchist and Radical Bookfairs either, as we can now announce that next year on May 9th,the Star & Shadow Cinema will be playing host to the inaugural Newcastle Ewan Brown Anarchist Bookfair, which is being held in remembrance of Ewan Brown, a local Anarchist militant who died this year after police harassment.

It is being organised, alongside others, by the North East Anarchist Group which will be showing his films and his artwork during the bookfair as well as hosting stalls, workshops and music. They also plan to include a Mixed Martial Arts class at Newcastle Fight Centre, which is sure to be boy educations and – forgive me – kick ass.

Ewan was deaf and so one of the major issues for NEAG and the rest of the organising committee will be on working on making it accessible and it’s heartening to see them note: “This is, without question, a trans-inclusive event”. Due to limited space stalls will be by invite only, but we’ll let you know more about the event as the folk up in Newcastle pull it all together. If you share word about the event make sure to tag it with the hashtag #BeMoreEwan

They’ve chosen a fantastic space too, The Star and Shadow is a volunteer run, horizontally-structured social centre in Newcastle. They not only show some tidy films and hold fundraisers, they’re now playing host to an epic bookfair.

Social centres holding Anarchist bookfairs organised by rebellious mobs. That is for me the trifecta of awesome.

Look forward to them both!

Now for the third bulletin here I’ve decided to give the calendar of events a miss this month, see how that works. Instead I’ll direct people to the map of social centres on Organise!, most of which have calendars on their websites anyway.

So check out your Local
Centre and maybe even give ’em a nudge and pitch in a shift.

~Peter Ó’Máille

Social Centres to check out

The Warehouse Cafe

The 1 in 12 Club

Cowley Club



ACE (Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh)

GAS (Glasgow Autonomous Space )


Wharf Chambers

Next to Nowhere

56a Infoshop
DIY Space For London
LARC (London Action Resource Centre)
The Common House
The Field
Sylvia’s Corner
MayDay Rooms
The Feminist Library

Partisan Collective

Newcastle Upon Tyne
Star and Shadow

Sumac Centre

Oxford Action Resource Centre

HeartCure Collective

There are 15 Comments

Can't speak for elsewhere but the social centres listed in London are working way below capacity, Mayday is probably the most viable of the London spaces but even they shut down over August.
Anarchy in London is basically fucked.
Don't get me started on Antifa either because that's going to accelerate burnout and increase numbers of us carrying trauma.

more like antisocial decentralization amirite

When you say "working below capacity", how do you mean? Like, people don't seem to come by to use the resources or aren't aware they exist? Or there's not enough people interested in helping staff and run the place? or both?

Basically there aren't enough core anarchists remaining in London to keep them viable. My instinct is the Social Centre model and Occupy may have been more pertinent in a pre-austerity era but now we should be thinking about building the anarchist milieu. The most obvious and possibly most intractable is what Aragorn! recently raised about how it can be such a vicious, emotional minefield that can have everyone dogpiling on some hapless fucker.

A couple of the venues listed caused a raised eyebrow.
# Can you really call the Feminist Library 'radical'? It's open to conservative and marxist feminists, never mind radfem/terfs.
# Decentre is deserted manky old room within the Freedom building.
# DIY Space For London is now little more than a music venue with the rest of the week being a dead zone. Even with it's survival plan it may not survive.
#56A has done a good job at making itself relevant to the local community.
# The bookshop section of Freedom looks finally after 30 or 40 years looking like an interesting bookshop.
# LARC to supposed to be active most evenings but deserted during the day.

low birth rates for anarchists, high death rates and imprisonment rates, plus burnout, lib out, reactionary out

Do you think the low birth rates amongst anarchists is a poverty related phenomenon or an ideological anti-natalism trend? I tend to think its ideological, but most normal people, by this I mean the average Joe/Jane, JeromeX/Keisha B or Jose/ Juanita, in the poorest socio-economic group actually have the highest birth rate. And this also reflects a difference and seperation in the aspirations of the most heavily exploited folk with a milieu which says it holds their interests close to their hearts. Aný thoughts?

we're clearly talking out of our asses here, since "anarchist" is not a category in any birth registry, census, or survey on reproductive behavior, that i know of.

i would guess that an additional instability factor discourages reproduction to certain extent in way that differs from the rest of the people in their same income/education level.

can we assume that anarchists are more prone to be at odds, or even outcast, from their family and their communities, and from institutions such as churches, etc.? does this imply a perceived lack of support network? speaking of dwindling anarchist social spaces.

also, if they envision a life on the run or even in jail to be a likely outcome, that might also discourage reproducing.
if anarchists are few and far between, finding people they trust enough or find enough affinity with to have children with can be reduced in comparison with their non-anarchist peers.

but all these assumptions pile on an make it really muddy speculation.

certain religions like catholicism encourage childbearing, even though it might go against modern expectations. anarchist outlook is more centered on freedom, and having more children can be viewed as a limitation or hindrance in many ways. plus anarchist children don't become anarchist by default.

if an anarchist's life expectancy is shorter than average, that reduces the total amount of potential offspring they can have.
reduce life expectancy could be assumed due to exposure to risks inherent in direct action, or thrill seeking behaviors.

if a person only considers themself "an anarchist from teens, until 20 something", then that counts them out as well.

either way, even assuming average birth rates for their ethnic, age, socioeconomic subgroup, fertility trends are decreasing for most.

and all of this is booooooooriiiiiing!

if anything, birth rate is not as low as it should be! get sterilized today!

plus a certain liberation from heteronormativity allows for relationships not encased within the malthusian couple and household arrangements are not limited to that of the nuclear family

Appreciate the responses: personally, I don't think you need to look to the anarchist identity for many answers, all the longstanding ways that the milieu can be annoying are duly noted but I'd talk out of my ass in a different direction.

Spent half my adult life working in and around music festivals, event spaces and bars and the fact is that much larger economic and social forces are gobbling up people's spare time and resources at the same time that technology is provided more and more cheap or free distraction in our little isolation pods … all of which is to say, anarchist "scenes" and spaces are only suffering as much as all the other pre-internet modes of mass behaviour.

Trying to get a crowd out to do anything these days is like pulling teeth. Even to show up for something just meant to be recreational, trying to sell booze and a show. I recognize that large public events still happen but they're more contrived and curated through tech and the crowd is sluggish, anxious and alienated, loses interest faster and acts like the daylight hurts their eyes and within a few hours they just want to return to the cold comfort and mental torpor of the pod.

that coincides with my experience as well, and i’ve heard others say this too.

"Trying to get a crowd out to do anything these days is like pulling teeth"

YET... There's Pokemon Go n shit. What there is to say about this?

Yeah right ... Keep dreaming if you think you can trick gamers in to serious resistance without looking up from their phones.


Kind of cheating to list Freedom and Decentre as two separate places, don't you think?

It can be entirely legitimate to brand something separately, but it only works if there's solid effort to back the branding up with a combination of committed, consistent, clear and distinct activities.
To the best of my knowledge, Freedom owns the entire building and lets other groups rent out parts of the premises. As for the Decentre room, it was never established* if it was a sincere effort or an attempt by Freedom look they were 'doing something' while under embarrassing scrutiny from the occasional anarchist print publication Northern Voices Magazine. Northern Voices put the screws on Freedom for ten years of financial, leadership and operational disasters. The real pity is Northern Voices focus mainly on local political issues. After Private Eye picked up on their coverage of Freedom Bookshop their writing was given much praise by some who work in quality mainstream journalism.
*I'm inclined to give Decentre the benefit of the doubt.

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