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(en) London Action Resource Centre (http://www.londonarc.org)

From dr.woooo@nomasters.org
Date Sat, 8 Mar 2003 12:05:49 +0100 (CET)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

LARC 1999 - 2002
A brief history: when did the project start and why? 
LARC was conceived as an idea by a group of friends
over three years ago. Most of us had a history of
involvement in direct action from the anti-roads
movement, through Reclaim the Streets, to the Carnival
against Capitalism June 18th 1999 and we had come to
feel that the one-off spectacular actions weren't enough
to build the 'creative alternatives' we often talked about
in our agit-prop. Along side this we were increasingly
fed-up with relying on meeting in, or being chucked out
from, rooms in pubs or community centres and having
our offices in someones spare room.

Many of us also had a history of squatting, both for social
centres and to solve our own housing needs, and as the
police repression following demonstrations escalated and
squatting became increasingly difficult, we wanted to
create a safe space and resource for London's direct
action groups.

Because of London's size, we've always faced the
problems of having a social movement that is very
dispersed. Therefore we hoped that LARC could go
beyond simply being a building with resources, to being a
catalyst for the different direct action groups in London
to meet face to face, to discuss ideas and strategies
together and to build up new affinity networks. It was
(and still is) our aim that LARC would contribute to
strengthening Londons and UKs direct action networks. 

As LARC is legally owned and seen as 'respectable' (or
at least harder to evict), one aim is also that it will work
as a gateway for people into direct action politics.

What has happened since the building was bought - why's
it taken so long to get going? 
The ground floor and basement of LARC has actually
been in use for banner/prop making, storage, meetings,
the occasional party and in the run up to the Mayday
demos and DSEi over the last three years.

When the LARC building was bought in the autumn of
1999, we naively thought we'd have the whole building up
and running in a few months. Then the rain started to
pour into the building. Three years down the line and we
have had to tear out old plaster, rebuild walls and
ceilings, plumb in a disabled toilet, change the doors,
lower the floor in the mezzanine, plaster, paint, sand and
cement to name a few. We've had to get builders in to do
the main rebuilding work we didn't have the skills to do,
and an architect to advise us - the rest we've done
ourselves with the help of friends.

Needless to say it hasn't always been very fascinating for
a bunch of 'anarchos' to deal with the bureaucracy of
'normal society'. One of the more frustrating points was
that we were unable to begin setting up the office and
the library until recently because of disagreements with
the council building control. We are also a group of
people who are used to working on short term goals (like
a sexy day of action), and at times it has been difficult to
keep the enthusiasm on top. Several of the initiators
have moved on to other good projects, moved to other
cities and so on. So LARC is facing the same problem as
everywhere else - too few people trying to do too much.

How's LARC run? 
Three years ago we set up a temporary (or so we
thought), admin group which has been meeting weekly to
deal with all aspects of the building work, the legal
structures, the political structures, tidying and cleaning,
opening and closing, film nights, bookings and outreach.
We were lucky enough to blag the money for the
building, and have no mortgage to a bank, but we still
need to fundraise to pay the incoming bills.

In recent months the admin group has diversified into
practical workgroups such as: office, finance/fundraising,
building maintenance, roof garden, library and
events/outreach, which are open to all user of the
building. The main decisions regarding LARC are taken
at monthly meetings with all the regular user groups of
the building invited (or delegates from groups using the
building). Legally LARC is a non-profit making company,
collectively owned for the use of direct action groups
working on projects for radical social change. Within this
shared framework all the users of the building can
contribute to shaping the future of the LARC project. 

What are the plans for the future? 
After three years we are in fact back to the beginning of
the project, and it feels exciting and daunting at the
same time. The building is increasingly used for
meetings, talks, yoga, self-defence, film screenings,
womenzone, kids days, and banner/prop making for a
variety of autonomous actions. It still has the capacity to
room a lot more activities though, and we hope it will
become even busier in the coming months and years.
More generally, we hope that LARC proves to be what it
was intended to be: a useful resource in the growing
struggle against capitalism, centralised power,
environmental destruction and war; and a shared tool on
the way to creating a truly free and ecological

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