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(en) UK, London, LARC London Action Resource Centre A collectively run building providing space http://www.londonarc.org/

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sat, 31 May 2003 17:07:36 +0200 (CEST)

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

A collectively run building providing space and resources including:
offices, computer and internet facilities, roof garden, reference library,
banner-making space, meeting and event rooms for people and groups
working on self-organised, non-hierarchical projects for radical social change.
> 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

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 community

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