A diverse group of autonomous people are currently squatting1 3 Bristo Place in central Edinburgh. The 3-storey building has stood empty and unused for over 3 months since August 31st 2011. The non-hierarchical group are taking direct action to reclaim this space for use by the community. See the website: http://peoplescafe.noflag.org.uk/
The squatting of the building began yesterday afternoon with more than 100 people including families occupying the space, cleaning, organising a kitchen area and discussing how the building could be used for the benefit of the community. Banners were painted including 'The Peoples' Cafe' and displayed in the front windows.
3 Bristo Place has previously been utilised by The Forest Cafe as a volunteer-run, collectively-owned, free arts and events space. After Edinburgh University Settlement the owners of the building went bankrupt2, it was appropriated by Price Waterhouse Coopers to administrate and The Forest Cafe were forced to vacate on 31st August 2011 despite a high profile and popular campaign to retain the space3. Those currently squatting the building are not directly affiliated with The Forest Cafe but recognise that its closure is part of an ongoing eradication of free, non-corporate spaces in Edinburgh City Centre. Direct action has been taken to ensure that the space is not left unused but can be reopened for the benefit of the local community.
The action deliberately coincided with the November 30th UK-wide strikes over pensions. Amy Douglas, a 32 year old youth worker from Edinburgh who has been in the building since yesterday said, “While massive cuts are being made to public services and workers bear the brunt of these through much diminished pensions, the banks responsible for the financial crisis continue to profit. Cuts to public services also threaten community spaces and the same banking system is responsible for the detrimental impact this has had on communities across the country4. By squatting and reopening 3 Bristo Place we resist the banks' continued profiting at the expense of those who are already suffering from the cuts.”
Today there will be meetings to organise a programme of participatory events which will be open to the public. It is hoped that the building can be used as an organising space for community projects.
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1While there is no legal right to squat in Scotland, squatting in this context means to settle on or occupy property, especially otherwise unoccupied property, without any title, right, or payment of rent.
2Edinburgh University Settlement were declared bankrupt and forced into administration in October 2010.
4For more information on the impact of cuts-related community centre closures see http://www.guardian.co.uk/edinburgh/2010/may/18/edinburgh-community-centres-saved-gorgie-mem-colinton-mains-longstone-council and http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/mar/25/public-sector-cuts?intcmp=239