Dalston Lane theatre squat faces eviction

Gerrard Winstanley office at evnuk.org.uk
Mon Oct 23 23:53:21 BST 2006

Dalston Lane Faces Eviction

The occupied theatre on Dalston Lane (Hackney, London) is 
currently facing eviction - the local council has got permission to 
demolish the buildings from next Wednesday. Dalston Theatre 
was occupied in February [pics 1 | 2] to protest against the 
gentrification of the area and has ever since been open as a 
community centre, hosting a variety of activities and workshops.
The first attempt to evict the building, in March, was successfully 
resisted. Now, the ocupiers are asking for support to resist the 
eviction once again. 

lovely pictures of Dalston Lane (including one of a male Samba 
player wearing what appears to be a non biometric compatible 
Muslim veil) here

The building was occupied in February of this year, and has 
been open as a community space hosting a variety of community 
activities and workshops such as Theatre of the Oppressed, 
samba drumming, film nights, Food not bombs, video-making, 
bike workshops, various themed talks and info-nights, open mic 
nights, guerilla cinema and a daily non-profit cafe. The legal 
battle to save the theatre has been ongoing for the last 18 
months, between Hackney council and OPEN, one of the 
organisations fighting to preserve buildings in the area that have 
potential to be used as community spaces. 

The building was occupied to halt its demolition and as part of 
an ongoing process to prevent the fate of a vibrant and diverse 
community being decided by property barons that will go on to 
line their pockets with the spoils of others' misfortune. The 
occupiers acted after years of council neglect had left the once 
prestigious building in almost complete ruin. Built in 1896, the 
building has served as a circus venue, a theatre, a filmhouse 
and eventually a concert hall, at one point playing host to 
legendary acts such as Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, and later on The 
Prodigy. The plans to demolish and build luxury high-rise flats, 
completely unaffordable to the great majority of locals, were 
drawn up without any genuine consultation with the local people. 

This has been the case for decades, with the mass-closure and 
selling off of public, community spaces, such as leisure centres, 
schools, school playing fields, nurseries, social housing and 
community centres, to make way for private property for use by 
the few that can afford it. With this in mind, the occupants opened 
up the space and invited all people from the local community to 
come and decide how the space would be organised. 

The battle to open the site as a community space began with a 
dramatic occupation the day before the preparation for the 
planned demolition of the building started. When council 
workers, contractors and demolishers arrived early Monday 
morning to start the preparations for the demolition, they found 
that locals and friends had already entered the building and its 3 
adjacent houses just a few hours before. Although the building 
had been legally occupied, the council and their dogsbodies 
proceeded to illegally enter the building. Occupation of the 
theatre itself was maintained for two weeks by one of the 
protestors maintaining a permanent presence on the roof of the 
building. At the same time the council took the occupation of the 
theatre to the high court, but a series of bureucratic blunders, 
taking the case from one court to the next, allowed the resistance 
to continue. 

Through the activities and workshops that have taken place the 
aim has been to act as a centre for people from the diverse 
communities in the area to have a place to come together and 
collectively organise in co-operation with each other, allowing a 
space for better understanding and communication, as it is 
eventually only these people who have the rightful place to 
decide together the fate of their community. There has also been 
an emphasis on uniting local struggles with global struggles, as 
it is not only Hackney that is suffering the consequences of 
corporate takeover of land, but communities all over the world. 
Dalston theatre is just one example among many in an ongoing 
process of gentrification in East London, involving the mass 
sell-off of public land by the council to property developers and 
private companies. The Olympic Games, which will come to 
London in 2012, is just one more excuse for private investment 
in an area where once local communities thrived, and where 
now locality, including housing, small businesses and public 
spaces, is sacrificed in the name of big business and corporate 

With the day of the eviction approaching ever closer, the 
occupants have organised a steadfast resistance, and welcome 
any groups or individuals to stop by the cafe (4 Dalston Lane 
E8), open every day 12pm-7pm, and help out in whichever way 
they can. 

The process that the occupants have initiated will not end with 
the demolition of this one building however, but will move 
forward with the occupation of another building in the local area. 
To get involved with the setting up of this new space: e-mail 
 everything4everyone at riseup.net or drop by the café while we're 
still there... 

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