"We are proud that we are reclaiming one of the many properties left empty throughout London by profit-hungry speculators or negligent local councils, and transforming it from a sight of dereliction and misery into a vibrant communal space.
The Colorama building in 44-50 Lancaster Street was built at the end of the 19th century and represents a landmark of Victorian light industrial warehouses. Throughout the years, they have seen a huge number of occupiers and modifications, firmly entrenching them in the local landscape. Yet, the Victorian character is to be lost forever with the dooming demolition of both Colorama buildings 44-50 and 52-58 Lancaster Street in favour of five-story-high luxury flats.
This is not an individual story, but part of a much bigger picture: Our libraries and community centres are being closed all around us, our parks are being sold off. We are being squeezed out of whatever social housing remains, and pushed out of rented properties by cuts to our housing benefit. In the face of such blatant theft of our space and homes by the state and private developers, the only response can be to take back what rightly belongs to us, the people, the communities, the neighbours. Especially in the area of Elephant & Castle, where massive processes of restructuring and gentrification [recent urban developments of people of the middle and upper classes ("gentry") driving out the lower and working classes in a neighbourhood] are on the way, squatting is an act of resistance in itself.
Some people may be worried about the legality or image of squatting. The law around squatting has indeed changed recently, but this only applies to residential buildings. Library Street is in a commercial property and we are not in any breach of any criminal law by being there. The issue of trespass remains a civil matter between us and the property owner.
It cannot be stated enough – visiting Library Street is not a crime!"
THE LIBRARY STREET SOCIAL CENTRE"The Library Street Community Centre inside the squatted Colorama building in Elephant and Castle and has been preparing to open for the use of the local community since it was occupied in September 2012.
The Space is on two floors, the bottom floor being a social and community space (open to the public) and the top being home to the group of people who live and work in the building (and therefore a private space, where access is restricted).
We want to be a space where people can meet, socialise, attend events, share meals, read books, and more; a space that can be used by the local community and anyone who is interested in social work and political activities (respecting our safer space policy, of course).
We think this is especially important in a time where more and more public space is privatized and sold off to private investors, where less and less money is donated to public welfare and social life, and where communities and social life are more and more reliant on self-organization. With our space we intend to provide some alternative to capitalism and privatization, some free social and cultural services and activities, some space for networking and community organization.
What we do?
We organize as a non hierarchical space [meaning everybody has a fair say in the running of the space and there are no bosses or leaders] and have a safer spaces policy that everyone entering the building is asked to abide by.
Since we began life, we have hosted a number of events including talks and dance parties, fund-raising events for community organisations, theatre group performances and meetings; though until now we have not been fully open to the public. We have also been working hard within the space, to fix plumbing and electrical faults, patch up holes in the roof, paint and decorate the space, and provide infrastructure such as the Library & Infoshop and the Freeshop.
We opened the space to the public for the first time on Saturday November 10th; where neighbours could come together to create an environment that is accessible and welcoming for the use of all the communities around us.
Soon we will start to organise events including a peoples kitchen and an art exhibition (dates TBC); but we are also looking for ideas and contributions from people who would like to do things inside the building.
We are also working on having regular opening times for the space so people can come to read, socialise, or have a cup of tea, but we will need help and volunteers to make this possible."