week, whilst down in London, I visited the Circle Community Centre in Tufnell
Park, where a Hands off Venezuela event was being held. The round church
building, St George’s theatre, was originally used as a community space, but has
been abandoned and unused for over four years. It has recently been bought up by
an organisation who want to turn it into a single denomination church, and
strictly limit community based activity held there, which would be detrimental
to the diverse multicultural local community. In response, a group of activists
occupied the building in September 2004, and have squatted it ever since,
running it as an environmentally aware theatre and community centre.
Stepping inside the low building, past racks
of green and lefty newspapers, and tables covered with political and community
leaflets, the sweet smell of burning incense, and the odd whiff of pungent
cannabis smoke fills the nostrils. The place is warm, friendly and inviting.
Children’s paintings cover the walls, surrounding comfortable furniture and an
old piano, against which a couple of guitars rest. At one end is a bar, where
the friendly volunteers offer a wide range of hot and cold food and drinks, in
return for a small donation to the centre. That evening they were serving
traditional Venezuelan food, to accompany the theme of the event being hosted
there. Just down the hall is the large round church building, at the far end of
which is the stage used to host many of their events and performances.
Circle Community Centre is run entirely by
committed volunteers on a non-profit basis. Their numbers comprise
environmentalists, anarchists, activists of all shapes and sizes, artists,
musicians, performers, builders, gardeners and many more. Their aims are to
continue to run the building as a progressive centre for all groups in the
community, resisting eviction and efforts to turn it into a church, which would
run only a small number of church based activities.
The centre hosts regular community events and
workshops for all to participate in, from yoga and meditation, to musical
performances of different genres, and from comedy, children’s events and
theatre, to leftist political meetings. The centre is committed to a progressive
outlook and a strongly environmental approach. It is, however, under constant
threat of eviction, and needs support from as many individuals and groups as
possible in order for them to resist, and remain open to provide a valuable
service to the community for as long as possible. If Circle Community Centre
were to be closed, Tufnell Park would lose a valuable cultural asset.
Circle Community Centre is supported by a
range of organisations and groups, such as the Green Party, Indymedia, Dissent,
Green Futures, Cirque Idyllic, local bands and performers, Hands off Venezuela
and many others. They welcome support from any volunteers willing to help out,
and constant repair work, maintenance and cleaning is necessary, as well as
serving guests and running the events themselves. If you want to pop down to
visit, then they are open for a seat and a cuppa from 4pm till 7pm Tuesdays,
Wednesdays and Thursdays, and for cabaret and open mic Fridays 8pm to 11pm, and
of course at times when regular events are advertised.
Please get involved, and help prevent the
eviction of a sound bunch of activists, committed to environmental
sustainability and community action.