Some thoughts for public reading from a couple of ex-bingo squatters

We are the occupiers of the Gala Bingo Hall. By “we” let it be clear that we mean all those present here, and many others who supported this project; since its aim was to open a space for the whole community to use and enjoy. Instead, we find ourselves today in front of yet another empty building condemned to remain shut and disused, at the same time local as people, musicians, artists and community projects struggle to find places to meet, practice, perform and exhibit.

We need to make it clear that the closure of this space is a political act, and that last night’s eviction is a political eviction. For four days we proved in practice that a community can come together, reclaim a space and turn it into a resource for all. No occupied social centre has closed its doors because of a failure of people to run it and manage it collectively. What happened here is not a failure of our vision of free spaces. What happened here is a deliberate political attack on this ideal, in support of the absolute right to private property, using any available pretext, and backed up by the threat of imminent police violence.

We were evicted yesterday under the pretext that the building was unsafe to use. It is of course ludicrous that a building designed as an entertainment hall, and later used as a cinema and bingo hall as recently as last May, cannot be made safe for the community to use. When we received the visit by the authorities last night, their aim was not to make this project safe, but to evict us no matter what. It was made explicitly clear to us that if we attempted to open the fire escapes we would be arrested for criminal damage, and if not we would be arrested for staying in an unsafe building. This impossible situation, backed up by heavy police presence, was designed to criminalise our actions, prevent the course of justice and due process, and hamper our ability to use the spaces that are empty in town. With no consideration to any legislation protecting people from eviction, we were asked to vacate the space in 30 minutes, or face criminal charges and police violence, under the pretext of our own safety. This is simply a farce.

This eviction is also a stark reminder of how property is seen by those in power, and those who own it for profit. For us, property, of our homes and belongings, is a means necessary to achieve the safety for each individual. Property to them is a means of making profit. When social spaces become unprofitable, they are to remain closed and inaccessible no matter what the impact or the needs of the surrounding communities are. The role of the police, and the complicity of the fire authorities in this eviction, also demonstrate the role the state and its institutions have in upholding the view of property for profit. We believe that community control of property and social spaces is a prerequisite for our freedom. As have all social movements in history, we claim the right of our communities to control their social spaces, as a prerequisite for us to say that we live freely.

This is a just one episode in our ongoing struggle for free spaces. Over the last few days, as before in other social centres, we witnessed how many share this vision. As we walk through the streets of Cambridge, filled with empty spaces we fill them in our dreams with what we think they could become: spaces of freedom to build our communities. And from today onwards we want to make very clear our commitment to realise these dreams, and fill those empty shells with life again.


Bingo hall evicted (meeting tonight now outside!)

Last night the 20 occupants of the old bingo hall were evicted by around 50 police including tactical units with riot gear, under the pretext of fire regulations. Ironically, the police interrupted a meeting that had just secured 5 fire extinguishers and was discussing the opening up of the remaining fire exits in preparation for the planned public launch tomorrow.

The police initially said that they would not take action on the squatted building, as squatting is a civil matter between occupants and building owner. However, the squatters gained a higher profile through local media and outreach work, promoting anti-capitalism and social change, and organising a public meeting and music event that was anticipated to draw large numbers of people. Following this, the police threatened the occupiers over two days, and finally moved to protect property and the status quo, using any possible excuse.

The fire officer who accompanied the police said that the occupiers would have to immediately remove the metal grills covering fire doors to make the building safe. This was planned for the following morning, and the occupiers and fire warden agreed that this could happen immediately, however the police accompanying the fire officer made it clear that this would immediately lead to arrests for criminal damage. It was obvious from the huge number of police in attendance that the outcome was already set, and that the only result the police would tolerate was eviction. Given the recent reputation of police actions against political protestors, the occupiers left for the own safety rather than keep the doors secured.

We expect that this building in the centre of our city will remain empty for an indefinite amount of time, as has the previous social centre site on Mill Road, owned by Tesco, and an increasing number of properties in the area. At the same time, artists, musicians, community groups and local people struggle to find spaces to meet, socialise and put on events.

We believe that local communities, rather than wealthy interests, should determine what the buildings and spaces in the local area are used for. We will be going ahead with the planned public meeting at 7.30 pm, in the street outside the bingo hall, where we will be discussing the repression we have faced, free spaces, and our plans for the future.

Cambridge Evening News

CEN Cover PhotoThis morning, the community centre is featured on the front page of the Cambridge Evening News! Read the article and watch the interview at

And while you’re reading – check out the Stuff We Need and Events pages on the toolbar to the right to keep up to date with what’s going on!

Cambridge Social Centre opens in Old Bingo Hall!

Members of the Cambridge Action Network have occupied the old Gala bingo hall on Hobson Street, behind Waterstones book shop. The centre is now open to the public to use for events such as films, music, workshops, art, discussions and meetings. Everyone is welcome (during reasonable waking hours!)

We’re currently working to clean the space up, make it nice, and get hold of furniture, and we’d love you to join us. We organise by consensus – no-one is in charge, and everyone involved has an equal say. This is everyone’s space – let’s make it brilliant! 

We’ve done this because we believe that local communities should have control of local spaces, and be able to use them for whatever they see fit. Empty, unused buildings are a disgrace in a society where getting access to space is so difficult. A direct example of this is in Mill Road, where a lively social centre was closed by Tesco last year, leaving an empty building ever since.

There will be an official opening event on Saturday 18th July at 7.30 pm, where you are invited to come along, enjoy the new social centre, and see how you can use the space and get involved. There will be a open mic event in the evening showcasing local acts. Bring your own refreshments. Come on down!

Want to put on events or get involved? Get in touch in person or:

phone: 01223 356630



Old bingo hall open!

Some lovely people have opened the old Bingo hall on Hobson Street! The building has been reclaimed for community use. More details to follow shortly.