Amsterdam: Help Sjakoo to survive

Help Sjakoo to survive in Amsterdam

The Amsterdam radical Bookshop The Fort van Sjakoo recently had its existence threatened by an extreme rent increase of 900%. Thanks to the persistent dedication of many people this danger has been averted for the time being and there has been talk of a lower, gradual rent increase. Now the only affordable option is to buy the bookshop space. That of course will cost a lot of money. To raise this much money, and with that the continued existence of a political bookshop, the support of sympathisers is indispensable.

Who and What?
The Fort van Sjakoo has been at Jodenbreestraat 24 since 1977. The building was squatted 2 years earlier in protest against the planned demolition for a new office building. The squatters made the building habitable and they started a bookshop on the ground floor. The resistance of the squatters was successful; the building wasn’t demolished. In the 1980’s the municipality bought the property for next to nothing from a speculator and the tenants and the bookshop became renters.

In the meantime the Fort has enthusiastically kept on going for 25 years with a changing collective of volunteers. For reasons of principle the Fort has never been dependent on government subsidies and until now has always been able to pay its own expenses. The Fort’s objective is not to make profit, or to pay anyone a salary, but to make available all sorts of information that isn’t easy to find elsewhere. The collection of the Fort consists of a broad range of left-wing political, social criticism, avant- garde, artistic, inciting, bizarre, environmentally friendly, and otherwise interesting publications that you couldn’t find in a regular bookshop. It is also a distribution point for self-made publications, music from small labels, t-shirts, patches, etc. People from all over The Netherlands and the rest of the world find their way to The Fort van Sjakoo.

The Threat
Since 1977 a lot has changed. The centre of Amsterdam has been spruced up to be more attractive for richer people. The Jodenbreestraat has also been ‘fixed up’. In addition to this the Amsterdam municipality has given away a large percentage of its housing property to private companies. All of this had the effect that the Fort must pay a so-called ‘market value’ rent. In practice this means a rent increase of 900%, a rent increase we cannot pay and will not pay.

After the rent increase became known there was a storm of protest. Angry booksellers, publishers, customers, neighbourhood residents, squatters, librarians and a lot of other people let, each in their own way, their voice be heard by the owner. Plus the Amsterdam municipality got a lot of criticism. Their policy makes sure that there will be no place in the centre of the city for small scale, non-commercial initiatives. The Fort van Sjakoo is not the only one that was confronted with a very large rent increase.

The Acquisition
The result of the protest and the social discussion that followed was a proposal for an incremental rent increase and the option to buy the bookshop space. We have accepted, for the time being, the first rent increase because it was the only way we could remain at our present location. Besides, it became apparent that there was no other suitable and affordable place for us to find in Amsterdam. In a short time the yearly rent increases will become unaffordable and buying the shop is the only way we can continue to exist. Of course buying isn’t the solution for a political problem, but it’s our only way to survive, and we will survive!

If we decide on the buying option, we must let the owner know before June 30, 2003. Therefore there is very little time to organize the financing and it will be a strain to try and get it. The selling price of the property is 200,000 euros. On June 30th we must have a fair sized part of the asking price to know if we can really buy it. If we were to borrow the full amount from the bank, the mortgage payments would lead us to bankruptcy. Donations from sympathetic organizations and individuals are an essential part of our plan to buy the property. To try and raise money we will have information meetings at different locations in the very near future. We will also be organizing benefits.

Help Us!
Of course we can’t do everything ourselves. We hope that others will help us by collecting money, organizing benefit parties, or in other ways contribute to our needed amount. Live a month on bread and water, rob the closest bank, stop smoking, stop driving, sell a kidney, sell some blood, or think of a better idea; any amount is welcome.

If the purchase doesn’t go through, and that will be clear in July 2003, you will get your money back. Therefore it’s very important that you give us your name and address if you give us a cash contribution. Anonymous contributions will be given to a comparable initiative if we don’t use it to buy the bookshop.

You can send money to:
Postbank, The Netherlands
Stichting Stort voor het Fort, Amsterdam
International Bank Account Number: NL51PSTB0009484062
Refer to “Purchase”

(Or in the U.S. to)
Washington Mutual, Seattle
Int’l Book shop/Het Fort van Sjakoo
Account Number 111-302418-5
Refer to “Purchase”

(Or in Germany to)
Postbank Köln
Steffen Hänschen
Kontonummer: 3419345
BLZ: 370 100 50
Bezahlungsreferenz “Kauf”

(Or within Holland to)
Stichting Stort voor het Fort, Amsterdam
Giro 948 40 62 Refer to “Purchase”

Please mail us if you donate or need more information at: fortaankoop [at] planet [dot] nl

With your support we will remain for a long, long time!

Greetings from the Fort van Sjakoo collective.

Het Fort van Sjakoo
Jodenbreestraat 24
1011 NK Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Tel: (31) (20) 625-8979
Fax: (31) (20) 620-3570
fortaankoop [at] planet [dot] nl