New Squat in Budapest

On Friday, 30th October squatters occupied Centrum, formerly the Uttoro Aruhaz (?pioneer shopping mall?), a vast former supermarket in the centre of Budapest. Teams of people connected water and power, built kitchens and loungerooms, and redecorated walls that were covered in 1980s porn with art, posters, and slogans in Hungarian, English, Spanish and Italian. An exhibition of found objects from the space includes transparencies of communist propaganda and ancient safety messages. Days of cleaning were followed by evenings of intense discussion. Within a week the space was converted into an infoshop, cafe, cinema, gallery, freeshop, library and residence. The building has been here since the end of the 19th century and was a supermarket from that time until 2001, since then it has been empty. Budapest squatters are, in part, campaigning for their right to housing. There are many abandoned buildings in Budapest and 30,000 people are homeless; with winter approaching the lack of housing is life-threatening. In addition the squatters are working to create a social and cultural space and a place to organise established projects such as food not bombs, indymedia, and other cultural and political collectives. Centrum squat opened its doors to the public on Sunday, 7 November with a cafe, music performance, and screening of films about squatting and the history of Budapest as well as exhibitions about the building and other vacant properties. With a warm reception from neighbours and the community the occupiers had high hopes of staying in the space. Many representatives of mainstream and independent media were invited to the opening and the squatters made the nightly news and front-page news in both major Budapest newspapers with very positive stories about the opening of a much needed cultural centre.

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