Edinburgh: Doors closed on the People’s Cafe

The proposed centre for ‘non-commercial activity’ re-opened its doors to the public on the 30th November last year with a programme of participatory events that involved other non-profit organizations, local residents, activists and members of the Bilston Glen community. The People’s Café website was set up and a mission statement clearly set out their simple objective; ‘Direct action has been taken to ensure that the space is not left unused but can be reopened for the benefit of the local community.’

The radical measures in place to provide a social centre for dialogue and creative space were to be short lived as a civil motion was applied for by the administrators PricewaterhouseCooper (PWC) and a court date was posted within two weeks of the occupation. The eviction date was set for the 21st December in order to take full advantage of the working week before the Christmas holidays. The occupiers left the premises accordingly under the surveillance of two court officials and two police officers. Other officers and vans stationed strategically on adjacent streets were not required. Contrary to the courts concerns of health and safety, the building was not damaged by the occupiers and improvements were made whilst the building was in use.

Although The People’s Café was offered an extension on the eviction date until February, the offer was declined on the pretence that there was an insufficient number of managerial staff that could run the centre. The two court representatives for The People’s Café were initially involved in the Occupy Edinburgh movement and took onboard the running of the café in order to provide a premises for the three day National Occupy Conference on 16th December. Many of those who initially showed interest in building a social centre inside the former Forest Café wanted to distance themselves from the Occupy Movement. These activists feel betrayed by those who represented them in court and believe members of the Occupy Edinburgh movement hijacked their social centre; ‘We didn´t know about the extension in court … certain individuals from the Occupy Movement destroyed The People´s Café.’

The steel shutters, chains and padlocks sealing the windows and doors of what was The People’s Café in Edinburgh only serve to remind its residents of how little our councillors and politicians care for community space in Scotland. In this climate of political realization and social unrest, the reopening of 3 Bristo Place was perhaps an opportunity to expand on the peoples requirement for an autonomous space within the community. What this story highlights is not only the extreme conditions initiated in order to open up a space for dialogue and organization but the requirement for all social movements to forget their political agenda and remember the source of this struggle; our basic human right to gather in numbers as a means of self-empowerment and organic community strength.

People’s Cafe (archived) website: http://peoplescafe.noflag.org.uk/

Source – http://www.freedompress.org.uk/news/2012/04/09/doors-closed-on-the-people%C2%B4s-cafe/