Bordeaux (France): ‘Living from day to day’ in migrant squats

As the western French city of Bordeaux struggles to accommodate its growing migrant population, more and more squats have popped up to keep the city’s legal and illegal migrants off the streets. However, since the region appointed Fabienne Buccio as its prefect, an aggressive evacuation campaign has been set in motion; with over 70 squats having been shut down in the past 6 months alone.

Like most children her age, eight-year-old Samar loves the extracurricular activities that are held on Wednesdays. “Today we painted, and we were even allowed to paint on the wall [of the squat]!,” she exclaims in impeccable French before one of her mates interrupts her for a play fight. “He annoys me a lot, but what is good here is that we’re allowed to disagree,” Samar says and points to the little boy who goes on to pull a face and then bursts out laughing. “There’s respect, but above all there’s no war like in my country,” she says [Read More]

France: L´Oukaze, a new autonomous space in Bègles

Oukaze_squatted_autonomous_space_Bègles_Bordeaux

Five people meet in and feel political affinity – and loads of energy. They open a new legal squat in Bègles, a suburb of Bordeaux … and are allowed to stay; even untill next spring as it seems now! A utopian story of the birth of a new autonomous space. Let´s see what the Oukaze has become now, several months after it came to life in february.

The gate to the new squat which is in a massive beautiful old villa with a garden is closed. It is metal black, on the outside you see flyers and little pieces of street art – and inside you will see even more of it. There is a bell and you can shout as well. It´s easy to enter, someone will always open.
The entry to the magic villa is made acessible with a ramp, words of welcome are written on it. And inside you will see dark wooden floors, loads of stencils, pictures, decorations, banners – all put together it makes it feel like a very cosy art gallery, all ready for interaction with the oevre, all ready to be changed and cosy comfy seats inviting the spectator to stay and become part of it. [Read More]

Bordeaux: The HP, squatted psychiatric hospital

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H.P. in French is short for psychiatric hospital. There are several of them in Bordeaux. But one of them has no doctors and nurses. It has no beds or waiting rooms, no registers and does not require a health insurance. Le H.P. is in a huge building parts of which got squatted three years ago by artists to open ateliers in deserted flats.

Some of the flats are now also squatted for living, in some of them there are parties happening every now and then, some of them are quiet working spaces and some of them are galleries or open spaces for Art Symphosiums … but this is kept rather secret.

The most prominent part of the H.P. is a huge room that is used as a dance floor. It is totally silent around this anonymous block of flats next to the highway on the outskirts of Bordeaux. To find the H.P. one has to know that it exists. The entry is an inconspicuously looking door that most people enter only for one purpose: dancing while releashing their crazy enrgies. [Read More]

Bordeaux: La B.A.S.E., opportunities beyond the establishment

La_BASE_Bordeaux

A city that made its fortune by exploiting those who could not defend their rights back in the 18th century, a city where homeless people sleep on the streets, surrounded by costly restored monuments and facades – one of this kind, Bordeaux is renowned for its delicious wine, chic boutiques, elegant esplanades and bourgeois lifestyle.
An estimated number of 3500 homeless, a whole district where less wealthy people had to leave their homes after refurbishments that resulted in a boost of residential rents, plans for further gentrification of the city center, investments in façade cleanings and the construction of a touristy boardwalk instead of in the amelioration of social services, for instance in lacking nurseries – this is Bordeaux, too. Here, in December 2009 a homeless froze to death.
Under these conditions squatting an abandoned building in the north of Bordeaux is defined as a political act by the tenants of “La B.A.S.E.”. It was in summer 2010 when a group of young people entered a residential house that was left to decay for more than ten years. They decided to turn it into a place where those who seek a roof over their head can have it for free, since lodging is a human necessity, to create a place for free information and cultural events, open discussions and people’s kitchen. [Read More]