Report From Yesterdays Action

We recorded audio of the Austerity and Violence Against Women talk. We also have a number of video recordings of interviews with speakers (below).

So yesterday was a big exciting day for the cafe with lots going on! The front doors were open and we had a packed program of events which drew big numbers; but the cafe aspect of the project also managed to entice lots of passers by who came to share their experiences and stories about the cuts. One trainee nurse came to share his experience of cuts to NHS funding which for him translated as the funding to his course (which was free when he started) being entirely stripped and therefore much more expensive than he had anticipated.

AT 6pm was the Austerity and Violence Against Women which was hosted by Sarah Day a caseworker from Refuge and Rowan an NHS worker. Rowan spoke about how the cuts have effected mental health, citing increased suicide rates as one example, and also presenting an argument that mental health issues should be framed in a similar way to physical disability. Sarah spoke about the serious problem of domestic violence in the U.K. citing the Housing Crisis, Cuts to Legal Aid, and Cuts to the Police as factors of austerity that will only make the situation worse.

Rowan from the NHS on how the cuts affect mental health patients

Rowan NHS from Cutscafe on Vimeo.

Sarah summarises her workshop on austerity and experiences of domestic violence by women

Sarah from Cutscafe on Vimeo.

Open mic at Cuts Cafe Part 1 from Cutscafe on Vimeo.

Open mic at Cuts Cafe Part 2 from Cutscafe on Vimeo.

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We Need Banners!!!

Things are going great at the space, and all of our doors are now open and we have a packed program of events; what we need now is to be pretty and visible! The more banners the bet, so we’d love people to bring ready made banners, or paints and materials, or just come and use the materials we have to make nice, anti cuts typed banners that we can hang out of the windows and make ourselves more appealing! 

Report from Today, and News from the Documentation Group

  • It’s been an exciting day today, with between 70 and 100 people passing through, enjoying coffees, conversations and taking part in meetings. We’ve had Occupy London, the Precarious Workers BrigadeRobin Hood Tax Group, Traveller Solidarity Network, Atomic Weapons Eradication & Campaign Against the Arms Trade all putting on workshops/talks and holding their meetings, and here is lots to tell. The documentation group met today, and from tomorrow we will be live-streaming audio in as many meetings as we can manage (more people are needed to help out in the documentation group, whose aim is to produce a lasting history of the space) and hopefully doing some video too (including a series of fag break interviews, five minute interviews with speakers that will fit into your fag break at work or home).

So here is a blow by blow rundown of happenings today:

  • We woke up super early and went hard at it doing loads throughout the space from painting the first floor, to setting up the cafe space, cleaning and tidying everywhere, trying (and failing to fix water), installing a welcome desk, and cleaning up all of the mess involved in building and setting up the space. Everyone worked super hard, and by the end of the session things were looking beautiful.
  • From around midday there was a steady flow of people coming to help out in the space, lending a hand with cleaning and building, and enjoying our wide range of hot drinks and skipped food.
  • At around four, a rush of people from Occupy London entered the space, holding a meeting discussing what they were going to do for Occupy’s global day of noise (a day of action called by the international occupy movement) and what the group could do for this and beyond. It was a well attended meeting of between 20 and 30 people and members of the group were most helpful in setting up a projector screen and other shiny new things.
  • Next, came The Traveller Solidarity Network and The Robin Hood Tax Campaign who held simultaneous meetings (obviously in different rooms). The Traveller Solidarity Network ‘s workshop covered a wide range of interesting things.  It began with an introduction for people new to the Traveller Solidarity movement (including an explanation of the different kinds of Travellers and Sites on which they live, the problems and racism faced by travelling communities, recent evictions of travelling communities, and the effects of the new localism bill) and the sharing of ideas on how to support local Traveller Sites. Following this, there was a breakout into smaller groups and an invitation to all attendees to their  upcoming action against the Homes and communities agency on the anniversary of the Dale Farm eviction.
  • The Robin Hood Tax Campaign Group gave an introduction to what the campaign is about and explaining what they see as sticky situation they find themselves in- from politicians seeing them as “bonkers” to much of the left viewing them as not radical enough. They then went on to talking about what the tax means and how it would work- essentially taking tax from financial transactions of super rich corporations and investing the money made in progressive projects including anti climate change work. You can see more information about the group on their website, and to get involved email holly@robinhoodtax.org.uk.
  • After this, was a workshop from Atomic Weapons Eradication and CAAT who put forward arguments as to why (particularly during the economic crisis) we don’t need trident, and why it should be discontinued. The talk then led into a discussion from everyone in the meeting ranging from the successful campaign on Scotland’s River Clyde, to discussion on how to take action locally.
  •  The Precarious Workers Brigade then held one of their monthly drop in sessions to share experiences of precarious work, housing, and life in London and to prepare for the upcoming TUC demo on the 20th October which they inform us may well be sporting the always exciting “carrot block”.
  • We finished off with an open general meeting at 9pm where a number of new people came into the space to discuss and decide what the Space should be doing over the next couple of days.  All the information about meetings, what can be done, how to get involved, and fun stuff to do will be up and available from the welcome Desk as of tomorrow- See you there!!!

For Photos of today see our Twitter!!!!!

David Cameron’s welfare cuts wish list…

By Cuts Cafe Guest Blogger

The government are cutting welfare with relish. The Tories used their recent party conference to celebrate taking away yet more from the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. The economic crisis is being used as an excuse to completely dismantle what remains of what was always a patchy and ineffective welfare safety net. Just take a look at David Cameron’s welfare cuts wish list which is pretty much a project of social engineering with poor people are kicked out of their housing and single parent mothers told not to have any more children. For now, this is a Tory dream, but the present isn’t much better, with anyone not earning £25,000 likely to be hit hard by the current welfare ‘reforms’.

But perhaps dismantle is the wrong word to describe this process, as it suggests that the infrastructure of the welfare state is disappearing. Whilst this may be true with regards to monetary entitlements for claimants who are seeing their subsistence benefits cut, the infrastructure of welfare is actually growing in the form of ‘welfare to work’ companies, such as A4e and G4S, making millions of pounds from our misery. As we struggle to survive on less and less our daily existence is further impoverished through the intensification of control that is exerted on us.

One example of this is workfare – forced unpaid work for benefits. This is not anything that new (the Labour party introduced it back in the 1990s) but it is being rolled out on a massive scale to act as a punishment and as a way of making cuts to the welfare budget on top of those outlined in Cameron’s wish list. Other covert means of cutting the welfare budget and leaving people destitute include the use of sanctions and the refusal of crisis loans, with Job Centres instead sending people to food banks rather than give them the money they should be entitled to.

Being forced to work for your benefits is exploitative and degrading. The workfare project also represents the transformation of the welfare state into the workfare state; rather than providing support and a form of remuneration for our activities outside of the labour market, it acts to force everybody into the labour market, without a wage. Finally, workfare undermines the wages and working conditions of those in work and is being used as a way to fill the gaps created by the cuts to public services (workfare in the NHS for example). It is clear that like the other cuts to welfare, this effects the unwaged and the waged alike.

Another deeply concerning reality of welfare today is the rise of food banks across the UK and the Tories’ excitement that this could become the future for welfare – charities attempting to provide people with food staples with a good chunk of judgement and moralism thrown in. The rise of food banks is partly in response to the welfare cuts that have been made, but they are also driving further cuts as the state uses them as an excuse to retreat from providing welfare. This is happening right now in Lambeth. Instead of prioritising the provision of crisis loans for its constituents, the council have been in talks with local food banks about sending people here instead. On the shelf of a food bank I visited in Lambeth there sat a tub of Fortnum and Mason Organic Goose Fat, left over from someone’s Christmas hamper. A reminder, as if we needed it, that this is class war.

This is the state of ‘welfare’ today.

Every visit to the Job Centre is a struggle. A struggle to enter the place that fills me with dread. A struggle to stand up for myself to bullying advisors. A struggle to ensure that I receive the subsistence benefits that I am entitled to. We mustn’t go through this alone – we must create our own welfare system of solidarity. As claimants we must look after each other and support each other and take collective action against those denying us our rights – and to go beyond this, for ‘rights’ within the current system gives us very little.

There are loads of examples where groups have successfully taken action – Hackney Housing Group gained such a reputation that when they once went along to pay the housing office a visit, the housing office brought down its shutters and closed. Boycott Workfare have pressured dozens of high street stores and charities to pull out of the government’s workfare schemes. Sharing our experiences, ideas, and tactics is important and Cuts Cafe will provide a space for us to come together to do this.

Welfare discussions at Cuts Cafe

Sunday 14th October 2pm-4pm- Able to Fight: Welfare Reform, Disability and Resistance

Red Pepper presents a panel with Michael Calderbank, Kate Bell (co-author, Red Pepper welfare reform mythbuster), Phillip Connolly (RNIB), and Merry Cross (DPAC)

Wednesday 17th October 6pm-London Coalition Against Poverty

Fighting for our rights to housing and welfare: Mutual support and direct action work!

 

The Doors Are Open and the Events Begin at 5pm

After some minor delays working tirelessly to prepare the space, we are pleased to announce that we are finally ready to open. Events start from 5pm tonight and people are welcome before that to come hang out, see the space, and generally get things moving.

Events happening today…

5pm-6pm– Occupy: Global Noise and Beyond
Occupy will be presenting the numerous activities planned for the autumn. Come along to find out how to take part and to have your say on what you think our next steps should be.

6pm-7pm– Robin Hood Tax presents:
Dispelling the myths of the financial transaction tax and what it could mean for the UK.

6pm-7pm– Traveller Solidarity Network
An introduction to the Fight for Sites campaign, and what the fight for Traveller’s rights has to do with cuts, housing and the Tories.

7-8.30pm – ACTION Atomic Weapons Eradication and Campaign Against Arms Trade

Update on the Space:

The space has electricity and step free access, and we aim to have most of our events on the ground floor, although because of high demand from groups to use the space we will be using other floors. Please click here for our “access as priority” policy – we ask those coming to Cuts Cafe to let us know in advance of their access requirements so we can set-up events accordingly.

We have a kitchen in the basement and some food, tea, and coffee on the ground floor. Sadly, we do not yet have full running water, but there is a disabled toilet on the ground floor, and a bucket flush toilet system in the basement for able bodied people. We are working on a kids/crèche space, but we really need input and advice about the best way to manage this. Please come today and input into the decision making process about the space!

See you tonight!

The Ramp is Built, The Doors are Open, Systems are Go! (Nearly)

It’s been a busy 24 hours at the cuts cafe, people worked tirelessly yesterday to build a wheelchair access ramp which is now fitted at the side entrance of the building (see picture below)  and means that people can enter onto the ground floor using a wheelchair. We bought a wheelchair accessible toilet today, which will arrive before events begin tomorrow evening and are hard at work cleaning, tidying and decorating and hope to open tonight for a social and film showing. 

We are also starting to think about opening the kids space and crèche, and where is the best place to put it; we have  a number of the cuts cafe team who have CRB checks and who are willing to help facilitate this, but we can only make a crèche a reality with help and input from parents, careers, and people who are experienced in working with children. 

Tonight, we are having a building a decorating night, and we would really like people to come down to the space to paint, decorate, and imagine the space as they would like it to be. We need your input to make cuts cafe everything that it can be!

Please please come  from 4pm today and help out, have fun and chat about the things we want to see… We Come from the Future to Liberate the Present, Open the Doors, Let EVERYONE in!

GRAND OPENING: Thursday is the day!

Our full schedule of events will start this Thursday as Cuts Café finally opens as an accessible space! From tomorrow, the space will be fully up and running, with a great schedule of workshops, film screenings, and skill-shares. Please see the full and updated list of events here. We are working really hard to reschedule postponed events.

We have a ramp for wheelchair access, home made by the Cuts Café crew. Full details of our accessibility will be put up on our website shortly.

 

 

In the meantime please come from 4pm today and get involved with a jam-packed day of DIY activities! Have a cup of tea, get to know the space, help us make it look nice, and bring down anything from our wish list

Occupying disused buildings and turning them into a fully functioning social centers is always a great experience that provides immense value to those involved as well as the wider community. In our case it has also provided an invaluable lesson in both the importance and challenges of making spaces accessible. We, perhaps naively, underestimated the work involved, but are proud of the immense effort we have made in creating a wheelchair accessible space.

We are really excited to be providing a space to both explore and build alternatives to the destructive agendas of those who appear to be more powerful. The Cuts Café provides a living example of how society is already being run by a radically different agenda. Come down and make it happen!

The Events Crew

An open letter from the spaces crew

This is an open letter to everyone, who has been excited, disappointed, confused, concerned, etc about what is happening with the physical space that will become the Cuts Cafe. My name is Peter, I am a member of the space team who have been working day and night for the past two weeks in order to try and find a building that meets the criteria of size, accessibility, location, and security. In the last fourteen days we have scouted around forty buildings in areas such as Elephant and Castle, The City of London, Holborn, and Mayfair; opened and internally expected around 10, and fully squatted and prepared 2; most of us have slept less than 4 hours in every 24.

Last Thursday, we found and secured an absolutely ideal location in Elephant and Castle; a three story Library on Borough Road which had been abandoned by South bank University for around 9 months. The building met all of our needs, and most importantly of all was completely wheelchair accessible. Sadly, the forces of the state, and the management of the university would not allow us to use this building, and swiftly and violently evicted us from the premise. 

Following this, we in the spaces team spent day after long day scouting buildings to find the perfect place, and night after long night opening and exploring buildings to see if we could make them work. It has been a steep learning curve for many of us; as an able bodied person, I had never realized how horribly in accessible so many central London buildings are.

On Sunday night, after intense sleep deprivation, failure after failure to find the perfect space, and a high degree of burnout we decided to open up 1 Stamford Street near Blackfriars. We  chose this building, as it is large and spacious, well located, clean and welcoming and also because it was one of the last places we could realistically open before we all collapsed of exhaustion. The doors have been heavily barricaded by the owner and access for all of us has been difficult, we have finally sorted this and today have been building a ramp to make the place accessible for wheelchair users.

We at the spaces crew, have worked as hard as we can to find and identify a space and want more than anything for us to be able to open the doors and get things rolling but we also feel that it is unfair and hypocritical to open a space to the public that a wheelchair can not get into. To this ends, the wheelchair ramp will be finished by the morning and from then we welcome everyone to come and help us fix up the space to be the future we want to see.

We’re sorry, really sorry for the delay in opening and i personally apologize to those who had to cancel workshops because of our failings, but I hope people understand the work that has gone into everything we’ve had to do, it’s been a mission, but a mission that has been worth it.  

Come, help and socialise!

Three solid points from this afternoons meeting…

Firstly, the Cuts Café is getting ready. There will be no events today! We are still in the construction phase. Please come down if you are willing to help us get the space fully functional for this weeks’ events.

Secondly, we are hosting a welcoming event tonight at 6pm.  It will be a chance to help clean up the space to make it ready and to socialise and meet new people. This will be good fun; bring all your mates, your mum, your nan, whoever!!

And finally, we also are looking for some material items to make Cuts Café more hospitable – your donations make this space function!! We need furniture (chairs, sofa; table, rubbish bins, etc), kitchen things (forks, knives, spoons, plates, cups,), cleaning materials (anti-bacterial, soap, paper-towels, sponges), decorative materials (posters, banner making supplies, etc), and food.

A huge Thank you in advance.