From its beginnings six years ago as hub to mobilise for the G8, The Common Place has evolved to be a truly valuable independent community space; it's well-loved and continues to be well-used by lots of different groups. It has provided a non-commercial space in Leeds city centre for local and national groups and collectives to meet and organise, and is a popular and unique venue for DIY gigs and club nights in Leeds. It has sometimes been criticised for not nurturing an activist culture, yet it has been more open and welcoming to a broader cross-section of groups, communities and individuals than might have otherwise been the case. Equally, it might not be recognised as a 'social centre' within the narrow definitions of some political or radical circles, but to a lot of other people outside of that community The Common Place is actually quite a refreshing, exciting and challenging space compared with what else can be found in Leeds.
So why is it closing? There are a whole load of reasons, and this is an attempt to explain some of them. One simple but key reason is that it's just unworkable; the funding model is unsustainable and relying on volunteers is often expecting too much from a small number of people. The building itself has faced a lot of criticism because it's not an ideal space, and renting it has meant a reluctance to put money and energy into making any improvements. We have £15,000 in court costs hanging over our head, and there's no way we can afford to pay this. If we kept going The Common Place could be shut down at any time. The costs resulted from having our license revoked following a period which saw an unwarranted degree of police scrutiny, particularly given that there had not been a single complaint made against The Common Place by a member of public, nor has there been since. In addition, recent revelations of long running disruptive undercover police infiltration have through no fault of our own undermined our ability to continue as a legal entity - one of our founding directors was not who they claimed to be and was in fact a member of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU).
Leeds needs a clean slate, a chance to be re-inspired and the opportunity to break free of pre-described ideas about what an 'autonomous and radical social centre' should be. What does that even mean anyway? The Common Place lacks dynamism and some would say it's outdated, tired and ghettoised. Some feel that this state has partly come about because fresh ideas and new ways of doing things have been constrained by set expectations about what a radical social centre should be, while others disagree. Either way, we need to break with the past and so it's time to pull the plug. For a while now a lot of people have felt that Leeds is missing or lacking something, and we need to figure out what that is. The Common Place has become dysfunctional and static; admitting this and closing will hopefully open us up to new possibilities and spark imaginations about the different kinds of spaces Leeds needs. Things are moving and now is the perfect time to get to work creating the places we want in Leeds.
So, there will be a 'What's Next?' meeting at The Common Place on Sunday 17th April at 5pm. The idea is to put people in contact with each other so groups can go off and start planning whatever they are interested in, be it a bookshop, a cafe, a gig venue or something else entirely.
What's more, we're going to hold a PARTY WEEKEND! Saturday 22nd - Sunday 24th! One last big party before The Common Place closes. If you all get on board and help make stuff happen then there will be daytime events on Saturday and Sunday as well as the obligatory party on Saturday night. Party planning Monday 21st March 8pm. Turn up or email us if you can't make it but want to help organise it/get bands to play/DJ/decorate/make posters/make cake/make cocktails/make or do something. Get involved!
One more thing- almost everything in the Common Place is the property of user groups and members. We will send out an email around the start of April to arrange for people and groups to remove their stuff.