Former Tory club occupied for the bigger societyTagged as: bigger_society cuts local_communities n30 squatting work
Published by group: Autonomous Nottingham
A group have occupied the empty Conservative Club on Church Street in Lenton. The Bigger Society Social Club will feature workshops, discussions and film showings in support of movements for radical social change. In particular, the participants are focussing on supporting the public sector strike on 30th November as well as the wider anti-cuts movement.
The volunteer-run space is open to the public all week for a programme of workshops from 1pm-7.30pm each day. Dinner will be served each evening accompanied by a film showing.
The Conservatives' Big Society programme stated that it aimed to build “a big society that will take power away from politicians and give it to people”. The Bigger Society is an example of taking back power for people without asking for official permission.
The occupiers hope to raise awareness of the Government’s attempt to ban squatting by demonstrating that unused buildings can be converted into positive community spaces. Local Conservative, Ken Clarke MP, made a last minute amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill to criminalise squatting in residential properties last month.
Those who oppose the criminalisation of squatting point to the results of the Government’s consultation on the issue to which over 90% of respondents, including homelessness charities, objected to the proposed changes. A government paper published in July this year found that criminalisation will increase homelessness and pressure on the police and council housing departments. Leading legal figures have joined the campaign against the ban pointing out that squatting in people’s homes is already a criminal offence.
Occupier Chris Clarke said “We will be using an occupied building to highlight the issue of squatting and to counteract the campaign of misinformation that has accompanied government plans to criminalise it. We hope to show that squatting can provide unique spaces and resources that the whole community can benefit from.”
“By squatting in their old club we are sending the Tories a clear message: Movements, like ours, which bypass government and take direct action are the real Big Society.”
Notes for editors:
 The programme can be found online: https://nottingham.indymedia.org/articles/2198
 Government launches Big Society programme, 18th May 2010: http://www.number10.gov.uk/news/big-society/
 The consultation included the views of 25 25 members of the public concerned with the harm squatting can cause but 2, 126 concerned about the impact of criminalisation of squatting. Regional and national homelessness charities, including Crisis, Thames Reach, Shelter, Homeless Link, Housing Justice and St Mungo’s had serious concerns about any proposals to criminalise squatting. The full summary can be accessed here: http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/consultations/options-dealing-squatting-response.pdf
 The paper said the proposal could further damage the health of people already suffering from mental health problems and drug addiction. It can be accessed here: http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/consultations/options-dealing-with-squatting-ia.pdf
 The Guardian, Letter: Media and politicians are misleading about law on squatters, 25th Sep 2011: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/sep/25/squatting-law-media-politicians