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From: "Jo Makepeace" webmaster@schnews.org.uk
Subject: SchNEWS 529, Friday 27th January, 2006
Date: Fri, 27 Jan 2006 02:43:39 -0000

Bristol North Swimming Pool eviction

SINK OR SWIM?

IN AT THE DEEP END AS BRISTOL ACTIVISTS SQUAT POOL


...In Bristol, a city with a long tradition of anarchist community action, a group of local agitators have dipped a toe into radical politics in their struggle against the closure of a local swimming pool. This is their story in (mostly) their own words...

For several years, locals have been campaigning against the closure of their swimming pool, Bristol North Pool. The issue was one of huge local concern: a petition with over 6000 signatures was presented to the council, and there was even a Save Bristol North Pool Party candidate in local elections. Nonetheless, in October last year, the council closed it. The huge building, which is grade II listed, and in a prime location, was left standing empty to fall derelict. Enquiries about its future to the council were met with the response that 'discussions have not yet taken place'.

An action group came together and planned an occupation of the building. More people got involved, and came up with the idea of a community space. Finally, late last Friday night, eleven members of our group entered the pool through an open window. We stayed there overnight (with no running, bombing, or petting SchNEWS hopes) and a public protest hit the streets outside the next morning..

POOLING RESOURCES

A press release was put out to local media -

"We are a group concerned about the disappearance of public space and the privatisation of public services in Bristol. On Friday 20th January 2006, we reclaimed Bristol North Pool on Gloucester Road. This year we have witnessed the closure of Speedwell and Filwood pools, the Robin Cousins sports centre as well as Bristol North. We've also seen recent cuts in library services glossed as 'restructuring', a process which also threatens our hospitals."

"With this protest, we are asking the question, Who owns Bristol? and providing our own answer. As part of this community, we want to see more not-for-profit public spaces, where we can exist as people, not consumers. As a practical symbol of this we are now rescuing this building from closure and disuse with the aim of providing a non-commercial space in the local community. It will be a place where all people in the local area are free to create, meet, share skills, learn, connect and entertain in a non-hierarchical environment."

ARM-BANDITS

A drumming, singing, banners and free-cake style protest got going on Saturday 21st. Hundreds of passers-by were made aware of the issue. Almost all of them were very supportive. The council, clearly embarrassed by the publicity if not their failure to do anything with the pool building, acted abnormally quickly. A couple of burly security staff turned up, switched the alarm off and then left. At about 5pm on Saturday we received an eviction notice, calling us to court at 10am on Monday morning. The timing of the summons meant that we had no opportunity to seek legal advice.

Having barricaded the doors, on Monday about forty people turned up to protest our eviction, and we handed out flyers and held up signs saying 'honk in support' to the cars driving past as we waited to hear the verdict. It finally came - we'd lost and could legally be evicted. If the people in the building resisted eviction, they could be arrested.

There were plenty of media reporters to record the bailiffs arriving and breaking a window for entry. Once in, we expected them to immediately go in search of the people inside. Instead, they spent time smashing open two doors leading to the outside, for no apparent reason. The council later issued a press statement saying that 5000 worth of damage had been caused by the protest, implying that we had caused it!

Eventually all the protesters were evicted. Nonetheless, our efforts this weekend were far from wasted. We gained an unbelievable level of community support. On Tuesday we held a meeting about the building's future, attended by over 70 people. We discussed how we could reclaim it for community use and what we could organise in it. All kinds of ideas, enthusiasm and skills came forward and we are confident that thanks to the direct action we took, people in the community have been mobilized to work together and, together, we will succeed in making Bristol North Pool a community space again.

More details and some pics at http://www.bristol.indymedia.org


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