Kebele – this is Ourstory

We’ve been banging on for a while now about our NovemberFest, celebrating our 20th anniversary, so here is OurStory

Kebele is based at 14 Robertson Rd, Easton, Bristol BS5 6JY, and since 1995 has provided space for the development of anarchist & radical ideas and activities, community campaigns, and international solidarity.

Kebele means “community place” or “neighbourhood” in Amharic, an Ethiopian language. The term refers to localised community institutions, which dealt with their own needs & concerns, such as justice, health and community democracy.  During the revolution in Grenada in 1979, Rastafarians involved in the struggle used the term “kebele” to refer to the community centres in each neighbourhood from which, in theory at least, the revolution was based. In 1983, the USA invaded the tiny island of Grenada to crush the rebellion.

The founders of Kebele were inspired by these meanings of the word, and current members are too.

The Squat and Kebele Kulture Projekt (KKP)
Kebele_frontKebele started as an empty building that was squatted in autumn 1995 to provide housing for four homeless activists. It quickly mutated into something bigger out of a need to defy the owners (a bank) and authorities seeking to evict them, and inspired by European social spaces there was a desire to create a self-managed space for local individuals, campaigns & projects.

kebele_early muralBased on anarchist principles of opposing all forms of authority, and organising collectively without leaders, Kebele’s premises became the base for many activities and local groups: the regular, cheap vegan cafes; bike workshops; a DJ, sound system & party network; an allotment; many forms of art, radical info and publications; direct action & campaigns; and numerous events & meetings featuring local and international speakers & artists.

kkpThe KKP as it was known organised the activities that took place on the ground floor of the building (including the bike workshop shed in the backyard), whilst the squatters had bedrooms on the 1st floor, and also 2 toilets. 20 years later many of these KKP activities continue in various forms, along with other newer ones, whilst Kebele the building, and the folks who use it have evolved too.

Kebele Housing Co-op
Through resisting certain eviction, and after negotiations with the owners, the Housing Co-op was formed to buy the building with a small mortgage. Frantic fundraising (and partying!) ensured a significant deposit – contrary to rumour the anarcho-punk band Chumbawamba did not buy the building for us, but they did make a generous donation, as did many others – thanks comrades! By providing secure affordable housing for its resident members, the Housing Co-op was able to cover the mortgage repayments. The residents had rooms on the 1st floor, whilst the ground floor continued to host the KKP. This ensured the continuation of Kebele as a secure space since 1998.

The contribution of the original squatters and the housing co-op residents cannot be overestimated – there were some amazing, exciting, adrenaline-rush & fun times, but it was also bloody hard work & stressful a lot of the time. Full respect to all!

Kebele Community Co-op
Kebele experienced a bit of a lull between 2002-3 as some of the initial residents & activists moved on, but then things picked up again in 2004 as people started to organise against the G8 meeting set for Scotland in spring 2005 – and a whole new generation of activists got involved. By late 2005 the Housing Co-op was close to paying off the small mortgage. At the same time it was clear that it was hard work living at Kebele, as residents were effectively answering the door 24/7 with never a moment’s peace & quiet. Meanwhile after a decade of heavy usage, the whole building was in need of a major overhaul, with the 1st floor bedrooms in particular suffering from damp & poor conditions. Also the KKP needed more space for all its activities!

Keb_welcome_oldKKP activists & residents began long discussions, with many disagree-ments, over what to do and how. Eventually, with now only 2 residents in situ, it was agreed that when they moved out they would not be immediately replaced. Instead a building revamp would occur and the KKP would expand into some of the space upstairs. Activists also looked for a new model of ownership & structure, to ensure greater responsibility for the building/project amongst a larger group of people in a clear non-hierarchical way.

kebelecommcoopEventually after clearing numerous hurdles, Kebele evolved into being owned and run by a Community Co-operative in late 2007 (although the final paperwork wasn’t signed off until May 2008). The use of the space & our ways of self-organising were re-organised, and the slow process of better maintaining the building had begun – much of that is now done (honest!), but it is an ongoing process! (see late-2006 Indymedia article). As well as adopting legally required aims & principles, Kebele also agreed its own clear ‘principles‘ to guide our activities.

From 2005 Kebele was really buzzing again. New collectives were formed – for example Kebele Sound were running weekly benefits at various venues and providing PA’s for others, and Kebele Infoshop was taking stalls out and about to spread the anarchist word and started organising Saturday breakfast cafes at Kebele; new campaign & action groups were formed (and old ones such as Bristol ABC were revitalised) and were using the building; more and more activities and actions were taking place across Bristol (and further afield, such as the Westside at Climate Camps); there were more squats and new squatted social centres in Bristol, particularly around the Stokes Croft area; there was a real sense that anarchism & anarchists were involved in all aspects of organising and taking action across Bristol on a full spectrum of struggles and campaigns – and this attracted ever more people to the Bristol activist scene. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise when the street riots erupted in April 2011 in Stokes Croft, although nobody predicted it, and nobody organised them!

Kebele Social Centre

1995 actually...

…since 1995 actually…

The last decade or two has seen a growth of radical social centres across the UK, and Kebele is a part of this network now (see the 2008 publication ‘What’s this place?’). Such centres recognise that we can make fundamental changes here and now, in the ways we organise, communicate, interact and take action. This is the everyday revolution. We don’t rely on bosses, politicians, celebrities or community leaders to tell us what to do and think. Social centres provide a space for people to explore and practice what they believe in, free from interference from the state and capitalism (for most of the time!). They are an anarchist  experiment in theory & practice, and the debate about how best to do this goes on.

We welcome new people coming along to Kebele to find out more, we hope you are inspired – many have been and have gone on to do many other valuable projects. We also welcome more people getting involved in the day to day reality of having our own social centre – the Community Co-op can always do with a few more hardworking members, and believe us when we tell you there is always something to be done in and around the social centre! Kebele has never been a place where you just come to ‘consume’ – neither the politics nor parties nor the vegan food, it always has been and will be the sum of its parts, that means the efforts & initiatives of people just like YOU. So find out more, read the website, chat with people at cafes & meetings, meet up with a co-op member or someone involved in the various groups that use Kebele, or email us at

kebele_cake202015 is therefore Kebele’s 20th anniversary (see local media article). Alongside all the normal activities that happen at Kebele, there’s also been a special Open Day in March, a low-key party for past & present activists in June and a fair few more parties, a NovemberFest lasting almost 6 weeks, a UK social centre gathering in late November (and another party), and finally a ‘proper’ (?) 20th birthday bash on December 18th at a venue in Easton.
Onwards to 2016 we go!

Nov/Fest – 5th weekend – talks, workshops, permaculture, food and films

Our NovemberFest kicks on with another eclectic mix of events this weekend mixing the serious with the fun, both indoors & out (see list below!).

NovemberFest celebrates 20 years of Kebele social centre as a living anarchist experiment, since it was first squatted in autumn 1995, until now when it has evolved into a Community Co-Op. See ‘OurStory‘.

This Weekend:
until all are freeThursday 19th from 7.30pm. ‘Until All Are Free’ – a participatory workshop exploring the connections between human and non-human prisons.

eric-king-posterFriday 20th from 6.30pm. A fundraising meal, social and info night for US anarchist & vegan prisoner Erick King, organised by Bristol Anarchist Black Cross prisoner support group. There’s a 3 course vegan feast for a fiver, lots of prisoner support info & fundraising goodies, and a good chance to find out about the work of the Anarchist Black Cross. FB event.

Royate_orchardmedSaturday 21st from 11am to 4pm. Bi-weekly volunteer workday at Royate Hill Community Orchard & allotment. Located off Royate Hill, Easton BS5. Wear old clothes. We stop for a vegan lunch about 1pm and welcome food brought along to share. This 10year old community project is facilitated by local permaculture activist Mike Feingold, and is a hands-on, learn as you go, initiative.

Sunday 22nd from 6.30pm it is the Sunday Social set vegan meal, cooked by volunteers, suggested donation is £2.50/3.50. Followed at 7.30pm by a series of Short Films for Radical Action – organised by Andrew Butler of the Bristol chapter of Films for Action. FB event.

Monday 23rd from 7pm to 10pm it is the weekly Mellow Monday. A space to hang out, read books, drink tea, chat, and play board games. Shiatsu tasters and facilitated political discussion for those so inclined.

efTuesday 24th at 7.30pm. A Puppetry performance. Otherstory presents ‘Roots of Resistance – a history of Earth First!‘. A live animation show celebrating twenty years of the environmental direct action network Earth First!  It gathers together the stories of many activists – from the treetops of Newbury to the tops of power stations.

UK social centre network gathering – 28/9 November

UPDATE 19/11/15 – Programme for the Gathering:
(click on image to enlarge)
A final reminder – get in touch now if you intend to come!

Kebele social centre is pleased to be hosting the next UK Social Centre Gathering on 28 & 29 November, which comes at the end of our NovemberFest. This event currently occurs twice a year, and is for all those involved in social centres (or aiming to set one up soon) around the UK. Continue reading UK social centre network gathering – 28/9 November

Nov/Fest – 4th weekend – workshops, music, food and film!

There’s a packed lineup at Kebele social centre as our NovemberFest hits it’s 4th weekend, with plenty more to come!

As well as the ‘Libres’ performance on Friday 13th at 7pm, and the participatory workshop ‘Songs & stories of resistance’ on Sunday 15th from 1-5pm (details of both here), here’s what else is on, plus at the end we have a few date changes: Continue reading Nov/Fest – 4th weekend – workshops, music, food and film!

Libres – Spanish stories and songs of Resistance / Historias de Espana y canciones de la Resistencia

Este viernes al centro social Kebele, empezando a las 7pm: ‘Libres – una noche de historias de Espana y canciones de la Resistencia’ (canciones en espanol, historias en ingles) // This Friday at Kebele social centre from 7pm: ‘Libres – an evening of Spanish stories and songs of Resistance’ (songs in Spanish, stories in English).

We are delighted to welcome Pilar Lopez and her ‘Libres Project‘ to Kebele on Friday, 13 November. Doors will open at 7pm for the event, and there is a charge of £5…OR…whatever you can afford, but do come early to avoid disappointment! There are more details on the image below or at Pilar’s website. Continue reading Libres – Spanish stories and songs of Resistance / Historias de Espana y canciones de la Resistencia

NovemberFest – weekend events!

Keb_pinktree_monthSMNovemberFest runs into its 3rd weekend, and its a relatively quiet one – but there’s still lots on and 4 more weekends to go! It’s probably a good thing we’re only 20 years old, or we’d just not have the stamina to last til the end.

So welcome to Kebele social centre, and our 20th anniversary celebration of our ongoing anarchist experiment. Continue reading NovemberFest – weekend events!

Kebele’s NovemberFest is go!

Kebele’s special month of events, NovemberFest, celebrating 20 years of Kebele social centre, is up and running. In true anarchic style, it started a week ago and runs to the first week of December (see bottom image). Keb_20logo_textBut why wait, check out what’s on over the next 8 days! And if you’d like to put on an event over the next month then contact us asap kebelesocialcentre[at]riseup [dot]net – note that all events are at Kebele social centre unless stated otherwise. So Come On Down! Continue reading Kebele’s NovemberFest is go!

UK Social Centre Gathering in Bristol this month

Kebele social centre is pleased to be hosting the next UK Social Centre Gathering on 28 & 29 November, which comes at the end of our NovemberFest. This event currently occurs twice a year, and is for all those involved in social centres (or aiming to set one up soon) around the UK. This list of social centres is slightly outdated but includes some good info.

social centres as sent to mike september Continue reading UK Social Centre Gathering in Bristol this month