Saturday, 19 July 2008

The inspiration for the SE11 blog; 56a infoshop

I've been meaning, for a while, to make a post about (part of) the reason for starting this blog.

I used to work in the SE11 area in a job where I was required to spend a considerable amount of time trudging around Kennington, Elephant, Vauxhall, Stockwell, Brixton, all over really. Whilst working, I chose to walk a great deal, and I took a lot of short cuts through random areas. Such trudging lead to lurking, and the lurking lead to a great deal of knowledge about some really groovy hangouts.

The one that really inspired the blog though was the discovery of the 56a Infoshop on Crampton Street. It was the first place that made me say, "I wonder why more people don't know about this... it's a really good local place to lurk about". I know that Crampton Street is in SE17, but it's one of the places I really wanted to add to the map, even though it's outside the mapped area (and it's also one of the reasons that SE17 is a place that I'm qite interested in blogging).

The 56a Infoshop on Crampton Street is a kind of information resource and food distribution centre and social space, based loosely around a theme of "radical" politics. It appears to be held together by volunteers who work fairly limited shifts. This sounds like a bad thing, but actually the limited opening times almost always guarantee that it's open when it says it will be. At certain times, the Fair Shares food place (I hesitate to say "shop" since I think it would be better characterised as a "way of life") is open, and it sells (not for profit) vegetarian and vegan goods. At other times, they run free bike workshops for teaching people how to fix bikes. My favourite part though, is the kind of archive of books, zines, pamphlets and odd bits of paper based loosely around the theme of alternative politics. It include anarchy, encapsulates feminist info (really hard to find this these days), socialist literature, queer history, alternative histories of London, squatting info, and a whole lot of things that don't quite fit into the categories outlined. Also, they have a fair amount of non-UK related material.

When you first wander into 56a, it's quite odd as it doesn't appear to be "staffed" by anybody. There is no hierarchy, and anybody can come and affiliate (or just lurk there) themselves, if they feel that the space might be useful for them to read, study or hang about in.

There is a website for the 56a Infoshop here.

Edit: There's a great video by some friendly looking ladies about their work too.

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