‘Where’s the trick?’: Practices of commoning across a reclaimed shop front

Mara Ferreri*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


"We, the Off Market collective, take disused buildings and turn them into open resources. We have just moved in to [address in North-East London]. This space has been empty for more than a year now. Yes, we occupy buildings that don't ‘belong’ to us. […] There are lots of ideas about what to do with this space! One is to initially try and link to local and broader struggles that are happening in Hackney around issues like the coming cuts, housing, employment, gentrification, supermarket invasion etc. There will also be a Free Zone, where you can bring what you don't need any more and take what you need; an Info Library with literature available about various political subjects; promoting and defending squatting; skill-sharing etc.It would be lovely to hear from you and what you would like to see happening in a space like this. For now and in the future, we are open to your comments and feedback (or complaint!) about what we are doing. The space will officially open on Friday 7th January from 12noon. Come and visit the Free Zone, the library and the info on squatting. From 6pm, we'll have some hot drinks and movies. Everyone welcome! (Off Market Collective, 2011a)"

The call above appeared in early January 2011 in an email circulated on a London based social centres mailing list. As is often the case with new occupations, the message set out the aims of the collective and listed future familiar uses of the space as an infoshop, a freeshop and an open space to socialise and organise. Occupation-based urban practices such as squatted social centres have long been associated with political processes of resistance to capitalist dynamics and with the constitution of prefigurative alternative urban relations (Vasudevan, 2011; 2015). The spatial appropriation of disused buildings and their transformation into spaces of public and collective use have been studied in the context of the radical political landscape of ‘autonomous geographies’ in cities across Europe (Montagna, 2006; Ruggiero, 2000; Squatting Europe Kollective, 2013) and in the UK (Hodkinson and Chatterton, 2006). While autonomous urban spaces are at times imagined and represented as ‘liberated enclaves surrounded by a hostile capitalist environment’ (Stavrides, 2014, p. 547), equating autonomy to distinct spaces ‘defined by their exteriority to the rest of the city-society’ (ibid.), authors concerned with the transformative power of reclaimed urban spaces as ‘urban commons’ (Eizenberg, 2012; Newman, 2013) have increasingly paid attention to the politics of interaction of those spaces and practices with the wider city (Stavrides, 2014).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSpace, Power and the Commons
Subtitle of host publicationThe struggle for alternative futures
EditorsSamuel Kirwan, Leila Dawney, Julian Brigstocke
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781317553649
ISBN (Print)9781612057064
Publication statusPublished - 23 Oct 2015
Externally publishedYes


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