Why write a book about squatting in Rotterdam?
I have visited, lived and squatted in Rotterdam for a number of years. Right now I am squatting there and missing a bit the old squat scene, which I guess I caught the end of back in the 2000s. We had some cool places, like the Slaakhuis, the Fabriek in Delfshaven, Onrust, Boogjes, Groene Voltage, Quarantaineterrein, Wolfart and of course the Poortgebouw. Most of these places have now been evicted but a few still persist. And now you can read all about it in a book I have been writing for the last three years! It is a partial history of the squatting movement(s) in Rotterdam from the 1960s up to the present. It was never my intention to profile private residential squats and the scene here is so fractured and wild that I’m sure that I have also omitted your favourite project. That’s OK, we need lots of diverse histories and herstories, not one hegemonic version. I’ve enjoyed my time spent in various archives, chatting to (ex)squatters and chasing down half-remembered stories online. Hopefully you will enjoy the selection of stories I have retrieved. It’s not just about squatting, but the occupation of derelict space is an important thread running through the book. How sad it was that squatting was criminalised and how stupid it is that most people stopped. It’s still possible!
What does the book cover?
The book starts at the beginning of the modern movement and I talk about two very useful archives, namely the Delpher online mainstream media resource and krakenpost, a squatter mailing list which has been going since the 1990s. Then I talk about various housing projects which also had a public function, such as the Joodse Ziekenhuis and the Emmahuis, before moving onto quirky projects that came out of the squatscene, like Hotel New York (which would most likely have been demolished if it wasn’t squatted in the 1980s) and the successful No Border camp of 2013. Next I discuss the social centres phenomenon and how many music venues came out of the squat scene here (like Thelonius, Waterfront and Eksit), before zooming in on some specific projects. First I look at the Fietsenfabriek and its defeated attempt to become a broedplaats, then the Poortgebouw, which still stands defiant and somewhat autonomous in Kop van Zuid. I next reflect on the squatscene in the 2000s, before devoting individual chapters to the Snellinckstraat experience and the Groene Voltage social centre, two places where I lived. There are then two quick chapters on the kraakspreekuur and Rotterdam zines respectively, before a consideration of what it means to squat after criminalisation in 2010. Following this, I discuss the Dutch housing corporation scandal and then conclude that squatting is still possible, even if most people have kind of given up on the whole idea, unfortunately.
Where can we get the book?
You would be welcome to buy a book from me in person or online, you will be able to find the links soon. You will also find it to download for free at various spots … right now, the only online link is for the epub version.
What is your next project?
I really enjoyed writing this book and I hope people find it interesting. I feel that there is still much to be said and recorded from the squatters movement across the Netherlands and that we need to create our own narratives to kick off future actions. Now you can read a bit about what was going on in Rotterdam. Let’s hear from some other places too!
My next work will probably be a collection of interviews with Dutch squatters, to capture a bit of what is happening now in the scene. I aim to do around twenty interviews, so far I have done three and am putting the raw audio online at the archive.
In issue number 11 we reprinted an interview with a squatter from Rotterdam in the Netherlands in 2016.
Interviewer (I): Let’s just start with the introduction then. So, basically… Can you tell me about yourself?
L: In what sense?
I: Well, for example… How did you start with squatting? Let’s start with that one.
L: I got into squatting in England, in London. I was a student and I started going to tekno parties – free parties – in squats. And this was in the late 1990s. And after the Criminal Justice Act, which was designed among other things to eliminate raves, the scene had sort of gone underground. And then, when I started going to parties, it was kind of resurging. So they were pretty huge parties, like, thousands of people. It was the beginning of acidtekno. There were still some kind of hard tekno people around, but most had left to Europe. So for me it was a really exciting time actually. And through that I kind of met squatters and then when I left university … And in the 1990s, it’s way worse now, but even so: apartments were really expensive. So if I wanted to carry on living in the way that I had without subsidized student accommodation, then an option was to squat. Because at this point I was just kinda DJ-ing sometimes at parties. You know, I didn’t really want to have a 9 to 5 job to earn the money, to pay the rent and then that would be my life. And I’m really lucky that I’ve always kind of found my way around that in different ways. So actually squatting was an attractive option, just so I could stay in London. And in that time, Hackney – which is now extremely gentrified – was still possible to squat. Like, just like in the Netherlands, the glory days were the 1980s. You had like squatted estates, like hundreds of people squatting. Those days had already gone, but there was still squatted social centres. A lot of my friends were squatting… So I kind of got pulled into this alternative scene and I was really happy with that. And then having sort of… Yeah, I think it’s hard to start squatting cause you have to know people and it’s just kind of an alternative system that you have to learn how everything works. So having got into that, basically through music, then I was kind of in that. And then at a certain point I ended up squatting in the Netherlands and I was squatting here again. And periods of my life I have also rented. When I moved back to the Netherlands my first option was to squat, and luckily we are… This is here for something like 18 months, a bit more now. I think we squatted it in 2014. And it was the third place that I tried to squat, the other two didn’t really work out.
I: This is the first?
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