bm183 Amsterdam Creative Spaces, The Story of OT301

The city of Amsterdam is famous for many things, among them, the great movement of creative people who occupied abandoned buildings over the past 30 years. Yet slowly the movement is changing, as are the laws, and squatting has become increasingly difficult. OT301 is performance space, restaurant, printshop, cafe, cinema, and much more; a unique example of a building and a group of people who have found a way to keep their dream alive amidst the wave of buyouts and evictions sweeping the city. One of the original founders, Colin, sat down with me to discuss what they’ve done and more broadly – what is happenning to such a famous movement in this town.

we talk about:
– The initial squatting of the building
– Relations with the local community
– Functions of the building
– Negociation with the local government
– The squatting scene historically
– Changes in the scene in the past decade
– The politics of squatting
– other European squatters and cities
to know more you’ll have to listen…

The building.

Colin mentions: Broedplaatsen Amsterdam (english version)

also recommended at the end of this program: Euronews (no comment segment now in podcast format)

An Inspiring Amsterdam Movement

Over the years, I’ve often mentioned the war-on-squatters being carried out by the government here in Amsterdam, and seemingly – throughout European cities. Everywhere you look there seems to be some creative and eclectic group of squatters being evicted from their home which they’ve usually worked very hard to make livable. Most recently there was that eviction followed by street clash in Copenhagen… for example.

Yet there are some examples where things are still possible and resourceful squatters find new strategies to keep doing what they do best. Tonight, as I dined with my dear Krizushka, we enjoyed the fruits of one Amsterdam squat that has done just that: Overtoom 301.

The entrance to heaven.

I wouldn’t claim to be a familiar face over at 301. Although I visit the former film academy once or twice a month, I’ve not yet developed the warm hello and conversations that the regulars have. But that doesn’t keep me from enjoying the atmosphere whenever i go for a vegan dinner, or just some pie and music. (Wireless internet doesn’t hurt either)

Reading over the latest updates, posted on the wall outside, the squatters of 301, under threat of eviction like so many others these last few years, successfully raised the money to buy their building last year. Ensuring that they can continue to offer artist work space, underground music shows, film screenings, vegan dinners, and all the comforts of a bar/lounge that welcomes all walks of life.. including the numerous children and dogs you’ll run into while sitting down for a meal.

Krizushka and I savored not only the food, but also the moment tonight. Sitting in what is perhaps one of the most encouraging and inspiring locations in the city, that despite all the complications of being foreigners, we love very much.

They Want Me In Berlin

Lots of people. I’m serious.

As I’ve made my way around town, and had such unforgetable evenings, my good friends here in Berlin have more than hinted that I should move here. Not that I’m looking for a place to move, but no matter, it frequently comes up that this town and I would go well together. Which I find interesting and somewhat true.

When you consider how cities around the world have become, especially in the western world, with their skyrocketing property values, corporate chain stores everywhere you turn, and alternative culture being pushed into oblivion.. Berlin is a wonderful exception.

Kreuzberg.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… this is a city for creative people. Sure the economy is shit. And the german language is not always a walk in the park. Plus if you’re me, it is really far from any immediate family members..

Butif you’re sitting there in Brooklyn watching your new neighbors pay triple your rent in their newly renovated lofto-condo, or if you’re in Amsterdam sitting in your closet of an apartment, or perhaps you’re even in London where everytime you breathe I think it costs money… this place may just represent relief and joy.

Just a thought.

I’m staying in Amsterdam. But nothing will keep me from frequently visiting or boasting about this town.

What a Difference Ljubljana

What a difference a day makes. A day in Ljubljana I mean.

After arriving in the dark and booked into whatever we could find last minute and getting completely baffled by the complex bus system, it seemed like very little could go right during our stay here.

But then I woke up this morning, 24 hours later, in the most beautiful and simple and clean-fresh smelling bed and breakfast. There is this lovely Slovenian woman who pops into the living room every now and then, makes me tea, and asks how my day has been and what Ive seen. She finds it funny that so much time is spent on my laptop, but then, she doesn’t realize that Im a podjournalist and there’s not vacation from such a trade.. it flows through my veins. Not to mention, wifi is so abundant in Ljubljana as compared to any italian city or portuguese city.. this place could teach Europa a thing or two about technology!

Triple Bridge, Ljubljana.

This city is fanastic. It is small.. very charming… very quiet.. and even outside the city center.. people seem quite kindhearted.

On the morning we awaited the bus to get the hell out of that racket they called a hostel, I noticed a paint truck had sped by and one big can of white paint had fallen over and broken onto the pavement. The driver didn’t notice, and what followed was a scene that reminded me of Newark for some reason: the first few cars slow down, and attempt to drive around it, causing all kinds of dangerous driving.

Here’s what I notice: an old woman crossing the street, sees the paint container, and without flinching, starts dragging it across the street and out of traffic. She did it with such a style, that to me screamed “this is my community, I saw this and I can do something about it.” For some reason I remembed times in Newark where something like this would happen and people would just drive around it and never would anyone try to solve the problem. Maybe Im being too critical of my city-of-birth.

Five minutes later, across the street at another bus stop, an elderly slovenian man falls down while getting off the bus. Lots of busy people didn’t seem to notice, but every person around him turns and stops to check on him. They were almost competing to help him in some way.. 5, 6 people all gathered around. picking up his stuff, putting an arm around him. I could tell they were strangers.. and yet.. another scene that I found very charming and perhaps telling of Slovenian city life.

Who knows, maybe I see what I want to see… but I love this place. And now I wish to meet a Slovenian girl who sweeps me off my feet.. or vica-versa.. cause let me just say, they are beautiful in such a cool and independent way.

New and Noteworthy Vlog

It is Saturday and my schedule has surprisingly opened up. Which means lots of watching videoblogs and seeking new vlogs to watch. And instead of discussing some other crazy idea in my head or occurance in the world, I’d like to instead refer you all to something wonderful.

Many vlogging colleagues here in Europe and abroad, have surely thought about the great world of possibility that comes with personal media and self publishing through the internet and with the power of something as simple as a digital camera. We’ve considered how instrumental seeing and hearing first hand from someone in another country tell about how they see things and explain their culture in their own way. And beyond that, how important this can be to encourage open-ness, communication, and understanding, versus the very narrow and often sensational story we get from the corporate mass media.

Now unfortunately we don’t see, at present, as many vlogs building on this theme coming from the developing world or even the non-west world. Sure there are a few, but they are often drowned out by those that focus on fluff… in the form of tech, or entertainment news, etc.

Well today I finally watched a vlog that does exactly what I am interested in. This Iranian American Life gives a combination of personal snippets, general fun, and an exploration of culture.. all of which relate to a girl named Paris’s personal experience. The entry that really won me over can be seen on her personal vlog. But also deserving of you eyes and ears are the vlogs she posts on ThisIranianAmericanLife.

Go Paris GO!