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About the space: The building and archive is run by a small, non-hierarchical staff collective in collaboration with a number of resident groups, including Strike! Magazine, Cleaners and Allied Independent Workers Union, Statewatch, Plan C, the June Givanni Pan-African Cinema Archive, General Equivalent, Industrial Workers of the World, and The World Transformed. More the twenty other activist, social justice, and educational groups frequently use the building for meetings and events.
Our History and our work: MayDay Rooms was established in 2013. Its aim is to safeguard histories and documents of radicalism and resistance by connecting them with contemporary struggle and protest, and by developing new free forms of dissemination and collective self-education. Our building offers communal spaces – a reading room, a meeting and screening room, a large kitchen, and a roof terrace – which are used by a wide range of cultural, political, and activist groups. The building is something a melting pot, in which we hope a diverse range of groups can mix and get to know each other, while telling each other, documenting, and learning about our different histories. We hope it continues to be a place where people who want to break out of the present state of things can come together, work together, learn together, and struggle together.
The MayDay Rooms Archive: We proceed from the understanding that social change can happen most effectively when marginalised and oppressed groups can get to know – and tell – their own histories “from below.” Our archive focuses on social struggles, radical art, and acts of resistance from the 1960s to the present: it contains everything from recent feminist poetry to 1990s techno paraphernalia, from situationist magazines to histories of riots and industrial transformations, from 1970s educational experiments to prison writing. Our archival collections challenge the widespread assault on collective memory and the tradition of the oppressed. We aim to counter narratives of historical inevitability and political pessimism with living proof that that many struggles continue. One of our big current projects is to archive grassroots housing campaigns in London during the last five years, preserving a history that would otherwise be lost to geographical displacement, while establishing an invaluable counter-narrative to the official history of London’s “redevelopment” in the time of austerity.
Do you have material that needs an archival home? The core work of MayDay Rooms is to activate radical and experimental historical material, primarily through collaborative education, informal research, digitisation and online distribution. We are actively collecting materials from people who have been involved in past (and present) social movements, actions and interventions, attempts to transform the world, or fights against the powerful. So if you have any historical materials you would be interested in depositing in the archive, or if you are interested in booking rooms for meetings or organising events, please get in touch.
Come and visit us: Our archive opening hours are 10am – 6pm, Wednesday to Friday. Or come to one of our events! The building is also open for bookings for meetings every day from 10am – 10pm. And spread the word.
The pre-history of MayDay Rooms goes back to 2009, when a sporadic international discussion was started on the need for a shared space where austerity could be countered, radical histories extended and archives of dissent built up. In Spring 2011, MDR circulated a manifesto which acted as a signal of intent, and an invitation for others to become involved.
In the Spring of that year, the MDR founding group gathered together friends and comrades involved in projects which offered inspiration and guidance at the event, ‘Archiving from Below: Engaging Histories’. A number of resounding conclusions came out of this meeting, namely that MDR’s activities should have a secure, physical home and not be subject to the destructive force of a speculative economy of urban space; that this home should be non-sectarian and welcoming, irrespective of social or professional status; and that it should make its material directly and actively relevant to struggles both in the present day and to come.
A year later, after an extensive search, MDR found that home at 88 Fleet Street; a building symbolically located adjacent to the site of the first printing press and the Bridewell prison. With help from its funder, The Glass-House Trust, the building was purchased and the future work of the organisation secured.
The text ‘A Brief History’ – collectively authored in January 2013, in the lead-up to MDR’s move into Fleet Street – attempts to give a sense of the ground covered, and the many individuals and groups who influenced MDR’s development, and continue to do so.
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Fani Arampatzidou, Jacob Bard-Rosenberg, Rosemary Grennan, and Tony Wood
Cleaners & Allied Independent Union (CAIWU), June Givanni’s Pan African Cinema Archive (JGPACA), Statewatch, General Branch of Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), STRIKE! Magazine, Plan C, General Equivalence, MayDay Radio, The World Transformed (TWT), GLC Oral History Project, Common Knowledge and Evening Class.
John Barker, Patrizia di Bello, Jaya Klara Brekke, Anna Davin and Alex Sainsbury
Matt Gonzalez-Noda, Pauline van Mourik Broekman, James Stevens, Marcell Mars, Jan Gerber and Sebastian Lütgert
Includes, Angry Workers of the World, Black Advice Network, Black Feminist Group, Bolivarian Project, Boycott Workfare, Critisticuffs, Cultural Affairs Discussion Group, East London Big Flame, Hysteria, Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB), Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), Inventory, Justice for Domestic Workers, The Kitchen Animation Research Group, Latin American Women’s Rights Service, Latin American Workers Association, Libcom, London Courier Emergency Fund, London Roots Collective, Migrant Workers Education Group, Mute Magazine, Nature Study Notes Group, Occupy London Media, Radical Anthropology Group, Radical Film Network, Radical Philosophy, Radical Housing Network, STRIKE! magazine, SIC, Under the Moon, Wealth of Negations, What is Full Communism Group, Women of Occupy London, PM Press, CARAT (CAFA Archival Resources Action Team), New Research Group, Futures Social, Ubele, Hotel Workers Unite, Media Democracy Meetup, NELMA.
MDR Founder Members
Gillian Boal, Iain Boal, Anthony Davies, Pauline van Mourik Broekman and Howard Slater
MDR Azsociates 2012-13:
Tom Clark, Grace Harrison, Jakob Jakobsen, Sidsel Meineche Hansen, Nils Norman and Fabian Tompsett
MayDay Rooms is funded by The Glass-House Trust. Having supported preparatory work since 2011, the Trust is, from May 2013 until April 2016, financing MDR’s set-up and infrastructure with a grant of £100,000 per year. This will in 2016 be reduced by half to leave an annual contribution to costs of £50,000. The Glass-House Trust’s support also extends to the provision of a four-storey building at 88 Fleet Street, which MDR occupies on a rolling, ten-year renewable lease.
Since opening its doors in Autumn 2013, MDR experimented for six months to understand what was possible in the building and to discover the costs associated with running it. This ‘scoping period’ came to an end in Spring 2014, and is helping MDR devise longer-term budgets for staffing, projects, technical facilities and building use, updates on which will follow over 2014.
MayDay Rooms has always considered labour, the wage and the place of work/non-work, compulsion/desire, as critical components in the process of shaping organisations. It has no tolerance for the many forms of peonage which lurk under the ugly euphemisms associated with the contemporary workplace; particularly internships and the (in)voluntary and (un)free placements which provide the hidden backbone of many institutions. As such, ‘working hours’ are paid for at the same rate (£12.60 per hour), regardless of the type of labour. The size of its grant means the staff are all part time, and administrative and running costs are prioritised. The place of wage labour within the mix of material and social resources will continue to be a central issue, as MayDay Rooms navigates – in the spirit of the materials it hosts – the relation between essential jobs, pooling and exchange, skill-sharing, and voluntary work.