The OKasional Cafe takes over redundant & unused buildings, turning them (for the brief time of their occupation) into meeting places & music venues, centres of collectivism for environmentalists & anarchists; often becoming after-hours drinking establishments. Not strictly squatting as people don’t intend to live in the properties only occupy for a few weeks, their intention to make something both transient & useful, OKaisional Cafes have sprung up all over Manchester in recent years.
Most recently the Game Cock (ex-) pub in Hulme became an OK Cafe (25thFeb - 18thMar 2012). One former site, an empty auction house on Charles St. behind the BBC, has been demolished but the very first recycled & reappropriated OK-Rave I remember attending (until the next day!) was in the then-empty Temperance Movement buildings (of all things!) on Oxford Road, in the heart of University campus & where Kro Bar now proudly stands resident
The weekend before court cases against protesters arrested at ‘Reclaim The Streets’ A57 demonstration were due to commence, the OKasional Cafe took over Manchester’s most iconic venue in order to raise cash for their defence
Situationist theorist Ivan Chtcheglov had once proclaimed (since there would be no sleep, no resting place, just an endless drift through modern life) that: “the hacienda must be built."
In 1982 New Orders' manager the late great Rob Gretton did just that. Taking over the shell of a former yacht salesroom in a dead part of city centre the club. Forever tied to Factory Records bands, but also MCRs early Electro scene, proving pivotal & seminal in equal measure. Then the Hacienda was central to the explosion of Ecstasy, House music, Madchester & all the inspired fall-out of Rave culture ever since
Chief-constable James 'Gods Cop' Anderton wanted it closed. In June 1997, 15 years after it was first ‘built’ by Ben Kelly, the Hacienda pulled down its shutters for the last time amid feuding criminal gangs & £500,000 financial problems. People tore at its carcass for memorabilia
G.R.Moores Construction & Crosby Homes wanted it redeveloped as soon as possible. OKasional Cafe thought otherwise
A break-in occurs days prior. Electricity on & sound-system installed, all quietly done. Bill-posters & word of mouth catch the curiosity of a local clubbers & soon local police attention too. A thousand revellers turn up to the derelict Whitworth St. venue following a hastily-produced flyposter campaign. Mancs mainly, incensed by recently unveiled plans to demolish this iconic building and, like so much of inner-city Manchester, turn it into lucrative high-rent yuppie flats. Many seasoned clubbers saw this as a cut-diamond opportunity to express their disgust & have at least one last party where it all started
Security shutters came down soon after midnight in an attempt to thwart entry by the police. This left about 500 people inside the club & 500 ravers stuck outside on Whitworth St. West. 70 officers + 20 from the Tactical Aid Unit (that’s Riot Squad to me & you) were forced back from the entrance by a shower of projectiles and (allegedly) covered in urine from the Hacienda offices above
All of a sudden the shutters flew up again & the crowd surged forward. Mounted police beat back the unsuccessful & once again shutters came down. Homemade rope ladders were lowered to the street to try to allow others to get inside. This, however, allowed police to move into the crowd ‘for their own safety’. 21 arrests were made in the ensuing chaos
By 2.30 a.m. with every entrance / exit blocked, Whitworth St. West cordoned off to prevent a much larger crowd accumulating, but still the party raged on unchallenged. A stalemate was set where police & party-goers were now trapped both inside & outside the club
Just before 8 a.m. Sunday, OKasional Cafe agreed to vacate the property voluntarily provided that there were no more arrests. Those who were already arrested, at both events, would face charges of Violent & Public Disorder
It goes to show that peaceful protesters do not like having the plug pulled under the auspices of Public Safety; that Criminal Justice Bill statutes are draconian & used for political purpose; that communities don’t like having their green spaces turned over to developers when they already have to live by motorways; that Manchester’s mad-for-it ravers don’t like having their heritage given away & sold off to profit wealthy out-of-towners
No-one likes being told what to do. No-one likes being told what they must put up with; what has to be done in their best interests; when, where & how they must object if they object, or even what time they should all go home to bed!
Scoop Nisker (1960’s San Francisco radio DJ) used to sign-off his KSAN-FM show with these words:
“And.., if you don’t like the news... Go out & make some of your own”