Maloka - a squatt in Dijon

Maloka is a French anarchist collective based in Dijon. We organize concerts (mostly punk/hardcore/ska bands but also tekno and raggae sound-systems, or anything independent and political), weekly vegan restaurants, a mailorder catalogue (records, books, fanzines...), some lectures/debates and some demonstrations from time to time. We also run an infoshop, along with the mailorder thing, and a small alternative library. We own a place in Dijon's city center, which is fairly small, but which hosts most of the activities listed. We've been having this place for more than 10 years now, and it has become a nice anarchist center, which we share with other collectives: the CNT, le "Collectif pour des villes sans voitures" (Reclaim The Streets), "La Strumpetoj Ridegas" (an Esperanto group), both a feminist group and a pro-feminist male group.

From these different groups came the idea of squatting a place that would be bigger than the one we already had, in order to do more activities... That's why the social center "Les Tanneries" was created. Here's a brief summary of how it all happened...

Maloka has regularly been organising concerts in squatted places. By the end of october 1998, we had been using an old slaughterhouse as a place for concerts. We finally came up with the idea of squatting it on a permanent basis, as the place offered more space that we could dream of, and because of the lack of any alternative cultural space in Dijon. We felt the need for a place in which artists of all kind could develop their skills, without any commercial contraints and in opposition to the money-making cultural industry. This was the perfect space for workshops, for bringing together art and our anarchist/diy ethics. We regarded squatting as a way of protesting in itself, allowing people to get introduced to another way of life, not based on consuming and working, but on recycling, creating, and being active. We also saw squatting as a solution to housing issues, being a powerful alternative to homelessness, sheer individualism and property. With this in mind, we made it our home, occupying the old employees' appartments, a few days after the city had decided to prevent access to the building by bricking up all doorways.
The work was to begin on Monday, and we occupied the place on the previous Friday. Fortunately, we knew the law was on our side, as we had been in the place for more than 48 hours. This meant we couldn't get evicted, at least not before having been to court. Anyway, we got ourselves prepared for the arrival of the police on Monday morning. We put a big banner on the roof saying "L'espace autogéré des Tanneries" (the autonomous space "Les Tanneries") and phoned the media. Thanks to our phone-tree, quite a lot of people arrived and there were about 40 of us waiting for the police to come. The police came, along with some officials. Seeing that we had a serious cultural project besides our will to squat and that we knew everything of the legal aspect of the thing, they let us stay in the place, provided we did not occupy the other parts of the old-slaughterhouse. On the following days, we worked at cleaning and organizing the place... as well as setting up a contract with the townhall, for them to resign from their responsabilities concerning the place. They finally refused, thinking this could incite people to open other squats, and of course showed a total disaproval of our means (what could we expect anyway?!). They still let us stay in the place for an undefined period of time, which means we shouldn't have to worry about a possible eviction for the present time...
Unexpectedly, we got some really positive media coverage, both by the local TV and newspapers, which might help us keep the place. We've also been collecting some signatures, to support the squat. Anyway, we've been doing quite a lot of work in the place since it was first occupied. 9 people are now living in the squat. We've been organising quite a lot of different activities already: some concerts, some art exhibitions, a few debates/conferences (about love & sexism, work, etc...), some theatre shows, some vegan restaurants, as well as some independent-cinema broadcasts. We also run a bar on Friday and Saturday nights when no gig, conference or other activity is scheduled. There's a rehearsing room downstairs for music bands to play freely and some workshops are now up and running, like the reading workshop (political, poetry, stories, anything!), the photography workshop, the percussions workshop, the juggling workshop, the costume-making workshop, the theatre workshop... soon to come are the skateboard workshop, the self-defense workshop, the tag/graffiti/painting workshop, the serigraphy workshop, and other projects we still haven't thought of... there are always flyers and fanzines for people to take/read in the "main" room, which we try to make a comfortable space with sofas, tables, etc... Talking about the way the place is run, we organize regular meetings (every 3 weeks) for all the people interested in participating in any way, in order to make decisions together. This allows us to share ideas about what to do, about the way things are running, etc... in a non-hierarchical way. This also allows people who want to get involved to come and make propositions, to organise activities on their own, using the place. We feel really positive about this, since inciting groups or people other than us (Maloka, CNT, etc..) to get active on independent grounds was one of our initial goals.
To conclude, I would say things are going really well... Lots of people have been coming since the opening, and we haven't suffered from too much harassment from the police. A few other collectives have already organized various events in the center, and we have loads of new projects for the year 99!

For more information, email us at There's a page dedicated to the squat Maloka's websiteon which you can find a text about our cultural project and some more details about the different workshops/activities... (in French)

here's the address:

L'espace autogéré "Les Tanneries"
13 & 15 boulevard de Chicago
21000 Dijon
we'll soon have a phoneline too...

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