words from kebele social centre in bristol


Kebele is run on a number of core principles, which reflect the sort of world Kebele members want to see, and help bring into reality. It is these principles which make Kebele a radical social centre. Instead of waiting for that ever far away big moment of revolution, or for leaders and authorities to sort out our problems, we recognise that we can make fundamental changes here and now, in the ways we organise, communicate, interact and take action. This is the everyday revolution. Kebele aims to be a living example, albeit on a small scale, of other possibilities, based on the principles below.

Caveat to Kebele Principles
Kebele Community Co-op is committed to its principles and actively uses them as guidelines to inform ethical decision-making in both policy and practice on all levels. While Kebele strives to uphold its principles it recognises that there may be times when it falls short of an ideal.

There is no hierarchy of principles wherein one principle is considered more important than another. There may be situations when two or more of its principles are in conflict with regard to the best course of action. Such ethical dilemmas require further discussion and consultation. In that event co-op members, sub-collective members and volunteers are encouraged to raise the matter with the co-op as a whole for discussion at a co-op meeting.

We are conscious that rather than being viewed as problems, such occasions can be opportunities for mutual education about the issues involved, raising awareness and information sharing. They also provide useful ‘real life’ practice of problem-solving in a non-hierarchical and consensus-seeking way.

A compromise between principles may be required. However, reasons for that compromise will be clearly articulated and the outcome of the decision reviewed by the co-op members.

The Principles (arranged alphabetically)

Collective decision making and organisation
We try and reach decisions by consensus, where everyone agrees. Sometimes it takes a long time and can be frustrating, but direct democracy takes hard work and practice. The process is as important as the results or goals. When it works well, working together as a collective is inspiring, and can really get stuff done!

Co-operation and mutual aid
In a world dominated by competition and conflict, we believe that working together, sharing knowledge and resources, and helping each other out builds strong communities and networks of support and friendship.

Direct action and taking power back
Direct action means refusing to be a spectator, or waiting for someone else to do it for us. It is about taking power back and realising our potential to bring about change.

Equality and non-hierarchy
Kebele sees the importance of organising without leaders or bosses, and everyone having equal say. When power is shared equally in a group, it can be more effective and sustainable – as well as empowering – for all involved.

Not for profit
In a time where everything has a price and the cost of living makes people poor, Kebele has always avoided the profit motive, and getting rich! Fixed bikes, food and drinks, free information, books, Internet access and meeting space are available either for free, in return for donations or for next to nothing. We believe in making everything genuinely affordable – and accessible – to all.

Openness and inclusion
Kebele seeks to be as open and inclusive as possible, providing a space that is equally welcoming to everyone (except cops, fascists etc) irrespective of age, race, gender, background, sexuality and (dis)ability & and we encourage – and aim to provide equal access to – participation in the collective.

Kebele realises that sustainability is at the core of the better world we are aiming to create. By following permaculture’s fundamental principles (earth care, people care, fair share) we strive to have a positive impact on our entire diverse human and ecological environment.
We aim to chose the most sustainable path in all our activities, providing a clear link between action, consequence and solution.

Resistance and solidarity
Kebele is anti-authoritarian, opposing both government and capitalism, and supporting people in resistance everywhere. Kebele is part of a worldwide movement for revolutionary change.

Kebele’s Cafe and kitchen are vegan.
Kebele aims to avoid – as far as is possible and practical – all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose and, by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals, and the environment.

Voluntary participation and shared responsibility
All that happens at Kebele is made possible by volunteers freely giving their time and sharing the endless tasks and hard work of organising a social centre. With no wages or bosses involved, it’s a different kind of work. People contribute what and when they can. Working for ourselves, for our own goals, on our own terms is what we call a proper job!


Review of 2008
2008 was a funny old year at Kebele. At times painful and difficult, yet also exciting and triumphant. In May we finally evolved into a fully fledged community co-op, which provides the stability and underlying structure from which to press on. We now hope to open up Kebele to involvement from a much wider group of people, whilst retaining our core aims and principles. Financially we can see from the last year that our present sources of funding (proceeds from cafes, room donations, benefit gigs and the like) are sufficient to keep us ticking over.

Building from the Roots
Work to the building has continued and many visitors have commented how much better Kebele looks now. Many thanks to all those who have contributed. There is still a bit of work to do in various parts of the building to complete the revolutionary revamp: floorworks, plumbing, carpentry, shelving and storage sorting… the list never actually ends, does it? So, if you have any skills, or if you don’t and just want to help out, learning skills along the way, get in touch. The first saturday of every month is collective work (half!)day, from 2pm, after a stonking Kebele breakfast.

Don’t just use it, Be It!
Some of our collectives continue to tick over nicely, but others have struggled due to lack of numbers and time, and the involvement all Kebele’s volunteers have in other projects. If you are into art, permaculture, bike workshops, libraries or films, then there’s plenty of room for you to be involved. Our café and catering crew did a number of external events, of which the anarchist bookfair was a high point. We also lent out cooking equipment to the climate camp, Eastside Roots and various other green events to name but a few. Our infoshop has done a roaring trade, taking radical info and literature to a growing number of events indoors and out. Our film collective has taken time out after facing down the state’s attempt to prevent us from showing the Smash EDO film, but information films continue to be shown on our snazzy projector by various campaign groups & collectives.

Party for your Right to Fight!
2008 ended on a high, with a massive party at the Trinity for Kebele’s 13th birthday bash, conjured up by the Kebele sound collective and friends. Great bands and DJ’s led to sweat-soaked dancefloors, and the cash raised help balance our finances for the year. As with all Kebele’s events, a massive thanks to all those who gave their time to ensure it all keeps happening.

Kebele news: 2007 review & 2008 update

We have kicked off 2008 in fine form.
Alongside the regular events at Kebele, a couple of new sub-collectives are being formed (Autonomous Health and Sound), making 11 sub-collectives in total. We had a storming benefit night at The Plough, and Kebele activists have been involved in various other benefits too. The Saturday & Sunday cafés are packed out each week; screenprinting & yoga workshops have been well-received; we hosted a very busy public ‘political discussion’ meeting, with more such events to come; and our catering crew will be cooking & serving like mad at the Seed Swap and Latin American Forumevents.
Do check the events page to keep up!

2007 was a very busy year at Kebele.
The departure of the last resident gave us the space needed to push on with much-needed repairs to the building – from new ceilings and electrical rewires to a repaired café door and major paint jobs inside & out. We have moved the library upstairs to a larger, brighter room more conducive to reading and using the free internet. We have kitted out an ‘alternative health’ room, and have a functioning office up there too. Next step is sorting out the last room upstairs – the art space. Oh, and the loos too. Downstairs the old library space has been transformed into a blue and white lounge, for extra café space and films, that will hold 45 people for meetings (more if they all stand up). The kitchen and toolroom still need work but are getting there, and the backyard is slowly being sorted for an overhaul and a bit of greenery. Meanwhile the Robertson Road side wall got some very tasty new murals.

2007 also saw us become financially viable based on the donations from weekend cafés, the odd benefit, and one-off donations. We actually know now how much it costs us to run Kebele, and that we can cover it, which is a big relief! As the building has improved, more networks, groups and individuals have started to use the building, with lots of new faces coming though the door…and coming back again.

Organisationally, after much tedious bureaucracy and more meetings, we are now very close to evolving from a housing co-op and kulture project, to a fully fledged legally set-up community co-op. We have written up most of the policies & procedures for this, and have operated as such a co-op since last April, with a few new members taking the plunge to join. In order to spread the workload, and keep evolving, we’d welcome a few more if you fancy it?

We don’t just do all this, unpaid, for the love of it, although that comes into it. We are a political social centre with clear aims & ideas. We see Kebele as an opportunity to put our politics into practice in the here and now, and learn from our mistakes, as well as providing a space for like-minded people to meet, organise & network, and for newcomers to find out more about autonomous non-hierarchical beliefs in the 21st century.

Kebele is one of a growing number of such social centres around the UK which are slowly becoming a viable network that shares information, experiences, can indulge jointly in acts of solidarity, and provides a known location in various cities for people to visit and get involved. The network also provides a ready made series of venues for various campaigns & speakers touring the country, the Peter Gelderloos meeting we held on 23 January being the most recent example. You can find out more about this network

We hope all this is tickling your fancy. As the tides rise feel free to climb aboard the good ship Kebele. Onwards and upwards – the future is unwritten.

Kebele’s History
Kebele is based in Easton, Bristol, and for nearly eleven years has provided space for the development of radical ideas and activities, community campaigns, and international solidarity.

Kebele means “community place” in Amharic, an Ethiopian language. The term refers to community institutions, which dealt with their own needs & concerns, such as justice, health and community democracy.

During the revolution in Grenada in 1979, Rastafarians involved in the struggle used the term “kebele” to refer to the community centres in each neighbourhood from which, in theory at least, the revolution was based. In 1983, the USA invaded the tiny island of Grenada to crush the rebellion.

The founders of Kebele were inspired by these meanings of the word, and current members are too.

Kebele Community Co-Operative
In January 2006 the activists & volunteers who keep Kebele going became engaged in the process of reorganising themselves by merging together the housing co-op and kulture project. The chosen future format was to become a legally constituted Community Co-op, but this proved unbelievably complicated. This decision to evolve came about after very long and detailed discussion looking at what we are trying to achieve, how we are going to do it, improving open democracy amongst people involved in Kebele, and opening Kebele up to wider involvement with and from the local community. The evolution from housing co-op & kulture project, to legally constituted community co-op, was finally completed in May 2008, some 29 months later. However Kebele had operated informally in that format for over a year by then.

Kebele Kulture Projekt
Kebele started as an empty building that was squatted in September 1995 to provide housing for homeless activists. It quickly mutated into something bigger, out of a need to defy the owners (a bank) and authorities seeking to evict them, and from a desire to create a self-managed space for local individuals, campaigns and projects.

Based on anarchist principles of opposing all forms of authority, and organising collectively without leaders, Kebele’s premises became the base for many activities: the regular, cheap vegan cafes; bike workshops; a DJ, sound system & party network; an allotment; many forms of art, radical info and publications; and numerous events & meetings featuring local and international speakers & artists. The Kulture Projekt continues to self-manage the activities that take place on the ground floor of the building.

Kebele Housing Co-op
Through resisting certain eviction and after negotiations with the owners, the Housing Co-op was formed to buy the building with a mortgage. Frantic fundraising ensured a significant deposit. By providing secure affordable housing for its resident members, the Housing Co-op was able to cover the mortgage repayments. This has ensured the continuation of Kebele as a secure space ever since.

Kebele Social Centre
The last decade has seen a growth of radical social centres across the UK, and Kebele is a part of this network now. Such centres recognise that we can make fundamental changes here and now, in the ways we organise, communicate, interact and take action. This is the everyday revolution. We don’t rely on bosses, politicians or community leaders to tell us what to do and think. Social centres provide a space for people to explore and practice what they believe in, free from interference from the state and capitalism (for most of the time!).