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The history of the 121 Centre, a squatted community anarchist centre on 124 Railton Road, Brixton, London SE24
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Brixton: 121 Centre
urban75 remembers one of Brixton's finest squatted community centres

From 1981 to 1999, the three floors of the 121 Centre, 121 Railton Road, Brixton, South London hosted a squatted autonomous centre, serving the local community as as a bookshop, cafe, gig and rehearsal space, printing facility, office and meeting space.

Over the years, several campaign and community groups were based at the centre, including radical women's magazine Bad Attitude, AnarQuist (the anarcho-queer group), Brixton Squatters' Aid and the prisoner support group Anarchist Black Cross.

121 Centre eviction party, Railton Road, Brixton, London, 10th April 1999
121 Centre eviction party, Railton Road, Brixton, London, 10th April 1999. Photo: aurora green

The premises also hosted punk gigs ('Dead by Dawn'), regular women's cafe nights and a monthly Queer Night, hosted by AnarQuist serving up everything from sumptuous vegan banquets to film nights to live cabarets to zine-making to glittery glammed-up disco parties.


After a long occupation, in January 1999, the squatters lost in court against Lambeth Council's claim for possession of the premises and an eviction order was issued.

121 Centre eviction party, Railton Road, Brixton, London, 10th April 1999
121 Centre eviction party, Railton Road, Brixton, London, 10th April 1999. Photo: aurora green

But the squatters weren't going to give up easily; embarking on a public campaign to draw attention to their plight, with actions involving an 'invasion' of Lambeth Town Hall to street theatre and a Drink-In (against the new anti-Street-Drinking by-law).

A big flyposting and billboard modification campaign kept up the pressure, while a self-published magazine , the 'South London Stress' kept people up to date with news and development, adding comment about the continuing gentrification of the area.


As the eviction date grew closer, the squatters barricaded themselves into the building, which was decorated with banners and paint.

121 Centre eviction party, Railton Road, Brixton, London, 10th April 1999
121 Centre eviction party, Railton Road, Brixton, London, 10th April 1999. Photo: aurora green

On 10th April 1999, the occupiers held an all-day street party directly outside the building to celebrate 86 days of resistance, attended by over 500 people. Encountering no police resistance, the road was blocked off with barricades, sound systems brought out and the street resonated to the strains of an eclectic DJ mix, from hip-hop to roots reggae to the Clash.

Here's our report:


It was raining at 2 O'Clock in Brixton. By 3 the sun had come out and a honking sound system was set up outside one of Britain's longest running squats. This was a street party with a difference. No need for daring traffic stopping tactics the roads were just simply barracaded and the party kicked off with strong Ragga tunes.

The 121 has been an anarchist centre under different guises for 18 years. Now officially waiting for eviction from the council it has held out with a combination of round the clock occupation and enough 'front' to keep the bailiffs at bay.

After nearly 90 days after they were due to be evicted it seemed the perfect excuse for a street celebration. The police weren't going to walk into any trouble on Railton Road and kept an exceedingly low profile.

With the sun came volleyball, face painting, info stalls, free food , punk bands, sofas to chill out on and an across the board music policy. The Fiat billboard ad opposite didn't stay clean long but became the place to write what people wanted. The crowd of up to 500 were also given a saucy strip show c/o 121 striptease crew from their own balcony.

By 5 the party was in full swing with a wild d'n'bass set. As night drew in fires were lit in the street and the Ragga returned hard and heavy till 11. There was some strange echoes and recontextualising of Railton Road's history here. The locals looked on with a mix of curiosity and indifference. All are welcome but you know that the audience is white/euro anarchists.

Maybe dancing in the fire isn't such a good idea as two drunk revellers found out a bit too late, no harm done though. The 121 crew worked on into the night to clear things up splendidly. The Off licence, normally quiet, did a roaring trade as did the sleepy Harmony pub.

The Snackmaster next door joined in with their own DIY system playing some lovely old reggae and served up food for hungry party crowd. A brilliant time was had by all and Railton Road will never feel same again. The space had been by Tom
» Save The 121 Street Party flyer



121 Centre, Railton Road, police eviction, 12th August 1999
121 Centre being evicted, 12th August 1999

Eviction report: 'Longest Squat is over'
Evening Standard 12/8/99

Six sheriff's bailiffs, assisted by a specialist armed police force, entered the 121 Centre in Brixton's Railton Road shortly after 6.30am and successfully removed the seven remaining illegal residents.

The centre, which has drawn worldwide attention since residents barricaded themselves in to resist eviction more than seven months ago, was set up in 1981 as a collective.

Lambeth council has attempted to evict them on a number of occasions, but until today its actions proved fruitless.

At the last attempt, police were met by a demonstration of nearly 70 protesters who blocked the road and set up barricades inside the building, which also acted as an advice centre for squatters as well as a cafe, party venue and printing office.

Occupants had organised a highly efficient campaign from inside the three-storey building with the use of a website and newsletter circulated among supporters, who included anarchists, hunt saboteurs and other radical issue campaigners.

An emergency siren and internal defences with easy-to-assemble barricades were also used to maintain occupancy.

However, there was no sign of any resistance from the small group of residents woken this morning, and the building was vacated in minutes.

One squatter, Tom, 22, from Norway, said residents had become disillusioned with efforts to keep the centre open since police attempted their last eviction in February.

"It was so aggressive and people just kind of gave up. But they won't be able to secure the building and people will try and enter it again." Tom says he will move to another London squat. He described today's raid: "They forced us out of the building. There seemed to be two groups and the first one came through the windows on the second floor. They did not even let us put our shoes on."

The council said staff had prepared themselves for a fight, with more than 150 police officers standing by. It had, however, been a success, he added. "It was very successful, with everything happening very swiftly."

The bailiffs, with the specialist unit, entered the brightly-coloured building through windows on the upper floors, Chief Inspector Martin Bagg said. They met with no resistance, he added.

Lambeth leader Jim Dickson, who was once the victim of an office raid when 30 protesters from the centre stormed his council room, said: "We are systematically clearing up the borough and dealing with the legacy of the past. Our action today sends out a very clear message to the squatters - the council will keep taking action over squatted property until there is none left."

However, Kuru, a 24-year-old squatter from Brazil, said: "What the police and the council are doing is just adding to the problem of homelessness in London. But they won't succeed in stopping us from squatting because we'll just go elsewhere."

The building, which is being cleared of the occupants' belongings, will be auctioned.


Update 2003: The building has now been converted to private flats.

121 archive reports:
121 archive reports, Jun-Aug 1999
121 eviction statement, Aug 1999


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