I had been in Bruxxels for two days at this point, and by eight o'clock in the evening I decided to finally head to the rendezvous point that we had all agreed upon. The directions consisted of a torn-up brown sheet of paper smaller than a business card: scribbled upon it was a triangle indicating three streets somewhere in Bruxxels, some railroad tracks, an orange shop as a landmark, and a blue door that I was supposed to find and walk into. Out of mere coincidence, I arrived at the blue door no longer than fifteen seconds before the squat mates from London spotted me. At this time, hugs were exchanged; then many of us not knowing what to expect of the place where we would spend our next five days, stepped through the blue portal. A few members of the group that we were staying with greeted us at the front entrance, we all shook hands with the twenty-somethings who spoke mostly french and continued inside to examine the space. We spent the next two hours picking our jaws up from the floor, discovering a new brilliant surprise around every corner.
The entire warehouse is two floors, each floor about three times the size of the Nth Gallery, or about a quarter Acre. The Ceiling in each is at least twenty feet high. The artist collective has been renting out this warehouse for three years in order to live and work. In that time they have each contributed enormous amounts of work to the space.
We immediately were lost on the first floor, as it had been transformed into a multi-level labyrinth and indoor treehouse. Sofas and lounge tables periodically scattered throughout each of the rooms, a bar was also present (this is where the collective invites bands to hold shows, bringing sometimes hundreds of people with them; our group actually came to help in preparation for one of these gigs) one massive geodesic dome constructed out of two-by-fours opens up to house two stages, and a dance floor surrounded by an amphitheater comprised of dumpstered sofas. Every inch of this labyrinth is literally covered with art made by the collective.
Once we found our way upstairs, we discovered the kitchen, living areas, bedrooms, and the main social room. The main social room is really just a huge open part of the warehouse. There are sofas about, a ping-pong table, instruments, and many of the residents are studying circus performers so a large part of the space is dedicated to juggling, diabolos, many unicycles, a slackline, rope acrobatics, trapeze, and general circus stuff. Naturally I felt at home.
By the way, the collective calls themselves Matarcar.
There were anywhere between 15 to 25 of us living in the warehouse at any one time, the place is so large you could often go for hours without seeing very many people. We spent the next few days cooking meals for one another, painting, getting to know one another, going out to shows, playing with all the cool circus stuff, watching films, and prepping for the show that would be held downstairs. All in all we had a fantastic time.
The show went off without a hitch, a post rock band called 52 Commercial Road came with the squatmates from London. I had the chance to meet them throughout the week, but they have been friends with the squatters for years (52 Commercial Road is actually the name of an old squat in London). There were a few other bands that played that evening, as well as our friend Tom (who lives with us in London) who did a solo act on acoustic guitar.
I did not stay up too late. Olli (also from the London squat) and I planned to hitchhike to Copenhagen the next day. Turns out we would need our sleep, we hitched nonstop for about 36 hours and met some very interesting people. One guy offered us 100.00 Euros after only knowing us for 15 minutes, drove us way out of his way to get us to a good spot, and then could not understand why we did not want to take his money. We eventually convinced him that we were trying to make the trip for free and he accepted the bill. One guy, who did not speak any english, dropped us at a random point on the autobahn at 2 a.m. Olli and I spent the next several hours walking very carefully back to town. The autobahn is crazy by the way, we went well over a hundred miles an hour in some places.
After a lot of cold rain, a lot of walking, a lot of work, and quite a few interesting characters we made it to Copenhagen only to find out that we were not allowed to crash at the residence we were expecting. Luckily another helpful lady kindly took us in (she is involved with the conference that Ollie and I came up here for). At midnight we crawled into bed and slept for the next 14 hours.
Ollie and I came to Copenhagen to begin involvement with an international group that is planning an action for COP 15. There are three days of meetings that we are attending, but also plan on seeing the city while we are here, and hopefully either find a lift back towards Bruxxels (I had to leave my bike in Bruxxels) or find another cool place to stay for a while. When I find out more about the conference and the action, and IF it is information that I am encouraged to share, then I will let you know. But for now just know that I have a warm place to sleep, food, I am meeting some really cool people, and we are planning something big.