Zelfportret van een ander… revisited.

“Life is short, break the rules, forgive quickly… and never regret anything that made you smile. Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover” [Attributed to Mark Twain]

So here’s to music, random chance, ideas, idealism and friendship one year on from my last trip to the Netherlands…and a chance to explore a new city, dream of endless possibilities and (re)discover a shared humanity.

Groningen. John Callaway 2013

Groningen. John Callaway 2013

A story of glorious happenstance, which has at its core Hugh Cornwell once of the Stranglers, legalised squatting and the political act of walking. 

A stretch maybe, but stick with it…. its mostly photographs anyway 🙂

First up then, a Hugh Cornwell acoustic set at Die Oude Rooms Katholiek Ziekernhuis, (Old Roman Catholic Hospital) in Groningen.  A fine gig covering a back catalogue of 35 years, and a reminder that I first saw the Stranglers back in 1977…

“Tell you what I’m gonna do
Gonna make love to a water rat or two
And breed a family
They’ll be called the survivors
You know why?
No
‘Cause They’re gonna survive…”      

 “Down In The Sewer”

But not just any old venue: ORKZ is a legalized squat in Groningen. The buildings were left empty in 1979 when the hospital moved to a new complex. Initially designated for the demolition  and redevelopment, squatters first occupied the property in September 1979. In 1985 the squat was legalized , initially as an experiment for a five year period , until the management of the property was ultimately transferred to the residents.

No more heroes…? John Callaway 2013

No more heroes…? John Callaway 2013

The popular characterisation of squatters  is of people who occupy the homes of others, displacing them in the process and damaging property ignores the extent to which squatting is a manifestation of homelessness and housing need. Not that  ORKZ (or any other similar social housing scheme) is a perfect solution- 250 or so individuals living under the same roof isn’t without its difficulties, but without daring to dream, nothing changes.

“…From the next room, the scraping of a chair dragged across the floor 
Footfall on the ceiling and the muffled sound of a radio
Announces the hospital waking from its slumber

Shared lives in separate spaces slowly emerge
Blinking and bleary eyed from the night
Alive to the promise of a new morning…”      

[John Callaway.(2013). From “Shared lives in separate spaces…” ]   As yet unpublished 😉 

And so to the art of walking…

Re: cycle? John Callaway 2013

Re: cycle? John Callaway 2013

Throw away the maps, reclaim the act of wandering, of seeking out, of seeing, of feeling, of being…

Understand that “…(the) vast map (is) useless, and not without some pitilessness…. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are tattered ruins of that map, inhabited by animals and beggars; in all the land there is no other relic of the disciplines of geography…”.

[Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions, Translated by Andrew Hurley (Penguin 1999)].

More photographs here

Love & thanks to Akke Antje & Linda for their patience and forbearance!

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4 responses to “Zelfportret van een ander… revisited.

  • Pollux

    Nice , i’ve been there! 🙂

  • smilecalm

    brings me back to the Netherlands; first time in Groningen, thanks!

  • Chris Lawrence (ogre crowbar)

    squatters in London … I spent a goodly amount of time working with Heathcote Williams on a magazine that was published the size of Jimi Hendrix and he was the founder of the ruff tuff cream puff real estate agency … motto “all you need is a jimmy” … he scouted the empty properties being warehoused by the rich waiting for the prices to up and he and his cohorts would give homes to the homeless .. look him up … he is a very good writer, playwright, sculptor, actor etc. I have many stories ….

  • Swappers

    Fantastic post Johnnie! Great photos as ever too. I miss Holland and the friends my brother and I made there. Most of whom were politically active and worked in the mental health program in the Netherlands which was WAY ahead of us over here and I imagine remains so despite the global pressures.

    As for Chris’ apposite posting it certainly minded me of a squat in London where my cousin was associated, round the corner from Euston station back in the seventies. Heathcote Williams author of one of my favourite books of all time ‘Whale Nation’ and father of all the graffiti artists in my humble opinion. Worth checking out as Chris suggests

    Ahh, happy agitprop days where are they now?
    Oh, yes still active in the Netherlands!
    Going now to ride my white bicycle

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