STA, 25 May 2022 - Several alternative culture groups, NGOs and other initiatives called on Wednesday for a boycott of the emerging new creative centre at the location of Ljubljana's former bicycle factory Rog. They argue the city has been deaf to the proposals of the autonomous community that was evicted from Rog's dilapidated premises in 2021.
Addressing the press in front of the sizeable centre, which is being revamped in a EUR 20 million investment meant to be completed next year, the groups called for an open debate that would allow a democratic planning of the new premises.
The boycott initiative has been backed by the Autonomous Rog Factory collective, Ljubljana's counter-culture centre Metelkova Mesto, the Youth for Climate Justice, members of Radio Student, the Collective of culture workers, the anthropology department of the Faculty of Arts and several other groups.
The grievances include unsolved issues related to the police-backed eviction of Rog's users in January 2021 by the City of Ljubljana and what the protesters see as the exclusion of all but "the obedient partners of the city authorities" from the planning of the new centre.
While calling for a public discussion to exchange ideas, they pointed to alternative proposals that Rog's users already put forward in 2019 in an effort to make the centre a model for self-organisation and active participation.
One possible solution would be a cooperative-like model that would allow workers with precarious labour arrangements, the unemployed and refugees to receive training in construction work, crafts and administration.
The other would involve full autonomy, with the city committing to respecting the principle of self-organisation and the centre's users to the organisation of non-profit activities for the public good.
The protesters, who say the city has refused to discuss these options, hope for some support from new government given the size of the project.
The Rog Centre responded by saying it had been cooperating with a number of NGOs and initiatives, as the centre's development was the largest example of community planning so far.
Its programme as part of the RogLab project has been created since 2010 through a broad participative process. More than 6,000 users, 450 experts and 80 partner organisations from Slovenia and other countries have been involved so far.
"Both the interested former users and the wider public participate in conceiving the programmes, as well as its neighbours, as it is designed to be a publicly accessible space uniting very different communities. Anyone who is willing to take part can join this process at any time," Rog said.
Rog Centre is in the purview of the City of Ljubljana, which announced in April the centre would promote cultural and creative activities, especially product making, applied arts, architecture and design.
Plans include seven production labs, including for textile, wood processing, ceramics and glass, and green and culinary labs, for which there will be a membership fee similar to a library fee.
A total of 25 production units will be available free of charge based on calls for applications. The use of the facilities will be limited to three to four years. Five residential units will be available to users from abroad, the project's representatives announced.
The centre will also have a large area for socialising and exhibitions, a library and cafes. There will moreover be two smaller shops where products manufactured at the labs will be sold.
The building will have four floors and a total of 8,500 square metres. Outside the building a park will span 8,000 square metres.