by Emil Ghaffar
Free Milk is a “community run social space”, that was established in early October 2014. The founders of Free Milk established a space where members of the public can voluntarily learn, share and enjoy. It has housed public speakers, debates, poetry and experimental film all in the domain of politics and alternative ideology.
Free from any hierarchical structure, it is a collective and is subject to a flux of change in the people who run Free Milk. It is a pocket within our society where we all have autonomy. A place that elevates one from their sense of helplessness as it allows us to discover the true potential of our compassion and solidarity.
It is kept alive by the squatters who live there. One of the squatters highlighted how we are deprived of real communal spaces and how essential they are for our collective psyche. Our sense of community is incredibly important, especially today when we are experiencing an “epidemic of loneliness” and the public are increasingly feeling alienated from politics and ultimately themselves.
It runs purely on donation from the public such as money they make from home brewed ale or fundraiser gigs/parties which span from punk, post punk to drum&bass and reggae. These are always intimate, refreshing evenings. Everyone seems to be walking around with a sense of awe about them as they cannot believe a place like this exists in the midst of the mundane.
The ethos of the place is powerful. Self-sustainability and equality is the core of Free Milk’s message -“It is a right to exist and have access to basic human needs”. It is a birth right that we should have free and ready access to food, water, shelter, education and love. All of these are provided by Free Milk to everyone.
The homeless are in need of this especially and this is why Free Milk runs classes for the homeless on the subject of how to stay safe, build shelter and stay strong. These classes are open to everyone because everyone has the right to know such things. One of the squatters told me how shelter is everywhere, it’s just a matter of understanding how to find and build it.
His girlfriend and himself got into this way of life when they decided to “live off the land” in the countryside to resume our mutualistic relationship with nature. After experiencing this liberating way of life, they never went back to the life of material “luxury”. “We realised how easy it is to get back in touch with nature and break free from the consumerist trance imposed on us!”
We increasingly seem to be detached from our surroundings. Many of us being caught up in the bureaucracy of life, forgetting the importance of loving one another and how to love oneself. Free Milk’s aim is to inspire people to release themselves from our claustrophobic monoculture and realise the power within.
Whilst talking to the squatters, I was approached by a man I had recognized from around the streets, begging for spare change. He told me how Free Milk had changed his life, making him realise that he can live independently from money.” I can tell you I’m free”, he told me, “The word home, is subjective. To me home is in the heart of others”. Maybe all we really need is human compassion and the necessities in life.
Members proudly partake in “skipping”, which is a term (that has risen throughout the media) to describe a human simply taking food that is waste to another. The food gained from skipping and donation is used in the open kitchen and cooks up a colourful mix n match gourmet feast! Free Milk works collectively with Food Cycle to provide cooked meals for everyone but mainly the homeless.
Despite it intuitively feeling a natural, morally sound activity, the government deemed it illegal. The government stated that it is illegal to take something that someone or something legally owns and supermarkets legally own their waste. Therefore it is seen as “immoral”. But clearly the true crime here is that a third of the world’s food goes to waste as 1bn people go hungry. This is a clear insight to the fallacious nature of our capitalist system which derogates us from our human nature. We are dehumanised by the corporations we subscribe to, as their capitalist nature advocates individualism and extends the gap in equality. Free Milk reminds us that we must abandon this ideology and reclaim our world. A world that is less circumscribed by the fear and greed.
Despite Free Milk’s activities being deemed illegal, the police have nothing but compassion and support for the social space. According to the squatters, the police recognise that what Free Milk is doing is vital for the surrounding community. That human compassion is an imperative within us and possibly deprivation of this provokes violence and crime into people’s lives. This was the case until recently. On 28th January 2015, the squatters were forced to leave the building due to their presence at the chapel being against the law. Surely the law should accommodate for communites and movements such as Free Milk and advocate the explicit good that they have done for the surrounding area. But the perspective may be considered dangerous to our imperialist oppressors who’s only concern is profit and economic progression, and Free Milk’s message opposes everything capitalism promotes. Free Milk has opened my eyes and the eyes of many to an alternative. We do not need to adopt the model the government has built for us to fit in. Free Milk’s central locus may be absent, but it’s message resonates throughout the people who have experienced it.
The true injustice of the anti-squatting laws is seen within the minorities they attack. Asylum seekers and families are most affected by these laws coinciding with the Legal aid bill receiving increased cuts and rigidity. The law is facile, not seeing that there are 635,127 empty houses in the UK which significantly exceeds the number of homeless people. Clearly, at least the homeless should be entitled to these houses becoming their homes. These spaces have so much potential, just as Free Milk has proved.
Communities like Free Milk keep spreading their knowledge of how we can live independently from the government’s restrictions. But for everyone in the UK to receive the basic necessities in life, which we are all entitled to, a government must cooperate with communities such as Free Milk. Ultimately the public must invest interest and open their minds to the ideology expressed in this truly communal, autonomous space – and other areas free from the constant need to buy, trick or gain from our purses or materialistic insecurities. It shouldn’t and needn’t be so hard to imagine or find. The message is potent and influential but there is solidity in numbers, we need more help at places such as Free Milk and more communities to arise sharing a common purpose.
You can contact Free Milk via their Facebook to get involved.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” –Margaret Mead