Watch a nice video about the symposium here
The ADM presentation (on July 24th. 2013) was done by Bep and Hay, Durk and Frans played their Amsterdam-song at the start, which received a standing ovation
My name is Bep Schrammeijer and I will give you an introduction to the free place ADM and her cultural, social and ecological importance.
First I will very quickly introduce myself: some of you may notice a discrepancy between my accent and my name. I grew up in Tasmania, Australia – therefore my accent, but of dutch parents. I grew up in a sort of free space. My father, an Amsterdam'r, taught himself how to build traditional timber framed houses and we lived almost entirely off the grid with no connection to mains electricity, no telephone and no TV. Perhaps this is why I feel so at home on the ADM...
I will start with a short introduction to the ADM.
Initially a drydock (Amsterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij) the ADM terrain was built between 1960 and 1965 to accommodate expansion of the business. In 1985 it was bankrupt. In 1997 the property was sold to Bertus Lüske and it was squatted again by a small group (16 years ago). Since then a community of between 100 and 125 people has grown, living in the former office building, in wagons and huts built in the forest that has grown in the mean time and in boats in the shallow harbour.
The ADM community has grown very organically. A diverse group has developed. Musicians, truck drivers, caterers, carpenters, tent-builders, artists, theatre makers, fishers, welders, décor builders, inventors, organisers, dancers, craftsmen and mechanics are amongst our community. We work in different sectors, but there is a strong focus on art and theatre – truck drivers transport art objects and caterers cook for theatre festivals, even the welders, builders and mechanics work on technical aspects of theatre.
The ADM space and community is an ideal creative breeding ground as it provides opportunities to meet and work together with like-minded people as well as those who think differently and are prepared to say so. People help each other with technical knowledge and tools and there is plenty of space and freedom. The unique surroundings help to encourage new thoughts and ideas, facilitating innovation.
Most people who live on the ADM have some reason to live separate from 'broader' society. The ADM provides a place where there are no hard and fast rules and where social control is stronger than political power. It is a space where people can escape the hassle and expectations of society, for a few I even dare to say it provides a psychological haven, for others more an ideological one.
There are no specified procedures on the ADM and we have only irregular meetings where decision-making is usually not the goal, but discussion, problem-solving and leveling ideas is more important. When there is enough interest and momentum almost anything can be achieved evident in the creation of fantastic new spaces and events.
As users of the space ADM, perhaps our main role and importance to those outside is that we let people come and see and experience how we live. We regularly open the gate for festivals, such as Robodock – which grew bigger than the ADM, but also the more recent smaller festivals such the Lucht-, Aarde-, Bliksem-, Ruimte- and Tijd festivals. These festivals are run on a minimal budget and completely on a voluntary basis.
This year's Burn da Babylon fusion reggae festival was a perfect example of the importance of these events: many people came who had never been to the ADM before – people were wandering around with their mouths open amazed that such a place could exist. As users of a squatted place we feel we have a responsibility to share our space and ideals.
When people visit the ADM they see that many things can be done differently: you can live without central heating and a gas connection; you can survive with little money and do almost everything yourself; you can consume less and recycle almost everything; you can choose to spend less time earning money and use your time to fulfill basic needs or artistic purposes.
Besides the summer festivals we try to maintain regular evenings with a community kitchen where people can have a cheap healthy meal and attend a concert. Other events such as the wintergames and bakbrommer races provide a space and place for like-minded (anarchist and autonomous) people to meet and have some fun, again, away from the prying eyes and rules of society...
These are very practical social and cultural aspects of the importance of the ADM as a free place. However, besides just being an ADM'r I am also an ecologist and see several other important aspects of free places, and especially of the ADM. I studied environmental science in Australia, worked a number of years in consultancy and I recently completed a masters in Earth Sciences at the UvA where I followed a track called environmental management.
For my thesis I investigated the effect of development on ecosystem services in the Noordzeekanaal area potential future scenarios. The main thing I found was that the industrial activities along the Noordzeekanaal emit more pollutants than the same landscape can process – which probably won't come as a surprise to most of you.
I also followed one compulsory course called System innovation and Transition Management - basically a two month course on how to change the world. One of the main points that stood out for me was, in my own words, you can't change the system from within (jargon: situatedness of agency). If you want to increase the chance of real change then there needs to be space where the social, political and legal structures of society do not suppress the development of new ideas and possibilities. Free places, such as the ADM, provide such space.
Going back to my research on the future of the Noordzeekanaal area: I think Amsterdam has to carefully consider the environmental consequences of continued expansion of the industrial harbour. The port of Amsterdam does state that it aims to be the most sustainable port in Europe. As an ecologist I have many questions regarding such use of the concept sustainability and do not hesitate to, rather cynically, call it greenwashing. … I think the ADM is very important in providing a physical blockage to unbridled industrial expansion in the port of Amsterdam.
It has become one of the very few places in the Netherlands where a forest has been allowed to grow itself, and especially with people living within it. The small freshwater lake situated on the ADM property was created by accident by ADM squatters. It was later then also protected by the ADM squatters (stopped from being filled in) and now provides an essential habitat for a rare bat species protected at European level. The harbour area of the ADM is one of the only shallow brackish water areas in the entire Noordzeekanaal and is an important breeding ground for various aquatic species.
If the ADM were not occupied by us it is certain that now the forest would be cleared, the freshwater lake and shallow brackish breeding ground filled in and some large industry would fill the space where we now live. Some people believe that such a situation would be preferable – good for the economy. I am more pessimistic about this economic rationale and hope we have a chance to continue to provide an alternative as the economic crises worsen. I see the ADM as a cultural and ecological experiment and I hope we have a chance to see if it works...