Mr. Norm published 22 pages about the ADM, written by Raquel Palla Lorden (from Spain)
Behind the fence we're free
In the nineties the hippies had to make room for the subversives. It was the time of squatters who fought against vacant homes. Dutch peoples in search of a free-state, where the (state) repression has no control over them. And this came about: the ADM-terrain. Originally grounds of the Amsterdam Drydock Company, but after bankruptcy soon squatted and fallen into the hands of Bertus Lüske.
Our society has been build in fits and starts
"The bite of Lüske", says Louise jokingly, theater maker and resident of the ADM, while pointing to a large hole in the central building at the ADM. "That happened when real estate speculator Bertus Lüske came down here with a large excavator. It was his terrain and we had to leave. He was however polite enough to send his men into the building in order to wake up the residents before he wanted to tear down the building." Some people nod, as if they remember it as if it happened yesterday. "Today I'm going to tell you everything about the ADM. That is consistent with my job as a tour guide in the city. A wage slave we call it here. Most of the people here are working for themselves, or are freelancer. Many are working in the arts and theater. When I came here we were with a group of thirty-five. In the eighteen years that we live here, we have become a group of one hundred twenty-five.
There are also people here who have just a workshop. Since I started to live here, there has been a residents stop. Every now and then there are people who know how to conquer a spot. One of the conditions is that you must be able to function individually. Being able to go to the city yourself and lay your own lines and maintain your home. Be self-reliant. This has caused great challenges. Our society has been built in fits and starts. Here we are all together in this area and have felt quite a bit of pressure from outside. It is important that we can form a group together." For a moment she stops and looks in the direction of the huge iron gate that separates the ADM terrain from the outside world. Behind the gate is a large number of caravans. "And then .. .the fence. Some find it absurd that a free piece of land like the ADM is fenced off. Personally, I find it necessary. A lot of peoples are living outside our gate. These are people who have been expelled from the city. There used to be more places where people that didn't belong could seek refuge. Now this is limited and they come to here. The fence is almost always closed. We have no legal system. Someone with evil plans can do so much damage here. "
(photo description: A kitchen in one of the houses on the ADM terrain. The kitchen is, like the rest of the house systematically build, so it's easy to assemble and to disassemble)
(photo-description: The chaos can be found all over the terrain)
We go up a big staircase. On the top is an iron art piece which moves with the wind. It's quiet there and you have a view of all the surroundings. "Welcome at the stairs." Louise continues. "The ADM was built as a dry dock company for maintenance- and ship repairs. The moment the building of the ADM had been finished, as a subdivision of the NDSM, the whole industry went down the hill. The last time ships were repaired here was in 1977 and since then it became a no man's land. In the beginning they were quite happy that people moved in. Despite it all it got evicted and the first squatters had to leave. It has been standing empty for years. Why we came back? Exactly because of this reason: Nothing was happening here. Besides this, places in the city were evicted. I was in need of a space and nice people. We have nature here. Sometimes even a little bit too much; the chickens are being eaten by the foxes.
(photo-description: At the ADM-terrain a number of unique cultural performances were taking place. This man, with a cow mask, was playing quietly on his banjo in the sunshine)
Louise takes us to a big open area, where a man in a cow suit plays the banjo on the roof of an upside down boat. As if everything here isn't surrealistic enough already. "I thought he would dress up like a horse". She points at the O's which are mounted on the big hall. This hall is mainly used for storage. In the past open parties like Robodock were held inside. It started out in the second year the terrain was squatted, in 1998 to be precise. Robodock moved to the NDSM, because it became too big for us. We continued with our own festivals. These are somewhat smaller in size. We don't organize these festivals with the intention of earning money. The possibility was there, but we always rejected this. We do everything volunteerly. For us it's a moment that we all come together and have exchanges with friends from abroad, but it's also a good opportunity for people from outside to have a look on the ADM. We walk somewhat further along the terrain which is full with self-build houses.
Bep lives in the middle of the ADM forest. We enter her house for an interview. Her trusty dog settles himself on the sofa, while Bep is busy making tea. She starts talking while she's doing this. "Originally I'm from Australia, but both my parents are Dutch. In Australia I came in contact with a punk-, alternative like kind of culture. When I was twenty five I left for The Netherlands to discover my roots. I ended up at vaguely related family in Groningen. For some reason I came in contact with squatters who where living there.They invited me for a 'bakbrommer' (=> front loaded moped) race. In actuality I did have tickets for the PinkPop music festival. Despite this I decided to attend the races. Sheer curiosity. I ended up at the ADM, through a friend of a friend. Originally it was only for a short period, but I ended up staying. I wanted to live somewhere, where there's a lot of space and nature. In the meanwhile I help here at the ADM with organizing. I attend meetings and I receive press mails. I'm working also on a book about the ADM and I have a daughter and she takes up a lot of time.
(photo description: The head office of the ADM. Here a lot of meetings are being held)
(photo description: This life-like robot plays music for just a coin)
"We have to realize ourselves that the environment is not separate from us, we're part of it"
Her house is clean, big and tidy. The size of her house is in contrast with most other D.I.Y. houses on the terrain. "I'm not that creative myself. I don't work in a theater. I'm not a photographer. If I have to label myself I would say idealist. Not activist. I do have discussions with peoples. To explain my ideals and hoping that they're listening to them. A world where we're living together with nature would be awesome. This sounds a bit over the top hippie of course. We have to realize ourselves that the environment is not separate from us, we're part of it. I couldn't live again in the mayhem of the city." She tells us more about the ADM. She describes it as a place where there's room for inventions and creativity. There are however also limitations. "In fact we're here only temporarily. Because we're here already for so long we're hoping we can stay forever. Unfortunately we don't own the terrain. We tried to buy it, but the asking price is ridiculous. We're living on someone else their terrain in an industrial area. When we build something it's often rickety, because maybe it only has to last for a short while. This idea is constantly playing in our heads. During every build you're asking yourself: Is this really necessary? Especially now, since there are again a lot of court cases. She thinks long and hard and tries to find the correct Dutch words before she explains the summoning. "Let me start at the beginning. Just after the completion of the Amsterdam Drydock Company in 1965, it went bad. In 1970 The Municipality tried to help the company to stay afloat and sold the land for a symbolic amount of money. In the buying contract there were two important conditions. One; only shipbuilding was allowed. And two; The Municipality has first right to buy. Those two conditions are the reason we're still here. If they don't comply with this, the owners can't go to court to have us evicted. To finish my story: Despite the help of The Municipality the dry dock company went bankrupt, merged with the NDSM and left for the north of Amsterdam. Very skillful the land was moved on, with the help of private companies and sold to real estate speculator Bertus Lüske. To this day we don't know why The Municipality didn't buy the land back then. We're assuming that they just didn't know it was for sale then. Dodgy business. Bertus Lüske was liquidated in 2003 and since then his heirs own the terrain. In those years we have lived here quietly, till February 2015.
We received a threat of the lawyer of the son-in-law of Lüske. The company has cleaned up it's act and all the money is legal again. Now he says that he has plans that comply and we have to leave. Bep sighs. "We don't believe him really. He has tried before to make us leave. The conditions, which are included in the contract were never right. I do get it in a way. Of course it's more lucrative to start here something than just a bunch of hippies living here. The thing is; he's just a real estate broker and not a developer. So what are those plans really worth then?" The residents of the ADM have managed to hide themselves behind those two conditions in the contract. When the Lüske's don't want to start a shipyard and they refuse to sell it to The Municipality, the ADM-ers can't be legally evicted. Now that the owners have started a new search for a way to get it legally right, eviction looms above the heads of the ADM-ers. "Of course there are worries. I have a little one. Some days I'm worried about the house. What will happen to it when we have to leave? Can we put it somewhere else? We want to go to Australia to visit my family, but is this possible? And then there are days that I think to myself: The story of the Lüske's doesn't make sense. It's a shady party with no good intentions for the area. I told you before that I'm an idealist, and I hope that this terrain won't become an industrial desert. If this is real I don't know. Economical thinking is still favored over nature- or social thinking. It has to be bigger and more, globalization. We did start a petition which has been signed by almost twelf thousand peoples.
(photo description: This mobile bakery bakes fresh bread for the peoples)
It's nice that other peoples see that the ADM has an added value. We hope that this concept will be picked up by The Municipality, and that they become aware of the role they play in the matter. They could for instance offer the Lüske's another terrain. Not that there's a good reason to do so, except when they also agree that the ADM should be preserved for whatever reason." Squatting is illegal since 2010, they see this however as their land. "I don't regard myself to be a criminal. The way this terrain has fallen into the hands of Lüske is not fair. He never had the right to manage this land. If this give us more rights to live here I don't know, but it doesn't feel like something bad.
(photo description: The houses of the ADM-ers are often hidden in nature)
(photo description: One of the anarchistic art pieces, which can be found all over the terrain)
Bep walks with us along the terrain to several special area's. It's sunny and the trees are green. It feels magical. The houses bend themselves around the nature instead of the other way around. All the time you see art pieces standing on the corners of the streets. Drifting from the big hall are the sounds of heavy metals. An artist village where peoples are free to aim for a better future. Where peoples are not living to earn money and where creativity has free reign. Welcome to Utopia.
(photo description: Do you want to know more about this art piece? Look it up in our digital magazine)
The original article can be viewed online here (from page 30 onward)
The team of 'Mr. Norm' also created a wonderful little documentary about the ADM: 'Mr Norm presents; ADM, behind the fence'. The subtitled version can be watched here