24 October, 2001
Cheques can by made out to:
Ongar Park Hall,
Epping, Essex CM16 6AE
We're very sorry for the people who have sent us emails and have
not received replies but it all became too much and we no longer
Dial House Trust - A Centre for Dynamic Cultural Change
In a culture increasingly suffocated by myopic
corporate interests, it is refreshing, if not downright life-confirming,
to be able to announce any victory over those interests.
As the monstrous steel and glass edifices of commerce cast their ever-darkening
shadows over whole communities, the crude lottery of day-to-day existence
becomes an ever more complex battle. Just who on earth benefits from the
raging bull of globalisation? How are we to exist if we are to be treated
as no more than cyphers chained to the production line of the corporate
circus? What future is there for our culture if art, poetry and music
are seen only as commodities? Just as Tin Pan Alley will never produce
a Miles Davis, so Charles Saatchi will never produce a Francis Bacon.
If Marx didn't say that commerce was the antithesis of true creativity,
he should have done.
To write that the problem is a matter of 'us
or them' might appear simplistic, but perhaps it is that simple. Put crudely,
authentic and/or indigenous culture is systematically being buried alive
beneath the cosy euphemisms of 'world progress'.
For over thirty years, DIAL HOUSE, a large rambling cottage set in the
middle of the Essex countryside, has stood as a symbol of opposition to
the all-pervading dictates of commercialism. Throughout that time, the
cottage has operated as a cultural community centre with interests ranging
from organic gardening to free-form jazz, from herbal remedies to direct
action on the street. Of its more public emanations, DIAL HOUSE is respected
for having been the birthplace of ICES 72, the UK's biggest ever avant-garde
festival; of the legendary Stonehenge Free Festivals, which, until they
were finally and violently crushed under the boot of Thatcherism, for
over a decade offered the fun-loving public a chance to paint rainbows
in the face of sobriety; and of CRASS, the anarchist punk band who may
have failed in their ambitious bid to change the world, but succeeded
in changing the minds of a generation.
When we first rented DIAL HOUSE thirty years ago, it was a derelict, rat
infested dump with a rubbish heap for a garden. Nonetheless, we could
see in it the possibility of making real our dream of setting up a communal
creative and theraputic centre.
Having completely renovated the house to include studios, print-rooms,
a rehersal space and workshops, we created an organic garden that enabled
us to be largely self-sufficient. The more we expanded, the more we were
able to share.
From the outset in 1967, the lifestyle at DIAL HOUSE has sought to offer
residents, guests. visitors and the broader community a workable alternative
to the all-pervading consumer ethic. For over thirty years, the DIAL HOUSE
community has shared its vision of possibility and hope against a culture
in which personal greed has become an accepted norm.
Over the past twelve years, DIAL HOUSE and the acres of rolling farmland
that surrounds it have been a target for the greed of various corporate
bodies, of whom British Telecom was the most powerful (and MI5 the least
mentioned). Proposals ranging from theme parks to massive luxury housing
developments were put forward, but thrown back with all the muscle of
effective public protest. Enraged at having been denied the huge profits
of what they thought would be easy pickings, the speculators identified
DIAL HOUSE as a hornets' nest of opposition and turned their spite on
its residents. There followed a spate of eviction orders, court battles
and Rachman-like harassment, none of which had the desired effect. Eventually,
realising that they were beaten, the fat-cats withdrew with their tails
between their Armani-suited legs, and Dial House was put up for auction
- bidder takes all.
If you know anything about CRASS, you will know that despite selling thousands
of records, profit was never on the agenda. As long as there was food
in the garden, a roof over our heads and friends to share time with, we
were happy enough. Not surprisingly, we are now as broke as we were thirty
years ago and consequently didn't have the necessary funds to make a bid
for DIAL HOUSE. For too long we had to suffer at the hands of Landlords
whose only interest in DIAL HOUSE was its material value. For too long
we had had to put aside our desire for radical change simply to be dragged
through the Courts or to conform to the limiting legal restrictions of
our Tenancy Agreement. We wanted to grow personally and to expand our
operations, but we knew that unless we owned DIAL HOUSE it would not be
To endsure a chance of a successful bid, we needed to raise something
in the region of £150,000: a huge sum of money for us. So, because
we were desperate to preserve what has become almost an institution, at
the beginning of this year we took a course of action that we would not
normally have contemplated; we set up an Appeal Fund. The response was
immediate, and although by the date of the auction we had nowhere enough
for a successful bid, we felt sufficiently confident to borrow from friends
and supporters the sum needed.
Knowing that the Landlords would block any
attempt made by us to purchase DIAL HOUSE, we asked for help from Sue,
a dear friend who twenty-five years ago was a resident of the house, and
who now runs a property management company in East London. From the outset,
the advice she gave to us was so impeccable that we began to feel reasonably
confident that soon the house would be ours. By the evening before the
auction we had agreed that on no account should we bid higher that £155,000,
and Sue had left for a holiday in Italy arranging for a colleague to do
the bidding on the following morning. Later that evening around midnight,
Sue rang from Italy to say that she had a hunch we should push our limit
to £158,000 and that she instructed her colleague accordingly.
The next day, the bidding stopped at £158,000 and the house was
ours. If Sue had been at the auction, she'd have been hugged out of existence.
Having taken several weeks for the facts to sink in, and having to keep
quiet about Sue's purchase until after the formal exchange of documents
on the 20th February, we were able at last to look to the future and,
although now in debt to the sum of £100,000, we can celebrate that
DIAL HOUSE is at last secure.
Our current plan is that DIAL HOUSE should contine as it always has been,
as a 'safe house': a space where there is a welcome, where there is a
bed for the night, conversation, food and the possibility of sharing ideas.
On this base we will expand on DIAL HOUSE's traditions of radical creativity,
offering its facilities to an ever wider public under the new title of
'THE DIAL HOUSE TRUST - A Centre For Alternative Globalisation'.
We intend to arrnage workshops covering a range
of activities from healthcare courses to literary weekends; to offer studio
and rehersal space to visiting artists and musicians; to organise formal
discussions and debates to contribute towards the ever growing intertnational
radical dialogue; to arrnage gigs, film and art shows, readings and debates
(possibly in the local village hall); to widen our own field of visions
and at the same time to involve the local community, most especially the
Any capital raised through these activities
will be re-cycled back into the Trust for further projects. We will be
opening a website to broaden the network, opening the house and garden
to new activities and new thoughts and opening our hears to a new vibrant
A management committee is being set up of around half a dozen interested
individuals, made up of residents and non-residents, who will meet regularly
at DIAL HOUSE to guide and adminsiter the overall policies and agendas
of the Trust's running. In addition to this, the permanent residents will
pursue their personal work - painting, writing, music-making, gardening
The Trust aims to bring together the many diverse elemtns of a culture
that over the last twenty years has been so devastatingly torn apart.
DIAL HOUSE is once again opening its doors to a radical future. Be it
the healing power of music or the confrontational rage of the road-protestors,
the Trust will give facility both for debate and for development - the
future is ours if we want it.
However, in the short term, our immediate attention must go to the essential
repairs neglected for over five years by the previous owner and which
at threat of prosecution we were forbidden to carry out. Once warmer weather
permits, we will be repairing and partially re-roofing the house. Apart
from dealing with the physical infrastructure, our second concern will
be to further develop our plans for The Trust. By the end of the year,
we aim to have defined both a management structure and an initial programme
of workshops and events to be hosted by DIAL HOUSE. We would be interested
to hear of any suggestions for activities,particuluarly if you would like
to organise a workshop yourself - please put your ideas down on paper
and send them slowmail to us at DIAL HOUSE.
Meanwhile, the events that we and other are organizing as part of the
Appeal continue, as does the Appeal itself. Thanks to the kindness and
generosity of numerous individuals and with the addition of our personal
savings, we have already been able to repay £65,000 of the money
borrowed from friends and supporters for the purchase of DIAL HOUSE. As
the house was sold at auction for nearly twice the price we had estimated,
the Appeal will be invaluable in helping us to meet our commitment of
reimbursing the entire debt within three years, by which time the Trust's
programme of events and workshops should be well established.
Once again, many, many thanks to all of you who helped us to buy the house
and who, we hope, will continue to help us to make the Trust a reality.
Self-determination and self-empowerment
are crucial tools in the struggle against the rampant forces of capitalism.
The new Centre will be committed to assist in the creation of those tools.
GRAB AT YOUR OWN DREAMS
BEFORE SOMEONE TURNS THEM INTO A NIGHTMARE.