Those were not the Backspace days

New Year's eve was a blow out in more ways than one: while UK plc grand projet the Dome was being roadtested in east London and fireworks decorated the Thames, Backspace - one of the city's most successful petits projets - saw off its end in characteristic style on the south bank's Clink Street. For one night, Winchester Wharf, vacated because of soaring rental prices, turned into a towering audio inferno courtesy of NinjaTunes, AudioRom, Backspace and the many others who had been resident there.

But organisers of Backspace (name of a technical resource, provider and workspace you'll find cropping up as facilitator of scores of independent 90s net projects) are loathe to describe their exit in terms of closure. Nostalgic laments for the good old days of 'anti with e' (an intimate international art and activism workshop organised by Heath Bunting in 97) or indeed any romantic blast from the past are met with jocular pragmatism by co-founder James Stevens. Like others involved in running the space, he refuses to submit to the comforting narrative of poverty-stricken avant-garde ramraided into quietism by stolidly gentrifying corporates, and has quite happily let Backspace splinter and reform elsewhere. Together with 'earbleeders' datacide, Stevens now runs a shop selling zines, records and videos underneath DiY_plc, while other arms of the project are sprouting up elsewhere in London.

The thread connecting the old and the new is the attempt to generate self-sustaining micro-economies that route around the parental dependence and singular economic vectors fostered by public funding or sponsorship; to get by on the cumulative cash resources of a small community. When Gomma/Decoder spoke at Stalk (recently reincarnated as DiY_plc) a while back, he described Northern Italy's autonomous scene's economic model - which uses moneys collected from what you might call 'entertainment and leisure' (aka music and drinking) to finance radical publishing. The UK continues to test and finetune its own recipes.


Pauline van Mourik Broekman>