OCCII is housed in a former tram depot in Amsterdam Oud-Zuid: The independent cultural center in it. The center is much less smart than the neighborhood where it is located: OCCII guarantees gruesome evenings full of strange or downright loud music at attractive prices. Originating from the Binnenpret squat, OCCII celebrated its 30th anniversary last weekend. This was celebrated with concerts and trips in an old tram. We spoke with coordinator Sjoerd Stolk about the future of frayed places in a sea of luxury, and photographer Raymond van Mil took pictures during the party.
OCCII’s birthday party is called “Thirty Years of Screaming at a Wall”. Sjoerd, who is one of three people with a paid job in the volunteer collective that runs OCCII, started in 2005. He has therefore been through a good part of the thirty years. The party’s title is a reference to the hit from the hardcore punk band Minor Threat, but also very applicable to OCCII in a literal and figurative sense. Because there is a lot of shouting and other kinds of noise. That noise often goes a long way: that’s how the members of SMIB started their careers there, and you see many artists who first appear at OCCII later on at major festivals. But there are also sounds that linger within the walls of the tram depot. “People don’t always listen to what a singer or singer says or screams, but at the same time, people feel good when they are at OCCII,” says Sjoerd.
The ideas propagated by OCCII have become rarer rather than universally embraced. “The world is still going crazy,” says Sjoerd. “For the 30th anniversary, we had invited a collective from Northern Italy, with whom we have been in contact for a long time. They cooked for us and there was an artist with them, Gilia. They seriously planned to stay in Amsterdam because a fascist has come to power in Italy. In the Netherlands it is not that far yet, but it is not that much more. We’ve always had a strong fondness for antifa, and in that sense it hasn’t gotten any better than it was thirty years ago. Much worse perhaps. And Amsterdam hasn’t gotten any nicer with sales to large companies either.’
During the thirtieth anniversary, they therefore put a number of non-commercial collectives in the neighborhood in the spotlight. There are performances in an old tram that has been refurbished by the Tram Museum’s volunteers. “That tram was still in our building a hundred years ago and they tinker with trams like that every day to make sure they can still run. They are on Havenstraat, next to Butcher’s Tears. It is a beer brewery that was founded by our former volunteers who made a beer especially for us. But they said they will also be gone in six months. Then that lot will be demolished, and then huge luxury apartments will be built there. Then the last frayed edge of Oud-Zuid has also been sold. Then only OCCII remains. The last bastion. Then it becomes a kind of Asterix and Obelix story.”
But unlike the cartoon characters, they don’t need a potion to defend their sanctuary from domination. Sjoerd emphasizes that a “leasehold construction” has been agreed with the municipality until 2050. “We are well organized and have more than 100 volunteers who keep things running. In that sense, not much will change in the near future, but there will be fewer and fewer alternative places, and more and more expensive apartments.” Furthermore, he notes that the young generation is very interested in the concerts at OCCII, and that the copse from which places like this arise is also experiencing a revival. OCCII will therefore continue to do what they are doing for the next thirty years, assuming the world continues to exist that long. “But let’s not think about it.”