The Slovenia Times

The Haven of Alternative Culture Disrupted



Unlike before, when activist somehow managed to prevent the machinery to do the job, this time the action, "protected" by around 30 police officers was a success. In two hours, Mala Sola turned into a pile of ruins. True, the building has been erected without the necessary permission - like many other buildings in the area of Metelkova. Besides Mala sola the Inspectorate also intends to pull down Jalla Jalla, and the fabulous jutting roofs of Gromka and Menza pri koritu, build by Axt und Kelle, a German craftsmen's association. However, as the activists from Metelkova would put it, this is only the start of a campaign to destroy one of the liveliest cultural and intellectual locations in Ljubljana. Various recent inspections have also intensified their intervention during cultural events at Metelkova, and also at other cultural centres around Slovenia. The government of Slovenia is acting in accordance with a recently passed law on the catering industry. Under the cover of the law's strict provisions regulating commercial activities, which cannot be fulfilled by the non-profit associations and NGOs of Metelkova, the executive is trying to put an end to the largest agglomeration of alternative culture in the country. Metelkova City is one of the largest autonomous cultural centres in Europe and provides 40% of non-commercial music events in the city. Attendance at events in Metelkova can be favourably compared with that of the established Ljubljana Festival, and is the second largest host of cultural events in Ljubljana. Metelkova is also the only location in the city, and one of the few in the country, where youth culture and alternative cultures are systematically staged and presented to a large and active audience. It is also a forum for impressive intellectual activity. During each academic year, it organises the Workers and Punk University where competent international speakers discuss the most urgent dilemmas of the contemporary world. In the 13 years of its existence it has hosted important cultural projects, such as the annual meeting of TransEuropeHalles, the annual City of Women, the Red Dawn Festival and many others. These projects were supported by the Ministry of Culture and by the City of Ljubljana, as well as by many international sponsors. The Municipality Disagrees The current situation is reminiscent of the time when the Municipality intended to demolish the ex-military barracks, occupied by alternative cultures, back in 1994. As then, the situation roused public opinion and divided the competent authorities. However, as activists from Metelkova argue: "History repeats itself, but this time, the attempt to bring Metelkova down can only end up as a farce." Their confidence is grounded in the support of the local community and also in the support of the Municipality of Ljubljana. The Municipality intends to preserve Metelkova, possibly because Ljubljana stands a good chance of becoming the Cultural Capital of Europe in 2007. Danica Simsic, the mayor of Ljubljana states: " We have always supported this different (some would say alternative) culture that flourishes in Metelkova. Our special attention goes to Metelkova because it is not only locally, but also internationally renown." The Municipality's support does not stop at words. They have registered Metelkova City as a cultural monument, but since they did not provide the necessary building permits for the buildings in question, the Inspectorate insists that they should be demolished. The Municipality is preparing a long-term spatial plan for Metelkova. The logical step is to wait for the plans and then make the necessary changes required. This subject also attracted the attention of the President of Slovenia Dr. Janez Drnovsek. In an open letter to the Prime Minister, Janez Jansa, he pointed out that the problem should be solved through dialogue rather than by the strict appliance of rigid bureaucratic criteria and repressive measures. Meanwhile, Metelkova City continues to invigorate the cultural landscape of Ljubljana. As Flin Itz, a tourist from the Netherlands explains: "Pretty sights alone do not make a city interesting and important. It's the vivid cultural scene that made me come back to Ljubljana. Metelkova is, in my opinion, really the core of this scene."


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