The Slovenia Times

Metelkova alternative arts centre celebrating defiant 30-year journey

The Metelkova counter-culture centre.
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Metelkova mesto, an autonomous social centre that sprung up at the location of a former Yugoslav army barracks in Ljubljana, is celebrating its 30th birthday these days. A diverse programme is under way to mark 10 September 1993, when about 200 people squatted a part of the complex slated for demolition.

The events that followed turned out to be history, as this group of artists and counter-culture activists managed to set in motion what is one of Europe's most resilient and vibrant alternative arts centres. The northern section of the Metelkova complex has successfully clung to its autonomy despite being located only a stone's throw away from the burgeoning city centre.

The southern part, along with the former military prison that is now home to the award-winning Celica youth hostel, has been institutionalised and provides some of the premises of the National Museum of Slovenia, the Slovenian Cinematheque, while notably also featuring the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Slovenian Ethnographic Museum.

The alternative segment, popularly known as Metelkova, meanwhile features eight club venues, including for the LGBT community, premises for the disabled, a number of galleries, artist studios etc.

It is a space for creativity, performances, reading seminars and discussions as well as a popular hang-out spot, increasingly also for tourists. The location is adorned by artistic details and original architectural solutions, the less improvised among them including contributions by the German artisan group Axt und Kelle.

Since its inception in 1993, Metelkova, which is formerly owned by the city, has perpetually found itself the target of political and commercial manoeuvring, leaving the community's enduring status and future shrouded in uncertainty.

Also besieged by demolition attempts as well as internal challenges that partly stem from a non-hierarchical organisational mindset, Metelkova has nonetheless managed to prevail for the time being and has done so as one of the most lively venues in the city.

Its achievements, existence and ideas are being celebrated this week with exhibitions, workshops and concerts until 10 September. An exhibition of concert photography will be on show, in the afternoons movement, music workshops will be held, as well as workshops dedicated to graffiti, clay and mending of clothes.

A market of artworks will be open all days, there will be a poetry night and a story-telling night, as well as film screenings, while the music programme includes performances by the synth-pop duo Silence, the world music and jazz band Čompe on 7 September, and concerts across and beyond the genre spectrum the following night.

The main celebration will be held on 9 September with a picnic and a dance dubbed Dance the Night Away. On Sunday a large poetry reading will be held.

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