The Anarchy Centre (or A Centre as we will subsequently refer to it as) was situated on Long Lane, just off Lower North Street in Belfast city centre. The Belfast Anarchist Collective ran the Centre. The rules of the centre were that there were no rules! It opened it’s doors on 7th November 1981 and although it only had a very short lifespan (six months), it was still a very important venue for the early eighties punk scene in Belfast. It was solely responsible for giving the punks somewhere to go on a Saturday afternoon. Because it opened between 2pm and 6pm it allowed punks from other parts of the province to travel to Belfast, see a band and be able to get a bus home. The Centre brought such bands as Crass, Dirt and Poison Girls to the province, and also provided a venue for local bands such as Rudi, The Defects, Dogmatic Element, Just Destiny and Stalag 17. They also showed films such as One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest, Monty Python’s Life Of Brian and Rude Boy.
Upon entering the Centre you were greeted by ‘café style’ table and chairs on either side. The café sold wheaten bread, soup etc, to the starving punkers! Buck, front man of The defects remembers “They made the best veggie food that I have ever tasted. I also recall the announcements that the RUC are outside the building, then, the RUC are now in the building”. The premises had no licence, so it was down to the individual to bring their own booze or glue with them. At the bottom right-hand corner of the room was the entrance to the main hall where the bands played. It was a very dark room with black walls decorated with posters. There was no stage either, although a makeshift one was erected for the visit of Crass and situated against a different wall to where all previous bands had played. It was a hot sticky place with usually a strong smell of glue in the air. Sean (Spit Records) recalls, “When Rudi played there, they had to open the doors behind where the band had set up because of the heat and the smell of glue! The doors opened directly out onto the street. This was one occasion when Rudi were quite literally ‘Overcome By Fumes’.
The organisers of the club arranged for membership cards for visitors and even had the foresight to make a two and half hour documentary-style homem movie of the venue one Saturday. It contains lots of footage of interviews with punks attending the Centre and observations from those who ran and worked at it. There are also interviews with The Outcasts, The Defects , Stalag 17 and 10 Past 7, and also some live footage too! The footage shot was shown in the centre a few weeks after it was recorded. This footage formed the basis for 30min film which Dave Hyndman put together via NVTV in 2010.
As a constant target of police and army raids, the Centre was eventually forced to close down. It has long since been demolished and on the site on which it stood is a mini garden and skateboard park.
“The A Centre was the essential link between the ‘have it done for you’ and the ‘do it yourself’ punk era’s” Petesy Burns, Stalag 17.