Ground Zero: 17 Tory Street

 Image: Fourth birthday pot luck, 17 Tory Street, Helen Kirlew Smith

Image: Fourth birthday pot luck, 17 Tory Street, Helen Kirlew Smith

This month is the fourth anniversary of 17 Tory Street, the "open source community gallery" created by Concerned Citizens Collective back in 2012 out of the energy that the occupy movement in Wellington created.

Its success is testament to the support, on the one hand, of property owner Michael Baker and post Christchurch earthquake regulations that have effected the buildings tenancy, and on the other the consensus decision making model (employing Loomio) that has allowed it to be voluntarily managed and pay host to 100s of events of every kind. Over that entire time collective The See Here has shown remarkable installations in a front window exhibition space.

The mandate of 17 Tory Street has been to say "yes to as many as proposals as possible". It has embodied openness and generosity, providing (to crib the expression of Kava Club who have worked from here) "a safe place for unsafe ideas". It has continually inspired newcomers to find ways to replicate its values in their own communities.

We have christened 17 Tory Street Urban Dream Brokerage Project #0 - this recognises that while it predates the setup of the UDB in late 2012 this was the first property Letting Space brokered beyond those it had done so for its own art projects. It also recognises that this was where Letting Space was based for two years, a space that encouraged our own openness to considering new models.

The other Friday we had a pot luck dinner, and while I was setting up a woman came in to pick up her fruit and veges from the long running coop. She seemed to have little else to do with the space, yet expressed in her interest in our slide show an inspiration gained from being plugged in in a minor way to the space. That night at dinner I met two individuals currently involved in running Tory Street who I'd previously only encountered online - generous, full of energy and good ideas (kia ora Lucy and Grace) they were testament to how this space attracts change agents and allows them to grow. Unlike more rigid, hierarchical structures there's a flow here which makes succession arguably easier. Here's to the key individuals who keep that flowing.

Happy birthday Tory Street. For more information on getting involved go here.

Mark Amery