A spot by the water
Weavers for the common good
A former site of medicine production in Maribor has become a centre for initiatives aiming to improve the quality of life in the city.
As fate would have it the building is located in Tkalski prehod (Alley of the Weavers) and has accordingly been named Tkalka (Weaver woman). This is an ideal name for a location which is dedicated to the creation of connections. The building had stood empty for five years while its owner, the municipality, tried to sell it at a healthy profit. This proved unsuccessful, however, and so in the autumn of 2014 the city of Maribor rented it to a number of organisations grouped under the umbrella organisation of CAAP, the 'Centre for Alternative and Autonomous Production'.
Driving forward urban development
Today Tkalka is a 2,500 square metre sized community centre in which more than 30 organisations, social groups, cooperatives, associations, institutions, initiatives and individuals from all age groups operate. Their activities are concentrated primarily on the establishment of enterprises, in particular with a social focus, and on innovative operations in the social field, together with education and tourism. They all have a shared objective: making a contribution to urban development by creating new jobs and increasing the quality of life in the city. At Tkalka it has accordingly been possible to make productive use of an empty building: towns in Slovenia are full of empty buildings which are left to deteriorate. The reason for the high vacancy rate is that after privatisation in the 1990s it was often difficult to reach an agreement among the many co-owners on whether the building should be sold, rented or redeveloped.
First community centre of this type in Slovenia
The history of the organising body CAAP begins with the Urbane brazde (urban furrow) project, which originated as part of the initiative 'Maribor – 2012 European Capital of Culture'. Among other developments this project is responsible for ensuring that this small city with its population of 100,000 now boasts a number of communal gardens, all operated on an ecological basis. Karolina Babič, director of the centre, states: "The initiatives which are based in Tkalka are also involved in the revitalisation of parts of the city and its immediate surroundings, regardless of whether we are talking about sustainable food production, mobility, urban gardens, biodiversity, social integration, providing employment for the Romany community or other projects."
Surviving the coming year
MARŠ, the local student radio, goes back to the year 1990, making it the oldest initiative in Tkalka. Although the radio station is subject to a never-ending struggle for finance, status and equipment, it has already celebrated its quarter-century. However, the team behind MARŠ remain realistic with regard to their role in the media landscape of the 21st century. Asked about their plans for the next decade, editor Jernej Osim replies: "Surviving the coming year." Ever since MARŠ has been part of Tkalka it has been broadcasting the programme Tkanje (Weaving mill) on its wavelength, dedicated to presenting the organisations which make up Tkalka and their work.
Tkalka refers to itself as an "office building with a topic". However, because it is a very large organism, the initiators have defined the year 2015 as a year of consolidation. Karolina Babič states that in the future Tkalka will, because of the administrative work involved, require the simplest structure possible in terms of formal legalities.
She says with a smile: "The biggest problem for the current spontaneous structure is to find the right music for the weekly Friday meeting and all who participate in it – in other words the older members, the artists, the farmers, the Romany community, the nerds, the theoreticians and the craftsmen." Alas: If this is a major problem, we can be optimistic about the future!