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    The Value of Autonomous Rog: Culture, citizenship, participation

    Kanellopoulou, Evgenia, Ntounis, Nikolaos ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2517-3031 and Cerar, Aidan (2021) The Value of Autonomous Rog: Culture, citizenship, participation. Research Report. Manchester Metropolitan University & Institute for Spatial Policies.

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    Often considered as an alternative to established norms within the urban context, autonomous places – and squats in particular - have long been hubs of opposition against the mainstream economic, political, cultural and social manifestations of urban life. For almost fifteen years, Autonomous Rog was an important alternative hub in the city of Ljubljana, an urban experiment with a wealth of grassroots activity ranging from activism to artistic expression, to music and parties, as well as athletic events. Throughout its existence, debates regarding the value and significance of Autonomous Rog for the city of Ljubljana emerged, attracting widespread public and media attention. However, such discussions mostly emphasise what was wrong with Autonomous Rog, or how defective and troublesome its occupation of the former bicycle factory was.Thus, the purpose of this report is to present an objective evaluation and insight of the content, activities, and the communities involved in the occupation of Autonomous Rog from its inception in 2006 until its demise earlier in 2021. The aim of this report is to illustrate that Autonomous Rog produced alternative types of value within the context of the creative city narrative that: 1) were not on offer by either institutional or private actors; 2) contributed to the recognition of the city of Ljubljana as an important creative and cultural hub; and 3) benefited the citizens of Ljubljana and marginalised groups unable to find comparable activities elsewhere. The report focuses on research conducted between 2016 and 2021 and documents the latest stages of Rog’s occupation, the governance and management structures of Autonomous Rog, the internal/ external conflicts and the legal battle of Rog users with the municipality of Ljubljana, and the development of social and spatial value from the communities of Rog within the context of the creative and cultural boom of Ljubljana. Through our analysis, we demonstrate that Autonomous Rog was one of the last providers of accessible space within the centre that was both open and affordable, and supported the cultural and creative revitalisation of Ljubljana. We posit that Autonomous Rog was a pioneer of social, cultural, leisure, and creative activities that did not fit into the entrepreneurial, for-profit narrative that resulted from the gentrification of the city. The failure to recognise the non-monetary and intangible value produced in Autonomous Rog has resulted in the current dismissal of the knowledge and social value produced there by the City of Ljubljana. The report concludes with suggestions for immediate actions regarding the future of Rog and for the continuation of progressive and inclusive programmes with a bottom- up ethos, as well as systemic actions for the preservation of remaining autonomous places in Ljubljana and elsewhere.

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