Enter the Void | The Budapest experience

In a time of governmental unrest, the youth subculture in the Hungarian capital is reclaiming its role in the city.

The European project Enter the Void gathered last week in Budapest. The third meeting of the youth think-tank had a more hands-on approach, as participants got to witness the rise of activism and youth counterculture in the Hungarian capital, through actions organised against transformations imposed by governing structures. After Berlin, Amsterdam, and now Budapest, it is becoming obvious for the European collective that the young generation is actively calling for its place in the city.

Taking youth involvement one step further, from agenda setting into practice – this is one of the main goals of the Enter the Void collective. This time, in Budapest, the collective got to experience the practical dimension of youth city-making. The exchange was mainly dominated by the current wave of demonstrations against the right-wing government. The demonstrations started to grow after the signing of a law that forces the closing of the Central European University (one of the top 50 universities in Europe), since it is funded by the businessman George Soros, a well-known government critic. This law was a tipping point for many people to go on the streets and protest, but the strict refugee policy and overly anti-European attitudes of the government were also part of the issues.

People protest againts the law that would undermine the Central European University ©REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

I always feel that the stricter the government is, the stronger the underground movement will be. That makes sense of course, because they have so much more to win in that case. So what we take for granted in Amsterdam, the youth in Budapest still needs to conquer.’ -Ella Overkleeft, co-founder Nightmayor foundation Amsterdam

The law also entails that NGO’s receiving funding from abroad must be registered, their communication have to specify that they are a foreign funded organizations. This also includes Aurora, an NGO and community centre acting as the headquarters for Enter the Void in Budapest. Aurora is becoming a key part of the city, acting as a multifunctional place – a canteen, an activist hub and social enterprise. The NGO organised a community demonstration during the Enter the Void gathering, brining together the European city-makers with local collectives that ask for a more inclusive governmental decision-making process.

‘Around the time we arrived in Budapest, the demonstrations started to include music and dancing. This was an exciting new development, and fitted the idea of our hosts to have positive, non-violent actions, which they call “the happy revolution”.’ – Arno Bouma, co-founder Black Rabbit Collective

The Enter the Void group joined the demonstration, working forehand on making many signs, drums and shopping carts transformed in music machines. It was a good opportunity to meet with local students and other NGO participants, all coming together under the motto ‘We do not stay silent’. The demonstration that took place on the 15th of April was a highlight for the Enter the Void collective, as there was a great sense of community building.

Promoting activism through social media #nemmaradunkcsendben

Another area of concern for the young city-makers in Budapest is the Roman banks, a space by the Donau river that presents potential for community activities. Currently, the government is planning to build a big dam in the area, undoing its current function as gathering place. Organisations in Budapest are creating actions against this transformation, together with the local community. Since the riverbanks are inaccessible and underused, part of the Budapest Enter the Void collective is working on transforming the area into a leisure space for locals. Initiatives vary from building staircases, seats, barbecue spots to talking with, and making plans for the municipality.

©Enter The Void

After the experience in Budapest, the Enter the Void collective is more actively involved in developing tools that properly disseminate the gathered information to structures involved in decision-making processes. With the final gathering in Riga towards the end of the year, the collective is focused on delivering a practice manual which can set the tone for youth involvement and city-making at an EU scale. The four cities involved in this European project are working on their own ‘city manual’, which is structured in five guidelines:

  1. Community making
  2. Collective action
  3. Common dialogue
  4. Influencing intermediates/experts
  5. Influencing policy-makers

The European project aims to become a ‘How-To’ manual for local politicians and administrators by the end of 2017. Feeling inspired and want to make a change? Do not hesitate to contact the Enter the Void collective through their Social Media page. For all you Amsterdammers, there are weekly workgroups you can join by sending an email at blackrabbitcollective@gmail.com.

This publication was written in collaboration with Ella Overkleeft and Arno Bouma.

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