“The objective of Christiania is to create a self-governing society whereby each and every individual holds themselves responsible over the well-being of the entire community. Our society is to be economically self-sustaining and, as such, our aspiration is to be steadfast in our conviction that psychological and physical destitution can be averted.”
Christiania’s Mission Statement
At my most sentimental I have always seen London as a place where you are free to be who you want to be. To some extent this is true as Londoners have an amazing acceptance for all different types of people, and the way they lead their lives. But despite this we aren’t actually free to do whatever we want.
This isn’t the case for the people of Christiania – an independent state near Copenhagen, which has its own set of laws.
The Vikings are wondering if we’d ever be able to have a similar place in London. But firstly let’s take a closer look at Copenhagen’s unique commune.
What is Christiania?
To the South of Copenhagen Christiania still acts as a hippie haven for around 850 Danish people who want to live an alternative lifestyle. Christiania, which used to be military barracks, was created in 1971 by groups seeking a different way of life. This commune has its own set of laws and customs. One main difference to mainstream society is the inhabitants open tolerance to drugs. Until 2004 it was very easy to buy drugs, specifically marijuana (hard drugs are banned from the area), as the free movement of drugs was accepted as a regular occurrence in Christiania. However, the Danish government and police have introduced a harder anti-drug stance in the commune. But this hasn’t stopped the prevalence of marijuana on the streets of Christiania, especially the famous, and perfectly named, “Pusher Street”
But to describe Christiania as purely a drug paradise belittles the alternative community so unique to the area. Christiania has its own currency called Lon, their own flag and television station. The famous commune is also a centre of art, culture and music as many international and national bands play at venues such as the Musikloppen.
Yet Christiania is not the complete social haven against regulations of established society that its creators had so hoped for. Christiania has been in conflict with the government since its inception over its tolerance towards marijuana. In 2004 the government and police stopped the free selling of drugs on “Pusher Street” and the rest of the commune. Some residents have blamed this for the rise of organised gangs controlling the drugs trade and creating an atmosphere of fear in Christiania. Recently in 2011, Christiania’s own residents shut down the area out of frustration of the government’s attempts to “normalise” the area, and bring it into mainstream society. The commune reopened in 2012 after the residents agreed to buy back the land at a reduced rate and so create land ownership in the area. This goes against the very nature of the commune’s philosophy but the residents still hold on to the uniqueness of their independent Christiania.
Christiania really is unique in its autonomous status but if London was ever going to have its own hippie commune where would it be? Here are some possibilities:
Shoreditch – There are many hipsters in this fashionable part of East London, but could they turn into the hippies so needed in a commune? The Vikings think that the popularity of moustaches, scruffy hats and long hair does seem to fit with the stereotypical image of hippies. Yet, the self-aware coolness of those who hang out in Hoxton Square does contradict with Christiania’s philosophy of embodying a more natural sense of self. To give credit to Shoreditch it is one of the most exciting cultural hubs of London, with amazing bars, music and art on every street, Shoreditch reflects the cultural space that Christiania holds in Copenhagen.
Brixton – Similarly to Christiania, Brixton is going through lots of changes but is still managing to maintain what makes this part of South London so special and unique. Brixton, like the Danish commune, has its own currency the Brixton Pound, which is welcomed in 250 outlets in the area. Brixton was also the unofficial drugs capital of London for many years, but the drug culture was completely opposite to the more communal and relaxed marijuana environment Christiania wanted to create. Could Brixton’s very strong sense of community turn into our very first independent area in London?