I often get messages from our CEO Paul Bradbury which read “What do you know about this-or-that?”. Usually, honestly, it’s not much, but I’m a very proficient Googler, so I end up finding the answers for him. That is the dynamic which leads to him thinking that I’m the person who knows a lot about Croatia, so don’t tell him it’s all Google.
Anyway, today’s question was if I knew anything about his local KCM in Mesnička being closed. I really haven’t heard about that, and at first, I thought – oh, he must’ve gotten something wrong, no way was KCM closing. It has been a staple of Zagreb’s cultural scene, a bar where exhibitions, workshops, courses, lectures were held, frequented by those who cared about the (alternative) culture for a long, long time. Located in the city centre, at the bottom of the Mesnička street, near the entrance of the tunnel and the beginning of the Strossmayer Promenade, it was almost always full of young people, loved by loyal locals and appreciated by tourists. Why would it be closed now? It made no sense.
And then I Googled, literally ‘KCM closing’ (in Croatian) and what came out is not what I was expecting at all:
To give you a brief overview of their Facebook post, yes, they’re closing. They invited all of their friends to join them in the upcoming several days at their “Silent Protest Blanket Jam Parties”, which will be the last opportunity to hang out there, as they will soon (not specified when exactly) have to close their doors. They thank the Croatian family farms, which are standing by them, so they will be able to welcome their guests with some local wine, rakija and a small snack, to thank them for being their loyal customers.
They go on to explain that all of the people working there worked several jobs, just to be able to keep working at KCM. They mention how they organized over 2000 various events and programs there, and were never helped by the local government, not even in a form of a free parking ticket for the performers to bring their instruments or exhibits. What they were given are 14 million kuna of parking tickets (I’m not entirely sure if that’s hyperbole or what!).
They can no longer take the abuse from the institutions and the half-world (they use the beautiful Croatian word “polusvijet”, which can be translated to English as “demimonde” and boy, it that a great translation and a metaphor) of Croatian bureaucracy. They complain that they’ve spent the last five years visiting various offices, offering bribes in the form of kulenova seka, rakija, and homemade Croatian cream from the industrial hemp for their hemorrhoids, just trying to find out where to get that one paper they were missing. They explain that in every office they were treated like vermin, made fun of for their appearance by the people in those offices unaware that their paychecks come from the public. They simply can not allow themselves to be continually blamed and punished, without any rhyme or reason, except for the desire to take everything they earn. One thing they still maintain is their freedom of choice, so they choose to close, and they feel like they’ve earned that freedom. They want their guests to find their freedom too, as they say that freedom is a start, while culture is the finish line. Their last line is dedicated to those who have been badgering them for years: “Get your head out of your own haemorrhoid-filled ass and stop thinking only of yourself.”
As you might imagine, this post has caused a lot of anger among their Facebook followers and loyal guests. Many of them expressed disbelief that this is happening now, over a year after a progressive, almost alternative political power took over in Zagreb, and mention how many times they saw the current mayor in KCM. Others blame the structures put in place by the former administration, which were not dismantled by the current one. Most commenters are sad that KCM is closing and at the same time worried about what it says about the direction of policy of the city. Some mention the probable future for that location: yet another of the same bars, with a plexiglass-built terrace, where you’ll be able to watch football games, owned by someone who is very capable of navigating the intricacies of Croatian bureaucracy and corruption. Just another step in the direction of a city without a soul.
In another one of their posts, they invite their guests to join them tonight at 11 pm for a concert by Chris Ian, a longtime street musician in Zagreb, whom they call the “good spirit” of KCM.