Tell us about the A-Cafe you've started!

If you've organized an Anarchist Café in your hometown, be sure to let us know about it, so we can connect with you and help you let the world know! You can drop us a line through the contact form, or use this form right below to send us a note about it.

I have started an Anarchist Café in...

Start your own Anarchist Café!

Have you organized an Anarchist Café in your town? If so, drop us a line to let us know about it. We can list your A-Cafe on the website here, so that your fellow local Anarchists can find out about it more easily. If you don't currently have a permanent web space for publicizing your A-Cafe, we may be able to provide it

If you don't have an A-Cafe in your hometown yet, but would like to, great! An Anarchist Café is easy to start. You can get going in your home town; you don't need a lot of money, and you don't need any kind of permanent space. It's a great way to meet like-minded people, to create a space where you can talk about the issues you care about, and to share skills and knowledge to build an Anarchist community in your own hometown. Because of the kind of liberated space that an Anarchist Café offers, it can be especially valuable if you live in a small town or a town without much of an established anarchist scene — before we can begin to unite and struggle for social change, first we need to be able to find each other and get to know each other. And an Anarchist Café provides an easy-to-organize, low-pressure, informal space for us to meet each other, make those connections, and start those conversations.

Here's a quick and dirty how-to guide for starting an Anarchist Café in your own hometown. (It's based on the experience of the author — Charles Johnson — in creating a weekly A-Cafe in Las Vegas, Nevada.) If you have any questions, comments, or thoughts, or if there's anything we can do to help you get your own Anarchist Café started, just get in touch.

  1. Find a space. Although it's cheapest to use your own living room, you will probably want to find a public space where people can meet and sit down to talk with each other. That way you don't have to post your home address all over town, and — just as importantly — it will probably be easier to find and more comfortable for new people to meet in a public space.

    Good places for an A-Cafe include coffee houses (just ask the store manager; they'll often be glad to host a meet-up because of the extra business it brings in), public parks (especially if you want to have any outdoors games), or any InfoShops, punk venues, or other local community spaces where radical groups may already be meeting. Public libraries often have meeting rooms that they may make available to local groups. If you have connections with a student group, you might want to see what kind of spaces you can reserve on campus. Student union buildings often have many spaces for informal meetings, or rooms that you can reserve. Try asking at the information desk if you don't know your school's policies.

  2. Talk to your friends. Do you have any like-minded friends you can work with in setting up the project? If so, talk with them about your plans. It's always easiest if you can work together on flyering, getting the word out, figuring out the best places and the best plans, and so on. Also, the more friends you can involve in setting up the A-Cafe, the more people you can count on to probably be there.

  3. Figure out how often you want to meet up. Many different towns have different schedules for their Anarchist Cafe meetups. Some have a meetup every week; others once a month; some have a bigger meeting once every few months or once a year. Alternatively, you may decide to do something smaller every week, with an occasional bigger event (like having a basic meet-up once a week, but doing something bigger, like hosting a speaker, once a month).

  4. Pick a date and a time for your first meeting. If you already have a small group of friends who will be working on starting up the A-Cafe, work out a date that will work best for all of you. Evenings and weekends are usually best, but if there are other organizations or other meetings that fellow Anarchists are likely to be at, try to schedule around them.

    The best time to start is sooner rather than later; don't worry too much about putting things off until the time seems opportune. But if there is some relevant event coming up sometime in the next few weeks — like the start of a new semester at a nearby college, or a holiday where lots of people will be looking for something to do in town — then you might try to time your first meeting for a time when lots of people will be looking for something to do, and willing to try something new.

  5. Contact us at Anarchist Cafe.org to let us know what you're working on. We can offer advice, and some web resources — including some web space at anarchistcafe.org for putting up your announcements and news (like vegas.anarchistcafe.org or sacramento.anarchistcafe.org).

  6. Get some web space. It doesn't have to be anything fancy — just a web address where you can post your meeting schedule and some contact information (e-mail at least) so that people can get in touch with you. Remember, if you need help with this, you can always get in touch with us for a simple, readable web address, and — if you need it — some help on the basics of setting up your web page.

  7. Make a flyer. Put together a quick, eye-catching flyer to let people know about the event and the date and time of your meetings. If you're not sure how to get started, check out some of the flyers other A-Cafés have used for inspiration.

    A good flyer should have:

    • the date and time of your first meeting
    • the schedule for your future meetings (so your flyer doesn't become obsolete as soon as the first meeting ends)
    • the place you'll be meeting up (include a street address!)
    • a brief description of what A-Cafe is
    • some kind of image to catch the eye; a Circle-A or other anarchist symbols tend to be especially eye-catching, and grab the attention of people who are most likely to be interested in the meeting
    • the address for your web space so that people can find out more information on their own time

    It may be put some cut-away pull tabs at the bottom of your flyer (like on this flyer from Las Vegas A-Cafe) so that anyone who's interested can pull something off to keep as a reminder of the event.

  8. Post your flyer far and wide. Once you've got your flyer ready, start posting it anywhere you can:

    • Use a staple gun or packing tape to attach flyers to public telephone poles, the sides of vending machines, and other convenient surfaces. Focus especially on the neighborhood right around where you will be holding the meeting, and try to scope out the places with the highest pedestrian traffic.

    • Post on any bulletin boards you can get access to at local colleges and Universities. Classroom buildings, student union buildings, dining halls, and dormitories all typically have some kind of bulletin board that you can tack your flyers up on.

    • Laundromats often have a community bulletin board; people tend to sit in the laundromat for hours, so they're likely to see anything you put up.

    • Check local coffee shops and independent bookstores for a bulletin board.

    • Public libraries often have a bulletin board, but it may be reserved for events in the library itself. Ask at the front desk.

    • Be sure to ask if you can post the flyers in any local punk stores, InfoShops, or radical / alternative bookstores.

    • If you're holding your A-Café in a local business like a coffee shop, ask if they'll post a copy of your flyer to let people know about the event.

  9. Contact locals. Once you've got your place set, your web space set up, and your flyer ready, you can contact local groups or lo where there are likely to be people interested in anarchism — try any explicitly Anarchist groups, Food Not Bombs, CopWatch, any locals of the Industrial Workers of the World, or anti-war, immigrants' rights, radical feminist, queer, or anti-police-brutality groups. Be willing to push your own boundaries. Libertarian groups (like Libertarian Party affiliates or End the Fed MeetUps will often have one or two anarchists in them who are looking for something better. If there are anarchist or other radical bookstores in your area, or punk shops, ask if you can leave a flyer there. If there is an Independent Media Center near where you live, post a notice with a link back to your website.

    If you're not sure what groups there are in your area, try looking up groups through social networking services like MySpace and Facebook; as well as the Infoshop.org Anarchist Neighborhood service. (If there isn't a page for your community on the Anarchist Neighborhood page, register an account and create one, with a listing of your own Anarchist Café. Anyone can edit or update the Anarchist Neighborhood pages to add their organization or events.)

    Besides publicizing your Anarchist Café, you should also mention that you'll have tabling space available for local groups, if they have any brochures, handbills, sign-up sheets, or other information that they want to set out for local activists. If you plan on putting on any speaking events, these contacts will also be possible sources for people to speak at your events.

  10. Get any equipment you'll need. All you really need to hold an Anarchist Café is a place to sit down and a way to get in contact with people. But if you get some basic equipment, it will make things run a lot more smoothly. Most importantly:

    • A folding table is tremendously helpful, if the space you're hosting the Café in will let you set it up. This will give you space to set out your own sign-up sheets and materials; it will also give other local organizations or projects to put out information or materials for themselves.

    • A sign-up sheet for people to be notified about future A-Café events. You can prepare a quick sign-up sheet in a Word processor; make sure to ask people for an e-mail address and, optionally, a phone number. (Ask if text messages are O.K. You don't want to send texts without prior permission, but if you have permission, it's much more reliable than e-mail.)

      Do your best to get contact information for anyone who comes to an A-Café; the surest way to make sure that people keep coming to your event is to keep in touch with people and keep reminding them about it. Also, the purpose of A-Café is to make connections; if A-Cafers say it's OK (and make sure you ask before you do it!) helping people prepare contact lists and putting A-Cafers in touch with each other is one of the best ways to build anarchist networks and community in your town.

    • Pens, pencils, and markers. If you're going to have sign-up sheets, don't forget to have things for people to write on them with!

    • Print up some literature about what A-Café is, and about the basics of Anarchist theory. (If you need help finding literature to prepare, contact us; we have lots.) With any successful A-Cafe, you'll get a certain number of people dropping by just out of curiosity, who are not yet familiar with Anarchist ideas. It's a good idea to have some brief pamphlets or handbills (like those in the Anarchy-Curious section) which you can use to help answer people's questions and introduce them to the ideas you're promoting. Literature is also good to drop on tables in the space you'll be using, in order to make the A-Cafe more visible, and to give people something to look at or talk about when they sit down.

    • Blank index cards or notepads. With luck you're going to be meeting some new people and talking about some new things. You'll want to be able to write down people's contact info and notes about the things you talk about. Don't forget to bring these materials for your own use, or to lend to anyone who needs them.

    • A book or magazine to read, just in case. No matter how well you prepare your A-Cafe, you do have to be ready for the possibility that folks will show up late, or that they won't show at all. If they don't, don't get too depressed; you're trying to start something new, and anything new needs some time to catch on. In the meantime, if you spend a couple hours reading in a coffee shop, that's not too disastrous a way to spend your time.

  11. Get to your first meeting — about an hour early. Give yourself time to scope out the space and get set up. If there's any way to set up a sign or other signal to let people know where the A-Cafe is, set it up. (In Vegas, we meet in a back room in a local coffee shop; the manager lets us scotch-tape a couple of our flyers on the door of our room when we set up.) Set out the sign-up sheets, literature, and anything else on your folding table. Try to bring some spare copies of your flyer, so that A-Cafers can post it up in their own neighborhoods if they want. Be sure to give yourself enough time to get everything set up so people don't have to wait on you when they start coming in. (An hour is just a good guideline to make sure you have enough time. The more you have A-Cafes, the more precisely you'll be able to figure out how much time you need to set up.)

  12. Meet folks! Have fun! Greet everyone as they come in; show them the stuff on the table, point them to the sign-up sheet, and invite them to sit anywhere they're comfortable. Try to spend some time talking with everyone who comes in — about the things you're working on, the issues you care about, the plans or the dreams you have. And be sure to ask them about their projects, issues, plans, dreams, etc. (It's easy to forget that part when you're passionate about your own ideas!) Most of all, do your best to have some fun and get to know the folks who show up.

  13. Follow up after your first meeting! The easiest and the worst thing to forget is to follow up with anyone who signs up or gives you their contact information. Just send them a nice note a couple days after the A-Cafe, thanking them for coming, pointing them towards any online resources about anarchy in your local community which you think may be of interest, and reminding them about the upcoming A-Cafe next week. A-Cafes work best when there is a genuine sense of community; and community is built when you communicate.

  14. Put on the next meeting. Check your literature and sign-up sheets to see if you need to run any more off. Put up some new flyers around town every week or two. Contact any groups you forgot about the first time, or found out about after your first meeting. And as you make more contacts, be sure to let them all know about upcoming A-Cafes -- reminders about where and when, and any announcements about special programming — workshops, skill shares, speakers, or anything else — that may be coming up.

Of course, this is only a start, and it's only a quick sketch of how to get an Anarchist Café started. A lot will depend on your local situation — what will or won't work in your town, and what you, personally, are interested in, who you want to meet, and what you want to get out of the A-Cafe.

Remember — if you are working on putting on an A-Cafe in your town, we can help. Be sure to contact us at Anarchist Cafe.org for web space, a listing on our web page, help with publicity, help with finding literature or other materials, and possibly help with local contacts.

Onward.

—Charles Johnson, Vegas Anarchist Cafe. 2 February 2009.