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Culture Won’t Stop: Why the beating heart of Porto’s underground cultural scene cannot shut down

If you have visited Porto before, you might have come across an old and delapidated, brutalist building, not far from the Luís I bridge. Situated right at the heart of the city, the shopping centre known as STOP is one of the most emblematic underground music hubs of Portugal, being a beating heart for the scene for more than 25 years. Although some shops are still functioning within its halls, many of its spaces have been converted to rehearsal rooms and studios, which have housed hundreds of artists, teachers, producers, technicians, bookers, and many other music-related professions over the years. A lot of these people remained and transformed these spaces into their own workplaces, be that for rehearsing, recording or teaching. In addition to that, STOP has also been a place of residency for various social and communitary artistic projects, as well as European exchanges in culture, housing the headquarters of several cultural associations. The list of artists that have used or still use STOP for their creative endeavours is immense – Ornatos Violeta, Throes + The Shine, Kilimanjaro, Best Youth, Manel Cruz, 10000 Russos, Capicua, Retimbrar, Glockenwise, Conjunto Corona, Fugly, Batucada Radical, Solar Corona and Repórter Estrábico are just some of them.

However, and as reported by The Guardian back in 2019, Porto’s authorities claim the entire building is illegal, as it was never intended to be a music studio, and fails to comply with modern safety requirements. Its residents have always felt differently, and for the past ten years, have fought an arduous battle with both authorities and the city council to keep the building open, to keep culture alive and to sustain their own livelihood. This all came to a halt, as in the past Tuesday, July 18th, without any warning, authorities took action and closed down 105 of the 126 spaces available in STOP. At the moment, around 500 people are without a place to rehearse, record, store material and instruments, give lessons or keep their commercial practice active. Morevoer, this action by the authorities comes in an absolutely untimely manner, as the current Summer season is considered to be a high season for cuultural activities, especially concerts and festivals. For many, the sudden stop in their activities is almost a death sentence.

There were three main reasons presented by Porto’s city council for the sudden closure of STOP:

        • The existence of flaws in the surveillance and security conditions of the building;
        • A significant number of stores and spaces are not properly licensed;
        • The noise coming from these rooms is disturbing the inhabitants close to the place.


Despite these being strong reasons for closure, they are easily refutable. For starters, the building has daily, 24-hour vigilance.  Regarding the alleged noise, the musicians who have their spaces on the building’s façade proceeded to soundproofing the rooms, while rigorously respecting the hours permitted by the noise law. With regards to the security conditions, several requests have been submitted to Porto’s city council over the years, with the aim of requalifying the building, with none ever coming to fruition. 

The mission of everyone residing withing STOP is clear – to keep this emblematic building open to everyone who would want to use it, creating sustainable foundations for maintaining an environment conducive to the development of cultural activities, without denying an intervention in the space that can guarantee the minimum security conditions of the building. After the aforementioned action that took place on July 18th, Porto’s city council announced the possibility of Escola Básica Pires de Lima and the Silo-Auto to be used as alternatives. As of today, both spaces lack the conditions to accommodate the entire community of STOP, so both are not considered to be viable solutions. As both artists and shopkeepers were deprived of their place of work, the return to STOP is imperative. Nevertheless, the community of STOP is open to studying other solutions for a possible transition to another location, without forgetting that these alternative must consider the accommodation of all, without exception. 

While negotiations between both associations connected to STOP – ALMA Stop and ACM Stop -, and Porto’s city council are still under way, the mistreatment of the community is not something that can be ignored. Not only that, but additional solutions provided by Porto’s city council are contentious, taking into account the considerable changes they would bring to the functioning of STOP, in the short and long terms. The opening and closing times, or the prohibition of any type of noise in the shops and spaces on the building’s façade, regardless of the time, are two of these examples. For these and many other reasons, a demonstration is scheduled for this Monday, July 24th, set to take place at the Avenida dos Aliados, at 3pm. Afterwards, a march to STOP will proceed at 7:30pm. Whether or not a consensus is reached until then, the demonstration is crucial to demonstrate not only the size and diversity of the existing community in the Centro Comercial Stop and the number of lives and jobs affected by this situation, but also, the importance of this cultural center and the people who develop their artistic activities there, as well as the shopkeepers, to the inhabitants of Porto.

The demonstration for STOP happens this Monday, July 24th, set to take place at the Avenida dos Aliados, at 3pm. Afterwards, a march to STOP will proceed at 7:30pm. For our friends in Lisbon, a demonstration is also planned for the same day and time, in front of Teatro Nacional D. Maria II. Culture won’t stop – we fight until the very end.


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