This is a rough herstory
from a personal perspective to help explain the social complexities of our scene.
The cafe started in the Spring of 1998. At the time it didn't have a name.Caroline had just come back from djin in Berlin and was vibing and inspired about the women's politico scene there. She was one of the founding members of a small women's sound system called Mizbehaviour, and was involved in setting up 'Mother Earth Guerillas', - which was a vegan women only caff with kickboxing, belly dancing workshops,djs and live music. This caff ran a few times in Tyssen Street Dalston. However, it all proved to be too ambitious and expensive to be viable for the long term.
One day in church street Caroline bumped into a friend of hers (Ed,thankyou)who insisted that she meet a woman living in his squat who was trying to set up a women's cafe right there and then.So she met Rosi,who was living in a squat on Lordship Road (which had been squatted by the people from the infamous Toxic Planet Squat, -an exhibition centre against GM Food) whilst awaiting for her plough shares trial for trashing a nuclear submarine at Faslane.
Rosi was at first suspicious of this unknown "jetsetter" who wanted to help run a little women's caff in a crusty squat in Hackney,but nonetheless a small cafe started running regularly with the added help of Caro's chef girlfriend at the time,Bridget,who used to own her own cafe in Deptford,and luckily still had all the catering equipment. Ali was always on it doing the bar.
The caff ran for a few months there before geting evicted.
There was a lull,then some cool and fab women opened up a squat on Queensbridge Road,specifically for the WomenSpeak Out event in the November of 1999.
This was a fantastic autonomous women only event,with workshops, performances, music and cooking, lasting for a week and attracting 200 plus activists,anarchists and feminists from around the country(it formed the base of the current WSO mailing list!) The building became the Spiral women's squat for 11 months and the cafe started up again. It was here that it acquired its acronym Wanc, (Women's Anarchist Nusiance Cafe)from a pink bus meeting.
After that got evicted, the caff ran at the Bathhouse on Shacklewell Lane for 6 months. Here, Caro and Rosi organised an International Womens Day Benefit for Rosies trial,(where the Sisters Of No mercy was born.)
Then came half a year at the freezing Boys Club behind Dalston Rio,where we had to make our own toilets . There was noticable tension with the boys in the house, although, on the plus side, there were pool tables and Sally was running fun creative writing Workshops. Homeless again, there was a resquatting of the beautiful garden at toxic planet for one night of the summer solstice (magical but rainy).
Fate twisted again and one of the womble women involved in WSO (Lou nice one) offered us the Radical Dairy in Stoke Newington: it was there that the Wanc in its current format was born. This was march 2002.
The Radical Dairy was a fantastic place. Brightly coloured,light,really good energy,and with a good possee of Womble people making it a proper community centre,although its potential was sabotaged within the first few months of its life by a vicious mayday Police Raid, whereby all the community computers were stolen and the electricity source cut.
Despite this wanc continued and the theme idea was born. It was all systems go,candle light and gas rings. The first theme was the Night of the Cosmic Femmes,with papier bosom making and aromatherapy sniff quiz,closely followed by a tomboi night with tree climbing in Clissold Park and a "wash on the go" workshop.
The cafe went from strength to strength.Drag and dress up,lots of drag,
HAG collective from Brighton with their moon cups ,speculums and cervical examinations,an Anarchist strip night with a super successful nipple casting workshop run by Megan,Beguine the Beguine night with our very own Anchorite in the basement(Fiiija),Joelle Taylor hosting slam poetry.Sian and Ippy from Aldermaston teaching us how to "Lock On"In the Streets of stokey for the Activist Cafe. Judith Silver and her christmas choir,Ingo as a swedish Angel,WendyOMatic and her book on polyamory,and novelist Sarah Waters reading from her then latest novel 'Fingersmith'(it was freezing but pink sammy was still naked in her honour!) as well as lots of women meeting and forming networks.
This lasted a year and half until eviction(disgustingly the building remains empty).
The cafe was homeless again for quite a few months (bar one night in the Plush qweer squat on Ballspond Road,) until a German Grandaddy punk by the name of Shen, who had opened a punk squat called the Poison Club on Ballspond Road, invited the cafe to run there - feeling it was his duty to 'support his sisters.'
So we relocated to the chinaman early 2003 and yet another era was born.
This place was bigger than the one on Defoe Road and the numbers increased from 30 to around 60- 70 women and we also started getting a bit of attention from the likes of g3 and Ginger Beer. There were lots of memorable nights there. For example we had a motorbikers cafe,with 5 bikers offering pillion lifts around Dalston, a dodgy heavy metal band karoake, a tug of war, a flamenco night with performance from Carmen,(proper spanish flamenco) loey and Lucy and a Bull run...with the bulls chasing the matadors up and down Dalston Lane...and many other amazing happenings, such as lesbo Pig,Trevor4ever,a rude Lapdancer at a christmas pagan Ritual for peace,Sud showcase with Lakuti,queer performances from Joey and Elliot, and a classic Derby and Joan night where Nana Doris made her first sleazy appearance, to name but a few!
It was at this time that the cafe started having a smoke free space.
After the Chinaman got spectacularly evicted we had to wait 5 months before hearing about the brilliant RampArt Social centre.We duly re-located ourselves and started running there from December 2004.
We started with a bang with a christmas party with Dyke Marilyn and Judith Silver performing ,and a Grope A Santa Grotto.
Since the cafe has been at Ramparts we have had lots of amazing cafes, transforming RampArt into a Roller disco with a special performance by Rollergrrll ,a notorious speak easy gangsta cafe,conka competitions,playground games,the women from the Rhythms of Resistance Samba Band, limbo dancing,and general DIY goings on including film screenings, rope workshops and much much more!