Ides 75: Rochedale Rosé
Opened in 1968, and named after the English town where, in 1844, the world’s first cooperative society was established, the 18-storey Rochdale College was an extremely non-traditional concept: an ambitious experiment in education, free expression and community living where students were offered free tuition and dirt cheap rent; a college that issued no actual degrees (a non-degree could be had for $25 and the answer to a skill-testing question that the students could ask of themselves.
But the leadership (including Award-winning poet Dennis Lee, officer of the Order of Canada in 1993) and hedonistic students found themselves undone by their idealism, when their open-door policy eventually resulted in the college becoming a haven for drug dealers, biker gangs and squatters, few of whom had any particular interest in Rochdale’s educational offerings.
Rochdale College became the scene of overdoses, police raids, at least one murder and a half-dozen suicides. After only seven years, it was closed permanently after defaulting on its mortgage, but not before it helped spawn such venerable Toronto cultural institutions as Theatre Passe Muraille, House of Anansi Press, This magazine, The Spaced Out Library, the Hassle Free Clinic and Coach House Books.