Excuse the pun. Watching Monday’s recording of Four Thought gave me a lot to ponder.
In the vaults of the beautiful RSA, a very sophisticated crowd gathered to hear four speakers: Robin Gorna (on the political problem of AIDS), Rob Hopkins (on sustainable communities), Gordon Bridger (on the potential harm done by badly spent international aid) and Bali Rai (on what would happen if we removed ‘race’ from our lexicon). To top it all off, the show was presented by the truly epic mega-journalist Ben Hammersley.
All four speeches were mind-opening. Robin Gorna had proved her key point about AIDS falling off the political and cultural radar before she even spoke. Can you remember the last time a politician discussed the disease? She told us of the stigma and hardship that people in developing countries face to get treatment through the story of her late friend.
Rob Hopkins spelt out his vision for the future: transition networks of self-sustained communities that break away from the global production chain to be ethical, independent societies impervious to the oncoming doom of shrinking resources and climate change. Gordon Bridger taught us the lessons he learnt from a lifetime’s work in aid organisations. They don’t work. But it was Bali Rai who blew the room away.
He suggested the best way to get rid of racism is to remove the concept of ‘race’ from our vocabulary. He hypothesised that children would be able to grow up without discriminating against people of a different colour and society would evolve into a better place. Audience members argued that to remove race would be to remove a part of our nature and a key way we interact. I’m still thinking about it.
The talks will be aired separately over the coming weeks. Check here for times.
Protesters have moved into a derelict office block owned by bailed-out bank giant UBS. It is being transformed into a squat/community centre/conference centre open to friends and guests to discuss ideas. And banks. And a lot of other things.
Sunday was only the third day in its existence and there were 5 lectures, 4 workshops, a conference of national Occupy protestors and a comedy gig.
Organisers aim to expand through the floors as they find use for all the different spaces. A youth centre has already applied to use some space as a hub since its funding was slashed in austerity cuts.
The ‘bank’ had garnered a lot of press interest when it opened and students, protesters and curious members of the public of all ages were milling around on the inside.
I’m writing a feature on The Bank of Ideas, what it means for the Occupy movement and its future this week. So watch this space.
For details on visiting and what’s happening, go to their site.
I’ve been asking myself that question following today’s student protest in London. Well I say student, but there were also electricians and, even more bizzarrely, cabbies fighting their corner. However diverse the protesters were, they were unified by their apparent calm and obedience.
Apparently at least. I hopped around London this afternoon from Trafalgar Square to St Paul’s to Moorgate and saw barely a protester in sight. There was a large group of anti-capitalist protesters in Finsbury Square, but I have a suspicion they were there anyway.
I spent some time at a police cordon near a kettle, but onlookers were kept so far away that it couldn’t be seen. Apparently protesters were being allowed to leave but it must have been from a different side because the sharp-suited city workers who kept appearing were definitely passers-by.
The dominant image of the afternoon was lots and lots of police, barriers, cones and vans. Reports estimate that 4,000 officers policed the protest.
Maybe that was why there was no repeat of the ‘direct action’, criminal damage or whatever you want to call it that happened at Millbank a year ago and subsequent protests. Protesters may also, understandably been subdued by threats of rubber bullets and ‘warning letters‘ distributed by the Met.
And the result? A very subdued media response.
While I don’t think that ‘no publicity is bad publicity’ always holds true, the articles I have seen today have mostly been relegated down news pages and mundanely remarking about the ‘peaceful‘ nature of the protest and its policing.
What I haven’t yet seen is a discussion of the issues behind it on the scale seen last year when people responded explosively to protesters’ actions. Despite the criticism, education cuts and fee rises became a hot topic that narrowed the majority of MPs voting in favour of the reform to a very uncomfortable swing.
The protesters were defeated last year and in attempting to reverse that defeat, needed to make an even greater impact today. They didn’t. Time will tell if legitimate peaceful protest or attention-grabbing direct action will have a greater effect.
I’ve had a mad spate of writing in the last week and have added a couple of recently published articles to the catalogue. ‘In faith we march on’ is a comment article on the importance of continued protests and under the new category; ‘About me’ (articles written by other people, not myself!) there is an article based on an interview I gave to a University newspaper about my experience of protesting, appearing on Question Time and writing for the Guardian.
Soon to come:
- Satire article on Yorkshire ‘earthquake’
- Feature on Ford open prison, including an interview with a former inmate.
- Feature on Reclaim the Night at York University.
As promised, I have typed up my notes from the student protest in London on 24th November 2010. At points, I’ve had to insert comments in italics to make events clearer, but everything else was written on the day. Unfortunately, the coverage ends quite abruptly as I had to leave to appear on Young Persons’ Question Time for BBC 3. I was only at the protest for about 4 hours, but I’d say it was a defining day in my life.
Look out for the encounter with the injured student at 14.40 and the police medic’s refusal to treat him. See 15.15 for a policeman’s view on journalism and a baton charge.
I’ve also included some pictures I took in a gallery at the bottom.
On the (newly modified) ‘Unpublished articles’ page, you’ll now find ‘Placards, police and partying: My day at Millbank.’ It is the original eyewitness report on my experience of the first student protest in London on 10th November 2010. I was unhappy with the very revised version published by a university newspaper so have published my original here in full.
Soon I’m going to write up the notes on the 24th November protest. Regrettably, I never wrote them up into an article, but I think it’s important to record the events of the day from eyes on the ground rather than those in the Sky.
I’ve just added my most decently published article to the catalogue. It’s called ‘Rights deficit’ and discusses ways in which the government’s proposed cuts may contravene the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was published in University of York magazine ‘The Zahir’, which publishes ‘London Review of Books’ style essay-length articles on a single topic per issue. The topic for that issue was human rights. The rest of the issue is well-worth reading, enjoy!