Happy 5th Anniversary Occupy – “You Have To Take Up Space”

Happy 5th Year Anniversary Occupy London!



It took two years of tip toeing around Giles to get this interview. He had never out right refused in that time and I had never wanted to push too hard in case he said “no”. So I felt a great sense of achievement when he finaly agreed.

“He went on to say, …..“Christianity is God’s occupation of earth” – “ You have to Occupy,  you have to make it real”

Giles shared information on camera about the City of London’s relationship with the church which made the Church’s ultimate betrayal of the Occupy movement, finally make sense. Clear sense, instead of an embittered deduction. All will be revealed in the final edit, so stay tuned and please LIKE the film’s Facebook Page, to show an interest in seeing the end product 🙂


Giles then went on to say, as is shown in Snippet 06 – You Have To Make It Real (above):

“Christianity is God’s occupation of Earth” “ You have to Occupy,  you have to make it real” articulating the spiritual element of protest and defiance.

But who is YOU in a movement? Who did the actual occupying?

The campers did …. clearly. In a movement not everyone can camp, but many who can, don’t and this is important to rectify, particularly when you consider that occupations can create real change if properly sustained.

…..in a movement not everyone can camp, but many who can, don’t and this is important to rectify, particularly seeing as its one of the most powerful protest actions a campaign can do and the numbers make a difference.

capitalism is crisis copy

Ronan, Occupy London Press Team confirms that “without the occupation there would not be a news story”

Many people gave lip service to their feelings for the camp but I recall that a lot more than lip service was needed particularly as the weeks turned into months. The people left felt  an increasing responsibility, to the point of madness (for some),  not to leave because the numbers got so small and yet the whole movement, all the social media, the talks and the referencing to the movement were directly associated to the occupation at the time. That time being  Oct 15th 2011 – Feb 28th 2012. Quite a while ago now!

This issue of people leaving protest occupations in an ad hoc way and never returning to give the people left a break or share the responsibility is somewhat of a pattern in sustained occupation protests.

This is an ‘activist issue’, one that has its roots in activism being purely something one does from volition, which from what I have observed tends to mean that once the balance between fun and hardwork tips towards the latter, vast swathes of people leave without much consideration of finding a replacement or to what their departure means. The occupation self fractures as more people leave with their fingers firmly crossed that their departure will not be felt… but it always is, because the numbers are not usually big for long.

The consequences to this is that a division emerges between campers and non campers that often fuels a belief in a class divide which in turn fuels mistrust and embitterness.  I do not see this as a ‘class divide” . Its a divide between people willing and able to give it their all, and others who are not willing (but fully able) to give up some creature comforts.

Trust in a movement can only be achieved if the day to day relatonships are maintained, so it is important for the general cohesion of a horizontally led movements to be present in the collective space often.

It may sound like I am picking on Ronan but really what he says was echoed by many others.

“I had an awful lot of feeling for the people who are on camp. But at the same time I personally thought they were being bloody selfish when they weren’t actually recognizing that there were other people were older, disabled, couldn’t come to the camp and they were being made to feel guilty… “

No campers I ever spoke to, or myself ever expected disabled, old (or sick) people to camp but this type of response was common when the issue of a helping hand on the camp was raised.

February 7 2012 Photographer Lucy Young for The Times

February 7 2012 Photographer Lucy Young for The Times

Jamie “Some occupiers were saying“yeh but you do not live in the camp. I live here.”” and all that rubbish. But that was not everywhere but it began to create friction and problems”

It was not rubbish but saying it was, diminished the very valid grievance of feeling abandoned, that admittedly was not always expressed in the most mature manner. This abandonment led to campers adopting a separate identity to the people who did not assist in the running or populating of the camp. This would not stop the non-campers from coming on certain days to give their opinion on certain policies which included how the camp should be run.

The irony is that many people who had supported the choice to go to court which lead to the camp lasting 4 months instead of 2 months, fled when the longevity kicked in. Many campers had voiced opposition to going to court and they were effectively ignored. This was because the consensus model was an inappropriate decision making tool for certain decisions. The decision to go to court or not go to court was indisputably one of them.

What I find most interesting though, is that even after 5 years the response on whether more people dedicated to the movement should have helped out on the camp remains the same. Words to the effect of  “I could not have done what I did if I lived in a tent”  are almost a mantra.  “What they did” was learn, debate, make contacts (with journalists and academics and in some cases celebrities ie professional relationships), organize events, go on small trips, speak on panels, get a number of campaign skills including facilitation and organizational skills and-or create a body of work. This was an enormous amount of work, all for the greater good, without earning any money from but from which they ‘professionally’ developed using the attention that the occupation brought to their work. This is great.

So great in fact that I think all occupiers should get a go at it all so as to ‘professionally develop’ as well.

What disappoints me is that so many Occupiers to this day are incapable of noticing that all the above work also served them personally. To this day most cannot consider that offering one day to the running of site, cleaning, cooking and/or to sleep there and be a ‘sane’ entity in the middle of the night would have been the right thing to do to help make it a nicer place for the public to come to, for the people who remained 24/7, and with trust issues. It really is incredulous to me that this simple equation of give and take is rejected by so many.

Is it self importance or plain stupidity that blocks this simple truth from reaching the shores of their mindscape?



For example I will be the first to admit that I did gain personally as a film maker. I got to make films and have them as an activist portfolio. They are not polished so their use in the real world is limited but I learnt more about my craft by making them. Just to be clear money does not feature here, not one penny. Quite the contrary when the cost of equipment is calculated, (particularly broken equipment). I know however that having something to show for the work I did does make a healthy difference to me.
I also camped. On average 4.3 days a week. The tech tent was full of guys and one girl who also gained personally and camped. It would have been easier, for all of us campers though had we done 2 days a week at the site and rotate with two or three other people a week.

“…having something to show for the work I did does make a healthy difference to me. …”


So why do I say all of this?

Because as Giles Fraser says “You have to Occupy, you have to make it real”

Occupations are an effective but difficult protest. Its important that the mix of people occupying is substantial and that everyone has a turn at let’s say cleaning the toilets. This can only usually be done with a rota but OH MY GOD the resisitance I would get from EVERYONE (campers and non campers alike) when I suggested this simple tried and tested method of sharing the most difficult jobs in a horizontal fashion! One the one hand it was amusing to see self interest being so poetically interpreted in the rejecting responses to any notion of a rota or anything systematic and on the other it was sad because the people who had initially raised their hands for the dirty job could tell that they were never going to be replaced.

The more livable an occupation the more likely it is to attract the public’s curosity. It would then be more likely that we are to be able to push the wave that John McDonnell refers to in the above video, a little further.  The wave which when it subsides, could leave a further dint in the status quo and hopefully make an exponential long term difference.

The wave which when it subsides, could leave a further dint in the status quo and hopefully make an exponential long term difference.

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