Bath, it is not renowned for being the centre of protest. A small Georgian city tucked away in rolling green hills, it is a far cry from the busy streets of London where the Occupy movement has grabbed the limelight. It was with interest then that I headed down this afternoon to have a chat with some of the protestors in Queens Sq in the centre of Bath. I asked them what their aspirations were, what they hoped to achieve, what sort of reception they had so far and why they were ‘occupying Bath’.
I was met by two young women, both looking slightly cold in the disappearing afternoon sun; both determined to sit in the last rays of sun before it slipped down behind the tall Georgian buildings that encircles Queens Sq. One was a student, who just wanted to give people a platform to talk and discuss. “I just want people to feel comfortable to come in and talk about what affects them”. The second girl was a young professional working with the homeless. She said she worked ‘flexible hours’ with a wry smile. She was passionate and articulate talking about the cuts faced to homeless services around the country. She briefly stopped for a second before adding “and why have they cut all the rural bus services”.
Both were realistic and grounded in the reality that surrounded them. Every critical thought that slipped through my mind was better articulated by my new found friends before I had a chance to whisper it aloud. The location isn’t perfect, we don’t have ‘an end goal’, people look at us as if we are different. Neither knew what they hoped to be different in 12 days time, when the camp was to break up. I saw what I thought was a glimpse of desperation as the young student looked at me and commented that she didn’t expect anything to change but hoped that this might be the start of a truly inclusive social movement. The metaphor of the seed was bounded around liberally.
I asked them what sort of reception they had received and they commented with artificial enthusiasm that it had been “brilliant”. On cue, a man outside the gardens shouted for them to get a fucking job, I suspect missing the irony that it was perhaps the not having a job that was providing the inspiration for many to be here.
We were joined by a young man, a student from the local university who looked like he was busy organising. He glanced at me, looked at my trousers and shirt and paused for an uncomfortable two to three seconds before simply nodding. He stood, sorting, smouldering with his will for change. Only when we started to talk about how to further publicize the camp did he join in, his initial rigidness melted into an impassioned, pragmatic eloquence. He reminded me slightly of the leader of The Green Party, Caroline Lucas – unbelievably driven, passionate, and yet also warm and friendly once relaxed.
Sat in the evening dusk I looked around at the toddlers playing on the grass, the elderly couple sat on the memorial benches and the young students plotting the downfall of capitalism one cup of tea at a time. I was baffled by what motivated their actions – what good they thought was going to come from sitting inside a virtual cage in the centre of Bath. I also however felt inspired, relaxed and at home. They talked with me in a friendly and informed manner.
As I was leaving they commented that a lot of people were going to come down after work and I should come as well. I thought about it for a split second and agreed.
Even if I wasn’t sure of what this group were asking, let alone the answer; I felt more inspired by the shared sense of humanity than I had for a long time. Even if we don’t sort out inequality, capitalism or bankers tonight I am convinced that I will be met with kindness and hope. Maybe this alone is enough to justify occupying Bath.