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.
11 responses to “Occupy Bath”
Thank to all who have contributed with thoughtful and insightful comments. I have found this comments feed as inspiring as visiting the protest. Steve
Lovely, reflective piece. Agree with other commenter- getting involved with a bit of work, picking litter, serving dinner, supporting info tent, joining in with a demo/ direct action is really the way to understand Occupy. Having an authentic experience of helping the camp occupy beats having an authentic conversation about why they occupy hands down.
From the press coverage I’d come across about the Occupy movement I got the impression that the usual suspects of radicals, anarchists and hippies were protesting against – well everything.. What’s the point – What are they trying to achieve.. I couldn’t see how a bunch of people in tents was going to help the rest of us try and find jobs and pay our bills.
Which is why I was more than a little concerned and surprised when my son invited me down to Bath Occupy so that I could see for myself why he was sleeping in a tent. He was a student and I could understand his generation isn’t thrilled with how my generation has been running things but what new world order did he want, exactly? I went to find out..and I took my cynical prejudices along..
I met a group of articulate, open-minded people who are motivated by a dream of a more equitable, ethical system where values not profit are important to society. Idealistic perhaps but realistic too. They don’t have specific demands apart from the right to have say and right now they’re saying things have got to be better than this. I had to agree.
I asked ‘what will sitting in tents do’ and I got a surprisingly pragmatic response.. If you want a more inclusive community you need to start by getting out and talking to people – raise awareness and give people the chance to be part of things.
They know they can’t change much in a 10 day sit-in but hope it might be enough to encourage people to question why there are over 2000 cities around the world with Occupy camps set up – Perhaps then people will join the conversation..
I came away filled with hope and inspiration – these people are peacefully trying to engage and bring about change. Not easy but surely better that than disillusioned apathy where they just point the finger of blame.
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I too went to visit the occupy camp at Queen square today, however was disappointed. Further to discussing the issue of these occupy camps throughout England and indeed the world I felt I should give them more of a chance than perviously did. I visited on a thursday afternoon, the sunshine breaking through the torrential earlier rain, a little pathetic fallacy fell upon the camp in the picturesque Queen square. Upon arriving at the info tent, I met a man who after asking him about the camp told me, he was only there to read the paper and directed me to the tents behind. I was not shocked to find only a handful of people, who only managed to force a brief smile or nod. I find it strange that for a group of people hoping to change the world, bring down capitalism their complete inability to aknowledge someone who has gone out of their way to learn more from them. I understand why they are doing this, just as I understand and sympathise with the Occupy London, and the movements have made me think about this issue at hand more deeply, however I stick to my original conviction and agree with the writer for the times who said they are in fear of becoming known as the laziest protesters ever.
Nice piece fella. Even if Occupy do not have the answers, the presence of the camps across the country has made people think if nothing else. I’ve been reconsidering my own thoughts on their motive / presence and have changed my views as a result of arguments such as those above. However, contrary to the views of others, that does not stop me thinking that the alternative Occupy blog is genius!
Lovely, sensitive piece, Steve, for which many thanks. I would invite you, when next there, to pick up a dish-cloth and be a part of it all. I was astonsihed with what such a simple act did for my own feelings when I did likewise in London: http://marcusmoore.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/occupying-the-mind-7/
With every best wish,
Very good piece Hynd. The young specifically have been the subject of so much bad press recently, add to this the financial repurcussions they will be facing with tuition fees rises and EMA cuts, plus of course 24% of youths being unemployed and unable to find work. Of course they will try any route to a solution, even if the philistines ridicule or abuse them it’s purely because when faced with a non violent, questioning movement that threatens their apathetic views they are baffled and threatened.
Good luck to all the Occupiers, many of us are fully supportive.
Great description Steve. I was very inspired by the afternoon I spent outside st Paul’s cathedral 10 days ago – here is what I wrote when I got back:
“Just back from an inspiring afternoon at the occupy London Stock Exchange camp outside St Pauls Cathedral. The camp is incredibly well organised, with about 100 tiny tents and then larger,info, first aid, meditation, library and canteen tents, recycling. portaloos, lectures by university lecturers etc. etc. But what really hits you is the the atmosphere of sharing and tolerance. They are really trying to create a loving, sharing, tolerant community. I participated in the emergency meeting to discuss the Dean’s letter asking them to leave. They had done their homework on the legal side and been in contact with both the fire-brigade and Health and safety to ensure they were not blocking the Cathedral (and proving the Dean’s letter was basically a weak excuse). About 500 of us (mostly young) meeting together on the steps of St Pauls, watched by police taking notes, with every-bodies views heard, nobody hogging the microphone, respectful of different views, and even the Dean’s viewpoint, while being resolute in not moving. Consensus in action! A better future is possible!
Anyone who has a chance – go and join them!”
Alternative occupy bath blog is up http://occupybath.blogspot.com/
And very funny to…