Remembering Occupy London on the 5th Anniversary

A small group of people gathered together on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral merging in with the crowds of tourists and sightseers. As I spoke to them on camera a bride passed by shadowed by her bridesmaids, the smartly dressed wedding crowd soon filled one half of the step behind. From a distance you would not have distinguished them from the general Saturday throng. They looked in many ways unremarkable, a reunion of sorts, of mostly middle-aged gentle-looking folk. But for them this wasn’t any Saturday – they were here to remember the day 5 years ago when they were part of the 3000 strong meeting of activists that started Occupy London (Occupy LSX). Some of them turned up that Saturday 15 October 2011 and didn’t leave until the camp was evicted in February 2012.


Listening to their testimony it really hits home what a momentous day it was in the social history of London. A mass challenge to the power of the City of London by the citizenry who occupied one of it most important and symbolic sites. I attended on the second day and shot a short video – I had never seen anything like it, here was politics being done in a whole new way. There were no established groups, no leaders, listening to the discussions there was seemingly no ideology simply, as Tina puts, it that people had reached the point of ‘Enough’.


As Jamie says in the interview above, many of the people who came to Occupy had never been involved in politics or activism before, many have been involved ever since. Tina now dedicates herself to activism full-time. Jamie is a regular fixture at actions around London.


After the camp was broken up the London Stock Exchange itself admitted that the Occupiers had been right – the City and the banks had become too powerful and needed proper regulation. The rhetoric thrashed out at those first General Assemblies on October 2011 have become part of everyday vocabulary

“The current system is unsustainable. It is undemocratic and unjust. We need alternatives; this is where we work towards them.”

“We want regulators to be genuinely independent of the industries they regulate.”

“We demand an end to global tax injustice and our democracy representing corporations instead of the people.”

These are sentiments that could come from the mouths of almost any politician today (even if they didn’t believe it they understand this is what people want to hear).

The Occupiers who’d come together on Saturday were enjoying sharing their memories of the camp – the didgeridoo at 4am, the kindness of strangers who brought food and money, the homeless City workers who joined the camp then went to work in the very banks being discussed, sleeping on that cold pavement through snow and rain, Christmas and New Year. Something powerful happened on October 15th 2011 that I think will take some time yet to fully understand, but I think, I hope a corner was turned in the quest for a better, more just world.

The abandoned City of London

The streets of the City of London seem more abandoned than usual on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year. Walking between Liverpool Street and Holborn out-of-hours is my favourite place ‘to get away from it all’ any time of year – on balmy summer evenings it has the feel of Madrid in August, empty streets, closed bars. But life does continue to lurk on odd corners mopping up the tourist trade and servicing the small but growing resident population of the Square Mile.

Bow Lane office

But when I went wandering early evening on Sunday there was barely a sole around save for in the vicinity of the transport hubs. Once I had breached the London Wall at Moorgate I had the City to myself (under the watchful gaze of CCTV). It threw up Daniel Defoe’s descriptions of London during the plague years when people fled the City, and the post-apocalyptic images in The Day of the Triffids and 28 Days Later. You sense the buildings starting to breathe once more free of the insect hoards.

Watling Street

Watling Street

The ancient Watling Street lit a path in Christmas lights to the dome of St. Paul’s where folk scuttled around. Cross the road to Carter Lane and the people disappeared, whatever traffic there was inaudible, the bells of a distant church chimed.

Carter Lane

Carter Lane

It was only when Fleet Street conjoined with Aldwych did I move among the herd – up Southampton Row, the traffic lanes of Gower Street, popcorn munchers at Odeon Tottenham Court Road – but here a sense of loneliness gripped me – I missed the quietude of the hills and valleys of the Walbrook and the Fleet.

Occupy London LSX Sunday 16th October

Headed down to Occupy London Stock Exchange earlier today to see what was going on. I was partly drawn in by the public reclamation of the sacred pagan spot of Ludgate Hill. The Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral had given the protestors the right to congregate on the Church land around the Cathedral. The adjacent private property of Paternoster Square was heavily defended by riot police. After some poetry and megaphone rants people broke off into small discussion groups to work out what was trying to be achieved. I filmed one group and their deliberations – all very clear headed and well-informed, no old-school Marxist-Leninist theory or anarchist vitriol. You can read the final statement that was produced on the Occupy LSX website