Incitement to Participation

It’s been five days now in the space and things are going well. Our schedule is getting busier, we’re making contacts, we have a meeting with trade unionists from several unions this evening, we’re expecting a climate camp organisation session; and already today a scheduled film screening of the new Patrick Keiller film has been opened to occupiers.

We’re beginning to feel like we have a clearer sense of how the space can be used; more connected to social bases outside of the student movement. We do have the sense though that the group of organisers who first came into the space are now beginning to acquire a group identity. There are two elements to this: first, the space remains predominantly white, student, and, to some extent, male. Second: it might begin to seem that a few individuals possess administrative and intellectual control over the space’s resources.

On the first issue, we’ll be scheduling a meeting on participation and legitimacy some time in the next two days. We don’t want this to be a droningly self-reflexive account of who we are. We will talk about what prevents people from organising, about the activism of feminists around budgetary austerity, about issues of race and class. The agenda is set by the participants: we’ll be furiously spreading invitations; you can do it too.

On the second issue, we don’t want people just coming down to attend scheduled events. Come down to organise! We want to scream from the building’s occupied balcony that not only the space, but also the media resources (the blog, Facebook, twitter etc), the events and the organising activities are not our property. We just happen to be using them. Anyone who wants to write a blog post on their own behalf and get it out is urged to do so. You only need to ask around for the people who take care of the passwords. The work will go up: there is no editor. If you want to update Facebook on what’s going on in the space – do it!

Don’t be intimidated by the closed door. You’re wanted here, your active participation is needed.



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5 Responses to Incitement to Participation

  1. Adam Ganz says:

    Like my colleague Robert Hampson I am opposed tot h3e eduxation cuts whcih affect my livelihood and my life

    Students I teach , black and white, female and male, have had their work seriously disrupted by your revoluionary sleepover. Longstanding arrangements to use Bedford Square for castings and rehearsals for student’s final year work have been rendere4d null and void by your unilateral action. You talk about a desire to open a debate about legitimacy. Where does your “legitmacy” come from? To whom are you answerable? You talk about reclaiming the space- what are you “reclaiming” it from. It was and is a building used 12 hours a day for education housing a number of courses specificallly targetted at part time students working during the day..

    It seems that you’ve chosen a soft target because you could- rather than for any coherent ideological reason and your attempts to debate your white middle class maleness seem to cloud a good deal of selfishness. Unbarricade the doors, let students and staff use the building for the range of educational activitiees that go on there and move on to a more appropriate location

  2. benjamin says:

    but Adam, those castings took place on Monday – despite management trying to cancel them. As you can see on this blog, we sent a letter to the management saying that we were quite happy for Monday’s classes to go ahead. And, in fact, other classes have met and happened at 11 Bedford Square yesterday and today. Classes which have been disrupted have been because (1) on Monday, management told everyone that all classes for the week were cancelled, whereas (2) on Tuesday a notice was put on the door with a full list of relocated classes. This, it seems, took a day to organise – and there were plenty of empty rooms on the Bloomsbury campus (not a too sizeable area for walking around) in which the classes could and are taking place.

    As for reclaiming the space, students are there during the day still – and in the evenings and nights. It is actually *more* open to students now than it was before; perhaps RH students should ask management for 24hr access in future?

    Finally, the doors are not barricaded; you only need knock.

  3. Adam Ganz says:

    These castings were supposed to be going on all week. So are rehearsals eminars and one-off meetings. Students are understandably very unhappy about bringing collaborators into an environement controlled by people they don’t know- from whom, if I understand correctly, they now need to ask permission to use facilities which they have booked to use in connection with their studies. Some young women felt intimidated by having to justify their presence to you.

    It is pure sophistry to blame management , classes have been cancelled because a small self-selected group have chosen to occupy a much-used teaching facility to paint banners and put down their sleeping bags .

    It has been possible at extremely short notice to rearrange teaching – with a great deal of effort from an awful lot of people committed to education, (staff, students and support workers) whose lives have been a great deal more difficult as a result of your adventure. What the budget effects of this are I don’t know. It’s proving a great deal more difficult to rearrange one off events self-orgainsed student activities, especially those which involve collaborators from outside the university.

    Why not go and occupy a place where students are not taught, which has some kind of relationship to the financial or political forces which are dominating the educational debate ?

    It would be wonderful to have the facilities open for education 24 hours a day- but as I’m sure you can appreciate there are security issues which need to be overcome. if one group can walk off the street to use the place for their own ends than so can any other.

    • Dear Adam,

      Classes were supposed to be going on all week and they still may. Our position on the availability of teaching resources for students has not changed.

      We appreciate that you add to your remark that students must ask permission the qualification that you may not understand correctly. Students have to ask for permission in the sense that they have to knock on the door and have a quick conversation with us about which space in the building they wish to use. To our knowledge the students who ran castings had a very amiable relation with us; plenty of us are young women also.

      It is not sophistry to blame management. But then we needn’t take your paragraph on this issue too seriously, because you clearly have no idea what the space is being used for. Perhaps you might wish to consult the blog before issuing sarcastic misrepresentations of our activities? Or come down to attend one of our many and various organising meetings? We have had no contact from management on issues of class scheduling. We were and are perfectly willing to facilitate classes previously scheduled to run in the space.

      Your remarks on 24 hour security are another sarcastic non sequitur. We occupied the space during working hours, not outside them. Many of us are Royal Holloway students — we are not just ‘anyone’. Perhaps you might like to propose to us by email or in person the places you would like us to occupy? Then we might have a conversation. But until then it’s difficult not to feel that your point is just a sigh of discontent, cynically dressed up as a concrete suggestion.

      Plenty of students and staff have come by to express their support and encouragement, including many students and staff who regularly access the building resources. We understand that the occupation causes some inconvenience. But many people who are affected are willing to accept that inconvenience, because they recognise that organising urgently in opposition to austerity is the only way we might avoid a disaster.

      Yours, ACSL

  4. Rob says:

    “…a small self-selected group have chosen to occupy a much-used teaching facility to paint banners and put down their sleeping bags .”
    This is completely not what the space is being used for. Banners were not put up for days as the occupiers were far too busy. Their time is being spent on important tasks in the anti-cuts movement. Sleeping bags are there because people do not have time to go home to sleep. The purpose of this occupation is not fun but the necessity of a central organisational space for the anti-cuts movement. Take a look at the occupiers’ faces and you will see symptoms of sleep deprivation.
    While any inconvenience caused is unfortunate, the long-term inconvenience of the cuts will be far more devastating. That, and the fact that the occupiers are very keen to minimise inconvenience.

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