Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Political Perspectives #5: Thoughts on Meditation and Revolution

This is the fifth in an occasional series of posts on the various political perspectives of those involved in activism in the Bath/Bristol area. The views expressed are those of the respective authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of Standing Stone.

Thoughts on Meditation and Revolution

by Simon Jilley

At Saturday's Starbucks demo, vibrancy-activist 'G. Rilla' along with some of the Bath Love Police sprawled a large banner across the pavement by the side of the Free Shop and sat in silence.  Questions were raised at the time, such as: ''; 'What is this all about?'; 'Is he asleep?'; 'How long are you going to stay here for?'; 'Does he want a banana?'; and many more.  This blog entry, which has been specifically requested by Standing Stone, will seek to tell stories about these questions whilst also, perhaps, answering them.  Through this exploration of these questions and those answers, it is anticipated that you, the reader, will formulate your own idea of what it is that has happened.  Firstly, a bit of context will be given.

Vibrancy-activist G. Rilla
The NUS #demo2012 was due to be another big one, whereby the students would be kettled again and, due to Bath Spa University and UCU's Chris Jury breaking his promise of providing the tea and coffee, there would once again be the feisty violence and unclear anger that were so prominent in both 2010 and 2011.  Rilla, a Gandhian in style, decided to prepare something of a special civil disobedience stunt just for the momentous occasion.  A plan was thus drawn together: we would get to Big Ben, which is where the main confrontations could be expected to happen due to the route going off away from Parliament Square to a far more secluded location from this spot.  At Big Ben, flyers would be distributed and, soon enough, people would be sitting and meditating in a prominent position, and refuse to move no matter what would happen.  This would be kind of like what that naked guy did in central London two days later (see:, but without being naked and on top of a statue and rather using the power of meditation as our weapon.  What actually ended up happening, though, was absolutely remarkable.

After cracking a few in the line of police blocking the road to Parliament Square into smiles, G. Rilla found himself in a group of people chanting 'What do we want? BANANAS! When do we want them? NOW!'.  (see here for videos: and The chant was rewarded well: after just a couple of minutes of chanting, which is much faster than the Soka Gakkais normally take, a banana was given as an offering to Rilla, and Rilla subsequently did many rituals before consuming half of it with the other half ending up on the floor.  A passer-by obviously saw this for he then produced another banana, more rituals were performed, and this banana was carefully consumed.  Bowing was then given before the banana skins, which were now both on the ground alongside the lost half-banana, before a stamping ceremony was performed, and then Rilla sat down in a kneeling meditation posture.  Some incense was lit and stuck into the banana skins, and the banner that was being carried on the day saying 'The Real Change is Here + Now' was placed on the ground in front of Rilla.  This is where the first question comes in.

Bath Love Police demo, December 2012
'The real change is here and now' is a slogan that could be related to Ram Dass's book 'Be Here Now', or to the Buddhist mindfulness concept of 'present-centredness', and many other possible ideas.  What's more relevant, though, are the philosophies behind such a demonstration.  This is where the second question comes in.

A true demonstration to do with 'being here and now' should transcend the craving for an explanation behind the purpose of such an act.  However, as this can only truly be experienced by physically being a part of the demonstration, some kind of an explanation can be given to those who, for whatever reason, cannot possibly be a part of it.  There could be many different reasons, some of which may be extremely personal, and so it is very difficult to pin down some set characteristics.  This shows about how important the personal, or the individual, is in this all, and it must be said that meditating is definitely one way of getting in touch with yourself.  Therefore, the first characteristic of this demonstration is to invoke/inspire people to keep in touch with their deeper selves, especially within a potentially scatty situation of a political demonstration.  What is the point of a revolution, after all, if you're still caught up in the same psychological troubles as ever before?

Secondly, this demonstration holds within it a call for a change in direction
.  Rather than aiming towards the economic revolution that so many speak of in the media, we have got to see the plausibility in the transcendent qualities of a spiritual revolution.  You can have a spiritual revolution anywhere: in a jail, on a toilet, in your sleep...anywhere.  It can happen at any time, too.  There is no doubt that some of those who have been involved in this demonstration have had their own spiritual revolutions whilst being involved in these demonstrations.

The point is to be stepping out of the box that you associate with being 'how things are supposed to be', aka 'the comfort zone', and to rather allow everything to naturally unravel.  Allow yourself to become 'mad as hell' just to enjoy being 'mad as hell'.  Likewise, don't be put off by the situation around you.  People have found life-affirming 'spiritual truths' whilst in jail cells, which have completely transformed their lives (see this story on American serial killer 'Son Of Sam', for example  No matter where you are, there you are, and I bet that 'you' are always wanting more freedom.  Give yourself that freedom.

Thirdly, demonstrations like this are beyond the media-constructed bullshit of scandals and more scandals.  To sit down in front of a banner saying 'the real change is here and now' is like giving the spiritual middle finger to the media, who will normally construct exactly what we will be protesting against next.  With the one completely empowering message of saying to the world that change isn't in the future and is neither in some obscure location somewhere, we are creating an entirely new scope not only to protest dynamics but also to voicing what we want and how we will attain it without their help. We are completely free.

After that long answer, it may be useful to come back again to the context that we were focusing on.  In front of Big Ben in Westminster, with perhaps over a thousand demonstrators gathered, G. Rilla had sat down meditating with incense burning in banana skins and the banner on the ground in front.  People had asked if Rilla was asleep ('no...he's meditating' came the answer from others who were gathered); people had said about giving him a banana but, for whatever reasons, decided not to disturb him; and, after a while, a policewoman started coming over as a liaison officer to try and negotiate a deal with us.  Alongside Rilla in this were about 10-15 students who became actively involved in talking to the police and the media as well as 50-100 other onlookers.  Here is where the next question came in.

The police liaison asked how long we were going to be staying around for.  Each respondent stated that they were staying with G. Rilla, that the demonstration was being performed as a group and that Rilla was not an individual on his own in it all, and that no-one could tell how long he would be meditating for.  One such reply was: 'Well, he's meditating on all of the problems that are in the world.  As there are so many things wrong at the moment, he might be meditating for quite a long time...'.  For some reason, the policewoman took this to mean that Rilla would finish meditating when the incense had burned down.  She even tried interrupting the meditation in saying directly to Rilla, 'So we have agreed that you will leave when the incense has finished burning, okay?'.  Fortunately, Rilla had not traveled too deeply into meditation and so was able to shake his head in order to give his firm answer, which was understood.  Rilla was not moving.

Meditation should not ever be given a time limit.  A lot of deeper meditation, after all, goes through timelessness.  What may have seemed to have been half an hour of meditation, for instance, could have actually been two hours, or even two days or two weeks.  In deeper states, also, the physical body can be put into a hibernation state, not unlike the hibernation states that colder-climate animals go into, but in meditation a form of consciousness will constantly be maintained through mindfulness.  So it must be acknowledged that these demonstrations may last two hours, as in London, an hour, as at Starbucks, or anything hugely longer or shorter.  Things should not be presumed, and that is a huge strength to the demonstrations.  One of the greatest weaknesses to political demonstrations is often their time limits.  This is where Occupy Bath almost stumbled: people had assumed, including some of those actually camped out at the time, that the occupation would only last for 10 days.  What actually panned out over the following 32 days of camp was somewhat magical.  Occupy Bath, and definitely the Bath People's Assembly, may not be still around if it wasn't for taking the camp to as far as it could be taken.

The final question, which is somewhat irrelevant now, is if G. Rilla wants a banana.  This is like asking a Hindu if they want arthi, or a Christian if they want communion.  The idea of 'wanting' any of these is a bit besides the point, really.

So, lastly, a little bit of advice will be given for those who will be involved in future 'here + now' demonstrations.  Firstly, with the real change being here and now, allow that change to take any form.  It needn't be about meditating, but I suspect that meditators will receive much less confrontation with authorities due to meditation being viewed as 'religious practice' and, ya know, the authorities are weird about anything considered to be 'religious'.

Secondly, for those aiming to meditate, bring something that can be sat on (a bag with clothing in often is sufficient) and plenty of warm clothing.  Find the best posture for you and sit comfortably with a straight back (it is especially important to straighten the lower back).  For those with arthritis or hip problems, sitting with hips highly elevated is especially important.  For me (I have a dodgy hip), sitting on my knees with a big mound to sit on, and something cushioning underneath my knees, seems to work best.  Once you are comfortable, calm the fuck down and give your mind something incredibly simple to focus on.  I like focusing on bodily sensations and to meditate on different parts of the body, changing my focus to another part of the body from time-to-time, and working on shifting the energies around my body.  Others often meditate on the breath, or on something religious.  Choose whatever suits you best.  The point is to just be with whatever comes up - be it thoughts, bodily sensations, or revolutions, and to stay in meditation until it is time to go.  Everyone has their own time to go out of meditation, so just stay in meditation for as long as is meant to be, and be persistent if need be.

You will probably see a lot more of us in the future.  Please, join in in making the change be NOW rather than some unknown time in the future.  These streets are ours and so are ourselves: we're taking back what they stole!

The Bath Love Police Facebook page is here:

Political Perspectives Series:

Part 1. What is Anarchism? (B.A.R.F.)

Part 2. What is the Zeitgeist Movement? (Bruce Galliver)

Part 3. Some thoughts on the Olympics opening ceremony (Katy Gent)

Part 4. Thoughts on Cambodia (Dave Stephens)

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Bath Anti-Cuts Demo, 5 Dec 2012

Anti-Cuts Demo, Bath, December 2012
Bath Anti-Cuts Alliance, with support from members of BARF and Occupy Bath, staged an anti-cuts demonstration on Milsom Street, in front of the Abbey, on the day of George Osborne's Autumn statement. 15 people turned up for the demo, and many members of the public stopped to chat and find out more information about what the cuts mean for them.

George Osborne's Autumn statement has just been released, and it is as bad as everyone expected. Whilst in the past, the ConDems have frozen wages, introduced 'Workfare' slave labour, tripled tuition fees, upped VAT and begun dismantling public services, this government's policy hits the poorest and most vulnerable in society hardest, leaving the rich and bankers virtually unscathed. Whilst attacking benefits, pensions and teachers' unions, Osborne has been forced to admit that austerity measures are failing to save the economy, and will continue until at least 2018. And the scandals of private companies being handed over control of health services will mean widespread hospital closures, and the complete destruction of the NHS.

While we suffer, the Sunday Times Rich List reported that the wealthiest 1,000 UK citizens have seen their fortunes increase by over £18 billion over the past year, to more than £414 billion, ovr a third of the national debt. Their combined wealth has risen to record levels in the past year, despite the recession, whilst we still suffer. Restoring corporate tax to pre-Thatcher levels (£27.5 billion), closing down the rich's tax loopholes (£95 billion) and collecting their unpaid taxes (£28 billion), as well as getting troops out of the Middle East (£4.5 billion) and scrapping Trident (£97 billion) - these steps would also heal the deficit...
But the budget has more to do with the old Tory policies of privatisation, public sector cuts and looking out for their rich mates, than it does about helping average people, indeed, the current cabinet includes 18 millionaires, and over half went to private school: no, were not all in this together.

And all this is taking place whilst banks and companies like Marks and Spencer, SABMiller (brewers of Grolsch), Starbucks, Cadburys, Boots/Top Shop and Vodafone are graciously allowed to opt out of the taxes they owe - with the latter two owing £300 million and £6 billion respectively.

Meanwhile, B&NES council are making their own plans to carry out the governments cuts, including cutting 400 or more council jobs over four years, as well as privatising or winding down its youth services, healthcare, adult support services and libraries, as well as thousands of MOD jobs to be lost from all three Bath sites. In fact, by adopting its proposed new buzzword of being an 'enabler rather than a 'provider of services, the council itself will cease to have any relevance, or power to do its job and serve its community, in any way.               

Just like with the fight against the poll tax at the beginning of the 1990s, a massive campaign has been started to defend our services and fight back against the cuts, up and down the country. We can win, but we need as many people as possible to fight back against these cuts and to defend their jobs and communities.

Standing out in the cold on a December night may not seem like the most comfortable way to spend an evening, but these cuts need to be fought at every opportunity. Bath Anti-Cuts Alliance, along with numerous other groups in the Bath area, including BARF, Occupy Bath, 38 Degrees, Socialist Worker Party and trade unions are doing what they can to fight them. Get involved with them - unless you are the 1%, these cuts affect you too. And if you are the 1% - where's your compassion for those less fortunate?

Bath Anti-Cuts Alliance
UK Uncut
Occupy Bath Facebook Page

Note: Some text taken from Bath Anti-Cuts Alliance literature handed out during the demo

Saturday, 8 December 2012

We Are One NHS Demo, Bristol

We Are One NHS Demo, Bristol, December 2012
On Saturday 1st December, hundreds of people, including union members, anarchists, socialists, occupiers, anti-cuts protestors and other members of the public marched in solidarity against proposed cuts to the NHS.
"Build a bonfire, build a bonfire, put the Tories on the 
top... Put the Lib Dems in the middle and we'll burn the 
fucking lot"
- Popular variation on a chant sung widely during 
demonstrations in the era of the ConDem coalition, 

The NHS that we know and love is under threat. One of the biggest challenges is the pressure to cut costs and make savings. This has resulted in 20 NHS Trusts across the South West, including University Hospitals Bristol Trust and North Bristol Trust, paying £200,000 of tax payer’s money to form the South West Pay Terms and Conditions Consortium which is proposing radical changes to pay and conditions and the creation of a regional pay system.

Plans published by these employers envisaging changes which could cut pay, terms and conditions for nurses and other healthcare staff by up to 15% demonstrate yet another example of how working people are being forced to bear the brunt of cuts to vital services.

This will be bad for the NHS, bad for patients and bad for all NHS staff across the UK*

Local pay hurts the local economy, compromises patient safety, seriously damages staff morale and creates instability in the workforce at a time when the NHS is going through unprecedented change.

The rally started at College Green at 11am. I travelled up with members of Occupy Bath and BARF, and we arrived just as people were starting to assemble. Marching under our usual BARF banner, we set off with chants, whistles, flags and a huge Unison ballon through the streets of Bristol. The editors of the Westcountry Mutineer, the finest anarchist paper this side of London (which I may or may not have contributed articles to), joined the march also, and gave out free copies, amongst all the other literature being handed out. The march ended at Castle Park, where flags and banners were planted in the ground and speeches were given.

The NHS has never been under threat as much as it is now. The rich Tories don't care, and would sooner see it abolished. We must fight the fuckers at every opportunity, at every corner, and make sure that it is protected.

*Note: Part of this article was taken from the Facebook event description

Anarchy vs. Chaos - An Introduction to Anarchism

BARF, the recently-formed Bath-based anarchist group, put on an Introduction to Anarchism event in on Saturday November 24th, with speakers and discussions about anarchism, with around 25 people attending, and ample amounts of free tea and cake.

The event started with a short introduction explaining the take on anarchism that BARF promotes - essentially that it is against oppression, discrimination and capitalism; that people are generally decent and responsible and can determine what they do without need for authority and that power corrupts, even temporary power.

The next section was a history lesson, with a talk on the Peterloo Massacre of 1819, where a huge anti-poverty and pro-democracy rally took place and was broken up by police, with 18 deaths and hundreds injured, and the eventual implications of movements and demonstrations where people fought for their rights on today's society.

Anarchism in the workplace was the next topic, with the speaker knocking dead the suggestion that anarchists tend to shy away from work with the statement "The best place to contest capitalism is the workplace". We live in a so-called democracy, but at work it is often a dictatorship, and the workplace that anarchists wish to see is very different. Unions are now bureaucratic structures and their aim is not anti-capitalist - the struggle needs to move beyond what unions can achieve. A big part of anarchism is direct action - taking action yourself, rather than waiting for unions to do it, and in the workplace, solidarity with other workers and looking out for them is the key to defending rights at work. An example of an anarchist workplace is occupied factories in Argentina, where factories facing closing down are now run by the workers. Working hours are now down and wages are up, and excess profit was used to build a co-operative hospital.

The final talk of the day was on anarchism and violence. Anarchists are often portrayed as violent, however the is a large pacifist contingent within the anarchist movement. There is no guarantee that you can avoid damage to things other than the target during violent actions, and the assassination of a leader simply results in a new leader. The debate about violence in anarchy masks the other aspects e.g. workplace organising and community projects. Violence may be necessary in some cases, especially if there was a revolution. Millions die in wars and of starvation and in the workplace from being over-worked - all of which are symptoms of capitalism, which poses the question: Is it more violent to break a window than to fight a war? However, the means have to be consistent with the ends and violent means could result in violent ends. In order for the people to take over, we would have to face police and military - violence may be necessary, a large movement in solidarity could make it easier.

The second half of the event was taken up with discussions over tea, including overcoming barriers to anarchism and supporting those affected by the legal system.

For more information on BARF's take on anarchism, see the very first on by guest blog series "Politcal Perspectives", written by BARF - What is Anarchism?

BARF's website is here:

For more information on the Peterloo Massacre, On This Deity has a short  article, and for a more detailed account check out

Monday, 3 December 2012

Stop Israel's War On Gaza Vigil

On Saturday 24th November, following Bath Stop War Coalition's weekly vigil outside Bath Abbey, a demonstration calling for an end to Israel's war on Gaza took place. Although a ceasefire had been called by the time of the demonstration, reports were already coming in of Israel breaking the terms of the ceasefire, which many saw as a temporary measure in any case, and it was decided that the demonstration would go ahead.

Despite heavy rain, over 20 people turned out for the demonstration, including people from Bath Stop War Coalition, Occupy Bath, Bath Socialist Worker Party, BARF, South West Food Not Bombs and other members of the public, including film director Ken Loach, who has long opposed Israel's aggression towards Palestinians.

Many people I spoke to were very clear that they do not support Hamas, but were there in support of the Palestinians and were against the attacks and oppression they have being living under for generations. This was not a demonstration against Israeli civilians by any means, but against the actions taken by the Israeli government and military.

Local campaigner Simon Jilley commented: "Although things haven't broken out into something full-scale, they also hadn't for many years in the past. This is the way that this conflict has been working though - it is completely built upon creating fear amongst the people of this region. Not only have millions of people been displaced in some way over the last century in this region, but they are also given a bloody scary life to hang onto. How would you feel if you and your family were forced out of your house, and chucked in a ghetto area where you become watched over at all times, and occasionally bombed? This demonstration, for me, is not just about what has been happening in Gaza over the last few weeks. It is so, incredibly, much more than that. For me, it is to demonstrate about the whole messed up situation in that region. It is give my voice to the change that I see in the world, with the hope that, somehow, my voice will spark beautiful things."

Further Reading:

Bath Chronicle article on the demo:

Noam Chomsky: How to stop Israeli crimes and bring peace to Gaza:

 This short film, where Israelis are asked to role-play as Palestinians, is very moving

Friday, 23 November 2012

Occupy Bath Occupies the Royal Crescent

Occupy Bath - Royal Crescent

And so, after weeks of planning, on the day that Occupy Bath returned for an anniversary camp to highlight the fact that we all still give a shit about all the issues we campaigned against last year, the council decide to close off our old base of Queen Square (along with several other parks) several hours before we were due to set up camp. True, we could have just jumped the railings and set up camp anyway, but that would mean that few would visit us.

Fortunately we were tipped off about the park closures and sent a small team down to investigate alternative sites. Two hours before our announced meeting time, work began on setting up the new camp in a more upmarket location - the grass in front of the Royal Crescent.

Once the camp was set up, and those who came to the meeting point in Green Park Station on time had been met and brought to the camp, a regular cook at the old camp made us a hot dinner, and we had our first General Assembly, with the main focus on the action we were to take the following day. We decided to target Starbucks over their taxes, and arranged security watch for the night. The rest of the evening was spent by the fire, talking about possible future actions and catching up with old friends. A resident from the Royal Crescent came down and joined  our camp, and many people came over to talk.

In the morning, we were greeted with the sight of bus loads of tourists, many of whom ignored the Royal Crescent entirely, and photographed our camp - that's bus loads of tourists from all over the world photographing Occupy Bath and putting the pictures up on Facebook, showing their friends that this movement is still alive, and that the reasons why it exists are still relevant. The Bath Chronicle, the BBC and several freelance journalists and photographers came to visit us, each one another opportunity to get press coverage of people actively demonstrating against austerity and a corrupt political and economic system. One year on and we were more experienced with dealing with the press, and managed to get most of our points across in the finished articles and news pieces.

At 2pm, some of us set off for our demo, with the rest looking after the camp. With a huge banner reading "$TARBUCK$ PAYS LESS TAX THAN YOU", a megaphone (and the Bath Protest Gorilla), we marched down to Starbucks on Milsom Street. We had a minor conflict with an angry security man, but there was nothing they could do to stop our protest. We then made our way over to the other Starbucks, on the High Street. Two PCSOs came over, but they only just asked us to keep the noise down. On the return to the camp we passed the Milsom Street Starbucks and did another brief demonstration.

More photographers were at the camp when we returned. After a few discussion sessions, South West Food Not Bombs cooked a community meal at the camp - the very first meal cooked by them, and hopefully the first of many. People from other Occupations, including Cardiff, Swansea and Bristol had come down to give their support, and some even joined us for the night. The final GA of the camp was focused on the future of Occupy Bath - and we have several things now in the works. The Sunday morning we awoke to frost. The tents were stiff as cardboard, and we had to wait until around 11pm before we could take them down.

We did not intend to use this location initially, but on reflection it was a better choice. Although not all flats in the Royal Crescent are inhabited by the super-rich, many of them are, but more than this, the image of a protest camp before one of the most famous addresses in South West England was an iconic and powerful one. Hopefully this camp has brought the issues of cuts and the banking system to the forefront once more, and will inspire others Occupations to regroup and do something again.

Occupy Bath has done much more than set up a camp - see my list here. Much of what we have done since we set up camp last time has gone largely unreported, except for on this blog, The Shittro and the BARF blog. We know that a few tents won't change the world, but it may just make people think, and consider whether or not its right that corporate-sponsored governments, out of control investment banking and the widening gulf between rich and poor are worth making a stand against and opposing at every opportunity.

See our article in the Bath Chronicle here:

My favourite piece on the old camp, and the reasons why it was set up, is here:

Links to all press coverage on Occupy Bath here (to be updated shortly):

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

BARF Presents: Anarchy vs. Chaos: An Introduction to Anarchism

On Saturday 24th November, from 3 until 6pm in the Coffee Lounge of Manvers Street Baptist Church in Bath (a minute's walk from Bath Spa train station), the Black And Red Federation (BARF) will be organising a discussion on anarchism, and invite members of the public to come along and take part. The group feels that recent government policy and business lobbyists have made the UK a better place for millionaires and rightwing politicians, but an increasingly uncertain and unhealthy place for everyone else.

Anarchism has received a bad press ever since its birth 219 years ago, with anarchists forced into stereotypes of either violent thugs or sandal-footed hippies - caricatures repeated by both the media and political establishment on one side, but also by self-proclaimed anarchists on the other. But many anarchists see it differently: the philosophy has come a long way since its roots amongst the Taoists of ancient China and the Christian heretic Anabaptists of 16th Century Europe, promoting mutual respect, equality and rationality, and opposing oppression wherever it appears. Indeed, anarchism had become a mass movement of hundreds of thousands of everyday people fighting for and winning freedom in 1920s Ukraine and 1930s Spain, however briefly. Far from embracing destruction and chaos, anarchists say that 'Anarchism is Order'!

In Bath on the Saturday, a handful of local speakers will make short presentations on the ideas and history of this important but controversial political philosophy, before breaking down into longer group sessions where all present are invited to discuss and offer their two cents. The group will ask whether, in this current climate of biting austerity and growing global unrest, anarchists and their ideas have any role to play?
Entry is free, food and hot drinks will be available, as will stalls of literature, and all are welcome to come along and join them on the day!

If you would like any further information, please email

Friday, 16 November 2012

10 things Occupy Bath has Achieved

Ahead of tonight's re-occupation of Bath, here's a list of 10 things that Occupy Bath has achieved in the last year.

1. Highlighted issues of financial inequality and provided a platform where people can discuss and work together to find solutions.

2. Launched a
Move Your Money campaign, and performed street theatre outside banks in order to promote it

3. Founded the Bath People's Assembly, which is still going today and as well as providing an open democratic forum for the people of Bath, the BPA has also put on several talks and the highly successful Visions for Change event back in April (at which Occupy Bath were present)

4. Provided hot food in Bath city centre in the middle of winter for anyone who wanted/needed it

5. Occupy Bath was part of the Stop the Drones group that successfully stopped a drones conference from going ahead in the Assembly Rooms

6. Supported and spoke at the union strike last November

7. Attended the National Occupy Conference and highlighted local issues affecting Bath on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral to a crowd of hundreds

8. Since packing up camp last time, many of Bath Occupiers (some of which had never been involved in campaigns or protests before) have gone on to join other activist and campaign groups and strengthened their numbers

9. Joined other groups in campaigning against workfare earlier this year

10. Never given up. At the end of last year's camp, Occupy Bath said "This is just the beginning", and they have stayed true to their words. Camp or no camp, Occupy Bath have been actively campaigning, discussing and debating the issues, maintaining a strong social media presence, putting forward solutions, communicating with other occupations and other groups and trying to do all they can to make our country, and our city a more equal, fairer and democratic place. This weekend marks the beginning of a new phase, and will hopefully bring the issues raised last time to the forefront once more. Occupy Bath do not intend to outstay their welcome and intend to be respectful to the land they Occupy.

Occupy Bath to Return this Weekend

One year on, Occupy Bath is coming back for one weekend. One year later, we are still facing the same problems - and some new ones. The banks are still out of control and are largely unregulated. Unemployment is still rampant. Tuition fees have increased. Huge corporations such as Vodafone and Starbucks are still not paying their taxes. The cost of living is going up, but wages are staying the same. The NHS is effectively being privatised.

The 99% are not being prioritised. Corporations and extremely wealthy individuals are still raking in the cash, at the expense of us little people. Our democracy is still a shambles, highlighted by the overwhelming public opposition AND a majority in the House of Commons to a badger cull that is still planned to go ahead next year.

One year on, Occupy Bath is still campaigning for financial equality and a fairer and more democratic society. Since packing up camp last year, Occupy Bath founded the Bath People's Assembly, which is still going today (and put on the Visions for Change event back in April), and has undertaken several actions, including a Move Your Money campaign and offering free hot food in the centre of Bath. Many occupiers have also become involved in other activist and campaign groups. Elsewhere, the Occupy Movement is still alive and well, most signficantly in America, where occupiers are distributing food and aid to those affected by Hurricane Sandy, and in London, where many meetings, discussions and actions have taken place over the last year.

While a weekend camp won't change the world, it will provide a platform for people to discuss the issues affecting us and to voice the views to people who will listen. Amongst these discussions, time will be devoted to looking at how Occupy Bath can move forward. There will also be an action on Saturday afternoon, to be decided upon on Friday night. Plus, since the end of the camps, the Occupy Movement has been largely out of the eye of the media. This camp, which will not outstay its welcome, hopes to bring these issues under the spotlight once more and look for solutions.

The schedule for the weekend:
6pm - Meet at Green Park Station. We will then move to the occupation site and set up camp. Please bring some food.
8pm - General Assembly - the main focus will be Saturday's action

12-2pm - Talks and discussions
2-3pm - ACTION (To be confirmed - we have some ideas, but someone may have a better one)
3-4pm - Speaker's Corner - an idea that has been kicking around for some time - we thought we'd give it a go!
5-6pm - Community Meal - please bring a vegetable (or two!) for the pot, and a plate if you can. All welcome! Veggie/vegan friendly food!
8pm - General Assembly - the main focus will be where Occupy Bath can go from here
9pm - Jam session - bring an instrument if you have one, if not just bring yourselves and enjoy!

Things to bring:
Sleeping bag/blankets
Some food
Waterproofs (just in case)
 The press release regarding the camp:

"From Friday November 16th until Sunday November 18th, Occupy Bath will be re-occupying in the city. The Occupy Movement worldwide may have been out of the media lately, but the issues which brought it about are as urgent as ever. The current coalition government are slashing social and public services, left right and centre. From education to housing, from unemployment to healthcare, policies are being enacted which will have a profound and long-lasting impact on our city, our country, and our planet. Occupy Bath, as was the case when we occupied Queen’s Square last year, seek to create a platform for protesting these policies, and for having an open discussion about what direction our society should take.

We are re-occupying, a year since we last occupied, as we believe it is important that these issues remain front and centre in the public consciousness, and to remind the people of Bath that, whilst we may not be occupying constantly, we are still very active in the form of the Bath People’s Assembly"

Standing Stone's Blog will be reporting on the events of the weekend.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Frack Free Somerset: Street Theatre in Bath

Frack Free Somerset - Street Theatre in Bath City Centre 10 November 2012
With the news that fracking is to take place in Keynsham, Frack Free Somerset, a coalition of groups opposed to fracking in the region, have been touring town and city centres with a street theatre performance.

A planning application has been submitted by UK Methane to undertake "fracking" (hydraulic fracturing) in Keynsham in order to extract trapped methane gas. There is much controversy surrounding fracking, with much evidence suggesting that contamination of water has occurred in areas where extraction has been undertaken. In particular, there is much concern over the contamination of drinking water and river systems from methane and the txoc chemicals used in the fracking process. Food sources may also be contaminated due to use of contaminated water and fracking has also been linked to air pollution. Recently, fracking has been associated with an earthquake in Lancashire.

The street theatre performance consisted of a mock fracking rig and campaigners dressed and in character as "Frack the Word Inc.", proclaiming the drinking water to be safe, while pouring toxic chemicals into it via a tube. Although the water did not contain any actual harmful chemicals, no-one who was offered a cup accepted it.


Frack Free Somerset are calling on the public to object to the planning application - details can be found at

For more information, visit Frack Free Somerset's website

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Badger Cull Demo in Bath - 27/10/12

Following demonstrations elsewhere in the UK, including several recent demos in Bristol, a group of anti- badger cull activists staged two demonstrations in Bath City Centre today against supermarkets selling milk from the cull areas.

Despite the cull not going ahead this year, and a vote in parliament in which the cull was opposed by a significant majority of MPs, the government plans to proceed with the cull in June 2013. This has given the campaign against the badger cull another 6 months to up their efforts to stop it from going ahead.

Around 15 demonstrators gathered outside Sainsbury's Local in Kingsmead Square at 10am armed with placards and leaflets, and remained there until 12:00 mid-day. Several demonstrators wore masks and costumes, including badgers, foxes and a gorilla, and spoke to many members of the public about the issues surrounding the cull. A security guard stood at the entrance watching, however no attempt was made to move demonstrators.
At noon, several demonstrators relocated to Tesco Express to demonstrate there for another hour. Placards reading "Stop the Badger Slaughter" and "Stop the Cull" were leant against the walls of the store, and the manager requested that they should be removed. The police were called, however the police made no attempt to remove the placards as the demonstrators were within the law.

Now, more than ever, is the time for action on the badger cull. Protests such as today's demonstration, walks around the cull zone, petitions, lobbying government and MPs and spreading the facts about the bader cull - most importantly that the scientists who killed thousands of badgers to see if it would make a difference to bovine TB concluded that it would make "no meaningful contribution" - need to continue, and the sucesses of the past week need to be built upon in order to ensure that this senseless killing does not go ahead.

See here for background information about the badger cull with links and references (an updated version of this is in the works):

For more information, visit the Badger Killers website:

There are many anti-cull Facebook groups, those relevant to today's demonstrations are Stop the Cull and Bath Against the Badger Cull. Please "like" these pages and share their posts.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Open Access to Stonehenge Campaign (Guest Blog)

by Mardi Lee

My name is Mardi Lee, and I am one of a group of organisers for our campaign. On July 22nd we formed a Facebook group after attending the last Summer Solstice at Stonehenge. Many people were very fed up after attending the last solstice and there were a lot of complaints about the lead up to it and the open access itself.

Our campaign aims to bring real changes to the way in which managed open access to Stonehenge is run. There is only one official date of managed open access, the summer solstice, but English Heritage let us have a few hours open access at the winter solstice and the spring and autumn equinoxes, but they can withhold access at these other times any time they choose.

We are a coalition of concerned people and groups that are campaigning to bring change to our “managed open access” given to us four times a year, we want real talks that lead to our open access being run in a more compassionate and enjoyable manner. We have compromised and attended the open access as it is currently managed, trying to accept the conditions and restrictions put upon us.

We ask that:
  1. It is changed from being run as a managed event and run more as a gathering and religious celebration - for all four open access dates in place. 
  2. That the open access is run by English Heritage staff in the same respectful manner as they treat their daily visitors. Not as it is now, left to management of security firms that are not competent to deal with the various needs of those attending open access. 
  3. During the summer Solstice access the security firm/police would:-                                                                                                                                                                       A. Follow the Round Table policy of random searches, as opposed to the current overuse of such procedures taking place.                                                                                                                                                                     B. Refrain from the overuse of hand held metal detectors, unless they have a specific cause rather than usual practice.

    C. Cease their combative style of speaking and dealing with attendees wishing to enter the Stonehenge circle, when people reasonably challenge disrespectful behaviour they are often threatened with removal or exclusion with no right of appeal.

    D. That they cease all physical harm to attendees, using physical force only to defend themselves from harm. ( * See pics below) 
  4.  That English Heritage provide either one big communal open fire for people to gather round, or a few smaller fires both in the car park and near the Stonehenge circle.
  5. To increase the amount of time allocated to “managed open access”, and to treat people’s faiths with the respect given to other religions. We propose that over the period of the Summer Solstice, the public be allowed free equitable access into Stonehenge and its surrounding landscape. This would allow them to freely attend as are their needs and customs: the Sunrise; midday and the sunset. We believe the current overcrowding and driver safety problems are caused by the increasing popularity of the present “Managed Open Access” and English Heritage’s decision to end said access early on Solstice morning. These problems could be resolved in the best interests of all by extending the open access period to cover the whole of Midsummer’s day.
  6. At the Summer Solstice English Heritage permit a small stage with acoustic music in the car park, thereby reducing the amount of people in the Stonehenge circle. The way it is currently run people see open access as a night club & many turn up just to party at the Stones. 
  7. To reduce the amount of days that the drove is closed on the lead up to the Summer Solstice, providing a safe place to park rather than the roadside verges and lay-bys. 
  8. That English Heritage provides adequate shelter for attendees of the Summer Solstice, or provides a place for the erection of tents. This is to ensure the protection of vulnerable and disabled people during the night, that attendees are allowed to rest before leaving the car park site (especially exhausted, vulnerable and disabled). 
  9. That the traders are removed from the Stonehenge circle field to the field just prior to the security gate which is already used as a thoroughfare. This is in order to reduce the amount of rubbish being deposited within the circle which many find offensive. 
  10. To remove or reduce the neon lighting currently in use at the summer solstice, as they reduce the ability to experience the beautiful night sky in all its glory. Furthermore if they are reduced but kept, that the lighting is turned off as soon as possible before the dawn. 
  11. To give some assurance and disclosure that our “managed open access” will be accommodated during and after the redevelopment of Stonehenge, particularly with reference to disabled access; which is currently lacking, leaving less able-bodied to feel marginalised. 

Experiences at Stonehenge

I have been attending the summer solstice for many years, since they gave us open access to Stonehenge at the summer solstice in the year 2000. This was only given to us because people fought year in and year out, taking them to all the courts and finally the court of human rights. Alongside this, others campaigned for a return of the Stonehenge free festival, offering to pay to rent land somewhere nearby. And year after year those people that love Stonehenge and all that it represents tried continuously to get to the stones. Eventually the pressure from all this led the government and English Heritage to lift the exclusion zone in place every summer since 1984. They formed a Stonehenge round table debating group, where all interested parties put forward their ideas of how the open access would be managed. These meetings are supposed to be where all parties contribute their ideas and they all come to a compromise, thus creating an enjoyable summer solstice gathering for all. But this is not what truly happens, because English Heritage and the National Trust along with the police, fire, ambulance, Wiltshire County Council and all other authorities have a meeting first. They decide how they will run the managed open access, and then they bring this to the round table meeting. Everybody then has to try and bring a compromise to this plan, rather than discussing it and compromising openly together.

My personal experience of that time started on the 2nd June 2012, when Becky (my partner) and I went to Stonehenge to have a picnic with a few friends in the fields around the area. We arrived late morning and were greeted by other people that were already on the drove. We gathered some wood and started a small fire.

Other people arrived at the drove during the afternoon, we all shared our picnic together and caught up with old friends. People came from all different parts of the country, Sandy and Julie turned up, Sandy got his gazebo out and set up a small music set with his drums and a mic. Jez sang and played his guitar and Sandy played the drums. They were good together and people enjoyed the music, by the afternoon there were about 30 of us enjoying a picnic and music.

The National Trust, English Heritage, the police and the MOD MP’s monitored us all afternoon driving up and down the drove. Not once did they object to us being there, or stop and say anything about the music. This continued on a very regular basis, and we therefore presumed that they didn’t mind us enjoying ourselves together.

Becky and I put up a tent on the grass verge, as did quite a few others including one couple and their three children. The police had hours in which to inform us that we were not allowed amplified music of any type - they choose not to do this.

I think it was 10pm and dark when the police finally decided to do something about the situation, when a large group of about twenty police came along shining bright torches in our faces. They had an agitated attitude and began shouting for people to get out of their tents/trucks etc, trying to hand everyone a section 61 (not 100% sure may have been 63) of the public order act. They said that we had gathered with the intentions of having a rave, that we had to all leave by 1.00am in the morning. They asked us all why we were there and where we had come from, they seemed surprised when some of us told them we had only come for a picnic. They were even more surprised when they found out that we had come from up and down the country and didn’t know each other.

Sandy shut the music off exactly when they told him to. They threatened to make him produce receipts for all his stuff if he was there when they came back at 1am. They also insinuated that he had stolen his generator, as one had gone missing from nearby according to them. They threatened to take his small bus off him and Julie also, so rather than go through all this hassle he packed up and left.

The couple had spent ages getting their three children to sleep in their tent, the police woke them all up by shouting really loudly at everyone. We asked why they had not told us about the music at a more reasonable time, as we would have turned it off before they tried to public order us all. All along the drove people were arguing with the police about their unreasonable behaviour, children were crying and the police had managed to cause utter pandemonium and a huge amount of stress.

They left us threatening to be back at 1.00pm, that we would all be arrested and vehicles impounded if we were still there. Paul and Penny were told that they could stay until the next morning as he was totally drunk and could not drive, and many of us had been drinking and smoking together. Most people decided that as the music had left they would stay and see what happened at 1.00am. A few people did pack up and leave but not many.

At 1.00am one policeman came back, he said that as the music had gone and that a lot of people where unfit to drive, so we could all stay until 5am. He did say that he thought his inspector was going to be silly about it (exact words not printable lol), but fortunately had climbed down over the issue and acted sensibly. The police were convinced that we were organising a rave and they had apparently put police along the main roads and motorways to stop others getting to the drove. We were oblivious to any of this, just having a nice time in the Stonehenge environment. The police did not even turn up again at 5am, so we had spent the whole night expecting to be arrested by heavy handed police.

The next day myself and Becky went for a long walk around the landscape at Stonehenge, it was the first time we had done this. Normally we would turn up the day before the managed open access, park along the verges from airman’s corner and watch the vehicles build up, go into the Stones, and then return home the next morning. So it was lovely to be able to spend time walking around, exploring the barrows and hearing the skylarks singing. During the day more people left but others turned up, Becky and I had to leave Sunday evening and go back to Bath.

We returned again three days later to find that once again the police had been down and told them they had to turn the music off or leave. This was a personal sound system in a van, not some huge rig or stage throwing a party. There were about 15 people left parked along the drove, and as people went off to do stuff others would turn up. Most of the people where extremely friendly, and it was great to meet so many nice new people we didn’t know. During the next five or six days we sat and chatted about so much stuff and played acoustic instruments (during the day), gathered our wood and water, went for long walks and got to know each other a little more. Every time someone turned up with some amplified music, we got loads of hassle from the police even though we would not have it on loud.

Becky and I went home again on Sunday the following weekend, giving a friend our phone number. We left our tent up on the drove intending to return in three days time. Two days later I received a phone call saying that everyone was moving onto the Ridgeway at Avebury and that the wind had destroyed our large tent. I rushed back to find that once again someone had turned up with amplified music and they had all been told they must leave if they are playing music. As it was now getting closer to the summer solstice managed open access, people wanted to party. The next morning we all left the drove and headed to the Ridgeway at Avebury. There were already other people parked up when we arrived, and we walked into Avebury village and brought some very expensive necessities. We walked down through the stone avenue into the village, and went and visited the Hobbit tree which myself and someone else climbed. It was a great laugh and we all enjoyed the outing, even though it rained on us quite a lot. When we returned to the Ridgeway a small sound system was set up and people were dancing and enjoying the music, at no time during the rest of the day or night were we stopped, although we did still get some police monitoring us.

The next morning I awoke to slugs and snails all over my belongings and the small tent I had brought. I got out of my tent and thought “where are the Stones?”. I had to make a choice between staying on the Ridgeway and being able to play amplified music or going back to the drove and hoping some other people turn up. I went back to Bath and picked up Becky, and on the way back we decided between us that we would return to the drove. We went back to Avebury and packed down the tent and said bye to people, we had met a lush bloke called Dean whilst on the drove and he said he would return with us. We returned to the drove and set up camp again. During that day people that turned up wanting a party we directed to Avebury. Over the next few days a few more people joined us and once more there were about 15 of us, we played acoustic music and had a laugh. Several times during the nights I tried to sneak into the Stones only to be repelled by security, until eventually three of us snuck in with a private party as the sun was rising on a very misty morning. We had five minutes in the stones before English Heritage staff noticed us. They shouted at us and were extremely angry that we had got in. We stayed at the drove until the 17th of June, as they were evicting it and closing all access to them over the summer solstice period. We went and parked up in a lay-by at Woodhenge, where we stayed until the morning of summer solstice open access.

By now all the lay-bys were full of trucks, busses, vans and cars. The police had to constantly drive round monitoring all the people and where they had parked up, as the day wore on more and more people arrived in the area. The traffic slowly built up and caused more chaos on the roads; more than if they had been allowed to use the droves. It was only on the day of the summer solstice itself that they set up the infrastructure for the coming event. All day long we waited, until finally at 7.00pm they started to let us in. This in itself caused problems as everyone was desperate to get into the car park. Also, people wanted to go into the monument for sunset ritual, which created a mad rush situation.

I walked up to the Stonehenge Circle with Becky, Dean carrying the Wally box (The box which held Phil Russell’s ashes - the organiser of the first Stonehenge free festival), a Druid called Pete and my good friend Teapot Circus. Pete they let walk through without trouble, Dean they insisted opened the box for them to search. He opened the box but refused to let them touch the contents. They did at first try to insist, but Dean just explained about the box and said it was a sacred object they had no right to touch. Teapot Circus tried to take his umbrella as it looked like rain, but he was told he could not enter with the umbrella as it could be used as an offensive weapon. I took nothing with me apart from my car keys and myself so that I would not have any hassle from security. I walked through the Heras fencing gate system without being stopped and searched, Teapot was searched, and Becky was not. I was walking ahead and thought I had got through without hassle when someone told me to stop, and did I mind being scanned. I told him of course I minded being scanned and I didn’t want to let him. He grabbed hold of my arm and insisted I let him. I asked why I was being scanned as all I had on me was my car keys, that I didn’t have knives; guns and pick axes or anything else on me. I was told I was being aggressive, that if I continued I would be removed from the monument and not be allowed access. Even once he had scanned me and found nothing on me, he still stood extremely close holding onto my arm and being very aggressive in his words and actions, my friends thought I would explode into violence as they know I don’t like being confronted in this manner by anyone. I managed not to hit him even though I would never normally allow anyone else to treat me like this, after five minutes of aggressive behaviour on his part he let me continue into the stone circle properly.

Becky and I watched a lovely sunset ritual done by the druids, and then we walked around the stones. Looking and gently touching them, it is a truly inspiring place to see and visit. But it is when the people of the tribes gather within it that they truly come to life, when past and present blend. We then went back to the car park to see what was happening and if anyone we knew had arrived, and listened to music and chatted about the past month.

We went back to the monument field later on in the early hours of the morning and there were thousands and thousands of people crammed into the Stones and wide area around them. There was a lot of drumming in the middle of the stone circle, with a lot of others dancing and singing, and the whole area was lit with the glow of artificial lighting. Fortunately the night sky was cloudy, otherwise we would have missed the amazing night sky in all its glory. Not long after we arrived back at the monument field it started pouring down. We then got a call from Becky’s son Oliver saying he was on his way from Bristol. We both had three layers on and by the time Oliver arrived, having had his takeaway supper examined by security (all he was carrying) both me and Becky were soaked to the skin. As was he also of course. We had trouble finding each other and I went off to find him while Becky waited by the gate. He found Becky and they phoned me up. When I tried to return the way I had come I was forced to walk all the way round instead of going over one low wooden fence by security. We were all completely fed up by this time and it was obvious that there would be no sunrise alignment with the dawn. None of us fancied trying to get past the obnoxious security at the gate, so we decided to leave whilst we could still get out of the car park due to the mud.

If we had not spent time before hand meeting people on the drove and just turned up for the sunrise, we would have been sadly disappointed. As it was, we had had the most fantastic time meeting lovely like-minded people, chatting and finding out that so many of us are going through the same stuff. The event itself was a disappointment mainly because of the security's attitude to people, and the silly restrictions and conditions we have to endure to get our little bit of managed open access.

After the summer solstice at Stonehenge many people of all walks of life were unhappy about the way our open access is being managed, and after chatting with a lot of people about the issue of open access I decided it is time we stopped moaning and did something positive and good to change this situation. The difference for me between going to Pilton festival and Stonehenge is that at Pilton I go for a party and to get smashed with my friends. I expect to have to go through all the hassle of security when entering, as this is the norm when going to a paid festival. When I go to Stonehenge I go for different reasons entirely, my main reason is to say my respects to nature; life and the elements. It is to meet old friends and family I knew when on the road, as I now live in a flat. It is to bring energy to and from Stonehenge, it is a sacred special place to me much like a cathedral is to Christian worshippers.

I don’t go to Pilton festival anymore, it is too big and commercial and I hate the hassles that come with it. At the end of the day it is a festival, of which there are many more, so I don’t feel bad not going. Stonehenge is a sacred temple used for worship of nature and life, a gathering place of the people of all Britain and far beyond. Would you agree to strict terms and conditions the next time you want to go and worship god in your cathedrals, conditions that restrict and stifle what it is really intended for? We the people of Britain have, and still do, consider Stonehenge a sacred place to celebrate the gift of all life, and we are trying to unite together so that we can collectively bring change for the better of all those attending and all those charged with running our managed open access and all other access we are permitted.

The Campaign So Far
  • We have started a paper petition (1100 signatures so far) with a stall, we have an online petition :- which has 440 signatures currently, giving us a total of approx 1500 signatures since July.
  • We have started a Facebook group where groups and individuals debate the issues of our open access, the more of us that join the greater our voice will be together. Please feel free to join and take part, so far we have produced a seventeen point document. This was far from correct and so we sent it to King Arthur (who attends the round table meetings and therefore will know English Heritage's response to them), he gave us his ideas about how we should correct it if we wanted to be taken seriously. We debated his ideas balanced with our own, we changed the document to 11 points. By rewording the document we managed to reduce the number of points but kept the same content, this also meant we could not be given a standard reply. Anyway, join us for our continued debate on the campaign :-
  • We have attended a round table meeting, where we managed to get our aims document on the agenda for the next meeting on the 1st Nov 2012 in Salisbury.