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