Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Creative occupation

Protest doesn't have to be po-faced. Black-clad posturing and worthy hand-wringing are all well and good, but sometimes you just want to dance. "Creative occupation" is party as protest - be it dancing on the motorway or raving on the tube. It creates spaces for individual and communal expression in defiance of global McMonoculture. Everyone's invited

August 1, 2004
4 min read

A brief history

There’s nothing new in the idea of party as protest. But things really kicked off in the UK after the Criminal Justice Act of 1994, which cracked down on raves held in warehouses and fields by making repetitive beats and bleepy noises illegal. Protests against the bill coincided with the “No M11” campaign, which centred on the creative occupation of Claremont Road in east London and brought together politicised ravers, squatters and anti-roads protesters to create a new generation of dissenting revellers.

Fighting for your right to party

Reclaim The Streets

In May 1995 the street in question was Camden High. Since then RTS has become a global rallying cry, with impromptu street bashes in locations ranging from Slovenia to Sydney. The legendary RTS parties of the mid-1990s were characterised by meticulous planning, audacity and sheer bloody cheek. The M41 party of July 1996 got into full swing after a car crash staged to block the traffic. Forest saplings were then secretly planted from beneath the skirts of giant carnival dancers.

Deliberate car crashes aren’t for everyone, and you can take over your street without such drastic measures. The RTS website gives tips for would-be hosts on how to negotiate those awkward early stages when no one’s mingling or eating the Twiglets.

The Spacehijackers

Formed to fight state strictures on the use of public space, London-based “anarchitects” the Spacehijackers set out to reclaim not the streets but the Underground, hosting parties on the Circle Line. In March 2003, 600 revellers enjoyed a mobile disco that managed close to two laps of the line’s circuit before the transport police got wise. Special guest appearances included protest samba band Rhythms of Resistance, a Circle Line superstar DJ (spinning such tunes as Iggy Pop’s “Passenger” and “Going Underground” by The Jam), and, after the consumption of a fair amount of alcohol, a naked pole-dancing bloke.

The Spacehijackers” Agent Robin describes the group thus: “We”re a bunch of fuck-wits, really. So if we can do this, then you can.” Sounds like a challenge to us. Check out www.spacehijackers.co.uk for a step-by-step guide.

Not Cricket

The Not Cricket chaps don’t go in for all that rave malarkey, preferring to represent the well-tailored side of anarchism. These Spacehijackers spin-offs can be found handing out cups of tea and cucumber sandwiches outside Starbucks and making party small-talk on the damaging effect of coffee corporations on local culture and communities. Requiring only a kettle, a loaf of bread and good breeding, a global-justice tea party is the civilised way of fighting the system.

For anyone harking back to the old-skool, you could just do it the old-fashioned way, find a warehouse, give all your mates incomprehensible directions and party like it’s 1989. The e-zine www.urban75.com talks you through the logistics of hosting your own rave.

Creative occupation is supposed to attract attention. The flip side of that is that the police may also start getting interested. Visit the website of the drugs and legal rights advocacy and information group Release for a great starting point to inform you of your legal rights.

If you don’t like entertaining, be a reveller rather than an organiser. Keep your eyes on the websites we’ve listed here, and lend your body to the weight of numbers to ensure that events have an impact.

For the morning after

Creative occupation need not just be about Saturday night. When the party’s over, there are many other ways of making creative occupation a daily hobby.

Guerrilla gardening is the practice of cultivating a nice little cottage garden in the midst of the urban jungle. As well as flying a flag for organic production against a tide of identikit carrots or standardised sprouts, this introduces a little soul-soothing greenery to the drab city grey. Advice for green-fingered activists is available at www.primalseeds.org. (See future Guerilla guides for details.)

Urban letter-boxing is a Dartmoor-inspired rambling and exploration game that involves scouring your city for treasure buried by similarly minded adventurers. Get initiated into a mysterious community of bounty hunters, and challenge your habituated responses to the city environment. Those pesky Spacehijackers are at it again; check out their website for details.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Brexit, Corbyn and beyond
Clarity of analysis can help the left avoid practical traps, argues Paul O'Connell

Paul Mason vs Progress: ‘Decide whether you want to be part of this party’ – full report
Broadcaster and Corbyn supporter Paul Mason tells the Blairites' annual conference some home truths

Contagion: how the crisis spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe

How empire struck back
Walden Bello dissects the failure of Barack Obama's 'technocratic Keynesianism' and explains why this led to Donald Trump winning the US presidency

Empire en vogue
Nadine El-Enany examines the imperial pretensions of Britain's post-Brexit foreign affairs and trade strategy

Grenfell Tower residents evicted from hotel with just hours’ notice
An urgent call for support from the Radical Housing Network

Jeremy Corbyn is no longer the leader of the opposition – he has become the People’s Prime Minister
While Theresa May hides away, Corbyn stands with the people in our hours of need, writes Tom Walker

In the aftermath of this disaster, we must fight to restore respect and democracy for council tenants
Glyn Robbins says it's time to put residents, not private firms, back at the centre of decision-making over their housing

After Grenfell: ending the murderous war on our protections
Under cover of 'cutting red tape', the government has been slashing safety standards. It's time for it to stop, writes Christine Berry

Why the Grenfell Tower fire means everything must change
The fire was a man-made atrocity, says Faiza Shaheen – we must redesign our economic system so it can never happen again

Forcing MPs to take an oath of allegiance to the monarchy undermines democracy
As long as being an MP means pledging loyalty to an unelected head of state, our parliamentary system will remain undemocratic, writes Kate Flood

7 reasons why Labour can win the next election
From the rise of Grime for Corbyn to the reduced power of the tabloids, Will Murray looks at the reasons to be optimistic for Labour's chances next time

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 25 June
On June 25th, the fourth of Red Pepper Race Section's Open Editorial Meetings will celebrate the launch of our new black writers' issue - Empire Will Eat Itself.

After two years of attacks on Corbyn supporters, where are the apologies?
In the aftermath of this spectacular election result, some issues in the Labour Party need addressing, argues Seema Chandwani

If Corbyn’s Labour wins, it will be Attlee v Churchill all over again
Jack Witek argues that a Labour victory is no longer unthinkable – and it would mean the biggest shake-up since 1945

On the life of Robin Murray, visionary economist
Hilary Wainwright pays tribute to the life and legacy of Robin Murray, one of the key figures of the New Left whose vision of a modern socialism lies at the heart of the Labour manifesto.

Letter from the US: Dear rest of the world, I’m just as confused as you are
Kate Harveston apologises for the rise of Trump, but promises to make it up to us somehow

The myth of ‘stability’ with Theresa May
Settit Beyene looks at the truth behind the prime minister's favourite soundbite

Civic strike paralyses Colombia’s principle pacific port
An alliance of community organisations are fighting ’to live with dignity’ in the face of military repression. Patrick Kane and Seb Ordoñez report.

Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports

On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.

Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for a political organiser
Closing date for applications: postponed, see below

The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections

In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines

Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.

West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective

How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences


2