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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.

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