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The European Social Forum

The European Social Forum (ESF) takes place in London this month. But don't worry: it won't just be boring speeches by political dinosaurs. Follow our simple advice, and you'll be sure to have an unforgettable time.

October 1, 2004
4 min read

Travel

You can say what you like about London mayor Ken Livingstone, but the Greater London Authority (GLA) is making travel on the capital’s transport system free to ESF participants for the duration of the forum. The GLA’s free travel cards will be extremely useful, considering the distance between Bloomsbury in central London and Alexandra Palace in the north of the city – the two sites for the bulk of the forum’s events.

Get in for less

Registration is expensive: £40 on the door; £30 in advance. But there are ways you can get in for free. Becoming a volunteer is the best – if you’re an insomniac who enjoys being exploited.

If you do fit that description, contact the international network of volunteer interpreters Babels, or the ESF office itself and they’ll welcome you in with tea and biscuits.

Partying

Livingstone will be hosting the opening party the night before the forum begins (14 October), but refreshments won’t be provided so bring your own pies.

The 10-year anniversary party of the Brighton-based direct-action newsletter Schnews will be less official but far more fun. The Schnews event will take place on 16 October at the Coronet in Elephant and Castle, south London.

Culture

There will be a diverse range of cultural events, ranging from Bolivian dancing to anti-war opera. If you want to get creative yourself, then the Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination (LII) will be a good place to start – and probably the only place where you’ll share breakfast with the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army.

Shopping

If you fancy a spot of shopping while you’re in London, be sure to get Reverend Billy’s blessing first (www.revbilly.com). Coming all the way from New York, his Church of Stop Shopping will be offering spiritual guidance at a Starbucks near you. Shopping at Ikea might also be more fun than usual as activists are planning to hijack London branches for parties. Don’t worry about being sullied by all that dirty capitalism, though: the LII’s Vacuum Cleaner (www.thevacuumcleaner.co.uk) will be on hand to clean up.

Sleeping

Unless you’re showing up for the ‘parliamentarians’ forum’ (for European social-democratic MPs), you probably won’t be able to afford the Ritz. Your best bet is probably the first-come-first-served free accommodation offered by the ESF. But if you miss out on that, then the GLA’s free travel cards should at least guarantee you a comfy seat on a night bus. Outdoor types might also want to try the Lee Valley campsite in Chingford, northeast London.

Food and drink

The on-site catering is guaranteed to be fairly bland. But Nottingham-based caterer Veggies will be dishing up its fare at central London’s Camden Centre (Camden Town Hall, Judd Street, WC1; 020 7974 5633).

Childcare

No childcare facilities will be provided by the official ESF, although children are welcome throughout the forum. There will be no shortage of childish political debates, however. There will also be a crèche at Conway Hall in Holborn in the centre of London.

Demonstration

The groundbreaking strategy for this year’s demonstration involves a march through central London from Gower Street in Bloomsbury to Trafalgar Square. Readers who went on the stop-the-war and anti-Bush marches (and just about any other march there’s ever been in the capital) may vaguely recall the route. Here’s a hint if you don’t want to carry a placard with an SWP typeface: simply remove the staples from each corner; invert the card and reseal it using sticky tape; then use marker pens and crayons to create your own message. Another placard is possible.

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