Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
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.
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.
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.
The collapse of Carillion could be a watershed moment. Let's seize it to end economically disastrous outsourcing schemes. By Cat Hobbs.
Campaign groups highlight UK complicity in Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses.
Three founders of Momentum talk to Ashish Ghadiali about the two years that have transformed their lives and the fortunes of the British left.
Andrew Smith from Campaign Against the Arms Trade gives the run-down on one of the UK's most profitable - and most deadly - industries.
The real story behind the fire in Grande Synthe’s Linière refugee camp, Dunkirk. From 'Bordered Lives – How Europe fails refugees and migrants' by Hsiao-Hung Pai
Javier Pérez De La Cruz writes about the working class Berlin neighbourhood wrung dry by gentrifiers.
Across the world, thousands of protesters are taking on the planet’s biggest fossil fuel companies. We should support them – and if we can, we should join them. By Kara Moses
Students are suffering the effects of financial instability, stress, and slashed mental health services. Mark Crawford reports.
They're not defending free speech - they're just seeking to shore up their own power, writes Ilyas Nagdee
How can the heavily-armed Israeli state claim to be victimised by one teenage activist? By Richard Seymour.
Jeremy Hunt is poised to flog the last of the NHS
Peter Roderick sounds the alarm on an 'attack on the fundamental principles of the NHS'.
Viva Siva, 1923-2018
A. Sivanandan, who died this week, was a hugely important figure in the politics of race and class. As part of our tributes, Red Pepper is republishing this 2009 profile of him by Arun Kundnani
Sivanandan: When memory forgets a giant
Daniel Renwick calls for the whole movement to discover and remember the vital work of A. Sivanandan, who died this week
A master-work of graphic satire
American Jewish cartoonist Eli Valley’s comic commentary on America, the US Jewish diaspora and Israel is nothing if not near the knuckle, Richard Kuper writes
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism