Sunday, 29 January 2012

St Paul's - not the last Saturday of Occupy London




'I'd like the word bonus to be removed from the Oxford Dictionary,' declaims Father Joe Ryan, to cheers from the crowded steps of  St Paul's. Steady on, people, I think. It's not the word's fault.

Then a rock group makes distorted agitprop noise which cannot be escaped. A female cleric, iron with purpose, swoops down from the cathedral to say this is a public nuisance then floats back up the steps on a cloud of fury. She has long straight blonde hair. Her floor-length black clerical gown is close-fitting to the waist then billows like the most magnificent ball gown behind her as she ascends, unimaginable yards of cloth.

The next speaker is the Rev Paul Nicolson, chairman of Z2K, a charity which guides vulnerable people in debt. The last paragraph of his speech is: 'The poorest and the squeezed middle should unite in protest and justified moral outrage at the injustice of a deficit reduction policy which hits them hard and the richest not at all. In my view that is an outrageous injustice. It fully justifies non-violent civil disobedience. But I worry constantly about it turning violent, hoping and praying that it will not.'

He refused to pay the poll tax because he believed it was an injustice to the poorest people, but it was docked from his pay anyway. 'I told the Church Commissioners they should be involved in civil disobedience like I was. I got a very short answer.'

Before becoming a vicar Paul worked in the family Champagne business. He recalls a two-week trip to Paris learning how to sell Champagne to nightclubs: 'I went to one club where there was a bottle of Veuve Clicquot on each table before you sat down. Mistinguett, the Folies Bergere star, was sitting at a table. Her legs had been insured for £1,000,000 because they were so beautiful. By then she was 86. A female impersonator did his impression of her while she sat holding hands with a dwarf. Then Jacques Tati walked in and sat at the bar. It was pure Toulouse Lautrec.'

Juliane, from Essen in Germany, is a member of Occupy's economics working group. She did her doctorate at Cambridge on how initiatives such as the Fairtrade movement bring about social change, and is now assistant professor in organisational behaviour, teaching business ethics at Warwick Business School, Warwick University.


Joey was born in Lincolnshire. He had been travelling around last summer litter-picking at festivals, came to London to join Occupy, and is in charge of the recycling bins, the dustbins and cleaning the Portaloos. The camp has to have a Swiftian obsession with what it discharges.

The mood is nostalgic, subdued; the wind is cold. Each gust makes the small tents strain from their moorings.

I go to have tea with a friend whose parents had been imprisoned for anti-Apartheid activities.

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