Occupy take over former Old Street Magistrates Court

Another surprise take-over by Occupy London happend early this morning. This time the group of activists  took over the former Old Street Magistrates Court. They were supported by an armoured vehicle – the Occupy Think Tank from the Veterans for Peace.

Despite being a stunning a Grade 2 listed building in a prime location in London’s East End it is standing empty since 1996.

On their website Occupy London claims that the “new residents, who include members of Occupy Veterans – a group of former and active-duty servicemen and women drawn from the 99 per cent – have pledged to maintain a residence at the courthouse, to take good care of the building and to provide daytime use of the facilities for Occupy London to put the one per cent on trial. The residents have already spoken with the various stakeholders of the building and are looking to develop an open dialogue.”

Occupy activist Mike Kidane.

I arrived there this afternoon only hours after the building was “liberated”.

Living 6 years in East London I had passed the beautiful Old Magistrates Court many times and always wondered what it looked like on the inside. Until today I didn’t even know what it was used for. I have to say I love old abandoned buildings so I was like a child in a candy store when I entered and explored it.

 

At the same time I was buzzing because I was happy about the brilliant stunt that Occupy had made today. Another interesting chapter in the story of the global movement.

Please read for more updates on the Occupy blog.

And here more of my impressions from this afternoon.

The building is right in the heart of Shoreditch – one of London’s most fashionable culture, bar and club districts and only a stonethrow away from the financial quarter.

The former court building is now privately owned and was apparently supposed to be destroyed to make space for a hotel.

A member of the Veterans for Peace next to the Occupy Think Tank.

Inside one of the detention cells…

…which was already reserved for one of the biggest supporters of the banks – mainly responsible for the financial crisis we are all in now.

Activist Kai Wargalla took part in the so called liberation which started around 5.30 this Tuesday morning. She was excited about the forthcoming court proceedings in this building. Kai who is originally from Germany currently lives in one of the tents at St. Paul’s. She had weeks ago given up her normal student and working life to become involved with Occupy. She won’t go home for Christmas to her family in Bremen this year because she wants to stay with her new friends from Occupy. That’s what I call dedication! 

I learned that the court rooms sometimes are used as film locations.

While the court rooms are still in a fairly good condition other parts of the building were already in a quite desolate state…

I have to admit, that’s exactly why I love old buildings.

I loved the fact that the plant still had leaves on it despite probably not having been watered since 1996.

This door leads to the grand balcony on which you have this view over Old Street…

On the weekend these streets are packed with thousands of party folks.

I worked my way up to the roof top passing by these rooms:

It seems like people used to live there too.

This staircase leads directly onto the top of the building on which you can have…

…these stunning views.

No CCTV could prevent the whole building beeing taken over. Victory! 🙂

 

On my way up to the roof I met David Baker who is a journalist for blottr.com – the people powered news service. He published some of the photos I took for an article about the event here>> 

 

On my way out I took this photo of activist Leon Pike who I have seen many times at the various Occupy sites, events and protest marches. He said he will be staying in the building over night, but not permanent as they will take it in turns. He already knew that the view from the roof at sunrise is spectacular and that I should come back to experience it.

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Bradley Manning – The real War Hero

In this country – the UK – any British soldier who has been fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq is called a hero by most of the mass media. Something I have always had a problem with, because these wars as we all know – or should know – were unlawful or plainly crimes against humanity fought in the interest of some huge global corporations who sought after power, control and resources in these regions. Of course we were told these were wars against terrorism but as we have all seen you cannot fight successfully one terrorist hiding in a village by bombing the whole town. All you will end up with is a lot of innocent people and even more angry victims who might become terrorists as an answer to the pain that was brought to them.

Any soldier who signs up for an army who fights in these wars is either ignorant or supportive to the real aims of these wars or was successfuly brainwashed into believing that he was doing the right thing. In both cases I would refrain from calling any of them hero – I’d rather call them fools or victims of the ruling elite. I know this might sound harsh to people who are relatives or friends of soldiers who served in either country – and maybe even died. But I do believe these families have to face the truth – that there was and is nothing heroic about these wars despite all the hell and hardship their beloved ones had to go through.

The only (U.S.) soldier I know who would deserve to be called a hero is sitting in military prison at the moment – facing a life long sentence or even the death penalty. This man is called Bradley Manning. In 2010 while being stationed in Baghdad he got hold of more than 260.000 partly top secret diplomatic cables. Manning decided to hand these over to WikiLeaks wich prior to these had already shoken up the world with the massive Afghan and Iraq War document leaks.

The information reveiled with Manning’s help showed the real often ugly two-faced relationships the U.S. diplomats had with their international counterparts plus many facts that worldwide leaders would have loved to keep secret as they often showed their questionable or wrongful doings.

Leaders of the Arab Spring revolution pointed out that the cables worked as catalyst for overthrowing the corrupt government in Egypt.

In May 2010 Manning was arrested and the first hearing was held on 16 December 2011 the day before his birthday.

Yesterday on Saturday a group of activists gathered in front of the U.S. embassy in London to call for a release of Manning. Passionate talks were held by members of the Occupy movement, the Pirate Party Veterans for Peace and others.

I wished there would have been a thousand times more people – but I guess they all had more important things to do – such as Christmas shopping. Bradley Manning in my eyes did something brave and heroic. He decided to risk his own freedom to better the world for all of us.

Check out the lastest information here: http://www.bradleymanning.org

Occupy Christmas Party with Radiohead + Massive Attack

On Monday night I got an email from Occupy London inviting me and a few hand-selected journalists to a very special event. We were not told what to expect only that we should meet at a certain time at a bar in Shoreditch on Tuesday night. Instantly I had the gut feeling that I was to witness something historic – despite not knowing at all what to expect.

On the evening after a few drinks we were told that we would be going to the UBS Christmas party – but to a slightly alternative one.

It was the Occupy Christmas party at the Bank of Ideas – where as we learned some very special guests would be performing. To all our amazement Radiohead and Massive Attack had announced to play in front of a small crowd of activists to thank them for their engagement and their dedication to make a change.

I felt humbled and honoured to be invited along to take photographs. It made me so happy to  have this powerful passion for photography and the heart for the Occupy movement – which both made it possible for me to see some of the most respected musicians of our generation performing in this historic context. I was buzzing all the way on our walk to the Bank of Ideas – which is only about 5 minutes away from London’s Liverpool Street – at the heart of the financial district.

When we arrived at the former UBS bank building we were guided downstairs to the tiny basement where already about 50 people had gathered.

Soon after a few really entertaining comedy, poetry and burlesque acts….

…3D from Massive Attack started playing his DJ set.

He soon was joined by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke. I had the feeling though that because of his longish hair and his really laid back approach many people didnt notice him at first. But that soon changed.

The place packed really quickly and the crowd of around 100 started dancing to a set that felt at least 90 minutes long. I didnt look on my watch as I was way to busy trying to catch the awesome atmosphere in the Christmas decorated room – which was heating up pretty quickly. You could really feel that the crowd – made out of many people who I had seen many times at the various Occupy sites – was thankful to have this kind of party in their building. I am sure it must have given them a massive motivation and confidence boost to have support from two such musical legends.

One little downpoint for me though was that at some point there where just too many cameras there – including me. Although it was a “secret” gig, suddenly at least 3 or 4 video cameras and at least 3 more photo cameras all tried to snap a shot of Thom and 3D, blocking the crowd from the DJ decks and thus turning this for a while into a little media spectacle rather than an intimate christmas party gig. But of course I also know this is just what it is – without the media no one whould have known about the event afterwards and no one would have known that Radiohead and Massive Attack are supporting the Occupy movement. It was the best and well deserved press they could get after all.

Still though – after I felt I had at least a few good snaps – I put my camera aside and joined the dancing crowd – massive smile on my face all along.

But just after Thom was finished and was about to leave I took all my braveness together and went over to ask him if I could take his portrait in front of the Occupy poster – I did it because I officially took photos for Occupy that night and thought this would be a good shot for them to help their cause. He quickly agreed – but in all honesty I m not sure about it – he looks like he didn’t enjoyed it that much. Well I only had 3 seconds with him. Maybe I should instead have just asked him if he wanted to rip one of the christmas crackers open with me. Maybe that would have cheered him up a nod more. 😉

Please also watch this interview recorded on the roof of the Bank of Ideas – where both Thom and 3D talk about why they support Occupy. They really mean it. Occupy, Thome York and 3D – I salute you.

And here some more photos of the night which I will remember forever.

Bank of Ideas – Love it while it lasts (Only 7 days maybe!!!)

Today the sad news hit the Occupy movement that after the latest meeting with the courts it looks like the end of the Bank of Ideas might be sealed.

The judge gave it a little more than 7days before the place will have to be vacated returned to the actual owner UBS. (full story here)

During my numerous visits during the last weeks I have really come to love that place and what it offers to the people of this city.

Baring in mind the Bank of Ideas was only taken over a little less than a month ago I was from the beginning amazed how quickly the place was turned into a lively hub for all sorts of events, discussions, work shops and entertainment.

Right from the beginning it was true to it’s name. What it didn’t possess it monetary values it made up with a dedicated and talented array of people who wanted to help spreading ideas and positive vibrations. It really was and still is a place that welcomes people from all sorts of backgrounds to get involved and to contribute.

Within three weeks the former UBS building established a packed schedule with yoga sessions, photography and drum workshops, regular movie screenings, political readings, music gigs, African Dance classes and even a weekly cabaret.

The latter one really surprised me a little – because until the cabaret night I only had the impression that the place was all serious and political oriented. But the atmoshpere at the cabaret was everything but serious.

A formerly empty and soul-less open-plan office was turned into a circus variety show in front of a big and cheery audience.

That night really highlighted again for me what great and positive opportunities this otherwise unused empty building has to offer for the public – especially for people who might have lost their youth centres or community venues because of the recent government cuts – or who lost their home or the ability to afford the often expensive cultural life in the city.

It now even has it’s own sound recording studio which is run by a music producer who goes by the melodic name of Johnny Love aka the Pink General.

I got to know Johnny as this totally chilled out down to earth dude.

When pointing at this pirate flag on his studio window he told me about his biggest hero The Sea Shepherd. When I admited that I had never heard of him – Johnny explained that the Sea Shepherd aka Paul Watson is a legendary environmental activists who became known for sinking whaling boats by ramming them with his ship.

Check him out here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_Shepherd_Conservation_Society

But back to Johnny.

In a quiet corner office on the first floor he set up his little studio in which he offers his talent to musicians who in the “real” world might not be able to afford expensive studio time.

I bumped into one of his recording sessions with Brian Lubega – a London based hip hop artist who said with Johnny’s help he would finally be able to record his album.

There are many inspiring people like Johnny, Brian, the cabaret artists and the visitors who make this place the buzzing community centre that it is. But one must not forget the many people “behind the scenes” like the technicians who got this abandoned building up and running with electricity and internet within 2 weeks or the chef who cooks free food three times a day for any hungry soul. I really don’t know how he does that – seems like real magic to me.

I will try to report about these unsung heros here as well at a later point – but I know time is running out. Darn, I already miss that place.

But even though it will be a real loss for London – I know there are many empty buildings like this waiting to be occupied and turned into something great.

If you want to check out the Bank of Ideas here is all you need to know:

Bank of Ideas

http://www.bankofideas.org.uk/welcome/

29 Sun Street  

London EC2M 2PS
07954 227762

Good Night! Sleep tight! 🙂