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Occupy Goldsmiths Pre-strike Slumber Party!

Fried chicken, cider, acoustic guitars and a dog out of its tree on laughing gas. Oh, and politics.

On Tuesday night, the students of Goldsmiths University in South London had a sleepover to celebrate the large-scale public sector strike that was scheduled to take place the next day. Bunked up in the university's on-site Whitehead Building, the students of Occupy Goldsmiths protested against the evil of money by disrupting the day-to-day running of their alma mater and blocking access to the finance centre. Not everyone was happy about this, like the guy who hacked their Twitter account in order to accuse them of stealing stationary ("Enough with making banners and flyers with university supplies! We know you're there, find something productive to do.") and being stupid ("You're defacing the university ads? Way to help its reputation and funding"). We weren't sure how well the biting wit and incisive sarcasm would transmit, so went along there so you didn't have to. On arrival things didn't look all that spectacular, which is to say they looked fairly familiar. The lights were on, the music was off and there was some sort of logistical meeting going on (invert the formula for a good house party, and you have the DNA of a typical Occupy pow-wow). I milled around awkwardly for a bit, wondering if this was going to be the longest night of my life, then wandered off outside where I met a guy called Ron, who – thank God – was destroying his liver, soul and mind with super-strength lager. "I know at the other Occupies they have the Safer Space Policy [no drink, drugs or fun] but to be honest we don't really stick to that here." I could see this. "I mean we technically have it, but we don't stick by it. The Goldsmiths management have used that against us, actually. I think having a cheeky drink's OK." I could already sense tension in the ranks. Who were these people? What were they doing? I did as I usually do when I'm trying to make friends at a social gathering, and asked to see everyone's array of political posters and placards, please.


This here is a Rene Magritte joke. It doesn't really work. Either it's a joke about bankers smoking pipes, which they have not done in about 70 years. Or they should have written it on a bank. Or a picture of a bank. There was a fair bit of booze about so I poured myself a cider, pulled up a chair and set about enjoying some first class acoustic student protest folk. "Feel my guitar's left-wing tendencies!" (Not an actual quote.)

This girl sang "Karma Police" and "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out".

This guy sang a song about a friend of his who joined the BNP. (The guitar with the uterus on it was very popular, btw.)

These two guys sang political songs they had written themselves that I don't remember the names of.

And this last guy was actually pretty good, he sounded like Chuck Ragan, if Chuck Ragan was on the dole and lived in Peckham. His name was Ollie and he was originally supposed to be playing a party at his house, but he decided to relocate the venue to Occupy in solidarity with the movement and definitely not to boost numbers or avoid cleaning.

"Well I just thought we should move it here. It made sense. I mean, I'm not part of the movement or anything but you know, we're just having fun and playing music. Do you want a balloon? It's got nitrous oxide in it."

I took the balloon and moved on. Things were getting a little rowdier and someone had cooked some fried chicken. A dog turned up with some people and ate a load of Ollie's balloons. "He'll shit 'em out tomorrow," said one of the people he was with. "He does it all the time."


The music wasn't over yet. This is Louise, who played some songs and sounded a lot like Brody Dalle. That's not the set-up for a joke or an attempt to cram in yet more names from the 2002 Kerrang Christmas annual, she seriously did just sound a lot like Brody Dalle. "The protest? I think it's good and all that but we've got to go, we're recording at a studio and are on borrowed time," she said. "Did you get any pictures of me, by the way? Can I get your email to send them over for my page?" I agreed. "Cool. Bye! Actually, how do we even get out?" I told her I didn't know and walked away, leaving her and what seemed to be her dad and/or manager standing on the cold, pristine Goldsmiths' playing fields. They may still be there.

Going back in, I started to chat with some guys about why we were all there: politics. If you think politics don't affect you then think again, idiot. I won't bore you with the details, but suffice to say we covered all the big guns: the BNP, Marx, post-structuralist theory, sonic terrorism, Justin Lee Collins, the genius of Seth Green versus the artistry of Seth Rogen, Hanson's new brand of MMMbop! real ale… It was basically like The Young Ones but no one died, though by the end of it I wished they all would, including me.

I left around 2.30AM. I promised that I would meet them for the pickets later that day, but once the intoxicating hysteria of the night before had worn off, I couldn't muster up the enthusiasm to call. I just don't think we'd have been able to look at each other in the cold, hard light of day and see the same people staring back. It had been a special night, and I didn't want to ruin the memory of it by making it last any longer than it had to. Some things are better when they remain sacrosanct – pure, one-off.

On the way out, I managed to have a quick chat with some security guards. To my surprise, they both actually supported the occupation, suggesting that the wider movement is symptomatic of a very real political problem. "The government won't listen, they're too stubborn. I agree with the movement. I hope they can make a difference, but the government, they don't listen to people. Look at the fees thing. The money is coming in, I think, but it's all going up, not down to the wider population. I mean, pretty soon we'll all be working for nothing. It's only right to protest." I left with my mind utterly blown. Not by Occupy Goldsmiths, gawd bless 'em, but by a night shift security guard called Rod.