Why Do People Party Outside British Prisons On New Year’s Eve?

by Chris Bethell
04 January 2016, 11:55am

Over the past few years, a New Years Eve tradition has been emerging in London. While most were attempting a final power nap, lining their stomachs or getting stuck into their first drinks of the night, radical activists congregate around prisons in the early evening and scream, shout and generally make as much noise as possible – the idea being that they can be heard by inmates, breaking the sense of isolation as they stew in the clink on what is supposed to be the most fun night of the year.

This year, noise protests took place outside Pentonville, Holloway and Brixton prisons. VICE sent photographer Chris Bethell down to the Brixton protest to see what happened.

Around 60 people gathered outside the prison, undeterred by the heavy rain earlier in the day. After a few speeches about police brutality, people wandered around to the side of the prison, which is flanked by a large metal fence. A sound system started playing, and people hit drums, screamed and banged pots and pans. A couple of people were masked-up and in black-bloc clothes. They fumbled with a bag, which looked a bit ominous until they started handing out mince pies.

A small group of police hovered about as nervously as you would as a cop in a crowd that would occasionally shout "fuck the police". Fortunately they didn't get out the pepper spray, as activists say happened last year. After a while, people surged forward to kick the metal fence and create even more of a racket. This continued on and off for an hour or so before everyone left.