One thing I would have definitely not predicted about the likely evolution of the Occupy movement is that its next flashpoint would be my own town, the quiet seaside holiday resort of Bournemouth. But apparently after the protesters were evicted from the St Paul’s camp in London a few weeks ago, they somehow figured out that the Chancellor (a largely ceremonial role) of Bournemouth University is Lord Nicholas Phillips, who also happens to be the President of the UK’s Supreme Court. So last Friday they set up camp on the lawn at the rear entrance of Bournemouth University’s Talbot Campus, with one of their demands being a meeting with Lord Phillips.
This is happening literally on my doorstep, so on Sunday evening I grabbed my camera, got on my bike and paid a visit to the Occupy Bournemouth movement. There were two middle-aged guys busying themselves at the site, writing messages on the pavement with chalk, putting up posters, and setting up a tent, which one of them told me was going to be the “library,” where people will be able to educate themselves about the movement and other political matters. Both men had their Guy Fawkes masks resting on the top of their heads, ready to deploy at a moment’s notice. They were happy to put it on for me, and indeed whenever someone showed up with a camera, the masks came down. When I took a break from photographing and was chatting with one of the protesters, I saw from the corner of my eye that another protester also took a photo of me chatting to his comrade. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve turned up in one of their social media streams already.
The protester I was chatting to told me that today they found out that the piece of land they are occupying is owned by the local council, rather then Bournemouth University. He thought that was good news for them, as for some reason it would take longer for the council to evict them, than for the university. He also told me he came from the St. Paul’s camp, where he spent several months. “We are really big,” he said, “we are all over the world.”
The camp is situated right next to a busy roundabout (Boundary Roundabout), on the border that separates the towns of Bournemouth and Poole, and is very visible to passing traffic. Drivers periodically honked in support, as they glimpsed the camp’s banners asking them to do so. It is also right next to the footpath at the rear entrance of the campus, where thousands of students and staff pass by every morning and afternoon. It will be interesting to see the next move of the University and/or the Council. But my interlocutor gave me the impression that they were in for the long haul and the camp was only just in the initial stages of being constructed.
P.S. My blog post title and the first paragraph are somewhat misleading, as it suggests as if the Occupy movement had only just arrived in Bournemouth. But actually the Occupy movement has been around at least since November 2011, when they got evicted from outside the town hall, and there is another Occupy camp in Boscombe. Their Facebook page dates back to 21st October 2011. So I should have titled the post “Occupy comes to Bournemouth University.”
Further coverage: Protesters ‘Occupy’ BU
Plus photo of the sign on the rear gate.
(Photos taken around 6pm on 11 March 2012. Click on Permalink for larger image, if you get the gallery view.)