Beneath the Bank of Ideas is a post-apocalyptic labyrinth. D and I found ourselves down there one night – after a dead-serious game of spooks, smoke and mirrors – with no guide. We tried door after door, peered into bust-up elevator shafts, crunched over debris, wiped inch-thick dust from vast battery banks, entered cupboards and exited them, climbed spiral staircases and concrete ramps, crawled through railings and up ladders… and kept finding ourselves back in the same place, a derelict underground carpark.
After the third or fourth loop D was muttering “it’s like Doom, it’s just like Doom”. Apparently Doom is or was a computer game but having largely avoided geek-dom in my youth it didn’t resonate with me; I was in one of those American gangster-thriller movies expecting baddies with blazing guns to be chasing after us any minute. I mentioned this to D as we crept into a dank, dark stairwell.
“If I was in a film right now, it’d be… uh, no, I won’t say,” he replied. And both our minds filled with lurching, drooling, dead-eyed zombies. We stopped wandering away from one another after that.
After forty minutes or so we decided to head upwards via an open, metal staircase. We were in the dark, dead centre of the four office blocks that comprise the Bank of Ideas – one block was blazing with light, even the odd bark of laughter – that was where we wanted to be but the only door we could find that might lead into that block was boarded shut. My fingernails scraped on stone as I tried to prise it open. No luck. Then, a shout from above. People were standing, smoking, relaxing on a flat roof-top several metres away.
“How do we get to you?”
Following shouted instructions we climbed railings, leapt over concrete chasms and clambered across a roof laced with pipework. It felt as though we were five or six stories up; vertigo scrambled my mind and trembled in my belly. A hand reached down and pulled me onto a box, over a final set of railings and onto a balcony. D followed, we walked through a glass door and into the Bank of Ideas Block One, a warm and chaotic rabbit warren of a squatted social centre where we found mugs of tea, radical artists and a very special gig.
Massive Attack and Thom Yorke of Radiohead played at BoIs ‘Alternative Christmas Office Party’. Occupy poets, dancers and songsters performed and a grand time was had. Next day, BoI folks were back in court, fighting eviction. Who’ll be kicked out first, them or us at St Paul’s?
Back at OccupyLSX I was volunteered to go to the meeting between Occupiers, Hector Sants of the Financial Services Authority, Ken Costa (self-styled compassionate investment banker), the Bishop of London and Rob Gordon of St Paul’s Institute at St Ethelburga’s Centre for Peace and Reconciliation. I came away thinking that the FSA is rather toothless. Hector’s main message seemed to be that the FSA agrees things have gone wrong (der!) but it’s not their fault because they can only do what government tells them to do but don’t worry, government is making changes, but even government can’t really affect what happens because a lot of it depends on International finance… yawn yawn, excuses excuses. It was interesting to hear our economics-graduate-Occupiers ask some difficult questions of Hector – some he had obviously predicted and prepared for, others caught him slightly on the back-foot and made him squirm or at least hesitate and fumble. He didn’t seem particularly keen on talking about hedge funds.
And then we had John Papworth, renegade radical ex-vicar, who came to celebrate his 90th birthday with us and wrote us ‘An Occupationalists Prayer’. I felt honoured to host this wise old man. Thanks for the hug, John, and for leaving your Communion wine for us to drink… Here’s to another ten years at least of your being a thorn in the side of the Establishment. Cheers!