A creative collective of Occupy supporters chose February 4th to bring their diverse talents to St Paul’s Churchyard. The event was billed as ‘OccStock’, a thankyou to the hardy Occupiers as well as a chance to showcase local artists and bring diverse communities together. Co-ordinator Gee knew it would be cold but didn’t expect to be rewarded for his gift of entertainment with the most magical stage-set imaginable – a cathedral and an encampment blanketed in snow.
Punks with snow-frosted pink mohawks like candy cupcakes danced beside joyous lawyers and a bewildered Kosovan intent on explaining that “It snows one metre in my country, goes to minus twenty degrees, this is nothing!”
It wasn’t nothing to the rest of us. We danced on a snow-covered artificial lawn laid over the Churchyard cobbles. Snowballs were thrown. Snowmen and snow-women – and snowAnonymous characters – were built and given masks. Previously careworn activists gambolled about like chunky children, dressed in thirteen layers of thermals.
Musicians and poets mingled with Occupiers and curious city folk between sets. Lexi James Jr, Andy Secret, Robbing Eden , Smoky Love and Anna Savage gave it their all beneath a dressed-up gazebo, glad to share the bone-chill and exuberance of the crowd. The Common headlined with rhythms that made grooving imperative. For a finale Savannah Stone performed a heart-felt poem, confessing after whoops and applause that she’d been “…so scared to do this”. The whoops and applause amplified as Savannah stepped off the makeshift stage into the arms of proud friends.
Music over, hot chocolate was served and tents were shaken to prevent them buckling beneath the weight of the snow. Emergency space-blankets were handed out and the Occupy LSX Tent City University – newly lined and carpeted to provide a bedouin-style ‘winterised’ space – took on its night-time character as a dormitory for those with nowhere else to go.
St Paul’s Churchyard lived this night. Public space was reclaimed – by Occupy, by artists, by the snow which blurs boundaries between highway and pavement, city land and churchyard. As those behind OccStock say “We can start to change society for the better by reclaiming our time, space and freedom bit by bit and step by step.” As we shovelled snow at midnight, the smiles spoke to that.