Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Camp Connections

After weeks of organising our working groups in Occupy Liverpool, we were finally ready to set up camp. With just two days off work, I decided to take the chance to visit some of the other Occupy camps around the country to share information, gain some tips for our upcoming camp, and do some friendly networking.

First off I visited Occupy Birmingham. I arrived late in the evening and was welcomed by a small group of very friendly faces. Straight away they made me a hot drink and sat me down for conversation. They found me a spare tent and gave me blankets and covers to sleep with that night.  We sang silly songs along to an acoustic guitar and laughed at the lyrics we came up with. We talked about everything; from our own personal stories to how our own Occupy groups had progressed to how we felt about the world’s politics and system. It was such engrossing conversation that we stayed up until around 3am in the freezing cold. I slept like a baby for 2 hours then got up to make my way to catch the morning traffic to hitchhike to my next destination.  On the short train ride towards the motorway, I reflected on my short time at Occupy Birmingham and came away with one feeling that exceeded anything else I had gained from them: that I had just met a group of genuinely good, good people.

I arrived at Tamworth Service Station, got my hitching sign out, walked through the lorry park and two minutes later was sat in a small truck with a Welsh man named Wayne. Another two minutes later we were well on the way to solving all the problems of the world.  He told me he was so glad to have met me because his wife won’t listen to him when he talks about these subjects.  He saw the system as it is; profiteering off everything it can. It affected him because he had his own business and had to travel extensively; he was finding it more and more difficult to afford fuel, therefore harder to keep his business going. “Yes, oil prices have gone up. But compare the profits of those who are in the oil/petrol business. It’s all a scam.”
    After an hour or so of great conversation I said goodbye to Wayne as he dropped me off at Woodall Service Station. I took two minutes to change my sign, then two minutes again to find my next lift with Gary; who was so interested in what I had to say and the conversation we were having that he went out of his way for five miles to drop me right in the centre of Sheffield, my next destination.

Occupy Sheffield.  Wow, what a camp! Based on the grounds of the Cathedral in the town centre, it’s the perfect place to attract public attention. A giant marquee covered from top to bottom with posters filled with information for the public to read, next to a welcome tent with friendly Occupiers waiting enthusiastically for any interest and questions from the public. You are then welcomed into the tent circle with a hot drink and a seat to get comfortable in good conversation with any of the Occupiers there.  They had so many ideas and had put many of them into practice; this camp had really done it well. I spent the day jotting down a million ideas and in great conversation with those who were there. I attended their daily General Assembly and was encouraged to give my own input too. We shared a wonderful vegetable curry between twenty or so campers and some of the public who were visiting at the time. I had such a good time that I didn't want to leave. But I had somewhere to be so off I went towards my next destination: Leeds.

Sign in hand, I walked towards the slip road to where I would start hitching from, and a car stopped just ahead of me, a girl frantically waving her arms in my direction. Have I seriously just got a lift without even waiting?! YES! Holy moly, I had no clue it would be this easy to hitch in this country, the one place on earth where everyone is scared of each other!?
I spent the next half an hour or so in a car with three Muslim girls and an inflatable doll. Yes, it’s definitely on my list of the most random moments of my life.

I arrived at the Occupy Leeds camp just as it was going dark and just as dinner was about to be served. Perfect! Surrounding the city’s Christmas tree in the centre square, I don’t think there could have been a better place for the camp to be situated. They had only set up their camp one week before and were still in the early stages of ideas and development, and were all putting so much effort in, and that’s what counts in the beginning. It was a cold night and I gave up trying to sleep at 5am, headed to the train station and got myself home in time for the next
meeting of Occupy Liverpool.

After visiting all these camps, I got so many ideas to take home but also a sense of how important it will be in the near future to maintain and build ties with other camps around the country and the world. We are not individual groups; we are a global movement who are all striving for the same achievements.

As always, what I gained the most from my trip was inspiration.  I came away with inspiring memories of the amount of good, thoughtful people who were willing, and wanted, to put all of their time into the same cause that I believed in through and through.
So I would like to say thank you to the people I met on this short trip, because inspiration lasts forever.