A day at the Fair…

A personal recollection of the 2011 Glasgow Anarchist Fair. Any inaccuracies or omissions are purely the fault of the author’s scatty brain…

I woke up early after going to the pub Friday night (which I had told myself would not happen but did anyway), shook myself down and crawled to the underground all with the hope of enjoying a day of discussions, presentations, bookstalls and banter on all things anarchist-related. Was I disappointed? Was I fuck!

I arrived just as the doors were officially set to be opening and it was clear that people had put in a good morning of work while I had been getting myself together. Kinning Park Complex is a lovely old building reclaimed by the community for the community, occupied when the council threatened to close it down. The main downstairs hall had been set aside for local groups to set up stalls with the walls brightened up with banners and a whole section dedicated as kids-space (which played host to six kids over the course of the day). I just had time to take a look at the Anarchist Federation and Solidarity Federation tables before heading upstairs for the first discussion of the day – An Introduction to Anarchism. For the first talk of the day it was well attended with about a dozen people. An introduction by several members of the local AFed summed up their own views on life and anarchism, a brief touch on some history and a strong focus on what it meant to them in the hear-and-now. Questions were asked, points discussed and it seemed by the end that folks had came away with a better understanding of anarchism (especially as the media portrayal is often just a little biased).

Next up was a talk on Libertarian Education (the traditional libertarian mind; not the right-wing, Ayn Rand obsessed kind). Despite it still being early the talk and discussion with packed with a high turn-out by parents, teachers, lecturers and community workers. Hand-outs were available so folks could take away all the info that was given for further investigation. Different methods of school and classroom organisation, syllabus requirements and engagement methods were presented warts and all, with benefits and drawbacks being suggested with every different option. As I headed back down stairs it became obvious that the boost in numbers at the discussion was also being matched by an explosion in the number of stalls and a real increase in the number of people coming through. There had also been a visit by two members of the local constabulary, who seemed somewhat baffled that they were not free wander arround a private event and were asked to leave despite their insistence that their Sargent had told them it was all ok. More from Strathclyde’s finest later.

Stall-wise I managed to buy books from Glasgow’s own Radical Independent Book-fair project, talked about the campaign against dawn raids and child detention of asylum seekers with the Unity Centre volunteers, snaffled some muffins and cookies from Glasgow Uni Vegan Society, got info on the fight against fossil fuels from Coal Action Scotland and gave a nod to the other wobbly’s on the IWW stand. Later in the day there an art stall appeard with anarchist-friendly posters and badges. A special mention has to be made to the crew of the Glasgow Social Centre, who went to a great effort to put on lunch for attendees with a lovely carrot and coriander soup followed by curry with rice and/or assorted veg+tatties. Wow.

I helped out doing some door duty and so missed out on SolFed providing a seminar on “Strategic Organising in the Community and Workplace” and a presentation/discussion of how racism can be opposed by anarchists. That said, I did get the enjoyment of being informed that a new police car had parked right at the gates and several officers were watching people coming and going. Having popped out to take photos of what was some blatant political policing I was reliably informed by Sargent G20 that taking photographs in a public place was illegal, however he was unable to find the exact law that made it illegal and drove away soon after. One shat brick later I was back inside and it is now I wish that we had taken a rough tally of how many peeps came to the fair. While I reckoned it was about 100 there is a strong possibility it was double that number due to the fact about half the people who walked through over the day signed up to the Autonomous Updates mailing list, and it had about a hundred new names on it alone. Folks has turned up from Aberdeen, Inverness, Perth, Edinburgh and Liverpool that I got chatting with and it definitely wasn’t just a case of seeing the usual faces for a political shindig.

Unfortunately Ben Franks had to cancel his talk on Direct Action due to family illness (although I believe the plan is for AFed to be rescheduling this), and so I stepped up to help lead a discussion on direct action and what it meant to those in attendance, while another group formed to begin planning some direct action with a thought to putting on a march for Mayday 2012. Midway through these sessions we had to stop to put discussion into practice as the police attempted to gain entry to the fair (yet again), this time on the pretence of fire regulation and health and safety inspection. I hadn’t realised that council cutbacks had been so savage that they now needed to take bobbies off the beat on a Saturday evening to do the work of a health & safety inspector. Attendees stood united in preventing the police entry and level questioning of their motives only gave the officers enough rope to humiliate themselves with. Once they had left the organisers discussed the incident with the building manager and felt it would be best to give the police a brief tour of the complex (something the manager drove out to perform and deserves a big thank you for and just further shamed the police involved). 

Back to the evening events and stalls were being cleared for the evening social down the stairs while upstairs I watched a screening of The Pipe took place. Watching the successes and failures of a whole community at Broadhaven Bay uniting against corporate greed and government corruption was something special, as well as seeing the ways in which Shell worked to undermine them and ignore any due process where possible. After that we were treated to a reading followed by a Q&A by DD Johnson on his debut novel “Peace, Love and Petrol Bombs” which is a semi-autobiographical fiction based upon his experiences helping found McDonald’s Workers Resistance and his involvement with anti-summit campaigning. The screening of Made in Dagenham was called off as everyone in attendance had went down the stairs for the evening social. After popping out for some food I was happy to come back to find out I had some winning raffle tickets! All in all an amazing day was had by myself and I’d like to thank everyone else that made if along for making it so good. Only one thing remains to be asked:

Same again next year?

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