Campus under canvas: Inside the St Paul's Tent City University
In a corner of the anti-capitalist protest camp outside the cathedral is a white marquee. Rob Hastings discovers a world of learning inside
Friday 04 November 2011
It can be hard work trying to listen to a bookish left-wing debate on a tiny amp in a tent, amidst the sound of loudspeakers and traffic, of dogs barking and helicopters flying overhead – not to mention the occasional sickly sweet whiff of sweat and urine.
That the old sofa cushions and grotty bits of carpet inside Tent City University are far removed from the stiff-backed chairs of traditional academia, however, only makes its place as the heart and soul of Occupy London's argument for reform all the more important to its attendees. In a camp based on the ambition and belief that ideas can change the world, this is its hub.
The protesters feel critics of the camp would do well to come and listen to the level of discussion being held within the confines of its white plastic sheets. One organiser, Vera Weghmann, 26, said: "We're here because we want to discuss alternatives and not just oppose something; we're coming together in lectures and workshops to educate each other."
For some older lefties it will bring back memories of the Anti-University of London, a counterculture educational movement set up in Shoreditch in 1968 as a home for the discussion of radical politics. That attracted lectures from many key left-wing intellectuals and today's generation are being treated to a slew of experts in economics and history.
They are booked by a collective of about 30 demonstrators who came together on the second night of the Occupy London camp outside St Paul's Cathedral, sharing a joint email account and diary to ensure no single person takes control.
Yesterday brought a talk from Professor Richard Wilkinson, author of The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better. "I've given over 500 lectures in different places, and I have to say the questions here are as good as anywhere else," he said. "People often talk about whether it's more important to talk to the converted or the unconverted, but I think both are very important – people should have a more sophisticated understanding of the things that they intuit."
A key day of events is coming up on 9 November, when the tent will hold workshops alongside a fresh wave of national student protests.
- 1 All Blacks Aaron Cruden misses New Zealand flight after drinking session, has brilliant excuse
- 2 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 3 'F*ck it, I quit': TV reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 4 Alicia Keys leaks nude photo 'to create a kinder and more peaceful world'
- 5 Clothes store Joy angers mental health campaigners with Twitter exchange on bipolar disorders
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God
£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...
£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...
£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...
£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...