In Finsbury Square, a whiff of revolution is in the air. But only of the mild sort

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

 

A cardboard sign urging drivers to "BEEEEP FOR CHANGE!" is tied to a lamppost in Finsbury Square.

Other signs greet bemused tourists. Henry Ford is quoted: "It is well that the people of the nation do not understand our banking system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution by tomorrow morning."

If there's a whiff of revolution in Finsbury Square, it is of the mild sort – a whiff more of lentil stew than gunfire.

Protesters who have occupied this patch of London since Saturday, as an overspill from the St Paul's demonstration, are polite, employed, articulate middle-class people aggrieved by the global financial system.

Take music teacher Ben Sellars, 25: "I'm lucky enough to be in work but I'm here to support friends who've lost their jobs because of government cuts." Like fellow protesters, Ben reels off their requirements: "Higher tax for higher earners; companies should pay the tax they owe; more money to be spent on the welfare state.

"We're not proposing solutions," he adds. "We're providing a platform for high-level discussions." Those discussions have recently come from an unexpected source. On Wednesday, two bankers gave a talk here entitled Confessions of a Merchant Banker and were listened to with respect.

"They told us bankers also feel like slaves of the system," said Ben.

Forty tents take up the bulk of the square, like a sleeping, multicoloured hippo. In pride of place is a huge yurt made from calfskin with a beautiful beechwood double door.

Under a rainproof canopy, a multi-faith shrine displays Ganesh the Hindu elephant god and Chinese lion deities. Buddha holds a crucifix.

A key figure is the group's spokesman Allan MacDonald, from Toronto, who teaches in Luton. "I'm angry because the Government can find money to bail out banks and wage wars but not to keep libraries open," he says. "The last state school I taught in was falling down."

Some would like to see the movement as a Western version of the Arab Spring.

"The first day we had people talking about 'Tahrir Square, City of Westminster', says Allan wryly. "I was interviewed by CNN and Iranian television."

Inside the large kitchen tent, behind trestle tables groaning with coffee paraphernalia, an army canteen cauldron is steaming. "Last night we had North African couscous, tonight a guy from the market's coming to cook vegetable curry for 80," says Ross Harwood, 34, a Cornwall carpenter who used to make West End theatre props.

"We stick to a vegan diet because we haven't facilities for keeping stuff cold."

Locals and visitors have been generous with money and food, while Starbucks lets demonstrators use their lavatories and hold meetings in the dry.

"I don't think we'd accept donations from Tesco," muses Ross. "We're cagey about whom we accept from because of the danger of being co-opted."

Such as? "Innocent, the smoothie people, wanted to help but they're owned by Coca-Cola, so we said 'No'."

And Starbucks? "Starbucks is a monster," says Ross, simply, "but the media team love them."

It seems clear Canadians form the backbone of the protest. But everyone says Occupy London has no leaders, just "facilitators" to keep things moving.

It is easy to dismiss the demonstration as a stage set rather than revolution – except it is impossible to disagree with the protesters' views and their excitement is infectious.

"I've never seen anything like this," says Ross, waving a hand at the field of tents. "A little chunk of democracy."

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker