How would you define Occupy ?
A political moment in time that was precipitated by the banking crisis but not defined by it. The banking crisis brought to the fore the massive and rapidly widening inequalities of our current system and highlighted the failures of our late Western Capitalist to care for everyone. Occupy gave voice to the practical and spiritual discontent that was undermining our ability to progress as individuals and as a society. Occupy listened and included in a fresh and powerful way. It was not prescriptive about the people it welcomed and it genuinely tried to make changes – most significantly in the language that was used to express anger.
What were you doing before Occupy ?
Same as I was doing during and after it. Teaching – adults and children, mainly music – but my work has always focussed on music that has its roots in resistance, subversion and non prescriptive creativity. I see music as a political force – to challenge, galvanise into action, to spread truth and unite people beyond words.
Why did you participate in Occupy?
Because I am interested in politics, participation and resistance and always have been. I saw a need and a hunger for its message and its challenge to MSM and because I was ready to collaborate with people outside my immediate professional circle. I was fascinated by the principal of consensus and for the first time in my life I saw it in action at General Assemblies. Some meetings were awful- frustrating and aggressive but a few were transcendently beautiful and resulted in some powerful actions and profound commitments to each other and to change. At times I left meetings feeling totally engaged and inspired. I have met lifelong friends and they have become true comrades. Whilst participating I was made to feel validated, respected and useful. That was pretty wonderful. I was pushed to my limits by some events- exhausted, wrung out and frustrated by others- that’s okay – I felt more alive in those few months than I had for the years preceding them.
What impact did Occupy have on your personal life?
I had just left my long term partner when I got deeply involved and so I had a lot of freedom. In the following relationship I was able to pursue my own agenda as we lived far apart so the timing was perfect and that relationship survived! I neglected my dogs, my family and my work and let down people who were not immediately involved by committing to my new passion. I have paid a price for that but it was worth it! I spent a lot of money on supporting people and actions- also worth it!
Did Occupy change the ways you think, feel and interact with the world? If yes, how so? What do you feel that you learned (or unlearned) that was unique to Occupy?
Yes. I ( truly) learned the value of listening to everyone’s opinion however opposed I might have been at the beginning of the discussion and I finally understood that real change cannot happen with involving ‘the enemy’ I learnt a great deal about economics through the fine minds of many involved in Occupy. It forced me to embrace stuff I’d shrugged off previously as being too boring or irrelevant to my life as a musician. I discovered that I have huge untapped wells of love for dirty strangers and can drink massive amounts of Guinness without falling over. Friendship.
What impact do you think Occupy has had on the economic and political situation?
Some, but in truth very little … I always liked the Jesse Jackson quote – that Occupy were not the revolution but were canaries at the face of the coal mine calling out the danger to come. I am always delighted to see and hear of local grass roots initiatives to protect small ventures ( playgrounds/ libraries) that are supported by ex-Occupiers – there’s been a lot of great stuff in America along these lines – Occupy Sandy, resisting home foreclosures, homeless support groups etc – great stuff that slowly and healthily builds the revolution.
Given the current political and economic situation, what is your view on what people can do to bring long lasting systemic change?
Participate and educate – I would fight if I needed to and I trusted those who would call us to arms but that time hasn’t yet come. I’ve just returned from Calais, it’s turned some assumptions upside down … I am not clear about anything right now.
Before Occupy, were you involved in activities related to the reasons why you participated in Occupy? (Activist groups, campaign groups, media platforms, volunteering, research, etc)
Troops out/ stop the war/ anti racism events/ Edge fund/ housing protests… endless really
Are you still involved in activities related to the reasons why you participated in Occupy? (Activist groups, campaign groups, media platforms, volunteering, research, etc)
All my current political activity is focussed around Refugee relief work as I feel that the area where I can best use my skills as a teacher, artist and organiser.
Are you still actively working or engaged with people that you met through Occupy?
What kind of activities are you doing together?
Refugee relief work. Music making.