© Paul Davey 2012
When I first started visiting the Occupy London camps at St Paul's and Finsbury Square, what struck me most were the mixed messages. The camps are not short of creative people who come up with dozens of different slogans. But therein lies the problem for me. I know the loose sketch of what Occupy strives to be - that it is anti-capitalist, and anti-bankers. It is, I have discovered, anti-lots-of-stuff. Placards and banners denounce interference in the Syrian conflict, in Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan and just about anywhere else you can imagine.
Speakers plead for the release of Bradley Manning and berate the UK government for its part in the Julian Assange extradition case. Back then, banners railed against the forthcoming eviction of the camp from St Pauls - "You can't evict an idea" - and amongst this all were the Anonymous lot with their masks and their messages too. A bamboozling mix of demands that left me with the impression that quite simply, Occupy is as confused about its mission as its audience.
What did stand out though, was one poster, laser printed and affixed to many of the tents: "My Tent For Your Bonus", a clear, simple idea. On my trip to Finsbury Square on Monday 12 March, I met the man behind that idea. Mark - or as he asked to be named on my questionnaire, "Mark I".
My tent for your bonus
© Paul R Davey 2012
Mark is - or was - an advertising man. Ex Saatchi's, he told me, so understands the value and power of the single-minded proposition. He, like me, felt that the confused, constantly changing stream of slogans was not doing anything meaningful for the movement - and was certainly not targeting the bankers. After grappling to develop a relevant concept, Mark got a few "My Tent for Your Bonus" posters made up and posted them around the camp. Before long, donors made some more and the posters were taped to many of the tents. Badges were made and became ubiquitous on the beanies, scarves and jackets of the protesters and their supporters.
Having spent much of my own career in advertising, I found I had a lot in common with Mark. He's a commercials director/producer and I, having made many commercials myself, had a few yarns to swap - his far more glamorous than mine - he shot in exotic locations - Rome, New York, Cape Town; mine were all shot in Zimbabwe where I used to live.
As advertising men we agreed that the central message of Occupy was so disparate and diluted that neither of us could pinpoint its ultimate goals. He revealed how irritated he gets with the long, convoluted speeches and announcements made at the camp's General Assemblies and to the media: "Why use ten words when two will do?"
St Paul's Welcomes Careful Bankers - another of Mark's concepts. "I tried to find it after the eviction to give to Charles Saatchi, but it was swept up with the rest of the stuff."
© Paul R Davey 2012
Like many Occupiers I have spoken to, Mark seems to be a little dissatisfied with the way things are run, (and to be fair, when are the members of any organisation all 100% in favour of the agenda?) but he is also fiercely proud of Occupy and the part that he plays.
He has a hope that like the explosion of punk his youth, the Occupy movement will gain sway and will make a real, lasting impact on the younger generation. He wants them to aspire to its values, for it to become cool. He wants to see a music genre come out of it (just his beloved punk did in the seventies). He has a marketer's vision of the movement, commoditised and accessible. "We're not a 1970s hippie movement. To really gain momentum we need to appeal to today's kids with relevant messages or they'll ignore us. At the moment we're a very English, cuddly little protest. We have brought about changes, there's high-level debate about bankers' bonuses and some bonuses have been given up, but we lack focus and are obfuscating what we say."
©Paul Davey 2012
First Name: Mark I
How long have you been in the camp? Since the first week - nearly five months.
What were you doing before you joined the Occupy Movement? I was writing a film in Devon - a crime fiction script. Before that I was in London, in advertising.
Do you have a specialist role in the camp? I guess I'm one of the film makers, media, PR people.
What compelled you to become an Occupier? It looked exciting, a glimmer of hope for London's lost soul. I escaped London for Devon two years ago, leaving the puerile, shitty place it had become.
How will you as an individual make a difference? I hope I have helped focus the argument against the criminal bankers.
Who is Enemy Number One? The bankers.
Why? Their greed has drained our economy dry and taken away the fairness and decency that was holding on by its fingertips in this torturous mediocrity.
Who do you admire? Giles Fraser, "The Loose Canon of St Paul's.
Why? When the church backed down it was our first major victory. The mood changed.
What is the best part of being in Occupy? Likeminded and totally un-likeminded people mixing together. It is inclusive with relevant and irrelevant viewpoints - everyone gets a chance to say their piece.
What is the worst part? The possibility of it all being hopeless or pointless. Our messages are diluted, our aims are unclear, our message lacks focus and is difficult to sell.
Is Occupy making a noticeable difference? Yes. Very much so.
How so? It has delivered tangible results. It has caused a squabble about bonuses and has penetrated many ordinary peoples' consciences.
Anything Else? I started "My Tent for Your Bonus". It was my campaign, my idea, my contribution to Occupy. And when Stephen Hester, the CEO of Royal Bank of Scotland decided not to take his bonus, we marched down there with my tent and gave it to the bank, fully erected. We kept our side of the bargain - My tent for Your Bonus. I had to share a tent after that.
All text and photographs © Paul Davey 2012
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