If you go down to the Grove today you're in for a big surprise... It's day one of Bilderberg. For the diehards - it's THE day to go to snatch the chance to witness a passing delegate zipping through the gates in a blackened Mercedes up to their weekend lair. Could it be Kissinger? Or did those mysterious silhouetted jowls belong to LinkedIn's Reid Hoffman?
Anyway, arriving early doors at Watford station with my filmmaker accomplice, the police presence within the town is immediately overwhelming. Indeed whilst awaiting a taxi outside one over-zealous officer starts noting down his description. Tattoos + camera equip = potential terrorist?
In something of a Bilerberg first, local authorities worked with a collective of activists, pro-transparency campaigners and journalists (one of whom was myself) to create a Fringe event surrounding the conference and a press area to facilitate the - thankfully - growing body of mainstream media. Our application to hold a festival was declined by local authorities, however the fantastic police liaison team came up trumps with securing us a corner of the Grove's spacious, grassy entrance.
Within the cordoned off area, one is met with a beautiful vista of rolling Hertfordshire hills, unmistakably punctuated by a purpose-built gigantic ring of steel self-kettling the Bilderberg Group within the Grove's estate half a mile away. Are they keeping us out or themselves in? C'mon plutocrats, we don't bite!
Addressing the phenomenal number of press and concerned citizens is Labour MP, Michael Meacher and Ukip MEP, Gerard Batten. Meacher has been an outspoken critic of the lack of transparency surrounding Bilderberg and Gerard Batten recently delivered a powerful speech to the European Parliament about lack of mainstream media coverage.
Meacher explained, "There's private markets investing in what they believe government should be doing, that's what they're there for, but it may be embarrassing if it was given publicity, that's why they want to keep it secret." On the tight security and G4S searches he commented, "Of course it isn't freedom of speech [for activists] it's all about ensuring they reach they key decisions. I can't think of any over governing event in the course of the year which is more important than this one."
On his frequent pro-Bilderberg transparency speeches to the EU, Batten said, "I believe in democracy, I think that we ought to know what people who govern our world, what very influential banks and business talk about and what decisions they make. We live in a world where many decisions that the government make are deeply unpopular with their own people and we're constantly scratching our heads and wondering why governments do things which nobody seems to want. The opposition parties are also in agreement with many of these policies."
Batten has a point. George Obsbourne and his Labour shadow opposition Ed Balls are cosying up this weekend at Bilderberg. What could the two opposing finance ministers be discussing?
At lunchtime the Alex Jones circus came to town. The bull-horning, barnstorming, powerhouse Texan broadcaster and his Infowars entourage had swarms of press and protestors mesmerized by Jones' quick fire, fact-loaded delivery. A veteran researcher of Bilderberg and beyond, Jones held court all afternoon delivering speech after speech inbetween taking time to join activists bull-horning the cars at the Grove gates. Jones' vociferous style may rile some, however there's no denying the man is armed the hilt with research and it was a triumphant sight seeing the mainstream media taking a passionate lesson in cold hard truth from the alternative media king.
Speaking to BBC broadcaster, John Sergeant, he told explained, "Not everyone from my research who attends Bilderberg a scoundrel or a villain. There are definitely villains who are in there who are trying to organise government and business. The Bilderberg Group is well known by mainline researchers and historians as an authoritarian, robber-baron organisation and the mainstream media in the USA, until a few years, ago wouldn't even admit that it existed. The biggest thing is that they're in there with regulators trying work out tax avoidance schemes for themselves and how to put their losses off on the public."
You only has to throw a cursory glance at the present global economic climate to see Jones is talking one big ball of sense. Under the guise of 'austerity' the vulnerable and impoverished are being punished and stretched whilst Bilderberg attendees like Google (Eric Schmidt) and Amazon (Jeff Bezos) continue to feather their tech nests with rather lovely tax breaks.
US journalist, Luke Rudowski who heads up the fantastic We Are Change was present. Rudowski famously confronts politicians, bankers (basically, Bilderbergers) off-guard and asks them the questions real journalists should. Last year he cornered Tony Blair and captured the most pleasurably squeamish footage ever as Blair squirmed and admitted he did attend Bilderberg in 1993 despite lying to parliament saying he hadn't.
Despite denigration and scaremongering from the Watford mayor who falsely claimed protestors "Can and do cause violence" (Memo to mayor: no violence protesting has ever taken place at Bilderberg) the overwhelming mood was of peace and fun but underpinned with a serious, pro-transparency desire. Even the bull-horning was with humour and high spirit. Whether drunk on the glorious sunshine or unifying collective energy it felt like symbolic sea change in securing a new awareness about the shadowy event. Either way, today's the day the technocrats have their picnic.