An abandoned primary school on the edge of Clerkenwell is poised to become the new focal point of Occupy London. Until yesterday, Moorfields Public School was a distant satellite of Occupy, but after the Court of Appeal denied protestors permission to appeal their eviction from the main Occupy site at St Paul’s, the School of Ideas is suddenly at the forefront of the movement.
‘When St Paul’s goes, we’re the only ones left who are occupying,’ said David Sedgwick (above), 46, who helped discover the school. ‘Another Occupy site at nearby Finsbury Square is already full,’ he added. According to protesters living there, the Moorfields space has about 20 full-time residents. Sedgwick said he expects at least that number to move in after the St Paul’s camp is evicted, (likely to be before the Queen’s visit to the cathedral on March 7) but there’s potential to house even more.
‘We’re up for the whole of St Paul’s coming here: all the tents, all the kitchens, everything,’ said Rick Maggs, 31, the School of Ideas’ kitchen co-ordinator and legal aid worker. ‘Another outdoor site is really what we’re hoping for, but we’ve got the space.’ The School of Ideas picks up where the Bank of Ideas left off, hosting panel discussions, workshops and performances open to the public. Maggs is expecting as many as 900 visitors at events over the weekend, including a cabaret Friday night. When we visited yesterday, Adam Walker, 30, of the not-for-profit Magnificent Revolution was leading a workshop on bicycle power and a cheer rose as music began to blare from a pair of speakers attached to a bike-powered generator.
Despite being abandoned three years ago, the school retains something of its cheerful, kid-scale charm. Green carpeting spreads out under a series of colourful banners, while residents serve themselves tea off a thigh-high kitchen counter. Occupiers hope to stay as long as two months, but the building’s owner, the Southern Housing Group, has other plans. ‘The site is not safe or suitable to be occupied. There are serious safety risks to any occupation of the site buildings and it is additionally concerning that members of the public have been invited,’ the company said in a statement. Southern Housing served a possession order to Occupiers on February 14, a spokesperson said and an appeal has been launched.
For now, morale remains high, and residents look forward to welcoming refugees from the St Paul’s mothership.’The establishment has all the resources; all we’ve got is enthusiasm,’ said Sedgwick. ‘As long we don’t lose that we can go on and on.’ Nick Aveling