1.‘Remove the antihomeless spikes’
Nothing says ‘humane, compassionate society’ like steel spikes in the ground to make life even more uncomfortable for rough sleepers. Thankfully, last month’s petition on Change.org attracted 132,560 signatures, showing Londoners aren’t so prickly after all. The spikes were swiftly removed from outside a branch of Tesco and a Southwark apartment block. That’s how you deal with a sore point.
2.‘Save the Southbank Skatepark’
Young people: apathetic, disinterested and hard to motivate, right? Very wrong, in fact, as proved by the outcry last year when the Southbank Centre announced plans to demolish its undercroft, the dingy but much-loved concrete cavern long used by skateboarders, BMXers and graffiti artists. Granted, the arts institution offered to replace it with a new facility nearby, but that wasn’t enough to placate the many who view the space as ‘the birthplace of British skateboarding’. More than 40,000 opposition signatures were gathered and the Southbank Centre has skated off to reconsider its plans.
3.‘Protect Crossbones Cemetery’
Woven into the deliciously seedy history of olde Bankside, this graveyard of ‘outcast dead’ is home to the bodies of an estimated 15,000 paupers, prostitutes and other unfortunates from the lower end of the Southwark social ladder. The site was concreted over many years ago, but a 2,000 signature petition is edging closer to the goal of having it turned into a garden of remembrance. Trust Londoners to have a soft spot for society’s wrong ’uns.
4. ‘Erect a statue of Wiley in Bow’
Mick Jagger’s got one. Mozart’s got one, and he wasn’t from London! So why not build a statue of the lyrically deft godfather of grime, who has ‘inspired an entire generation’ – or so argues this Change.org petition. The cause attracted more than 5,000 signatures within a couple of months in 2013. Unfortunately, it never got much further and the campaign for the grimy erection now seems to be a bit lost for words.
5. ‘Keep Ministry of Sound dancing’
When Elephant & Castle’s legendary superclub came under threat, ravers from around the world rallied to support it. Nearly 50,000 people signed a petition to protect Ministry from noise restrictions when planning went in for a fancy apartment block next door. The developers appeased the club by agreeing to a purchase clause that will prevent any residents from complaining about the noise. So the beats go on. Hurrah!
6.‘Give all men the vote’
Forget about saving your local organic kale market, we’re talking here about a series of petitions that fundamentally altered the way our country is governed. In a nutshell, the Chartist petitions of the mid-nineteenth-century paved the way for working men to get the vote and took parliament out of the hands of the upper classes. Never again would a coven of public-school- educated toffs be able to govern in their own interests while subjugating the working masses in a way that was… oh.
7. ‘Give all women the vote’
The suffragette movement might be more famous for Edwardian railing-chaining and death-by-hoof, but the campaign to give women the vote began several decades earlier with an 1866 petition to parliament. Not surprisingly, it was laughed out of the house, with many MPs scoffing at the absurdity of the idea. ‘Next they’ll want to be sitting here with us, and then what? A woman prime minister? Ridiculous!’
8. ‘Release Michael Jackson’s Wembley concert’
London’s history is littered with courageous grassroots campaigns, where humble citizens have risked everything in the fight for justice. And then there are those who just want a 1988 Wembley concert by the world’s most famous moonwalking anti-plastic surgery advert to be released on DVD. Still, they got their way: the footage duly appeared in 2012, proving that petitions can make a difference.
9.‘Bring back the Routemaster’
Along with the bumbling bonhomie, one of Boris’s trump cards in the 2008 mayoral election was his promise to build a new fleet of Routemasters. Off the back of a petition signed by more than 13,000 people, the nostalgic romance of hop-on, hop-off transport proved an easy votewinner for the boffo politico, who rode the issue right into City Hall.
10.‘Stop men drinking coffee’
It makes them all jittery and their wee really smells. No: these weren’t the reasons why seventeenth-century women rallied against the hot bean drink. According to ‘THE WOMEN’S PETITION AGAINST COFFEE REPRESENTING TO PUBLICK CONSIDERATION THE Grand INCONVENIENCIES accruing to their SEX from the Excessive Use of that Drying, Enfeebling LIQUOR’, an incredible 1674 petition (you should read in full) filed by a group of London ladies, the craze for coffee was making their husbands impotent (or ‘as unfruitful as the sandy deserts’). Seems olden times weren’t always as hard as we thought.
By Dan Frost