Tag Archives: mark thomas

Mark Thomas sheep protest in Paternoster Square (LSX), and punk gig on Thames beach.

Four years ago, the Occupy movement tried to establish a camp at the London Stock Exchange in Paternoster Square. The Square, although it looks like public space, is in fact “private land”, and the Management Company applied for a pre-emptive injunction, so that on October 15th, the planned day for occupation, protesters were met by a police blockade, and instead they began their four month encampment in front of St Paul’s.

The original injunction remains in place, and gives power to the Security to order people off the land.

Comedian and activist Mark Thomas is currently touring his ‘Trespass’ show which campaigns and entertains around the subject of gentrification and the privatisation and corporatisation of public space. As a result of walking across Paternoster Square in a ’Shaun the Sheep’ outfit, Mark finds himself banned from the private land. Not one to take such bans lying down, he called supporters to join him in a mass trespass which took place on Saturday afternoon and attracted around 50 people who donned sheep masks and entered the Square ignoring the legal warning signs, and posing next to ‘No Loitering’ stickers.

01 Mark Thomas sheep protest - @indyrikki

11 Mark Thomas sheep protest - @indyrikki

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Walking round and round in a loop outside the London Stock Exchange, they completed a nominal 1km hike before congregating around Dame Elizabeth Frink’s Bronze statue of a Shepherd and his Sheep.

04 Mark Thomas sheep protest - @indyrikki

03 Mark Thomas sheep protest - @indyrikki

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At first, Security kept well away, but eventually they showed up, along with a bicycle cop and a PCSO . Mark explained the spectacle, and the injunction remained unenforced.

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05 Mark Thomas sheep protest - @indyrikki

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09 Mark Thomas sheep protest - @indyrikki

08 Mark Thomas sheep protest - @indyrikki

Later the same afternoon, with help from ‘Punk Ethics’, Mark organised a trespass at Gabriel’s Wharf, where he compered a public gig with sets by ‘Flowers of Flesh and Blood’ and ‘Oi Polloi’ as well as some comedy.

03 Mark Thomas beach trespass - @indyrikki

04 Mark Thomas beach trespass - @indyrikki

02 Mark Thomas beach trespass - @indyrikki

He also introduced some campaigners who are against the ‘Garden Bridge’ which I hadn’t realised will be another private space with its own rules and exclusions despite being built partly with public money. More info at http://www.tcos.org.uk

01 Mark Thomas beach trespass - @indyrikki

05 Mark Thomas beach trespass - @indyrikki

06 Mark Thomas beach trespass - @indyrikki

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Global Day for Kobane – pics and report from London 1st November

Several thousand London Kurds and their supporters gathered in Trafalgar Square as part of a worldwide protest against what is happening to Kobane, an amazing autonomous Kurdish community in Northern Syria, which is under siege and attack by Islamist fighters.

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Kobane has become a rallying issue for many progressive groups, including anarchists, because of their model and refreshing system of democracy and decision-making, which strives for equality and defends women’s rights.

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While Islamic State fighters commit massacres and rapes, the West, and particularly Turkey are giving little or no support to the besieged Kurdish people, who rely on their own ‘People’s Protection Units’, the YPG, and the women fighters of the YPJ, to keep the attack at bay. These soldiers are widely recognised in the region as a democratic people’s army, and they hold internal elections to appoint their leaders.

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The three-hour rally attracted a wide range of support from dozens of speakers, and kicked off with performer/activist Mark Thomas who was unequivocal in his support of the Kurds and the need for action against ISIS.

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He also called for an immediate lift on the ban on the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, (the PKK) who have been conveniently proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the West (including NATO), but whose Turkish-jailed leader has given up the original Marxist-Leninist armed struggle and has helped establish the almost utopian Democratic Confederalist system in place in Syrian Kurdistan while striving for a political solution.

Mark’s calls were echoed by human rights lawyer, Margaret Owen.

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She also described Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) as a utopia of equality, providing support and sanctuary for internally displaced people including Christians, Armenians, Turkmen, Arabs, and others, and she spoke of the extraordinary tenacity and bravery of the women fighters of the YPJ.

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Green MEP, Jean Lambert announced she would be visiting Istanbul next week and pushing hard for the PKK ban to be lifted. She also mentioned Qatar’s role in supporting ISIS and buying black market oil from them, something that Turkey is also accused of.

The huge crowd listened to speaker after speaker throughout the sunny afternoon.  Radha d’Souza from the Indian Association of Lawyers condemned Turkey’s aspirations to a new Ottoman empire, and spoke of solidarity from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

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Roman Catholic Priest Father Joe Ryan, co-ordinator of the Westminster Justice and Peace Commission described Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the PKK, as the Nelson Mandela of the Kurdish people, and called for his release (for a decade from 1999, he was the sole prisoner on an island prison in Marmaris, echoing Mandela’s plight).

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Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell drew ‘just war’ comparisons with the struggle against Spanish fascism, and the war against Nazism. He called for the International Criminal Court to issue arrest warrants against ISIS leaders, and against Assad, and for Turkey to be suspended from NATO for its support of ISIS despite the massacre of Kurdish people. He also highlighted the immediate need for air dropped supplies of food, medicine and arms to the people of Kobane.

Tamil activist, Karthick, alluded to the French Revolution and other workers’ revolutions, and said that Kobane would go down in history as one of the most important revolutions in the 21st Century.

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He said that the YPG and YPJ gave hope that peace, justice, and women’s rights were all possible, and he condemned Turkey for killing protesters and supporting ISIS.

A speaker from the Spanish Basque Society offered solidarity, as did Islington Labour leader, Richard Watts. Labour activist Norah Mulready spoke about the YPJ and said that an attack on one woman was an attack on all.

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Speaker after speaker condemned Turkey and ISIS and honoured the Kurdish struggle and the democratic society of Rojava. Among them were Steve Hedley from the RMT, who said the PKK were a national liberation army, Trevor Rain (Fight Racism, Fight Imperialism) who said the Kurds and the Palestinians were the two great losers in the Middle Eastern imperialist carve-up, with the UK having a special responsibility, and political writer Sukant Chandan, who described ISIS as NATO death squads, or hitmen for international capital.

The crowd then listened to a live telephone call from Kobane, by Asya Abdullah, a co-chair of the People’s Democratic Union Party.

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She thanked the rally for being part of a historic global day of resistance, and categorised ISIS as the enemies of women, humanity and culture. She described the horrors of 48 days of resistance in Kobane with the deaths of hundreds and thousands of men and women, but called it a global resistance, saluting the international grass roots solidarity.

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With police pressuring organisers to meet a 5pm deadline to finish the rally, there were short messages of support from a whole swathe more speakers, and there was a powerful air of global solidarity as we heard of similar huge rallies around the world, in Rome, Bremen, Paris, Madrid, Buenos Aires, Ankara, Istanbul, Bilbao, Orlando, Bombay, Vancouver, Stockholm, Dusseldorf, Honduras, Melbourne, Los Angeles, Rio, Washington, Liverpool, Houston, and dozens more cities.

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Mark Thomas is organising a Kurdish Red Crescent benefit night at the Bloomsbury on 23rdNovember with a fantastic line-up of top comedians and special guests.

Keep Streets Live Campaign

In the face of new laws and controls on what you can and can’t do on public streets, and the draconian ‘busking licence’ scheme being introduced in Camden next month, I’ve just finished a crowd-funding campaign video for the ‘Keep Streets Live’ Campaign.

Camden Labour council have introduced a new law which from Feb 1st 2014 will make music performance on the street illegal without a council licence. Licences have to be applied for, by supplying full ID details, several days and even weeks ahead of time, and a range of fees are payable. If you sing or play an instrument in Camden streets without a licence, you will be liable to a £1000 fine, and any instruments may be seized and sold by the council if you haven’t paid up in 28 days.

Jonny Walker, founder of ASAP, the Association of Street Artists and Performers, has campaigned against this law from the outset, attending council meetings, collecting more than 6000 signatures in a petition, trying to engage with residents, police, and law-makers, and taking part in every stage of the consultation. He also gained support from musical and comedy celebrities including Billy Bragg, Bill Bailey, Mark Thomas, Jon Gomm, and others.

However, despite strong opposition from Lib-Dem, Conservative, and Green councillors, and a deputation from the Musicians’ Union, this draconian bill was voted through by the Labour majority.

So now, Jonny has secured the services of leading human rights lawyers, Leigh Day, who are challenging the law in court. If that fails, there will be a campaign on the streets to undermine the law, make it unworkable, and embarrass the council.

Seeing that this legislation has national implications way beyond Camden, as part of the ever-increasing privatisation of the public realm, Jonny has set up the ‘Keep Streets Live’ Campaign, and is seeking crowd-sourced funding to seek support.

This 3 minute film hears from a range of voices, and calls out for donations via the crowd-funding site ‘Indiegogo’.

Within hours of posting the film, I’ve been sent two related links – film of a London busker being moved on by police, and a news report of a Welsh busker being banned from Cardiff under threat of a £5000 fine.

As more and more restrictions and controls strangle any remaining freedoms in public places, and as new developments turn previously public land into pseudo-private areas with rules strictly governing behaviour, anyone not there to spend money is made unwelcome in our city streets, so it’s no wonder the ‘high street’ is dying when it has little or nothing more to offer than on-line or out-of-town shopping

Donate to the campaign at http://indiegogo.com/projects/keep-streets-live-campaign

See film of the great Camden Celebrity Busk at https://indyrikki.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/video-of-camden-celebrity-busk-against-proposed-licensing-and-instrument-seizures/

John Lewis Cleaners Xmas Ad 2013

This is a parody of the £7 million John Lewis Xmas TV advertisement.

Mark Thomas and friends visited the Sloane Square branch of Peter Jones (part of the John Lewis partnership), and decorated the toy department cartoon grotto where children are invited to pose with cartoon characters from the notorious advert. Mark and co added placards so that the hare, the bear and the other woodland creatures showed support for the John Lewis cleaners who are earning between £6.87 and £7.02 per hour, way below the London Living Wage of £8.80.

The cleaners are currently sub-contracted (to a firm called Integrated Cleaning Management), but despite previous pressure from the Independent Workers Union (IWGB) and other activists, the John Lewis Partners continue to resist the suggestion that the cleaners should be treated like other John Lewis workers and benefit from the partnership scheme, which the public widely recognises as an ethical bonus to shopping at the chain.

While the stunt (part of Mark Thomas’ 100 acts of minor dissent’) was being carried out this afternoon, other activists were staging a protest outside the Oxford Street flagship John Lewis store, handing out leaflets to shoppers to spread the word about the store’s intransigence and poor treatment of workers. They also staged an invasion of the shop (caught on camera by the excellent Peter Marshall)

Subversion at the Curzon

As part of his ‘100 Acts of Minor Dissent’, and in continuing support for Curzon cinema workers’ struggle for union recognition, improved contracts, and the London Living Wage, Mark Thomas and his friend Tracey re-arranged letters on the canopy of the flagship Curzon Street cinema in Mayfair this morning.

Last week, it seemed that Curzon were on the verge of a deal with the BECTU union, which would lead to meaningful negotiations over their employment practices. As a result, Mark called a ‘ceasefire’ to his series of protest pranks that had plagued the company. However, the management have not followed through, and the ceasefire was suspended as of this morning.

This short film comprises a pre-interview, and footage of the stunt.

With only the letters of ‘Jeune Et Jolie’ and ‘Blue Is The Warmest Colour’ to play with, options were limited, but the campaigners came up with “Just Be Nice To Us – LLW”, where LLW stands of course for “London Living Wage”.

It took several hours for management to notice the new hoarding.

Curzon Mayfair cinema protest – video

STOP PRESS – NEWS 19th NOVEMBER

For reasons that aren’t yet clear, Curzon Head Office have stalled on signing the official voluntary recognition agreement with BECTU which was looking good at the weekend
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As part of his series of ‘100 Acts of Minor Dissent’ and in solidarity with Curzon cinema workers who are on zero-hour contracts and trying to get management to recognise the BECTU union in order to negotiate better conditions, Mark Thomas and friends staged another in a series of in-cinema day-glo demonstrations.

Before the event, at the Mayfair Curzon cinema in London, Mark briefed a group of around 20 supporters in a local pub, before buying tickets for the screening of ‘Gravity’ at the cinema.

During the pre-film adverts, while some held up the banners just below the cinema screen, lit by others with torches, supporters handed out leaflets, and also showed some of the audience members a short campaign video on mobile phones.

There was applause both at the start and at the end of the action, which did not disturb the main feature.

Some of the group stayed to watch the film, while others demanded refunds from a bemused manager, after complaining that their enjoyment had been upset by a disturbance in the auditorium.

The good news is that the campaign (which has been running for several weeks now), seems to be working. BECTU have just announced that they are very near to a deal with Curzon management to formally recognise the union. Once that is signed, they can then begin collective bargaining to try and improve conditions for workers, and also to hopefully move Curzon to re-instate concessionary tickets at their cinemas.

Mark Thomas in Curzon cinema canopy prank in support of zero-hour contract workers

This filmed prank is part of the continuing battle with the Curzon management for union recognition, fair pay at at least London Living Wage, an end to zero-hour contracts, and the return of concessionary ticket prices for elderly, disabled, and claimants.

Mark Thomas is supporting the Curzon workers as part of his “100 Acts of Minor Dissent” – an ongoing comedy show and series of activist antics.

On the morning of 6th November 2013, he was joined by his glamorous assistant, Tracey, and with the aid of a ladder, they spent quarter of an hour in broad daylight, rearranging the letters on the canopy at the front of the theatre to spell out the message “Give Us Fair Pay – Recognise The Union”.

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Filmed hand-held from some distance so as not to attract attention, the stunt passed off successfully, and the new message to Soho remained in place for several hours before being noticed and removed by management.