Tree 57 :: Parliament Sq. and Caroline ::

12th July 2010
Park near Parliament, London, UK.

This was an interesting day. I heard about a protest that’s been going on for a few weeks outside Parliament. A number of activists camping out to protest about the war in Iraq/Afghanistan. It’s a surreal scene. Parliament on one side of the road – a building that looks almost like a church – incredibly grandiose – an epic design, and on the other side – a ramshackle array of shelters, tents and banners with a variety of protesters and vagabonds hanging out.

There seems to be a number of sub-protests. Islamic something or other, father’s rights – one guy here – he was resting when I came by in a tent – I had hoped to talk to him – is on the 17th day of a hunger strike. Hardcore! He looks very thin as well. Worryingly. So to capture this scene I borrow a lump of wood off the protestors and begin scaling the perfect tree by standing on it. Police are over to me within moments assuming I’m going to drop a banner down. They write this note for me after taking my name and address. Quite ridiculous. They tell me they have no real power to stop me from climbing a tree but assertively advise me not to. I’m definitely going to climb up again as soon as they’ve gone – however – as bad luck would have it two Heritage Wardens for the area appear and tell the policeman about a bi law that protects the trees and monuments in the area from climbers. Amazing! Stopped from climbing by the law!

Once they had all dispersed I was still tempted to do it. Would they really bother using the power of the law in this case over an art/book project. And I have an innocent face – right? I figured given the situation – these protestors – this protest is going though the courts with the aim of evicting them and in light of that the police might make more of it than it was. On the other hand it could be good for publicity for this. Ha! I finally decided it wasn’t worth it. Maybe I need to grow some balls.

(Instead I met Caroline). As you can see it seemed worth including this scene despite a failed climb. I think it’s amazing – and I mean, it gives me hope these people have been tolerated as long as they have. It’s testament to a certain amount of openness to dialogue. Their voices weren’t silenced straight away as they would have been in many other countries. On the other hand maybe the park should be designated to campers with something to say to the House of Commons. I have to say these guys are missing a trick with their set up on the green. It’s a mess. It’s not particularly inviting. It’s intimidating to most. A sparse patch of brown grass littered. It’s obvious someone has made attempts to create a sort of withy circle with a garden in the middle, but it’s all such a mess. It’s like – come on guys – is this the best London has in the way of a protest?

Creativity is what’s needed here. Make it all look appealing for Joe public – or even MP’s to have a look and have a chat. It needs decorating and caring for. The alternative the protest offer is not attractive. They want a better world – but the world being offered by the people dropping bombs on Iraq looks more attractive. It looks like a war zone here, parliament – a palace.

So… interview with Caroline coming soon.

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