Tag Archives: Occupy London


The mounting crisis at St Paul’s, with the resignation of the Dean, Graeme Knowles, is becoming almost Shakespearian, but it highlights something about London; the enormous power and significance of The Square Mile. The City of course was once exactly that, and the powers now enshrined by the Corporation of London were historically guarded furiously. It is why that area, bounded by its Dragon statues, has a separate branch of the police force. Now they don’t want tents and the masses on their patch, but they never did. They always wanted commerce. Stand on the hill and look straight down Fleet Street and you will see it runs past Temple Bar, down the Strand, to Westminster and then Buckingham Palace beyond. “What the City loves to earn, Westminster loves to spend” was the old adage, but they too always looked warily at one another and created complex checks and balances to protect their powers.

Around that mile, in Shakespeare’s day, grew up the so-called Liberties of London, like Southwark, South of the river. In Shoreditch was once the biggest collection of slums and brothels in Europe. So too lay the playhouses, the bear pits, and the beer and Pleasure Gardens. Of course, in a different age, it was the Bishop of Winchelsea in Southwark who both purchased his position from the Queen, at £400 a year, and licensed many of those brothels. How times have changed, in this rather haunting crisis of the headless Anglican Church, except that the City’s attitude has always remained the same and always will. It was they who established edicts to drive out rogues, vagabonds and sturdy beggars, whether wearing T-shirts calling for the abolishment of money or not, though in 1572 actors at least, the players, became exempt from those if protected by a Lord or patron, and so the Burbage family could establish London’s first permanent playhouse for purely theatrical performances – called simply, The Theatre. Yet still only on the fringes of that powerful Square Mile, as were The Red Lion, London’s first permanent building, The Curtain, Rose, Swan and Globe.

This may all be high drama, even farce, which is better than real violence, though a more violent farce may ensue, and now the Dale Farm Protestors against Capitalism have joined the merriments too. But it was foolish of St Paul’s to close its doors at all, and this succession of resignations may lead to a mounting tragedy that exposes the confusion in the Church and the powerlessness of people in the face of laws that are practical, even involved with Health and Safety, but also fundamentally designed to support the functioning of a City, and a now world financial system. Money and trade are what matters to London, as to New York. We all know we somehow need that system, which incited the Mail Online to produce a headline like ‘A Rabble Without A Cause’, yet it is the concentration of wealth within that Mile, like some vast piggy bank only those in the know understand, or can really raid, that makes this rather a telling moment, and the physical position of the protestors very interesting too, poised between the House of God and the House of Mammon. It seems to have got far more coverage than protestors traditionally camping outside the supposed seat of Government and legislative power, Parliament. In a world where wool and bushels of corn have become International bank transfers, complex derivatives and deals made far beyond the skirts of the Old Lady of Threadneadle Street, it is purely symbolic, but symbolism is what catches the media eye too and translates so many human aspirations and paradoxes around the globe. All the world’s a stage!

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No wonder Giles Fraser, the departing Cannon Chancellor of St Pauls has become a bit of a hero, in the face of the Church, as very much the establishment, invoking Health and Safety to defeat the voice of the unwashed crowd. ‘I can imagine Jesus being born in the Camp’ he said, invoking the age-old debate of whether Christ was or would have been a Socialist, that in an English tradition has proud antecedents that go back to the Civil War Diggers and Levellers. So, was he?

It is marvellous how many wealthy friends invoke that old saw about Rendering unto Caesar. Namely Christ was about another place, whether within or up there, and we can get on with all our greed and self-interest, and worry about Camels and Eyes of Needles later. On the other hand, one who did recently, and a Catholic, reminded me of the Priest in Rome last year who, at Christmas Time furiously ushered an old beggar woman from his porch opposite the Trevi Fountain, into the lashing rain, because she seemed to be upsetting the smart tourists.

Didn’t Christ drive the Money Lenders out of the Temple and wasn’t that Kingdom of Heaven, within or above, about the love of mankind? Even if that wasn’t a revolutionary fire, you can hardly imagine him siding with the Corporation of London. He may not have excluded the redemption seeking Tax Collector, but surely the point was the redemption, not the 49% pay rise! A Nigerian SuperPreacher on Unreported World last night, peddling Sunglasses and Prosperity, also a huge tradition in American Evangelism, would not agree either. He tried to claim that Jesus, that Carpenter’s son, had an accountant! Get thee behind me… But since this did all begin in New York, we wonder if American visitors and tourists realise that Socialism is not the dirty word here that it still is in America, though that is changing. It’s roots reach into the National Health Service, the Fabian traditions of the 19th Century, the Library and Schools movments, and the Enlightenments of Robert Owen. They also stretch into the report on Tuberculosis in Wales which the Phoenix Ark Founder’s Grandfather wrote, that influenced the Beveridge Report.

Not that the blitz spirit seeking Occupy London protestors would necessarily align themselves with the Church at all, and probably woke up to the sudden media coup, as the argument began. If God Moves in Mysterious Ways, perhaps he sent the Devil down in a dream to inspire the authorities to close their doors, so the Cameras would turn and actually hear what the protestors are saying. But since we publish Children’s Books and one, Michelangelo’s Mouse, involves St Francis, perhaps it’s best to remember not just people, but London’s other great tourist draw, pigeons, and quote from the Shermann Brother’s haunting song from Mary Poppins. Though its melancholy might only encourage those invested in the natural, enormous and increasing disparities of Capitalism, with their trickle down patronage and reluctant hand outs.

Early each day to the steps of Saint Paul’s
The little old bird woman comes.
In her own special way to the people she calls,
“Come, buy my bags full of crumbs.
Come feed the little birds, show them you care
And you’ll be glad if you do.
Their young ones are hungry,
Their nests are so bare;
All it takes is tuppence from you.”
Feed the birds, tuppence a bag,
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag.

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