Hot on the heels of the success of our first outing, we were keen to take our No NO NO sign back into the city. The sign highlights the hypocrisy of urban public/private space - where land that appears public is actually owned by private corporations. On the surface, London is a city full of open spaces bustling with shoppers and tourists. If you scratch beneath it, you soon discover that this openness is a scam.
If you’re a local council, selling off land to private developers is an easy way to raise capital. But the undermining of social liberties that comes with these sales is unprecedented. Take the construction of the Olympic village in Stratford for example. It’s an entirely privately owned complex. Although there will be public space, shops and entertainment, there will also be robotic CCTV drones monitoring everyone coming and going – thousands of cameras watching your every move, a ban on begging, busking, skateboarding, hoodies, public assembly, protest, loitering and much much more. Everything that makes our city so vibrant is drained out of the space and replaced with a 2D image of a city. Unless you're shopping you're not welcome.
City Hall, the home of our Mayor, could easily be thought of as a bastion of public space. Wrong. City Hall and the surrounding office blocks are owned by More London, an off shore investment company who rent the land to our Mayor. Not only have they removed all bins and cycle racks from the area, their security stop cyclists along the riverside, move on skateboarders and keep the area "safe and secure for everyone". Everyone, that is, provided they approve of your presence.
We thought, what a perfect venue to take our sign to and highlight the actual rules enforced in this 'public' space.
"You, stop cycling, and you stop looking at me! No loitering, move on!"
Agents Hardcastle, Undecided and Bristly Pioneer were not far behind her. The weather was glorious and it was a perfect day for telling people off.
"No photography! Are you a terrorist? This is a sensitive area! I demand right now that you stop photographing these tourist areas!"
Linking in with the "I'm a Photographer not a terrorist" campaign, we aimed to highlight the police's recent decision to clamp down on the press and amateur photographers using terrorism laws.
"Oi, you joggers! Stop running, this is private space, we don't want any nasty accidents."
It took a lot longer than we imagined for More London’s security to turn up and try to shift us.
Security: "What are you doing here? Have you got a licence for your sign?"
And so on.
H: "You, madam, please stop cycling."
More London’s security threatened to phone the police but withdrew to hover about loudly discussing whether they ought to snatch our sign.
We, the Space Hijackers, certainly don't!