An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people are expected to come to London this month to attend the third European Social Forum taking place between Friday 15th and Sunday 17th (although many other ESF related events start earlier). Around 1,000 people have been registering per day and paying £20 or £30 to attend (nb the first 20,000 will recieve a free three day travelcard). The ESF will be a massive event that will see hundred of seminars, workshops, and cultural events taking place at Alexandra Palace and in the Bloosmbury area of London. However, with less than two weeks to go before the ESF begins, there is a potentially politically embarrassing severe accomodation crisis, with thousands wanting to come from europe unsure if they can afford London prices and requesting free accomodation. Recently several coordinations of the Babels volunteer interpreters threatened to quit over what they claim is a looming accommodation and reimbursement crisis [see response].
Over the last year the ESF organising process has repeatedly been accused of being untransparent and non-participatory. Accusations have centred around the actions of the Socialist Workers Party, Socialist Action and the political and financial control of Mayor Ken Livingstone's Greater London Authority (GLA). Much has been written about this, for a sample see: UK NGO Letter | esf2004.net | Radical Philosphy Critique | ESF technology, media centres, and politics | Enrager | Weekly Worker (extensive reports)
Partly in response to this there are now several Autonomous Spaces and initiatives with well over two hundred workshops and seminars and other events scheduled from Wednesday 13th - Sunday 17th (read more).
Indymedia is organising a four-day Indymedia centre to facilitate reporting and DIY media production. Themes will include Surveillance and the Security State, Biometric ID Cards, Migrants and Noborders, Gender, Intellectual Property, Copyright, Creative Commons, Corporate media and Alternative media etc. Thursday 14th sees the European Forum on Communication Rights, Friday 15th sees a full day programme including a workshop and launch presentation on the "Eyes on International Financial Institutions (IFIs)" film portal website [www.ifiwatch.tv]. Saturday also sees the 10th Birthday Conference of SchNEWS.
Other alt-media initiatives includes an ESF Breakfast Radio Show on Resonance FM and 24/7 streaming ESF coverage from rampART radio. Further sources of information will include info-points located at the Camden Centre, the rampART and LARC.
LISTEN NOW - STREAMING AUDIO FROM LONDON
On the Saturday at the Camden Centre, SchNEWS is organising a 'Direct Action Conference', which they say will be an "opportunity to discuss, plot, conspire and organise serious resistance to the suicidal onward march of capitalism". The Camden Centre is just one of a number of the autonomous spaces organising events during the ESF.
The Wombles have sent out a request for translations of the "Call for Autonomous Spaces" text and currently have text in Italian, Spanish, French and Greek, but additional translations are needed. Despite the eviction of their social centre in Tufnell Park last month, they have put together a massive programme for 'Beyond ESF', packing in over 70 workshops into 5 days. They have invited participation in discussion and direct action around the themes of surveillance & control, social centres, precarious work, no borders, zapatismo, and mobilising for the G8 in Scotland next year. The venue for all this will be Middlesex University, close to the main official ESF venue at Alexandra Palace.
At the rampART creative centre and social space, as well as streaming ESF coverage from their new alt-media productions facilities, there will be cheap food and free internet access throughout the ESF, along with video screenings, live music, and other cultural events every evening, plus an end of ESF 'RAMPartY' on the sunday night.
Meanwhile, split between Conway Hall and London School of Economics, the 'Solidarity Village' operates under the slogan 'Another Economy is Possible!' .People will get LETS tokens to spend in exchange for a fee of £5 to £10 each day to attend activities including 'Life Despite Capitalism', 'Wellbeing Spaces', 'The Moon Room', 'Pagan Magikal Activism'. At UCL Bartlett, the 'Urban Forum', will provide a series of open mic discussions surrounding democratic participation, public space, public art, feminism, the Olympics, environmental, housing transport and food issues, citizenship, the effects of globalisation and neo-liberalism on development and the city.
Taking a different approach, the 'Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination' has been planning activities which "fall outside of and in between the spaces of culture and politics... between resistance and creativity". Meanwhile, with six months of preparation behind them, the 'European Creative Forum' (ECF) will "take democracy to the streets" with a mobile Carnival Forum (featuring one of the veg oil powered double decker buses that took the human shields to Iraq). They aim to provide a volatile mix of politics and pleasure and recommend that people bring radios so that everyone can dance to the same beat. The carnival will interlink some of the key venues and take the forum out of the traditional conference hall and to the (so called) "every day people".
There will be two Critial Mass bike rides on Friday 15th, one starting at midday the other in the evening both with a Climate Change theme. Bring radios. Optional dress code "London Underwater 2050" (rubber rings, fish, mermaids/mermen, snorkels, etc. Ends with a London Rising Tide of resistance to climate chaos at 3.30pm at the Edith Cavell statue opposite the entrance to the BP-sponsored National Portrait Gallery, Charing Cross Road. The evening ride will pass by the main ESF venue at Alexandra Palace.