It’s lovely to have the Market Square finally finished, isn’t it? Now we can start to use it again; as a great hang out, somewhere to sit around with our friends in the sun, the best place to raise awareness about political issues through formal and impromptu demos, listen to free music of all sorts, maybe have a drink, take the piss out of the army recruitment display, shelter from the rain on the Council House steps, but the question is ...
The council has its own agenda for the Square. It wants it kept clear of pretty much everyone except shoppers and commercial outfits. It tells us it’s employing Community Protection Officers for our safety, but all they seem to do is kick people off the steps when we try to meet by the Lions. Just try gathering there in any numbers at the moment. The point seems to be to keep away young people and anyone whose face doesn’t fit.
The Square has been a place for people to express themselves for centuries. We paid through the nose for its revamp. People like us should decide how it is used.
The council’s theme for the opening ceremony is Nottingham’s PAST as an industrial centre, PRESENT as a ‘Green’ and ‘Sustainable’ city, and FUTURE as a city of ‘Science’. But some important aspects of their story seem to be missing ...
*** PAST ***
Nottingham’s Industrial Heritage. So what if we led the way in industries that made big profits for big businessmen? Big deal! Victorian factories left working class people (including child labourers) underpaid, unhealthy, and forced to fight the system for the right to organise to improve their situation. But what is really great about Nottingham is its reputation as a centre of radicalism. From at least 1790 to the present day people have been willing to protest against inequality & privilege.
In the early 1800s Luddites smashed machines in Nottingham factories. Luddites weren’t against technology, just employers who drove down wages at the same time as making more profits by using the new machines. The city authorities feared revolutionary elements amongst the Luddites, executing prominent activists and transporting others to Australia.
From 1790 people also fought against an electoral system that favoured rich landowners, where just a few men were allowed to vote. Rioting against this situation in the 1830s, known as the Reform Riots, eventually led to an attack on the old Nottingham Castle, where the Duke of Newcastle lived, and it was burnt to the ground.
See: Nottingham Castle on fire - 10 October 1831 - http://tinyurl.com/2gfb93
Riots like these also inspired slaves in the Caribbean to rise up against their colonial masters. That’s right! Slavery in places like Jamaica didn’t end just because some kind white reformers realised it was wrong, but because slaves took up arms to free themselves. As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the legal end of Britain's ‘official’ involvement in slave trading, our council seems unconcerned about Notts’ involvement with the profits of slavery. For example, the well-known Mellish family inherited a slave plantation estate from the governor of the Bahamas in the 18 th century & had dealings with plantation monies in Jamaica when William Mellish was Receiver General for the Customs & Excise and MP for Retford. Much of the region's prosperity, before abolition and since, was due to slave grown cotton. How many more fortunes made in our county and city might be attributed to the profits of slavery?
See: Nottingham and Slavery – a Hidden History - http://tinyurl.com/2bb6j7
In more recent history people have seen that getting the vote doesn’t add up to much because the government ignores you and their lackeys in the city council go along with this. Nottingham people were amongst the most organised and radical in the successful fight against the Poll Tax. The council was only too happy to implement it and send in bailiffs against people saying ‘Can’t Pay; Won’t Pay’, and even sent some people to Lincoln jail. But local people resisted.
*** PRESENT ***
Nottingham as a ‘Green’ and ‘Sustainable’ city?! This is a joke. Figures in recent years have put Nottingham 339th out of 393 local councils in terms of its recycling and composting record, with a combined recycling and composting rate of just 18.6 per cent for 2004-05 (compare this with Rushcliffe’s 50%). Council leader John Collins’ response to why we can’t have proper recycling facilities? Well it’s our own fault, apparently.
We live in the wrong sorts of houses and, he says, “in many communities …families…just refuse to participate… take a walk around the Council estates at the top end of Sneinton some time”. Wonder why he’s got it in for Sneinton? Maybe because last year residents successfully fought plans to enlarge the polluting Eastcroft incinerator here, which the council wanted instead of expanding recycling facilities. The new Square’s granite from Donegal and China is hardly ‘sustainable’ either!
See: Nottingham City Council Recycling .. Bottom of the Class again! - http://tinyurl.com/2gou79
*** FUTURE ***
Nottingham’s future as a ‘Science City’. Pretty soon, if this authoritarian government has its way, we’ll all have our personal and biometric data taken stored in a central database and be tracked by cameras 24hrs a day. Is that the future we want?
The ‘ID cards’ you’ve heard about are just the tip of the iceberg. They are already testing a lot of this Big Brother technology on asylum seekers; people who have fled here for safety but are treated like criminals. To get all this information about us all, and add it to what they know about us already, we’ll be summoned to an information gathering centre to be photographed and have our fingerprints taken, or be fined hundreds of pounds if we refuse to cooperate. This will start in May this year with first-time passport applications, which will especially affect teenagers. There is only one way to fight this, and that’s together.
The city’s history of radicalism is perhaps one reason why the government has decided not to site one of these identity and passport ‘interrogation centres’ here. Instead, we’re supposed to trek to Lincoln, Leicester or Derby. Yeah, right! But we already accept surveillance and technological repression in ways that politicians and big business have been more subtle about. They tell us we are safer if our every move is watched on CCTV. Where is the evidence for this? The council hasn’t given us any, but still spends millions on cameras watching our every move and allows private businesses to track us around the city centre too. What are they really looking for? Signs of dissent about what they tell us and sell us, for a start. Let’s give them something to worry about…
*** WHO ARE WE (and are we just being paranoid)? ***
This leaflet is being given out by people who really like living in this city but want to change how those with power and money in it treat us, you, and people like us all. To find out more about what we think and why, try the following web sites ...
Notts Indymedia: http://notts.indymedia.org.uk
Nottingham Defy ID: http://www.nottingham-defy-id.org.uk
Spring Into Action Nottingham: http://www.eastsideclimateaction.org.uk
Faslane 365 Nottingham: http://www.faslane365.org/en/nottingham
The Sumac Centre: http://www.sumac.org.uk
No Borders Nottingham: http://www.nobordersnottingham.org.uk
The Nottingham Sparrow: http://www.afed.org.uk/nottingham