PEOPLE’S ASSEMBLY SPEECH –19th September 2013 – ‘Michele’ from OccupyManchester
I’d like to tell you how I ended up in a shark costume on Market Street the other weekend.
Around two years ago. I was watching the TV and I kept hearing about how my money – my taxes – had been used to bail out banks who’d gambled other people’s money – and lost. While cuts were being talked about – not one banker had been brought to task. I got cross.
Then I read on the Internet about huge multi-national companies getting round paying their fare share of tax and I got even more cross.
I heard about this group called UK Uncut who were going to go down to town and tell Vodaphone and Top Shop they were a bit cross too. So very very nervously, I’d never done another like this before, I went to the Arndale, and hung around half in, half out of the action. Some people probably thought I was an undercover police officer - as I was looking so shifty. What I found was a diverse group of individuals who were also cross and didn’t want to sit at home any more either.
It was all a bit scary so I didn’t do anything else for a while. Then I was working in London for a few weeks and Occupy London set themselves up. More people who were a bit cross about the financial system and the bankers.
After work one evening I nervously went down – and found another diverse group of people who had also decided that sitting at home wasn’t an option any more. There was a meeting area & learning tent, a library, a canteen. It was a happy, hopeful space where all were welcome.
When I came back home to Manchester I popped down to Occupy Manchester’s second camp and found another group of like-minded people. I struck up friendships and it is these people up here with me who gave me the courage to join in the next action, and the next, and the next – until - well last week and the shark costume.
We don’t all agree on everything. We have some heated debates – oh yes we do. But what we’ve found is common ground. As humans who want to make the world a better place.
I feel that our colourful and fun way create debate is positive. We dramatise the issue. Give people something to think about. Raise questions.
As an individual it is very empowering and uplifting and it’s FUN! You realise just how many people agree. They beep their horns, they clap as we parade past. Yes there are those that shout, get a job, though why they assume that because I’m standing round in a shark costume on a Saturday afternoon it means I don’t have a job I’m not sure. There are many more that come up and chat. And every now and then they will join in – and it’s the best feeling when they do.
Using performance to tell a story. To dramatise the situation breaks down barriers. It turns heads and draws people in. It’s non confrontational. People come up and speak to us. Young people ask why we’re dressed up. Little kids laugh. I hope everyone who sees us goes away thinking and discussing what they saw with friends. Raising awareness – and maybe next time they read or hear a news story they’ll question a little more.
There are what, 200 of us in here, there were about 20 of us the other week. We got the message across. Imagine how much fun we could have if everyone here turned up next time!
Be brave, come out on the streets , think of new ways to express yourselves. If you’re scared we’ve got lots of costumes and masks we can lend you !
Occupy Manchester will be present on 29th September [https://www.facebook.com/OccupyMCR]. You won’t be able to miss us. Please come over and join in. Whether you are dressed as a shark or not.