Buy Nothing Day reports - London x2, Norwich, Wrexham, Liverpool & Manchester

"Take your clothes off! Swap them with your friends for FREE!" was the message from the Space Hijackers http://www.spacehijackers.co.uk/html/welcome.html, who decided to set up their clothes swap - "the restyling fashion mash-up event of the year" - on the lower ground floor of TOPSHOP at Oxford Circus (London). The idea was to demonstrate that "we don't need to spend money we don't have on things we don't need."

The action, designed as it was to subvert one of the iconic temples of consumerism seemed to baffle police and didn't amuse the security staff, who stopped me taking pictures there. One other photographer was manhandled out of the store, but I was treated very politely, with several security men standing between me and the action and telling me that photograph was not allowed. On of the store managers even offered to personally help me find any clothes I might wish to buy elsewhere in the store, a possibility I found most unlikely.

I left the store (with a rather large escort until I left the premises) and walked around to the side exit where I expected the clothes swappers to be ejected, arriving just before they emerged, and was able to photograph them continuing to swap clothes on the pavement in Regent Street. Here one policeman did attempt to prevent me from taking pictures, claiming I was causing an obstruction (which clearly I wasn't) and as usual I moved back a couple of feet before returning to take pictures when he moved away.

Things did threaten to get out of hand when a rather elderly police officer (at my age all policemen are supposed to look young), helped by a 'Red Cap' (rather sinister private security wardens employed by the 'New West End Company' to ensure shoppers don't step out of line) started to push people around, but mostly other officers took a more sensible approach, some even talking and joking with the swappers as they continued to exchange items of clothing on the pavement.

Some shoppers passing by stopped to watch, and a few took a leaflet, but there was no evidence of any Damascene conversions, most hurrying on clutching their loaded shopping bags, desperate to spend more money.

One of those taking part was held by the police for a while as they had decided he was the ringleader. He got a big cheer when he was released, waving his pink 'Get out of TOPSHOP Jail Free' Chance Card and the Anti-social Behaviour Act Notice for the Dispersal of Groups (see http://www.opsi.gov.uk/ACTS/acts2003/ukpga_20030038_en_5 ) which the Met had issued. This required him to leave the Oxford St/Regent St area for the next 24 hours. Fortunately the map provided didn't include the Red Lion, where he announced his intention of going - and at this point I also left as I was already late for a meeting with friends in Streatham. Some of the others looked as if they were going to continue their fun along Oxford Street.

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All in all, I think it was a good action.

around 30-40 people turned up and swapped clothes, hundreds of leaflets were handed out on oxford street before the action, and when it did happen, TopShop had a shop full of Police, PCSO's and security, they closed the entrance to the shop and removed the 'red phone box' meeting point display.

Lots of literature was handed out, and plenty of pretty activist flesh, (oh my).

two arrests happened, one for refusing to give a name and address (section 50 of the Police Reform Act) apparently it was anti-social behaviour. On the contrary I thought it was incredibly social behaviour show by the hijackers. Both arrests were released without charge fairly swiftly. Although one was driven to Trafalgar square and dropped off there for no apparent reason?

Later on the actions continued with a street party in Kingly Court shopping centre, and then a road blocade at Seven Dials with plenty of dancing.

thanks to all of the non-shop swappers and to the lovely people who swapped their clothes with mine for the great new outfit I have.

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Buy nothing day - brixton report

"Buy nothing day" is an international anti-consumerist day. Put simply : people are encouraged to stop shoping for one day. In Brixton, activist set up a stall to give away free food and other free items.

Activists met at 11am at Library House to pick up vegetables and part of the content of the Library House's freeshop. The items were brought to Brixton, and were given out for free in front of the supermarket next to the tube station.

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To mark Buy Nothing Day, activists from Norwich Rising Tide held a Rat Race in the Norwich city centre.

The busiest high street in Norwich was today full of rats. The rats were equipped with placards reading Work Harder, Earn More Money, Buy More Things, Keep Going, and leaflets telling people to join the consumption Rat Race. The reverse of the leaflet, revealed the spoof and informed people that today was buy nothing day and perhaps they should consider the environmental and social consequences of excessive consumption.

600 leaflets were handed out in total (see below), and many passers-by expressed their support, although one by passer was heard to call “Get a job” to which one of the rat (a teacher) shouted back, “It’s a Saturday you tosser!” – the crowd of shoppers that had gathered around the rats all laughed.

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"Free Socks!" "Why? Who's holding him?"
29.11.2008
In Wrexham town centre this morning, the local Freeconomy group held a Sock (FREE) Shop - that's socks for free, not a shop free of socks or even freeing Sock. Hundreds of pairs of warm socks were distributed in subzero temperatures to people with cold feet - and hands - along with leaflets explaining what Freeconomy Wrexham does and inviting people to get involved in the happy world of giving and sharing.

There was a great deal of puzzlement about a stall offering free socks in the town centre on a busy Saturday morning.

One passing shopper came over to find out more about our campaign to free the mysterious 'Socks' from his captor. More commonly, people just couldn't seem to believe that the socks were for free:

Free? What's the catch? You don't get anything for free... do you?

But of course you do. Or, at least, someone does....

Loads of stuff happens for free all the time. Capitalism has only survived this long because of the free labour which is provided by anyone whose work helps someone else to get richer. Marx had something to say about this. Land and resources stolen from the people - our own Eagles Meadow included - are used by businesses to generate profit, and trashed in the process. We nurture our children for free because we love them, but all that free care and attention is what brings the next generation of workers into being - a free gift to capitalism. Much of the free stuff we do as parents, carers, partners, friends, 'good neighbours' and so on is largely invisible to the economy, although without it the economy as it is couldn't function at all.

Freeconomy Wrexham is just doing a bit to raise the profile of free giving and encourage people to spread their free gifts around rather than trashing them, which is what happens when good stuff ends up at the tip, for example. We handed out socks and leaflets for about 3 hours, by which time even multiple layers of our free socks couldn't keep our feet and hands from freezing, so we called it a day.

LEAFLET TEXT

FREECONOMY WREXHAM... Bring and Take... Free for All...

What's it all about?

Freeconomy Wrexham is:
for everyone; environmentally friendly; sharing; giving; fun!; re-using stuff; completely free; sustainable.

Turn over to find out more...

Freeconomy Wrexham is about gift and sharing, showing that it is possible to make things work without payment or financial profit. In a world where everything seems to have a price - often more than we can afford - it can be difficult to imagine a completely free event. But all the goods on our stalls and at our events are there for the taking. Everyone is invited to come and help themselves.

Bring and Take is made possible by everyone who gives their time and energy to help out, who donates goods to be given away, who loans a venue for free or lets us use a van or bakes a cake, and - most importantly - everyone who takes away all the things that are donated!

Re-use for the planet. Before you throw anything away, think about whether someone else could use it. Natural resources, time and skills were needed to make that item. If it's binned, all those things are lost. By sharing and re-using, we can keep wealth in our communities, help each other, create goodwill and happiness, and do a little bit to save the planet.

freeconomywrexham[at]yahoo.co.uk

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What, No Prices?

More than 150 people came to Next To Nowhere's Free Shop on Saturday in Liverpool. This was a one-off event to mark Buy Nothing Day. The organisers encouraged people to come in by offering free tea and toast and free mistletoe on the street outside.

Really, it's free

Buy Nothing Day originated in the USA in 1992. It was intended to make a statement about over-consumption and the amount of waste this generates, and encourage people to re-think their lifestyles. It generated some controversy, and still does, if the comments to the previous posting about Buy Nothing Day are anything to go by! Some people think consumption by itself is not the issue, others think the event is patronising to people who can't afford to buy much anyway.
But none of the people who wandered into the free shop last Saturday seemed to feel patronised. Some, who had come to town to do Christmas shopping, looked in out of curiousity, and found they preferred doing some "non-shopping", and getting some refreshments at the free cafe. People with little money were happy to take away free items they needed, and for the people who had donated things, it was satisfying to see goods they don't need any more being taken for re-use. Not everybody who came had heard of Buy Nothing Day, and had to be reassured that everything really was free!
Whatever the general criticisms, this particular free shop worked as a co-operative event, it introduced people to the social centre who had never been there before, and it gave people a taste of how liberating it is to do without currency for once.

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Buy Nothing Day Manchester: Primark Feels the Wrath of Santa’s Little Workers!

On Saturday 29th November seven students braved Manchester’s heaving Market Street in support of Buy Nothing Day 2008. In festive dress and armed with some thought-provoking clothing labels of their own, the aim was to raise awareness about unnecessary consumerism over Christmas, and to reveal the true cost of high street fashion to Saturday shoppers.

The action began incognito, as the protestors secretly delivered messages questioning consumer greed and the unethical sourcing of cheap fashion into the pockets, zips, and cuffs of clothing in Primark. Messages such as “I wonder if the person who made this garment is happy?”, and “Do you really need another one of these?” were soon dotted around the bustling store and security quickly reacted, calling all cleaners to the ground floor to remove the labels. The protesters escaped unscathed, merry in the knowledge that the chances of hunting out all the labels would be pretty slim.

After a quick change of clothes the protestors took to the street, antlers and all. With a splendid banner and leaflets a-plenty they approached the swarms of passers-by and announced that they need not spend money this Christmas to be happy. Some engaging debates ensued concerning consumerism and sweatshops. It was felt by some that only the financially privileged could afford to have a conscience, and that outlets such as Primark offered those with a lower income the chance to look (and therefore feel) good. Others had been so far unaware of shops like Primark’s association with factories in India, and were genuinely shocked at some of the stories the protestors relayed about underpaid and mistreated workers. Whilst not everybody agreed, the value of lively public debate cannot be underestimated. Talking about something is the first step to changing it and perhaps now a few people will think twice before buying something just because it is cheap. It’s real cost is inhumanely high.