Monday 05-09-2016 - 11:25
Goldsmiths SU will be at Bestival this week, promoting the United for Education demo. President Danny Nasr tells us why.
This year, Goldsmiths SU will be attending Bestival, an annual four-day festival on the Isle of Wight, aimed at integrating social activism into the very culture of the festival's landscape, in true Goldsmiths style.
With an HE bill radically shifting the culture and context of higher education, a Prevent strategy threatening Black and Muslim students nationwide, FE area reviews and increasing institutionalised xenophobia targeting international students, what we need, as a national union and individual SUs, is to broaden and 'diversify' our mobilising tactics. We need to focus on grassroots organising in a way that reaches more students than ever before, because these issues affect more students than ever before. What events like the Refugees Welcome March and the Anti Racism demo this past year have shown me is that demos work: they educate, they mobilise, and they empower. They are the people's instrument for social organising.
In the lead up to the National Demo called by NUS and UCU, we've got a few things planned at Goldsmiths. Apart from workshops designed to enable our course reps to organise departmentally, integrating it into our activities training conference and setting up info points during Freshers Fayre, we're going to be using our partnership with Bestival to promote the demo on the ground, on the Isle of Wight. There, we've got a Student Activism space, aimed at educating, empowering and mobilising students for the various campaigns and issues that effect their everyday.
You may ask why Bestival. At their inceptions, festivals were inherently radical and political spaces. From Woodstock - which fostered the anti-Vietnam-war movement in 1969 - to Glastonbury’s navigation of spaces of idealism and liberal thought, these spaces allowed activists a platform for mobilisation and mass awareness. Even Secret Garden Party this year provided safe drug testing services, which is itself a radical and political act. Students’ unions are in a strategic position as a student centric body to hack these spaces and utilise them for our own narratives. This is what we at Goldsmiths SU are trying to achieve with the National Demo at Bestival.
Demos are only a single mechanism of a wide scope of tactics used to mobilise, and are not an end-goal in and of themselves, but they are an important method of mass empowerment. Goldsmiths has always had a proud history as a campaigning union, but this culture cannot be sustained if we are not continuously developing new ways of rallying students on the ground. Whether this be through marches, walkouts, boycotts, occupations or even alternative demo spaces for disabled and international students who may not be able to or feel comfortable participating in direct action, we must recognise the absolute importance of empowering our students to act and fostering a culture for real, social change.
We are looking forward to seeing what other SUs are working on in preparation to the National Demo; if you’re at Bestival, come down to the Goldsmiths Tent in the Bestiversity space and say hello!