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The European Social Forum is coming to town!

IMC UK | 12.03.2004 23:00 | European Social Forum | Culture | Globalisation | London

On the weekend of March 6/7 the European Assembly of the European Social Forum (ESF) came to London to decide whether the UK proposal to hold the ESF in London this year would be accepted. Late on Saturday afternoon, after difficult and at times heated debate it was agreed that it would be.

The accepted bid is for a forum on October 15-17, centred at Alexandra Palace, with fees around £30/40 for unwaged/waged (£10 cheaper if pre-paid), accommodating 20-40,000 people without using "spillover areas" (more). This contrasts with Paris where the average fee was around 10 euros and 52,000 people attended - but the Paris organisers were given millions of euros from the government.

ESF Florence 2002
ESF Florence 2002

Although the meeting started with someone handing out garlic it quickly progressed to a major debate about inclusiveness and democracy. A group calling themselves the 'horizontals' presented their principles for democracy and petition resulting from their call for democracy. The afternoon was scheduled to be one of working groups. The horizontals' comments combined with continental support led to the formation of an unplanned process workgroup (in fact there was not even a practicalities workgroup planned before it was added to the agenda at the start of the meeting).

This process workgroup, mediated by Pierre Khalfa of ATTAC France, continued thoughout the afternoon and into the evening, resulting in important breakthroughs, including, finally, inclusion in the organising committee statement of the acceptance of local social forums and the removal of the explicit 'right of exclusion'. The members of the organising committee could not possibly say no to these demands in the presence of German, French, Italian and other members of local social forums.

However, many problems remain: for example basics such as better rotation of facilitators, but also fundamentals like the withholding of information. What has been very striking is the lack of details given about the proposal - no written reports were distributed, the oral reports lasted perhaps twenty minutes, and gave no breakdown of costs and projected expenses to justify the high fees; the organisers are playing their cards very close to their chest. Although the Greater London Authority (GLA) representative, Redmond O'Neill, was finally forced to announce some details, including that the GLA would be contributing something of the order of £450,000.

So will the symbolic agreement reached translate into real changes of practise? Unfortunately, after the long discussion of the organising committee's proposals, there was no time at all to discuss the practical suggestions coming from the 'horizontals' and others to effect greater openness and transparency.

Moreover, the worry is, as MWH - among others - have suggested, that the ESF will be, "a showcase for Ken Livingstone and his ilk, another platform for their endless appetite for publicity and re-election." The ESF may yet become "a mere Ken Livingstone-jamboree."

All these reports and more on the ESF topic newswire all the time.

Future meetings:

  • Programme workgroup: Thursday March 18, 6pm, Natfhe head office, Britannia Street, WC1 (King's Cross).
  • UK coordinating meeting: It was agreed that future meetings of the Coordinating Committee would be moved from Wednesday afternoons to Thursday mornings. The next meeting will be held at City Hall, 10am-12pm on Thursday March 18. (Minutes of UKCC - 3 March)
  • UK organising committee: Saturday March 27. Birmingham University. Details tbc.
  • ESF European assembly: April 17-18, Istanbul, Turkey. On Friday April 16, all workshops will meet in order to prepare for the two-day assembly. Details tbc.



Hide the following 26 comments

30 quid for a meeting??

13.03.2004 12:03

I can't believe that anyone is going to pay 30-40 quid for a meeting. Of course, those who are sponsored by trade unions/ swp aren't going to care less - but for many who would like to go 30/40 quid is almost their weekly income - and i bet a cheaper venue could be found outside london.

chris b


13.03.2004 14:50

The people who are going to be most affected by this forum are those who will be forced out of it by the extortionate fees being asked. If the French government subsidised their forum why isn't our government offering any assistance? Also I live near Alexandra palace and have worked there and it couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery!

Darren Southcott
mail e-mail:


13.03.2004 16:28

As far as I know it wasn't 'the French Government', as in Chirac et al. who subsidised the forum, but the 'left' local/city government. Aren't the GLA their equivalents, and if they aren't offering financial support, then what exactly is there involvement/the reason why their involvement is tolerated?

I'm not saying here that the GLA should or shouldn't be involved in the process, I'm not sure either way about that. But I just kinda presumed that they weren't booted out because of the resources that they would be able to offer. Can someone clarify this?



13.03.2004 17:10

ESF what a waste of time. Just a jolly and POR stunt for overpaid political careerists and self-styled 'community leaders'. They can stick their £30 up Canape Ken's arse. ( or Jaspers, or Jonathon Neale's etc. take your pick of power hungry windbags.

mark r pen

Pensioners etc.

14.03.2004 13:43

£30 !!??

Exactly how is anyone on any sort of basic state benefit/pension going to be able to
afford this.(Plus transport fares to get to London,plus food) And no doubt there
will be loads of stalls selling lots of very expensive books (Verso and Pluto etc)
along with the usual SWP rantrag stuff).

I'm on long term benefit. It ALL goes every week on stuff like food and bills so don't
try saying 'save up'. Sorry-no chance.
Why should I,or anyone for that matter do so. To some extent,we at the 'bottom of the
pile' so to speak are the one's who need to be there to contribute what it's like to
be in that situ and help work out solutions.
This is going to be nothing more than a poncy SWP/state establishment hot air chinwag

I wouldn't pay more than £3 for a ticket. And why don't Verso and Pluto etc have a
book 'give-away' for once, so EVERYONE can get a chance at reading them (those that
want to of course).
But it wont happen,so I wont be going.

How about a 'boycott campaign' especially by anyone on benefits/pensions.???


Someone has to pay !

15.03.2004 08:27

It's all very well to whine on about how expensive tickets will be. I am on income support myself and this is indeed a huge chunk of money. However we need to face facts. Someone has to pay for this meeting if we want it to happen, and it seems to me that those who wish to attend should feel responsible. We are in danger of falling into a welfare dependancy culture. If we believe a different world is possible then we need to come up with positive suggestions as to how to make that happen. Expecting big business or government to bail us out and pay for our programmes is foolish and delusional. Many of the problems we have had so far in plaaning for the ESF have come about because those who fund an event, like the GLA, expect to exert some measure of control.

I would suggest organising fund raisers to pay for those on a low income to be able to attend

Deacon Dave

Thirty Fucking Whole English Pounds

15.03.2004 10:22

For a lefty meeting! All the academic parasites on the periphery of the moevemnt will be fine of course, and the trot sects and the unions and...


what really happened

15.03.2004 10:42

It's a shame that people at the meeting on 6/7 March have chosen to report the developments in such a negative way. Don't you want an ESF here?

The fees for £20 unwaged/£30 waged are for a 3 day event in London. We agreed that countries would set up solidarity funds to help pay for those to attend.

The reality is that we don't have millions of euros from the state, as the Paris ESF had. So it's being organised much more like Mumbai - where those that can pay, should pay. Registration fees will have to make up a large amount of the income, unlike Paris, which could afford to have low entry fees, but like Mumbai. Money doesn't grow on trees.

Rather than griping about it, why don't you look at ways of raising money to ensure that those who can't pay aren't excluded?


if they cared they'd have more money!

15.03.2004 13:04

It's outrageous for the ESF to charge £30 just because of piffling nonsense like having to pay for venues etc. If they were true anti-authoritarians they'd demand the venues for free, then organise mass protest postings on the internet when no-one would take their booking!

Alternatively they could be more flexible + creative by getting sponsorship from anti-capitalists like Black Spot Trainers and Anita Roddick, but I suppose that'd be against their old-left men-with-beards dogma.



15.03.2004 16:19

If those of us on low incomes didn't complain there'd be no chance of getting reduced
Following what others have said I now support,a campaign to establish a system
of 'bursaries'for those on low-incomes.
The difficulty may be the number of people who can be 'subsidised' given that between
20 and 40 000 may be expected to attend.
Depends if those on low incomes can go for 1.2. or all 3 of the days.
I would still not pay more than £3 towards it though.

Otherwise,perhaps some of the NGO's attending could fund some low income people if
they are members of that organization.

This needs to be sorted asap,as people would probably want to 'apply' for any
subsidised places early.


Can't Pay, Won't Pay

15.03.2004 20:57

I'm with the pensioner on this one, but I don't think a boycott is necessary. It's just a case of can't Pay, Won't Pay. I haven't got £30 but I'm still going to be at the event whether they like it or not. I live in an ex-pit village and the left are selling papers with "20 years since the miners strike" headlines, I think they've had plenty of income from my suffering already. Only the poor in the UK have any real solidarity with the majority world communities that founded the Social Forum initiative and it's us to us to make sure their properly represented. The left have denied us a voice for long enough.

Oh yeah, does Anita Roderick refuse any union activity in her empire because she's an "anti-capitalist" then?

Joe Underclass

Humour is Bourgeouis!

16.03.2004 10:23

What's wrong with being anti-union? Everyone knows unions are SO 19th century / dinosaur politics / old men with beards / boring / hierarchical / collective / Trot.. and they give money to Nu Labour Fascist Blair who is as bad as Hitler, nearly, almost, y'know.

£30 is more money than I've ever seen in me life, guv'nor, me just a poor chimerny sweep n'all Mary Poppins.. I'm so poor I can't even afford internet access... oops...


I Forgot, We're All Middle Class Now Aren't We

17.03.2004 17:48

You’re so right! I shouldn’t moan about the fact that I’m poor, I should create a multi-million £££s industry and fleece the middle-class selling pointless creams and overpriced soap. Then I’d be an anti-capitalist and I could offer solidarity to the poor! Just as long as I didn’t have to face them – I mean I wouldn’t want rub shoulders with somebody who didn’t have £30, that would be so yukkie pooh!

Joe Underclass


18.03.2004 11:19

I was joking about Anita Roddick! I was trying to make the point in a humourous way that the ESF coordinators CAN'T raise money from corporate capitalists (eg. Roddick, Black Spot Trainers) for an anti-capitalist event, so must do what they can to raise funds.

The entrance fee isn't ideal but nor is it an evil conspiracy against the poor.

And for the benefit of the satirically-challenged, I was also joking about trade unions. Unions for all their flaws are the only workers organisations of any size so ESF needs to engage with them if we want to link social with economic struggles.


European Creative Forum & Visions of Another World

18.03.2004 15:45

The European Creative Forum & Visions of Another World

The newly-formed European Creative Forum (ECF) joins the call to all artists, musicians, performers, DJ's, dancers, designers, writers, film-makers, writers, poets, actors, architects, rappers, jugglers, journalists, media activists, culture jammers, critics, promoters, organisations, charities, campaigns, collectives, networks and individuals who share the objective of creating and participating in the next European Social Forum in London in the Autumn. The European Creative Forum will help build a momentum of support for this UK-ESF by staging a series of events called Visions of Another World.

In light of the ongoing successes of the World and European Social Forums, and the repeated calls for an increase in their cultural content, the European Creative Forum has been set up to promote art as a medium for expression that goes beyond the limitation of language.

The ECF will actively complement and extend the forums and discussions of the UK-ESF Culture Working Group. It will provide a space for experimental testing ground that encourages, builds and strengthens artistic and cultural networks towards a collaboration of culture, creation, colour, fun and festivities during the UK-ESF.

The events will be FREE to attend, but donations on entry are encouraged. Funds raised will to be used to support and enable individuals and groups from across Europe to participate in the UK-ESF. This succession of events will address the links between culture and issues such as human rights, education, equality, poverty and others on the agenda of the UK-ESF utilising an array of artistic activities from music and mime; painting and poetry; dance and debate; theatre, talk and others such as cinema, seminars and workshops.

The ECF also intends to stage two carnival-style processions during the UK-ESF to complement and enhance its cultural programme. The European Creative Forum is: Pro People & Peace, Pro Democracy & Diversity, Pro Environment & Ecology, Pro Culture & Creativity.

Positive, creative expression knows no boundaries!

The ECF Organising Committee meets every Tuesday (7pm) and you are invited to attend, participate and contribute towards the development and evolution of this new movement that places social values above economic gain. Call below for location.

ECF Visions of Another World (10th April)
Area10, Peckham, London
1pm-7pm Workshops, Talks, Seminars, Exhibitions, Healings, Children’s Activities, Crèche, and more.
8pm-1am Music, Dance, Performances, Screenings and more.
More details about the events, programmes of activity, fundraising, sustainable ethics, organisational processes and other information can be found at:

Join The ECF!
If you are an artist, performer or creative person of any description; if you have a workshop, talk, seminar or screening you would like to host; if you have a performance, exhibition or a message to communicate; if you teach about citizenship, culture or society in any way of if you are involved in absolutely any activity that would add colour to these events or if you’d like to attend, please contact us as below:

(T) + 44 (0)20 8880 7055

Peace And Power To You,

Gareth Strangemore-Jones
European Creative Forum

Gareth Strangemore-Jones
mail e-mail:
- Homepage:

£30!! unwaged!

18.03.2004 22:05

The twat who mentioned fundraisers should be held for the unemployed should stop & look carefully at his politics. £30 is 75% our weekly food shopping bill, 150% our weekly bus fares, a pair of shoes or just over a weekly council tax bill. We dont have an excess £30 so which of these would you like us to give up for you?

As usual the working class have been excluded from their own institution by peple who look down on us as charity cases. Bastards


30 week

19.03.2004 14:03

I agree it is expensive, but we can't expect governmental organisation to pay for a movement that aims to destroy it.

There are exactly 30 weeks left to the event, that's £1 a week.



20.03.2004 20:19

Most decent folk want the above, Capitalism is winning when we are divided through money,
How can a conference based on a new world vision exclude poor people.
I believe that if folk want to go but can't pay the poxy £30 they should be able to.
You can't put a price on freedom.

wee Jo


25.03.2004 16:23

I have read with interest the report on the ESF as well as the following debate

I must admit that i have never been before and so am lokoing forward to this event
Whilst I understand £30 is alot of money (i try to live on £30 a week as that is all I have!) but I realise that in order to attend this event I am going to ahve to get a part time job etc (yes I HAVE already been trying but no where want to employ students) and I would much rather be working hard both academically then in the job market if I had something such as an ESF to llok forward to

that said -the price of socialist literature is an absolute joke! I am all for a free book on registration -yeah the ESF could chat to Boomarks who no doubt would make a fiar ammount this weekend to give us a free book on reistration

Many Regards

John Cooper
mail e-mail:

they dont call it a struggle for nothing

25.03.2004 21:04

historically, working class people have made sacrifices in order to forward the movement and their interest.if they had not we would'nt of had any working class organisation such as trade unions.we still be working a 14 hour day /1 pound a hour .

i agree with others who suggest that we need to build fund raisers for the poor, we also need to get the rich sections of the class to make generous donations.

fund raiser events can be positive,especially if they involved music, performances, ect gets people together , highlight the event and get extra people involved whom may not otherwise be involved.

dont be defeatists about this, think imaginatively.

lets face it we want and fighting for a different world where one day there will be no money and events of any kind will be accessible to everyone.

p.s i heard a rumour that radiohead have agreed to perform at the ESF. has anybody else heard this.

cu there

red letter

30 pounds a big deal? You must be kidding?

28.03.2004 09:07

I've read the arguments 'bout organizing and money and all that. I gotta say that the argument about paying £30 just sounds whiney. I'm in Canada and gettin to the ESF would be £300 just for airfare. £30 for a weekend conference that includes folks from all of Europe and the world? That's $60 Canadian. So stinkin what? It's a stretch? Ya? Big fat hairy deal. You wanna fight the state? You wanna fight capitalism? And you wouldn't put out more than £3? Well, who wants you then? I got more commitment to the struggle from my dog than you. And ya, I'm working class and poor. I flew to Calgary (three hours from Toronto and £150+) for the G8 protests coz it was important to do it. Lots of other working class people did as well (some by fundraising). If yer not willing to pony up for your own movement, well then piss on you. Ya think it's tough now, wait'll you overthrow capitalism and the bosses pull out their investment and blockade the country. Then you'll be eating leaves and dog shit on good days. Suck it up. For the truly needy there's bursaries. For the rest, stop expecting the middle class to pay your way and then whining when they do.

Rhino Canuck

Yes £30... anyone with any SERIOUS alternative?

01.04.2004 12:30

£30 is a lot to a lot of us, but has anyone got any serious suggestions on how to host the ESF in Britain without money coming in from registration?
Getting a venue for 20,000 plus bound to cost a lot, and I'd prefer to pay £30 and have it here than have the ESF in Turkey/Italy/wherever and have no chance of going.
Come on folks, you've got six months to save the money...


Support the Unemployed

09.04.2004 21:51

I say those of us in employment should support the unemployed by onating the 30 quid for an individual, no questions asked. We with the money pay the organisers who then use this to give free entrance to those without work


one pound a week

12.04.2004 10:20


I have been following the comments regarding a 30 pound fee for this meeting ...

For people on low income/benefits this is actually 20 pound so maybe it would be a good idea to start saving one pound a week for the next twenty weeks. How does that sound? It is do-able. Really if we all put aside one pound a week then we can attend.
My question is - what can you get for a pound?
So the next time you spend one pound on something not really 100% absolutely necessary, just one pound, remember that you could have put it aside to save!
Are you prepared to save one pound a week for the next twenty weeks?


Aren't Parks free?

24.04.2004 12:47

I don't know why we have to have a "venue". Why can't we just have it on a park? Hyde Park fitted 2 million last year and my local park fitted 100'000 last year and the year before (for One Big Sunday.) Being afraid of rain is so bourgeois (or we could do it in summer instead.)

Terry the student

Let's build local Social Forums

07.05.2004 15:13

Surely the key thing is the huge opportunity that holding the ESF in Britain offers us. WE have the opportunity to concretise a movement of thousands who are opposed to globalisation in the interests of capital.

In Leicester a variety of groups including unions, campaigning groups, local branches of NGO's, community groups are setting up a Leicester Social Forum. Already we have two Public Events organised and are intending to mobilise the biggest delegation to the ESF at Alexandra Palace that we can. That will include getting union affiliates to support unwaged people with costs, so that we deal with the registration fees issue.

When you consider the cost of getting to Paris, Florence etc, Alexandra Palace cannot really be more expensive for those with money, such as union delegates, which means that they ought to be able to offer significant subsidies to those on benefits who want to go.

If the social forum movement is about solidarity and openness then working together for the mobilisation is the obvious answer.

Let's think positively and build the movement.

Peter Flack

peter flack
mail e-mail: