"We didn't know SOAS was in occupation. We found the short so inspiring we screened it the following day". Brighton University students in occupation.
"Thanks the students loved watching it". Lecturer in Glasgow
"There’s no one answer. At a general level, we all know the same and right answers, educate, organize, act as appropriate. As we become less abstract the answers vary greatly, depending on individual circumstances, goals, opportunities. We have to find our own place in this broad spectrum of opportunities". Professor Noam Chomsky's response to the Director's question what can we do about budget cuts?
It is evident that the recent student protests is one of the most important movements the UK has witnessed since the 1960s. The protests were in direct response to the coalition government's decision to scrap the EMA whilst simultaneously raising tuition fees. Students were also angry at Nick Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrats who for a number of years had wooed young voters with the promise of no fees. In 2007 Clegg said, '‘As leader, I will defend party policy as it is, which is to scrap tuition fees. I start from the simple principle that I want a higher education system accessible to as many people from as many possible backgrounds as possible’, continuing with the same rhetoric into 2010 which quickly vanished into the shadows with his ascension to power.
In response to the raising of student fees, the NUS and University College Union (UCU) called upon students to protest. 52,000 students marched on the streets of London. According to official reports around 200 students occupied Millbank, the headquarters of the Conservative Party. Although in truth thousands of students occupied Millbank inside and outside. Thirty two arrests were made. The student protest broke the coalition government's confidence, cracks began to appear, MPs who spoke out were whipped back into line and the Liberal Democrats popularity fell. Student protests and occupations, without the support of Aaron Porter the president of the NUS, continued in the battle for education.
This is at the heart of SOAS Students Day X – It is a diary of events that occurred when students occupied a building on the SOAS university campus. Filmed as an observation documentary, one watches the progress of the occupation and hears the voices of students as they fight a court case, whilst continuing to protest in the knowledge that something larger is at stake. What is explored is the real, not the feigned attitude of students, combined with their desire and determination to engage within the political framework set. So discussions are had, voting is called upon, meetings are held and the occupation space becomes a place of learning about the current political climate. Lecturers held classes there alongside the public space being transformed into a place where talks and symposiums are given and held by academics and politicians alike.
The narrative has a much larger reach. It suggests that when it came to the student protests, both the government and media were apathetic. They may have appeared to care, and they may appear to produce reports of veracity, but eyewitness accounts from the student protest held on the day of the vote gives a different insight to that which was aired on mainstream media channels. An example of this is although the BBC reported that Westminster Bridge was clear at 2300, in realty students were still being held there, kettled on a bridge with a drop into the freezing Thames on either side. And although the police had their say, students let it be known that police on the night were shouting at students, telling those who wanted to go to the toilet, 'piss there bitch'.
Many students who wanted to go home were not allowed to, instead they were pushed into another kettle whereupon they were again beaten. Everyone ought to watch SOAS Students Day X. It is a diary of events that led up to the day of the vote. It is a first hand account from the perspective of students. The student protests did not stop cuts to EMA in the UK but cuts to EMA did not happen in Wales and Scotland. The student protests may not have stopped the rise in tuition fees but it did break the popularity of the Liberal Democrats. The student protests told the UK and the world we are here, we are students, we are politicized and we have the right to protest. The student protest inspired other groups to protest. The film is an elegy for the right to protest.
The documentary is now on Indiegogo to raise funds to finish it and to make DVDs to send free of charge to schools, Universities, and anti-cuts groups. There are gifts in exchange for funding, from a dedication, to packages which include an online download, DVD, a workshop with Aaron Peters - an internet genius, or a film night and dinner plus a lot of other goodies, or an invite to a SOAS party plus other goodies.
At the time of writing many young people do not know they have the right to protest. This documentary says! Yes you have the right to protest, and yes, you can make a difference. Be a part of the film http://www.indiegogo.com/SOAS-students-Day-X-a-diary-of-events join facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/SOAS-Students-Day-X-The-Battle-for-Education/114301245335446?ref=ts