Monday, June 02, 2008

Tube Party in London

The dust is still settling after last Saturday night's party on the London underground. For people outside of London, the basic story is this: a new Conservative Mayor has been elected for London - Boris Johnson (replacing the socialist Ken Livingstone). One of his first acts was to ban drinking on the London underground train system, a ban due to come in on the 1st June. On Facebook various groups were set up calling for a party on the Circle Line on Saturday 31st May- a final drink and a protest against prohibition (the Circle Line trains, as the name suggests, go round central London in a loop rather than from A to B - ideal for parties as there is no endpoint where the train stops and everybody gets off).

So on Saturday, thousands of people converged on the Circle Line, some in fancy dress. Lots of people had a great time. At Liverpool Street station, where people were evacuated from the train, there was a sound system and mass dancing in the station. Obviously there was some chaos, with the police closing down six tube stations over the night, and 17 people getting arrested later after some drunken behaviour (perhaps not that many considering the numbers, and maybe not that many more than on average weekend). There's loads of photos, accounts and film footage all over the web - a video from Space Hijackers shows people dancing to The Prodigy's Out of Space with a sound system in the carriage (and pausing when the train gets into the station so as not to draw attention to themselves):

There's a rare positive press report by Johann Hari, 'They arrested the gorilla!' (Evening Standard, 02.06.08):

'On the concourse at Liverpool Street station, two men dressed as Tower Bridge are dancing a slow waltz. Their partners are a gorilla and a sex doll that has Boris's beaming face. This is not a strange dream: it is the last party of Ken Livingstone's London. When I first signed up on Facebook for a final boozy toast to Ken on the Tube, I imagined a few hundred people would appear - but I underestimated my city. As I enter the station, the crowds begin: goths and bankers, Asian teenagers and posh white women, all waving their bottles of Guinness and Blue Nun. The plan is that we will all clamber on to the first three Circle line trains to leave the station after 9.02pm. As I push through, I bump into a man who is on his knees, a tube in his mouth, with his friend pouring lager directly into his gullet. A chicken carrying a banner which says "People Not Profit" tells me: "Boris symbolises everything we hate. He's not our London." Every time a train pulls in, the crowd whoops and yells "Ken! Ken!"

Hundreds heave on to the first party-train, but as it leaves the Tannoy announces: "This is a security alert. Evacuate immediately"... More than a thousand people throng in the centre of the station [Liverpool St] , and I mingle among the booze fumes and costumes. A lean Brixton-boy says: "I think the drink ban is probably a good idea - but let's party!" Then the crowd is suddenly united with one chant: "Boris is a wanker!" A group of Essex lads dressed as the Village People stand high on the platforms above, leading a stationwide cover-version of YMCA. A conga line forms and, at 10.17pm, a sound system covered with Free Tibet stickers appears. We all begin to dance, and there is a random cry of "Dalai Lama! Dalai Lama!"

At 11.01pm, boys gyrate on top of ticket machines, and a girl rides the information sign like it is a pony. A friend who got on the party train calls. "They arrested the gorilla!" he cries. At 11.14pm some idiot starts smashing bottles. Other people tell him to stop, and a few guys start trying to clear up the crunchy carpet of cans and bottles so it doesn't look so bad. But it's too late: the police, who have been watching from the platforms above, swoop... The police form a line and start pushing people out. A few more protesters foolishly throw bottles. Everyone is chanting again. Pushed out onto Bishopsgate, the crowd looks now as if it will dissipate. But then, suddenly, a bongo-player appears from nowhere, and we all begin to dance again, long into the night. Looking with a smile at the throng, a girl dressed as a Fifties starlet in a shimmering dress, hands me a biscuit, and says: "This is so London, isn't it?"

1 comment:

fari bradley said...

I love this, surely we will continue without alcohol, to exercise our enjoyment of public space together, impromptu?
I thought to just decorate a couple of carriages, maybe play music get dressed up invite lots of random people, those who need to can get tanked up before. He can't stop revelry!