We arrived at noon at Stratford train station, the meeting point for the Silver Group taking part in the London Climate Camp “swoop”. I immediately felt on edge as two police officers with dogs passed us on the opposite escalator. Four of us formed an affinity group as we walked out of the station to meet around 50 other swoopers, some journalists and a surprisingly sparse number of police.
We mused on the possible top-secret site of this year’s Climate Camp. On the train we had passed the partially-built Olympic Stadium by Hackney Marsh, and placed our bets on that being the location. Having gone to school opposite Hackney Marsh, one of the few green spaces in the borough, I felt especially keen for the camp to be there. A local activist spoke to Silver Group about the environmental degradation of the building work, the movement of radioactive waste, the destruction of local allotments, gentrification: I was about to go and pitch a lone tent in front of the half-built monstrosity.
After discussing the Olympics, some folk recited poetry, others formed affinity groups. I checked out the shopping centre for toilets. A few passers-by stopped to ask what was going on but the gathering felt quite undetected by the public. There was a vibe of excitement and anticipation as we all eagerly awaited text messages for the location of the camp.
Then, around two o’clock, we got the signal we’d been waiting for: “Get the Docklands Light Railway to Lewisham…” A member of my affinity group was first off the mark to make a dash for the train station which meant we got a train before everyone else. Then another message: “Left out of Lewisham stn & under bridge. Right up Lewisham Hill, then Wat Tyler Rd, site on your right.” We hurried out of the train station following the directions to the top-secret site.
We ambled up the hill, dodging the heavy sporadic raindrops as dark grey clouds rolled across. Hot on our heels were some journalists and a group of class war anarchists; although I don’t think they were travelling together. We got to a green space and then the top of the hill where a huge flat expanse greeted us. It was kind of like a giant traffic island with a view of Canary Wharf and the docks in one direction, and the flat expanse of south London in the other. It was so exciting being one of the first on site. There were already a few vans and some erected tripods but hardly any people. It really did feel like a swoop as loads of people poured in from every direction seemingly at the same time.
I wandered around the field while people hurriedly constructed tents, marquees and other facilities. Bits of land got plotted out with flags; it was like watching the construction of a township in double time.
Interestingly there wasn’t a uniformed officer in sight, though I’m sure there was a strong police presence at one of the most dynamic happenings of the year.