Well I have a lot of catching up again, as usual! After today I will make a concerted effort to be more regular with my updates. I've been procrastination city lately!
So, after months of hard work, RAG finally produced the fourth issue of their magazine,"The Rag." And if I do say so, it looks pretty amazing. Here I am, holding my brand new copy fresh from the printer:
The magazine was printed just in time for the London Anarchist Book fair and our magazine launch party at Housmans Book Shop.
I really lucked out because I was informed about this Anarchist Seminar that was taking place in London the day before the launch party, and they were offering travel funding for participants. So I applied, and they actually paid for my travel to and from London! Otherwise I would not have been able to go. It only cost about 71 euro (105 USD) to get there and back, but that's 71 euro I really didn't have.
I further lucked out because one of the London anarcha-feminists agreed to put us up at her place, so I also didn't have to pay for accommodation. With free travel and a free place to stay, all I had to pay for was getting around on the bus and tube (a 20 pound Oyster card lasted me four days), and my food -- and I actually managed to get some extremely cheap food while I was there, so to be honest, I probably spent less on my trip to London than I would have if I'd stayed home!
Anyhoo - I had a fantastic time. Here's a rundown of my trip.
Thursday: My friend and fellow ragster, Holly, and I did the sail and rail, which entailed taking a DART (that's like the commuter rail to my Boston friends) to Dún Laoghaire, then we went to the grocery store to stock up on cheap eats for the trip and beyond because the prices for food along our journey were going to be ridiculous, not to mention the nutritional value. Then we hopped on the Ferry. I don't know WHY - but I was expecting something a lot smaller and a lot skimpier -- more like the ferry that takes you to Staten Island or the ferry that takes you to Burano and Murano in Venice. But this was much bigger and flashier, complete with a "casino room" that had electronic slot machines in it. I took a photo just to give an idea of the interior:
The ferry was about two hours, which was plenty for me because there were a lot of swells and I was feeling quite green by the time we got to Wales. From there, we got three trains into London. I actually have no idea how long that took -- over three hours, I think. By the time we got to Euston Station in London, I was pretty freaking tired. But then I said good-bye to Holly, who was staying with a friend, and hopped on a bus to a neighborhood called Stoke Newington. A very nice woman, my host for the weekend, named Sue, was waiting for me when I got off the bus.
You know what is cool? Getting off a bus in a foreign country, meeting up with a complete stranger, having a nice chat, and staying over her house, knowing that you are safe and taken care of. The anarcha-feminist community is such a small and supportive network -- I feel blessed to be part of it. So I fell asleep, and in the morning Sue gave me keys to her place so I could come and go as I pleased.
Friday: I set off in search of the seminar. It was called a "Drifting Seminar," and you were supposed to figure out where it was taking place by following Twitter posts. This was a challenge, as I don't have internet on my phone, and I didn't have my computer, but I managed to figure it where it was (luckily in Hackney, not far from where I was staying), and Holly and I spent the morning sitting in a circle in a park with about 15 other people talking about all different sorts of things. I wasn't sure I would have anything to say, but as it turns out, I did make a couple of comments that added to/ sparked an interesting discussion, so I didn't feel useless.
Then we broke for lunch, and everyone walked up the road to Pogo Cafe for a nice vegan meal. I had a "punk burger" which was delicious. Everyone started mingling and chatting each other up and getting acquainted. Here we are after lunch, waiting to make our next move:
Then we all hopped on a bus and went to the London Action Resource Centre, or LARC for short, which is kind of like a small Seomra Spraoi (and if you're a Boston friend, I have no analogy to make). We were joined by a few more and continued our conversation, which didn't flow as naturally as before, but was productive nonetheless. But then Holly and I had to bag out because we had to go to our magazine launch party!! YAY!
Clare, Ariel, Shonagh, and Sheila were all coming from Dublin on Friday, so we kind of expected that they'd all beat us there, with piles of magazines in hand, but we were a little surprised and dismayed to arrive at 7:05pm, five minutes late, and be the first RAG people to arrive. But all was saved when the others arrived shortly thereafter! The book store provided wine and chairs, and we presented our magazine and our individual articles, and took many questions from the attendees. Here's what it looked like from my perspective at the back of the store:
And here's what it looked like from the front of the store, facing towards me:
The launch was so successful. We sold about 40 copies of the magazine, and left a bunch more. The respect given to RAG was impressive -- this group has been going strong for over four years now, and is well known in its little circle. I think a lot of groups like ours would really like to produce a magazine as well, and so we got a lot of questions about our process and about some of the nuts and bolts of production. I felt like we were sharing valuable information and ideas. I wish everyone in the group could have been there.
After the launch, a large group of people went to a pub to continue celebrating. I couldn't believe how inexpensive the alcohol was compared to Dublin. I got a shot of Knob Creek whiskey (KC - how I missed you!) for like two pounds -- I couldn't believe it. Luckily, we didn't stay out too too late, because I was tired! Here's a photo outside the pub of Sheila and Sue (left), the woman I stayed with:
This captures the jovial mood we were all in.
Saturday: The day of the Anarchist Book Fair! Held at Queen Mary College (part of London University, I think) his thing was pretty huge. I think there were three big rooms full of tables with vendors. You could get all manner of items: t-shirts, patches, books, posters, art prints, magazines, fanzines, DVDs, and more. People think of anarchism as a term to mean chaos, or even nihilism, and so it can be a little confusing for those who think of anarchy as only a punk thing. It's not. People of all ages and styles and races are anarchists. This was my first anarchist book fair, and so it was fun for me to see so many people there. And there were workshops being held in different rooms throughout the day.
Here's a photo collage to give an idea of what the room we were in was like. It was actually much more crowded at times than in this photo:
There was also really tasty vegan food there that you could feast on for merely a donation. YUM.
Here's our table, which we shared with a fantastic RAG friend from Finland, with her lovely patches and things, and our distro stuff. That's the lovely Clare on the right:
I guess it's customary to go to this one gigantic bar down the street after the fair each year, so of course we had to do that. Then we were off to a party at the anarchist book store called Freedom Bookshop:
But then everyone I was with wanted to go to a squat party. I went along, but felt really uneasy once we got there because there was a mob out on the sidewalk and the police were there. When the police started to multiply, I started to get more nervous. However, I think I was the only one! Here's what it looked like from across the street (sorry that it's so dark):
I was trying to go with the flow, but then when they announced that they wanted to get everyone inside as quickly as possible and to "get your five pounds ready" I was like NO WAY. I just had to admit to myself that I wasn't comfortable going inside to a place that I envisioned as being really crowded. I realized that I officially am not punk, and maybe have turned into an old fart, but I was like "I gotta go!" and gave everyone a hug and took off. It wasn't the best neighborhood and I had literally NO idea which direction Sue's apartment was (though I did know that it wasn't that far away), but I managed to hail a cab and get home for only ten pounds -- much cheaper than paying to get into the party and buying drinks all night. When I walked into Sue's, the relief I felt to be in for the night told me that I'd made the right decision.
As it turns out, the party was not crowded inside, because the place was gigantic, which you couldn't tell from the outside. But judging from the rough shape everyone was in the next day (not to mention stolen items at the party), I never regretted my decision.
Sunday: After a nice late sleep in, Holly and I met Sheila at a feminist networking meeting at LARC. Getting to chat with so many like-minded women made a huge impression on me, and felt comforting in so many ways. We brainstormed ideas of things we'd like to do in the future, and they served a much needed meal to all the attendees.
After the meeting, we had a little time to kill, so Holly, Sheila and I walked around London over to Tower Bridge, which embarrassingly I had never even heard of. It's huge:
I took some silly photos, and then Holly insisted that she take one of me too:
You might notice that I chopped off my hair. I forgot to blog about that!
Another couple shots of the bridge:
And then we all spit off the bridge into the water below, because that's what ladies do:
We went back to Sue's for a nice early night, where one of the other London women was hanging out over some wine. Holly and Sheila made hot whiskeys and we all chatted for a few hours. On Monday, Sheila and I woke up early and caught a bus, five trains, a ferry, and two other buses back to Dublin. Holly stayed on for another day.
The long weekend was one of the best I've ever had, full of positivity, fun, new friends, and incredible kindness. My host, Sue, was generous and kind, and not only that, a real cool lady. I hope she comes to Dublin so I can return the favor! Although I have to say -- I was really, really happy to come home. :)