Saturday, January 06, 2024

Goldsmiths Occupations: a chronology

Found at the awesome 56a Info Shop archive a copy of SHIP Network News (Southwark Homeless Information Project) reports an occupation at Goldsmiths College in Summer 1991, specifically of the  Outreach Unit at 32 Lewisham Way which had just been closed down. 'the occupiers have opened it up to anyone and everyone' and proclaimed a 'free university' with a planned democratic education summer school. Not sure how far this got, as they seemed to have quickly been served a court summons. I don't know if this was the same 1991 occupation at which there was talk of Spiral Tribe putting on a party in the Great Hall only to be blocked by nervous student union officials.

There have been quite a few occupations at Goldsmiths over the years, some of which we have covered here previously. But here's an attempt at a chronology - no doubt missing many so let us know if you have any others - or have memories/documentation of the one below.

1968: Perhaps surprizingly Goldsmiths does not seem to have been directly affected by the wave of student occupations of art schools in 1968, notably at Croydon and at Hornsey Colleges of Art. It is though recorded that ‘Sixty students from Goldsmiths’ College of Art, New Cross, SE, invaded Hornsey College of Art on the first day of its new term… They crowded into the corridors of Hornsey and chanted ‘We support you. We support you’. Hornsey college authorities called police, who dispersed the students and ejected them’ (Times, 5 November 1968).

1984:  the Administration building (later the Whitehead building) was occupied for 8 days to protest against staff cuts in the Media and Communications team (more here)

1999: as detailed by Past Tense, 'Part of Goldsmiths College, New Cross, was occupied 26th February – March 5th 1999. 300 students took over college admin building, after eight students were expelled because they couldn’t pay £1000 a year tuition fees that had been imposed on them. A court granted the college an eviction order, but the occupying students refused to leave till the eight reinstated. A few weeks previously, students had held a demonstration, blocking New Cross Road outside, over same issue'.

2009: a two day occupation of the Deptford Town Hall building  by 50 or so studentsas part of a national wave of protest against Israel's bombing of Gaza (plus ca change). The occupation did achieve one of its demands -  scholarships for students from Palestine's al-Quds university. The blog from the occupation is still online 


2010 saw a huge movement linking together university students, school students and others in the front line of austerity in the aftermath of the financial crash.  In November 2010 around 40 students occupied the old Deptford Town Hall for two days in protest at education cuts and the proposed increase in students fees. Effigies of prime minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg were strung up on New Cross Road next to a banner saying 'Education for the Masses, not the Ruling Classes'. More here:

Then in December 2010 there was a larger scale occupation of the library, with several hundred taking part at the beginning. This lasted for almost a week from 5 to 11 December (More here and here). I believe Kae Tempest (then known as Excentral Tempest) performed at the occupation. The radical anthropologist David Graeber, then working at the College, was heavily involved, going on the next year to play a significant role in the Occupy protest in New York.  I have a talk in the library on the radical history of New Cross.

In March 2011 there was a short occupation of the Town Hall in support of striking lecturers. More here

March 2011

A short occupation of the Whitehead building in November 2011 declared itself 'in solidarity with the UK-wide strike on November 30th and the global occupy movement. We are here because we reject the privatisation of the university, symptomatic of the neo-liberal agenda that permeates all aspects of life. For this reason we have strategically occupied the building housing Goldsmiths’ finance offices, responsible for executing the cuts and the privatisation agenda'. More here.

November 2011

In December 2013 around 100 people occupied the Town Hall building in support of striking staff. More here.


March 2015 saw another occupation of the Town Hall with a wide range of demands and a focus on the marketisation of education. More here


The Goldsmiths Anti- Racist Action occupation of 2019 took over part of the Town Hall and lasted for a mammoth 137 days between March and July. Arising as part of the global Black Lives Matter movement its demands focused on institutional racism at Goldsmiths. 


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