Tear Down The Walls: Tour Report
Last week two members of the Empty Cages Collective travelled the north of England and Scotland for the first dates of the Tear Down The Walls: Prison Abolition Speaking Tour. Reaching six cities in just five days and covering over 870 miles, the tour was an overwhelming success. This was our first official outing as the Empty Cages Collective and the first event of the Prison Abolition 2014 – year of action & organising against the prison-industrial-complex.
We began on Sunday in Bristol at the Kebele Social Centre. Following a hearty vegan dinner supplied by Bristol Anarchist Black Cross, who also helped organise the night, we sat down to an group of around fifteen people. Trying out our new workshop design for the first time was a bit nerve wrecking at first but we seemed to pull it off and the night went down a hit.
Tuesday saw us travel to Manchester to visit The Bunker, under the Plan B housing co-op, for an intimate meeting organised by Manchester Anarchist Federation. Learning our lessons from the night before we presented our newly tweaked workshop to audience of around a dozen people from a range of backgrounds.
Up early Wednesday morning and off to Newcastle for a midday workshop at the Star and Shadow Cinema. We must admit we were sceptical. This date had only been confirmed three days before and was taking place at 12:30pm, not the optimum workshop time. But lo and behold fifteen or more people turned up for a truly engaging and inspiring session.
Sadly we couldn’t stay around for very long as that same day we had to drive all the way to Edinburgh for the next talk which took place at St. Margaret’s House and organised by Edinburgh Anarchist Federation. Scotland presented a new perspective for us, the Scottish Prison Service is separate to the one in England & Wales, on which all our statistics were based. Luckily there were lots of well-informed people who helped us fill in the blanks.
We made sure we were well prepared for Glasgow. Arranged by Glasgow Anarchist Federation it was our largest date of the tour with just under 30 people taking part in the workshop at the Fred Paton Centre. There was lots of energy in the room, and a real emphasis on community organising shone through, which we were more than happy about.
Our final stop was in Liverpool where we spoke at the Quaker’s Meeting House. We were originally supposed to have our meeting at the Liverpool John Moores University, but the university apparently didn’t like the idea of a talk organised by Merseyside Anarchist Federation happening on their grounds. Despite the venue change we still had a well-attended talk made up of a cross-section of the population from lecturers to students and activists to ex-prisoners.
We really hope that the talks were as beneficial to other people as they were to us. Thank you to everybody who came out on a week night to listen to us talk, and special thanks to all the people who helped make the tour happen! We met lots of interesting people and had some really important conversations with people. The connections that we made during this tour will be vital to building a prison abolition movement in this country and we’re excited to see where they take us.
That’s not the end though! During this tour we were only able to reach cities in the far north of the country and Scotland. There are still lots of other places in Britain that we didn’t reach that we want to visit. If you live in a city not reached by the Tear Down The Walls Tour and would like to see us come do a workshop there, please get in touch. You can e-mail us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
There is also the Organising for Abolition: Skill Sharing Weekend taking place on Sat 10th and Sun 11th May in Bristol for anybody who wants to get involved in building a movement towards prison abolition in the United Kingdom.
And don’t forget the Prison Abolition Conference on Saturday 1st November in London.
Those of you who signed up to our e-mail list on the tour should expect an message shortly. If you didn’t catch us on the tour, but would like to be kept up-to-date with the latest news, events and info about Prison Abolition 2014 then you can sign-up to our newsletter using the form to your right.