In a series of experiments around London’s squares and piazzas, undercover Blueprint researchers have performed a series of activities to test the limits of public space. The researchers undertook a host of different activities in various guises and logged the responses of the public, the police and security guards, with photography by David Cowlard.
The results – to be published in the August issue of Blueprint on Friday 3 July – suggest that public space is far from being ‘public’. It is in fact highly regulated by police and private security firms, and the rules that govern public activity are enforced inconsistently and are open to discretion.
Blueprint discovered that, like the city as a whole, the area around the Mayor’s office, City Hall, is subject to a series of inconsistent rules, which mean that you can get drunk publicly but you can’t kick a ball about. Working undercover the team were stopped from playing football by security guards in the submerged amphitheatre called The Scoop, right next to the GLA building, because ‘the suits nearby would get on the phone to Boris.’
The team from Blueprint were also told by police, just next to Trafalgar Square, that although they were in a controlled Drinking Zone and they weren’t allowed to be seen drinking, they were allowed to drink beer from a tea-cup.
The aim of the exercise was to test some of the research provided by a new document called Alcohol Confiscation and the Hyper-regulation of Public Space, produced by the Manifesto Club which estimates that there will be 20,000 confiscations of alcohol in July and August this year.
Blueprint is collaborating with the Manifesto Club on its Freedom Summer programme of events to challenge the hyper-regulation of everyday life.