Contributed by: Gerry Cordon
Funnily enough, my strongest memory of the occupation itself is the of the music. We very quickly established our living and sleeping quarters in small groups – and many, including the one I was a member of – had a record player and a pile of vinyl LPs. So there was that aspect, but what I most recall is the music that woke us in the mornings.
Architecture students, organized, I think, by Phil Gusack, had set up some kind of PA system that broadcast messages and announcements (‘mass meeting time!’) throughout the building – but also music at various times, particularly as a gentle reveille. This was the first time I had heard flute and recorder sonatas by Telemann and Handel, or Taverner’s Missa Corona Spinea. It was a glorious way to be woken, and it’s determined my idea of the proper kind of music to be played at breakfast time ever since.
To me, this epitomised the joining of two strands of the counterculture of the sixties – the political radicalism of the left and the cultural radicalism of the hippies and the yippies. This alliance had already broken in America – but it held for a while in Britain, and certainly in the Liverpool occupation, before disintegrating in the harsher world of the Left in the 1970s. In recent years, in anti-globalisation and environmental protests, these strands seem to have come together again.
It was encapsulated, we thought innocently, in the slogan I remember drawing in huge lettering and hanging from the balcony of the entrance hall in Senate House: ‘Revolution is the festival of the oppressed’. Lenin said that, allegedly: now there was someone who knew all about being joyful.