Mark Thomas: ‘This is like Thatcher’s victory bellow’

Mark Thomas
Mark Thomas
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Comedian and activist Mark Thomas has spent the last quarter of a century prodding the establishment.

Tomorrow he brings his brand new show, Trespass, to The Spring Arts Centre, which looks at how our public spaces have been bought up and what we can do to fight back.

‘I love walking. I’ve done shows about walking before, my researcher was going: “don’t do another show about walking!” But this is a show about walking around cities.

Mark, who identifies as a life-long South Londoner, says: ‘I got really angry by the way in which London is becoming this hollowed out investment opportunity rather than a city people live in and that drivers me insane.

‘It’s about seeing the community you dearly love having people driven away – I come from a big, big family, and there’s only two of us still in the area, the rest have moved out because they can’t afford to live here.

‘The council houses have gone, the super-rich and the corporations and investment funds have brought up the land.

‘This looks at what happens when you walk through these cities and the things you see happening all around you and the way in which the acquisition of public land and open spaces changes our rights, and how we use our rights: our rights to demonstrate, freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of speech.

‘You end up with places like the South Bank, which is owned by all sorts of people, it’s a patchwork of ownerships, but you’ve essentially got a Singapore investment fund that controls your right to whether you can say anything.

‘And this is outside the old home of the Greater London Council – the GLC that stood in opposition to Thatcher, and this is like her victory bellow.’

The show is also influenced by the Kinder Scout trespass, which turned out to be a key moment in what became the Right to Roam movement.

As Mark explains: ‘It was the iconic 1932 walk where 500 working class people from Manchester, which was heavily industrialised, trespassed on to the Peak District which is beautiful, beautiful land and they weren’t allowed on because the landowners wanted to shoot birds 10 days a year.

‘Most of these people were under 25 because unemployment was huge in young people those days. They announced they were going to do a mass trespass.’

Despite the efforts of the police, says Mark, ‘they got to the top of this peak, sang The Internationale, had a picnic, came down and were arrested. The ringleaders were sentenced to six months in jail.

‘What I love about is that was young men and women who went to jail for their right to enjoy the view. That’s a very poetic and beautiful thing.

‘If there’s an action that defines Englishness, radicalism and poetry working together and working class people saying: “Right,we’re going to get on this land and go to jail for that”, this is it.’

Doors 8pm. Tickets £15. Go to thespring.co.uk or call the box office on (023) 9247 2700