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Chaos at Goldsmiths building opening

Students congregate in the lobby of the NAB. Photo: Chris Stevenson

Hordes of student protesters disrupted the official opening of multi-million pound state-of-the-art media facility at Goldsmiths, in New Cross on Tuesday evening.

The protest was sparked by the choice of Archie Norman, chairman of ITV and former Conservative MP, as the event’s guest of honour and the decision to make the event invite-only.

Demonstrators gathered outside the building’s entrance an hour before the event was set to begin, before around 100 of them entered the building with musical instruments, party hats and banners.

Organisers moved the officially invited guests to another building on the Goldsmiths campus, but protesters followed en masse chanting “Norman out!”

The college authorities attempted to go ahead with speeches in the staff dining room, but scores of protestors burst in as Norman began to speak, blowing horns and chanting. A small group of protesters threw eggs and water at Norman as he attempted to make his way through the crowd, and most of the dozens of bottles of the wine put out for guests instantly disappeared as the event ended in chaos.

The disruption cast a shadow over the opening of the New Academic Building (NAB), the biggest investment on the Goldsmiths campus for many years and which houses the university’s Media and Communications department.

One of the protest organizers, who would only give his name as Ron, said: “It’s our building – management didn’t mention anything about this event to students. So we thought we’d come along and make sure we were here for the opening of our building. It’s a protest against the marketisation and privatization of education.”

Goldsmiths management were at pains to point out that a large number of the student body had been invited.

Vicky Annand, Goldsmiths Head of Communications and Publicity, said. “Media & Communications and ICCE (Institute for Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship) students were invited and some were invited to do tours and showcase their work.”

“The building isn’t just for students, it’s for the community too. We host lectures and film shows here that all are invited to, and offer space that community groups can book during the summer months.”

A Goldsmiths spokesperson added: 
“The New Academic Building provides excellent facilities for two world-leading Goldsmiths departments and all of the students in the College. We had hoped to celebrate the building and we are saddened we could not do so as we had hoped.”

Archie Norman was seen as a controversial choice to open the new building by a number of students due to the fact that he was a former Conservative MP.

Norman said: “I’m surprised they think I’m worth the attention. I am no longer in politics and have no say in public sector cuts.” He emphasized that the NAB represents that there is continuing investment in media subjects, and that he is happy to see and speak to students. “I’ll come back in peacetime” he added.

Jim Rowland, the department’s administrative coordinator, said he had been involved with the development of the new building for 20 years and was “too upset and angry” to comment further.

A TUC rally held at the same time in a nearby building on the Goldsmiths campus also became a target for protesters, and the TUC’s General Secretary, Brendan Barber, was confronted by a group of demonstrators with banners.

Goldsmiths students have been involved in a number of protests in recent months, including the occupation of the university’s library and Deptford Town Hall buildings. Goldsmiths Students’ Union also played an active role in the nationwide student protests at the end of last year.

Hugh Jones, Goldsmiths registrar and secretary, said “you’ve got to keep it in perspective. It’s very Goldsmiths”

Reporting by Germaine Arnold, Chris Stevenson and Charlie Cooper

Video: Chris Stevenson, edited by Germaine Arnold

Video of the NAB from September 2010 by Emily Jupp

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30 Responses to Chaos at Goldsmiths building opening

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  2. Sebastian

    February 22, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    Me and my third year photography group were explicitly invited. It’s sad that the people hijacked this joyous occasion (at least for the people that worked on this for years and have done everything to facilitate student’s wishes) My apologies go out to the people that broke their back to make the building and it’s facilities possible to media and communications students.

  3. r

    February 22, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    Inviting a tory (ex or not) to open a building that is part of an arts university in the current climate is just asking for trouble. To be honest, as a drama student i’m gutted i was unable to be there.

  4. Arnold Bocklin

    February 22, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    “Me and my third year photography group were explicitly invited.”

    no one likes a show off.

  5. Jasmine

    February 22, 2011 at 11:18 pm

    Arnold – he wasn’t showing off. Even first years have work to do during the reading week, which if protesters were even the least concerned about the rest of their peers they would have protested outside. The building is normally open till 9pm but everybody was kicked out at 6pm. This protest is simply about being a nuisance and capitalising on free alcohol.

  6. Mehdi

    February 22, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    Well done Goldsmiths.. loved it. Never felt as involved and moved by being a Goldsmiths student than I did earlier in the evening.. No-one wants Tory scum on our free-thinking campus.. like a banner said: “Free Your Mind, Not The Market”

  7. Rowntree

    February 23, 2011 at 12:11 am

    Bottom line is we don’t want our college affiliated in any way at all with the Conservatives (remember these are the people pushing through the extreme marketisation of education and other public services at the moment). By inviting a dye-in-the-wool ex-Tory-exec and founder of a right wing think tank to open the new building you’re alienating the majority of the student body for shameful short term gain (donations). We are Goldsmiths. Not Archie Norman and pals. Tell him to go somewhere else to make him feel better about himself.

  8. Glenn

    February 23, 2011 at 12:42 am

    Goldsmiths has raised over the years a varied bunch of students that have led on to be key celebrated characters (including the crazy and bizarre) in the arts and humanities communities. Over the recent years the organisation has invested in new purpose built facilities, such as the NAB, selling itself as a pioneering beacon of contemporary free-form thinking and action. The NAB in many ways is a new tool to record the social and cultural through journalism and documentary lens based media etc and i have no doubt we will see some great people coming from these new foundations. Although tonight had a mix of characters that don’t often mix in one space at one time! It reminded me of something out of a party scene written in the spirit of Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. The character Doc replaced by the Warden who is highly respected within the community and in my eyes he is doing very well. We are in turbulent times, no doubt. Even as a professional, I know that I will be unable to go for another MA, due to the rising fees and on that thought it saddens me deeply as it has been a great confidence builder, something that the college helps you to build. Tonight was a touch of confidence and pride from all and tomorrow as reading week continues, we will all tell of our observations and some acts that make us stand out as individuals. As a group, we have to remember that we are all a part of Goldsmiths in some type of association, it has been our choosing and we have to be compassionate to one anthers narratives, as they all make up one unexpected volume, like the varied sporadic buildings that we encounter on the campus. we are all just as different as the next, but somehow we make up the Goldsmiths Brand!

    By the way can my favourite protester hand back my name badge. I believe your granma has the same name.

  9. Melissa

    February 23, 2011 at 12:49 am

    Mehdi says: “No-one wants Tory scum on our free-thinking campus.” So people are free to think what they like so long as they don’t think Tory? What sort of freedom is that?? If you can’t see that’s a double-standard then Labour has even more to answer for after 13 years of running the education system. I despair.

  10. Protestor

    February 23, 2011 at 12:57 am

    The management closed the building at 6, not us, they posted notices advising that a talk scheduled to take place in NAB was to be moved way way before any disruption took place in the building.

    Also I would like to point out that this was not a protest against Archie per se but rather against managements decision to choose him to open our building, clearly indicating that their priorities lie with a business orientated, training for employment style education, not one that allows people to think freely without the constraints of the market!

  11. H

    February 23, 2011 at 1:35 am

    Ok. Ending this article on ‘you’ve got to keep it in perspective. It’s very Goldsmiths”?! SFG man! Lets all act like complete clichéd idiots and its fine cos ITS GOLDSMITHS?! That’s an excuse. What are you going to do when you go into the real world and actually have to get a job and work instead of wasting everyone’s time and energy on a frankly now pointless cause. Ridiculous. Can you not see that NO ONE IS LISTENING TO YOU ANYMORE? People are sick of having conversations dominated by mindless bullshit, their libraries taken over by dirty hippies, the smell of the air rife with BO? Even if I do disagree with the cuts, etc, etc, I’m going to say I don’t just to spite everyone who is acting so self-righteously. HahhahahhahahahhahahaHAH.

  12. pedant

    February 23, 2011 at 1:36 am

    That should be “my third year photography group and I”…

  13. T

    February 23, 2011 at 2:47 am

    Sounds pretty funny to me, and it sounds like even more of a joyous occasion by the showing of some spirit from some student types. Sebastian, I mean, come on. I’m sure you’ll get over it. Show some creativity. Have your own party- these guys did.

  14. Jake

    February 23, 2011 at 7:58 am

    Some people are so negative and disillusioned. I end up on boards like this all the time and the comments are always the same. ‘Labour started it!’ but they aren’t in power currently so lets focus on the party who is making the decisions eh? ‘There is no point dirty hippies; stop causing disruptions’ Goldsmiths banks off it’s radical free thinking persona and is a ‘liberal arts college’ a term I remember being repeated over and over at the open day. Inviting an ex conservative MP – the party currently slashing the arts and he’s the head of ITV the British right wing terrestrial channel. Obviously he wasn’t going to go down well. This protest may not change anything but you are a sad individual if you’d rather sit and wait for everything to turn to shit around you whilst your university is crippled because the arts are seen as inferior by the current government. Either sit idly by or do something about it even if it is just blowing a trumpet in a room to show your dissatisfaction. If you had ever been to Goldsmiths you’d realize calling students who go there dirty hippies is slightly off the mark since you are more likely to see people strolling round in ball gowns. And finally SFG irritates me beyond belief. Yes this protest is ‘very Goldsmiths’ that’s why I decided to come here because people do things like this; why the hell did you come here if you don’t like it? Why is SFG used so pejoratively? Some people need to get off their high horse, stop pointing out ‘pretension’ (which is a most pretentious thing to do) and enjoy themselves.

  15. HuminMunter

    February 23, 2011 at 8:55 am


  16. Tobias Abse

    February 23, 2011 at 9:43 am

    I would like to start by pointing out I wasn’t there, being too busy with the Brendan Barber meeting in the Ian Gulland, just in case anybody seeks to claim I instigated this one. However, I don’t understand what SMT thought they were doing inviting such a provocative figure when Higher Education is under such sustained attack from the Tories and their Lib Dem collaborators. Surely, they could have invited some other relevant media celebrity like Jeremy Paxman, John Humphries or Jon Snow and kept everybody happy?

  17. Anonymous

    February 23, 2011 at 10:24 am

    Unbelievable selfish students, some of which didnt even know what they were protesting about! One student claiming “i heard there was a party so i just came along”.
    The people at this event had worked on the building project for 3 years, these included the Architects and contractors amongst others. These people put and incredible amount of time and money into making this building possible FOR STUDENTS BETTER EDUCATION and deserved a little private celebration at the opening of this building to celebrate all their hard work.
    The fact that this was ruined by a bunch of selfish people that really were there just to cause trouble is very sad. One student saying “It’s our building – management didn’t mention anything about this event to students” just shows the selfish behaviour of these people. You are right, it is your building….to use! The people at this celebration made this building possible for you to use and you should of shown some consideration. You really have no idean how much effort these people put into the project and you should all be ashamed of yourselves.

  18. Sebastian

    February 23, 2011 at 10:53 am

    Arnold if you think I was showing off then that’s up to you. I didn’t go anyway because I wasn’t in the country. I was just highlighting the fact that students WERE indeed invited, as the article claimed that was one of the reasons for the Protest to happen in the first place. As for correcting my English. Thanks. It’s always a great counter argument to criticise someone’s opinion based on the fact that they are not native speaker and make mistakes. Let me hear your point in German please. Thanks.

  19. local mindless student

    February 23, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    i’m really surprised by the instant dramatic reaction this has benefitted from – just goes to show how easy it is to shake things up a bit.
    i was there – i had a fun time, so did a lot of people. it was certainly more amusing and rewarding than the private soiree would have been (if that’s what’s most important).
    what was also brill was the fact that the goldsmiths anti-cuts battle (in it’s odd, excited, disruptive form) is still continuing.
    i reckon it needs to be reiterated, or pointed out even – do not take this personally. take a step back – students infiltrated a private event attended by management bods who were starting to warm up potential private investors, the only viable funding option the country’s universities now face. (by the way – check out the bologna process – this neo-liberal marketisation is happening across europe, and beyond!) for me, and at least the people i spoke to about it, this is dangerous.
    and hey what are we supposed to do? what are the Right ways to resist this? boycotting paying fees? being kettled in parliament square? blockade major motorways? this was an evening of party hats and free booze. excellent. this kind of disruption will not stop now. as more and more people get angry about the government’s (and then, if we can’t only blame the current ruling parties but also the only opposition, which obviously has to be held accountable, then maybe we should be interrogating the system of rule we live under in this country) divide and conquer of the economically unattractive, more than just dinner functions will get shut down.
    hold onto your paty hats…


  21. Peter

    February 23, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    I think there is some confusion about what people think that last night event was supposed to achieve.
    For the students of Goldsmiths the New Academic Building is always open but my feeling was for a few hours last night and as someone who has personally invested many hours of my own unpaid time to help to achieve, it was a chance to see how the NAB provides the facilities that are required for today’s students.
    Last night was supposed to have been a celebration of this.
    The NAB was provided under the framework of a previous Government initiative but it’s naive to think that even that was sufficient to fully fund such an excellent facility. Since Goldsmiths inception it has always relied upon some form of philanthropy which is not unusual for any university.
    The guests who turned up to last night’s event are the people who unselfishly choose to invest their own time and money in trying to provide the right facilities for today’s students who hopefully, when their time comes, will do the same for future generations.
    To the people who were protesting last night; you’re protesting against the wrong people!

  22. ELMAR

    February 23, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    @Jasmine if there was any disruption caused it was at the hands of the senior management, who closed off the whole building so that they could have their f****d up little party… I went in to check if a talk I was attending would still be held in the same room, and was practically chased by some frantic little jobsworth who did all but drag me by my hair to get me out, after accusing me of lying about my reasons for being in the building. And that was at half past four. I am sick and tired of hearing people whinge about losing an hour of their study time here or there, grow up and stop being so pathetic: this attitude shows a distinct lack of understanding of the current political situation with regards to education. It’s also just plain selfish and f***ing irritating, stop it.

  23. Justonepoint

    February 24, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    Like the namesake one point to make….do we really want private sponsored education? Creationism anyone? Have a look at the US where education is doing a great job of distorting science and feeding kids junk food in the name of sponsorship.

  24. FYI

    February 25, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Elmar states that “I went in to check if a talk I was attending would still be held in the same room”. Assuming that what is being referred to was an event that several guests turned up for that had been advertised as being in NAB LG01, this was, unfortunately, an error.

    A series of what were, in fact, public events had been booked on Tuesday evenings this session and at this time – but *not* for this particular Tuesday in Reading Week or indeed last Term. It was most certainly *not* the Senior Management “clos(ing) off the whole building”. The event organiser had therefore been able to book LG01 as overflow space for this opening event in LG02 last November in the normal way.

  25. Angela Phillips

    February 25, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    This is incorrect. The whole building was open. The meeting thought you were going to was not actually being run this week because it is reading week. If you had checked you would have known that. Your aggressive comments are not likely to win many people to the cause you think they should be fighting for. It may have escaped your attention but everyone working in Higher Education is going to be affected by these changes even the people your derisively refer to as jobsworths by which resumably you mean workers employed by Goldsmiths.

  26. jeff

    February 25, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    Sebastian thats not strictly true that students were invited was it? A selection of favoured students were invited while the majority (including media students) were not. Closing the building for a couple of hours (sorry 3) is nothing compared to the seismic changes which are happening in higher education. Archie Norman being invited as the guest of honour was quite frankly a disgrace. He is not an academic, and although he works in the media, he is not a media practitioner or theorist, he is a business man. For him ITV is a business venture and nothing more. This was a clear example of Goldsmiths giving patronage to the Tory/business elite. The same elite that have absolute contempt for Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (I’m pretty sure Media and Communications fits in here) as a public good.

    I hazard a guess that if SMT had thought a little longer about a more honourable guest that should be the guest of honour, none of this would have happened.

  27. jeff

    February 25, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    P.S the facilities are actually great, It is a shame that the night was disrupted, but I don’t see what the students concerned about the changing nature of higher education were supposed to do about a management team that wilfully keeps them in the dark about such important information.

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  29. Donnacha DeLong

    March 1, 2011 at 2:26 am

    Correct me if I’m wrong – but is this the same Goldsmiths that has David Graeber and Saul Newman as lecturers? And they invite a Tory businessman to open their media centre. Ho hum!

    Anyway, if any media students would like yours truly, the anarchist Vice President of the National Union of Journalists, to come and talk to their class about the union and the media (new media my speciality), give me a shout. You can easily find me on Facebook and Twitter under my name.

  30. Alex

    April 1, 2011 at 9:04 am

    I love the ‘It’s very Goldsmiths’ quote to finish

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