Between 22 February and 20 March 2018, workers in 65 UK universities went on strike. The strike was over cuts to the pensions scheme, but much more came up in discussions on the picket line: the neoliberalisation of UK universities, casualisation and precarity in the workforce, problems with the curriculum and the corresponding need to support and enact decolonisation, difficulties with hiring practices, reporting sexual assault, pervasive ableism, and the ongoing legacies of racist histories (in January, UCL was in the news for hosting a conference on eugenics with white supremacist speakers on campus). BREAK//LINE was a constant presence on the picket line at the Bartlett. We supported the organisation of teach outs—even a ‘crit out’—and contributed all important sustenance to the cause, firing up a barbecue outside 22 Gordon Street (importantly, on the area of the pavement managed by Camden Council, not on UCL property).
The s-t-r-i-k-e website, built by David Roberts, details the work produced on the picket line, including a series of brilliant teach outs, a daily newsletter (The Strike Chronicle) edited by Barbara Penner and Jane Rendell, and a host of other creative activities and actions.
BREAK//LINE invited Akil Scafe Smith, Lawrence Flint and Timmy Whitehouse, Joanna Mclean and Maria Venegas Raba to contribute to a ‘crit out’, which happened to take place during a blizzard. Lawrence, Timmy, Akil and Joanna shared their experiences of engaging in architectural projects that seek to centre othered communities, while Maria shared the ‘Pasquinade’ as a strategy of radical self-publishing from Colombia. Passersby, striking staff, and supportive students were all welcome to attend, and we handed out bacon and mushroom sandwiches cooked on the picket BBQ.
Alongside the crit out, our contribution to the picket was to try to make connections between the UCU strike and other actions happening at the time. Miranda Critchley spoke about the Yarlswood Hunger Strike at an International Womens’ Day teach out hosted by Ben Campkin and Lo Marshall. Through ‘A Striker’s Alphabet’, Thandi Loewenson created a platform for those on the picket to collectively build a vocabulary of striking, solidarity, and connections to present and previous struggles, including the concurrent strike of wives of Hwange Mineworkers in Zimbabwe and the Tolmers Square occupations in the 1970s. On twitter, messages of solidarity were passed between the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and the UCU strikers from the Bartlett picket.