On Saturday, May 21, from noon until sunset, people gathered at 111 Moray Place for the Ōtepoti Festival of Anarchy (or A-Day, as the cool kids call it). Despite the cold, the festival provided free food, music, workshops and stuff. What more could you ask for? Critic Te Arohi reported from the heart of the festival of anarchy (and had a blast).
The Ōtepoti Festival of Anarchy was organized to “celebrate the radical, demonstrate the beauty of anarchy, avoid the logic of the market, share something delicious, create a mood [and] learn something exciting”, while “doing it together”. Stalls and activities were spread around the Crooked Spoke bicycle shop and nearby Blackstar Books (an anarchist bookstore). The irony of such a well-planned and smoothly organized “anarchic” event was not lost on the participants.
Among the stalls was one selling Sri Lankan street food, freshly prepared by the Ōtepoti Possibilities Cooperative, a new anarchist food cooperative. In true anarchist spirit, food was priceless, but you were encouraged to “eat what you like and pay how you feel”. All proceeds went to the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, a grassroots community development organization in Sri Lanka. Reviewer Te Arohi can confirm that the food was both delicious and nutritious.
Other stalls included the “Really Really Free Market” where you could trade clothes, furniture and other things; as well as a station where you could write an anonymous letter to your landlord or property manager. The Crooked Spoke hosted a dizzying array of musical acts throughout the day, from DJs pumping out techno to acoustic ensemble performers. Meanwhile, Blackstar Books has held indoor workshops on topics such as the history of anarchism in Aotearoa, our broken mental health system, how to do OIAs (Official Information Act Requests), gender fluidity in mythology and an introduction to “searching for urban trash” (aka dumpster diving).
Critic Te Arohi interviewed a number of students at A-Day to see what anarchy meant to them. Lydia, who had just completed a master’s degree in peace and conflict studies, sees anarchy as “a way to start rethinking certain ways of living and living in a community. [that] we take for granted.” Meanwhile, Karl said the festival offered “a bit of chaos in a world that’s too focused on order and structure.”
Critic Te Arohi sat down with Carl (unrelated to Karl), one of the festival organizers and a member of the Ōtepoti Possibilities cooperative. Carl saw the festival as “a great way to bring people together”, where people can “have fun, have good kai and make connections”.
The festival saw a wide range of people and demographics. ” There are some people [here] who identify with anarchy as an ideology and there are people here who see the poster and think it sounds buzzy so come on and there are people who join in because they are curious about about anarchy.
Basically, Carl sees anarchy simply as “self-reliance, but at the level of the group… [It’s about] get together with people and do whatever bullshit you want to do regardless of power structures or appeals to authority. It’s about trying to meet the needs of our community, ourselves. It’s about demonstrating that we can do it ourselves (plural).
Anarchy is deeply interconnected with radical intersectionality. “Because anarchy is popular, you can’t ignore anything, so you have to create a social space that works for everyone, and I think intersectionality comes naturally in those spaces,” Carl said. As such, Carl said, “privilege should not be avoided, nor should oppression be used as a means of gaining power over another”.
Carl said the radical language used was deliberate, with organizers wanting to avoid changing “our language to suit what’s most comfortable.” I think a lot of organizations might see wanting to end capitalism as a value, but won’t talk about it publicly because it’s not acceptable. However, there is no misinterpretation of the language or intentions of “Anarchy Day”. Meanwhile, “we chose to use the term ‘anarchy’ as opposed to anarchism to focus on anarchy as a process and a way of doing things anarchically, as opposed to anarchism as as an ideology,” Carl said.
Lydia said the vibe was “very chilled and friendly in a relaxed way on a sleepy Saturday”. “It almost makes me feel like I’m traveling again because you’re exploring something out of the ordinary, so it adds a bit of adventure to our normal Saturday,” Rebecca said.