I have mentioned Reclaim Love in passing a couple of times on this blog. The event occurs on the closest Saturday to Valentines Day and has happened for ten consecutive years in London. I have been present on seven occasions, normally with a sound system. I didn’t make it in 2012 and this year Venus got in touch to say that I was missed, and to ask me to come back for the 10th anniversary. Well how could I refuse? I was only going to talk about this year’s event but I started thinking back to earlier ones and decided to do a post about the history of Reclaim Love, or rather the history of the London event from my perspective.
The first Reclaim Love was on Feb 14th 2004 at the Eros statue (in fact it is actually a statue of Anteros) in Piccadilly Circus. I wasn’t there but according to this UK Indymedia report the purpose of the action was “to reclaim Valentine’s day from the corporate marketeers by staging a mass group hug”. The action was clearly considered to be a success and the same venue was chosen for all subsequent events (a trip to Green Park and back in 2011 not withstanding).
In 2005 I knew Reclaim Love would be happening on Feb 12th but I was busy doing other things. In the morning I met up with my friend Tony and we took his famous Soapbox Trike sound system on the Kyoto Climate March. Tony then rode it to Reclaim Love and I cycled with him from the US Embassy but only paused briefly in Piccadilly before heading up to another event at a squatted church in Tufnell Park. A couple of months later I helped Tony build a new sound system he had designed for the G8 Bike Ride. Smaller than the Soapbox Trike and mounted on a trailer towed behind a tandem, Pedals (as the new system became known) was destined to play a big part in Reclaim Love.
In 2006 Reclaim Love fell on Feb 11th. Tony and I took Pedals and met up with our friend Hagop, aka DJ EON. The samba band Rhythms of Resistance performed first then Venus got on the mic to explain the purpose of the event and encourage everyone to form a circle sending love out to all beings. After the circle we put on some music, starting with Bob Marley’s “One Love”, which became the traditional first track in subsequent events. Tony noticed that the bass wasn’t sounding right and on investigation it was because the driver had become detached from the partition into which it had been screwed. Thinking back it must have happened in a previous incident when the trailer clipped a curb and fell hard on its side. Fortunately we were able to make a hasty repair and get the show back on the road. Unfortunately there was a drunk guy in the crowd who became seriously obnoxious and started acting aggressively towards Venus. He didn’t stop the party but I found myself in the role of bodyguard and had to keep a close eye on him. It was rather stressful but I learned that it is one of the things you have to be prepared to deal with when you hold unofficial events in public places.
Later in 2006 Pedals went on a Bicycology tour from London to the first Camp for Climate Action at Drax power station. I had agreed to build a similar sound system for people in Lancaster and we decided to let Pedals stay up north until the new system was ready.
In 2007 Venus wasn’t around and nothing was planned until the last minute when a few people decided to maintain the tradition by meeting up at Eros on Feb 17th. With Pedals in Lancaster I didn’t have a sound system but I went along anyway and enjoyed the lack of responsibility. The event was reported on UK Indymedia. Soon after that I started designing my new system which eventually made its debut on London Critical Mass in June 2007 and became known as Son of Pedals.
In 2008 Reclaim Love happened on Feb 16th and Pedals was still up north so Son of Pedals got the job. Tony brought a 12 volt mixer which enabled us to set up for some excellent live performances. In August 2008 Bicycology did an event in Lancaster and we took the opportunity to deliver Son of Pedals and bring back Padals, which was in desperate need of a service.
In 2009 Reclaim Love was on Feb 14th. I took Pedals and my friend Dan came along to help with sound – here is a UK Indymedia report. On April 1st Pedals was attacked and kicked over by baton wielding police at the G-20 London summit protests but fortunately the damage was fairly superficial.
In 2010 Reclaim Love happened on Feb 13th and I took Pedals again. Things went OK for a while but then the tweeters packed in, the midrange started cutting out and finally the main fuse blew, at which point I called it a day. When I got the system home I started on a major refurbishment, fitting an active crossover and a new single tweeter as well as repairing the horn driver, modifying the box and welding a stronger arm onto the trailer. At the end of May Pedals set off on a Merthyr to Mayo solidarity ride.
In 2011 Venus announced that she was not doing a London event and was upset when people started planning one without her. On Jan 16th she hosted a meeting at her flat during which she came round to the idea and threw herself into organising the event for Feb 12th. There was another potential problem in that the pavement around Eros had been dug up and work was not due to be finished by then. An alternative plan was made to meet at Eros and then proceed to Green Park for the main event. I took Pedals and in fact there was plenty of room for a party around Eros but we stuck to the plan and I lead a procession along Piccadilly to Green Park. After the circle ceremony we returned to Eros for music and dancing. The event was reported on Indymedia London.
In 2012 I was busy on Feb 18th so I missed Reclaim Love. It went ahead as usual despite heavy rain and Indymedia London again had a report.
So that finally brings me to 2013 and the 10th anniversary of Reclaim Love which was celebrated on Feb 16th. Pedals had been out of action for a while due to various problems so I travelled to London on Feb 2nd to check it out. The main problem seemed to be a dodgy mixer (luckily I had taken a spare) but I also discovered a large hole in the bass driver. Fortunately my friend Tim had a spare one at his flat nearby so I was able to replace it too and things seemed good to go. Venus put me in touch with another Ian who said he would also bring some gear and on the day of the event I met him and my friend Dan in Trafalgar Square before heading up to Eros for 2pm. In the end we had two sound systems and an extra powered speaker linked together, which was just as well because fine weather ensured a large crowd. Westminster Council tried to shut us down about 6pm but in the end said we could continue until 8pm (I had been planning to leave by 7pm but it seemed wrong not to take up the offer). There is a report on Indymedia UK.