I will spend Saturday 27th October at the Anarchist Bookfair in London.
This is the 25th annual bookfire - an incredible achievement for the organisers. From London, other events have spawned - Belgium, Holland, Ireland, US, Canada, Croatia - all can trace their roots back to England. I have missed only one London event since 1992 (I didn't go in 1996 as I went to Blackpool on a works trip, hoping in vain I was going to pull. Needless to say I didn't).
Over those years the bookfair has stumbled through a series of different venues, with a sucession of disputes, campaigns, groups and individuals coming and going. Throughout this time it has been police free and usually crime free. How many annual gatherings, several thousand strong, can say that? From struggling to hear Jello Biafra in Camden, being heckled by a Dutch pagan, to hearing I had somehow missed a mini-riot in 2005, (when the police did turn up in numbers!) the bookfair has not lacked incident. A lot of beer has passed under the bridge, but to what effect?
Certainly if a martian came down and landed in London on bookfair day he/she would see a large, vibrant and optimistic movement. Its the other 364 days of the year we need to worry about! A few things never change - many younger activists spend an incredible amount of time complaining about the price of books or the cost of t shirts, then adjourn to the nearest pub to spend a good £20+. Lord Wetherspoon does better than most out of the British anarchist movement. For some older comrades the bookfair serves as an opportunity to remind others they have not died yet, and of course that they can still drink as much as they used to. Usually they can't.
The quality of beards has certainly gone down in recent years (bring back Green Anarchist!) whilst some rather oddball groups never tire of lurking outside - from the International Communist Current (you don't want to know) to the Socialist Party Of Great Britain (over 100 years of irrelevance) - no one wants to miss the show. In recent years the bookfair has served as the core fundraiser for many UK anarchist organisations - the money raised will keep some groups going for the next six months. If revolution is plotted and schemed within the meetings - well, it has not proved to be a success just yet.
I guess there is always next year.