Buy Nothing Day this year saw the Hijackers calling for a TopShop SwapShop.

In the light of the governments calls for people to spend our way out of a recession with rampant consumerism, we thought it might be better to look at what we're spending all our hard earnt cash on. Our highstreets promote fast changing fashion produced in sweatshop conditions, poisoning cotton farmers and creating endless landfill, all this aside from the depression caused by the blanket advertising asking people to max out their credit and fit to airbrushed examples of humanity.

The TopShop SwapShop was an attempt to create a space of free exchange within one of the cathedrals of consumption, a place were people could trade unwanted goods for new ones without the baggage of big business. Unfortunately the boss's of TopShop and the Metropolitan Police had other ideas..

On the 29th of November, in the middle of Oxford Street's slick and impersonal pre-Christmas rush of mindless buying, we decided to make a little space where we and anyone who wanted to join us could take a break from the stress of all the buying and selling and prove that we don't need or particularly want it. Welcome to Topshop Swapshop!

The plan: In the middle of one of the great centres of disposable, exploitative fashion, where we're encouraged to buy, buy, buy and ignore the environmental, personal and ethical consequences, make a statement by rejecting these ideas. Stop shopping, start swapping! People were invited to join us in a giant clothes swap inside TopShop. They were asked to turn up wearing an outfit they wanted to give away, and at a pre-arranged signal, trade clothes with the other swappers. Eventually walking out with a brand new look, and not a penny spent.

We met a short while before the event started to give out flyers to passers by, many of whom were thrilled at the prospect of free clothes in Topshop. "Free clothes giveaway! Meet at TopShop today at 2pm". Ok, perhaps we could have been slightly more specific on the nature of the free clothes.

Predictably, Topshop were substantially less thrilled. Their first move was to get rid of the red telephone box, the publicised meeting point for swappers. Though this lead to confusion, the swappers were not so easily deterred, and began swapping at another location in the store. Clothes were taken off, clothes were put on, and a curious crowd of shoppers gathered to watch.

picture Peter Marshall

Various burly men with ear pieces were hanging around the ladies knitwear section, and we had a feeling that perhaps Security and the Police were waiting for us. "No bare flesh" we were warned as the burly security guards caught a cheeky glimpse of agent Dub Foundation's nipple! Despite a quick cover-up, this was obviously too much for Topshop sensibilities. Agent Dub Foundation was escorted up the escalator by about six security guards and police, handily drawing a huge amount of attention to our activities. Thanks guys!

By this point the shop itself was about half full of police, security, PCSO's and various managers, the other half were either half dressed and swapping clothes, or being ushered out of the store and prevented from shopping.

The next move Topshop security made was to insist on escorting the remaining swappers out of the shop, with the generous and arguably over-enthusiastic assistance of the police. Once outside, swapping continued on the pavement by the door, undeterred by the fairly heavy-handed approach of the police officers present, some of whom thought it necessary to start shoving swappers around for no apparent reason.

At this point Agent Jessic was dragged off by the aforementioned heavy-handed police. Agent Bristly Pioneer continues the story...

Swapping Clothes on Regent Street outside the store.

The police had decided to round up the naughty swappers and were demanding names and addresses of people as potential organisers. I was being held against a wall by a very eager officer, keen to find out all about me.

"tell me your name, address, phone number, height, racial origin, job ..."
"erm, no, I really don't think I have to, are you arresting me?"
"You have to son, it's the law"
"erm, which law"
"Your causing anti social behaviour"
"Actually it's very social behaviour officer, you see .."
"Listen are you going to tell me your name or am I going to put these cuffs on you"
"Well if you just show me which law you're usi.... CLICK CLICK"

at this point I was whisked away into the back of a police van, hands in cuffs. The report is going to continue from my vantage point of the back of a van.

picture Peter Marshall

The swap was in full flow, various toned young hijacker boys were baring all on the cold streets whilst the press were snapping away. Topshop security and management were looking less impressed. At this point the officer in the back of the van received a text that that his daughters football team had lost 13-0 (relationships soured somewhat at this point). He used a cunning trick of pulling my wallet from my back pocket, and pulling out my cards.

"Are these your cards, or is this a stolen wallet?"
"It's not stolen officer"
"So you are Mr XXXX XXXXXXXXX then are you sir?"
"If you say so officer, sigh"

Eventually after first panicking when agent Greenman tried to return my coat, and the officer realised he was locked in the van with a 'dangerous criminal' he decided along with the other officers to de-arrest me and release me "So as not to give me the satisfaction of a proper arrest" ????

ASBO Bristly is set free & The swap continues on Carnaby Street

I returned to the crowd of swappers after being told that I had been banned from Oxford Street and Regent Street for the next 24hrs. Our band of newly re-styled hijackers then hooked up with the wonderful Rhythms Of Resistance Samba Band who were holding an impromptu gig on Carnaby street. More swappers were turning up my the minute and so the disrobing began again. Meanwhile various other Hijackers nipped off for a swift pint in the nearby Red Lion.

Eventually it was decided that all of the new clothes deserved a fashion show, and so sound system in hand we rejoined as a mob and danced into the Kingly Court centre then onto Carnaby Street again. The general public started joining in and before long a street party had developed. Waltzing and Prancing through Soho, we ended up using a set of roadworks to blockade the seven dials roundabout in Covent Garden, and partied into the night.

Hazily we all eventually woke up in the morning, scattered all over London in the wrong beds, wearing someone else's clothes and with big grins on our faces.

until next time...