Points of Intervention

Action can be strategically targeted in specific places to intervene with the operation of a system. In order to have the greatest impact on the audience, organisers consciously consider the place of intervention, to open the way for change.

A contemporary example of a point of intervention is the ‘Space, not Spikes’ protest. This group of artists condemn the ‘homeless spikes’ used all over cities, describing them as ‘anti-human’.

In an interview with The Independent, protester Leah Borromeo, elaborated by saying that these spikes aren’t just against homeless people, they are an issue for all people. “Somebody could collapse on that road and need to sit there” Borromeo then went on to stress that the attitudes of the corporations behind these spikes are “more and more about favouring people who have money and are able-bodied.” (Mortimer, 2015).

In July 2015, mattresses where adhered to these spikes a long Curtain Road in Shoreditch, bookcases were also applied inviting people to come and sit on the mattress over the spikes and read. After protests, Tesco was forced to remove one inch of spikes from outside it’s store in Regent Street (Mortimer, 2015).

Although this a partial success, the protest can be criticised for not having chosen a location that would have had the biggest effect, with the combination of factors such as the masses of people walking around Central London, the amount of offices, and the amount of homeless people, you would expect this protest to have been more effective in a location such as Oxford Street, rather than in Shoreditch. 

Following this and other examples of points of intervention in the lecture, we started to work in groups on our own concept for a public protest. After considering a variety of issues, we decided to base our concept on protesting against the toilet charges at tube stations in London. It is argued that this 20-50p charge reduces the amount of homeless people sleeping in them, but similarly to the ‘spikes’, this is simply anti-human, not anti-homeless. The charges effect everyone, from people with little money, to even the business men of London that don’t carry change in their pockets and are on long commutes.

We wanted the protest to have a comedic effect to encourage people’s interest and to be memorable, and thought this would be easy to achieve using tangible theme of toilet humour. We sketched out some ideas such as having an actor walk outside a tube station with water dripping out of their leg, looking as if they’re struggling, whilst other actors offer help or the use of toilet role, but for a certain price. However the idea we ended up going with, was to have an actor dressed as a business man, but instead of carrying the stereotypical briefcase, he would be carrying a baby’s potty. There would then be a display on the actual tube, where the businessman would be sat on the potty, reading a newspaper which on the front and back page would have details about the protest in a large font.


When researching into where this would best be organised for the largest impact, we chose Piccadilly Circus as the toilets there cost 50p and we therefore thought that more people would be concerned about the issue there, than for example at Euston where the toilets are 30p.

The feedback from the class when presenting this idea was positive, however the use of the businessman as the actor was questioned and it was suggested we should use an elderly actor as this will encourage sympathy from onlookers, we took this feedback on board to develop our idea, although thought it may lose it’s comical effect by doing this. 

Reference list
Fuad-Luke, A. (2009) Design Activism. Beautiful Strangeness for a Sustainable World. London: Earthscan.

Mortimer, C. (2015) Space, Not Spikes protest artist says ‘hostile architecture’ is ‘anti-human’. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/features/space-not-spikes-protest-artist-says-hostile-architecture-is-anti-human-10409673.html (Accessed: 28 October 2015).

Space, Not Spikes (2015) Anti Anti-Homeless Spikes. Available at: http://betterthanspikes.tumblr.com/ (Accessed: 28 October 2015).

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