In the first of what could be a summer of protest linked to the Olympics, a group connected to the Occupy movement has taken over an empty Georgian house owned by the Olympic park sculptor Anish Kapoor for a one-day arts event.
The group, calling itself Bread and Circuses, a reference to its argument that the Olympics are a means of distracting people from pressing economic and social issues, said it had "liberated" the part-derelict five-storey house on Lincoln?s Inn Fields, one of central London?s most picturesque and expensive garden squares and the scene of a rough sleepers? "tent city" in the 1980s.
The group says the house has been left empty since the artist – whose ArcelorMittal Orbit tower, a 115-metre tall sculpture and observation platform, dominates the skyline of the Olympic Park in east London – bought it in 2009. Kapoor is listed as director of a company called 1-2 Lincoln?s Inn Fields Ltd, the address of the property, which was formed in 2009. The bulk of the £22.7m cost of the steel sculpture was met by the steel billionaire Lakshmi Mittal.
The building is five stories high with an enormous iron door and covered windows. Inside, there are several enormous rooms on the ground floor with a staircase climbing through the centre. The wallpaper is peeling and wires hang threateningly from the ceiling. It contains no furniture except for a pair of supermarket trolleys.
"This is not about being against the Olympics," said one protester. "This is about what the government is using the Olympics for."
The small group of protesters say they have been in the property for a week.
One said they wanted to find a creative use for what they regard as wasted space. "Just look at it," he said. "We want to use all this empty space."
A homeless man who has joined the group in the property said: "How can someone do this? How can you own a place like this and not even use it when there are people sleeping in the streets?"
From 4pm on Friday the house will host art exhibits, talks and film screenings, with live music after 9pm, the group said. Among those billed to appear are John Hilary, director of the charity War on Want, one of the organisers of the Counter Olympics Network, which seeks to challenge the corporate nature of the event, and Trenton Oldfield, who swam into the path of April?s university boat race in a protest against "elitism".
The group sent a statement from a member, Jeniffer Taylor, who described the Olympics as "a smokescreen to take our minds off austerity measures, the global economic crisis and the commodification and privatisation of everything, even art".
In keeping with the media-savvy nature of events connected to the Occupy movement, the one-day protest already has its own Facebook page and Twitter feed. The group sent a message to supporters that read: "New Holborn squatt will b [sic] evicted in saturday. Big event this friday against london politics! BREAD AND CIRCUSES: speaches, music, art, performance, rave and more surprises!"
The wider Occupy movement has not announced plans to disrupt the Olympics with protests, but it seems inevitable that it or other similar groups will use the global attention on London during the event to publicise their causes. This is particularly the case as, given the loosely collective nature of Occupy, more or less anyone can begin a protest under their banner.