This story is so utterly ridiculous that when we heard it yesterday we all initially thought it was an April Fools.
Freedom Press has, admittedly, got an interesting sort of history and some nice old-timey aesthetics – we’ve been around for a long time after all, selling anarchist books and newspapers. There’s photos of Freedom people going all the way back to the 19th century. And one of the oldest is of former editors Tom Keell and Alfred Marsh in the midst of running our printing shop in the 1920s.
The picture is a marker of more than 130 years of advocating the destruction of bourgeois capitalism, and both the people in it were impoverished anarchist communists. The building they stood in, just up from the British Library, was slum housing, long since pulled down as part of a regeneration scheme in the 1920s.
So when a brochure was dropped off in Angel Alley for a bougie “Freedom Cafe”, with that photo prominently displayed and an introductory blurb directly ripped off from our About page, we were intrigued. Who could have gone to this much trouble to set up an April Fools? They’d have to be mates, knowing how much we despise the soul-drinking grey co-option of London culture for the consumption of wanky city types? How we supported the local protests that took aim at Cereal Cafes and Ripper Museums aiming to turn Whitechapel into a playpen for entitled dickheads?
But then we investigated, and from mild amusement we ran the gamut to confusion and outright laughing at this mutant horror. Surely these people weren’t actually boneheaded enough to wholesale rip off our name, photos and even the introduction to our history page on our own website for some mindless, dust-chewing corporate branding exercise?
For the Hilton Hotel franchise??
Are those £13 COCKTAILS named after our books??
But no, it’s real. Just round the corner from the Slug and Lettuce, a five minute walk from Freedom. Identikit contemporary corporatania, all standardised travertine and potted plants dotted around large low-powered lamps. Branded with our name but not our knowledge. So we decided to look into it further, and as we picked through the details, we were able to track down at least some of what must have happened.
Sometime in Summer 2021 some ideas-free dullard, some whey-faced cretin with a brief to do something “vintage London” but not too vintage, you know, just old and preferably free, stumbled onto our online shop. On the site they found our Creative Commons statement (they must have missed the bit about it being non-commercial). They found our About page and our History page. They looked at the books we were selling. They picked out titles such as Why Work? and Memoirs of a Revolutionist from the front page – this dates it to Summer or Autumn of last year due to our release schedule.
Then they just copy pasted the lot. They registered a website, and by October 2021 had slapped together a bunch of poorly-produced bumf, a basic logo and done.
A slapdash job. A lazy job, done on a short deadline for faceless money men who endlessly push these half-polished, overpriced turds into corporate towers across the city because hey, who gives a shit. The suited goons and coddled tourists who wallow in them won’t know better or care anyway. Just more Product to add to the endless overflowing sewer.
The project seems to have followed the hiring of a new general manager, Beatriz Orta, for this metal and plastic monstrosity of a building, named in true wanky pseudo-posho style ‘Canopy by Hilton’. A brand designed specifically to pretend it’s local(ish) while actually being a chain hotel. Ms Orta, formerly of Holiday Inn before jumping ship to the brighter beige of Hilton, used to work in Camden Lock and if you’ve ever seen the state of that hyper-commercial ex-interesting theme park posing as proper London you’ll know exactly why her oversight of this mediocrity is bang on par.
One intrepid Freedom volunteer (the actual Freedom, rather than its funhouse mirror image) took a walk the same day to see what it was like while another phoned round to try and find out what on Earth these people were thinking. The response was as you might expect. Declarations of innocence. An interview was initially agreed on the phone and then delayed. The audacity of these grubby corporate ingrates, slow-rolling their namesakes! Where is Madame Guillotine when she is needed?
“Alright, calm down, what about that old anarchist canard ‘property is theft’.” you may suggest. Well more to the point, what about that capitalist canard “what’s mine is mine and if you try and take it I’ll sling you in prison and call you a scumbag” eh? Where’s the consistency from these so-called titans of industry? Intellectual Property as the best way to make sure people’s creativity and ideas aren’t bastardised? Pah, these mountebanks are the true reality of capital. Cringing shadows of the ideas they exploit, and if they don’t own it and can’t buy it they’ll take it anyway, then pretend it was theirs all along. For firms like the Hilton it’s all quid pro BoJo, big money doing whatever it likes with the Tory seal of approval.
Ah well, we never expected better from brazen business boors anyway. The biggest insult really is the poor quality of these charlatan shenanigans done in our name. The “paper” and branding is a childish imitation, the decor fussily dull, the cuisine looks terrible and it’s far too expensive – there’s some cracking places doing better food and drink for less in very easy walking distance.
We may be anarchists, but we have better standards than to sup at the Hilton.