On Monday 22nd October, Imperial College Union cancelled Imperial Left Forum’s Lockpicking Workshop amidst various concerns regarding the potential numbers that the event had attracted.
The event, which had initially been scheduled to take place on Tuesday 23rd October in Blackett 630, garnered a large amount of interest on social media, with up to 1.7K people “going or interested” in the Facebook event. Members of Left Forum described themselves as “amazed” by the “overwhelming response” to the workshop, which was a public event on Facebook. However their hopes of hosting their largest ever event were dashed when the Union asked them to “indefinitely postpone” the event.
Imperial Left Forum, which launched three years ago and has faced opposition from the Union in the past, describes itself as “a broad and inclusive political society, with party affiliation, that discusses general politics in both national and international scopes.” Amongst its various events, the society hosts talks and reading groups, holds screenings of political films, and has a “mighty” pub crawl, as well as “anything else” its members believe is a “good event for discussing left wing politics.” Clearly, the members of Left Forum believed this Lockpicking workshop to be one such good event.
A spokesperson from Left Forum told Felix: “While we have been steadily growing over the past year, we’ve never had so many people interested in any one event. Entry to the event was completely free, we don’t ask for any funding from our members and we don’t get any from the Union either. We are all volunteers, putting in time and effort because we love what we’re doing, we love being part of this society.”
Members of Left Forum described themselves as “disheartened” to see that the Union had cancelled the event, especially at such short notice. The initial reasons provided for cancelling the event, which have been described as a “joke” by members of Left Forum, were that the Union deemed the event to be “incompatible” with the society’s values. However, after members of Left Forum met with the Union, further reasons emerged:
“It was too great a risk for the College and the Union, because someone might learn from us how to lockpick, then go ahead and get arrested for picking a lock and call us out for teaching them, and then newspapers like the Daily Mail might pick it up. We can’t say it never crossed my mind that the Union wouldn’t really like our event. The fact that we are a leftist society didn’t really do us any favours either”, said the spokesperson from Left Forum.
Left Forum is accusing the Union of “bowing down to undue pressure”.
In a statement provided to Felix, members of Left Forum said:
“The event itself is completely legal, and much more detailed information than what we were going to teach is available online, like the famous MIT guide to lockpicking. Alas, the Union has decided to censor us, to curb the free flow of information that should - supposedly - exist within a university. We see a student organization that cares more about PR, tabloids, and shareholders than its own members, especially considering the response to the event”.
Although the future of the event remains uncertain, the Union has assured Left Forum that they would eventually be allowed to run the event, with various restrictions. Left Forum commented, “we’re planning to run more security-related events, as we think it is of prime importance at this point in time. We’ll also think very seriously about the future of this event. However, we feel obligated to report the Union’s unjust behaviour to the student community”.