When I decided to start London Santacon in 2001 the global event was still quite young. The origins are lost in the mists of time, but the inspiration was undoubtedly situationist and came from groups like King Mob and an intervention in London’s Selfridges in 1968.
Santacon had been adopted and instigated by groups such as Cacophony ,which was both an ally of my own faux revolutionary group Decadent Action but also contained the likes of writer Chuck Palahniuk at its fringes. He would later use Cacophony as the jumping-off point for his novel Fight Club. He has also written about Santacon and his early involvement.
So, in 2001, a small group of around 40 gathered at the back of Selfridges. This elite Santa troop included fellow-travellers from groups like the Space Hijackers, famous for their parties on the Circle Line and street cricket in the City of London against bankers. The rules were simple. You must wear a Santa suit, you must call all other Santas ‘Santa’ and you must only reply ‘Christmas’ when asked the inevitable ‘so what is this all about?’.
The idea was to create an intervention about nothing, whilst screaming it was about something. It wasn’t pro- or anti-consumer, it wasn’t for charity and it was anonymous (thanks to those polyester beards). Yes, there were pub stops, but there were also air hockey stops. The group was small enough to move as a mob, but fit in a Soho boozer.
Subsequent events saw film makers and photographers on board, following Steve Sullivan, who filmed Santa Claus Are Coming (see below) and went on to make the brilliant Being Frank. With around 100 Santas we were still able to cause mayhem and then vanish, in one case into a posh West End hotel that had decided to offer free afternoon Christmas drinks to Santas, safe in the knowledge that most would be working. We lasted four rounds of Bellinis before being asked to leave.
As the event started to attract hundreds, and then thousands, I lost interest. It became just another event. The emphasis was on drinking or simply on chaos. There were charity fundraisers and different starting routes. People started to ask for money. It was never my intention to own it. But it is/was certainly not the event I started. Sorry.