Beginning in 2008 The Worshipful Company of Woolmen, a City livery company, began organizing an annual Sheep Drive across London Bridge. This is an event that ostensibly celebrates the feudal rights of freemen of the City of London to carry the tools of their trade across this bridge. For Woolmen these tools included sheep.
The newly invented ‘ancient’ tradition of the Sheep Drive is a spectacle designed to advertise the business district as a place of eccentric customs and divert attention away from the dirty money-making and usury that is its day to day caviar and Pimm’s; the investment bankers who now run the livery companies as pseudo-Masonic posh people’s clubs aren’t interested in bread and butter work. The London Bridge Drive sees sheep pointlessly sent back and forth across The Thames at 30-minute intervals; staring at 10am and going on for more than seven hours. The sheep should be grazing in the countryside, not being paraded around the centre of London.
The possibly unconscious symbolism of a livery company driving sheep into the City from south London should not be overlooked. The sheep can be seen as representing the compliant rich who the plutocrats running financial markets want buying ghost homes in the square mile as what remains of the local working class population in social housing is displaced elsewhere.
We want these annual Sheep Drives cancelled because they are abusive to the animals involved and politically offensive. We think a much better way to raise money for charity would be to have an Alderman Crawl. For this we propose that the Mayor of London, his Aldermen and all the common councillors from the business vote wards, are dressed in rags and crawl on their hands and knees across London Bridge from the City into Southwark. We’d also like them to bark as they do this. Once they are south of the river we’d be very happy if they didn’t come back. We feel more money could be raised from an event like this than the current one that mistreats sheep. And unlike sheep, the Mayor and local councillors can consent in advance to participating in this proposed fun charity event.
The livery companies are deeply intertwined with the business culture of the City and the Corporation of London council, which is the most undemocratic local government body in the whole of the UK. The political set up in the square mile is completely different to the rest of the country and desperately needs reform. We want a straightforward democratic council with fewer members and the abolition of the business vote, which no longer exists anywhere else in the UK. An Alderman Crawl would be a good way of showing what’s wrong with City ‘traditions’.
One of the two email contacts on the Sheep Drive website is for Judith Pleasance, a City of London councillor who sits on the Planning Committee that approved Taylor Wimpley’s Gerrymander Mansions development in Golden Lane. According to her LinkedIn profile, in the 1980s Pleasance was a parliamentary researcher for Robert Boscawen, a notorious right-wing Conservative and Monday Club member who wanted the restoration of capital punishment and drastic cuts to the welfare state and student grants. He staunchly supported white supremacy in the form of Ian Smith and Rhodesia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence; according to Boscawen’s Daily Telegraph obituary (7 January 2014) he even voted against the imposition of sanctions on Rhodesia in defiance of the Conservative Party Whip.
Those who abuse sheep are often depicted as wearing wellington boots, and so given the plutocratic push behind the London Bridge Sheep Drive this footwear becomes both visual and verbal shorthand for the apparatchiks who run the City as a financial dictatorship. And wellington boots would feature in winter footwear of these self-styled dignitaries when they potter about the gardens of their Home Counties mansions.
We don’t want to see sheep being driven across London Bridge because it is a symbolic representation of how the square mile treats people as human cattle; and just as importantly the event is unpleasant for those animals forced to participate in the ritual. The next London Bridge Sheep Drive is on Sunday 24 September 2017. We say it should be stopped!
Stop The Sheep Drive!
No plutocrats! No wellington boots!