The Bookseller - 08.06.11 | Charlotte Williams
Staff at Foyles on Charing Cross Road evacuated about 115 people from its events space, The Gallery, last night after protestors set off a red smoke bomb. The protest in the shop's third floor room is believed to have been against philosopher A C Grayling, who was speaking, alongside Sir Christopher Frayling and Mick Gordon, at the "The Arts in Britain—Death by a Thousand Cuts" event organised by Oberon Books as part of their Oberon Masters series. Philosopher Grayling this week announced he is founding a private university in London, charging £18,000 a year in fees.
Events manager Sion Hamilton said Grayling had been booked, alongside Frayling and Gordon, "some months ago" but that the shop had been aware there could be a protest. Hamilton added: "We were aware of the proposed protest today, but chose not to cancel the event because Foyles bookshop is a space for the free exchange of ideas and intelligent debate."
It is understood it was through messages exchanged on Twitter that Foyles had become aware of the possibility of a protest. Raszpodnik posted: "If you’re at Foyles today to protest against Grayling’s appearance please egg him—or worse". Francesgrahl tweeted: "AC Grayling at Foyles tomorrow Free entry. Protest anyone?"
Activist and New Statesman columnist Laurie Penny tweeted after the disruption: "Grayling's #NCH is an act of monstrous vandalism at the heart of the academy. Smoke bomb in a bookshop not a bad metaphor. But a silly idea." A video of the protest has been posted on YouTube.
Hamilton said: "Professor Grayling offered to answer students' questions for 20 minutes after the scheduled event, we regret that one individual decided to curtail this opportunity for further discussion by letting off a smoke bomb at the end. We evacuated the room swiftly and safely."
Fuller report at The Telegraph.