Demand the Impossible - London


Open School East, N1 5SQ

Demand the Impossible is an evening course for young people about political ideas and activism, starting October 2016. Organised by Global Justice Now and the Critical Education Project. 

The course is free - to apply download the application form and email it to 


Update: the deadline for applications for Demand the Impossible 2016 has been extended to Sunday 16 October 2016. 

Protest, political activism and ideas to change the world

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world

—from The Second Coming, by W.B. Yeats, 1919

The world is in crisis. Extreme inequality, division and instability are boosting racists and fanatics from the Middle East to the US and Europe. Across the globe, the rich, the white and the middle-aged have used the financial crisis of 2008 to strengthen their power at the expense of the powerless and the planet itself. After Brexit, Britain risks being taken over by the most conservative forces in society. Young people have been attacked particularly hard, and are faced with a life of debt, insecure employment and anxiety. However, this is also a time of opportunity.

The old order of cut-throat capitalism, inherited privilege, sexism and racism is crumbling. Movements for justice – many with young people at the centre – are growing in Europe, Latin America, South Asia and even in the US. If you want to understand what’s happening better, and explore how we can change things, Demand the Impossible is for you.

  • What are the causes of the many crises in the world – economic, social, environmental?
  • What kind of a society do young people today face?
  • Can we build movements for social change?

Launch event: Disunited Kingdom 

Demand the Impossible 2016 launches on Wednesday 5 October with Disunited Kingdom: Class, Race and Gender in Britain Today. This interactive discussion will be led by Sarah Day (Sisters Uncut), Amina Gichinga (Take Back the City), Aaron Bastani (Novara Media) and Jeremy Gilbert (University of East London). 6.30pm, Open School East, 43 De Beauvoir Road, N1 5SQ. 

Demand the Impossible will include

  • Interactive sessions on topics such as: Brexit Britain, London's housing crisis, migration and its causes, capitalism and alternative systems, mental health, Trump vs Clinton and more. 
  • A mixture of discussion and debate, interactive role-plays, talks from activists, film screenings and performance, as well as special excursions, talks, exhibitions and walks in London and elsewhere. 
  • The possibility of an additional four-week activism placement with a campaigning organisation such as Global Justice Now, Take Back the City or Momentum.

Demand the Impossible is for 16-25 year-olds. Anyone is welcome to apply, but we prioritise making it available to people from less privileged backgrounds. 

Frequently asked questions

What is Demand the Impossible? What happens on the course?

  • Exploring ideas

Demand the Impossible (DI) is a course on activism and radical politics, aimed at young people in London. First established in 2012 as a summer school, in 2016-17 DI in London will run as an evening course with one session per fortnight. DI covers three main aspects of politics: 1) analysing the society we live in, with an emphasis on highlighting aspects that are unjust, exploitative or oppressive; 2) discussing ideas for how things could be different; 3) considering the best ways to create change - particularly through social movements. Topics for 2016-17 include: Brexit Britain, migration and its causes, capitalism and alternative systems, mental health, London's housing crisis, the Black Lives matter movement, Trump vs Clinton and more. 

DI is not a traditional academic course. It includes talks from writers and thinkers (in the past we’ve heard from speakers like the radical academics Doreen Massey, Jeremy Gilbert and Danny Dorling, and campaigners and activists like Faiza Shaheen, Feyzi Ismail and Josh Virasami), but these talks are only a small part of how we explore radical politics and activism. We also organise interactive role plays and immersive learning experiences. On recent courses, we have had a theatrical debate on capitalism and housing, walking tours to explore  London in new ways, a “museum of capitalist life” and sessions of consensus decision making. This year will be no different, and participants will also have a chance to attend a range of activities outside the course, including guided walks, exhibitions and talks.

  • Getting active

The most distinctive element of DI is that it gives participants a taste of real activism, and encourages them to reflect on these experiences. In the past, participants have planned and carried out campaign activities on issues of their choice, often for the first time. In previous years we’ve seen participants challenging gentrification, austerity and sexism through debates, protests and visual displays.

In 2016-17, participants will have the chance of working for several weeks with activist groups like Take Back the City, Momentum and Global Justice Now.

To get a flavour of what past courses have been like, see this Guardian report on the first summer school and this clip of the protest organised by the 2015 cohort.

What’s the aim of Demand the Impossible?

We want the people who do the course to take a continued interest in radical political ideas and action, and ideally we want people to be inspired to become part of movements for change! That’s why it is important to us that the course connects people with real life struggles and campaigns going on in London now. It’s also important that participants reflect on activism and think about how we can work more effectively to create change. Both during and after the course, we will give advice and guidance and provide opportunities for discussion for those who are interested in getting more involved in activism.

What is the course like?

Participants on Demand the Impossible have consistently reported that the course is a powerful and exciting experience.  Here are some of the comments we have received in feedback:

“I feel more developed socially and mentally. I have gained new friends, insights and perspectives and I feel like a person ready to take on the world.”

“As someone who felt that I am a ‘scum’ for being on JSA … it made me realise that this was my basic right and shouldn’t feel bad to ask for support.”

“I had no idea I had the confidence and power to make a difference about things I’m passionate about.”

“Personally, I have found this course fascinating, I have never been to anything like this. To be able to speak our minds and be free is something I have always been closed from.”

Each year, some participants from previous years’ courses return to help out with Demand the Impossible. Some have even attended four years in a row!

Will Demand the Impossible give me experience of activism?

Participants accepted onto the course will get to have experience of working with a campaign group or grassroots organisation based in London. The idea is for activist “placements” to happen during a short break for the course, and then for us to discuss our experiences of activism after returning. Through running Demand the Impossible for four years and working on a range of campaigns and political projects, we have excellent contacts in the London activist world, and we hope to be able to put participants in contact with campaigns that interest them.

Is Demand the Impossible for me? How do I apply?

We welcome applications from everyone aged 16-25, but we prioritise making Demand the Impossible available to people from less privileged backgrounds. We use the government Widening Participation criteria as a guide in reviewing applications, and try to ensure that a clear majority of participants meet this criteria. That doesn’t mean you can’t apply if you don’t meet the WP criteria - there is some flexibility.

If you’re not sure whether Demand the Impossible is for you, you may want to consider the questions below. Most participants won’t answer “yes” to all of them, but it’s probably a sign that you’re suitable if you answer “yes” to more than one.

  • Do you take an interest in the way society functions?
  • Are you angry or upset about injustice, exploitation and oppression?
  • Are you interested in political ideas and theories, even if you don’t yet know much about them?
  • Do you want to get involved in contributing to positive social change, if only in small ways at first?

Lastly, no experience of activism is necessary to attend Demand the Impossible, but some experience should not prevent you applying.

If you think Demand the Impossible is for you, download an application form and send it back completed to If you’re not sure, drop us an email and we can discuss anything you’re not sure about.

I’m not from London. Can I attend?

We welcome applications from people outside London, but don’t have the money to provide accommodation in London. If you want to apply and you’re not from London, get in touch - we may be able to help arrange accommodation in some cases.

If you’re from the Glasgow area, Demand the Impossible runs there as a summer school, and we’re hoping to expand to Manchester in 2017 as well.

Open School East, London N1 5SQ