Oxford graduate trying to bring chaos to Britain's high streets
A series of anti-capitalist protests which have disrupted High Streets across Britain is being orchestrated by an Oxford graduate using the social networking site Twitter, it can be can revealed.
The success of Mr Costello's campaign has caused consternation in British boardrooms. As many as 30 of Vodafone's stores were forced to shut temporarily by activists in just three days of protests earlier this month.
Mr Costello, 22, is using the social networking sites Twitter and Facebook to mobilise activists. The night before a protest he posts UK Uncut's latest plans on the internet.
Demonstrators then gather at the intended target the next day, staging sit in protests or else blocking doorways to force shops to close.
Mr Costello began his campaign at the end of October in immediate response to the Chancellor's comprehensive spending review.
The Oxford graduate has tried to keep his identity secret – using the pseudonym Sam Baker – but The Sunday Telegraph tracked him down to his latest workplace, an independent television production company CTVC, based in central London.
Mr Costello said: "At this stage I would rather you gave me a different name. I just think it is not sensible [for my real name] to be associated with a conspiracy to commit crime.... I don't want my name associated with the next phase."
"We are in the process of planning something on a quite significantly bigger scale than what we have done so far. We are calling for a big day of action for the 4th December. It is going to be a campaign against tax avoidance companies.
"This shows the power of Twitter and also the anger out there at the cuts."
He added: "The beauty of shutting down High Street stores is it is very easy. You don't have to break windows, you don't have to storm it. You just sit down in the doorway and you have effectively closed it very, very peacefully and non-violently."
Mr Costello uses his private Twitter account to relay details of his activism. Mr Costello declares on his Twitter account: "I help make documentaries. I am also trying to help bring down the government."
He joined in with last week's student demonstration that caused hundreds of thousands of pounds of damage to the Conservative party headquarters in Millbank – but insisted he had not taken part in any criminal activity.
But Mr Costello did criticise Aaron Porter, the president of the National Union of Students, on Twitter for condemning the violence. Mr Costello wrote: "Shut up Aaron Porter you dickhead. Smashing a window is not violence."
Later he posted: "All the students who left London energised and fired up and inspired yesterday, remember: there are targets everywhere."
Mr Costello, whose father runs a theatre in south London and who has accompanied his son on one Vodafone protest, founded UK Uncut late last month with a group of activists after a meeting in a London pub.
The campaign has since gone 'viral', attracting support across the country.
UK Uncut picked on Vodafone after reading reports – which the mobile phone company denies – that it had avoided paying a £6 billion tax bill.
The campaign began when Mr Costello posted his plans on the internet, writing on October 29: "Tomorrow there will be a mass shut down of Vodafone stores all over the country.
"These cuts are not fair, we're not all in this together, and there is an alternative. Collect Vodafone's unpaid £6 billion. This crisis was caused by the private sector but it is the public sector who are being made to pay. Make Vodafone pay."
Exhorting activists to meet in central London for a protest which was filmed and subsequently posted on the website YouTube.
In it, the demonstrators can be seen following Mr Costello and another protester holding an orange umbrella to Vodafone's flagship store in Oxford Street.
About 30 activists staged a demonstration which forced the company to shut the shop, fearing its staff might be in danger. Subsequently Mr Costello staged a protest at the showroom of Osborne & Little, a fabric company run by the Chancellor's father. The protest was also posted on YouTube.
Mr Costello, who is an aspiring playwright, won a BBC World Service writing competition aged 18 before going on to Oxford where he gained a first in English literature and language at St Catherine's College.
After leaving Oxford, he briefly worked as a teacher at his old school Langley Park Boys School in Lewisham while also charging £25 an hour for private tuition.
While at the school, he took part in direct action protests organised by climate change activists, which has in the past targeted Heathrow Airport as well as coal-fired power stations.
During a demonstration at Ratcliffe Power Station in Nottinghamshire last October – to which he also took his father along – he posted on his Twitter account: "Got kicked in the face, batoned in the hand and came face to face with a police dog in a pitch black forest. They did NOT want us to get in.
"One of the year 7s in my lesson: "Mr Costello, I saw you on BBC news last night in a riot." Me: "errrrr ..."
After finishing teaching at the school to take up his job with The South Bank Show he wrote: "Just finished my last day of teaching, or as I like to call it: promoting homosexuality to children."
A Vodafone spokesman said: "We don't know a lot about UK Uncut but the group has caused a nationwide action against Vodafone.
"A reasonable number of stores were closed by these protests – between 20 and 25 out of 300. The protests were largely peaceful but our first duty is to protect our employees.
"The issue from our point of view is the protest is not based on facts."
Vodafone claims to have settled a long-running dispute with the HM Revenue & Customs by paying a £1.2 billion tax bill in the summer. The company denied being let off a £6 billion bill.
Jonathan Levi, the head of arts and popular culture at ITV Studios where Mr Costello worked on The South Bank Show, remembered the Oxford graduate as being highly intelligent but also unusual.
"He used to bring in mouldy old sandwiches he found in bins and try to get the rest of the staff to eat them," recalled Mr Levi, "He is pretty strident."