1988 Free Mandela march

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7h-66
Camden Town

Although I first took pictures at protests in the 1970s, I had been taking part in protests since the middle of the 1960s. But I was then a penniless student with no idea about how you could cut costs by developing and printing your own films; I did own a camera, a Halina 35X, but had dropped it in the lake at Versailles and it never worked reliably after that, delivering random but usually very slow shutter speeds from its rusty leaf shutter.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7h-55

Even after I had taken a short photographic course and got a job and could afford a new camera (a cheap Russian Zenith SLR) and had rigged up a temporary darkroom in the kitchen of our flat, I was still going on protests as a protester and took few if any photographs.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7h-31
BBC

Of course there were fewer protests back in the 70s and 80s, or at least it was harder to find out about them in the days before the World Wide Web. There were of course huge events such as the Miners’ Strike, but unless you lived in the mining areas or could travel to them, which didn’t fit with my full-time job you read about most of these after the events were given newspaper coverage if at all. Many other protests related to strikes and union issues were simply impossible to know about unless they concerned your own union.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7i-43

My attendance at protests was largely limited to the big national demonstrations organised by groups I belonged to – such as CND and the Anti-Apartheid movement and a few others that were advertised in advance in the alternative press. Many protests were only advertised by fly-posting on walls mainly in the areas they were to take place in – and there were few if any such postings in the area where I lived.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7j-65

I began to be more a photographer of protests than an actual protester in the 1980s, particularly after a few of my photographs were accepted for an exhibition on protest (and I think one won a prize.) I began to realise that I could make a great contribution to the various causes with a camera than simply marching or attending rallies, and, a little later, began contributing my photographs to a picture library concerned with social issues, and later still providing my services directly to some protest groups.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988

As more and more people and groups went on-line things began to change. I found out about more and more protests, at first as groups set up web sites to promote their activities. I’d spend an evening or more a week going through a list of perhaps 20 or thirty different groups and using sites which listed bus and travel diversions and various search engines to find out about events and put them in my diary. Then Google arrived and made searching easier and finally Facebook and I had little time to photograph anything but protests.

Free Nelson Mandela - Birthday March and Rally - London 1988 88-7j-13

The Free Nelson Mandela march in London was on Saturday 17th July 1988, the day before his 70th birthday and two years before he was released from prison. I walked with the protesters taking pictures from Camden Town to Hyde Park, and took a few pictures in the crowds in Hyde Park, but none of the stage and speakers at the rally. You can see more of the pictures in the Flickr album uploaded a couple of days ago. Clicking on any of the pictures above will take you to the larger version in the album.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


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