Whittington’s Turn Again

Supporters of Whittington Hospital fought a hard and successful campaign back in 2010 against plans to cut its A&E and maternity services, but like many other London hospitals are now threatened by another round of cuts and closures, largely driven by the greed of friends of the government who would like the large amounts spent on the NHS to bleed into their pockets which lies behind much of the current NHS reforms.

Part of the proposals for the Whittington would see around a third of the site sold off for development and there would be wards closing with fewer beds available, reduced maternity services, and 570 jobs lost, in a area where existing provision is hard pressed with bed occupancy rates at 10% above recommended levels. So it isn’t surprising that there has again been a great public outcry, and the Defend the Whittington Hospital Coalition had called for another march.

It was a cold, wet morning, enough to put many off from coming to march a couple of the miles and stand in the rain listening to speeches, but there was still a hardcore of a couple of thousand supporters who turned up at the starting point by the time the march actually began. Earlier it had seemed rather empty, but many turned up sensibly – given the weather – at more or less the last minute.

As often, the protest was advertised with a time for people to meet an hour before the march was due to start. When going to cover the events I always try to arrive at the earlier time, or even sometimes a little before, as travelling times in London can be unpredictable. Often the time before a march starts is by far the most interesting for photographers, giving you time to work with people, and at some events there are speeches or other activities before the march sets off.

There was little happening when I arrived at Highbury & Islington on the morning, except for people – including one dressed as the Grim Reaper, wielding a scythe with the message ‘NHS Privatisation’ and others handing out placards at the station entrance, and a couple of hundred yards down the road a bus and a few people standing in the fairly light rain. But people were beginning to arrive and get ready and I started taking pictures.

Among the crowd that was building up were apparently a number of celebrities, few of whom I could recognise (partly because I don’t own a TV and seldom read the popular press), though occasionally there was a small crowd of photographers and fans who obviously did.

Among those I did know were the remarkable Hetty Bower who became a pacifist in 1914, and had marched all the way to the hospital in 1910 and was hoping to do so again today at the age of 107. There were some familiar politicians too, including Natalie Bennett the Green Party leader, though one local MP was noticeably absent.

As usual when it rains, I was holding a cloth on the front of the lens most of the time, and wiping the filter before taking pictures, but there were still a few frames made unusable by drops on the lens. I followed the march for a short distance up the road, and then rushed back to the station to go across London for another protest. Although it was some miles away, it was a fast journey on the Victoria Line and then a short hop on the Piccadilly, both of which were working normally that weekend.

More pictures at Whittington Hospital March Against Cuts on My London Diary.


My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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

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