Funny Valentine

One annual event I always enjoy as well as photograph is the annual free Reclaim Love Valentine Party around the statue of Eros (well it isn’t really Eros) in Piccadilly Circus. Irish (or Irish/Indian) poet and love activist Venus CúMara (“nomadic lone wolf, poet, musician, songwriter, and storyteller“) began these events back in the early years of this Millennium and they have taken place every year since both here and elsewhere around the world.

Venus CúMara

I missed the first Reclaim Love event, which was in Trafalgar Square, as I spent Valentine’s Day in Paris in 2004, but was there for the first party at Eros in 2005, and have photographed the events every year since, including the one year that Venus was unable to attend and was organised by her friends. And it’s an event I have the t-shirt for, as in the early years they were given away free. One of my sons also has a pink one I gave him which he sometimes wears, with its winged heart on the chest and the message ‘May All The Beings In All The Worlds Be Happy And At Peace‘ on the back. I have a rather more tasteful pale blue version, though it is seldom seen in public.

Every year is different, although they follow the same basic pattern, with samba and dancing, people dressed up and in the middle of the afternoon everyone linking hands in a giant circle to chant the mantra above. Everyone except a few photographers like me, who run about dementedly trying to photograph the event. And while I may have a certain sceptism about the “Massive Healing Reclaim Love Meditation Circle beaming Love and Happiness and our Vision for world peace out into the cosmos” it’s always an impressive event.

With all the commercial promotion of Valentine’s Day it would be hard to miss – though the party is on the nearest Saturday rather than the day itself. And the party is a reaction to that commercialisation, a celebration of love rather than money. Venus, when asked where she is from has said her place of origin is Love, and the Reclaim Lovemovement aims at restoring the true and infinite meaning of Love as a force for inner and outer change.”

This year was ‘Reclaim Love 13‘, though as the 2007 event was billed as Reclaim Love IV, I think it is only the 12th. The party is also an ‘unofficial’ event, and though Venus and friends certainly do some planning and reminding people to come and take part there is a great deal of spontaneity about the event, people coming and doing what they want to do. Some of those who take part know and some have come a long way across the country, but others come across it by accident, with tourists and shoppers joining in.

The police and security in the West End generally ignore it, or take a look to see what is happening and then go away -though obviously they keep an eye on it through CCTV – the party is after all more or less on top of London’s nerve centre for surveillance, the London main CCTV control room. They have intervened when people have climbed right up to Eros – it isn’t the most robust of sculptures, and there was a little trouble one year when the circle took place a short distance away in a ‘sacred circle’ of trees in Green Park – such things are not allowed in Royal Parks.

This year the weather was not too kind, and it was dull with the odd spot of rain in the air as people gathered for the party. I’d started working at ISO 800, but soon had to put that up to ISO 1600 and by the time I left, shortly after the big meditation circle around Piccadilly Circus I was needing ISO3200 to stop the action. Night was falling a little faster than normal with some large dark clouds, and when the rain began to fall I decided it was time for me to go.

I was a little disappointed with the pictures. Perhaps it wasn’t quite such a lively event as some earlier years – and poor weather has an effect on everbody, partygoers and photographers alike. I think it’s still a reasonable picture of an interesting event in the London calendar, certainly rather more interesting than many if not all that make either the tabloids or the Tatler. You can see my results from this year at Venus CuMara Reclaim Love 13 at Eros, as well as those from previous years (sometimes you will have to scroll down on the linked page to find the pictures.):

2005:  O-i-L, One in Love, Reclaim Love
2006:  One in Love, Reclaim Love
2007:  Reclaim Love IV
2008:  Reclaim Love
2009:  Reclaim Love
2010:  Reclaim Love
2011:  Reclaim Love
2012:  Reclaim Love
2013:  Reclaim Love
2014:  Reclaim Love


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 taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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