Health, homes, jobs & education

One of the things that I learnt from my friends who photographed English carnivals, and who I went out with to them for a number of events was that photographically speaking they were more or less over by the time they had started. As the carnival set off, we would turn away, hopefully to a nearby pub, our job done. Sometimes we might return to take pictures at the end of the route.

It’s often the same with protest marches, though these days I less seldom get down the pub, but often find other things to do as the march makes its way through the streets.  With large marches, I’ll often photograph the start moving off, then stay in place or walk backwards photographing the rest of those waiting to start marching. Then as the last marchers start I’ll take the tube to the final destination, hopefully arriving in time for the start of the rally.

Situations are more varied and people are closer together while waiting to start, giving more interesting scenes to work with, but for the People’s Assembly march Against Austerity, Goodge St was just so packed it made movement and photography very tricky. The pictures I was able to make come mainly from the less crowded edges of the roadway.

The march brought together many different issues that have arisen or been made worse by the government cuts, and included people from virtually all the campaigns I’ve photographed over the years of austerity, along with others from around the country. Only missing were some of the minority ethnic groups and the anarchists who felt that people should be acting rather more directly than walking in an orderly fashion to Traflagar Square, listening to a few speeches and then quietly going home.

This time I gave up waiting for the march to start, as it was held up by police getting the route clear. And held up more. I’d intended to rush to the tube as it started to meet another group of protesters, Ahwazi Arabs who were to stage a protest in Westminster, close to Trafalgar Square where the People’s Assembly march was to finish, so I could go on to take pictues at the rally at its end. I was just a little late for the Ahwazi event, but met them as they marched down from Downing St to Parliament Square.

After photographing the Ahwazi I walked up to Trafalgar Square as the start of the People’s Assembly march was arriving, in time to photograph the people who were gathering there. Many of the marchers didn’t make it to the rally (and the pubs around got pretty full) but there was still a large crowd in the square to listen to speeches.

It was a well-organised event for press coverage, with space for us to move around in front of the crowd, and with a stage for the speakers we could move around and mingle with those waiting to speak.

I particularly liked my pictures of Danielle Toplady, one of the student nurses leading the ‘Bursary or Bust’ campaign against the axing of NHS student bursaries apparently impersonating one of the Landseer lions, but just couldn’t quite get the right angle to include Green Party leader Natalie Bennett she was talking with (and whose hand is in the foreground), and I was also pleased to find Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell standing next to Len McCluskey General Secretary of Unite.

The speeches too gave plenty of opportunity to photograph both of them and the others, though the roof over the stage was rather distracting – even after I’d burnt down the prominent struts.

The perspex lectern was also interesting, and I tried hard to include it and the reflections it gave in various ways in the images.

I felt quite pleased with my work, but rather tired by the time the rally had more or less finished – but I knew I had more to do, much though I would have liked to put my feet up and relax. It was to be a long day.

Homes, Health, Jobs, Education Rally
Ahwazi protest against Iranian repression
March for Homes, Health, Jobs, Education


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

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