diamond geezer

 Monday, March 28, 2011

Just passed Holly Johnson on Piccadilly (Frankie Say Get Angry) #26march
It was impossible to judge the scale of Saturday's March For The Alternative by being in it. A sea of banners and placards and people, both ahead and behind, twisting around far too many street corners to be seen [photo]. All the usual left-wing suspects were here - the Marxists, the communists, the RMT - but outnumbered by a wider coalition of more ordinary folk representing organisations and services under threat nationwide. The unions had a massive presence, unsurprisingly, with flags and tabards and inflatables suggesting a substantial amount of pre-planned branding. Several slogans raised a smile, others a cringe, but the default option was the simple "No Cuts" street sign. The atmosphere was peaceful - I'd describe the crowd as cheerfully livid - with only the occasional group of fired-up students chanting heartfelt anger. Marchers passed Fortnum and Mason without blinking, and The Ritz without casting a second glance. Passers-by had nothing to fear, and several American tourists wandering out of their Mayfair hotels looked more confused than agitated.

Citizen Ed saying all the right words but not quite igniting the crowd #26march
The rally in Hyde Park peaked too early. By the time the Labour leader emerged onto the stage, the great majority of protesters were still somewhere back on Piccadilly, or Whitehall, or even passing the official start on the Embankment. Those present listened as Ed gave a lengthy speech praising the day's action and damning the cuts [photo]. Applause filled his pauses as planned, and most at least nodded in response, yet his politically-correct rhetoric somehow failed to inspire. Master of ceremonies Tony Robinson had a much better idea of how to work a large crowd, introducing a succession of union leaders and sympathetic commentators. Each lambasted the government's state-shrinking agenda, most demanding absolutely no cuts rather than fewer. The crowd will have been galvanised by their words, with much to think about and to act upon, but this was preaching to the converted, and the Government won't be shifting an inch as a result.

The queue for fish and chips is longer than the queue for baguettes #26march (and still they come)
As with any major event in Hyde Park, a small army of catering vans had turned up to feed the crowd. Not as many as I'd have expected, and a little more mainstream than any vegan or noodle-friendly marchers would have liked, but they did a brisk trade. Those vans to the left of the stage did best, because most of the crowd stopped marching a few hundred metres early rather than trooping round to the far right of the stage where there was hugely more space. Families and nationwide contingents settled on the grass out of earshot of the PA system, some with picnics they'd bought themselves, others with fivequidsworth of French loaf. A family of four marched on tiptoe between the groundsheets, with youngest son leading the procession on the vuvuzela. A group of health workers from Bolton paused and posed so that a Unison steward could take their photo to prove they were here. And still the crowds poured in from Hyde Park Corner, come to join the party, and oblivious to any action that might have been going on elsewhere. [photo]

Riot police in helmets and balaclavas are lined up on guard outside Claire's Accessories, Vodafone and River Island on Oxford St #26march
Every December, Oxford Street is pedestrianised to allow for easier Christmas shopping. UK Uncut achieved a similar level of segregation on Saturday, simply by targeting protests on several retailers they accused of tax avoidance. Most had moved on by the time I walked down the street, but there was still ample evidence that this was no normal afternoon. The line of riot police outside a shop selling accessories to teenagers - that was highly unusual, unless dark blue headgear and hi-vis jackets had become suddenly fashionable. These footsoldiers were probably protecting the 'evil' mobile phone outfit nextdoor, just as they were lined up outside Boots and BHS and another Vodafone further down. You'll have heard that several protesters were masked, but so were the police. Two eyes and a nose were all that peered out through the hole in the balaclava, although that was still sufficient to offer help to various non-threatening members of the public who stopped to ask for directions [photo]. Impending menace and unspoken threat, sure, but with traffic stopped and most stores trading as normal, an excellent shopping opportunity.

UK Uncut have mobilised a hessian warhorse and a band of angry students at Top Shop Oxford Circus, to the sound of carnival drums #26march
Half past three, and the planned flashpoint for further protest was Oxford Circus. Its X-shaped pedestrian crossing had completely disappeared, covered by an army of mostly-students and a throng of intrigued onlookers. Right at the centre stood the Trojan Horse of the Apocalypse, a symbolic cloth creation owned by the "Armed Wing" of the TUC [photo]. On a given signal the protesters stood up and roared, and a sequence of drums rang out down the tarmac outside Top Shop. Its façade bore the paint-splattered scars of a previous skirmish, but by this point a protective cladding of riot police prevented anything more than than an audio attack [photo]. Flags were waved and slogans hurled, but the worst civil disobedience I saw was nothing more than a red t-shirted bloke armed with a loudhailer shinned up a traffic light. Indeed I'd seen no violence of any kind anywhere, as I'm sure was the case for the great majority of West End visitors on Saturday.

Meanwhile a very different (and better dressed) breed of students pours off the tube at Putney Bridge. Beer anyone? #boatrace
Five miles west, the 157th Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race drew large crowds to the banks of the Thames. Whereas events in the centre of London had been mostly dry, out here alcohol was very much the order of the day. Bright young things stood on the promenade at Putney with a bottle in hand, watching not very much happening on the river during several hours of pre-race build-up. Those on the Embankment were closest to the coin-tossing action, whereas the Fulham bank boasted beer tents and a miniature fairground in Bishops Park. There was no political activity here, bar a well-mobilised campaign by the 'YES' referendum lobby addressing spectators politely with enamel badges, leaflets, and ad-man smiles. A trade union tabard here would have looked as out of place as a rugby shirt in Hyde Park. Different clientèle, different priorities.

Two boats just rowed past with either Oxford or Cambridge in the lead, and a flotilla of small craft behind. The party's over #boatrace
I made my way upstream where the foreshore was quieter, settling eventually beneath riverside flats opposite the Harrods Depository. Various residents had gathered on the balconies to watch the race go by, many hosting parties to celebrate the great event. Their shouts provided the first hint that the race was approaching (thank you BBC1), soon confirmed by a rush of white on the water as the two boats approached. Maybe it was possible to distinguish one university from the other, but I certainly couldn't, not even as the eights passed by almost but not quite simultaneously. "Oxford! Oxford!" went the cry from somewhere above, in an accent more City than estate, rising to a crescendo which suggested that the result of the race somehow mattered. The race moved swiftly by, pursued by an unexpectedly large number of motor launches, until all that was left was a rough echo of backwash [photo]. Time to disperse, and to drop the plastic beakers and wine bottles in the recycling on the way home.

This afternoon has thrown up convincing evidence that Britain is divided into losers and winners #26march #boatrace
Two crowds of approximately a quarter of a million people, both rammed with students but with all ages represented. At one gathering, a concern for society and a fear for the future. At the other, cheers of celebration and a long standing sense of tradition. The protesters in town didn't care which boat of Blues had rowed fastest, and the revellers by the river weren't especially worried by cuts to the public sector. I genuinely hadn't been expecting the contrast to be so sharp, but the polarity of the two events was inescapable. While some are about to lose, it seems others have already won.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
ian visits
blue witch
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel
from the murky depths
exploring urban wastelands

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain

read the archive
Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards