It was a glorious day! The weather gave us blue skies, clear sunshine and not too strong a wind to knock our banners flying. The people from 10.00am all trooping along Euston Rd with amazing banners with laughter ringing out loudly. The Banners all shapes all sizes with great messages, all showing their solidarity to Our NHS. On our mobiles constantly kept appearing the message of Where are you now – we all become mobile scribes to reply our exact positions. At such early stage now around 11.00 you could see this was going to be as Michael Rosen has written – A Big One! Placards lined up all around fencing which was filling Tavistock Square garden.
As more more supporters came and joined our meeting point, photographers were plentiful, one particular guy when asked who was representing, said the Bishopsgate Institute, which based in the financial city of London, the photograph would join their Peoples Archives. The Institute is a respected cultural organisation amongst other things. For a moment I had forgotten we were history making joining our magnificent predecessors who had forged the NHS to our current struggle to protect it from Tory pillaging.
Possibly the most frustrating point of the whole event was at around 12.30 we began to get into line to join the march proper in Gower St. we were stopped at the junction between Woburn Place and Tavistock Square to be held for over an hour, firstly for chants then for speeches that were through a poor sound system, clearly rousing speeches but when you are ready to march you do need to march and not stand around getting colder and more frustrated, it felt very congested and claustrophobic. An experience I would not like to repeat, please take note campaign organisers. As in previous assemblies with People’s Assembly -speech making normally occurred at the culmination of the march.
So finally we got underway and it was then you began to realise this was bigger than you had expected as it took 30 minutes to reach Gower St and join the march proper a distance of 400 metres. The chanting was resounding, the street was jammed, and photographers were everywhere. It felt like a carnival; joyous buzzing exciting to see such a swathe of banners bobbing up and down against a blue sky it was very thrilling, and I was immensely proud of this bursting energy and enthusiasm for protecting a very ‘special friend’ the NHS.
This energy never abated as we progressed through the streets of London, we witnessed bystanders applauding our Banner, we saw dogs wearing banners, babies carrying them in their buggies or on foot; vital messages to save our NHS from the Tory sell off. It was a great swelling of public pride, for families, workers, staff and the general public raising the flag to state this is ours and no one else’s to sell off. As we were half way down Whitehall, Graham Durham stood there greeting everyone and cheering us on, it appears Graham stood for 90 minutes for the march to file past so I guess the number of 250,000 marched was not a surprising figure.
On arrival into Parliament Square, Big Ben chimed for 3pm, we found a massed crowd and it was too congested to actually reach the Square, so we opted to stand eventually beside parliament fencing. The line of marchers was so long we had already missed many speeches and still the marches were attempting to join Parliament Square, began to fill up Whitehall instead. All traffic had been stopped in central London. The Rally was truly huge and finally when Len arrived a deafening roar could be heard to welcome him to the podium, and as expected from a Union man the speech was inspirational. But absolutely nothing compared to the whooping, cheering which greeted Jeremy’s arrival on the podium, I suspect even Glasgow heard it, indeed he had to wait a few minutes for this to subside before he could begin. His speech drove all the pertinent points on why we must not allow privatisation of the NHS to continue, that each of us must fight to save it. The speech was of course as always with Jeremy intelligent correct and delivered where even he shown glimmers of anger from someone who doesn’t do anger ever!!. None of us wanted him to stop as he always remains passionate genuine and truth that we all recognised, absolutely brilliant!
When he left the podium, he did what he always does, stops to speak to as many as possible, we almost had a photo of him with a couple of our supporters but failed to switch mobile phone to camera… another day another opportunity I am sure. But post Jeremy we rolled up our banners and sped off to the coffee house, where we examined and dissected the operation to save our NHS and give our weary feet a welcome rest. Recognising that our comradeship is in healthy and fighting fit to save the NHS.