by Fighting Monsters, a mental health social worker and blogger
I knew I wanted to march when I first heard that a demonstration was being planned. My first decision was who to march with, whether my union, my local community or my professional organisation. In the end, I went with a group of friends, social workers or partners of social workers who live around London and after losing some of the group, we joined a random ‘Unison’ section of the march on the basis that ‘well, we’re all members of Unison’.
We must have been near to the front of the march as we snaked our way around Big Ben and down Whitehall. Passing Downing Street provoked a lot of good-natured ‘booing’ and the demonstrators stopped to have their photos taken with the guardsmen on Horseguards Parade.
We found a band that was playing and marched (and danced) alongside them from a while. We heard accents from every corner of the country. We saw banners from the Fire Brigade Union (we might have lingered a while in conversation with them), nursing staff, housing staff. All areas of the public sector workforce but more than that, we passed banners from a user group for a local hard of hearing service and a group from a SureStart centre that is being closed.
All sorts of people
There were children and there were pensioners and there were all sorts of people in between who never considered joining a demonstration before. In one of those typical ‘social work’ moments, as we saw a banner from one of the hospitals pass us by, my friend commented on her thoughts of the discharge co-ordinator there which made us all chuckle.
We were together though and we were marching together. My conversations with a housing officer confirmed how misunderstandings at work can be broken down with a common purpose.
As we made our way through the inevitable shower of rain towards Hyde Park we got a better idea of the scale of the demonstration but what was noticeable in the park was the friendly, welcoming atmosphere. There were children playing, holding up their handmade banners and posing for photos.
Standing up for what we believe
We settled down to our picnics and listened to the rally call as the marchers continued to flood into the park. We need to stand up for what we believe. We need to stand up for public services and we need to use the spirit and positive energy of a massive community on the march to call the government to account for proposing a series of cuts which are not equitable.
Marching amid hundreds of thousands of people, that’s the big society I want and that’s the reason I wanted to go and show my support. I don’t know if the government will change any of their programmes and their plans as a direct result of the demonstration but we bolstered our own opposition in the knowledge that there are a lot of people who still care very deeply about public services in the country.