February 18th, 2003


Updating 1: Friday

First off, thanks to everyone who commented on the previous post with congratulations and expressions of good luck. I'd have replied properly in the right place, but I've been dead busy getting things sorted for the weekend and the trek south.

Friday evening was fun. Met up with tigermoth outside the Lyceum and then went to the free preview of "Art", a three-handed play about a 6'x4' white canvas with white diagonal lines on it. This play had been running in London for quite some time when I was down at Sony, so I got quite used to seeing the posters for it on the tube.
  • Current Music
    Bonzos: Urban Spaceman (in my head)

Updating 2: Saturday before the March

This was a day and a half, a veritable red letter day.

Up early to get the 0800 to Glasgow, walking across a frosty, empty, city centre to Glasgow Green (more frost, ice on puddles to jump on, the ground rock-hard), to look for the place to check in as a steward. Couldn't find it at first, so filled in a survey for some University of Maryland students studying public protest. Eventually spotted a large group of people in dayglo vests by a white van, so wandered over and signed up.

Spent the next couple of hours answering some questions (where are the nearest toilets, where do stewards sign in, is there food anywhere) and failing to answer others (where do $group meet, where's the march leaving from, have you seen $person), then went over to stand at one of the entrances to direct people away from where the South Side feeder march was arriving from. This was about the time that we started hearing that there were 25k people here already.

Eventually, the incoming flow slowed to a trickle, and the feeder march had safely arrived, so I fought my way through the crowd to the needle again and started looking for a bit of march with not enough stewards on it.

The march was meant to have been moving off in four sections (trade unions and families, political parties, religious groups and something elses), but I'm not sure how well this plan succeeded. I do remember an oldish guy in a smart suit enquiring as to who his morals would let him march with: not with socialists because they're all commies and traitors, really, nor with liberals because they "approve of poofters". We pointed him at one of the Christian groups, and hoped he wouldn't mind the "Freedom for Palestine" placard they had with them.

Then it was time for the next section of the march to move off, and I joined it near the head, between two police motorcycles and an open-topped bus full of purple and black clad drummers (Commotion from Edinburgh and She-boom from Glasgow, I think).

Oops. Work(!) time.
  • Current Music
    Keyboards clattering

Updating 3: the march and after

Did I mention earlier what a glorious day we had for it?

A lot of the detail - the route we took, the exact detail of a lot of the hand-made placards, conversations as we walked - is gone now, and I'm regretting not writing it all down as soon as I got home.

Snippets: the odd patch of black ice on the road, slogans written on the icy roofs and windows of parked cars (favourite: "This car's/Against war"), no problems at all on the way (if people in our section fell over or felt faint, we were meant to help them to the side of the road and wait for one of the recovery vehicles which brought up the rear of each section), leaflets to hand out. It was convenient being near the bus with the drummers, 'cos it meant I was able to catch up with a couple of friends from Edinburgh (I wonder, should I do the crazysoph thing and assign pseudonyms, or the green_amber thing and use a pretend lj-user tag).

The rally: I'd forgotten just how big the SECC area was, and filling it with people didn't make it seem any smaller. In spite of Blair's having addressed the Labour Party faithful and run away before the march even started, there were a lot of police guarding the Armadillo, and remarkably few anywhere else. Main stewarding stuff at this point (as yonmei has also mentioned) was directing people to the portaloos or the fast food stand, and failing to tell people who was speaking when. There were countless opportunities to hear and pass on rumours about the size of the event or the other protests across the world - unsurprisingly, the official figures are all a lot lower than those being bandied about. Except in the case of New York: the story that the New York march had been called off "for security reasons" was everywhere.

Suddenly, I realised that I was almost drunk on the emotions of the day: some kind of massive contact high that didn't really wear off until I got home.

The Jericho Rumpus: originally designed to try and drown out Blair's speech, it went ahead anyway. I'd not brought anything to make noise with, but improvised with a lemon fanta bottle - blowing across the top or banging the hard plastic bit.

I didn't hear a lot of the speeches - there were problems with the PA at first (Dame Rumour was sure the Police had banned its use: she was wrong), and there was the sound of Samba-type drumming coming from another direction.

Stopping only to watch and then put out a small fire (burning plastic - at first there wasn't much danger of anyone getting hurt by it as it was in a reasonably open space, but as it burnt out, people were almost walking through it) I headed over to listen and sort of bob around approximately in time with the music. I stayed for a while, then had to put the steward head back on for a while as folk were starting to ask where the pick-up buses would be, or if the bridges/subway/railway stations were open. I headed back towards the main car park (now beginning to empty) and finally ran into yonmei, who had the answer as far as buses were concerned: the buses were picking up, but outside the SECC itself (rumour had this as being down to the risk of letting buses in amongst so many people).

Then I did a bit of bucketing, but no-one seemed to have much spare change (thinks: it's as well we didn't use the donations as a scale for measuring how many people were there). The place was getting well empty by now, so I handed in my vest and managed to meet my friends over by the Samba drummers just as they were heading to the pub.

The pub was the State, on Sauchiehall street, and we stayed there for a pint before being lured across the road to the Wetherspoons in search of food. Which followed, as did more beer and a precautionary double vodka and red bull. In spite of that, I was beginning to flag by then (and I still had a lot of stuff to do to get ready for Leamington Spa), so rather than heading to various pubs slightly further out of town (every now and again a mobile would go, or a text would come in, to say the meeting point had changed), I retreated to the station. The train was quite late in leaving - which meant I just caught it - and some kind person woke me when we arrived in Edinburgh.

I arrived at the bus stopm just in time, managed not to fall asleep again on the bus, and got home in time for the Five news (tigermoth had already taped the BBC and Channel 4 news). None of them mentioned Blair's running out at all. Funny that.