“So, where do you stand on the badger debate?”
“Oh, I’m agnostic…”
I had a helluva time getting to Liverpool Road from Piccadilly because various police roadblocks thwarted my planned route again and again. I think I walked part of the route backwards before the march started because of this but in the end I encountered a load of the Unite contingent on Whitworth Street West and followed them.
The crowd at Liverpool Road was immense, both in numbers and in volume. At the urging of stewards with megaphones I made my way down a side street and round to MOSI (Museum Of Science and Industry) to get to the back of the march, which took ages…There wasn’t that much room to move in a lot of places because of how many people were already there, with their banners, ready to march, and this was confounded by people trying to go past them in both directions on the same side of them, looking for their mates/relatives/co workers.
Eventually I gave up trying to find the end of the march, or David and David’s mum and just slotted myself in in a convenient gap in between Bolton Green Party, some GMB activists, and a lovely and friendly group of TUC activists from Merthyr Tydfil.
We were stuck on Liverpool Road for ages, with everyone blowing whistles and vuvuzelas amidst lots of photographers. We were over half an hour late moving off, and when we did move off it was at a very stop-start snail’s pace. It took about half an hour to get from Liverpool Road to Deansgate. The woman who nipped off to the chippy on Liverpool Road en march had the right idea.
There was less chanting than two years ago, but there was lots of enthusiasm and good humour, and some good agit prop street theatre, including characters in V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes masks posed at intervals along the route, and an NHS campaigner in scrubs, wearing stilts and a cowboy hat and carrying a David Cameron puppet.
It was a pretty long march in that we went from Liverpool Road to Deansgate and off round the town hall, to Portland Street, past the Midland hotel and GMEX, Princess Street, down Oxford Road to Whitworth Park. I think people were flagging a bit by Oxford Road as the gaps were wider and we spread out more.
The march was so huge that people were coming back from Whitworth Park before I got there, and the marchers were still going past as I came out of Café Muse and headed down Brunswick Street to the Apollo to get the 192 home. Oxford Road was full of coaches waiting to take people home, and tired, hungry and elated marchers eating hastily cobbled together late lunches.
The police presence by the Midland and GMEX was huge: Wall to wall physical barriers and police. Most of the police were poker faced; some were clearly amused by some of the placards. I noticed more lawyers (legal aid cuts: “Judge John Deed wouldn’t stand for it” was a particularly good placard) and teachers than I remember on the TUC march two years ago, and a banner for a socialist lawyers association intrigued me. Other highlights were the Women Asylum Seekers group, a choir near the town hall, brass band, kinetic drumming that gave the march back a carnival feel in the late September sunshine by Portland Street/Oxford Road, and the young lady on Oxford Road with a banner advertising an anti-cuts blog with the strapline “Iain Duncan Smith – My part in his downfall.”
Unfortunately my feet now don’t want to work anymore today.