On 26 March 2011, 500,000 people marched through London in protest against government spending cuts. The March For The Alternative was one of the largest demonstrations ever seen in the UK.

To mark the day, the SAVE OUR PLACARDS team asked people to leave their protest material at a tree in Hyde Park.

Hundreds left us their placards, banners, and costumes. And we've worked hard to find new audiences for the material since.

Below, people share the politics behind their slogans, their experiences of the demonstration, and thoughts on what has happened since in Con-Dem austerity Britain.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

The ten-minute banner

"It's just easy when you know someone well.

"Doing the kind of work we do, you develop a sixth sense for when each other needs help. Say, when one of the kids is playing up on the bus.

"So even though Natalie's much taller than me, carrying the banner between us was never a problem... We just work really well together. We're a strong team."

Or at least they were.

The day before the march, youth workers Natalie and Laurice took two poles, a bed sheet and "about ten minutes" to create one of the demo's most direct banners.

Done in a rush, they weren't in a mood to hold back.

As Laurice puts it, "We were just so worried for the kids. For those who might fall through the gaps of the restructuring that was going on at the council."

Three months on and their fears were realised. Cuts have hit them personally very hard.

On fixed contracts, they knew they were vulnerable once the council launched its review of youth services in 2010. But it still came as a shock.

Both have lost their jobs.

But rather than talking about their own situations it was the families they worked with that Laurice spoke of first when we met to chat about events since March 26.

Even if contact is reestablished with all the kids and families they worked with, Laurice fears it will take a long time to rebuild trust to the same levels as before.

Natalie added, “It was heartbreaking walking away from young people knowing that vital support had been withdrawn.”

And then there's the impact on them.

"It's been very stressful. We all have our rent to pay," says Laurice who feels lucky to have found a job at another council without too much time out of work. Although she has had to take a hefty pay cut. For Natalie the search for another post goes on.

Looking back, Laurice finds irony in the banner, "It's odd. Making it was a really strong bonding exercise! A great way to build a team. But there we were, a few weeks later competing with each other for the same youth worker jobs. Makes you mad."

Laurice and Natalie on their 
team bonding exercise

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