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.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Wise words

Behind (or underneath) the William Morris placard was Eliza, a university lecturer from London. After we'd tracked her down she explained her placard was a retort to a Polly Toynbee article entitled 'Sorry, students, but you're low in the pain pecking order' (5 November 2010). 

"I figured there could be no better response to Toynbee’s calculating portrait of higher education as a superfluous indulgence for the privileged than the wise words of William Morris – the full quote of which runs, “I do not want art for a few any more than education for a few, or freedom for a few” – because it implicitly posits art and education as conditions of freedom, and therefore no more expendable than bread and beans. 

"Her argument was seductively ironic, proffering the exclusivity of higher education as justification for accepting its further enclosure without complaint. 

"The insinuation that the British public sector should be julienned into a hierarchy of the unevenly deserved threatened to pit students and artists against nurses and fire fighters for a slim share of the City’s crumbs and continues to hold wide purchase. 

"The greatest danger for the Coalition government was that students, artists, fire fighters and nurses might stand together against the rapacious bankers and their servants in Whitehall, and on March 26, that’s exactly what happened. 

"It wasn’t enough by a longshot, but it was a remarkable demonstration of the joy, solidarity, creativity and humour that we might harness for more militant action in the coming months.

"I made the placard the night before the march, using foam board and permanent marker. I brought tape with me and picked up a discarded stick along the route."

No comments:

Post a Comment