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Thursday, 31 March 2011

An alternative picture of the March for the Alternative, 26 March 2011

Last Saturday's TUC-led March for the Alternative in Central London was some 500,000-strong and overwhelmingly peaceful, civilised and calm, with lots of creativity and dark humour evident in banners and costumes, and a strong feeling of everyone united in a common cause. But sadly, and perhaps inevitably, most of the media coverage (both TV and printed-press) was effectively distracted and hijacked by the violence of a few hundred balaclava-wearing hardcores.

The following pictures tell the story of the March as I saw it. Please do share them with friends to spread the wider, truer picture, and feel free to post your comments and choice of favourites too.

Unfortunately the day was cold, grey-skied and drizzly, sandwiched between gloriously sunny days both before and after. But the mood was resolute and buoyed by a feeling of shared opposition and common humanity.

Grimly-humourous signs were a major feature,

as was the wide range of ages, backgrounds and expressions.

This picture reminded one country-dweller of their march for the Countryside Alliance, pointing up the broad-based opposition to the ConDem cuts.

“Never in the field of financial endeavour has so much been owed by so few to so many” 
– Mervyn King, Bank of England governor

Vuvulezas, drums, whistles, masks, costumes and catchy chants all lent a carnival atmosphere, despite the drizzle.

The presence of many small children highlighted the fact that 99.9% of the half-million marchers were determinedly non-violent.

A rainbow of vivid colours and smiles mixed in with grimmer expressions and starker black and white slogans. 

"One of the reasons I thought it was important to come here was to remind the government that they have no election mandate for what they are doing here," Simon Cross, 46, from Nottingham, to the Observer.

A piece of comic street theatre near Fortnum and Mason before the small flare-up there which received disproportionate media coverage.

Single mothers in particular, and women in general, will be amongst those hardest hit by the cuts.

A plain, straightforward shot but I included it to show the determined humourlessness and bafflement I saw on the faces of most of the police lining the route.

Sadly, this placard is probably only-too-true.

Not all the protesters were marching - some were simply cheering from the sidelines. 

As a photographer, the police-enforced veto against climbing up onto fences, barriers and walls (citing unspecified 'Health and Safety laws') is frustrating and infuriating. But they seemed to have waived this particular civil-liberty-restriction for the day.

As part of the cuts, the government plans to shed 17,000 armed forces personnel - one in 10 - by 2015. And they've placed Gurkhas at the forefront of the MoD's redundancy programme to reduce the number of Nepalese volunteers entitled to claim settlement rights in the UK once they retire.

"It's about people standing up for what's happening to other people they care about, not just friends and families but everyone. They are marching today because people feel part not of a big society but of a compassionate society." Billy Bragg, musician and rally speaker

'Again the impact of the cuts is much harder on the poor and those in the middle than it is on the rich. The poorest ten per cent suffer 15 times more than the richest.'

Texting rebels. The antics of a few hundred militant activists sadly dominated news coverage of the event. According to the Met, 201 arrests were made during the day, of which 145 were for 'aggravated trespass' by members of tax-avoidance protest group UK Uncut in Fortnum and Mason - despite a policewoman previously acknowledging on video that a breach of the peace had occurred outside the store, but not in. 

A wonderful, lived-in face!

'What is certain is that the cuts will reduce economic growth. The government is fond of scaring us with numbers. Here's our own scary number. The spending review will depress growth in the UK economy by £60 billion, according to official figures. That's £1,000 for everyone in the UK.'

There were over 30 individual speeches at the closing rally in Hyde Park, making intelligent, articulate, passionate and persuasive arguments against the cuts (which can be viewed at:,

lightened by a set from a Brazilian singer and dancers to add some carnival relief. 

Elsewhere in the Park, more immediately pressing concerns, such as getting police assistance with a mobile phone,
or being disgusted by the state of a heavily-used portaloo, offered light relief to passersby. 

Protests old and new. The scroll displays a classic anonymous poem about the 1760-1820 enclosure of English common land for private gain, which reads: 

The law locks up the man or woman 
Who steals the goose from off the common 
But leaves the greater villain loose 
Who steals the common from off the goose. 

The law demands that we atone 
When we take things we do not own 
But leaves the lords and ladies fine 
Who take things that are yours and mine. 

The poor and wretched don't escape 
If they conspire the law to break; 
This must be so but they endure 
Those who conspire to make the law. 

The law locks up the man or woman 
Who steals the goose from off the common 
And geese will still a common lack 
Till they go and steal it back.

A resigned modern troubadour.

Up in arms - the statue with his crown jewels 'Under Offer' and a Middle-Englander offering cheerful solidarity.

The placards carried by children seemed particularly poignant. One I didn't capture read 'Don't steal my future'. 

Packing up the street theatre and going home.

Hyde Park Corner's Wellington Arch between a crane rigged with CCTV and coaches quietly waiting to take marchers home for their tea. 

There are also some great photographs at:
mar/26/thousands-march-against-cuts-in-pictures - though a hugely disproportionate 15 of the 36 are dramatic shots of the pockets of West End violence unrelated to the main march. 


  1. Great pics Cathy! It shows just what a broad cross section of people were there marching (not rioting), just how many people oppose this Governments strategy. I especially liked the old fellow with his sarnies and the lady with green gloves listening to the speakers :) Radical! Anita x

  2. Great pictures, all of them! They make me wish I'd been there.
    Jo x

  3. Some fantastic pictures of the march. I love all the different faces and expressions. Such a range of ages its brilliant. x

  4. Thanks Anita & Jo & Bren - so glad u like!

  5. Sarah O'Keefe2 April 2011 at 01:33

    My favourites.. the statue, the lady with the red hair and green gloves, the balaclava wearers taking a break with their sign, the gorilla with picket placard... you have captured the spirit and cross section of the crowd perfectly. Sarah X

  6. You've got some great images there... well captured!I'm with Sarah on the choice of favorites. Mole xx

  7. Your pictures bring a real sense of community. I like the mix of black and white and colours. Great work

  8. My absolute favourite was the little girl in the yellow coat and pink tights - such a timeless face.
    Scary how young the policeman looked...

  9. Thanks so much Sarah & Mole & Christine, all your comments are so welcome & lovely to hear! It's particularly interesting to know your favourites as I'm planning to submit some of these to the inaugural Street Photography Festival, deadline end April, & am only allowed to send in 5-8 for consideration. So it's good I've got some time to stand back & squint & hear lots of other views before then...xx

  10. And thanks Rosalinda too - your comment wasn't up when I was replying just now. The little timeless girl's also got a strand of hair cutting across her face, serendipitously. And the policeman didn't look that young to me - just supremely po-faced & frankly baffled by the energetic conviction of all those he saw surging past him! I'll get a list of your other favourites when we speak soon xx

  11. These pictures are great! Adriana x

  12. Great stuff Cathy
    Stewart Weir

  13. Some brilliant shots! I like. Angelica x

  14. Some good work in here...
    Ian Williams

  15. These are fabulous pics Cathy - really enjoyed dipping into them xx
    Angela Wilding

  16. Fantastic photos - well done. They totally represent the emotions of the day....
    Henrietta Babington Spink

  17. These are fabtastic. I love the black and white with the older couple....I like them all. xx AJ

  18. Well done Cathy..Love them..Hugs
    Helga Desilver Blow Perera

  19. great pictures Cathy, really does give a different perspective to what we saw about it in the news. x
    John G

  20. Loved the pix. Glad to see them. Particularly liked girls with red tights and yellow coat and the photographers stacked up!

  21. Great imagery with the protest march, certainly conveying the broad spectrum of British life who are fed up with the current status quo! Also liked the subtle use of colour desaturation. Great work!
    G x

    Like with so many things today, we have to bypass the BIG corporations, the big media moguls, the big anything and get to the grassroots. Individual blogs like this one is the way forward, for people to hear and see what is happening and not to get the brainwashing from the BBC's of the world. There is no free press anywhere these days except here! During the cold war a Check dissident came to the West and was shocked what he saw. He said: "The people in the West are worse off then we were in the Soviet Block. We never beleived the papers or the TV!" Keep up the good works! Best, Dragan

  23. Glad you were there to capture the moments. Didn't see much coverage elsewhere. Great pics as ever Cathy. Keep on keeping on...



  24. I actually just looked over your photos for a second time. They are amazing! While going to meet up with Vanessa and Adriana, I ended up walking through the march and I can say first hand, that you really captured the essence of the march and of the people who were fighting for this amazing cause. I think that the way that you captured so many generations strengthens the photos even more.

    Back in New York, I spend a lot of time participating in the fight for gay rights and having gone to a few rallies and really feeling the presence of all of the different people involved, I think it is very admirable that you took the time to both participate and capture the importance of such a poignant event. I really wish we could have gone together. I would have loved to see you in your element.

    I think photography is amazing and I wish that I could learn to take photographs the way that you did at the march. That being said, I also took a few pictures, but mainly of signs that had fallen on the street and were abandoned.

  25. A moving collection Cathy. I wasn't there, but it seems you have captured the range of emotions of the day. Bravissima

  26. cathy- these are great! they show the diversity of people actively concerned. ....and what a wonderful day it was xxx

  27. Some great pictures there that really capture the reason for action
    Nick S

  28. Fantastic pictures, they really reflect what it was really all about that day!The multitude of different people who actually bothered to come out and have their say! Far removed from how the media chose to report it!
    Brilliant Cathy
    Laurence xx

  29. Wonderful story and pictures Cathy! Touching, sad, funny, informative... Great work.L.

  30. Fantastic photography.

  31. Just looked at your work, really good shots, you've captured the mood, such an observation of the day, i feel i could have been there after looking at your photos, well done you
    Jo Webb

  32. Really enjoyed the pics as they appeared to depict the essence of the March for the Alternatives, by capturing the collective spirit of the participants.

    Cynthia Downs

  33. Terrific images, Cathy; I like the second photo with the 'Selling Our Country...' banner for the resolute expressions and the contrast between the peoples hues against the black/white buildings.
    Mary O'Dwyer White

  34. wow congrats on the link in New Statesman. loving the pics which have captured the true meaning of the rally rather than those anarchists who tried to exploit it
    Fiona Loxton