On Saturday 20th November a march took place in Nottingham opposing the so-called ‘austerity measures’ – the cuts in public funding of education, health and social projects. It was organised by the Nottingham Save Our Services group or NottsSOS, who claimed to be “defending jobs, services, welfare & education against cuts in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire” and are part of a wider organisation opposing the government spending cuts known as ‘anti cuts’ groups. It is estimated that between 1000 and 1600 people marched an almost two mile route from the site of the annual Goose Fair , Forest Fields, to Speaker’s Corner in Market Square. Leading the march was the Gedling ‘Save our School’ campaign who, as part of the budget cuts, are due to lose their secondary school in the Gedling area of Nottingham.
The march occurred on a busy market day. According to one of the organizers, stall owners “paid £200 to put up their stalls’, which were selling gourmet foods such as organic meat and artisan cheese. Apparently, “no-one told them that a rally will be arriving”. However, despite a few disgruntled faces, on the whole the market stall owners seemed receptive and understanding to the cause. The marchers were of all ages, genders and ethnicities. Unlike the student rally in London a few weeks ago, there was no Millbank-style unrest, perhaps because the crowd did not have a united agenda. This protest was one against the cuts Nottingham is suffering as a whole.
There were several speakers at the rally, including Martin Sleath, the branch secretary of Unison; Liz Silver, from Nottinghamshire Disabled People’s Movement; Richard Buckwell, secretary of Notts Trades Council; Liam Conway, secretary of Notts National Union of Teachers; and Sue Mallender, a green party councillor for Rushcliffe. Mrs Mallender’s speech was arguably the most impassioned and cheers erupted from the crowd as she held aloft her placard which read simply; “Tax the Rich!”. The other speakers held similar views claiming that the public service cuts were “purely ideological”, “economically ridiculous” and that “…we bailed out the bankers, now it’s time for them to pay us back!”
There was also a speaker representing the Nottingham University. MA history student Robbie Rudge told the crowd; “People often ask me, ‘Why do you care you won’t have to pay £9,000 a year in tuition fees?’ But I say, why should that be a reason for apathy?”
The most emotive story of the day was that of Rachel Scothern and her autistic son Dylan. As part of the cuts to public spending Dylan’s speech therapy has been discontinued. Mrs Scothern was encouraged by her MP, Vernon Coaker, to write to the Prime Minister David Cameron. She asked him to defend the rights of disabled children “…as he said he would during his election campaign”. Mr Cameron replied that he would “…raise this issue with the relevant department”. However, when the relevant department got back to Mrs Scothern, they agreed that her son Dylan had a basic right to speech therapy but stated that there was no funding to provide this.
On the whole, this march was quite different to the Demo in London that occurred two weeks ago. This was a march where the ordinary people rallied through the streets of Nottingham. From elderly residents who could be losing access to day-centres, to disabled people who could lose their benefits, as well as the young people who may lose the opportunity to participate in higher education. This was a march that involved dogs, prams, drummers and political activists. Most of all this was the ‘Big Society’ that Mr Cameron spoke of in his election campaign. The ‘Big Society’ coming together to march against him; united against his government.
Article and Images by Dylan Jorsh