On the 20th of October an estimated 700,000 people marched from Park Lane to Parliament Square. The march was organised by People's Vote, a campaign to get a second referendum on Brexit. The march was due to leave Park Lane at midday with speeches beginning at 2pm. I arrived quite late to the march a) because I didn't know it was happening til I woke up and b).....because I woke up at 12.
My relationship with politics is a little bit squiffy. I've voted each time there was an opportunity. I was always involved in school politics and by extensions local politics. Since moving to London I've written to my MP about a few issues and I try and stay in the loop around what's going on, but this past year it was just too draining to constantly read how terrible everything is. WHICH I WILL DISCUSS IN ANOTHER POST.
I was in two minds whether to go to the march. Even two years on I still know jack shit about the EU and the pro's and cons, but I do know brexit is a whole load of bollocks and that I'd regret it if I wasn't there.
The deciding note was my flat mate Pete turning to me and asking, "are the people at this march people who voted leave and now want to remain?" I didn't know and suddenly and idea for a sound piece blossomed into my head. So I got dressed, grabbed my zoom, and headed out to explore the rationale of the people at the rally.
As I stepped out of Charring Cross station the first thing that hit me was how diverse and placid the crowd seemed. Families with young children next to groups of students next to the elder generation, I briefly interviewed a 70 year old who told me about life before the EU. Everyone was either milling around in groups or holding banners and singing. It was much more a get-together vibe over the sheer anger in the air at the Anti-Trump rally back in July.
I was quickly filled with the feeling of an observer, walking through the crowds with my mic and earphones in listening to the rally rather than actively being part of it - though I did join in some of the bollocks to Brexit chants. It was the first time since moving to London I could smile at people in the street and have them smile back, rather than the trademark Londoner confused frown that inhabitants of this city save for friendliness on the street.
Opening conversations with people was very easy, and whilst not everyone was comfortable being recorded for my piece, people still spoke openly. I talked to several people over the course of the afternoon with varying views on Brexit, from the hard remain activists to those who felt a people's vote would never happen yet still felt it was important to make their anger heard. Whilst I didn't agree with everyone I enjoyed most these conversations, however one stands out over the others.
I found myself in a 20 minute conversation with a man who's views I disagreed with on almost each level. From the art point of view I wanted the recordings to be the truest version of the people I was interviewing, so I did very little speaking to avoid adding tone to the thoughts. However after saying goodbye to this man I found myself both drained and frustrated. The topic of our conversation moved from Brexit, to Islam, to homosexuals and women. Whilst our conversation was civil on both sides he did call homosexuality corrupt and say women do not/should not have full control over their bodies.
And I wasn't able to stop thinking about it. Should I have been civil? Even if I was disagreeing I was still letting him spout his views and did that legitimatise them? I never made any attempt to change his mind, because I knew there was no point - I've spent my life arguing with these kind of men. I didn't tell him to go fuck himself. I shook his hand as I said goodbye - unsmiling. Though I don't know why he was at the rally I did get the impression he may have been there just to disagree with people.
If the purpose of these recordings is to capture/document the British public in their own words it's important to include the views of those I don't agree with. I will just have to be mindful of how I present them so as not to give power to the words that cause harm.
By the evening a lot of the crowd had dispersed to the pubs around Westminster or headed home and as I got on the tube home I saw footage of just how many of us turned out. Whether I believe a people's vote will happen or not, I felt a sense of pride knowing that somewhere amongst those thousands of dots, I was there. Talking to people and shouting at a government of politicians that I feel are serving themselves over the people they govern.
🛸Thanks for reading and I'll see you in my next post🛸