Monday, October 24, 2011

The Jarrow Crusade

My name is Geordie McIntyre, 
An' the Bairns don't even have a fire
So the wife says "Geordie, go to London Town!
And if they don't give us half a chance, 
Don't even give us a second glance
Then Geordie, with my blessings, burn them down."
The Jarrow Song - Alan Price

Much like Tom in his glorious last post, I'm not political. Oh sure, I vote - It'd be criminal not to (remember that, kids - CRIMINAL. People have died so you could) but in pub conversations about politics I tend to try to steer it back to safe territory - computer games, films, my lovely face, Isn't the beer expensive in here, what's that smell, that kind of thing. Tara is the political Court - as in thats her surname, not as in she's a building where political activities are carried out. Can I use the word political any more in this single paragraph? Political. Political. Political. It would appear I can.

Anyway, politics. Yesterday the Jarrow March came to Coventry. My wife has been telling me about this most of the week - despite me saying I'd go with her, I think she thought I'd back up given half an opportunity. I have a habit of doing this. However, my interest was also piqued by an article about it on The One Show (where it got the full support of The Fonz) so Saturday lunchtime saw us turning up at the steps of Coventry Cathedral (along with Taras mum Liz and her brother Glen) with the Socialists at the start of the march.

Photograph reproduced with kind permission of Teresa Daniels

For those of you who don't know, The Jarrow March was a protest march in 1936 - a protest against unemployment and extreme poverty suffered in the North East of England. Some 207 marchers travelled from Jarrow to Westminster (a distance of nearly 300 miles) to lobby parliament.

And so 70 years later sees young people doing the same. A march for the right to a decent job with decent living wages, a march to see an end to exploitative cheap labour apprenticeships and a march to make university education affordable for all. Even a political ignoramus like me can't help but see these to be very worthy causes indeed.

Ironic that the site chosen for the start of the march was taking place directly opposite a Coventry University Open Day - of course a day for prospective students who will be the first to face the huge hike in tuition fees for 2012. 

The march (which had a great turnout - much larger than I'd predicted) took us from the Cathedral Steps into the centre of town where we stopped for people to explain to the confused crowds what the march was all about - then it was onwards to the Methodist Hall for a rally and, almost as importantly, a cup of tea.

All through the march and the rally afterwards I was quite taken aback by the sheer passion of those involved. Their cause and words were eloquent and fired with a genuine level of care I'm ashamed to say I could never muster up when I was a student. I genuinely hope that this Jarrow March achieves better results than its predecessor - in which all that happened was the participants were given the money to get back home.

So, a refreshing breath of fresh air and quite an eye-opener. After a couple of weeks of taking the piss out of the knuckle draggers in the EDL, it was genuinely moving to see disenfranchised youth passionately and intelligently involved in a cause that is certainly worth getting behind.

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