Saturday, 7 July 2018

The picture and the demonstration ....... October 1981

This is the story of one photograph from one demonstration.

The march was called to draw attention to the new generation of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems which were becoming operational at a time when relations between the two Super Powers were going through a turbulent period.

This one was held in the October of 1981 in Manchester and the route took the protesters from All Saints to Crown Square.

The lead banner is that of the Manchester City Labour Party, and quite a few people are carrying The “No to Cruise Missiles” placards.

I can’t now remember how many participated and given that the press at the time along with the Police tended to underestimate numbers I won’t bother trawling the records.

Suffice to say that looking at the collection of images I took on the day it was a big one.

Leaving that aside, and acknowledging that it is my picture, I do think this one captures the sense of what it was like to be on such a demonstration at that time.

And by extension pretty much what it would be like at any time.

What strikes you first is the range of ages, and while some of the youngest will have had little say in whether they were going to take part there are some teenagers present, who could have voted with their feet and gone elsewhere.

And even given the seriousness of the event someone has said something which has caused those closest to smile.

It is just the way that these things worked and often it would be the banter which lifted the spirits on a cold day which might also threaten rain.

This day seemed bright and warm and free from rain.

We are at a point in the march soon after the procession has set off and the paper sellers are conspicuous by their absence.

No doubt they were further back, near the beginning, hovering over those who were yet to set off.

And as yet there seems to be no shouted chant, which usually got the desired response, although just occasionally the shout would be ignored or got muddled in its execution, which led to a ripple of laughter down the line.

Looking carefully at the image I can name five individuals with certainty with an option on another five who I recognise but can’t call up their name.

But I remember we continued up Oxford Road and through St Peter’s Square into Piccadilly but after that I am unsure how we got to Crown Square, possibly down Market Street or Cannon Street, and then I am guessing along a bit of Deansgate.

Someone will remember.

Location; Manchester

Picture; Manchester Peace demonstration, 1981, from the collection of Andrew Simpson

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