Saturday, 29 March 2014


I've never been to a Protest before and in a lot of ways I still feel as though I haven't.

I've always wanted to. I've always wanted to take part in a protest march. Join with my fellow man against the might of the government. Get out there and do something in an effort to change the world for the better. Protest against Britain - joining the US in - going to war - against countries with oil - to demonstrate against the increase in student fees or the dismantling of the NHS.

I therefore find myself wondering "why I haven't done so before now?"

I think there are a few of reasons.

Firstly, I need to find a cause that I truly believe in. And as self centred as it sounds, something that affects me directly. Because although I strongly believe that fire fighters and nurses deserve to get paid a great deal more than they currently do, I don't believe so strongly that I would go out and march through London in demonstration. And although I think that University fees have gone insane and need to be more affordable again. I completed my MA before the hike in prices and so although I feel for the current generation, it's not something I feel particularly strongly about.

Secondly is location. You don't get too many demonstrations in small town North Wales. But that's not really been an excuse for a good while now as I've lived in London for what will be 5 years this summer.

Time of day is another important thing. Why are protest marches so often at 9am on a Saturday? By the time I get up they're normally all over and as Saturday tends to be my only lie in of the week, I can be a little reluctant to give it up.

And finally, I just don't tend to happen to hear about them until they have happened and are in the news. Serious question: where do you hear about planned demonstrations? Is there a facebook group? There should be! I suppose once you've found a cause and start to investigate it a little - start being proactive - you find out about these things?

Oh and finally, finally, I'm just a bit lazy!

So if I was going to go to my first protest, the first thing I needed to do was find a cause.
What do I strongly believe in? Equal rights? The right to a (decent) education for all? Mental health? Wildlife?

& then I needed to find a protest that was going to be easy to get to from my home/work and at a reasonable hour (which 9am certainly isn't to me). That shouldn't be too hard to find. Right?

And it turns out it wasn't!
On Thursday night, while I was checking through facebook, I saw a post about a protest being held outside Pentonville Prison on Friday afternoon.

"The Ballad of Not Reading in Gaol" as it has now been dubbed. A protest against Justice Secretary Chris Grayling's plan to ban books from being sent to prisoners from their family friends. Now, how do I feel about that? I think the ban is a bit silly to be honest. I don't think there is any real reason to do it but at the same time it is only a ban on books from being send into prisons. It's not like they're banning books! Prisoners can still read books from the prison library. However, I am a firm believer that prison should be about rehabilitation and attempting to break the cycle of reoffending (nearly half of all prisons will commit another offence). And so I strongly believe that inmates need access to books, which is being negatively affected by this (unnecessary) ban.

So maybe this is the protest for me? A lot of writer appear to be jumping on the bandwagon getting involved (I'm sure they actually all feel passionately about this) and as part of the protest there was to be a poetry reading from several famous names including current Poet Laurette Carol Ann Duffy (it's great to see that she is attempting to use her position in such a positive way). So this protest is starting to look more and more promising. Is there an open mic? Maybe they'll let me do my new poem on censorship? haha always the egotist!

The only problem now was that it was extremely short notice. However, Pentonville Prison is just a short bus ride from the gym I work at and I was finishing work at 2pm. So the time and place were perfect. That was it. I was going to my first protest.

So after work I got the 274 from Angel and jumped off outside Pentonville Prison.

And walked a few yards back down the road towards a small gathering on the corner of the street opposite the prison.

And to tell the truth I was a little disappointed. There were about 50 people including readers, press and "the masses" who didn't seem to be particularly engaged and not at all proactive. I'm not saying I wanted a riot to break out - although I might be thinking it - but I wanted something to happen!

There were some placards though. Two!!

(Although neither was hand painted and so don't really count in my book).

But that was about it and stuck at the back of the crowd - no bigger than the bar at your local on a Saturday night - I couldn't really see or hear anything so I thought "what's the point", took a few photographs and went to get something to eat. I didn't stay long at all. Maybe 5-10mins max.

I mean. There wasn't even a megaphone in sight! How can you hold a protest without a megaphone??? Seriously! Surely that is rule number one? Note to self  - in case I decide to do so one day - and anyone else thinking about organising a protest: when leaving the house, be sure to think to yourself "have I remembered to bring the megaphone?"!!! It's IMPORTANT!!!

But I think that's the thing. I didn't want a protest. I don't want a protest. I want a RIOT! I want A RIOT OF MY OWN! I want to throw an egg at a politician and a brick at the police. Although maybe that should be throw a brick at a politician and an egg at the police. There's no need for the police to get injured in all of this. Although please know reading this that I never would throw a brick at someone (even if I sometimes feel like it - especially when thinking about George Osborn and Michael Gove). But I'm way too scared. a) of prison & b) that I might hurt someone.

But I want to experience a riot before I die! It's just something I want to do. My general rule is that I don't believe in violence. But it's so hard to change the world through peaceful protest (not impossible but very difficult). But don't kill anyone and definitely NO BOMBS!

I've wanted to know what it's like to be in the middle of a riot for a couple of years now but have never even come close to finding out. The closest I've ever come was when I was in Athens in September 2012 and out on a nice afternoon stroll my eyes started to water. I had no idea why but it turns out that there was still some tear gas in the air from the demonstrations that had just taken place at Syntagma Square.

Somewhat ironically, although I spent the summer of 2011 between London and Athens and there was wide spread rioting throughout both. Unfortunately for me, I was in London while there were riots in Athens and in Athens when the London riots happened. I remember flying back to London a couple of days after the riots had started and myself and my then girlfriend looking out of the windows as we approached the airport to see if we could see any fires.

And the thing is, I didn't and don't want to get caught up in the violence and looting - although I could do with some new trainers - I just want to soak up the atmosphere, take some pictures and maybe go home afterwards feeling somewhat alive and write a poem about it.


  1. What an absolute prick! A pillock of the first order.
    If this apology of a man wants to take up a cause, he should be thing of the victims of crime.
    Whilst the likes of Duffy and Redgrave, champagne socialists whp write tripe and spew drivel are to be expected, it's sad to see one of his generation so f***ed up.

    1. First of all understand the tone of the piece. Secondly who do you think you are? You know nothing of me but you think that from one blog post you have the right to decide that I am an "apology of a man". I am clearly not the one who is a prick! Very brave of you to write an anonymous comment!!! I went along to something to try and find out a bit more about it before making up my mind. You are clearly to pig headed to do such a thing! & think of the victims of crime? Yes I think they deserve books too!

  2. Well, I liked your piece, it gave me a chuckle. I have sympathy too as I am inclined to the same type of apathy you express. I've never been to a protest but I find something vaguely embarrassing and half-hearted about the few I've witnessed.