News and views from north Bristol's urban village

Sunday, 31 October 2010

A Tale of One City and Two Demos

A Gaggle of ZombiesImage by sea turtle via Flickr

Arriving in central Brighton yesterday, on family business, I was greeted by the sight of several hundred protesters demonstrating against the government's planned cuts to public services. Organisers claim about 900 took part in the march, and judging from the banners visible from my vantage point, the crowd included a mix of trade unions, labour party members, socialist workers, public sector workers and a small contingent of anarchists.

On my departure - about four hours later - I witnessed another march on exactly the same road. This time, Queens' Road was overrun by at least as many people as the lunchtime demo, for the annual Brighton Zombie March. With about 2,000 people signed up on facebook, the march was a riot of white face make up, fake blood and theatrical gore. At least one rubber severed limb was flung in the direction I was facing by an enthusiastic zombie.

Apart from the obvious opportunity for some witty puns around the theme of "cuts", the presence of the two marches so close together left me with a couple of initial impressions:

  • the traditional political parties have not for some time engaged significant numbers of the under-25s, whose political activity is more likely to be around multiple single issues (if that makes sense) than through association with mainstream parties.

  • 2010 will be looked back on as the year in which Halloween went mainstream in the UK. Although some may see this as symbolic in a rise in pagan consciousness, my own view is that upturn owes more to targeted and systematic attempts by businesses to make money. Halloween has always been much bigger in the US than here, until now, when yet another aspect of British life has been successfully Americanized (or should that be -ised?)

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