I do like a good demonstration. It’s fun to walk down the middle of a road with a banner and a few thousand companions, chanting at empty buildings.
The French are very good at protesting. Just about anything gets them marching: too many British sheep, the cost of diesel, the state of the national airline – there’s scarcely a month goes by without a good Gallic riot. And once the police have squirted a few hoses, the Government usually does whatever the protesters were demanding.
By contrast, the G20 demonstration in London at the weekend was so very British. All brass bands and middle class organic farmers with a nice vegetable lasagna waiting for them in the Aga back home. They marched with their children carrying banners handmade on the wicker table in the conservatory. “What do we want?”. “Jobs! No More Poverty! The End of Climate Change! And, er, Save the Penguins!” “When Do We Want It?” “Now!” It was more street party than political rally.
A few weeks ago I went back to my alma mater York University with Greg Dyke, who’s now the university’s Chancellor. We were reminiscing about our own student protest back in 1972. Those were the days: a decent march over a single issue (the Bloody Sunday massacre), a few arrests, then a sit-in in the Vice-Chancellor’s office – which we were now sitting in with a glass of rather good white wine. We regretted missing out on 1968, when Europe really knew how to demonstrate. I suspect that by Wednesday a few thousand European anarchists will have flown into London to show us Brits how to spice things up.
Meanwhile I’m pleased to report my own little protest is gaining momentum. A fortnight ago I wrote about the lack of network television production in the region. Then last Friday Peter Salmon, the new Director of BBC North, popped up to Newcastle to announce that Tracy Beaker is coming here: 13 episodes of the children’s series will be made on the Tyne.
It’s a really good start, and, having met Peter, I’m convinced he wants to help us. However one series is just a drop in the ocean, just as 3 months every 7 years is scarcely victory for the campaign to bring the Lindisfarne Gospels to their rightful home. We should be marching down the A1 Western Bypass over that one. In fact, for maximum impact, we could combine it with our A1 dualising campaign. “What do we want?” “The Lindisfarne Gospels!” “When do we want them?” “As soon as we’ve built the visitor complex and got a decent road up to Holy Island!”
There are quite a few things in Newcastle I’d get out on the streets for. The streets themselves, for instance. I could imagine putting a brick through the window of the man who invented those absurd “No-Car” lanes. Unnecessary, ineffective and downright dangerous, they force you to weave in and out of the taxis, keeping your eyes on the instructions in the tarmac, ignoring stray pedestrians and other vehicles in the process. If Newcastle actually has a traffic planner, I can imagine him sitting in his office with a map and a pin thinking, What can I slow down this week? Sitting in his in-tray is a request for a road sign at one of our busiest junctions, between the A1 and the A696 road to the airport. He’s left the request sitting there for over two years now, presumably because he doesn’t want to spoil the fun of watching all those tourists going round in circles looking for the way out of the roundabout.
So, What do we want? “The Lindisfarne Gospels, More Regional Television, a New Road Sign, the End of No-Car Lanes, and No More Global Warning! Please.”