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Update on Oxford Bonfire of Austerity

posted 7 Nov 2013, 06:27 by Dan Fearnley   [ updated 7 Nov 2013, 06:28 ]

Oxford Bonfire of Austerity

This is an informal update on what happened in Oxford for the Bonfire of Austerity. We weren't able to do everything we had planned, but we had good coverage and good participation.

My day began with an early interview by BBC Radio Oxford and a cold, miserable rain.  So I was delighted to see the turnout outside county hall for our lobby of the county council at 9.30.  Over 30 people and a BBC camera crew were there.  Enough noise was generated that we were complained about, and I gave what I hoped to be a sensible interview to BBC South (I didn't see it).  Lots of photos were taken.  Importantly, lots of different contacts were made, including members of Save Our Children’s Centres and an Oxford Mail columnist. Some participants wanted an innocent picture with the banner in the foyer, prompting a panic by security, an accidental "nettling" when the doors were switched off and a call to the police.  One constable arrived, shook his head and left again.  A number of participants got into the public gallery to await a motion by Labour to tap the county's reserves. It was expected that this would be defeated, providing a good opportunity for a banner drop and some noise.  in the event, the motion was delayed by 2 hours of wrangling over a different issue, so they left.  At this point, the trial had been missed, which had disappointed some people who had come in to see it and for which I do apologise. I know we should do what we advertise, but it was a bit manic and our schedule was overstretched.

Organizers decamped to the Art Cafe at 11.30am for coffee and quick discussion about getting back on track and media work.  Dot and I gave interviews to a Heart FM reporter, while others rushed up to be at the probation office before the walkout.  I followed as soon as I could, and met them while the picket was going on.  The probation is facing a privatisation attack from companies like G4S who apparently by their own admission found tagging dead people a reasonable use of public funds. 

The support for NAPO on the picket was excellent.  A stuffy Chris Grayling led to good attention by the few passersby, but the roadworks limited this. 

Because I'm a bit slow on the move, I went back to Bonn Square at 1.00pm, placing me on hand to welcome the NAPO Thames Valley group which arrived at 1.30pm.  The NAPO rally at 2.30pm was amazing, 50 members from the region at Bonn Square and their general secretary.   For a union that doesn't usually have a lot of industrial action, I felt the support they received from OPA and ODTUC really surprised their members and boosted morale, and I was proud to help.  The amount of noise and public attention was great, BBC South were again present.  When the rally broke up at 4.00pm, I stayed in Bonn Square to guard equipment and catch up, but my mobile signal was insufficient to upload photos.  Ian Hudspeth, leader of the council, stopped by while passing and asked how things had gone. He was disappointed to hear that he had not been mock-tried. 

There were about a dozen or so of us for a bit of candlelight noise-making and a couple of fun photos with the Guy Fawkes masks and our own stuffy Cameron and Hudspeth at 6.00pm, then we trooped down to Town Hall for a brief meeting to debrief and cover a couple of urgent matters.

Given the coverage, public attention and links forged with others, I consider the day a big success. Altogether, that means over 100 people were protesting at various times in Oxford, on a weekday, and that is by no means ordinary.

Thank you to all the participants who made it a fun, disobedient and meaningful day!