'I Believe Poverty Can Be Made History': They'll March, Sing, Wave Placards and Sign Petitions. and If They Can't Be There in Body, They Will Be in Spirit. Lucy Sweet Samples the Public Commitment in Edinburgh

By Sweet, Lucy; Wall, Tom | New Statesman (1996), July 4, 2005 | Go to article overview

'I Believe Poverty Can Be Made History': They'll March, Sing, Wave Placards and Sign Petitions. and If They Can't Be There in Body, They Will Be in Spirit. Lucy Sweet Samples the Public Commitment in Edinburgh


Sweet, Lucy, Wall, Tom, New Statesman (1996)


The yellow AA signs on Leith Walk say "Expect Delays", which, if Sir Bob has his way, could be something of an understatement. On the streets of Edinburgh, preparations for the biggest week in the modern history of the city are intense--and diverse.

In an attempt to appeal to G8 leaders, John Cleverley of Send a Cow, a charity which provides impoverished African farmers with livestock, is organising a bus that will act as a mobile petition from children, and will be taken to Gleneagles. "Each child signs their name on the van and draws a face," he explains.

For other protesters, from Jesuit priests to the professional agitators, the activity is similarly hands-on. "I've been making placards all morning," says Ian Hood, a breathless member of the Scottish Socialist Party. "I think people are excited about it."

But are they? What about the ordinary people of Edinburgh, those without a specific political agenda or a charitable organisation to represent? Will they come out guns blazing, or will they avoid the madness in the same way they might flee from a troupe of Fringe jugglers?

"I'm definitely going to the demonstration. It's probably the one small thing people can do," says Richard, a Byronesque philosophy student lounging on a knackered sofa in the Forest Cafe in Bristo Place. "I don't expect that it'll make much of a difference, but it's important to demonstrate against the G8 in a non-violent way. The good thing about it is that it'll shut the whole place down, and it's a reminder that in a big city anywhere, people have the power to bring things to a standstill."

Elsewhere, the mood is similarly decided. From young sales assistants to aged churchgoers, the overall picture is one of resolve and determination to participate.

"It's a good cause and it's worth supporting," says Grant Roberts, twentysomething owner of a skateboarding shop in the Grassmarket. "It's one of the few times that the general public can show their feelings. I hope that the people who have the power will listen. They seem to be making moves about it already. It's hopeful."

The bookseller Bill Jameson is determined to down tools and protest. "I support the notion of making poverty history. Everyone realises the issues of the third world and wants something done about it. I think it will make some difference.

"Nobody trusts the G8 leaders, but this will appeal to Blair in his saintly mode. He sees Africa as his salvation."

Even those with reservations are pledging their support--take Dave Cooper, who plans to take his three-year-old son, Misha. "I'm approaching it with slight trepidation, because it is such a big thing," he says.

Despite these concerns, and his opinion that Bob Geldof is a "bit of a twat", Cooper is still determined to get involved.

"It's a pretty historic event. What can you do, other than try to do something?"

'The war is the most important issue to me. The amount of money America
has spent on the Iraq war could have eradicated extreme poverty in
Africa. Also, they are trying to make out dropping part of debt is
amazing, when they should have dropped the debt before the G8 started.'
Leila Molana-Allen, 17, St Paul's Girls' School, London (who will miss
school to attend the demonstrations)

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

'We are marching to Gleneagles because a lot of us were at the Jubilee
2000 gathering in Birmingham and since that time the progress has been
so slow. … 

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