From the 16th of August to the 6th of September 2014 a group of women from Darlington, known colloquially as the “Darlo Mums”, and their many supporters marched 300 miles from Jarrow to London through twenty three towns and cities in order to raise public consciousness of the need to defend the National public Health Service from Government plans for mass privatisation. An NHS recognised globally as the most cost-effective and efficient health service in the world. I marched with them from Leeds to London, more than half of the total journey, because I agreed with their objectives, because I saw the March as British social history and saw it as an inspiring event for photography.
The walk, which replicated the famous Jarrow march of the 1930s, involved support from a variety of local people and activists who facilitated each days march and provided accommodation and food for the core group of 300 milers and others on any given day, in Sheffield, Mansfield and London as many as 300 people.
The march was independent of any political party and financed by donations from a variety of sponsors, the money raised paid for the website, transport, the hire of public spaces, phone bills, leaflets and insurance and all of the work that went into organising the march was done by unpaid volunteers.
Each day of the march ended with a rally outside the local town hall, speakers at these rallies included people who were indebted to the NHS for their lives, people who worked in it and knew its value, people from a variety of political and NHS organisations, including Dr Raymond Tallis, co-author of “NHS SOS”, and film maker Ken Loach whose film “Spirit of 45” was presented to every 300 miler.
The march ended with a rally of 6000 people in Trafalgar Square where the 300 milers were given a rapturous welcome and a £1 coin, symbolic of the £1 given to the Jarrow marchers by the then Prime Minister Lloyd George. Speakers at the London rally included the Darlo Mums, writer Owen Jones and the musician Billy Bragg who played several songs in tribute to the marchers.
The march often took on a carnival atmosphere as many musicians walked for a day or more which gave the march a sense of rhythm and wellbeing and there were a variety of banners and placards.
The Peoples March was a wake up call for the defence of our greatest national institution, a publicly owned and funded NHS, the retention of which will, as Ken Loach says, “require the revival of the spirit of 45” and as Nye Bevan the founder of the NHS said, “the NHS will last only as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it”.
I now plan to exhibit the images and other materials from this epic walk in as many venues as possible and have begun to contact organisations that might help with costs, facilities and publicity.
Student in MA Fine Art