When I asked a long-standing friend what one word she’s use to describe me, I was a little disappointed that the word was ‘awkward’ (I was rather hoping for ‘hilarious’, but no). Still, truth to be told, I am a fully paid-up member of the awkward squad, as my Her Edit colleagues would no doubt confirm. So, in keeping with my membership of the AS, there I was last Saturday, sitting in the middle of London’s Strand with a wider cohort of the AS, protesting against the government’s latest cuts to legal aid.
As I sat there in my little red kagoule – ah, the glamour – I looked around to see which other members of the AS were in attendance. A quick survey told me that, surprisingly, there was no one I recognised. Having worked as an advocate of one sort or another for the past twenty years, I’d supposed that there might be one or two familiar faces. The second thing that struck me was that, bar the odd exception, the majority appeared to be from the AS youth wing. Where were all the olds, I wondered.
Now, despite the opportunity to sport fetching ensembles of waterproof clothing and sturdy footwear, protest isn’t the most comfortable experience. And, for the majority of us, alarmed to find ourselves in middle-age, it’s even less so. Does this mean we’ve exceeded a comfort threshold, and are less inclined to sit down and be counted? Of course, people aged 40 and beyond do join protests – a Greenpeace activist friend of mine, also in her 40s, recently went all the way to Belgium to get herself arrested for her cause. Yet, there are fewer of us on the streets than there are younger protesters. Have we stopped caring? Are we too busy? Are we too tired? Whichever of these may be so, fundamental changes to the infrastructure of UK society are happening all around us and they will affect everyone – including us – not just niche groups of the population.
Perhaps we should look for inspiration to Di Harney, who spoke in Her Edit issue one about her two years as a Greenham Common peace campaigner and her “gut feeling that a lot of people can do something together”. Or perhaps to Helen John, also of Greenham Common, who began what turned out to be three decades of protest at the age that I am now, 44. With government cuts hitting women hardest, could there be a better time to take up protest?