This Saturday we had fantastic success with our protest march in Oxford. Hundreds came out in the rain to demonstrate against the cuts, including mini-feeder marches from Florence Park Children’s Centre, Grandpont Children’s Centre and East Oxford Children’s Centre.
Despite, or perhaps helped by a no-show from David Cameron, we marched, spirits high despite the rain, from Bonn Square to outside the Clarendon Building. A baby wearing flash mob kept us entertained and hundreds of consultation packs, filled with Oxfordshire County Council’s public consultation forms, a mini version of our handy FAQ and a free post envelope, disappeared in minutes.
There were powerful speeches from Gawain Little, Oxfordshire Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, David Williams Green Party County Councillor, Sian Taylor Labour Party City Councillor, Chris Sewell former family and community support worker, Oxfordshire County Council, as well as our spokesperson Jill Huish.
Chris Sewell read selected parts of his piece below:
A child is not a book. We are told that we are part of the Big Society and that volunteers can take on the responsibilities hitherto carried out by trained professionals. We are told that the Library Service, now run largely by volunteers, is a good example. We are asked by Ian Hudspeth whether Children’s Centres can change in the same way. No Cllr Hudspeth, they can’t. Our Children’s Centres are already full of volunteers contributing to the life of the centre. Please don’t belittle the role of Children’s Centres or the contribution that their parents already make to their success. And a child is not a book, nor is a parent. A book cannot have special needs, ADHD, autism, a learning difficulty or a disability. A book doesn’t need to be introduced to sand and water play or taken outside in the rain to feel the elements. A book doesn’t need to be potty trained or helped to express itself. A book is never vulnerable, at risk or taken into care. A book never needs parental involvement, love and tenderness. A child’s brain has thousands of neurons that help shape and change its own life-story. A book may contain thousands of words that tell a story, but it’s always the same story. A book doesn’t have a sleepless night with a sick or distressed child and have to cope the next day. A book doesn’t get post-natal depression or suffer domestic abuse. A book doesn’t run into debt or have housing problems. A book doesn’t need vocational guidance or one-to-one counselling and support. A book doesn’t have the potential to overcome life’s challenges and grow into someone special. Books are kept on shelves in libraries and cannot chose where they go or who with. A book can be torn, or lost, or left unread on a shelf, and that’s sad for those of us who love books, but it can be replaced and the damage won’t cause years of heartache and trouble. A book knows its place on the shelf and can do nothing about it. It has no self-will or agency. At a Children’s Centre a parent learns about personal power and has to find his or her own place in the world. And parents may need help in making life-changing choices and taking control of their own lives. A parent has unconditional love and the occasional need for support to keep it so. At Children’s Centres a child’s spirit is nurtured with love, structure and free play while their parents grow in confidence as caring, loving mums and dads. How would a book feel about that?
It was a huge success and we want to extend a huge thank you to all of you who braved the appalling weather. This is only the beginning!
You can also see some of our media coverage below
BBC Oxford news 15.11.15: Oxford ‘baby blockade’ protest against children’s centre cuts takes place
Morning Star 14.11.15: If Cameron really cares about Oxford Council services, he’s welcome to join our protest.
More photos below: