Make Poverty History & Live 8


I was able to attend a few of the events surrounding the G8 in Gleneagles. The photo archive is located in Flickr, while this page gives some sense of an overview on particular moments and stories.

G8 Protests in Edinburgh

The problem was not that nothing much happened in Scotland on the day the G8 opened; the problem was that very soon, too much was happening elsewhere. The problem was not that celebrities were, again, taking the moral high ground over politician; the problem was that people needed to listen. While listening is no bad quality, this took the form of unquestioned acceptance of a simple moral message and seemed a little too similar to Tony Blair’s alignment with, say, Oasis in 1997. Perhaps the image of Bob Gelfof leaning on the shoulder of Tony Blair will be similarly to the regret of Sir Bob some years later, unless, of course, we see him abandoning music and pursuing a career in politics.

We arrived in Edinburgh around 1215pm on the 6th, after the morning news reported trouble in areas of Stirling. The city seemed quite quiet at this time, though we were on its outskirts. We made our way to Princes Street, while keeping the mobile phone close. At 1245pm, we were expecting a call to tell us the outcome of London’s bid to host the Olympic Games in 2012.

At 1246pm – the official and precise moment when it was supposed to be announced from Singapore, where the International Olympic Committee was meeting – we gave up waiting and called a family member who confirmed that London had won. Celebrations were already taking place. One hour later after we had had a ‘celebratory’ lunch – we really only had lunch – we then walked down towards Princes Street which, at this time, was closed off. It did not appear that there was trouble or, by now, it had been controlled by the many police officers whose wagons were circled. It seemed that we had missed out on something and we could hear the banging of drums and crowd noise.

It was quite a different picture from a few days before, when the Make Poverty History march took place along the same street and around the same city. Today felt much more unsettled, but safe enough. Fortunately for the City of Edinburgh, it did not appear that 1 million people had made their Long Walk to Justice to Edinburgh, as Sir Bob had commanded. In fact, it did not seem busy at all. Apart from a few high street shops that were boarded up, the city did not seem so different, except for the 60,000 or so people making their way to The Final Push concert, where the two Bs would mount their final stand on the eight Gs. It was a relatively grim day, at times pouring with rain, though the tv managed to make it look like a glorious Edinburgh afternoon. After getting into the stadium at around 430pm and receiving our free Scottish flag to wear around us, the concert kicked-off with Lenny Henry, who compared fully kilted.

The week leading up to the G8 was a little more interesting. In Glasgow, various theatre companies had arranged performances, inspired by politics and galleries hosted protest works of art, which were connnected the G8 alternative proceedings. These occurrences seemed to be the richer legacy of what happened, though you would not have heard much about them in the press.

Inevitably, the G8 has been quickly forgotten in Scotland. Perhaps this was too much of a stretch of mega-event hosting, though it does introduce a new twist to that literature. I am not sure that rioting counts as a mega-event, but it certainly draws the same kind of spectacular media coverage and there are a lot of peripheral activities that take place around a city when it occurs.

It's ironic that, on the same day that London won the privilege to host the 2012 Olympic mega-event, the slightly smaller G8 event was taking place.

Yet, each of them was relegated to the inside pages of the subsequent days news, as the catastrophic events of the London bombings brought home that there is little more important to the media than homeland security. Without this, the foundations of culture collapse and are quickly dismissed.

Speakers at MPH

A number of speakers kicked-off the programme in the Meadows. The first of these was the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Lesley Hinds. She was followed by Jonathan Dimbleby and then Cardinal Keith O'Brien (the only [red] Cardinal to vote on the election of the new Pope while wearing a MPH wristband).

I'm not one for overtly inspirational speeches, they always feel a little patronizing to me. The most interesting intervention took place sometime late in the afternoon, when Eddie Izzard came on to fill a few minutes and simply said 'Stuff Hyde Park'. Billy Bragg was also one of the better participants, recounting a story from the 1980s, when he was made aware of the prejudice facing homosexuals.

One of the difficulties with the Edinburgh afternoon was that one couldn't help but feel that people would just rather have had the big screens tuned into the Live8 gig in London. They switched to the concert a few times, particularly at the beginning and it seemed that this was the historical moment for the UK. Of course, this event is rather oddly position as having been defined as historical before it took place, because of the context of Live Aid. Arguably, this prohibits it from similarly gaining a memorable status.

The aftermath of Live8 seems different somehow; less historic, though the afternoon in Edinburgh's Meadows felt like an intimate, quiet protest, embedded into the right kind of networks where protest is not meaningful just because a camera is filming.

Who was at the MPH march?

this list is generated from looking through my 112 photographs taken on July 2, 2005 at the Edinburgh march and observing which logos are present. The list is not exhaustive of who attended, but what appears within the frame of the 120 photographs we took. Where applicable, the list includes the slogan used by the organisation for the day.

Activist Trauma Support Group Campaign for Nuclear Disarmarment 'Bread Not Bombs' Christian Aid 'World Trade Justice' Dissent FairTrade Friends of the Earth Islamic Relief Live8 Merchandise 'The Final Push' Methodist Relief No Sweat 'Stamp Out Sweat Shops' Oxfam Scottish Socialist Party 'Make Capitalism History' SCiAF Socialist Worker 'World's No.1 Terrorist [image of George W. Bush]' Stand Up for Africa Student Times TearFund 'We Believe it's Time for Action' The Mirror 'Trade Justice now' Volunteer Service Organisation 'I Told Tony at the VSO Campaign Tent' War on Want WaterAid World Wildlife Foundation