Last week I joined 50,000 students as we marched from Trafalgar Square, past the Houses of Parliament and up to Tate Britain, banners in tow. On Wednesday I was Libby Page, protester come reporter. Instead of attending lectures that day we had been set the task of reporting on the protest against cuts to university education, filming in small groups and producing a short news piece documenting the day's events.
It was an amazing experience, and certainly one I will never forget. However, my memories of the day have definitely be marred by the way in which the event has been portrayed in the press. You would be forgiven for assuming that the whole day was a violent riot orchestrated by anarchic students. In fact a mere handful out of 50,000, spoiled the incredible atmosphere of what was otherwise a completely peaceful, positive day. I find it a great shame that picking up the paper on Thursday morning all you would have seen were dramatic photographs of broken glass. The protest I joined on Wednesday was one of solidarity. Anger? Frustration? Yes, and understandably so. But violence? No.
As a student with nearly 3 years left ahead of me, and particularly as a student studying in London and aiming to enter in to one of the most competitive industries, it would be an understatement to say that I find the proposed cuts frightening and utterly disheartening. I know that the protest won't have made the slightest difference to the government's plans, but I am still glad I went. Too often we sit back and watch things happen without letting our voices be heard, but on Wednesday the student population made a stand. We came from all over the country, we came in our thousands, we created songs, and slogans and banners, and we spent the day marching through London fighting for our futures.
Even if all of this was to little avail, I still feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to document the efforts of so many people. As we marched we interviewed dozens of students and lecturers. The articulation, passion and sheer SENSE of so many of the students made me think that the government has made a huge oversight.
Being a reporter for the day made my heart pound and my feet ache. At one point I was standing at the front of a stream of thousands, walking backwards filming the marching crowd and praying they didn't decide to stampede. As our group ran to interview people, or twisted our way sneakily to the front, I felt quite the enthusiastic young reporter, and loved every minute of it.
Protest aside, it was generally a great day. My best friend had come down from Nottingham the night before, and I met up with a crowd of friends once I had finished filming (we had to stop because the camera battery died on us. For a two minute piece we recorded nearly an hour of footage. Now knowing a little of what goes in to programmes, I will never underestimate the power of television again). Being amongst old friends felt like a sigh of relief, but at the same time I felt a glow of pride walking along the Thames with them and thinking, I live here. After a while, however it was time to say goodbye to my Dorset friends, and continue my life as London Libby.