I’ve been asked to write a few words of reflection about our trip to Parliament Square on the 17th of May 2023 and my own personal response to what I witnessed there. But before I do, I’d like to preface those thoughts by an over-riding one that strikes me as the most important of all. We should never have been there!
It should never have been necessary in any country that prides itself on fair play and decency to have to campaign and gather in public to advocate for the safety of children. How can any democratic country be proud of ignoring the welfare of children who, by definition, are the most vulnerable and impressionable members of our society? Why should parents, grandparents and concerned human beings ever have been put in such a situation when in theory, we have elected representatives who should be doing this for us? And why are the few MPs who have collated evidence and commissioned reports on the harms of the RSE curriculum being virtually ignored instead of becoming headline news? Something quite sick seems to be at the heart of British politics when people are having to fight tooth and claw for basic civil rights and the freedom to nurture their children in the way they see fit. What bizarre turn of events has turned our schools into unsafe spaces for pupils? And what supreme power has granted teachers the authority to lead children into the uncharted waters of sex positivity and gender ideology when it has never been done before and when their ship, HMS Queer Theory is already crashing on the rocks?
Most of us happened to be travelling from Wales for the event, but in truth, parents from every corner of the UK could have stood shoulder to shoulder with us because the risks and harms issuing from RSE are the same for every child, regardless of where they are receiving education in this kingdom. The good news is, that some of them did, and by doing so, helped to make our rally the best yet in so many ways. We will be forever thankful to those who chose to make a stand on that day, who took the time to be present despite infirmity and other pressing commitments .In a time when money is thin on the ground, societal worries are high and futures uncertain , we still managed to pull a glorious day out of the hat where everyone involved took a deep breath, and said “How dare they do this to our children? Who do they think they are and who has given them the right?”
The event went off seamlessly and the weather was fine. There were no technical difficulties, which was a refreshing change. That little grass arena we populated, bordered by symbols of the power structure of the UK (the Houses of Parliament, the Supreme Court, Westminster Abbey, Whitehall) became a place of sanctity where truth was shared in abundance. Not just opinions, but combined years of research and life experience. And none of this had happened by chance. It had only come about by hard work and genuine concern. The coach from S. Wales didn’t order itself. It didn’t fill itself with random people who were there to sightsee. It was not free and neither were the train or plane tickets or tanks of petrol that were purchased in order to be present on the day. The leaflets we distributed were bought by supporters’ hard-earned cash as was the PA system and the banners. It was so appropriate that we were standing on grass because that is where our roots lie. We would never have been there without the groundswell of support from like-minded people. Those in high vis, giving out the leaflets were excited and encouraged by the welcome they received from passers-by who came from a variety of countries. Some were parents who had taken their children out of school because of this curriculum. One of our banners had been proudly displayed on the insistence of two ladies on Motability scooters who had arrived early for a ringside seat and had done some complicated maneuvers to position themselves correctly so that they could both present its message of defiance. Another gesture that was appreciated was a visit from an MP’s secretary who seemed to have a genuine interest in our cause because of personal experience and conviction.
For me, that day was only a part of the experience since I was unable to listen attentively to any of the speeches. It is hard to leaflet and listen at the same time. But what I did realise was, that they were creating a storm behind me and that I was missing something truly great. When I eventually watched them on my computer, I was blown away by the power and beauty of every single one. None of those speeches needed modifying or re-wording because they flowed like pure crystal water from a spring. I would defy anyone to watch them and not feel moved. They were an education and an inspiration all at the same time. Space would not allow me to do them justice individually and it is for the same reason that I do not want to mention individual names for fear of forgetting someone. Some of the speakers confided in me about how nervous they felt—and then proceeded to give a knock-out performance, giving the lie to their fears. I would just like to put on record that each and every person who spoke that day has our undying gratitude, and I would encourage anyone who missed their speeches to buckle themselves in and watch them in their entirety (You Tube).
Right beside us was a statue of a woman named Millicent Fawcett. She had been a campaigner for women’s suffrage over a century ago. In her hands you can see a banner displaying the words “Courage calls to courage everywhere” . Those words summed up the day for me because without courage, not one of us would have been there. And because of it, others were attracted to take part and augment our ranks. The only remuneration anyone received was the satisfaction of knowing that they had stepped into their best self to advocate for childhood innocence.