By our man in Battersea Park
Wednesday seemed like the perfect day to go to Battersea Park to continue our ‘No pay to play’ campaign. It was national ‘Playday’ – a celebration of the child’s right to play – so what better time to remind everybody that the Tory council in Wandsworth are still hell-bent on charging children £2.50 to use the adventure playground in the park. It was of course an added bonus for us that the council’s Play and Community Services department (the very people trying to charge the children and certainly a department in the running for hypocrites of the year award) had arranged an event right next to the adventure playground in honour of the day.
The morning got off to a wonderful start and with the sun beaming, posters printed, flyers made, petitions on clipboards, drinks and snacks ready, Jack and I set off to the park (poor young Jack carrying the pasting table full of posters and flyers all the way there…and back). We arrived just before twelve midday, I went to the Parks Office (I had been advised to do this) to let them know we were there and what we planned on doing, the lovely lady there said it was fine so we set up our beautiful stall.
Unfortunately, the people from the council weren’t too pleased about this, Kathy Tracey – Cabinet Member for Education – was due any minute and they felt it wasn’t really the look they were going for, so they decided the best course of action was to call the police. In fact not only did they call the police but they told them there was a ‘group protest’ taking place without stating any numbers. Next thing we knew three police cars turned up and they had us surrounded… I explained to them they were just in time as we were about to start kicking bins over!
After what was a lot of fussing I am now the proud owner of a Wandsworth Parks Constabulary Bye-laws Handbook, which basically points out that you cannot to anything, and I mean anything, for example “no person shall….take part in any public assemblage in any park, garden or open space” – which seems a little unfair, no more family picnics I’m afraid! Also “no person shall… enter in to any public discussion or cause” and “no person shall distribute any bill, placard, or other printed or written matter” – I’m afraid with their mighty bye-laws handbook they had us beat. But we weren’t going to let that stop us; there is certainly nothing about what you can wear…
By this point a couple of the Women of Wandsworth mums had joined us, we were forced to take down the table and pack up but then the police left so we all put posters on our backs, and engaged in public discussion (i.e. we went round collecting signatures pointing at Kathy Tracey, saying it was all her fault and they called the police on us for trying to demonstrate) Everybody was on our side, we got over 100 signatures and really got up some noses, so all in all a good day I’d say – we were just lucky to get out of there without being kettled!
For more information on ‘No pay to play’ please visit http://wesaynopay2play.com