When the organiser (me) arose Saturday morning it was just spitting with rain. The weather forecast indicated rain clearing to the east and my hopes rose. However, they were soon dashed when the heavens opened. Too late to stop now (you try stopping a charging elephant). Mickey was flying in on a transatlantic glider at 10:00 and the vehicles were loaded.
The advance team arrived at the venue at midday but the rain continued to pour. Everyone in full waterproofs was quite a sight and with no obvious let up in the weather everything was going to get very wet. Was this event going to be a damp squib? Suddenly the rain slowed, the sky became brighter – was this the light at the end of the tunnel? Nope it started pouring again.
We soldiered on and everyone was so busy getting the prep done we failed to notice it had stopped raining. It was only when people started to shed clothing that it dawned on us - the sun was out!
It was barely 13:30 and people had started to arrive in quantity. Time to change gear. Staging vehicle was there. PA setup organised. Banner out and in place. Marshals there. Hundreds now there!
14:30 OH MY GOD it’s off time.
The masses moved and it was unstoppable!
First venue point was outside WDC building. By the time I had arrived the photographers had utilised our staging vehicle the people kept pouring in, they came and they continued to come. Time to stem the flow out of the underpass.
Photography over and we still had a snake of people way back down the tunnel. Had to keep them moving now.
Next hurdle – the one I was dreading – how to get hundreds maybe thousands of people across Queen Victoria street with a constant flow of passing traffic. The plan was to use the traffic lights but we knew it would present a problem. Suddenly without any prompting the whole crowd turned like a flock of migrating starlings and crossed the street amongst stationary traffic. Within a blink everyone was on the other side. Only a few stragglers were stuck and with the assistance of a 4x4 driver who kindly stopped and waved them across and were again reunited with the pack.
I needed to get to the front but our white Elephant accompanied his brother and Mickey must have been on steroids as they were gone. It was obvious I was not going to get to the head of the precession and I was rather moved by one young mum with a child in a pushchair who was leading a really excellent chant that I walked along side and offered her the mic to the loud hailer. It certainly boosted the enthusiasm. If anyone knows who that young lady was please contact us so I can say a personal thank you.
Arriving at Frogmore I was relieved to find the staging vehicle placed. GASP speakers aboard and the PA fully working. As I beckoned to the stragglers coming around the curve in Church St to keep moving and vocal they kept coming. A bit fragmented by this time but they marched on. Eventually the rear guard appeared, accompanied by our two police officers, and I knew the flock was all there. The numbers continued to swell as bystanders came to join, moved by our enthusiasm.
The speeches were now in full swing and almost everything out of my control. I just had to wait and be available should an incident occur.
Suddenly, the show was over and the crowd dispersed but not for me and a small group of helpers. Time to clear up and get the equipment away, ready to fight another day if need be.
I would like to thank my small team who performed faultlessly with their individual tasks. I must say a special thank you to all the volunteers who handed out thousands upon thousands of leaflets and, as one of those, will be writing an article on hazards of letterbox design at some stage!
Thank you to Thames Valley Police for guidance and reassurance with minimal presence on the day and to all the people who provided support and equipment who are too numerous to mention individually.