On the night before the second National Rejoin March, I was in the Lyttleton at the National Theatre watching a play called The Effect by Lucy Prebble (of Succession fame) about a clinical drug trial that goes wrong.
It’s a compelling piece, but I was preoccupied by the fact that my oversized EU flag was in the cloakroom and I should have tried harder to smuggle it in. The bamboo stick it was attached to was nearly two metres long and my diminutive frame could not disguise it. Therefore, my plan to wave it vigorously after the performance to promote the march failed miserably.
I seem to have a habit of going to the National Theatre (a rarity to be honest!) before or after marches. It was after the People’s Vote march in 2019 that I proudly stood and waved my flag in the middle of the Olivier and all the way to the Blackfriars tube, a feeling of elation swelling through me. What better way to get the message out there than to a packed theatre of mostly privileged middle classes. It was on that day that the Letwin amendment had been approved – we heard the announcement live from Parliament Square and the cheers were deafening! – and we all still felt the delay might signal a referendum on the deal itself or at least buy us some time.
Friendship and pride
Jump to four years later and the UK is still in denial, things are getting far, far worse and I’m still marching, along with thousands of others, the feelings of solidarity to the cause, solidarity to the movement and friendship and community flooding through my veins. I may not have flown my flag the night before, but I waved it with vigour and with pride on the 23 September as well as holding a ‘Brexit is Toxic’ banner representing Women for Europe and Brighton & Hove for EU. Standing alongside fellow rejoiners Helen Tennison, Pez Pearson, Jennifer Monahan and Ellie, a girl in a blue wig, I felt that I had well and truly arrived.
Protest is important and an inherent part of any democracy, and marching together with my friends and comrades instilled in me a sense of pride and purpose. The atmosphere was (as it always has been on every Remain/Rejoin march) one of warmth, friendship and inclusivity, the antithesis of what Brexit represents – an inherently inward looking, divisive, aggressive project fuelled by anger, hate and racist ideology.
There weren’t many smiles on the other two marches that happened to coincide with ours either, one against the implementation of ULEZ and the other defending the right to keep a killer dog, otherwise known as the XL Bully. The fact that the Daily Mail chose to highlight this in their coverage of The National Rejoin march was risible but not surprising.
Our march was joyful and offered hope, peppered as it was with synchronised dancing from Steve Rouse and Dance Europa and ending with impassioned and rousing speeches from Gina Miller and others in Parliament Square. I felt elated in the pub after. It seemed like there were thousands of us there marching in unity. Surely we would make the front pages?!
Where was the BBC press coverage?
Jump to the headlines the next day and there’s barely a whiff of coverage of our march and absolute silence from the BBC. This is important, because it’s the continuation of an assault on truth that characterised the Brexit campaign and has been magnified thereafter. Enough has been said about the years of gaslighting by Johnson and his disingenuous cabinet, but lies of this nature that continue unchallenged can lead to tyranny and a death of democracy.
This feeling of forever gaslighting exacerbated my feeling of anti-climax. I was there. I know what the atmosphere was like and the huge numbers that were there, so I know that it wasn’t an “epic failure”, as GB News put it. I know that it meant something. The feeling of coming down after an adrenaline rush is all too familiar for me as a performer, but this feels different. Like the truth is being stolen from me. Like that good review never existed. Or has been sabotaged by someone with an agenda. The feeling of power and purpose quickly superseded by “What was it all about”? What was all that effort for if it’s not reported and even celebrated?
Keeping the EU flag flying
And then I see the official 20,000+ figures from the Met Police and the rousing NRM video that accompanies them and the feeling of pride returns, and I know that it won’t be long before I’ll be unravelling my flag again ready for the next one… and the next one, until we rejoin. We’re marching for the future, for hope and for our young…and we are marching for truth!
We’re not going away. That star is ours.