Photos taken on a Kodak KB10 35mm, bought in India
Protest and march against rising tuition fees and education cuts, November 24th in Leeds
I had never been part of a protest before. G8, G20, the state of environmental policy, war in Iraq and Afghanistan, climate change; these are all issues and causes I feel very strongly about, but I have never actively protested against. Maybe I should, but that's another story.
The prospect of rising university tuition fees and cuts to teaching, departments and quality of learning is something which I find very hard to swallow. I voted Lib Dem in the last general election partly because of their pledge to preserve higher education but last week I defiantly joined in the chanting of 'Nick Clegg, shame on you, shame on you for turning blue!' The march in Leeds was on nowhere near the scale of those in other cities which made the national news, but it did bring the centre of the city to a standstill; office work was suspended as the bankers and insurance brokers swarmed to their windows, while the queue outside Gregg's bakery reached an all time high - protesting really must build up an appetite in some.
The march came to a stop outside the Leeds art gallery; an ironic place, as the Arts are top of the list for the coalition government cuts. It was sad, to be standing outside such a monumental building, beautifully lit in the frosty sun, imagining that the creation and appreciation of such structures may become a thing of the past under the black cloud of our CON-DEMned future.
I appreciate the black economic situation our country faces. I appreciate that sacrifices need to be made. I don't appreciate that education should take such a huge hit. In years to come, we will need a huge flock of well-educated, hopeful and qualified young people to pull this nation together and drive it into a promising future. And that doesn't just include medics, lawyers, economists, scientists and politicians - the lucky few whose grants and university funding may have been saved by investment from big companies and the government, but also 'artists', sociologists, linguists, historians. As an arts student, with a majority of my friends doing arts degrees, I fear a future of exclusive education focused on economic benefit, where creativity and aesthetics are actively discouraged.
These education cuts will affect everyone. The amount of support we've seen from the most surprising sources in Leeds proves this; OAPS for one, but also shopkeepers, taxi drivers, cafe owners and newsagents, who will all suffer if the student population across the country diminishes. But there is one particular group of people who I worry for the most, and it is them who I am willing to march for. The right to education in the UK opens up opportunities for young people from severely disadvantaged backgrounds, and often gives them their one chance to leave behind destructive communities and build a hopeful life for themselves. One placard at the Leeds march caught my eye; it read 'University Students or Drug Dealers? Nick Clegg, YOU Decide.' In a desperate job market flooded with young people no longer unable to afford higher education and with no prospects, I think that is a very real question. At college or university, one gets a chance to meet with thousands of other like-minded, inspiring and exciting people on the cusp of life. This is where many of the greatest and longest-lasting friendships, collaborations, business partnerships, dynamic ideas, medical research breakthroughs are formed. At universities up and down the UK, every day there are people learning, thinking, planning and building the future of our country, and I don't think ANYONE should be excluded from that chance.
You may be surprised that I am suddenly getting political on a so-called fashion blog, and if you have read this far, I commend you. Perhaps you are a fellow student, in which case I want to hear your feelings about how the cuts might affect your future, that of your younger brothers' or sisters', and maybe your children. If you graduated from a university, or never went through higher education at all; where do you stand? No matter your age or occupation, this is something which will affect us all.