Last week I popped into town to record the funeral of Margaret Thatcher. I chose to shoot it as an historic event if nothing else. Since the announcement of her death, using my Twitter stream as a barometer, I deduced that more people were pleased by her passing than saddened. I was also somewhat surprised at the depth of the hate and vitriol that filled cyberspace. Therefore I expected to be able to make a record of 'the divided nation'. Although the security I was sure would be big enough to snuff out any violent protest I was certainly expecting a fair amount of discontent, disrespect and at least vocal protest.
I arrived at St Pauls later than planned (naively thinking I could get a few shots here and then make my way along the proposed procession route in reverse). I wasn't too late to grab a few shots of the guests or 'ticket holders' queuing to get in.
Some, like Katherine Jenkins, looked quite glamorous.
Others like Michael Portillo, looking anything but!
It was here that I came across my first protester of the day.
Far from protesting about Thatcher's legacy this man was on a personal quest to raise awareness of patient neglection at Whipps Cross Hospital that led to the death of his mother. The gent next to him was protestimng about the anti-Christ Mullah Omar being in Afghanistan. Neither were what I was expecting and neither was happy that the other had tagged along to make them a crowd of protesters. Well the biggest crowd of protesters at St Pauls at that time.
I decided to set off down Ludgate Hill and probably position myself around the circus or on Fleet Street. Mistake!! Although there was still about an hour and a half to go before the gun carriage carrying the coffin would arrive at St Pauls, Lugate Hill was rammed. Crowds don't usually present a problem for me. I usually find that a couple of cameras around my neck along with body language and expression that implies 'I'm sorry but I have the right to barge through here' works and the crowd, sometimes reluctently, part and I bustle through. Not today though. Too many people had the same aproach as me and as the crowd grew and grew progress in either direction became impossible. I decided I was more or less stuck here for the duration. Behind me, getting some respite from being on a restaurant's forecourt, which had been invaded but offered him the ability to protect his space, was this guy.
This artist had decided today was a good day to do a painting and nothing was going to deter him. I can confirm that he did not have the view that he was recording so this must have been 'one he prepared earlier'.
This would be the best view he could possible have had if he had been able to take a few paces forward. So here I was stuck for the next hour. There were a few things to observe though.
This iPad or as I renamed it an iSee.
Another viewer, only forty minutes to wait. It was about now it struck me that apart from the Whipps Cross Man and the Afghan I had not come across any protesters. I had not heard a single boo and nobody could have turned their back on the procession had they desired - and it appeared they didn't. I didn't even overhear one word of negativity. I was really surprised and, if I am honest, somewhat disappointed.
Just managing to get a long lens above the numerous heads in front of me I caputured this. The guy in black appears worried that the gun may be loaded. Everyone around him have the same expressions you see on identity parades.
Then the time arrived for the gun carriage carrying the coffin to pass by.
Something of a non event really, much camera clicking, rounds of applause and muffled cheering. Again no disent, no boos, no protest. I was beginning to think my Twitter feed functioned in a different universe.
As soon as I could I started to shuffle my way back towards St Paul's. It seemed the same TV broadcast vans were parked in the same place as they had been when I came here to shoot the Occupy protest and there amongst them hoping to get on the box was my first political protester of the day.
But he was a lone protester and to his dismay the man from Whipps Cross was being interviewed by the TV crew.
I made my way back behind St Pauls. Photographers, TV and video crews, journalists and police out numbered by far any other sector of people. Followed by the odd tourist one of who enquired 'What is going on here today?'
Then I came across another protester
and another couple.
But that was it. Three ladies. Well I was looking for evidence of 'the division' and here it was I guess
I counted more individuals carrying placards proclaiming to be Jesus Christ than I did protesting against or as over the top for, as the lady above. Most people I saw, met, spoke to and heard interviewed were there to pay respects or just for the occasion. Most appeared to not neceserily support Thatcher's views or policies but admired her as a strong leader and person who stood up for what she believed. A quality I heard again and again that is absent from the spineless examples who represent all parties today! Interesting! I decided to snap a few celebraties as they left the service.
Well I made Wogan laugh as of course I recognised him but forgot he doesn't (well didn't) have a clue who I am. Any way I cheered you up eh Tel?
It seems I startled Mr. ahem! I mean Lord Coe
and I caught this glamorous mourners eye. Not got a clue who she is though. Getty images don't seem to have her either. So if you know please give me a clue. And Getty if you need a snap you know my number.
Then there was, I found out on newsnight, a close friend of Maggie Thatcher
Baroness Trumpington. and another old Tory codger (well you'd expect them to be there I guess)..
Lord Heseltine. Looks as though he clocked me as well. They once called him Tarzan I believe, that must have been a long time ago.
And then in the middle of the departing mourners a guest (?) chilled enough not to dress formally
Well by this time I was still uncomfortable that my expectations had not been met. I had seen a bigger cross section of society there paying their respects, I had seen the public enthusiastically applauding servicemen and women and the police but other than three ladies and a man with a Guido Fawkes mask I had seen no protest. I decided to trace the route back as far as Trafalgar Square.
On Ludgate Hill now there was a small voiceferous crowd around some blokes with a megaphone. The crowd was outnumbered by numerous TV crews and photographers. I joined to swell their number further.
Well it was all pretty jolly really. What was being said is that we should not look back but should accept that we are where we are and should work towards a fairer society, the speakers added ideas to that, talked of Venuzualan coal and made a few lighthearted jokes about the police - which were well received by the many police in attendance.
More camera crews arrived attracted by the crowd and then like me left.
So I wandered down Ludgate Hill and Fleet Street.
The police couldn't wait to be told to stand down.
The street cleaners cleared up after the numerous horses that had trotted up and down here today.
I made my way home and had a ponder. I concluded that my Twitter stream is not a represetative view of the nation, probbaly not even a representative view of my followers and those I follow. Equally I don't think what I experienced last Wednesday is a true reflection either. It's what I saw so it's really all I could record.