The police took us on a winding backstreet route from Canning Circus to town but we still got to march along a short stretch of Parliament Street before we were stopped at the Speakers' Corner. Was this done by the police to prevent us joining up with the eighty or so Sneinton community campaigners protesting against the closure of the Victoria baths? It's hard to say but it would have been good to join forces in a common cause.
We heard a brief speech from a member of one of the affected community groups before Rowena Holland, the Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate for the Nottingham South constituency took the platform. Bizarrely there was a few minutes of waiting whilst she posed for photographers before she spoke. When announcing herself as the Tory candidate she received an audible hiss from some sections of the crowd. A banner raised behind Dr Holland said "I've never voted Tory before... but things might change." The Tory candidate's championing of this campaign seems rather cynical, in the run up to election, and in my mind is just an anti-Labour stunt. Certainly her fellow Tories across the river at County Hall have been slashing community provision with abandon so why we are to believe that Dr Holland will be any different is beyond me.
Unfortunately no one else spoke. I'm sure many of us would have liked to hear more from the community groups who have been treated in such a disgraceful way by the Council. I interviewed a few of those involved, including Joginder Singh of the Sikh Community and Youth Service (SCYS) and Nottingham Teaching College and a representative of the Hindu Youth Group. You can hear most of the speeches and the full interviews in the sound file (apologies for the poor quality in some places!)
Mr Singh said that the groups "have been treated as though we were parasites". When speaking about their imminent eviction he said "We found out purely by accident - they didn't even tell us". "The way they have treated us, it's as though we don't matter" he continued, "It seems to me that Jon Collins has more power than the Prime Minister".
Apparently, on Thursday the groups were offered the now vacant site of the Douglas Road Primary School to relocate to but according to Mr Singh this "is many times worse than what we've already got". He concluded "We've helped thousands and thousands of people for nothing - we're all volunteers. It's not fair."
When speaking about why his community was marching, the representative of the Hindu Youth Group said "We need to raise our voice to get justice done". He was also critical of Jon Collins saying that "he wasn't very positive in his work. He didn't show any concern about the issue."
After the speeches were over the group moved on to rally on the steps of the Council House.
People in Radford are very angry about the disrespectful and inconsiderate way their community centre is being treated. Jon Collins and the Labour-run City Council cannot just evict groups that are important to the community to balance the books - these centres are too important. Let's hope that the groups win their fight to stay.