Campaigners across the country are planning anti-Brexit events this weekend to demonstrate that the movement is continuing to grow. YVONNE WANCKE spoke to fellow organisers about what they have planned.
’23rd June 2016 still hurts. We must keep up the pressure until the very end,’ said Alun Tlusty-Sheen, a local leader of this year’s Regional Rallies.
The Regional Rallies is a truly grassroots initiative, started by members of the 48% and Beyond Facebook group. It includes local events, large and small, all creative, and all happening between 23rd and 26th March this year. The aim is to be a presence for remaining in the EU.
The first round of Regional Rallies was the idea of Gemma Knowles from the 48% and Beyond group. She explains: ‘Some of our members couldn’t make it down to London, but really wanted to have the chance to protest. So why not take the protest to the people? After all, the whole country is going to be affected by Brexit.’
This year there are Regional Rallies happening in Ipswich, Lincoln, Edinburgh, Newcastle, London, Isle of Wight, Maidenhead, East Sussex, Pontypridd, Oxford, Exeter, Brighton and Leeds.
It kicks off in Oxford on Friday 23rd March in the iconic setting of Christopher Wren’s Sheldonian Theatre, where Andrew Adonis and Will Hutton will preview their new book. Colin Gordon, the event organiser, said: ‘Brexit isn’t worth it, Brexit can be stopped and we, the people must stop it.’
The organiser of Saturday’s Edinburgh event is Juuso Jarviniemi, the President of Young European Movement. He explains: ‘Local groups exhibit their perseverance by going out on the streets. Large numbers of ordinary people are willing to expend time and resources for this.’
Meanwhile, John Barron is organising an event in Maidenhead in the Prime Minister’s constituency. Commenting on why he is getting involved, he said: ‘In Maidenhead we believe even as a small town we need to demonstrate against the folly of Brexit.’ He is hoping the event will deliver a message to Theresa May, adding: ‘Nothing in politics is ever final and beyond question, and every leader needs to remember that.’
The biggest event of the weekend will undoubtedly be in Leeds for the Great Northern March. This event has been organised by Leeds for Europe. The spokesperson, Richard Wilson, explained the rationale for the event: ‘It is a myth that the north of England is dominated by Leave voters. We are marching to show that this is far from the case. The great cities of the north all voted Remain.’
He added: ‘We will demonstrate that people across the north of England reject being stereotyped as Brexiters.’
Other venues for marches this weekend include Newcastle, Lincoln, and the Isle of Wight.
Louise Brown from the North East for Europe group will be marching in Newcastle, and promises a ‘legendary post rally social’ afterwards at the Tyneside Irish Centre. Her reasons for campaigning on Saturday are clear: ‘We have so much to lose in the North East if we leave – we receive twice as much European money than any other part of England and 160,000 jobs rely on our trade with the EU. There is specifically, of course, the risk of Nissan pulling out of the area taking with it thousands of jobs.’
In the historic city of Lincoln, John Bland is rallying the pro-Europe troops. He asks: ‘What could be better than making the positive case for retaining our close ties with our European neighbours alongside other Europeans as well as having the opportunity to sample global cuisine?’
This weekend also sees one of the first Islanders for Europe event on the Isle of Wight. Glenn Koppany will be holding a street stall, and says ‘we are looking forward to taking the discussion onto the streets’.
The final event of Regional Rallies takes place in London on Monday evening, and promises a ‘lively mix of speeches, song, satire, and shouting’. The organisers there Diane Datson and Caroline Wills-Wright have ‘a packed programme that reflects its evolution from a determined band of activists standing in the wind and rain a year ago to an even more determined and much larger group standing in the wind and snow!’.
The grassroots Regional Rallies events continues to be supported by Jean Coulson, of Wordup Design. ‘We need to let our MPs know that no matter how we voted, Brexit is not working, and it needs to be stopped!’ she enthuses.
Yvonne Wancke is a co-ordinator for the Regional Rallies events
• A full up-to-date list of the events being organised this weekend can be found on The New European website here.