The Big IF rally: People power saves lives
By Anna Emerson, volunteer steward for Save the Children
They came from every part of the country. People of all ages, faiths and nationalities, all united in a single purpose: to make the G8 leaders sit up, take notice, and take action on hunger.
Veteran campaigners came equipped with straight-talking placards. Children arrived with carefully constructed flowers to add to our huge visual petition. Teenagers turned up with videophones to capture the action.
A torrent of people
In total, 45,000 people travelled to Hyde Park for the Big IF rally on Saturday. By the end of my two-and-a-half hour stewarding shift, I felt like I’d spoken to most of them.
Parents shepherded excited children towards the giant IF installation – eager to add their homemade spinning flowers, intricately decorated with paint and glitter, to the vast visual protest.
A smartly-dressed couple who looked more like opera-goers on a detour than campaigners marched purposefully towards the stage.
A German tourist who’d stumbled on the event on her way to the airport told me she was flying to Canada in two hours, before striding off to look at the flower field. I hope she made her flight.
One lady, red-faced and flustered, told me she’d been travelling since dawn to get here.
A sharp-suited businessman with event information neatly filed in plastic folders hurried past. I wondered whether he was hoping to corner Bill Gates for a chat.
A journalism student tried to cajole two of us into an interview. We politely sent her in search of more famous – or at least, less camera-shy – interviewees.
And a bewildered American tourist revealed that he wasn’t looking for the Big IF at all, but for the World Naked Bike Ride which, he informed us, was due to pass by the park that afternoon.
Saturday 8 June was shaping up to be an eventful day for London.
An extraordinary achievement
As the crowds were assembling on Saturday, G8 leaders at the Global Hunger Summit were in the process of agreeing £2.7 billion of funding to tackle malnutrition.
With this money they have pledged to save 1.7 million lives – almost 40 times the number of people in the park that day.
It was wonderful to witness the crowd’s enthusiastic reaction when this news was announced by Bill Gates.
It came after rousing speeches from Danny Boyle and David Harewood and before appearances by Rowan Williams, Lucy Rose, Beardyman and Angelique Kidjo.
Keeping up the pressure
It’s not over yet, though. Now the focus of the IF campaign moves to the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland on 17-18 June and the issue of tax dodging by some multinational companies.
Every year, the world’s poorest countries lose billions in tax revenues – money that could be spent to feed their children and their families.
On Saturday, we saw what people power can do. Let’s hope we can achieve even greater change in the next eight days.