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People Will Listen.

January 25, 2012

I normally catch about 10 minutes of LBC radio every night while preparing for an excursion to Dreamland. Mr P usually catches about 10 minutes of Met Police radio before doing the same, I’ve heard, but that’s just him…

Anyway, the LBC presenter asked listeners to call in and explain to him “When does protest help?” He was referring to the day those protesting outside St Pauls were told by a court to shift. Aside from making work for public cleaning staff, the radio presenter’s stance was that the whole event was a failure. Hence his question to the wider public (and is it just me who misses when LBC was our LOCAL radio station? No. fine. Back to the subject again)…

In my Dreamland anticipatory state, I instantly thought of one example where public protest worked brilliantly: the removal of the ridiculous “Poll Tax” of the early 1990s. Riots are never a good means of making a protest in a democracy… but that one I felt did a greater national good – there’s nothing wrong with paying tax if you have an income of any sort, but when you don’t…

Still, what got me thinking was that normally, it’s the smaller stuff that folk can get changed if they try hard enough. In my own area of theatre customer services, examples included the numerous protests about the very high stage of the London Palladium when “The Wizard Of Oz” opened. Within months of opening, Andrew Lloyd Webber was spotted (allegedly) with his welding torch, mask and can of acetylene, going in through the stage door. Now, he may have been about to sack the Musical Director, or releasing the Tin Man from his costume… but it was odd how the stage two days later was much lower. I do still get anxious emails checking how good the view is from the mid front stalls though – OK, I’m informed.

Another success came last week when a reader pointed out that one seat-back opera glasses holder badly restricted his legroom while watching a play. A quick email to my friends at the Opera Glasses company, a visit from their crack team of opera glasses holder installers (ask your careers officers how you get into that one, kids!) and the issue is no more. Result.

For myself, and also this week, I managed to get one of those nagging problems resolved. No, I don’t mean finally convincing Mr P that “The Priory” might make a wonderful holiday destination this year for him (though, it would). I mean making my life easier by getting one ticketing company who had changed a page layout into something unreadable for me to bring back a “parallel” version of their old and perfectly good page too. It’s to their advantage of course, as I can now list easily their offers again, but still wonderful.

To finish on a wider scale once more, I was even happier to hear that Westminster Council will not proceed with their outrageously stupid plan to charge for evening parking in theWest End. Destroying evening trade for restaurants, theatres and other venues was bad enough as customers would go elsewhere. My concern, though, was the effect on those who work in the area and who face difficult and (particularly for the younger women) dangerous journies home. Further, as they are going home, coming into town are armies of cleaners, maintenance workers and other night working staff – all carrying out essential work at a quiet time so that easier work can be done later on. This time, public voice changed things, no tents or hooliganism required. “When do protests change things,” Mr LBC presenter? When they are justified, for the greater good, and gone about in the right way, I’d say.

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