Having only arrived in this country under Labour in 2000; I was completely unprepared for the outpouring of anger and emotion triggered by the death of Margaret Thatcher. As the party exploded on the night of her death in Windrush Square in my home neighbourhood of Brixton I worked to capture the sense of celebration that stung the air that night – a celebration of death. Heady raucous chants of “Maggie Maggie Maggie Dead Dead Dead” were chanted by all ages as cameras flashed and banners were strung. Children aped their parents as laughter and screams of jubilation filled the square. It felt a lurid display of the hate that many felt towards one of the most divisive leaders in British politics.
Saturday 13th April’s ‘death party’ in Trafalgar Square was Brixton on a bigger more frenzied scale and this time the police had their hands full as the crowd fed off each other’s energy and revellers climbed and danced on the balustrades of The National Gallery. The miners, who truly felt the brunt of her policies, came with their banner and departed peacefully after a few statements to visiting reporters while others raged into the drizzly night. Her death fuelled a heady madness I’d not experienced in a crowd before. I had to wonder how many there really understood the impact of her policies and how many were just on others coattails looking for any opportunity to give two fingers up to the establishment.
The Iron Lady’s hotly debated ceremonial funeral on Wednesday 17th April brought out the true well heeled blues and the young vocal socialists. The majority that lined the streets that day were there to pay their respects or were just plain curious as they snapped away on a mobile device; images sure to spread all over social media within minutes of her coffin passing by. I stood in the centre of a pocket of protesters at Ludgate Circus; a number of whom turned their back in peaceful protest while others chanted “What a waste of money” and still some screamed an eerie “Dead dead dead” as her coffin passed. Walking from Ludgate up towards St Paul’s I felt myself step over a clear divide in British society – it was as if visiting two vastly different tribes; continents apart.
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