Usually when a march assembles from 12 you don't expect it to leave until about 1, but this demo headed off promptly at 12.15 - presumably because the space where people were meeting up was already getting overcrowded.
It headed off from the roundabout by the station, down through the town centre, past the hospital before turning left up the hill to Mountsfield Park. Everything I enthused about on the November demonstration - the energy, diversity and creativity - was still there, only more so if anything.
Lewisham Hospital, like many similar local health services, is associated with some of the most significant moments in people's lives: birth, suffering, recovery, death. I have lain on the floor of that A & E crying in pain, slept in the children's ward next to my sick son, visited my partner after surgery. Most people locally have similar stories. That gives the campaign a deep reservoir of emotion to draw on, as well all the rational reasons why decimating a perfectly good local hospital makes no sense whatsoever.
|'I'm a triplet born at Lewisham Maternity'|
- the cutest placards of the day, outside Lewisham fire station
|'NHS Health Visitors love all of Lewisham Hospital'|
|David Cameron - 'hands off our hospital'|
|'Save our Children's Ward - Save Lewisham Hospital'|
|'Save Lewisham Hospital - Support from Brockley'|
(the old Brockley/Broccoli joke never grows old)
|Outside Lewisham Hospital|
One innovation was the 'Save Lewisham Hospital' placards with a blank white space at the top to write in the names of supporters of the campaign. The ones above were from Sydenham Green Group Practice and Lewisham Children's Outpatients, there were others from many local groups and even shops (I saw Jay's Budgens and Arlo & Moe's cafe in Brockley). This was the Big Society on the march!
|London Sivan Kovil - Lewisham Hindu Temple|
|The Millwall FC Lion - the Millwall double decker bus was in the park at the end|
|'If it ain't broke'|
|Parkinsons patients and advocates say 'Don't cut my lifeline'|
... and Splatt the Rat! (no prizes for guessing identity of the rat).
There was also a giant petition scroll - this section was fairly typical: '4 nephews and nieces, 1 saved sister, 1 little brother, leave our hospital alone, hands off our hospital Hunt'
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt now has less than a week to make his decision on the future of Lewisham Hospital. If he decides not to proceed with the closures, it will be a great victory. If he decides to plough on, the campaign will certainly not be over.
(See also photos and reports at Andy Worthington, Alternative SE4, Crosswhatfields; more Transpontine Lewisham Hospital coverage).