(Report from Belinda)
Encircled almost completely by one of the River Severn’s more idiosyncratic contortions, Shrewsbury with its plethora of mediaeval ‘black and white’ as well as fine Georgian buildings and gracious surrounding parkland is indisputably one of England’s most attractive towns.
Many illustrious former citizens, including Clive of India and Charles Darwin and horticulturalist Percy Thrower have left their stamp on the town. A third striking feature is that this town is visibly and unabashedly a major hub of Freemasonry.
Masonic symbolism is everywhere in Shrewsbury, gargoyles, pyramids/triangles, pillars, numerical and numerological alignments between buildings and significant features of the landscape, a ‘mini St Pauls’, St Chad’s, and finally the mysterious Dark Angel gesturing heavenwards from his gazebo in The Quarry.
As the small rural train from Birmingham New Street chugged past some 10 small towns on its way to the end-station, Shrewsbury, the Jubilee bunting visibly dwindled, town by town, and seemed to be absent altogether in the Shropshire capital itself.
Casting my mind back to London and the ubiquitous Union Jacks and bunting fluttering down Oxford and Regent Street I wondered why Shrewsbury appeared to have opted out of the Jubilee? Does Freemasonry not recognise ‘earthly’ royalty? Yet Prince Charles is head of the Scottish Rite and the highest Freemason in the land! I’ve since found out that Shrewsbury has been holding its own Victorian Jubilee today, as part of which the Police Male Voice Choir are to sing to the town this evening.
As it turned out our projected ‘Jubilee March for Hollie’ didn’t after all materialise. To have a march you need marchers and once again we numbered 5!! It had been the same situation when Robert had held a demo in the same location, the Old Market Square in 2010, a few weeks after the raid on Anne and Hollie’s home – again only 5 including myself had turned out to join him. Sensing in advance what might happen I’d already informed the police we would be in 2 locations only, the Old Market Square and the shopping street, Pride Hill.
Our main task was to collect signatures on a petition to be sent to Shropshire Council. The more ‘static’ we were therefore, the better for the purposes of obtaining signatures. Would it be alright to use a megaphone? Yes, of course, use it as much as you want! said the young Events Officer for Shrewsbury Town police pleasantly. It appears the Town police enjoy a measure of independence from the rest of West Mercia force.
Collecting signatures was slightly hard work in the Market Square. As soon as it became clear that the issue concerned the P-word people steered their prams and children hurriedly past us on the other side of the road. I didn’t blame them, this is not a nice issue or story at the best of times. The connection to Aberdeen and Scotland was also hard to explain without recourse to the F-word which I’d decided was best avoided. I tried to get round the problem by simply presenting the issue as Your Local Council having some kind of bad hair day 2 years ago. “Ladies and Gentlemen it’s not raining, it’s not cold, it’s holiday time and the Queen is at the Derby today! so please, spare just a few seconds of your time to cross the road and sign our petition to Shropshire Council – YOUR COUNCIL – to ask them to put right the damage they did to the home of 2 vulnerable local residents when they raided it on 3rd June 2010, 2 years ago exactly, which is why we’re here today, our leaflet will explain it all to you. On the occasion of the Queen’s Jubilee we’re sure Her Majesty wouldn’t be happy to hear about one of her Councils behaving badly which brings shame on her realm, so please, help put your Council back on the rails and sign our petition!”
This got a little more traction and people did indeed begin to cross the road and sign up, but still not in appreciable numbers in relation to the effort put in to persuade them, so after an hour or so we moved on to Location No. 2, the top of Pride Hill shopping street. This was altogether a better spot as the whole shopping street was down-wind of the megaphone and no one leaving the shops on the way back to the station or bus-station could miss our display either. And by this time we had been joined by Kermit the Frog!
Kermit the Frog alarmed me at first by rearing right up close to my face and informing me in dark tones muffled by fur YOU KNOW WHO I AM. For a moment, not having a clue I was panic-struck – could this be Grampian police or M15?! Then the penny dropped. Phew!
Well, I’ve learned yet another useful trick about how to attract a crowd on the street – have a furry creature alongside you! Children immediately started dragging their parents over to where we were and the parents could then be discreetly told “this a child-protection issue”, handed a leaflet and bingo, they signed the petition!
As usual there was the odd passer-by with a closer personal connection to the issue, being him or herself involved in local authority disability work or child-protection or being employed by the Council. A lady Council worker took a whole bunch of leaflets and said she would distribute them. “I think you’ll find that most in Shire Hall already know about this and we know that many disapprove because of the huge sums being misspent in this affair which should be going on all the services the Council have been cutting back recently. But it’s good for them to know that we are still actively pursuing those who authorised this abuse of the Greigs and misspending of Council money.”
An off-duty police officer insisted there must have been a warrant for the action and there would have been a good reason for it and simply wouldn’t accept that no such document has been seen, nor any inventory of the items taken. “It would have had to be signed by a Magistrate!” he insisted. “Well yes, but that didn’t happen.” Stalemate!
By the time we left to catch our trains back to London and Chester respectively (thanks John) we had some 160 signatures on our petition. Not quite the 500 I’d been aiming at! but no matter, they will arrive with a covering letter on the desk of Chief Executive of Shropshire Council Kim Ryley, cc’d to the 5 local MPs, by the end of this week.