Breastfeeding Picnics 2011

14 06 2011

A little late this year.  Letting you know.  A combination of circumstances – changing the admin structure, my moving to rural Scotland, a very long turnaround on the permissions from Westminster, due to massive changes brought by the new Gov.  And, of course, we moved it forward a month.  Some of us haven’t realised it’s June yet.  πŸ™‚

DO NOTE THAT EACH PICNIC HAS ITS OWN DATE!

People wanted flexibility.  So do check the DATE of your local one.  πŸ™‚

Breastfeeding Picnics are first and foremost about turning up, having fun with other parents, and going home.  During this fun time, breastfeeding will take place as a normal part of human activity.  That’s actually the most important bit.  Breastfeeding in public is about hungry babies, requiring milk.  That’s all.  Hungry babies get milk. Simples!

In Scotland, it is that simple.  There is a law protecting any caregiver, giving any milk, to a child anywhere the child has a right to be.  The caregiver can not be threatened or asked to stop the feed.  To do so, is an offence, liable to a hefty fine.

In England and Wales, there is no such protection.  For a detailed understanding of this, read the posts here with the Breastfeeding Picnic tag, and the Equalities Act tag.

Breastfeeding Picnics are run by mothers, for mothers.  All parents welcome.  All mothers, fathers, grans and grandads.  All babies, all feeding methods.  Hungry babies need milk: don’t matter if it’s from breast or bottle, Mama or Otherwise.  Hungry babies get fed.  End of.

All are run by volunteers, all take control of their own event.  There is no uber organisation.  Just Mums.  πŸ™‚

Go along, show your support, feed your babies.  And invite your local MP too!

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Westminster Breastfeeding Picnic
Victoria Tower Gardens
next to Parliament
Noon till 3pm
Sunday 19th June
Facebook Group
contact Elaine


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Cambridge Dolally-Doula Breastfeeding Picnic
Lammas Land, Newnham, Cambridge
Noon onwards
Sunday 26th June
contact Maddie

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Brighton Bosom Buddies Breastfeeding Picnic
Pavilion Gardens
lawn in front of cafe
1pm to 3pm
Facebook Group
contact Bosom Buddies

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Upfront Torpoint Breastfeeding Picnic
Torpoint, Cornwall
Thanckes Park
The Lawns
Monday 20th June
1pm to 3pm
Facebook Group
contact Upfront Torpoint Breastfeeding Group

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Stroud Breastfeeding Picnic
Stratford Park
near the bandstand
Saturday June 18th
11am to 2 ish
contact Kirstie

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Couple more to be added – check back!  πŸ™‚






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Have Fun Tomorrow!!!!

18 07 2010
This is Elaine Scully, and her son, Robin.  Due to my son coming down with a high fever and being Quite Poorly, Elaine will be the main presence at Westminster tomorrow.  Which is only fitting, as she is in London, and is heavily involved in supporting mothers.  πŸ™‚
Just look out for her bright red hair, If All Else Fails.  
All the directions and instructions you need for the Westminster event, are here.  We meet in the large semi-circle of grass, with the small tree (for shade) in it, behind the Rodin Statue.  Last year there was a toddler group there as well, with toddler trucks and push along and toys.  That’s not us!  
Elaine is very nervous about dealing with the MPs who are coming along.  Help her out ladies!  It’s just nerves.  πŸ™‚
The regional picnics are here, although there are informal ones in Durham and Leeds as well.  I’ll update all that link info, as I go along today.
Next Year’s Picnic is all set – for the weekend of June 18th and 19th, 2011.  Explanation on why the changes, here.
If you want to organise a local picnic for next year, join this yahoo group.  You will be sent a pending message, and full instructions.
If you want to attend a picnic, either keep an eye on this blog, or join this Facebook Group.
Have fun everyone!  It’s the UK, don’t forget sun screen, woolly jumper and an umbrella!  πŸ˜‰




Cheers Stroud!

4 08 2009

It’s just soooooo nice, when a local newspaper reports properly!
And we need cheered up sometimes, and this is very cheering!
Reporters who can report!





Growing Grassroots

12 07 2009


This is the spot we’ll be meeting at for the Westminster Breastfeeding Picnic this year. Monday July 20th, Victoria Towers Gardens. That’s the Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament) in the background, and Emily Pulling, and her weeks old daughter, is standing in front of the Rodin Statue in the top half of the long triangle that is the park. We’ll be having the Picnic on the lovely green grass you can see behind her.

That’s my didymos by the way, so anyone attempting to ‘acquire’ it on the day will have me to answer too! Be afraid, be very afraid! πŸ˜‰

I mention the green grass, and grassroots, for a very specific reason. You can’t have a picnic without green growing grass. You especially can’t have a Picnic in the heart of London, without green growing grass. Why? Because our picnics have babies and young kids and Mums and Dads. And you can’t take young kids and babies into Summer heat, without green, growing, grass. This is why we had such a hard job finding a replacement for Parliament Square. If we’d not had access to this lovely stretch of grass, we’d have had to cancel. Even ‘tho the Sri Lankans have left Parliament Square, the grass wouldn’t have had time to recover.

Living things, especially small and very vulnerable baby living things, need nurture. And our babies and toddlers and young wild and free kids, needed grass, and trees, in order for our picnic to be nurturing to them. Hot concrete, or pavement, or tarmac wouldn’t do. So the grass is very important.

It’s also very symbolic. Not as it’s green (although breastfeeding is a very green activity) but because it’s small and grows slowly and quietly in the background. Grass is everywhere… it is the most successful plant on the planet. It’s also small and tiny and little and not very complicated. That’s why we refer to small, local and simple political active as ‘grassroots’. It’s the most basic form of activism, or organisation for change.

And the Breastfeeding Picnics illustrate such grassroots activity, perfectly. We’re not a big organisation, we’re just Mums with computers in the kitchen. (Well, I moved mine to the living room as I spent too much time on it.) Emily decided one morning to do the first one, to make a stand. She was told no one would come. She was also told not to do it, as bigger and better organisitions were planning Great Things, and she should wait. Emily didn’t wait, she did what she wanted, low key and local, and in a couple of weeks and on Mumsnet, arranged something where 70 plus Mums & Tots, turned up and breastfed on Parliament Square.

The next year was just as low key and spontaneous, a comment on a mail list, and there was another picnic – a spur of the moment. Regional ones were added in discussion – just Mums on computers – as the need to ‘be there’ even if they couldn’t travel to London, was expressed. Last year, between all the picnics, the best part 400 Mums and their kids breastfed at a picnic.

It’s just the same this year. Mums on computers. Some are too busy, or too pregnant, to do another one. Some are asking ‘can I do one?’ and have set up their own ‘first time’ local one. So this year we have Birmingham, Poole, Stroud, Warrington, Salford, and Durham. Colchester just got cancelled due to pregnancy throwing-up-ness. Sorry. 😦 We already have new ‘first times’ for next year! (Say hello Brighton!)


We also have ‘new’ things this year. Birmingham Picnic really got inspired for this their second year, and they have had a wonderful ‘Breastfeeding Photo Shoot’ Day, where Mums and babies, and a professional photographer (a Mum!) went about Birmingham City Centre and just had fun. Shopping, lunch, coffee, ice-creams. And the photos reflect that Mums are in public spaces, with breastfeeding babies and… so what? Not a comment made once, whilst they went about the business of being a women being in public spaces who happened to have babies to feed with them.

And that’s one of the functions of the breastfeeding picnics – when women are together, and are breastfeeding in public spaces… no one says a thing. Comments are usually only said to individual mothers, isolated from support. Present the world with a few Mums breastfeeding normally, and its no big deal. In the same way that a woman who appeared in the streets displaying her ankles could be pilloried… when she appeared in the company of other women with ankles on display… she was safe. Eventually, no one found ankles risque.

In this ways, the picnics serve to make breastfeeding in public spaces more normal and everyday. People who walk past, unawares, may get a little shock of “Oh my” if it’s a new sight to them, but collectively, mothers enjoying a picnic as they feed their young, is not something that most people object to. Just doing it in the company of others normalises it.

It also can be very empowering for the mothers concerned. Feeling perfectly normal and every day, and relaxing to the point where you forget to notice that what you are doing is ‘shocking’, is extremely liberating. A sense of safety rather than unease. A sense of safety mothers report feeling when in Scotland, even on their own. It’s rather shocking, isn’t it, that what we’re talking about is women feeling unsafe in public spaces… well, safe in public spaces in Scotland, and unsafe in public safes in England & Wales.

Hungry babies and kids who can be fed without fear in Scotland, but who can’t be fed without some inner panic and a bit of trepidation in England & Wales. Oh please, don’t be hungry now… just wait until I can find somewhere safe… Of course, we’re making that up, aren’t we?

Another little grassroots shoot, again, from Birmingham, has been setting up t-shirts and tops with the slogan Colchester set up last year – breastfeeding is not a crime. Particularly useful as the London picnic can’t have posters or a table. But it can have clothing and badges. Must get the badge machine out and get cracking, actually. We’re hoping to have a Protect My Baby, Protect Me for everyone for London. Oh my blistered hands!

We also have this fabulous professionally produced poster, available for all the sites, made by a Mum who does this for a living. Birmingham really have pushed the boat out this year. All on their own, just getting on with what seems obvious to them. No budget, no committees, just simple actions taken spontaneously: grassroots. Join them, print off a poster for your area’s picnic and pin it up somewhere, hand it on. Just be a Mum. Change the world.

We’ve also developed interest from others. Newspapers sometimes email for quotes or info – but they never print them! An academic researcher has been in touch about how they developed, and why we do what we do.

Kate Boyer is a lecturer in Social and Feminist Geography at the University of Southampton (and mum of a bouncing 15 month old boy). She is currently doing a research project on experiences of breastfeeding in public in the UK, and efforts to make breastfeeding in public easier and more commonplace. She has previously published work on women’s experiences trying to combine breastpumping with wage-work, and also on breastmilk donation.

She will be attending the London picnic, and would be happy to hear the views of other attendees on the issue of public breastfeeding while there. If you would like information about this research project please contact her at L.K.Boyer@soton.ac.uk


So, there we go. A little activity, that’s slowing turning into a bigger activity. Little tendrils reaching out and meeting up with other little tendrils, and huge big things happening as a result. Who knows, if we keep this us, Government Minsters might bother to read their mail? I, for one, am going to be very interested to see where Breastfeeding Picnics are in ten years time.

Emily and I will see you in Westminster, next Monday. If you want to run your own regional picnic for next year, get in touch. If you’re going to a Regional Picnic, check the updates, and have fun.

And when you’re having that fun, look down at the grass. It’s powerful stuff.














Dear Vera Baird QC,

11 07 2009

Charity, The Queen Victoria Memorial, The Mall, London
It’s taken me two days to start writing this: I’ve nearly lost the will to live with it, honest.
*sigh*
So here we go… as you will recall, dear reader, on actually reading Clause 16 of the Equalities Bill, as opposed to the spin around it… Serious Questions Were raised In Our Minds. Namely, where was this protection for breastfeeding in public spaces at all?
So, I suggested that everyone write their MP, as I did, pointing out how worried they were by the implications in Clause 16, and asking for clarification on one thing: if a mother was asked to leave premises, did she have to go? Answer that she did, came via Unicef UK, a ‘supporter’ of Clause 16 who was involved in discussions about this Bill at Government level.
The MPs sent the letters for clarification, to Harriet Harman at the Equalities Office, and they were replied to by Vera Baird, Solicitor General, QC, MP, C.R.V.W. (Can’t Read Very Well). Vera sent a form letter back to everyone, thanking them for their support for the Bill and saying how great it was they agreed with the Government.
Lots of Mums then got very annoyed, including Emily Pulling, who replied back to her MP about the MP not noticing the sleight of hand, and how she wanted An Answer.
Emily’s MP, Cheryl Gillan, was also then quite annoyed, it seems. She replied back to Vera Baird, and repeated Emily’s request for clarification. Vera Baird, Solicitor General, QC, MP… again sends the “Thank you very much for supporting the Equalities Bill” letter. She even rearranges the opening paragraph slightly, to show she’s done something a wee bit different.
So… she is sent a letter by an MP, asking her to address the issues she did not address the first time… and she responds with the same letter.
Honestly, I can’t even laugh. Seriously, it’s just not funny anymore. I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised, this was the Government that when MPs wrote about Baby C, gave their MPs false information about meetings that had happened with myself and others. Lying to MPs is seen to be quite a big thing… but strangely, here we are, a few months later, and Government Ministers are ignoring MPs requests for clarification on a Bill they want the MPs to vote for!
Cheryl Gillan, bless her cotton socks, didn’t take this lying down. She immediately tabled questions to the Government, on the Bill! Thanks Cheryl, we do appreciate that!
Here’s the letter Cheryl sent back to Emily, with Vera’s “I have my fingers in my ears and I’m going La-La-La loudly” reply….
Dear Ms Pulling,

I have received a response from the Solicitor General at the Government Equalities Office dated 1st July, 2009, in response to further enquiries made on your behalf. As you will see from the comments, despite requesting further clarification from the Government, the Minister has chosen to repeat her initial comments. I am sorry that the Minister has not been more forthcoming in replying to you.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance to you.

Yours

Cheryl Gillan
She then tabled the following questions:
What protection does a mother have who is breastfeeding her child in a public place and is asked to desist by another member of the public who is not a person in authority under the provisions of the Equality Bill?

What recourse would a mother who whilst breastfeeding her child in a public place and being asked to leave and then left the premises have under the proposed provisions of the Equality Bill?

Will the proposed provisions of the equality Bill provide protection for a mother who whilst breastfeeding her child in a public place is asked to leave by a person in authority?
These are fabulous questions. They go to the heart of the issue – public space. Not ‘premises’, where goods and services are being delivered. Thank you Cheryl!!!!
There is an expectation that MPs will receive a written response within 7 days of posting. Tick tock tick tock tick tock We’ll keep you posted. They should be answered by the 13th.

So, on to Vera. How do you solve a problem like Vera? How to you catch a cloud and pin it down? Well, I suggest it’s time we write to Vera, directly, and register that we are COMPLAINING about Clause 16, and REQUESTING a clear answer on the issues.
Those of you who have received Vera’s letter via your MP, should also cc your email to your MP. I’ve not had any response from my own MP yet, so I’m going to write the following:
To: Vera Baird, Equalities Office,
vera.baird@geo.gsi.gov.uk
bairdv@parliament.uk
Dear Vera Baird QC,

I’m writing to you in your capacity as Minister at the Equalities Office and have cc’d this communication to my MP, Alistair Burt.

Myself and several friends have requested information from the Equalities Office via their MPs. All, except myself, have been sent by return a letter from you, as this is your area of authority.

Without exception, your return letter has not answered their points, or even acknowledged their enquiry. Even when prompted again by an MP to respond to the request for information, you responded by once more sending the same form letter. In fact, when faced with several letters stating concerns about the upcoming Equalities Bill, you responded to these concerns by thanking the sender for their support.

Therefore, let me make this communication exceptionally clear.

THIS IS A LETTER OF COMPLAINT. I wish to register my objection to clause 16 on the Equalities Bill. I wish you to know, as the Minister involved, that as a breastfeeding mother, I am stating that I DO NOT SUPPORT Clause 16 of the Equalities Bill. If you now send me the form letter thanking me for my support, I’ll know you hold your electorate in the utmost contempt. It is a basic tenet of communications with Ministers, by either MP or voter, that you bother to read, and respond to their communication. I expect you to respond to me clearly and competently. I expect you to acknowledge that I have registered with you that I do not support Clause 16 of the Equalities Bill.

THIS IS A REQUEST FOR CLARIFICATION. I repeat the request that has been forward on to your several times over the past few weeks, by several MPs acting on behalf of their constituents, and which you and your office have utterly ignored.

Could you please confirm that under the provision of Clause 16 in the proposed Equalities Bill, that if a mother who is breastfeeding in England & Wales is asked to leave premises providing her with goods or services, she must leave? I do not wish to hear an answer that states you think that as it is (note IS, not will be) an offence to do so, no person in authority on those premises would ask a mother to do so. I’m not interested in that response. I’m interested in the answer to the question: if she is asked to leave premises by a person in authority… must she go? The answer is either a β€˜yes’ or a β€˜no’: if that helps you narrow down and formulate your response.

I look forward to an early reply.

Yours faithfully


Morgan Gallagher

You may wish to write to Vera on your own behalf, or to ask your MP to re-prompt her to actually bother to respond to your first letter. πŸ™‚

Now, some interesting things to say about all this. First of all, the photo of the statue at the top, is what the Royal Family see when they are on the Balcony at Buckingham Palace. I thought it was ‘apt’ for another wrangle with politicians.

Secondly, there have been a couple or three MPs signing the epetition. Including Clare Short, who is the MP for Birmingham that covers the Cathedral (which is hosting one of our regional Breastfeeding Picnics).

Unicef UK, who had been asking mothers to write into the Equalities Offices and congratulate the Government… no longer appear to be doing so. Seems to have disappeared off the website, anyone able to find it? Can’t help thinking the “thank you for your support” letter being churned out by Vera Baird’s office was set up to deal with all this ‘praise’…

Gosh, I do hope there is some good news on this soon, or even just a response. It’s such a grind having to force the powers that be just to read their bloody letters!

EDIT: July 12th

My MP, Alistair Burt, confirmed he’d had the ‘thank you for your support’ form letter and had been drafting a response back to Vera Baird requesting a more appropriate response. This is exactly what I thought had happened. Nice that at least one MP, had actually read the incoming response, and compared it to the letter that instigated it. Well Done Alistair!!!!! Maybe with Alistair & Cheryl on the case, we might get a response. πŸ™‚ If you haven’t done so – please prompt your own MP. I know it feels like pushing a rock up a hill, but we need to keep making people accountable. Flagging as the responses are so stupid and incomprehensible is how they wear us down!





Regional Picnics 2009

24 05 2009
Birmingham Picnic
Monday July 20th, 2009
11am – 2pm
Colmore Road
Birmingham
contact: breastfeeding@codepoets.co.uk
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Poole Picnic
Monday July 20th, 2009
11am – 2pm
Poole
contact: sophiesmailbox@yahoo.com
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Stroud Picnic

Monday July 20th, 2009
11am – 3pm
contact: stroudrose@yahoo.co.uk
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Warrington Picnic

Monday July 20th, 2009
Sankey Street
Warrington
contact: jenniestevenson@googlemail.com
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Salford Picnic

Monday July 20th, 2009
Noon – 2pm
(in front of Mansion)
contact: j.wallsworth@gmail.com
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Durham Picnic
Monday July 20th, 2009
Noon – 3pm
Durham
contact: sonia.bailey@gmail.com
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Breastfeeding Picnic – Change of Venue

23 05 2009
Protect My Baby, Protect Me

Monday July 20th, 2009

Noon – 3pm

Victoria Tower Gardens



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Due to some rather ardent protesters taking over Parliament Square for the past two months… and it looks like they’ll still be there for another couple of months…
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We’ve moved the Westminster Breastfeeding Picnic to Victoria Tower Gardens. In many ways, it’s a better venue – not a roundabout on a hot and merciless traffic heavy square. Cooling breeze off the river. Railed in. Nice tree cover. Traffic crossings! But it’s not the super photo shoot opportunity of the Square. It does give a nice side view of Parliament however.
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Many thanks to the Royal Parks, for giving us permission. We’re meeting on the crescent area as you enter the park from the Parliament end, by the Pankhurst statue, and tucked behind the Rodin sculpture. It’s a nice stretch of grass, and the kids can run free on the river side, as it is blocked off by an iron gate to Westminster Palace itself.
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Transport
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Buses come into this area from all around. 3 and 87 stop on St Margaret Street by the park. The nearest Tube is Westminster. Which is a few hundred yards away, down Bridge Street. Westminster Tube is disabled accessible, so it has lifts from all levels, up to street level. The final little lift up to the street, is the Bridge Street exit. So buggies and strollers are fine from that approach. You literally emerge under the shadow of Big Ben. (And there will be tourists taking photos.) You emerge into a very narrow and crowded pavement – so grab children by hand first. You turn right down Bridge Street, cross the road to the front of the Houses of Parliament, carry on down the entire length of the building, and the gates into the Park are on your left, as you walk past the final policeperson at the far end gates.
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You can see all this in very good detail, on Google Maps, if you input Victoria Tower Gardens and click to ‘satellite’. Zoom in, and you will see that the Underground is very close. You will also see the trees, statues, swings and Embankment seating.
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Car parking is very expensive and street parking lethal to try and get into. Disabled badges are not valid for double yellow lines etc, in Westminster. However, if you park across the river, you are in Lambeth, and blue disabled badges are valid there.
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Amenities
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Above Westminster Underground Station as you emerge into Bridge St, in the shadow of Big Ben, is a Tesco Express. It is a long thin corridor, stuffed with food, drink, crisps, chocolate, sandwiches and MP’s ‘run around people’ elbowing the tourists out of the way. The queue is awesomely long looking (the length of the shop) but there is 5 or 6 tills at the end, and it goes fast. No mother should be in Westminster, and not know it exists. Equally, the danish pastries are at toddler grab height.
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The public toilets are stepped, and 50p, but have a disabled toilet they say. They are underground the green triangle of lawn behind Parliament Square and in front of the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre. However, six feet away, is Methodist Central Hall, which has a lovely cafe and nicer, free, toilets. It’s in Storey’s Gate, across from Westminster Abbey. It has a lot of fancy stone steps, so if you have a buggy, go for the disabled access entry to the left. The cafe and toilets are one level down, by the lift as you enter. Disabled toilet excellent.
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Ironically, the nearest toilet and cafe, and a lovely ‘wet weather’ area is actually inside Parliament. Westminster Hall is a wonder to behold, big enough for toddler freedom, has toilets and a cafe at that level, and has a fancy new walkway down to that level. Anyone can enter Westminster Hall, but you have to go through police security. If you have never been in, it is worth a look. If you appear to be part of the event in the Gardens, they may refuse you. So don’t try and enter with banners, badges etc. But if you have time to go through security (anywhere from 3 to 30 minutes) it is well worth a look. You can use a camera in there too.
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Rules of Engagement
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It is illegal to protest, demonstrate or hold a rally within half a mile of Parliament. It is not illegal to have a picnic, celebrate breastfeeding, and raise awareness of issues as long as you have received the proper permissions from the police. So, we are celebrating, and in doing so, raising awareness of an issue close to our hearts – our breasts! πŸ˜‰ The Royal Parks are even stricter than Parliament Square, we can’t even have a table, or any posters or placards AT ALL.
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So we ask that no one bring homemade placards or banners. Feel free to wear anything slogany you want to, in terms of t-shirts etc, but bring nothing for your hands that looks like we are protesting.
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We’d like you, if possible, to invite your MP to the picnic.
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Things You Might Need
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The grass is nice, there is some shade, you may bring brollies etc. The breeze off the river can be sharp – so outer rain/wind wear reccommended, Just In Case.
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Bring your picnic, and something nice to sit on the grass with. Bring a rubbish bag, for clearing up.
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Bring cakes!!!!
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If are a baby wearer, babies and younger toddlers best strapped to you. Older toddlers and young children will need one adult to one child for eye-keeping on the side with the gates to the main road. But there is room for a good run about on the other side, and we’ll endevour to keep the kids on that side. We will have adults without kids there, and we will endeavour to help with games and letting them run about for part of the picnic, but we cannot stress enough that keeping the children safe is a priority.
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You can bring soft balls for games for children under 5 etc. Good wind for kites. Very small playground with a couple of swings at far end of park area.
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Bring cameras and take a lot of photos for our photo album.
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Modus Operandi
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The picnic is officially from noon, although there should be organisers there from about 11.30ish. Depends on traffic etc. We’re looking for the main part of the picnic to build up to about 1pm, when press will have been invited to attend, to give people time to relax from the trip. We were dead on our feet last year by 3pm, so we will likely all be gone by 3.05! πŸ™‚
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If you have any particular special needs (such as knowing you are bringing a couple of walking kids and there is only one of you) email us and we’ll give you our mobile phone numbers in case you need help etc picnic@dreyfuss.demon.co.uk Also email if you can offer to help.
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On that, if you are coming and you are an adult without kids – please let us know! We need a dedicated band of adults watching out for the kids like a hawk! πŸ™‚
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See you there!