Reclaim the Night 2009

On the evening of 21 November 2009, about 2000 women braved gales and floods to Reclaim The Night against rape and all forms of male violence and close down the streets of London for women.

Led by the all-women drumming group, SheBoom, we marched from Whitehall Place, past Trafalgar Square, up Charing Cross Road and Tottenham Court Road to the Camden Centre opposite Kings Cross Station where we had a mixed rally.

We got a lot of attention from crowds of onlookers all round the busy central areas. We had women and men cheering us on, and even some women and girls joining us along the route. The drummers were like pied pipers for a lot of women who couldn’t resist joining in!

Stopping the traffic and walking through central London was an invigorating experience and I lost count of the numbers of women bystanders and some men too, who clearly demonstrated their support. I’ll never forget seeing two female staff members standing outside a betting shop in Tottenham Court Road almost jumping up and down in excitement and expressing their support of our march. This is what Reclaim The Night is all about to me – demonstrating to other women we refuse to be crushed and subordinated by male sexual violence and patriarchal claims ‘it is women’s fault and hence male violence can never be eliminated or drastically reduced!”

“It was … my first march and I will definitely be marching every year from now on. It gives women so much hope for the future.” Louise

“I really enjoyed this year’s march – thank you to everyone who organised it! I thought the drummers were amazing and hope that they will be there at future marches. I was really pleased that there was such a good turn-out despite the weather.” Alice

“I absolutely LOVED last night! After the fantastic turnout at Feminism in London and then the triumphs in the Policing and Crime bill, to be following in the rain behind SheBoom, BOOMing right through the heart of London, I felt I was surfing on the crest of some enormous feminist wave, surging unstoppably and changing everything in its path!

“I loved seeing the expression on the faces of all the people in the street, seeing all these WOMEN en masse, marching – they were clearly thinking “What [is] that?”….. What could contradict the narrow template of ‘the acceptable females’- demure, divided, self-loathing -  more than that? I think some had to reassess their perception of women on the spot!” Silvia

At the rally we listened to some amazing speeches and then the Emma Humphrey’s Memorial Prizes were awarded. The Emma Humphrey’s Prize is awarded annually to a woman and a group for their work against male violence — for more infromation, please see their website www.emmahumphreys.org.

Read the speeches:

The individual prize went to Sandra McNeill, a tireless campaigner from West Yorkshire Justice for Women and one of the first Reclaim The Night’ers in the 1970s. A new international award was given to Humanitarian Assistance to Women and Children of Afghanistan (HAWCA), a women’s group organising in Afghanistan. The group award went to our sisters at Object who have campaigned tirelessly against the objectification of women. Referring to the recent success in getting the lap dancing licensing laws changed and the House of Lords voting in favour of Clause 14 (formerly 13) of the Policing & Crime Bill (which puts the rights of exploited women over those of pimps and punters), Anna van Heeswijk, grassroots coordinator at Object chanted “we changed the law, we changed the law, we changed the law and we’ll change some more”.

And after that, we celebrated with a party until long after the last tube had gone.

I think one of the most enduring [memories] will be looking out over you all dancing while [we] tried to keep finding the songs that you wanted to move to – so many happy women is something I wish we could also see more often… rhythm in the fight is good for feministas!” Rebecca

“A fantastic night … inspirational speakers, moving awards and a London that really felt like ours! So many amazing images that will stay with me throughout the year.”

“The march – my first RTN – was truly empowering, the drummers mind-blowing, the speeches inspirational. Kudoz to the organizers!” Eva

“Thanks to everyone who helped make RTN 2009 happen – from all the stuff leading up to it right until the last song of the night! Everything was so well organised that everyone could just relax and enjoy the incredible evening. It was so empowering singing with everybody on the march and having the EHMP awarded afterwards made it the ultimate evening of sisterhood and positivity.  I think I picked up enough positive energy to easily keep me going until next year’s [march]!”