Jubilee 2000 trip to Cologne, June 1999

Jubilee 2000 logoIt was back in January when I saw the Jubilee 2000 trip to form part of the human chain in Cologne appear in the pew slip. The year before I had wanted to join the Birmingham chain but somehow my good intentions were not translated into action. Now here was another opportunity to make a decision and do something. I also went to Jubilee 2000 meetings and helped collect signatures for the petition.

The journey down to the south of England and across Belgium and northern France was not really very interesting as this part of Europe is very flat. The most interesting thing was starting to get to know my fellow travellers better and meeting other people from coaches from all over England making for the G8 meeting in Cologne.

What can I say about the day itself? Everyone had their own stories to tell afterwards. My own starts when we were dropped off at a tram stop on the edge of Cologne. The coach park was full of the seventy coaches that had come from England as well as some from Scotland and Wales. The trams were full of supporters with banners. I joined up with two women from our coach and as we walked over the bridge across the Rhine and saw the twin spires of Cologne Cathedral standing high above the city with flags of the nations fluttering in the breeze, we met up with other supporters from Lancashire and one young man, Kelvin, who had come over on his own but wanted to be part of the chain.

Another kind of international assembly took place on a site next to the Rhine where we met our counterparts from Germany, France, Italy, Scandinavia and Ireland. We met the walkers from Birmingham and listened to impassioned speeches from a representative from Zambia and the Hondurans who told us just what the IMF regulations meant to their countries, to the detriment of people’s jobs, healthcare and child mortality rates.

And all the time the sun shone and when it came time to set off to form the human chain I got separated from my friends, so great was the crush of people. I decided to look for the rest of the party, which was supposed to be on the other side of the bridge. As I walked across people were already in place. It was like being part of a great street-party with people from all over the world – groups from France, Italy, Germany, England, Wales and Scotland, with individuals from Canada, America, Australia and even Japan, all playing instruments, singing, dancing and blowing whistles. Finally I met up with a small contingent from our coach and joined hands with them. I was just in the nick of time.

The police were everywhere...Afterwards I met up with the Red-Hatted ones from Nottingham and just as we were about to leave and crossing a road near the Cathedral, the police, who were everywhere, pushed us to the side of the road. Suddenly an American motorcade appeared and we, with some Norwegian students, saw our opportunity and waved our banners. We don’t know if it was the real delegation or a decoy, but we gave our best shot and called out to them. Someone said afterwards that one of the cars rolled down the windows to hear us - however, we only had seconds to make our point and we hope they heard.

And now what? Well, they have cancelled the unpayable debt on which interest was being paid, but now we must get greater and more meaningful debt relief and that is the next step. Next year they are meeting in Japan. Perhaps we could charter a plane. How about it, St Peter’s?

Jessica Smith

Jubilee 2000 web-site

Jubilee 2000 Coalition

St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 4th July 1999