Mark Tyers speaks to Rehana Azam, co-founder and organiser of the People's March for the NHS at the march stopping point outside The Church Mouse pub on Chester Moor
On a blustery, grey Sunday morning, The People's March for the NHS held a brief, up-beat rally in the market Square of Chester-le-Street. After a photo-op with a local press-photographer, the march moved off to cheers, whistles and the sounding of vuvuzela horns and began the long drag up the footpath of the A167 onto Chester Moor, urged on by many supportive hoots from passing motorists.
At the first comfort break of the march, taken outside a well-to-do Country pub, I caught up with Rehana Azam, GMB national organiser and co-founder of 999 Call for the NHS to hear how she thinks the march is progressing and what lies in store when it reaches Parliament.
Mark Tyers: Could you describe your role in the march?
Rehana Azam: I'm the co-founder of The People's March for the NHS which started in Jarrow yesterday. It's already surpassed all of our expectations, we had about 700 people at the rally [at the starting point in Jarrow] and about 300 people joined in the actual march [the first leg from to Chester-le-St]. It was an absolutely brilliant testimony that people feel really, really strongly about the NHS.
We've got 300 miles to go, come and join us, do a mile, do 10 or even go all the way to London
MT: What else can people do to support the march?
RA: Go to our website; 999callforthenhs.org.uk, buy one of our T-Shirts, donate a few pennys, come to our [daily] rallies, just be part of what is an amazing three weeks
MT: What's the plan when the march reaches Westminster?
RA: The plan is simple; every politician who has voted for The Health and Social Care Act, section 75 of which opened the NHS to competition, clause 119 of which shuts down hospitals, we're going to serve them notice that they do not have our say-so to destroy our NHS.
MT: Could you tell us a bit more about the big rally which is going to happen outside Westminster?
RA: It's going to be a massive rally, Owen Jones confirmed yesterday that he's going to be one of our speakers. We've got the Olympic Samba drummers, we've got the Bristol NHS choir and other amazing people, we want everyone to come down and join us.
The People's March for the NHS was the brainchild of a group of mums from Darlington. It started on the 16 August in Jarrow and finishes on the 6 September outside Parliament following the route of the original 1936 Jarrow hunger march.
Marchers will walk 300 miles in 30 days and anyone can join them to walk part or all of the march Visit 999callforthenhs.org.ukfor more information on the march route, daily rallies, to buy a T-shirt, news, to make a donation and much more. Also follow @999callfornhs on twitter.
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