Human white band around city

An early start in the Meadows to set up the CPGB stall on Saturday with most comrades tired after long journeys the day before. The atmosphere was one of family fun rather than serious political campaigning. Plenty of balloons and flags, with picnic blankets spread out to catch the sun. Babies in prams sat alongside pensioners on what was the largest demonstration Scotland had ever seen. It was wrist bands galore and swarms of people, most of whom were dressed in white, filled the Meadows to join the march to form a human white band around the city. Most people did not seem to object to being forced to wait for hours before being allowed to leave the park. The crowds were entertained by performers on two large stages and a screen broadcasting the Live 8 concert in London. Predictably, there was an obvious low level of politics. Most people seemed to believe they were solving poverty in Africa by simply wearing a white band and T-shirt. It seemed enough for the majority there to have turned up and waited for a few hours. This in itself should not be dismissed. Yet obviously the belief that this really is enough needs to be challenged. In general, people seemed interested in but wary of the concept of 'Solidarity, not charity'. Many agreed that Africa needed more that just handouts. Yet the phrase 'Make capitalism history' was hardly a popular sentiment people were more likely to wear a rainbow-coloured peace badge than one with a working class theme. But there was the occasional sighting of a red flag amongst the white peace doves and patchwork banners. A speaker's corner was set up alongside the multicoloured peace tent with a microphone available for anyone who wanted to have their say. I watched a small but interested crowd listening to how "social democracy is the way forward" and how "people cannot revolt by themselves - they need the government". It all could have been disheartening, but the mobilisation of such large numbers should be seen as an opportunity. To watch from afar, complaining about the lack of alternative politics and the naivety of those who followed Geldof and Bono, or Brown and Blair, would be sectarian futility. People were quite willing to engage in discussion. Saturday night was surprisingly quiet. Lit up like Hollywood, a giant 'Make poverty history' sign had been constructed outside Edinburgh castle. 'Fair trade' and 'cancel the debt' placards were all over the city. Shop and restaurant windows had hand-made signs (were they placed there to show genuine support or as an insurance policy against 'anarchist troublemakers'?), whilst official adverts were hung from lampposts and strung across roads. Sunday saw meetings being held all over Edinburgh. but there was a serious lack of communication about many of the ad hoc events. We mainly found out by word of mouth and, although there was a guide to the G8 Alternatives meetings and workshops on Sunday, the website could have been clearer about events for the rest of the week l Emily Bransom