A day spent pottering indoors, throwing the occasional glance out the window, checking on the ever changing weather. (If ever there were four seasons in one day, it was today in London.)
Not much to do, you might think.
Unless you'd caught wind of the flashmob pillow-fight planned for 15:03 in Leicester Square. (Actually, it turns out today was http://www.pillowfightday.com ). I decided to potter along with my camera at the ready, expecting a 5-10min crazed feathery battle waged - and contained within - a modest sized mob of pillow-wielding madmen.
I got there with moments to spare, entering from the southwesterly corner or the Square. I soon spotted 3s & 4s of giggling, excited people. Then more. Then a whole family, little kids laughing, jumping up and down. Parents smiling, nervously. But still clutching their own pillows.
Some had strangely bulging bags. Some simply had a pillow (or 2) stuffed under their arm as they kicked their heels and stared at their watches. Waiting... I walked past one group of 4 teenage boys, laughing and texting furiously in the final few minutes of peace. Suddenly, one cried "We're getting ready for war!", and like pre-programmed pigeons, tens of people who had seemed to be strolling through the square, turned and headed for the northside.
Charging. Running. Crying their war cries of "Sparta!" Laughing. Oh, and wielding pilllows...
Within seconds, a crazed mob of 150-200 people were swinging pillowcases around their heads, laughing in the bitterly cold sunshine; finally bringing their pillow down with a thump on their nearest unsuspecting fellow fighter.
The air filled with laughter, screams, sunlight, rain...
Teenage boys, teenage girls, old men, little children, mothers, fathers, drunks, tourists, all pummeled each other with their pillows. And abandoned pillows. Passersby stopped for 30 minutes at a time, watching bemused, confused and amused. Some picked up abandoned, burst, half-full pillows and joined in. Some ran away...
(The one-on-one fight between an old drunk and a little boy was particularly endearing. There seemed to be so many levels of understand - of trust - at play there in that moment. between the boy and the man, the man and the crowd, circled, watching, laughing, the boy and his parents - permission given, silent promise to be careful undertaken...)
I expected the fight to disband as quickly as it materialized, but i was wrong. I thought the rain might break things up. It did seem to slow the fight for a few seconds, but the mob roared and fought harder. And laughed harder.
"We are Legion!" one tall, young man screamed, pillow held as far back as he could reach, for maximum swing; chest out, chin high.... charging. Laughing.
Hail came. Only to be greeted by cheers and renewed, red-faced laughing warriors of the feather. Snow came. Faces only paused to turn upwards, cool and smile briefly, then fought on...
Every time a pillow burst, the hundreds roared, in unison, like a wild, miss-feathered, homeless beast. (But nothing like the first time.)
Little children laughed hysterically; so hard, in fact, that they couldn't swing their pillows with any great effect.
The 'fight' (really does seem the least appropriate word for it now), lasted for well over an hour.
I carefully wandered in and out, through, around and under the mass. I laughter harder with every (intentional and unintentional) swipe and thump I received in the snow, sun and hail. I walked away, feathered, battered and laughing, when the bewildered emergency street-sweepers moved in. The fight was slowly disintegrating by then and the ground was warmed - inches deep - in abandoned down.
A poignant thought hit me, as I walked away. Some of those pillows probably went out in more style and with more excitement and laughter than they'd experienced in their whole 'lives'.
Pillows should be places for laughter.
I shot literally hundred of photos of the fight, from outside, from the skirts, from the fallen-back ranks of red-faced warriors regaining their breath, from the edges of mini-battles and sub-plots, and lots more from deep inside the feathery fury.
It was so much fun. I hope to upload a choice 10-15 shots to flickr over the next day or so. It's all too easy to take wide crowd shots, i think. So, I'll probably post this kind of shot. Personal, brief, fleeting, hysterically heart-warming shots... Portraits, not shots. Pictures that say "Hello! This is me. I was there. Happy Easter!"
But in the meantime, here's one I fell immediately in love with, once i saw it up on a bigger screen. I seem to have taken (some intentional, some not) gorgeous shots of beautiful people, beaming with bank holiday joy and stranger-loving lunacy.
It still blows me away. I have no idea who the laughing lady is, but if you see this and recognise yourself, I'd like to take this opportunity to say thank you for such a glorious heartwarming, life-affirming gift that is this shot.
To all at http://www.mobile-clubbing.com , huge thanks, much love and thank you for making my Easter Weekend.
Long may you run.