Skip to Content

Life-Altering Moment: How Holding a Protest Sign Flipped My World

In October 2012, my inaugural protest attendance took place outside the News International office in Wapping, east London. This demonstration was orchestrated by No More Page 3, a movement advocating for the cessation of topless depictions of women in the Sun newspaper.

At 31 years old, I impulsively decided to join, envisioning a sizable gathering. Initially, I intended to spectate from a distance, enjoying a takeaway coffee, followed by a retreat home for crisps and Downton Abbey. However, upon arrival, my expectations were shattered as only four individuals, one of whom had mistakenly stumbled upon the scene, were present. With no escape route, I found myself thrust to the forefront of this grassroots protest, handed a sign, and captured by a photographer’s lens.

Becoming an activist was the last role anyone would have assigned to me. Throughout my upbringing, I harbored fears of various mundane things like prawns, nail clippers, gusty winds, shuttlecocks, peers, and the ocean. However, my deepest anxieties revolved around conflict, photographic documentation, and being the focal point of attention. In school, I navigated under the radar, avoiding participation in class activities. Whenever my name was called during attendance, my friend Rachel would respond on my behalf, shielding me from the spotlight.

These insecurities persisted into adulthood, accentuated when I transitioned from Rotherham to London for university studies. The stark contrast in background and demeanor among my peers at the Courtauld Institute of Art left me feeling like an outsider. Public speaking, a task I abhorred due to the fear of misspeaking, now compounded with concerns about my distinct accent, further isolated me. My reluctance to engage in public discourse led to feelings of unease, solitude, and despondency.

One fateful day, an article about the No More Page 3 movement caught my eye, resonating with my inner discontent. The pervasive presence of Page 3 in my formative years fueled my resentment and discomfort. The protest I attended marked a pivotal moment, unbeknownst to me, as it propelled me into the heart of the No More Page 3 campaign. Joined by a cadre of volunteers, predominantly working-class women, we embarked on a journey characterized by grassroots activism, parliamentary engagements, media appearances, and community outreach initiatives.

Witnessing fellow women from similar backgrounds eloquently advocate for causes close to their hearts instilled in me a newfound sense of empowerment. Gradually, I shed my self-consciousness regarding my regional accent and embraced my roots with pride. The silence I once clung to for safety now felt stifling rather than secure.

Over the next two and a half years, the movement garnered support from various quarters, sparking dialogues on objectification and media representation. The camaraderie within the No More Page 3 team blossomed into enduring friendships, providing unwavering support through life’s triumphs and tribulations. As marriages dissolved, careers flourished, and new lives entered the world, we stood by each other, offering solace and encouragement.

The eventual discontinuation of The Sun’s Page 3 in January 2015 marked a triumph, yet it also signified the bittersweet conclusion of No More Page 3. The campaign, which bestowed upon me a voice and a sense of belonging, reshaped my self-perception and worldview.

While the prospect of public speaking still evokes dread in me, I now harbor the belief that I possess the resilience to confront such challenges if necessary—an unforeseen transformation that I consider nothing short of miraculous.