Originally published 15/03/21-------------------------------------
Groups of figures mingled in the darkness. The air was soft for a winter night, but the tension keeps them on our feet. Women and men, standing, as many and as one, apart but still together, united for the conscious holding of a breath as they entrenched their feet in a stance of resistance toward the world. A vigil is being held for Sarah Everard, who was murdered by a police officer. 
The collective hum of anger, sadness, excitement and fatigue made for a haunting stage. I could see it in their eyes. These were women who were fed up with living a life of fear. Fed up of walking home alone on a Sunday night hearing footsteps behind them in the shadows. Fed up of looking over their shoulder, or texting friends just so someone knew they were alive. Fed up of their perilous reality; a state of injustice faced by women all around the world. This night was not just for those present. It was for those who never would be again. 
I came to document and capture the feelings of a hurt people reclaiming the night for themselves and for women everywhere. I recognised many, and was proud to see familiar faces around the vigil. People I knew and loved had come to show support, and if nothing else, their presence gave the crowd form and strength. Given the all too recent crackdown on the vigil held in London, where the police used force to break up the crowd, we worried they may do the same here. 
It is no easy thing to listen to the stories of those who have suffered injustices. It is harder still to conceive of all the stories you never got to hear first-hand, because you read about them on the front-page of a newspaper a week later. With the recent case of Sarah Everard on everyone’s mind, as well as the fresh statistics published regarding the incredibly high rates of women who had experienced sexual assault in some form, the vigil was a demonstration of absolute frustration as well as a memorial for Sarah, and all the women who never came home. 
We stood in the centre of town, surrounded by flats and empty banks and coffee shops and charity stores. People congregated around a large circular plinth, and made of it their vigil, visible to all around. They were here to be seen, and heard. We weren't there to lecture each other, or drown in our sorrows, but to share in this cathartic collective experience. Speaking to the people and hearing the speeches they gave was sobering. Their faces were stained with tears as they placed their candles on the smooth concrete semi-circle altar, under a cardboard sign that said only: “my existence is not an invitation.”
As a man, my thoughts were forced to turn inward. I took a long look at myself by the candlelight of injured souls. Their weak glow and tenuous hold on existence reminded me that, much like the women present, at any moment their light could be extinguished. These women brought with them a reflection of their spirit in the palm of their hand, laying it down to rest among other kindred flames, and only in their numbers could they ever hope to shield the fires from the winds. As we shared in the sight, our faces also turned to each other. The change needs to come from within, and from all those we care for and who care for us. The challenge now is going to be for men to reflect on this opportunity we have been given to listen to our sisters, our mothers, our wives and our daughters, who are reaching out for what feels like the last time, hoping we will change, begging us to change, before they turn away and leave us forever. In that quiet moment, it felt like my hand was slipping from the hands of all those around me. I realised then what it must be like to feel as though your hand was never really held at all.
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