‘This place has become a symbol for community’

Education correspondent Edd McCracken joins city’s schools sit-in protest to celebrate Easter

GOOD FRIDAY evening in the Wyndford estate in Glasgow: crosses of every description are being carried. The annual procession from Gairbraid Parish Church, containing worshippers from local Protestant and Catholic communities, weaves its way through the tower blocks. A rugged cross is at the head of the procession.

This year, however, it takes a diversion. The group stops to pray silently in the playgrounds of Wyndford and St Gregory’s primary schools – previously separated by religious denomination and no more than 10ft of tarmac.

However, this Good Friday there are no divisions. Both schools are currently occupied by parents united in protest against Glasgow City Council’s proposals to shut them. A group of this most unlikely set of revolutionaries – mums and grandmothers – emerge from behind fire escape doors of Wyndford primary to join in prayer. One of them, “Big” Jackie Weir, starts to cry.

“That’s the only time I’ve ever seen that, the two churches standing together,” she said, taking her glasses off to mop her eyes. “It’s been stressful, but seeing the two faiths standing together made it for me. I was greetin’.”

Emotions have run high since 20 parents took over the schools on April 3. Mothers and fathers fighting for the primaries use the Easter story as a convenient reference point. Innocence is being persecuted and punished, they say, by an oppressive regime.

It is this sense of injustice that explains why a group of men and women who have never been in trouble with the police have taken such drastic and potentially illegal action: an indefinite takeover of Glasgow City Council property. This Easter, they are clear who is cast as Pontius Pilate: Steven Purcell, the city council’s leader.

Friday evening is spent planning Saturday’s Easter egg hunt. Each of the 79 eggs has the face of a Labour councillor on it. The top prize of a Thornton’s egg will go to the child who finds the Steven Purcell egg. “Because he sure as hell can’t be found in the city,” said Ruby Grant, a 56-year-old with three grandchildren at St Gregory’s.
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