The Tibetan flag was due to be raised at the Buddhist temple at Willen in Milton Keynes, for the sixth year in a row. It’s a protest event, because the flag can’t be raised in Chinese occupied Tibet; it’s been illegal to do so since 1959. I went to see what was happening.
It was a gloriously sunny day when I arrived at the temple, to find the shrine room full of worshippers. But I stayed outside, where the owners of Tibetan terriers had brought their dogs. They were waiting for the flag to be raised. Children ran around, and I saw them climbing the steep slope that leads to the Peace Pagoda.
When the prayers ended everyone came outside. I watched as the flag was pulled to the top of the temporary flagpole in front of the temple. Then the flag was lowered to half mast, and I heard the Tibetans sing their national anthem.
After the anthem I noticed attempts to get everyone together for a group photo, but the crowd wasn’t paying attention. I stepped forward and raised my voice. “Group photo! We’re having a group photo!” I soon chivvied them into position; the trick is to boss the crowd around a bit, but I did it with a smile on my face.
I got into position, but something was missing. “Wave your flags! Everybody wave your flags”. The Tibetan flag is very colourful and it’s the whole point of the event. They waved their flags, I took photos.
A few people set off to walk or jog around North Willen Lake, carrying or wearing a flag. It’s a good mile and a half, so it wasn’t to long until I saw them returning to the temple, job done.