Updated: Mar 7, 2021
The fashion icon Vivienne Westwood stood on this World’s End concrete slab next to her shopfront and revolutionized punk rock fashion in ‘70s London. But some might remember this piece of pavement from the late ‘90s when a smaller maverick staged a protest. Every school morning after we dropped off her older brother at the nursery, my 16-month old daughter laid down here on the ground in a very large X.
The pedestrians instructed to climb over the blockage could not know that this was not just your average toddler meltdown but a lie-down rally against a UK nursery school that would not admit her until she was 2.5 years old. She saw the age bias as not only unjust but unreasonable since she was admitted on the same school grounds every Saturday in a Japanese playgroup made up by a mother who found a loophole in the system so her children could play with other children of her mother tongue.
This Sunday is International Mother Language Day, a day to champion mother-tongue languages at work, in schools, and at home. And if your family has a mix of languages like ours does, Sunday is a day to enjoy them all. Because what I really learned on Vivienne Westwood’s ‘90s pavement was that children hunger for their own mother language – whatever mash was at the table.
Two seasons after my daughter’s protests on Vivienne Westwood’s pavement, the nursery admitted her. She was just shy of two when she began to learn to play in English.
Happy International Mother Language Day!