Page last updated at 23:01 GMT, Tuesday, 20 January 2009

UK supporters marking 'Obama Day'

People gathered across the UK to celebrate the inauguration of the first black president of the US, Barack Obama.

BBC News' Anna-Louise Taylor spent the day reporting from events being held to mark the historic changeover.

2000 GMT: DEMOCRATS ABROAD INAUGURATION BALL
Laure Paguio
Laurie Paguio said it was an honour to celebrate in London

At the Democrats Abroad Inauguration Ball at the Royal Lancaster Hotel at London's Hyde Park, 1,050 people sat down to enjoy a black tie dinner in President Obama's honour.

Spokesperson John Scardino, who used to work in Washington DC, said: "I saw these pictures today and I saw those crowds as far as the eye can see - it really is an extraordinary show of support.

"The celebration is a recognition of a sense of unity... even Republicans are supportive and deferential about Obama, as since he was elected he has reached across the aisle and included McCain, demonstrating what kind of cabinet he'd have."

Democrat Laurie Paguio, 22, from Washington DC, said: "It's awesome to be here, an American on this day, a start of a whole new chapter in the world."

Joni Tyler and Kelly Falconer
Joni Tyler and Kelly Falconer said it was "overwhelming"

Dual citizens Joni Tyler and Kelly Falconer, originally from Ohio and Florida respectively, said it had been a very moving day.

"I've been crying all day, it has been so overwhelming, and watching it on TV, it was so magical, I felt part of something so wonderful," Ms Tyler said.

"I've been a Democrat since I was 16, and this is a vindication of that.

"I wish Dr (Martin Luther) King had been able to see it."

Ms Falconer said: "I hope America's status in the world will change for the better."

1800 GMT: TEXAS EMBASSY CANTINA
Shanay Norvell
Shanay Norvell from Atlanta wanted to celebrate with fellow Americans

Hundreds of people packed into the bar to watch Obama being sworn in as president, and about 50 or so more watched through the windows from the street.

People were waving American flags and were draped in them too, cheering and clapping throughout the speech before erupting at the end in a standing ovation.

Shanay Norvell, 33, from Atlanta, Georgia was one American away from home who wanted to be with her countrymen on the occasion.

"The highlight was watching (Mr Obama) speaking about all the ways we will change, in that we will become friends again with everyone in the world, and it's America's goal to make friends again with other nations.

"He's a man of his word and we're offering our hands out to help, but I also liked the way he said that if anyone is against us, we won't back down.

Megan Ryan
Student Megan Ryan praised Mr Obama's vision and inspiration

"I definitely hope his presidency will bring his whole motto and mission of change with it, he has such a great energy and I want his office to keep that energy going when things get rocky."

Megan Ryan, 19, said she "loved it".

"His speeches are so inspiring, he really has a vision and it is really different from what we have had for the last eight years - he has a vision for social and foreign policy," she said.

"I loved it when he said we were willing to take anyone's hand who was willing to unclench their fist, that's a great step for the US and for the rest of the world."

Mancunian Matthew Douglas, 26, said: "My friend is here to celebrate Obama's swearing in, and I'm here to celebrate George W. Bush leaving."

"One of the best bits of Obama's speech was when he seemed to forget half a sentence when he was taking his oath, that shows he is still human."

His friend, Michael Moseley, 21, a musician from Tampa, Florida, said: "On the whole, Obama brought everyone together, and he discussed religion, which they (presidents) don't normally do when they are sworn in.

Matthew Douglas (l) and Michael Moseley
Some said they were also celebrating the departure of George W. Bush

"I'm an atheist, but I thought that was really beautiful."

Writer Gillian Bagwell, 49, said it was "hard to take it all in".

"It was overwhelming… I expected erudition and eloquence and it was," she said.

"I've spent a lot of time in the UK, and almost never spend time with people from the US and I wanted to see it around other Americans.

"We're sorry for Bush. It has really been exciting watching how other nations and the rest of world have been following it. Finally we have change and it feels good to be American again."

1600 GMT: MADAME TUSSAUDS
Waxwork of Barack Obama surrounded by tourists
US citizens were given free entry to see Mr Obama's waxwork

Many US citizens who are not on American soil decided to seek out the next best thing to meeting Obama in person.

That is, having their photo taken with the wax figure of the incoming president in Madame Tussauds.

The London landmark offered all US citizens free entry if they showed their passports at the door, attracting thousands.

Student Whitney Prior, 21, from Chicago, said she was "really excited".

"It's a dream come true for me - to see Obama in office, not the figure I mean!

"Obama used to live in the neighbourhood, so I've seen him in the neighbourhood in Chicago, and I've voted for him two times. The figure does look like him!"

Quinn Lewandowski, 21, is a student from Pittsburgh. "I love Barack Obama," he said.

"I wish I could be there today, it's only down the road from Pittsburgh.

"Most of my friends are going to the inauguration and I wanted to mark it in some way."

Michael Durikas, 28 from New York, said: "It's a new shot, a chance to undo the last eight years and take the country in a new direction.

"I think it's great to see. I've voted three times and this is the first time someone I voted for got it."

1400 GMT: BERNIE GRANT ARTS CENTRE, TOTTENHAM
Gina Moffatt
Gina Moffatt joined in the children's celebrations by having her face painted

About 400 members of the black community were expected at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre in Tottenham, north London.

They enjoyed traditional African and Caribbean food and music, as well as watching the events unfold on a big screen.

Gina Moffatt, 32, is a caterer and took her children to get their faces painted - then she decided to join in too.

"My kids came down this morning and got it done and I thought: 'I want something!'

"I went to Tesco with it done and everyone was waving and celebrating at the tills. I wanted to get into the spirit of it."

Community worker Nia Bellot, 40, took her seven-year-old son El-Hajj along so that he could "always remember a piece of history".

"I wanted him to celebrate the day, this historic occasion, it's especially historic for him as a black child," she said.

"They won't do anything about it at school and as a parent I thought it was important to give him this memory."

El-Hajj and Nia Bellot
Nia Bellot wanted son, El-Hajj, to remember the "historic occasion"

The Bernie Grant Arts Centre was named after the Guyana-born politician who became Europe's first black council leader in Haringey in 1985, and later served as a Labour MP.

And the event has been used to launch Bernie's List, a project aimed at getting more Black and Asian people into Parliament.

Dawn Butler MP said: "This is about getting grass roots people, people Bernie represented, I represent, and Obama represents, into politics, and making change.

"We have enough qualified, talented Black and Asian people and we want to get them into Parliament."



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