Grenfell at Parliament

August 20th, 2018

May 14th saw protesters from Grenfell Tower and the surrounding community protesting outside Parliament as MPs were to debate a petition with 150,000 signatures calling for the Prime Minister to appoint a panel of decision making experts to sit alongside Sir Martin Moore-Bick in the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry.

The petition reflected the fears of the community and many others that the inquiry will turn into a deliberately long-winded affair which acts to prevent real investigations into those responsible for the tragedy. The debate and protest came exactly 11 months after the fire, and many there would be going on to take part in the silent walk which has taken place every month on the 14th of the month, the day of the fire last June.

So far much time has been wasted in getting to the truth, and while various independent investigations have told us a great deal there has been little movement by the police who are apparently investigating some aspects.

The inquiry so far appears to have been mainly an attempt to put blame for the number of deaths onto the fire fighters, who the community who watched them working regard as true heroes, working in terrible conditions to save lives.

Had the building been up to the proper specifications, with non-flammable cladding, there would have been no deaths. If the fire doors had met the specifications more lives would have been saved. Had the building had the wet riser it should have had, rather than a dry riser, fighting the fire would have been much easier. The specialist fire engine needed for the tall building had to come from Surrey (which doesn’t have that many tall buildings) as London didn’t have one, probably due to the cuts made by the then London Mayor Boris Johnson, which also left the fire fighters short-handed. And so on…

Obviously the main blame has to be with the Kensington & Chelsea council and the organisation it set up to manage its council housing, which appears to have deliberately set out to reduce safety standards and to have carried out modifications to the tower at least partly for cosmetic reasons and with little or no regard for the safety of residents. It also failed to respond to legitimate complaints from residents, instead labelling them as troublemakers, and refusing to give them proper information about the work that was being done.

Given the severity of their offences it will be hard to think that justice has been done unless some of those concerned end up in jail. But this seems unlikely, with our political and justice system conspiring together as usual in such cases to cover up and obfuscate, with one of their main tactics being delay. Eleven months on, police had still apparently not yet interviewed any of the key figures who might be involved in prosecutions under oath.

Quite a few of those active in the community protests were also at the Windrush protest a few days earlier. Many of those living in Grenfell, and among its victims were migrants and others see links between the two causes.

One of the groups that has been most active over Grenfell is the Revolutionary Communist Group, and they were at the protest with their banner and posters. They advocate a more active approach than the silent marches which have taken place (and in which they have joined), and have organised stalls on Ladbroke Grove on Saturdays as well as a noisy march to protest outside the homes of some of the councillors and protests outside council meetings. Although there was a wide range of speakers at the event, including two Labour shadow ministers, Diane Abbott and Richard Burgon, local MP Emma Dent Coad and the SNP’s Joanna Cherry, and no real shortage of time, the RCG were refused permission to speak at the main microphone, and instead spoke using their own PA system a few yards to one side. The decision not to give them a platform appeared to be part of a long-running feud between them and the much larger Socialist Workers Party, which it would have been good to have seen put to one side for the sake of Grenfell.

Grenfell Parliamentary Debate Rally

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Windrush shows Tory racism

August 19th, 2018

Stand Up to Racism came to Downing St to call for Theresa May’s racist 2014 Immigration Act to be repealed and for an immediate end to the deportation and detention of Commonwealth citizens, with those already deported to be bought back to the UK.

Although the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush has brought the treatment of people of Commonwealth origin back into public debate, this is not a new problem. It has its roots in the kind of attitudes which we had to our Empire. The British Empire was – at least financially – a very good thing for Britain, making the country wealthy and putting the Great in Britain, which without it would have been a small country on the edge of Europe.

It was the wealth from the Empire (much of it based on slave and exploited labour in our colonies) that built our great cities and which enabled us to pursue the kind of industry and education which provided the opportunity for the Industrial Revolution in which British scientists and engineers played such a leading role.

Of course there were many great myths of the empire, including a conviction of racial superiority which enabled us to see it as a civilising mission as it was destroying existing civilisations. And it wasn’t all bad, and at least in some places it did improve the lot of some of those who became British, and, at least until 1948, all those born anywhere in His Majesty’s dominions were automatically British subjects, as well as any child whose father was a British subject and any woman who married a British subject. These rights, which existed under Common Law, were codified by the 1914 Aliens Act.

Things became more complicated after the Second World War – and many British subjects from across the Empire fought in both World Wars. The 1948 British Nationality Act made all of us in the UK and its remaining colonies a ‘Citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies’ and until 1962 this generally included the right to come and live and work in the UK. The Commonwealth Immigration Act brought in under Harold Macmillan then removed that right for Commonwealth citizens and immigration controls were then put in place. Edward Heath’s 1971 Immigration Act brought in a new concept, patriality, restricting the right of abode to those who were born in the UK, or had parents or grandparents who were born here. This actually prevents some British nationals from living here and is in breach of international law and the Fourth Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Further restrictions came with Margaret Thatcher and the British Nationality Act 1981, which essentially set the current pattern. All the major restrictions on immigration have been brought in under Conservative governments, though there were some minor changes when Labour was in power, including the right to deprive people of British nationality.

Theresa May’s personal contribution during her time at the Home Office was the establishment of a ‘hostile environment’ through the Immigration Act 2014. Perhaps even more important than the actual legislation was the creation of a hostile and uncaring culture within the Home Office, and her work with the UK Border Agency and its replacement in 2013 by the UK Border Force and Immigration Enforcement.

Windrush rally against Theresa May
Windrush Immigration Act protest

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There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images

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Andrea Bruce

August 17th, 2018

According to the NOOR web site, “Andrea Bruce is an award winning documentary photographer whose work focuses on people living in the aftermath of war.” So it perhaps made her an obvious choice as photographer for a recent New York Times article, ‘In Britain, Austerity Is Changing Everything‘ by Peter S Goodman.

Both text and pictures are interesting and illuminating, though much of what Goodman writes will be familiar to those of us living in the UK. But I particularly admire Bruce’s images and her use of space, as well as the range of images and the research and gaining access that must have gone into the project. She obviously had a very good ‘fixer’, often the unsung heroes of documentary photography.

You can see more of her work on the NOOR web site, where there is also a short biography of this American photographer born in 1973. She also appears on the World Press Photo site for her Soldier’s Funeral which was awarded second prize for single photos in the Daily Life section of the 2014 WPP awards.

Some of you may also be able to access her own web site, but on my normal browser all I get is a white screen with the message ‘Click to enable Adobe Flash player‘ which fails to respond to my clicking. I tried on a second browser and just got a dark grey filling the screen.

There are several videos of her on-line, including one on a workshop she gave in Bali, a shorter one of her talking about her approach and another of her talking about her ‘Our Democracy’ project in the USA.

Notting Hill Carnival- Café Royal Books

August 16th, 2018

It’s carnival time, or almost so, though I’m not sure I will be going this year. I came late to Notting Hill, only discovering it in the 1990s but was immediately captivated by it, our largest street festival. For the next fifteen or so years I went every year I was in London, spending two days taking photographs and then a further several days recovering my hearing. Carnival is a hugely visceral experience, where you feel the sound and your whole body vibrates, and I wanted to try and capture something of that in my pictures.

Of course carnival is a very colourful event, and I did photograph it in colour, but somehow it was the black and white images I also took (and some years only took) that somehow managed – at least for me – to convey the spirit of the event.

Some of these pictures were among the first of mine to be put on a web site, Fixing Shadows, back in 1994 or 5. Fixing Shadows was one of the earliest web sites to show photographs on an internet that was only just beginning to display images as well as text. The site is still on-line, though the scans, made on a black and white only flatbed scanner, while effective, are not quite up to current standards.

Later, J David Sapir, who as well as setting up Fixing Shadows, a site ‘concerned with photographs of historic interest and with contemporary straight photography in general‘ was editor of the Visual Anthropology Review, commissioned fellow academic George Mentore to write the leading article in the Spring/Summer 1999 edition (Volume 15 number 1), Notting Hill in Carnival in which, as well as his writing about Notting Hill in particular and carnival in general from an anthropological viewpoint, also featured 20 of my pictures, each accompanied by a sometimes lengthy comment by Mentore.

Those of you with JSTOR or similar academic logins will be able to read it, but those without can only access the first page of the text  – and none of my photographs – without payment. (The issue also contains an excellent article by Darren Newbury, Photography and the visualisation of Working Class Lives in Britain, illustrated by work by Paul Trevor, Nick Waplington and Paul Graham.)

Since 1999 a few of the pictures have appeared here and there and in 2008, twenty of them were a part of a show ‘English Carnival‘ in London’, also still on-line.

I’m delighted to say that Café Royal Books have now published ‘Notting Hill Carnival in the 1990s‘ and for a mere £6.00 you can buy a copy of this 36 page issue with 18 of my pictures, including just a few that I’ve not printed or published before.

Notting Hill Carnival in the 1990s

More from a long May Day

August 12th, 2018

The rally outside Parliament to publicise the dangers of Lyme Disease and call for government action had no particular connection with May Day. The Chronic Lyme Disease Support Group UK has been campaigning for some years to get the NHS to take Lyme disease more seriously and to get better testing and treatment for sufferers, as well as to raise public awareness of the danger of tick bites and the correct way to remove ticks from pets and people. It isn’t clear why the NHS is so reluctant to take action over the problem.

I was fortunate to have photographed one of their earlier protests in May 2015, a few months before taking a holiday in Silverdale. Both I and several of my friends on the holiday suffered from ticks, finding them attached to various areas of our bodies. Not all ticks carry Lyme disease, but the risk is greatly lessened if the ticks are removed as soon as possible, and usually this is a fast and simple process with a tool such as the O’Tom Tick Twister, available from vets, many chemists and, of course, on-line. They aren’t expensive, and cheap versions are available that probably work as well and they must cost virtually nothing to make, and it would be good to see them made readily and freely available at surgeries etc. If you ever walk through grass or forests you should get one.

The protest outside the Home Office was taking place not because it was May Day, but as the as the Home Office intended to carry out a mass deportation to Jamaica later in the week. Despite it being in the middle of the Windrush scandal, the flight would include members of the Windrush generation – although the government is very concerned to make the right noises about Windrush, it hasn’t greatly changed the institutional racism of the Home Office and the racist attitudes put into law in Theresa May’s 2014 Immigration Act.
Against Deportation Charter Flights

Fortunately the times of these two events made it possible for me to leave the May Day march as the end of it left Clerkenwell Green and rush down to Farringdon station to catch the Underground to Westminster to cover both, before rushing back to the Strand to meet the May Day marchers on their way to the rally in Trafalgar Square.

My next event began at the rally, where precarious workers had decided to gather for their own action. A couple of them spoke as a part of the May Day rally before that ended and they moved off. They first went to the Ministry of Justice, where cleaners in the UVW are demanding to be paid a living wage – the London Living wage – and to be directly employed by the Ministry so they get the same conditions of service as comparable workers there. At the moment they are employed by cleaning contractors and get only the statutory minimum conditions – as well as providing bullying managers.

Next they marched to Kings College, where cleaners are also campaigning to be directly employed by the college and held a rally there. At the nearby Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, they met briefly with the open-top bus which had spent May Day touring offices across London where cleaners from CAIWU are demanding the London Living Wage and better working conditions.

I stayed at the Royal Opera House with CAIWU while the other precarious workers went on to protest elsewhere in the West End. The protest there was noisy but fairly short and I was soon on the tube on my way to Brixton for the final event of my day.

The emergency protest outside Lambeth Town Hall, Lambeth Housing Tell Us the Truth, was poorly attended, reflecting the general lack of interest in local politics. Most people only think about the actions of their local councils when it is too late – and they find their council homes are being demolished. It had been called because the ruling Labour Party manifesto for the local elections coming up in a few days was making ridiculous claims about its housing policy, stating ‘By early 2018 we had over 950 homes completed, being built or already approved by Lambeth’s cabinet …’ The actual number completed by May 2018 is thought to be 8 or 9, and the council is engaged in a large-scale programme to demolish council estates together with private developers and replace them with expensive private housing with only a token proportion of social housing.
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There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images

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A Sort of Home – David Hoffman

August 11th, 2018

Finally today I managed to get to see David Hoffman’s show A Sort of Home: 1970s Whitechapel at Gallery 46 in Whitehchapel. I’d been very disappointed to have to miss the opening because of a nasty stomach upset last month, and finding a time to get out to Whitechapel was a problem as I’ve been rather busy and also away from London for some time. But today I got on a 25 bus and made the rather slow journey there, and it was well worth the trouble.

If you haven’t already seen the show you haven’t got long as it is only on until August 15th, which is next Wednesday. According to the web site the gallery is open 12 – 6pm, but hidden on the contact page is the information that it is closed Sunday and Monday, so that means your only chance is now Tuesday or Wednesday. Also rather discretely it is only on the contact page that it discloses that the gallery is at 46 Ashfield St, E1 2AJ – which is tucked away behind the Royal London Hospital. You walk south down Turner St, which seems to be a part of the hospital site, almost directly opposite the new Whitechapel Station Entrance, and Ashfield St is a couple of hundred yards down on the left.

Plenty of people had found it when I was there earlier today – one of the best attended small galleries I’ve been in for a long time. As well as the prints on the wall there is also a short audiovisual presentation, which I think displays the pictures rather better. For my taste some of the prints on the wall are a little dark and lacking in contrast and don’t do the great images any favours.

If you can’t make it you can see some of the work on the Gallery 46 web site, where 10 of his prints are for sale. But for a greater selection go to his own web site, particularly the ‘Fieldgate 20’ page.

As a small bonus for visiting Gallery 46, you also walk past one of the better 1930s block of flats in East London, which I photographed rather better in black and white some time in the 1980s for an (as yet) unpublished book with the provisional title ‘London Moderne‘. Gwynne House, architect Hume Victor Kerr, a block of 20 modern flats for ‘students, social workers and professional people in east London’ was completed in 1938. For some years it was owned by the hospital for its staff, but they sold it in 2011 to a company that modernised its interior and gave it portholes on the doors. Go a little further south along Turner St to 9-17, and you come to another of Kerr’s buildings, Comfort House, built in 1932 as a factory and showroom for gown manufacturer M Levy.

May Day

August 10th, 2018

May Day has been a big day for me ever since I left a full-time teaching post, when most years I would be at work – unless it happened to fall at the weekend. One of the many changes I hope the next Labour government will make is to replace the silly Early May Bank Holiday on the first Monday in May – brought in by Jim Callaghan in 1978 and called ‘May Day’, with a real May Day bank holiday on May 1st every year.

May Day was an ancient festival to mark the first day of summer (and such celebrations exist – as in the London May Queen Festival and others I photographed which you can view some pictures of in my book preview – and more in many posts on My London Diary.

Since around 1891, May 1st has also been celebrated as a socialist festival, usually called May Day, but often also referred to as International Workers’ Day, Labour Day or Workers’ Day, the date chosen in memory of the Haymarket massacre in Chicago in 1886, where a bomb was thrown at police as they attempted to disperse what had been a peaceful rally of trade unionists. Eight anarchists – none of whom had actually thrown the bomb – were convicted of conspiracy, and seven were sentenced to death, though the sentences on two were commuted to life imprisonment. The trial was widely criticised as a miscarriage of justice and the three men still alive were pardoned and freed in 1893. The massacre was on May 4th, and the date of May 1st was almost certainly chosen because it was by tradition May Day.

Every year the London May Day Organising Committee’s May Day March gathers at Clerkenwell Green and marches to a rally in Trafalgar Square. Ever since I’ve been attending the event it has been dominated by some of London’s migrant communities, from countries where May Day is a much more significant event, although there are also quite a few trade union branches taking part with their banners.

This year, as in previous years there have also been other groups taking the opportunity to protest, some more closely related to International Workers’ Day than others – and I’ll write about some of those in a separate post. But because May Day is not a Bank Holiday, there are also May Day marches that take place on other days, and in Croydon trade unionists and others met to march through the town centre to a rally at Ruskin House in celebration of May Day on the following Saturday rather than on International Workers Day.

London May Day March meets
May Day March on the Strand
May Day Rally
Croydon march for May Day

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There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images

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Muybridge’s Horse

August 7th, 2018

I don’t recall coming across the blog Muybridge’s Horse before, which is a site featuring artists whose work relates to the way we interact and experience animals and nature run by Emma Kisiel who lives in Portland Oregon.

It was drawn to my attention by a post featuring work by Carl Corey from his series Americaville, which you can see in more depth on his own web site and in particular in his Americaville blog, which appears to have been running since November 2016, though the photographs on it are undated. A feature on Slate suggests that Corey began the project in 2014, and you can hear him talk about the project on Wisconsin Public Radio in 2016.

You can find out more about Corey and see more of his archive and current projects on his impressive web site (a few may still need telling that the symbol with three horizontal lines close to top left indicates the menu.)

Corey’s work attracted my attention so much that I completely forgot about Muybridge, who I’ve previously written about elsewhere at some length. He came from Kingston, on the edge of London, close to where I was born and not far from where I live, and a few years ago in 2007 I took part in an exhibition with two other photographers, Paul Baldesare and Mike Seaborne, in the museum there which houses a display on Kingston’s most famous son, though the work which made him famous was made in California. Kingston Museum has put together a web site about him with the local university which is perhaps the best introduction to his work.

So much is written about Muybridge and is available on line that adding more would be superfluous, but perhaps I might link to the web site on our show at the Kingston Museum, still on line some years later, Another London, and a picture from Kingston in 2006, a very different place to that which Muybridge knew.

Birth of the Fake News Photo

August 6th, 2018

Another splendid piece by Kenneth Jarecke on Medium, Birth of the Fake News Photo takes a look at the principles that grew up (if unevenly) to produce the ethical basis of photojournalism and their more recent undermining, in particular by World Press Photo.

Jarecke writes with beautiful clarity, and is (as Wikipedia states) an American photojournalist, author, editor, and war correspondent. He has covered “everything, from wars to Olympic Games, in all corners of the world”.

You can see some of his fine photographs on his own web site, and at Contact Press Photos – of which he was one of the founding photographers.

His web site also contains a age worth reading in which he outlines his philosophy, which is also worth reading.

More on Windrush

August 3rd, 2018

The march from Parliament Square to the Home Office was unusual in that it was called and organised not by a group, but by one incensed individual, Sara Burke who wrote that “the government’s abhorrent treatment of those from the Windrush generation is a national embarrassment”. Other groups including Docs Not Cops, Stand Up to Racism, Movement for Justice and the Socialist Party joined in to support her initiative, but it did give the event a slightly different feel.

The event began with people gathering in Parliament Square, where there was some organised chanting mainly led by people from Stand Up to Racism and the Socialist Party, but Sara Burke declined to speak there and led a rather quiet march through Parliament Square and on to the Home Office, insisting that the marchers kept to the pavement.

Sara Burke did give a carefully prepared speech outside the Home Office, and there were other speakers including from all of the supporting groups.

A few of the same people were back on Monday afternoon for a protest during the parliamentary debate on a petition with 170,000 signatures calling for an amnesty for all the ‘Windrush reneration’ who arrived here up to 1971, calling for a change in the burden of proof  – instead of individuals being assumed illegal unless than can prove their right to remain, it should be up to the authorities to prove that they arrived after 1971 or are otherwise not entitled to stay, and calling on the Home Office to provide compensation for any loss and hurt they have caused.

Among those who spoke was Harold, above, who came to this country legally in the 1950s and and has worked here since, but  who the Home Office has been refusing a passport and was threatening with deportation, others whose parents and grandparents are from ‘Windrush’ families, and anti-racism campaigners including NEU General Secretary Kevin Courtney and Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott.

Windrush march to Home Office
Protest supports Windrush amnesty debate

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There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images

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