LSE Cleaners dispute starts

June 22nd, 2017

As a part of the LSE‘s 3-day ‘Resist’ Festival organised by Lisa McKenzie the United Voices of the World trade union which many of the LSE’s cleaners belong organised a meeting to launch their campaign for decent and equal treatment. The cleaners work in the various buildings around the LSE campus but are not employed by the LSE who use an outside contractor, Noonan, to employ them.

Outsourcing contracts like this are generally awarded to the cheapest bidder, and the companies involved cut costs by providing minimum standards – low wages and statutory benefits – and increasing workloads, employing fewer cleaners to do the same jobs. Workers are also not provided with proper safety equipment and many suffer health problems. Low wages for supervisors and managers also mean they generally get less competent managers – and at the LSE there were allegations of illegal favouritism and discrimination, and of generally being treated like dirt. Outsourcing results in these essential staff working in the LSE under conditions of service far worse than any that the LSE would offer to those directly employed – and also in lower standards of cleaning.

Our large trade unions that have traditionally represented low paid workers such as these have in many organisations failed lower paid staff and particularly out-sourced staff such as these, often being more concerned about maintaining pay differentials than getting better pay and conditions for the lowest paid. Language too has often been a problem, with many of these workers being Spanish speakers. So as at many other workplaces, the cleaners have joined grass roots unions formed and run largely by workers like themselves, often with support from academics and campaigners for social justice, such as the UVW. And because these unions are active and successful, many managements refuse to grant them recognition.

As well as seeking equal conditions of service to workers in similar grades directly employed by the LSE and to be treated with dignity and respect, the campaign at the LSE was also one for union recognition.

I was pleased to be able to attend and photograph the meeting, chaired by the UVW’s General Secretary Petros Elia, which was attended by many of the cleaners as well as their supporters including LSE students and staff, among them a whole group of students from the LSE’s new graduate course on equality issues and LSE Students Union General Secretary Busayo Twins.

All present were shocked when one of the cleaners, Alba, stood up and told us how she had been unfairly sacked that week after 12 years of service at the LSE, and the demand ‘Re-instate Alba‘ was immediately added to the campaign.

I was pleased that several of the photographs I took at this event were used by the UVW in promoting its campaign, and to be able to come back and photograph many of the protests and pickets that were a part of the fight for justice. Even more pleased to read a few days ago the following statement from the UVW:

UVW is proud to announce that the LSE cleaners will be BROUGHT IN-HOUSE and become employees of the LSE from Spring 2018! This will ensure they get, among other things, 41 days annual leave, 6 months full pay sick pay and 6 months half pay sick pay, plus proper employer pension contributions of up to 13% of their salary.

This is the most significant victory for any group of workers in UK higher education today, and will hopefully set a precedent to follow for other degraded outsourced workers across the country.

LSE Cleaners campaign launch

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Nanas Tea Party

June 20th, 2017

Continuing yesterday’s theme (Strong Women) the following Tuesday I made a rare visit to Buckingham Palace, not to see the Queen but to meet with the ‘Nanas from Nanashire‘ who are leading the campaign against fracking the the UK.

At their head is a remarkable woman, Tina Louise Rothery, who as well as leading protests against fracking sites has also stood as a Green Party candidate in elections in Tatton in 2015 (against George Osborne) and in June 2017 for Fylde. Unfortunately JUne 8th wasn’t a good day for the Green Party nationally, and though Fylde is a pretty safe Tory seat, there was a large swing to Labour which probably included many who would have preferred a Green candidate. But until we get a decent proportional representation system, British democracy remains something of a sham.

One of the Green Party’s two co-leaders, Jonathan Bartley came with the Nanas (I think Caroline Lucas was busy in Parliament) but it was very much an occasion for the women. Tina Louise is only one of a number of remarkable Nanas.

Unfortunately, the Queen hadn’t replied to the Nana’s invitation to have tea with them, and hadn’t had the courtesy to invite them in onto her lawns around the back of the palace – probably one of the few sites in the country not under threat from fracking, so they had to have their tea party around the rather hideous Victoria Monument in front of Buck Palace.

Protests are definitely not allowed there, but this, the Nanas assured the police was not a protest but a tea party, and certainly it is a place where many tourists settle down to snacks watching the rather boring building and the daily changing of the guard. The police agreed they could sit there, but told them that they mustn’t display banners or posters.

So we had tea and coffee and scones with strawberry jam and cream and I think some cake I didn’t photograph but ate. And the Nanas being who they are, they did ignore the police orders and held up their banners so they could be seen from the palace and then posed with them for photographers with the palace behind – until a police officer climbed slowly up the steps to tell them to put them away.

With the Nanas was one eco-warrior whose disguise as a Nana was less than convincing – and someone like several of the Nanas I know from various protests over climate and other issues over the years.

I was sorry when I had to leave the group around the monument – where they stayed for over 24 hours. But I had to catch a train and my ticket was only valid before what the rail company designates as the rush hour.

Shortly after I left a man arrived to try to serve to serve a court order on Tina Louise Rothery.  Fracking company Cuadrilla are trying to end protests against their drilling by  bullying her “for camping in a field, doing no damage and exercising a right to protest peacefully”.  As the only named defendant she was ordered to pay an excessive bill for deliberately ramped up legal charges by Cuadrilla after she failed to submit her defence against their injunction by a deadline in what the legal firm who later gave her advice called a legal process many professional lawyers would have struggled with.

After Tina Louise refused to give the court details of her financial circumstances in June she was charged with contempt of court, but when she returned to court 3 months after this protest with details showing she was unable to pay the fees, the contempt charge was purged, with the court apparently showing some annoyance at Cuadrilla for pursuing the case.

And considerable adverse publicity – partly because protests like this one resulted in widespread coverage of the case – were probably behind Cuadrilla’s decision not to further pursue their claim – though they muttered about possibly doing so if her financial circumstances change. I suppose if she were to win the lottery they might get their money, though I suspect she has the sense not to waste her money on a ticket.

Nanas call on Queen to stop Fracking

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Strong Women

June 19th, 2017

I’m not sure how much it reflects on me and the entirely sexist world I was brought up in back in the days of the fifties. Even in the sixties when I became politically involved, many still regarded the role of women to be to darn the socks of the revolutionary man. Though I hope I didn’t share that view, but I’m sure there are still traces of that prehistoric past in my make-up. And it still surprises me a little how many of those that I photograph and admire as political activists are women. I’ve not made any accurate census, but so many of those who first come to mind are women, and many of my favourite images are of women.

But perhaps I just like women. They often seen far more sensible than men. Photographing people isn’t just a technical thing, and it works better at least for me when there is a certain rapport or at least empathy. But perhaps I’m straying into sensitive territory and will find gender police of various sympathies swooping down on me talons outstretched (surely a sexist metaphor but what metaphors aren’t.)

On Saturday 24th September last I photographed three protests which were or seemed to be dominated by women (and the fourth, Release the Craigavon Two would perhaps also at least seem that way from my pictures.) Focus E15 started as a group of unmarried mothers in a council funded hostel under threat of eviction who got together and decided to fight to be rehoused in London, and were celebrating three years working together on a campaign which has widened into one fighting for proper housing for all and an end to social cleansing, particularly in their own entirely Labour borough of Newham, but also more widely.

The celebration took place on the wide pavement at Stratford Broadway where they hold a weekly street stall, and there was music and dancing and it was one of the few protests at which I’ve been handed champagne, which still tasted pretty good from a plastic cup. Almost all of the speakers at the rally were women, and so were most of those taking part.

From Stratford I made my way to Brixton, where Ritzy Cinema workers, men and women, were striking for a living wage. There were rather more women than men visible, and rather more of the men seemed to be hiding behind some large masks.  The picture above was a slight disappointment and would have been better, but as I was carefully framing it, another photographer walked into the frame at the right hand side, spoiling the composition. I’ve cropped him out but had to lose a little more too, and though I still like the picture, I can’t look at it without thinking of the one that I just missed.

Of course I did photograph the men too, and there are one or two decent pictures starring them, but in general it is those with women in the lead that are most interesting. Judge for yourself at The Ritzy’s Back for a Living Wage.

My final protest of the day was at the Polish Embassy, called by Polish Feminists against the introduction of new laws outlawing abortion  proposed for Poland  in solidarity with the 5th annual March for Choice in Ireland against the strict anti-abortion laws there condemned by the UN as ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading’.

The colours of the head dress of this woman speaking are of course those of the Polish flag, and I carefully positioned myself to get the Polish eagle on the Embassy frontage  to her right. It wasn’t possible to get enough depth of field for this to be sharp, but I stopped down as much as I could under the lighting conditions.

This was a ‘black protest’ with many of those taking part dressed in black, and the black doors of the embassy made a good background, though careful exposure and a little help in post-processing made the figures stand out better. I wasn’t ‘directing’ the woman holding up this octagonal placard, and it took a little patience and luck to get the framing I wanted.  And although the verticals were quite close to vertical as I took them, a little massaging in Lightroom was needed for the final image. Some agencies would not approve, but this was what I saw and tried to achieve when I was taking the picture and I’ve no qualms about using a little electronic help in this way.

Of course I took other pictures, but given the nature of the protest they too were mainly of women. You can see some of them at Polish Women’s ‘Black Protest for Choice’.
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Hull Photos: 1/6/17-7/6/17

June 16th, 2017

1 June 2017

When I scanned this image for the Hull photos site I couldn’t remember where I had taken it, looking up somewhere from the south and east at the R&W Paul silo which still dominates the area close to Scott St Bridge, though now with the name Maizecor. Before taking it I had walked along Lime St and then turned down Jenning St to cross Scott St bridge – something which is unfortunately not now possible.

Working from the picture I’m now sure it was taken from the end of Scott St beside the river, probably from inside the urinal, now long demolished, which was tucked into the corner beside the River Hull and presumably drained into it. Much of the urinal wall in the bottom third of the picture has been knocked down, though a section remained last time I walked past and the concrete lamp post is still there. Quite a sizable tree has now grown in the corner from where I think this picture was taken.

33g25: R&W Paul silo from Scott St urinal, 1982 – River Hull

2 June 2017

The pipe bridge across Lime St is still there, between the riverside wharf on the right and the storage area at the left of the road. The lorry leaving the wharf is from Cargill, a company who, according to their web site have only been operating in Hull since 1985 and operate the ISIS mill in Morley St. Cargill is a giant US private company founded in 1865 and still owned by the Cargill family, with most of its business in food and agricultural products.

The pipe bridge now carries the name ‘IBL Bulk Liquids’ and LIme St is one of two company sites in Hull, the other being at the King George V dock. They began in Hull in 1947 with “a few small tanks on the river Hull”, presumably at this site, storing latex imported from the Far East but now offer a wide rang of bulk liquid storage in Hull. They also offer other services in Hull, including a public weighbridge, and you can see a small sign for this in front of the tanks at the lower centre of the picture.

The vertical tanks, one with a spiral stair around it are still there, just to the south of Hodgson St, but most or all of the others have now gone, although there are still storage tanks along the street. At the end of Lime St the building on the corner close to North Bridge is still there, though no longer a bank. It was at one time a bar, but was empty when I photographed it in February. Some buildings remain on Lime St, but others have been demolished.

33g35: Bulk storage, Lime St, 1983 – River Hull

3 June 2017

Another view of the Hull Ships Stores on the west bank immediately downstream from North Bridge, with at left the remains of the old North Bridge at the end of Charlotte St, and above that the rear of Hull College. Hull Ships Stores, a ship supplies warehouse built in 1870, architect RG Smith, were Grade II listed in 1994, a few years after they were converted into flats in 1989 as Northbridge House.

33g52: Hull Ships Stores, Charlotte St, 1982 – River Hull

4 June 2017

It was the name ‘Hull Truss & Surgical Co’ in a curve around the arch above the doorway which I’m sure made me photograph this shop front in Dock St on several occasions, though I never made my way inside. It obviously appealed to others too, as although the shop is long gone, the name has survived and has been repainted on the section of the front wall still standing in a similar fashion above the bricked up doorway. I deliberately framed the ornate bracket above the doorway to make its truncated form resemble a crucifix, seeing the building as a kind of temple to the mysteries within.

The arch has been plastered over and the name repainted in bolder pale blue letters with a white drop shadow effect, and the door and window filled in. It is no longer a shop but simply a brick wall in front of a parking area between ‘The Purple Door’ lap dancing club and a chunky concrete block on the corner of Dock St and Grimston St.

Then the window display was crowded with boxes and posters of body belts, elastic support stockings and tights and condoms. I never saw anyone enter or leave and it seemed tot be on its last legs, with peeling paint. The sun blind was faded, tatty and dirty, and I think no longer ever in use and there was a curious kind of stained glass panel in the top section of the window. Whatever had once been painted on two dark panels inside the archway was no longer visible. The white-painted brick made it a little tricky to photograph, and I’m not sure I ever got the exposure quite right.

Dock St is of course now nowhere near a dock, running parallel to and a short distance north of Queen’s Dock, closed in 1930 and bought by Hull Corporation who partially filled it in during the 1930s to provide a slightly sunken and rather boring public garden, though it does sometimes have some nice flower displays. A “major public realm design competition” for the gardens and neighbouring Queen Victoria Square was announced by Hull Citybuild in 2006, but though much needed appears never to have happened.

33g53: Hull Truss & Surgical Co’. Dock St, 1982 – City Centre

5th June 2017

Great Union St is a street that most living in Hull avoid, or drive down quickly on their way to Hedon Road or the A63, not a street with a great deal to offer other than traffic. It ran from close to North Bridge to the Hedon Rd, and now continues on to Garrison Rd.

The office through whose window I took this picture was not far south of North Bridge, and the building reflected in it may still be there, just beyond Hyperion St on the East side of the road. Where the office stood is now the parking area at the front of ‘The Crossings’, a hostel and centre for the homeless.

I photographed the interior of this office on several occasions, always from the outside when it was locked and empty.

The poster at right is for Ruston Marine Diesel Engines, a company which dates back to the 1840 engineering and millwright firm started by James Toyne Proctor and Theophilus Burton in Lincoln in 1840; Joseph Ruston joined them as a partner in 1857, but Burton didn’t get on with the new partner and left the following year and the firm became Ruston Proctor & Co. They had great success building traction engines and steam locomotive and had 1,600 employees when they became a limited company in 1889.

During the First World War they were Britain’s largest builder of aircraft engines, producing them for 1,600 Sopwith Camels. In 1981 they with Richard Hornsby & Sons of Grantham, becoming Ruston & Hornsby Ltd.

Rustons were unsuccessful when they tried to become car manufacturers after the First World War, building cars that were too heavy and too expensive (perhaps based on their wartime experience as builders of some of the first tanks) but soon became a major producer of small and medium size diesel engines for gas turbines, railway locomotives and marine use.

Rustons were taken over by English Electic in 1966, who moved diesel projection to their Stafford and Newton-le-Willows factory, and later became part of GEC, whose logo is at bottom left of the poster. The gas turbine division which remained in Lincoln was later merged with the French company Alsthom and was sold to Siemens in 2003.

The ship in the poster is the 1597 tonne coaster Surreybrook, built in Selby in 1971. She sailed under a whole string of names – 1982 Romana – 1990 Lito – 1991 God Spirit – 1993 Aquarius – 1994 Serenade – 1998 City Of London, although a photograph taken of the CIty of London shows her original name still faintly visible. Berthed in distress in the harbour at Marseilles in January 1999 she left only to be towed away to the breakers at Aliaga in Turkey in September 2003.

PoLadaire is a trade mark of Porter-Lancastrian Ltd of Bolton who made refrigeration equipment, vital for freezing fish at sea and conveying other perishable goods, and at the extreme left is part of another poster about diesel engines with the GEC logo.

But the main point of the picture for me when I took it was the empty plinth, protected by ropes. I saw it as signifying the state of industry, particularly the fishing industry, in Hull. Though a few months later when I walked past again I made another image in which the plinth was occupied.

33g61: Empty plinth, Great Union St, 1982 – East Hull

6th June 2017

I took what was for me at the time the remarkable number of six frames with more or less the same view (this was the first) as the boat moved slowly away under Drypool Bridge downriver, the final three in portrait mode to capture more of the reflection at left.

The buildings at the extreme left are still there, though I think re-roofed, and the tall buildings behind of what is now the Gamebore cartridges but was then part of Rank’s Clarence Mills are still there but now off-white. The main building of the Clarence Mill behind the ship is now sadly gone – a great loss to Hull – and as yet nothing has taken its place, with plans for a hideous hotel to provide beds for Hull’s year as city of culture having fallen through. Also gone now is the warehouse building just the the right of the bridge, and the sheds of the dry dock at right.

The bridges across the Hull opened fairly regularly back in 1982, causing long holdups in the traffic, but openings now are rare events, and much of the traffic goes over the Myton Bridge which has a much greater clearance above the water. Few if any vessels come up the River Hull now which would need it to swing open.

33g62: River Hull and Drypool Bridge, 1982 – River Hull

7th June 2017

Joseph Rank Ltd had mills both north and south of Clarence St immediately to the east of Drypool Bridge, and both were largely destroyed by bombing and the subsequent fires in May 1941.

The mill to the north of Clarence St was rebuilt and in part was the Blue Cross Animals Feed premises which remained in use until around the mid-1980s when the site became the Gamebore Cartridge Company. Blue Cross was Rank’s trade name for animal feeds.

33h12: Blue Cross animal feed mill, Clarence St, 1982 – River Hull

You can see the new pictures added each day at Hull Photos, and I post them with the short comments above on Facebook.
Comments and corrections to captions are welcome here or on Facebook.
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Grenfell is Political

June 15th, 2017

I just couldn’t get down to writing yesterday morning. I woke to hear the terrible news of the fire at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, and couldn’t stop thinking about the people who were trapped inside as it burned. News was coming through at a great rate on Facebook, and it was soon evident that this had been a disaster waiting to happen, a result of the managed neglect of social housing over the years under many governments, and in particular of the lack of effective and updated regulations about building safety. I could write more, and already at least one MP has described what happened as murder and called for prosecutions for corporate manslaughter. There are certainly calls for justice, and it will be hard to see it done unless people end up in prison for their deliberate actions in failing to properly address the concerns clearly made by residents of the tower, failing to ensure that their homes were safe.

RCG with their impressive housing banner at the entrance to the London Real Estate Forum

Of course the agencies I send pictures to would have liked pictures, but I decided not to go. Other photographers closer than me to the area were already covering it, and there would be little I could add, and already it was the centre of a huge media storm which certainly would not make life easier for those affected. I don’t criticise individuals who went to report – and some certainly several friends did a fine job – but we do have a problem with far too many people covering major events such as this, while the news media neglect the lies and policies that are behind such tragedies.

Sid Skill of Class War with a poster ‘Regeneration is Killing People’

If I had a particular connection with the area I would have gone, but I don’t. One friend is a former resident of the tower, but now lives miles away, and I used years ago to visit another who had a studio half a mile away, and would sometimes walk around if I had some time to spare. Otherwise, I’ve sometimes walked along the street on my way to Carnival – its only a short distance west of Ladbroke Grove, and in an area many would think of as Notting Hill rather than North Kensington. But later in the day I was attending a protest which had a strong connection with the events there.

What was he doing in the London Real Estate Forum?

Notting Hill is of course one of the wealthiest areas of London – and I’ve been in one or two houses not far from here that are probably now worth £5m or £10m or more. It’s an area that has suffered from gentrification though some individuals have benefited greatly, and there is little doubt that Kensington & Chelsea Council would like to see estates like that containing Grenfell House demolished and sold off for private development, a process they would call ‘regeneration’.

Tory MPs – 39% of them landlords – voted down a proposal to ensure properties are “fit for human habitation”

And I suspect that councillors from K&C where present at the London Real Estate Forum along with those from Southwark, Lambeth, Newham, Barking & Dagenham, Croydon, Ealing, Hackney, Haringey, Enfield, Waltham Forest, Ealing, Westminster and elsewhere, all keen to sell off public land for private development, destroying in the process the homes of many Londoners, and building private flats for the wealthy, including many overseas investors who largely don’t even want to live in them, just watch their value increasing and then sell on to make a profit.

Letting them know what people think of them

Although these councils being in London are largely Labour councils, it is hard to see this event – backed Labour Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan and sponsored by Labour’s real estate advisors Savills – as anything other than a class war, part of a wholesale policy of social cleansing of London, making it impossible for those in low paid jobs – and even key workers like teachers and nurses to afford housing in the capital. As one New Labour Mayor told people being evicted who complained about being offered private rented properties in Manchester or Wales rather than housing in his borough “if you can’t afford to live in Newham – you can’t afford to live in Newham!“.  Now that Labour is finally getting behind it’s elected leader, housing is one area where policy needs a total rethink and a new direction. Unfortunately Shadow Housing Minister John Healey’s recent report Housing Innovations inspires little confidence that they are capable of doing so.

London Co-operative Housing Group’s new report ‘Co-operate Not Speculate’

It isn’t surprising that people are angry about this – and about the Grenfell Tower fire – and that Class War and the Revolutionary Communist Group outside the Mayfair venue were calling the architects, developers and councillors going into the event ‘Scum’ and ‘Parasites’ and sometimes worse. There are people making polite and reasonable arguments – including the London Co-operative Housing Group who were there too with their new report ‘Co-operate Not Speculate‘ and others putting forward closely argued rebuttals of the rush for profit at the expense of people – and detailed plans for the real regeneration of council estates – such as Architects for Social Housing, but on the morning of London’s most disastrous fire since the Blitz and with almost certainly more deaths than the 1666 Great Fire of London, anger seemed entirely justifiable.
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Deeper, Stronger…

June 14th, 2017

I’ve not before come across David du Chemin, but his 3 Shortcuts to Deeper, Stronger Images expresses well many of my own thoughts and teaching about photography.

Its worth reading what he has to say about them, but the 3 shortcuts are:

Study Photographs Not Cameras.
Focus Your Attention, Not Just Your Lens.
Expose Your Soul, Not Just Your Sensor.

I feel happy about spilling the beans here, because although they give you the gist, you really need to go and read his piece to fully understand what he means.

Of course it isn’t novel. Strikingly similar to what I tried to deliver to students in my 30 or so years of teaching – and of course many others. And if you want to know more you can also read duChemin’s new book,  The Soul of the Camera ,which has its own web site where you can download some sample material.

I do have a few minor quibbles, not least that cameras don’t have souls, though some of mine definitely do have a perverse character of their own – and one that changes the camera settings when I’m not looking. I also wonder how someone can stretch out what is basically a fairly simple idea into around 25 chapters and 250 pages.  But what I’ve seen is good advice and could certainly be useful to some, though others might find it better to just get out there and do it.

This, I find, is only one of a number of books that duChemin has written, one or two of which have titles that do a little suggest the kind of learning tricks approach he denigrates. But rather than buy his books you might also be better off buying and studying those of the great masters of photography. And if your bookshelf is already stuffed with well-thumbed copies of the works off Edward Weston, Walker Evans, Gene Smith, Cartier-Bresson and the rest you probably don’t need this one!

Standing Rock

June 13th, 2017

The brutal suppression of the Standing Rock protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline on the orders of President Trump shortly after he came to power will I’m sure have consequences unseen by him in the longer term, both in terms of the US coming to terms with its own history and of course climate change.

The London protest in solidarity with Standing Rock seemed a slightly surreal event, with only a small handful of those present having any native American heritage, or even any great knowledge of their religion and customs taking part in a protest that was also a religious ceremony. It took place in front of the London US Embassy, which has always appeared to me, perhaps appropriately, as a symbol or brutality and mindless force.

My own ideas of what was undoubtedly a lengthy process of genocide in the settling of the USA by European immigrants were formed in my youth by Hollywood and the games of ‘Cowboys and Indians’ that were a part of every child’s growing up in the 1950s. Having two older siblings in games with them and their friends I was always the ‘Indian’, with a brown loose decorated shirt and a rather chunky rubber tomahawk (actually a rather more effective weapon capable of serious bruising than the much flashier shiny plastic six gun I later graduated to wielding on the other side.)

Later too we played with bows and arrows, more serious weapons still, with the green pea sticks that shot at some force could certainly have caused serious eye damage, but our hero then was Robin Hood, and we were champions then of the poor against the dastardly rich and oppressive Sheriff of Nottingham.

But while Robin and his merry men might have been something of a positive role model, back in the day those Indians were clearly losers, shown as cruel and deceitful and little or nothing of their more spiritual and environmental views came across. They stood in the way of progress, and progress slaughtered them – and under Trump still does.

Now of course we are at least beginning to realise (other than Trump and his dinosaur friends) that the world has to change and we need to take account of nature and to live in harmony with it. Natural resources are finite and we have to limit our pollution of the environment to a level that nature can deal with in a way that allows our own lives to continue. Not living as those original Americans did, but embodying some of their spirit.

London Stands with Standing Rock

A few days ago, the New York-based Wallace Global Fund presented the inaugural Henry A. Wallace award to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe for its brave resistance in defending sacred land and water against the Dakota Access Pipeline. In addition to the $250,000 prize, the Tribe will receive up to a $1 million investment from the Wallace Global Fund to support its transition toward fossil fuel independence.

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Passing Clouds

June 12th, 2017

Gentrification is happening in all of what once were the working-class areas of London, and Dalston is no exception. It’s partly a matter of increasing land values – and land and its ownership is at the bottom of most things that are wrong with Britain, as it is land that is the basis of our class system. Although I wouldn’t quite go along with Proudhon and say that all “property is theft”, clearly the current ownership of land comes largely from actions over the centuries which have appropriated what was once a common resource. The enclosures of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries notably led to riots even in the more conservative areas of the country.

As the pattern of work in London has changed over the years, with the destruction of the capital’s remaining industries which had long been declining before Thatcher put the axe in, working class jobs have become more and more concentrated at the bottom end of the service sector, with fewer opportunities for the higher pay enjoyed by skilled workers.

At the same time – and again thanks to Thatcher – we saw a decline in social housing, with council homes being sold off under the ‘right to buy’. It gave a nice windfall to those able to enjoy it, though many later found themselves unable to keep up with their newly acquired properties, many of which were bought up by others and are now expensive private lettings.

People in the new jobs that have been created look for areas of London they can afford to buy property. Years ago that included the working class areas of inner-city London, but now they are more and more likely to have to move to the outer suburbs and face long commutes. But those on higher salaries can still afford the £1m plus in the inner boroughs.

Years ago in the 1980s I started to photograph former industrial sites in London, many then derelict and empty. Some had already been demolished and converted into boxy and expensive private flats, particularly those in more favourable locations. Others became artists studios or community facilities for a while, providing a way of maintaining them in at least basic repair while their asset values increased and increased.

Lenthal Works, where the Hackney Gazette was printed from 1890-1958, was refurbished in 1995 as part of a regeneration scheme. In 2006 it became a popular arts centre for cultural and musical events, and Passing Clouds was celebrating its 10th anniversary when it heard that their landlord – had secretly sold the site for development to ‘Landlord Developments’ who were about to evict them, with the loss of around 100 jobs. In its place would be built ‘luxury flats’ many of which will probably never be lived in, simply acting as investments for over-rich foreigners, mainly in the far east, who buy such properties and re-sell them when rising property prices have generated a hefty profit.

Passing Clouds occupied their venue, but were evicted following a court order.  Several months later they were talking to Landlord Developments about buying the venue, but there have been no further announcements, other than that they still hope at some time to re-open, though I think in a different venue.

The protest was a carnival procession from Hoxton Square by many of those who were regular attenders at Passing Clouds, and we arrived there to find a group of African drummers around a glowing fire. The crowd was densely packed and I could feel the heat on my face from the embers, and more so when pouring capfuls of white rum onto them sent a ball of flame up into the air. The 16-35 16mm fisheye enabled me to capture something of the scene and atmosphere, but rather too much of the atmosphere was getting into my lungs and I soon had to move back.

The protest was scheduled to move on for more music and dancing and speeches in Dalston Square, but I decided it was time to go home and have some food.

More at Save Passing Clouds.
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Hull Photos: 25/5/17-31/5/17

June 9th, 2017

I seem to be getting a little behind with these posts. Sorry, we’ve been a little preoccupied in the UK with an election lately. But I have managed to keep posting a picture every day to Hull Photos.

25 May 2017

Weeds have sprung up around the base of the noticeboard for Hull Docks Bye Law No 43, but the sign is still in good condition, though hardly needed as the swing bridge and lock gates are no longer in operation.

There is still water in the entrance lock, and also some in the dock beyond, though much of it was badly silted after almost 7 years of closure. On the dock side opposite are rows of caravans, newly made and waiting to be sold, and behind them, on the other side of the hidden railway tracks, industrial buildings around West Dock St, some still recognisable – I think Batty Joiners and buildings at the rear of GFG Plastics.

The railway tracks were soon to be replaced by the South Docks Road, under construction in 1984 and renamed the Clive Sullivan Way after the death of the famous Welsh rugby league star from cancer aged only 42. He played for both Hull and Hull KR and became the first black captain of any British national sporting side in 1972. His 250 tries in 12 years at Hull remains a record for the club (and there were another 118 for Hull KR.)

32t42: Hull Docks Bye Law No 43, St Andrew’s Dock, 1982 – Docks

26th May 2017

This notice ‘ALL CREWS TO BE DOWN BY 11AM FOR ORDERS OR SUBSTITUTES WILL BE FOUND’ was in surprisingly good condition and suggests that this office in a building on St Andrew’s Dock may still have been in use, despite the dock having closed almost 7 years earlier.

I cannot now recall exactly where this door was at St Andrews DOck, but it must have been in a fairly dark area to have forced me to use flash to record it. Although I carried a small electronic flash unit in my camera bag, it was seldom used, not least because the results were not entirely predictable – and you only found out if they had been successful when the film was developed. Later I bought an expensive flash meter which removed most of the doubt.

British United Trawlers Ltd had led to move from St Andrews Dock, to accommodate its large freezer trawlers, but the move to William Wright Dock (the western end of Albert Dock, next to St Andrew’s Dock) took place as the Cod Wars with Iceland’s 200 mile limit and further restrictions from EU entry meant there was almost nowhere for Hull’s fleet to fish. Two Hull family firms J Marr and Boyd Line survived in the later years. Boyd was taken over by the Icelandic company Eimskip in 2002 and Marr bought by Reykjavik based UK Fisheries, part of the Samherji group in 2006.

My flash technique was rudimentary in the extreme – the flash mounted on the hot shoe of the camera. This was probably taken with an Olympus OM2 which had one of the most advanced flash systems then available, the TTL OTF Auto Flash Exposure Control system which allowed the camera to meter flash, rather than relying on a photo-cell in the flash unit or, more often, a calculation using the flash guide number and the subject distance.

32t43: Notice to fishing crews, St Andrew’s Dock, 1982 – Docks

27th May 2017

This was the western end of those two pipes which can be seen on the opposite side of the dock entrance. In my picture they appear to descent from the heavens, but in reality they came from the first floor of the building to my left, out of site as I took the picture, then identified as ‘Industrial & Maritime Riggers Limited’ but formerly the former Boston Deep Sea Fisheries Ltd office and the Sea Fish Industry Authority.

The Bullnose was named for its shape, jutting out in to the river at the mouth of the St Andrew’s Dock entrance channel, and apparently men who had not found a place on a crew would wait there in the hope of jumping down into a trawler that was leaving shorthanded if the skipper gave them a signal they were wanted.

When I took the picture the only fishermen were those with rod and line, but it is now the site of one of several memorials to the trawlermen of Hull who sailed from here never to return. Fishing was one of Britain’s most dangerous occupations, with no safety laws once on board, casually hired crews and skippers with absolute authority. Effective trade union organisation only came to Hull after the 1968 loss with all hands of the St Romanus and the Kingston Peridot – 40 men. The TGWU set up a meeting but it was the women of Hull, led by ‘Big Lil’ Bilocca, who took effective action. The men knew that if they spoke out they would be blacklisted by the trawler skippers and owners.

Women had traditionally been kept away from the fish dock, their presence thought to bring bad luck, but Big Lil led a group of women to the dock, resolved to prevent any trawler leaving without a radio operator on board to call for help if necessary. There was a huge fight as Big Lil tried to board the St Keverne when she heard there was no radio operator on board, watched and reported by the press – and though the women failed to stop the boat, the owners sent out a radio operator to the ship as it went down the Humber.

The women’s action persuaded the men they should take action too, and a crew refused to sail because of the poor condition of their life-jackets. The loss of another trawler, the Ross Cleveland, a few days later – with only one survivor from a crew of 19 – brought matters to a head, with the women going down to see the Labour government in London with the demands of a fisherman’s charter. New safety rules were introduced as a result – saving the lives of many not just in Hull but in ports around the country.

32t44: The Bullnose, St Andrew’s Dock entrance, 1982 – Docks

28th May 2017

The outer dock gate can just be seen under the pipes crossing the dock entrance, which can here be seen to go along the side of the building immediately to the west of the entrance, here named as ‘Industrial & Maritime Riggers Limited’.

The dock had at this time been out of use for almost seven years, and although there was some water beyond the lock it was severely silted up. The pipes are no longer there, but the lock is now full of mud and there is no access across the lock gates, though you can walk around where a new roadway has been laid across the dock entrance where there used to be a swing bridge.

32t53: St Andrew’s Dock entrance, the Bullnose and pipes, 1982 – Docks

29 May 2017

There is still a canopy over a loading bay here, although the factory is now Maizecor rather than R & W Paul Ltd, and there is still a concrete post with the sign for Scott St, and some way down the road the postwar council housing, and that decorative fence between Wincolmlee and the now vestigial end of Scott St is still there, but the buildings in the centre of this image have disappeared, replaced by some uninspired metal sheds and yards, doubtless much cheaper to maintain and serving a useful purpose.

The building which is on the corner of Catherine St and Scott St appears to have been built as the Vulcan Iron Works (unsurprisingly a common name for iron works) for Tindall & Co, Ironfounders. Around 1900 it was owned by Messrs Tindall, Earle and Hutchinson Ltd, Marine and General Engineers who among other things made engines for steel screw ships. In 1904 the works was divided and sold; among the occupants after this was H Smith & Co, Electrical Engineers, who may have made the lamp post on the corner in my picture.

It does seem a shame that a building which surely could have been renovated and put to new use like this has been lost – but its fate is so common in Hull. Had this and the nearby Scott Street Chapel been kept, this area with its still existing buildings on Wincolmlee, the hydraulic power station in Machell St and the listed Scott St Bridge would have been an interesting area and certainly one worthy of conservation.

33g12: Wincolmlee and Scott St from Jenning St, 1982 – River Hull

30th May 2017

An unprepossessing 20th century industrial building probably on Wincolmlee who made electrical harnesses – bundles of cables and connectors – for various makes of cars and other vehicles. Apparently Auto-Sparks Ltd Hull dates back to an electrical business founded by Mr Henry Colomb on Beverley Rd in the 1920s. Auto-Sparks Ltd was incorporated in April 1942 and a history page on the web site of its successor company, Autosparks reproduces the original company logo from 1954 when it was registered as a trade mark.

After the original owner and manager retired in the 1980s Auto-Sparks got into difficulties and collapsed in 1991. It was bought and moved to Sandiacre in Nottingham by R D Components who were specialists in classic motorbike and car harnesses and they took over the name as Autosparks, and in 2005 became Autosparks Ltd.

This picture was taken in December, and my attention was drawn to the building by the Christmas decorations drawn on its first-floor windows. And by wondering whatever an electric harness was.

33g21 Auto-Sparks Ltd, Electric Harness Manufacturers, Wincolmlee, 1982 – River Hull

31 May 2017

One of Hull’s Grade II listed buildings, Scott St Bridge, a hydraulically-powered double bascule bridge, was opened in 1901, and was ‘temporarily closed’ in November 1996. The operating machinery has since been removed – though the official listing in 1994 says it was renewed late C20 and calls the bridge ‘complete and operable’ which suggests that it has been deliberately allowed to deteriorate by the council.

An application was made for consent for partial demolition of this bridge in 2007, apparently to save the small annual maintenance cost of the bridge in its fixed upright condition. The cost of a full refurbishment to put it back into use was estimated at £3-5m, but some feel a rather cheaper solution could be engineered to allow pedestrian and cycle use. Some Hull Council members were extremely keen for it to be demolished, but plans were abandoned as it was thought unlikely that the necessary consent would be obtained from the Government Office.

There were surprisingly few objections to its demolition, with the Environment Agency, Hull Society, the Humber Archaeology Partnership and the 20th Century Society raising no objections. A ‘historical audit’ was carried out apparently concluding “the bridge should not be kept”. Fortunately English Heritage, the Victorian Society and the Ancient Monuments Society stood firm. English Heritage because a council demolishing a listed building it owned would be a bad example and the AMS realising its “intrinsic and historical value”.

As someone who has often had to detour on my walks, I find the conclusion that “there are alternative bridges crossing in the vicinity for pedestrians and cyclists as well as vehicles” unsatisfactory. It adds around 900 metres to a journey from Scott St to St Mark St via North bridge or around 1100m via Sculcoates Bridge. Obviously this was a statement made by those who only ever travel by car.

The whole story of this bridge – and of the failure to conserve other buildings in the area – is a part of the cultural snobbism that regards industry and the monuments of industry as of little or no value. Given the tremendous importance of this country in the industrial revolution and scientific and engineering advances of the nineteenth and 20th century this is ludicrous. It’s a prejudice that English Heritage at least did a little (though not enough) to combat with its listing of structures such as this in the 1990s.

At the right of the picture is Grosvenor Mill and beyond that a ship is moored at a wharf – unfortunately the image is not sharp enough to read its name because of depth of field. All of the buildings visible on the bank beyond the mill are now demolished.

33g22: River Hull, downstream from Scott St Bridge, 1982 – River Hull

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June 8th, 2017

I can’t remember when I first met and photographed Jeremy Corbyn, but it was probably in the early 1990s, though I might have seen him speaking from a distance at earlier events. It’s only easy to search my pictures since I started covering events with a digital camera – and here he is in 2004 in a protest against the torture of Iraqis by US troops:

And another from 2004, compering London’s annual Hiroshima Day event in Tavistock Square in August:

He spoke too in May 2005, supporting Palestine, when I commented “Jeremy Corbyn, not so happy to be missing the football as his local team were winning the cup, is another fine speaker.”

In November 2004 he was at Kings Cross at an event remembering the tragic fire there, and calling like the other speakers for proper safety procedures – which as I wrote “are particularly vital when as well as accidental disasters such as the king’s cross fire, the safety of the system is also threatened by deliberate terrorist attacks.”

These pictures are from my early days working with digital, and I’m sure I would now make them look better if I had time to go back and re-process them from the raw files. I was disappointed with Adobe when they bought out a technically superior product, which I still had but no longer worked with a new camera, and brought out Lightroom (though they did give us a free copy of the new software) but many versions later it has become considerably more powerful.

I’ve photographed Corbyn many times since then – and this is just one of many pictures from last year, with John McDonnell taking a picture for a supporter who is standing with him. But since he became Labour leader it has been rare to be able to do so without a scrum of other photographers pushing and elbowing to get a picture – and often I’ve just not bothered. And while in the past he always had time to stop for at least a quick word, now he gets rushed away by aides.

As well as taking pictures I’ve also listened to him speaking on many occasions, public and private and have always been impressed (even if I haven’t always agreed.) I’ve no idea how today’s vote will go but if he gets elected I’m sure he will go down in history as a worthy successor to the likes of Atlee, arguably the best prime minister of the last century. And the argument that he would oversee a worse job of negotiating over Brexit than Theresa May is frankly one that only billionaire newspaper owners can take seriously. If you have huge amounts in overseas tax havens it will be in your interest to get out today and vote Conservative. Otherwise I think it’s time for a change and I hope enough people agree with me to get it today.

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