Pagan Pride – Beltane Bash

May 25th, 2022

Pagan Pride – Beltane Bash: From 2004 to 2010 most years I photographed an event in central London where neo-pagans held a procession to celebrate Beltane, though for some reason they did so on the last Sunday in May rather than at the traditional time of Beltane, on or close to May Day. Perhaps the date was chosen so that those taking part in the event had the following day, the late May Bank Holiday, to recover. The event was the public part of a day-long event taking place in the Conway Hall, which backs onto Red Lion Square where the parade assembled.

Wikipedia describes Beltane as the Gaelic May Day festival, and says that historically it “was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man” but “had largely died out by the mid-20th century” before being revived by Celtic neopagans and Wiccans in the late 20th century. Here’s some of what I wrote about the 2008 event which took place fourteen years ago today on Sunday 25th March.

Pagans – or rather neo-Pagans – place great importance on nature and the cyclical nature of the seasons. Women play a very important role in most pagan beliefs and Goddesses as well as Gods, all generally linked to nature are often involved in their ceremonies and women play important roles in them.

Nature seemed not to be too kind to them as the rain bucketed down as the participants were supposed to gather, with only a few braver members (and some with umbrellas) coming out of the hall, but fortunately for them and the photographers it soon eased off, finally almost stopping as the parade got under way.

The fountain in Russell Square could have been designed with them in mind, with a strongly phallic character in the water jets, which in normal use rise and fall, but were left to flow at full strength for most of the ceremony. At first the group danced around the fountain in rings with hands joined, but then many of them started to run through the centre, many getting soaked. Even the drummers, who at first stood on the edge providing a rhythm for the dance, eventually ran though the jets, and finally so did the Green Man.

Pagan Pride – Beltane Bash

I photographed the event for the final time in 2010, though I’m not quite sure why. Possibly the organisers made changes for the following year, or perhaps I looked through my pictures and found I seemed largely to be repeating myself each year. But my work was becoming increasingly political, thanks at least in part to the changing political situation with Labour losing the 2010 general election, and I was covering fewer cultural events.

It was also becoming more difficult to cover events of all kinds, as there was a huge increase over the years in the number of spectators at events such as this, with both more photographers coming to take pictures and many others with camera phones also getting in the way. Particularly those viewing a screen at arms length seem to be much less aware of others around them and in particular generally have no idea that it might be impolite to walk in front of others who are taking pictures!

More at Pagan Pride – Beltane Bash


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More Deptford And A Little Greenwich

May 24th, 2022

My walk continued along Stowage where my previous post ended to St Nicholas, Deptord Green, and then south through Deptford.

Church Gate, Skull, St Nicholas, Deptord Green, Deptford, Greenwich, 1988 88-10f-54-Edit_2400
Church Gate, Skull, St Nicholas, Deptord Green, Deptford, Greenwich, 1988 88-10f-54

Playwright and spy Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) was apparently killed in a house in Deptford on 30th May 1593 and buried in an unmarked grave in this churchyard at St. Nicholas’s Church. A web page, Death In Deptord gives the known facts and also various conspiracy theories. He had been arrested a week earlier on a charge of atheism, then a serious crime for which those found guilty could be burnt at the stake. Surprisingly he was granted bail.

He came to Deptford to escape the plague which was raging through London and was at a meeting in a private house there which is thought to have been a safe house used by government agents, and was dining there with three other spies, all connected with the secret service set up by Marlowe’s patron, Sir Francis Walsingham, to protect Queen Elizabeth from Catholic assassination plots.,

Surprisingly the lengthy Coroners Report by the Queen’s Coroner kept secret at the time was only rediscovered and published in 1925. It describes the killing as a result of a dispute over the bill and names his murderer – who was given a royal pardon 28 days later. Many have thought the inquest was a cover-up and that either the death was a planned assassination by the security services or that Marlowe was not killed but smuggled out of the country to escape his prosecution and possible burning for heresy.

Deptford High St, Douglas Way, Deptford, Lewisham, 1988 88-10f-45-Edit_2400
Deptford High St, Douglas Way, Deptford, Lewisham, 1988 88-10f-45

This shop on the corner of Douglas Way is still a Halal Butcher. There was a barbers until around 2016 in the shop on Douglas Way still with the perhaps unfortunate name of H Nicks, but that and the two further shops have changed hands and are now rather more colourful, with barbers Tuttii Fruitii, Divine Beauty Hair Salon and Good Friends Chinese Restaurant and Takeaway reflecting the vibrant multicultural mix of Deptford.

Deptford High St, Deptford, Lewisham, 1988 88-10f-34-Edit_2400
Deptford High St, Deptford, Lewisham, 1988 88-10f-34

The shop on the left, closed in 1988 is now Omed Uk Ltd, African Textile & Novelty, and Richard Stone Mans Store is now DAGE, Deptford Action Group For The Elderly but that on the right, though with a new sign is still in much the same business as Deptford Cobbler. The buildings appear to have changed little. Most times when I’ve walked along here since the street has been busy with market stalls, but these pictures were made on a Sunday morning when there was then no market.

Deptford High St, Deptford, Lewisham, 1988 88-10f-35-Edit_2400
Deptford High St, Deptford, Lewisham, 1988 88-10f-35

There was a pub here in 1788, though the street was then called Butt Lane. It was part rebuilt in the late 19th century with the frontage rebuilt at some time between 1868 and 1894. Originally called the Red Lion and Wheatsheaf it became The Distillery in the 1890s and at other times in the early twentieth century simply as the Red Lion. It reverted to its original name around 1930 and closed as a pub in 1961-2.

The Wenlock Brewery in Wenlock Road Hoxton owned a large number of pubs across London and was bought up by Worthington – part of Bass – in 1953 and closed in 1962.

Mumford's Mill, Greenwich High Rd, Greenwich, 1988 88-10f-22-Edit_2400
Mumford’s Mill, Greenwich High Rd, Greenwich, 1988 88-10f-22

I walked across Deptford Bridge and a short distance up Greenwich High Road to photograph Mumford’s Mill which is on the east bank of Deptford Creek. The Grade II listed silo with the date 1790 was a later addition to the site, added in 1897 and built in an elaborate Italianate style by one of the leading architects of the day, Sir Aston Webb, along with his partner Edward Ingress Bell who got his unusual second name from being born in Ingress Park a few miles down the river at Greenhithe.

The 1790 mill was possibly a tide-mill – and there is a tidemill site here on the west side of the Creek, for some years a neighbourhood park but now after a fight by local residents failed to save it being redeveloped for housing. The early mill was soon replaced by two early 19th century three storey stone grinding flour mills.

But by 1897 this was a state of the art flour mill, with roller mills powered by steam. In the 1930s it was bought by the Rank Group, founded in Hull by Joseph Rank who had set up the first modern flour milling business in the UK there in 1875 and milling was soon ended. Parts of the premises were used by various companies, but much was apparently empty for several decades until converted to residential use early this century.

Greenwich High Rd, Greenwich, 1988 88-10f-23-Edit_2400
Greenwich High Rd, Greenwich, 1988 88-10f-23

I continued up the Greenwich High Road to these two adjacent contrasting doorways just off the road in Burrgos Grove. Wellington House is 2 Burgos Grove while the property at right, in 1988 shared between Joule Electrical Ltd and the Inner London Probation Service is numbered as 34 Greenwich High Rd. Probably both properties date from the mid-19th century. No 34 was extensively rebuilt in 2012 but the doorway and facade were retained.

Deptford Broadway, Deptford, Lewisham, 1988 88-10f-24-Edit_2400
Deptford Broadway, Deptford, Lewisham, 1988 88-10f-24

I walked back to Deptford Bridge and west to Deptford Broadway. Now this would mean going under the Lewisham extension of the Docklands Light Railway, opened in 1999. Should you be here it is worth going up to the platforms of Deptford Bridge Station which gives some of the better views of Mumford’s Mill and other parts of the area, and taking the train north to Greenwich to see more of Deptford Creek.

The north side of the Broadway has a remarkable variety of architectural styles and includes a group of five houses at the right of this picture Grade II listed as a group at 17-21 consecutive, thought to be all of late C17 origin, though all much altered later. Next is Broadway House, dated 1927, followed at 13-14 by what is probably a late-Victorian property and then a fine piece of 1930 Art-Deco – in my picture ‘Antique Warehouse’ but built for ‘Montague Burton, The Tailor of Taste’. Unfortunately I was just a few months too late to photograph the Deptford Odeon, designed by George Coles in 1938, but demolished earlier in the year – and the billboard at extreme right was in front of its empty site.

To be continued in a later post.


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Gitmo, London Uni, Ethiopia, Israel & Ukraine Miners

May 23rd, 2022

Gitmo, London Uni, Ethiopia, Israel & Ukraine Miners – Protests in London on Friday 23rd May 2014 included those against the continuing illegal detentions in Guantánamo, redundancies for support workers at London University, killing and human rights abuses in Ethiopia and those supporting hunger strikes in Israeli jails and strikes by miners in Ukraine.


Obama keep your promises – Trafalgar Square

A year after President Obama again pledged to close Guantánamo, activists in black hoods and orange jumpsuits in London and 40 other cities reminded him of yet another broken promise and called for the urgent release of Londoner Shaker Aamer – prisoner 239. The protest in London was part of an international day of action coordinated by the US organisation Witness Against Torture.

In the year since Obama made the promise only 12 prisoners have been released and 154 remain, subjected to appalling conditions, beatings and daily abuse of their human rights. Former London resident Shaker Aamer’s family in Battersea include a son born a few months after his capture by bandits in Afghanistan. He was one of the first transferred to Guantanamo and has been there over 12 years, despite having been cleared more than once for release.

More at Obama keep your promises.


Defend UoL Garden Halls workers – Senate House, University of London

The IWGB trade union protested at Senate House, the headquarters building of the University of London demanding proper consultation and negotiation over the redundancies of 80 workers at the University of London’s Garden Halls in Bloomsbury.

Those under threat of losing their jobs include porters, cleaners and security guards and include many of those who are active in the continuing struggle for proper sick pay, holidays and pensions in the ‘3 Cosas’ campaign at London University.

Although most of the workers are members of the independent union, the Independent Workers of Great Britain, both the University and its contracted employer Cofely refuse to talk with the IWGB and recognise instead more compliant traditional unions with few if any members among the workers. The IWGB states “many of these workers have been at the University of London for decades” and “the University bears responsibility for the treatment of these workers, regardless of the fact that their roles are contracted to private companies.”

The lunchtime protest was a noisy one with with workers using a megaphone, drums, whistles and shouting to make their demands heard. They intend to come back every Friday until the end of term or until management engages in meaningful talks over the issues.

More at Defend UoL Garden Halls workers.


Oromo and Ogaden against Ethiopian killings – Old Palace Yard, Westminster

Oromo and Ogaden National Liberation Front supporters had come to protest opposite Parliament over the Ethiopian government’s killing of Oromo university students peacefully protesting the grabbing of Oromo land and calling for the release of political prisoners.

There are around 30 million Oromo living in Ethopia and adjoining areas of Somalia and they are the Largest ethnic group in the country; their language is Africa’s third most widely spoken. There were a number of democratic kingdoms in the area before they were conquered in the late nineteenth century by Abyssinian emperor Menlik II, aided by the European colonial powers and their modern weapons. Around half the Oromo are said to have been killed in these wars and since then successive regimes have made determined attempts to destroy Oromo identity – its language, culture, customs and traditions.

This oppression continues, now with the help of the US government who since 9/ll have worked with the Ethopian government as part of their worlwide fight against “terrorism”, according tto BBC Newsnight and and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism “using billions of dollars of development aid as a tool for political oppression” with programmes of deliberate starvation of communities, and “of mass detentions, (and) the widespread use of torture and extra-judicial killings.

More at Oromo and Ogaden against Ethiopian killings.


Support Hunger Strike in Israeli Jails – G4S HQ, Victoria St

Protesters outside the London HQ of security firm G4S supported the mass hunger strike by Palestinians demanding an end to Israels’s illegal policy of rolling Administrative Detention which can jail them for years without charge or trial in prisons which G4S secures.

The hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners had begun a month earlier with 134 detainees taking part. Israel uses administrative detention to imprison Palestinians indefinitely without charge or trial, using rolling detention orders of 1-6 months which are renewable indefinitely in defiance of international law.

The detention orders are based on “secret evidence” which neither those detained or their lawyers have any right to see, and in the years up to 2014 there had been around 2000 made each year. Those given them include 9 Palestinian MPs. Often when released from one order detainees are immediately re-arrested on another.

Those taking part in hunger strikes included 34 years old Ayman Al-Tabeesh who has spent over 10 years in Israeli prisons. He began his second hunger strike in February 2014 and 70 days later had lost over 25kg; at the time of this protest he had been advised after 85 days that he was at grave risk of a heart attack. His brother had sent a message of support to the protesters for their earlier protest in support of the hunger strikers stating “We need you to tell the international community of Israel’s criminal brutality against our prisoners, the violation of their rights. The occupations illegal never ending administrative detention orders is nothing less than a slow death for Palestinian prisoners.”

More at Support Hunger Strike in Israeli Jails.


Solidarity with Ukrainian Miners – Holborn

A protest outside the registered offices of London mining company Evraz, owned by Russian Oligarchs Roman Abramovich and Alexander Abramov, supported miners in the Independent Union of Miners of Ukraine who had ensured peace and unity at Kryviy Rih and were striking to maintain real wages.

Kryviy Rih is a city in south-east Ukraine, at the centre of the largest steel industry in Eastern Europe with a population of around three-quarters of a million people. Protests there in 2014 demanded “Putin, Get Out!” and supported the Ukrainian government against the Russian separatists in Ukraine, with the Independent Union of Miners of Ukraine organising to defend the protests there.

The miners were striking for a doubling of wages to meet the rapid rise in the cost of living which has meant a 30-505 drop in real wages. They were angered after a 20% increase promised the previous month was not paid. The Miner’s union state “We are deeply convinced that the main cause of the destabilised situation in the country is the greed of Ukrainian and Russian oligarchs, who pay a beggar’s wage to workers, send all their profits off-shore and don’t pay taxes in Ukraine. In fact the oligarchs are almost completely exempt from taxes on their profits.”

On 11th May 2014 the miners had marched through the streets of Kryvyy Rih to protest at the offices of the mining company EVRAZ and had called for support in London where the company, owned by Russian Oligarch Roman Abramovich, along with his business partner Alexander Abramov, is based. The protest in Holborn was one of a number including at the registered office of the company in the City of London, at Chelsea Football Ground and elsewhere. This year, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine the British government accused the company of “providing financial services or making available funds, economic resources, goods or technology that could contribute to destabilising Ukraine” and after sanctions were applied to Abramovich the trading of Evraz shares on the London Stock Exchange was suspended.

In April 2022, Russian forces were around 60km from the city, but the ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih steel plant which had closed down all of its four blast furnaces at the start of the Russian invasion restarted production with one furnace in early April, though hampered by the loss of around 94% of their staff to military duties or by evacuation.

More at Solidarity with Ukrainian Miners.


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Funeral For Legal Aid And A Pig

May 22nd, 2022

Funeral For Legal Aid And A Pig

I don’t think the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association organise many protests, but they did a good job on Wednesday 22nd May 2013, with a mock funeral and rally at Parliament against government proposals for justice on the cheap, restricting legal aid and ending the right of clients to chose their solicitor with work going to the cheapest bid.

Funeral For Legal Aid And A Pig

The introduction of price-competitive tendering (PCT) would have the effect of bankrupting smaller law firms, while opening up provision of legal aid to large non-legal companies, including Eddie Stobart and Tesco. It would also prevent those eligible for legal aid from being able to choose appropriate specialists in the legal area involved in their cases.

Funeral For Legal Aid And A Pig

It was a protest that brought together a wide range of organisations an interests, with many speakers from the legal professions, from political parties and some who had been involved in cases of injustice including Gerry Conlan from the Guildford 4, a member of the family of Jean Charles De Menzes, Susan Matthews, mother of Alfie Meadows and Breda Power, the daughter of Billy Power, one of the Birmingham 6. Solicitors who spoke included Clive Stafford Smith, the founder of Reprieve, and Blur drummer Dave Rowntree, and notable among the QCs, Helena Kennedy.

Clive Stafford Smith

Some, including those from Women Against Rape, Winvisble, Women of Colour in The Global Womens Strike and other groups had come because the proposed changes would have drastic effects on women involved in domestic violence and rape cases, and immigrants fighting for asylum.

Gerry Conlan – the Guildford 4 only got justice when they could get the right lawyers on legal aid

The event had begun with a funeral procession led by a marching jazz band with robed and wigged figures carrying the coffin of Legal Aid, followed by a woman dressed as the Scales of Justice. After the speeches there was a summary by leading barrister John Cooper QC and then the whole assembly delivered its verdict on the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Grayling, ‘guilty as charged’.

Jeremy Corbyn, MP

Not for nothing did Grayling become widely known as ‘Failing Grayling‘ for his was a consistent record of incompetency and blunders in various ministerial roles in both Coalition and Tory governments conveniently summarised in the i‘s article 10 disasters that have happened under his watch.

As well as the cuts to legal aid which led to many victims of domestic violence in the courts and family courts facing their abusers without a lawyer, Grayling’s attempt to end legal aid to those in prison was ruled unlawful in 2017. His introduction of high fees for employment tribunals in discrimination cases was ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court – and the government had to refund £27 million. He made an agreement with Saudi Arabia for training in their jails which had to be dropped when other ministers pointed out their abysmal human rights record. Then there was the prison book ban, again found unlawful. And his 2014 overhauling and privatisation of Probation services was a disaster that forced its later reversal.

Emily Thornberry, MP

Grayling then moved to Transport, worsening the Southern Rail fiasco, costing us £2bn over Virgin East Coast, contributing to chaos over rail timetabling and awwarding a firm with no ferries a no-deal Brexit contract. And although the i article stopped at 10, Grayling didn’t.

More pictures at Lawyers Funeral for Legal Aid


Daddy’s Pig heads for the Trough – Downing St to Bank

The legal aid protest at Parliament meant I had missed the start of the three mile marathon by artist taxi-driver Mark McGowan on his knees pushing his Daddy’s Pig, accompanied by another protester pushing a fire engine, from Downing St to the Bank of England.

I met them outside the Royal Courts of Justice, where the two had taken a rest before starting off on the second half of their gruelling journey, accompanied by a group of supporters, some of whom were carrying pigs.

While the country suffers from the effects of the various cuts, bankers, private equity companies, oligarchs and other friends of the Tories were having a feeding frenzy, snouts in the trough as the government privatised much of the NHS and other services and the City of London entrenched its position as the money laundering capital of the world.

More pictures at Daddy’s Pig heads for the Trough.


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Vedanta, Tampons, Roma, Monsanto & Mental Health

May 21st, 2022

Vedanta, Tampons, Roma, Monsanto & Mental Health – there was a varied array of protests in London on Saturday 21st May 2016, and I was kept busy photographing them. Fortunately most were within walking distance of each other in central London, but I ended the day with a rally and march in Stratford.


Foil Vedanta at Jaipur Literary Festival – Royal Festival Hall, Southbank

I rushed from Waterloo station to the nearby Royal Festival Hall where I found campaigners from Foil Vedanta protesting against Vedanta’s sponsorship of the Jaipur Literature Festival. They say Vedanta, the most hated company on Earth, causing pollution, illness, displacement, poverty and deaths by its mining operations, sometimes criminal, in India, Zambia, South Africa and Australia, is attempting to whitewash its image by sponsorship of the festival.

They briefly interrupted a presentation in the main space of the Clore Ballroom to make their case. Earlier Foil Vedanta and Round Table India had sent an open letter to authors who had agreed to appear, signed by around 50 mainly Indian writers, poets, academics and activists, informing them of Vedanta’s criminal operations, and calling on them to withdraw, and some had done so, with others expected to criticize Vedanta in their presentations.

After the interruption the campaigners withdrew to the rear of the area where they continued to hand out leaflets and brief journalists, watched closely by security who insisted they keep the entrance clear but did not otherwise intervene.

More at Foil Vedanta at Jaipur Literary Festival.


Tampon tax now Osbourne! – Parliament Square

Campaigners met in Parliament Square and then marched to present a letter to Downing St calling on the government to fulfil their pledge to axe the tax on tampons. A massive campaign and lobby resulted in the removal of regulations preventing the removal of tax but it is still being levied.

Prominent in the protest were those from the 50:50 Parliament campaign for equal representation of women and men in Parliament who say that if there were more women in Parliament there would not be taxes like this – and much less of the public-school bickering that often dominates the House of Commons.

More at Tampon tax now Osbourne!


‘Dosta, Grinta, Enough!’ Parliament Square

As the Tampon Tax campaigners left on their march to Downing St, four horse drawn vehicles arrived for the protest by Roma, Gypsies and Travellers against the hardening attacks against their way of life.

Heritage wardens and police told them it was was against bylaws to bring horses on to the square and after a short rally on the grass they led protesters in repeated circuits of the roadway around the square before leaving as the main rally on the corner of the square started.

Changes in the laws have allowed local authorities to stop providing traveller sites, and laws against fly-grazing have made finding places to stay and moving around the country much harder. Alterations in local planning guidance have meant that local planning laws have been used in a discriminatory fashion to prevent them using land even when they own it – as at Dale Farm. The ‘Dosta, Grinta, Enough!’ protest called attention to these attacks by the government on their ethnicity and demanded an end to 500 years of persecution.

More at ‘Dosta, Grinta, Enough!’


March Against Monsanto Rally – Downing St

It was a day of several hundred world-wide protests against Monsanto, but there had been little publicity for the London protest and attendance for disappointing, and although there were good speeches these were to a small group of dedicated activists.

Among the listeners were a couple of bees and this cow

Monsanto dominates the worlds markets for seeds and agrochemicals at the expense of small scale farmers and communities around the world and is forcing harmful pesticides and genetically modified seeds on farmers in their corporate control of the world’s food system. The company has sued thousands of small farmers in the US and elsewhere to protect its patents which cover a wide range of crops and other products.

More at March Against Monsanto Rally.


Housing is a Mental Health Issue – Stratford

From Westminster the Jubilee Line takes a little over 20 minutes to get to Stratford Station, outside which I met Focus E15 housing campaigners who were holding a rally and march. It was Mental Health Awareness Week and they were protesting against Newham council’s policy of social cleansing, highlighting the mental health issues that arise from housing problems.

There is a huge boom in building around Stratford given great impetus by the 2012 Olympics, but as speakers made clear when the march paused in front of some of the the high-rise housing, this is being built largely for the rich – while those unable to afford sky-high market rents are being forced out. They say Newham is causing mental health problems for vulnerable people through evictions and placements with insecure tenancies away from families, friends and support systems in cities and towns across the UK.

Good homes on the Carpenters Estate have been kept empty by Newham for over 10 years

The new tall blocks also produce a hostile micro-climate at ground level, and when the march approached one of the most recent, gusts of wind tore one of the banners in two. The march ended on the pavement outside Wilco’s in Stratford Broadway, where Focus E15 hold their regular Saturday morning street stall.

More at Housing is a Mental Health Issue.


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Staines, Always Just Staines

May 20th, 2022

Staines, Always Just Staines – Staines-upon-Thames Day, Sunday 20th May 2012.

Staines, Always Just Staines
Councillors ordered ‘Ali G’ look-alike Drew Cameron to be escorted off the site

I’ve lived in Staines since 1974, but it was a place I knew years earlier, growing up seven miles to the east in Hounslow, now a part of Greater London, but then, along with Staines in Middlesex. Staines was out in the country, and I remember watching a herd of cows being driven along one of its main roads. A few boys from there came to my school, and we would sometimes laugh at their country yokel accents.

Staines then was a place we would sometimes come to on Bank Holidays, taking a 116 or 117 bus ride and then walking to the Lammas, a park beside the Thames, with paddling pools and a diving pool into the river. It was here I learnt to swim, though now anyone foolish enough to get in the river here probably gets first-aid treatment.

Staines, Always Just Staines
Staines was a Roman town, Ad Pontes

Staines had its own smell, or rather stink of linseed oil from the lino – Staines’s largest industry occupying a large site to the north of the High Street – but now long-closed and a large shopping centre. The smell hung on for a few years, but I think has now gone. And that High Street had a notorious and ever-present traffic jam, taking the A30, the main route to the south-west, though the centre of the town. That was alleviated by the opening of the Staines Bypass, and later the M3 and M4 which run a few miles to the south and north of the town, but Staines Bridge, despite widening, continues to be a traffic bottleneck.

Staines, Always Just Staines
Drew Cameron as Ali G

Politically, Staines has long been true-blue Tory, one of the safer Conservative seats, and its current MP is Kwasi Kwarteng, though he spends little time in the constituency. In 1965 when almost all Middlesex became part of London, a rebellion by backwoods Tories in the posher areas of Sunbury and Shepperton led to the formation of a new borough, Spelthorne, which broke away to become a part of Surrey, the ancient enemy county across the Thames.

Staines, Always Just Staines
Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey, Dame Sarah Goad cuts a ribbon

While the Thames was the major factor in the development of Staines – a Roman bridging point, Ad Pontes – more recently its proximity to London’s Heathrow airport and three motorways – M25, M3 and M4 have been significantly more important in persuading major companies to set up offices in the area. So it was something of an anachronism when Tory councillor Colin Davis, over a Magnum of Champagne proposed changing its name to Staines-upon-Thames – more appropriate would have been Staines-by-Heathrow.

Staines, Always Just Staines
Kwasi Kwarteng MP at the event

Few if any actual Staines residents backed the change, though it was popular with estate agents and the like. Many voted against it in the local referendum, but most of these votes were disqualified as they came in via the local football club, enabling the Tories to forge a majority. The whole campaign, fired by the anger of a few at the comedian Sacha Baron Cohen whose character Ali G claimed a gangster upbringing in the ‘Staines Ghetto‘ and to be the leader of ‘Da West Staines Massiv‘ showed a massive sense of humour deficit, as well as a whiff of anti-semitism. Ali G had been a huge publicity boost for Staines, and the campaign for the name change attracted more world-wide publicity – and even an article in Vanity Fair.

The London Stone (replica)

Colin Davis won his bet, and the name change was officially made and celebrated at an event in Staines on Sunday 20th May 2012. Since it was taking place a short walk from my home I went to photograph it. As I comment in My London Diary, “An Ali G lookalike who turned up to a Staines event marking the local council’s decision to change the name of the town because of the publicity given it by Ali G was escorted off the site by security. It was further proof that some Spelthorne councillors lack a sense of humour but need to make an ass of themselves.”

Colin Davis is no longer a Spelthorne Councillor, and was more recently chair of the Enfield Southgate Conservative Association in north London. He was this year suspended from the Conservative Party and subsequently “resigned after after a photo allegedly showing him wearing a Nazi uniform at a social event several years ago emerged.”

Waiting for ducks to arrive in the Duck Race

Spelthorne Council has featured in Private Eye and elsewhere on numerous occasions over recent years for its huge borrowing from the Public Works Loan Board to buy office and retail space, much of it outside the Borough, though it does include £385m for the large BP site in Sunbury. The man behind the policy – which the Treasury has said it would ban other local authorities following was deposed as Tory group leader in 2020, after which he and 5 other councillors left the Tory Party to form the United Spelthorne Group.

Their resignations left the Conservatives in a minority on Spelthorne Council, which is not in a position of ‘no overall control’ for the first time since its formation – which is perhaps how local councils should be. Two Labour councillors have also left for the Breakthrough Party, and the council now has a minority administration of Liberal Democrats, Green Party and the Independent Spelthorne Group.

Personally I still live in Staines. If I can be bothered when web sites fill in my address as Staines-upon-Thames I correct it. It’s not really a big deal, unlike Brexit, but it would be nice to go back officially to the old name.

More on My London Diary at Council Attempts To Rename Staines.


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Stowage, Deptford

May 19th, 2022

Stowage, Deptford – Stowage is the place were things were stored and Stowage was from 1600 until 1782 a storage area for the East India Company who also built ships here. The name was not just for the street but for a wider area including the site of Deptford Power Station, the world’s first commercial-scale high voltage power station by Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti in 1889.

The Hoy, Deptford Power Station, Stowage, Deptford, Greenwich, 1988 88-10e-34-Edit_2400
The Hoy, Deptford Power Station, Stowage, Deptford, Greenwich, 1988 88-10e-34

The Hoy pub was open on the corner of Stowage at 193 Creek Road at least by 1840 but closed in 2008, becoming a café. Some reports say it lost its licence because of a large number of reports of drug use. It looked closed and unoccupied when I walked past a few months ago. Until the 1920s there were two pubs actually in Stowage, the Old George and the Fishing Smack, both open in the 1820s.

Stowage, Deptford, Greenwich, 1988 88-10e-35-Edit_2400
Stowage, Deptford, Greenwich, 1988 88-10e-36

The General Steam navigation Co Ltd established its shipyard on Stowage at the mouth of Deptford Creek in 1825, using it to build and maintain its paddle steamers. The site became part of Deptford Power Station for the Deptford East HP station which opened in 1953.

Stowage, Deptford, Greenwich, 1988 88-10e-26-Edit_2400
Stowage, Deptford, Greenwich, 1988 88-10e-26

The area has a long and interesting history. Stowage was the first base of Trinity House, who were close to St Nicholas’s Church at the west end of Stowage from 1511-1660 before moving to the City of London, and this was the location of the first Trinity House Almshouses. According to the entry in Pepys Diary for Friday 8 April 1664 he went with Sir William Batten, then the Master of Trinity House to see the new almshouses which were being built at Deptford. They were demolished around 1877.

Stowage, Deptford, Greenwich, 1988 88-10e-11-Edit_2400
Stowage, Deptford, Greenwich, 1988 88-10e-11

The walk District 45 created by the Royal Geographical Society is a fine introduction to the area and one I recently followed (with a few of my own additions) with a couple of friends. It is based on Charles Booth’s walk around the area with the local police in 1899 and you can read Booth’s notebooks on the LSE’s Charles Booth’s London web site (his handwriting is occasionally a little difficult) which provide some further notes to those in the RGS walk.

Stowage, Deptford, Greenwich, 1988 88-10e-13-Edit_2400
Stowage, Deptford, Greenwich, 1988 88-10e-13

In his notes, Booth described Stowage as “A stinking unpaved lane with wharves on north side until the bend is passed … occupied by a low rough waterside population. ” He went on to say “Most people living here work at one of the factories along the Creek. Besides the chemical works there are numerous business places employing a large number of ‘hands’. The Steam Navigation Company has a large yard in the Stowage.

All these works are busy and work is plentiful so that no man need be unemployed. Women work
in woodyard and laundry, girls in the tin factory or as ‘gut girls’ in the meat market cleaning the entrails of the slaughtered beasts
. “

Stowage, Deptford, Greenwich, 1988 88-10e-12-Edit_2400
Stowage, Deptford, Greenwich, 1988 88-10e-12

I walked along the short street on various occasions in the 1980s and 90s, and it seems to me that relatively little had changed, except there were rather fewer houses and people living on the streets. It was a street were there were often small groups of men who looked shifty and where I didn’t always feel able to stop and take photographs and where much that went on was perhaps on the edge of the law. Often there were fires burning and foul smoke, perhaps getting rid of rubber and plastic from various scrap metal objects.

Stowage, Deptford, Greenwich, 1988 88-10f-64-Edit_2400
Stowage, Deptford, Greenwich, 1988 88-10f-64

I wrote “It was also an area where anyone with a camera aroused suspicion, if not outright hostility. If you were lucky people just asked accusingly “You from the council?”, but there were others who made rather more direct threats. it was an area where there were dodgy deals, stolen cars and other things going on that it wasn’t healthy to poke your nose into. Most of the time I kept my Olympus OM1 under my jacket as I walked along.”

Stowage, Deptford, Greenwich, 1988 88-10f-65-Edit_2400
Stowage, Deptford, Greenwich, 1988 88-10f-65

Other photographers were less timid than me – and had rather different interests in the area. One I knew slightly was Jim Rice, and for his Deptford Creek project he got to know many of those in the area and made some striking portraits.

Stowage, Deptford, Greenwich, 1988 88-10f-51-Edit_2400
Stowage, Deptford, Greenwich, 1988 88-10f-51

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Nakba, NHS, Gitmo etc & Tamils

May 18th, 2022

NakNakba, NHS, Gitmo etc & Tamils – Saturday 18th May 2013 was another busy day for protests in London and I covered a number of demonstrations.


End Israeli Ethnic Cleansing – Old Palace Yard, Westminster

65 years after 700,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes as refugees in the ‘Nakba’ (catastrophe) when the state of Israel was created, Palestinians and their supporters protested outside parliament calling for an end to the continuing ethnic cleansing and a boycott and sanctions until Israel complies with international law.

There had been protests in Jerusalem earlier in the week on Nabka Day against the continuing sanctions against Palestinians that have crowded them into an ever-decreasing area of land, diminishing almost daily as new Israeli settlements are created and new restrictions placed on the movement of Palestinians. Many of those protesting in London from Jewish or Palestinian backgrounds and as usual these included a group of extreme orthodox Neturei Karta Jews who had walked down from North London; they see themselves as guardians of the true Jewish faith, and reject Zionism.

The speeches were continuing when I left to cover another event. More at End Israeli Ethnic Cleansing


London Marches to Defend NHS – South Bank to Whitehall

On the opposite side of the River Thames thousands were gathering by the Royal Festival Hall to march against cuts, closures and privatisation of the NHS, alarmed at the attack by the government on the principles that underlie our National Health Service and the threats of closure of Accident and Emergency facilities, maternity units and hospital wards which seem certain to lead to our health system being unable to cope with demand – and many lives put at risk.

Nine years later we are seeing the effect of these policies with ambulance services unable to cope with demand, lengthy delays in treating people in A&E, delays in diagnosing cancers leading to increased deaths and more. And although it was only a matter of time before we had a pandemic like Covid, and exercises had shown what needed to be done to prepare for this, the NHS had not been given the resources to prepare for this, leading to much higher death rates than some comparable countries.

Part of the problems of the NHS come from disastrous PFI agreements pushed through under the Labour government, landing NHS trusts with huge debts that will continue for many years. This forced NHS trusts into disastrous hospital closure plans, some of which were defeated by huge public campaigns. Many of those marching were those involved in these campaigns at Lewisham, Ealing, Charing Cross, Hammersmith, Central Middlesex, Whittington and other hospitals around London.

I left the march as it entered Whitehall for a rally there. More at London Marches to Defend NHS.


Guantánamo Murder Scene – US Embassy, Grosvenor Square

London Guantánamo Campaign staged a ‘murder scene’ at the US Embassy on the 101st day of the Guantánamo Hunger Strike in which over 100 of the 166 still held there are taking part, with many including Shaker Aamer now being forcibly fed.

More at Guantánamo Murder Scene.


More US Embassy Protests – US Embassy, Grosvenor Square

Other protesters outside the US Embassy included Narmeen Saleh Al Rubaye, born in the US and currently living in Birmingham, whose husband Shawki Ahmed Omar, an American citizen, was arrested in Iraq by American forces in 2004 and turned over to Iraqi custody in 2011. He was tortured by the Americans when they held him and was now being tortured by the Iraqis and also was on hunger strike. She has protested with her daughter Zeinab outside the US Embassy for a number of weekends and on this occasion was joined by a small group of Muslims who had come to protest against Guantanamo, appalled by the actions of the US waging a war against Islam and Muslims.

Shawki Ahmed Omar is still held in Iraq; before he died in 2021 former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark recorded a video calling for his release which was posted to YouTube in with the comment by another US lawyer “This case is one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in recent United States history. It is a case where the US government essentially lied to the US Supreme Court to cover up torture and to be able to turn an American citizen over to people who they knew would torture him.”

A few yards away, kept separate by police, a group of supporters of the Syrian regime, including some from the minor Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) was also holding a protest in favour of the Assad regime and against western intervention in Syria.

More at More US Embassy Protests.


Tamils protest Sri Lankan Genocide – Hyde Park to Waterloo Place

I met thousands of British Tamils and dignitaries and politicians from India, Sri Lanka and the UK as they marched through London on the 4th anniversary of the Mullivaikkal Massacre, many dressed in black in memory of the continuing genocide in Sri Lanka. Many wore the tiger emblem and called for a Tamil homeland – Tamil Eelam.

Although it was a large protest, with perhaps around 5,000 marchers I think it received absolutely no coverage in UK media, and I seemed to be the only non-Tamil photographer present. Tamils were rightly disgusted at the lack of response by the UK, the Commonwealth and the world to the organised genocide that took place in Sri Lanka, of which the massacre at Mullivaikkal four years ago was a climax.

The march had started from Hyde Park, and I caught up with it on Piccadilly and went with it taking photographs to Waterloo Place where there was to be a rally. But it had been a long day for me and I left just before this started.

More at Tamils protest Sri Lankan Genocide.


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Greenwich and Deptford Creek October 1988

May 17th, 2022

Caesars American Restaurant, Waterloo Rd, Lambeth, 1988 88-10e-55-Edit_2400
Caesars American Restaurant, Waterloo Rd, Lambeth, 1988 88-10e-55

I had spent several days wandering around Hackney in the previous months and decided it was time to go back south of the river and picked on Deptford for my next walk. I’d decided to get a train from Waterloo East to Greenwich as my starting point, but arrived in to Waterloo with some time to spare and walked briefly along Waterloo Road. You won’t find Caesars there now, its place taken by a vape shop and Tesco Express.

Norman Rd, Greenwich, 1988 88-10e-56-Edit_2400
Norman Rd, Greenwich, 1988 88-10e-56

I took the train to Greenwich Station and came out onto Norman Road which is on the east side of Deptford Creek. There are still some industrial sites here but the area to the north shown in my photograph now has tall blocks of flats both on the creek side (to the left of my picture) and on the right. There was no access to the Creek here.

Posters, Norman Rd, Greenwich, 1988 88-10e-41-Edit_2400
Posters, Norman Rd, Greenwich, 1988 88-10e-41

The area around Deptford Creek now has many artists studios, but back in 1988 I wasn’t expecting to see this kind of display in the area, and it wasn’t at all clear whether this was a result of fly-posting followed by vandalism or art, though I inclined to the latter. It certainly had become art by the time I photographed it.

Deptford Creek, Creek Rd, Deptford, Greenwich, 1988 88-10e-44-Edit_2400
Deptford Creek, Creek Rd, Deptford, Greenwich, 1988 88-10e-44

Finally on Creek Road I was able to see the creek itself, looking across to Deptford from the Greenwich end of the bridge. In the distance is the spire of St Paul’s Deptford. Tall blocks built around 2017 on Copperas Street now block that view.

Deptford Creek, Creek Rd, Deptford, Greenwich, 1988 88-10e-45-Edit_2400
Deptford Creek, Creek Rd, Deptford, Greenwich, 1988 88-10e-45

Walking across the bridge gave me this view of the Deptford side. Creek Road Bridge is a lifting bridge and in 1988 often caused severe traffic delays in the area when lifted at high tides to allow vessels to pass. I think bridge lifts are now rare, though at least until recent years they were still occasionally needed to allow vessels carrying aggregate to berth at Brewery Wharf just below the bridge on the Greenwich side.

In the distance you can see the Deptford Creek Railway Bridge which was also a lifting bridge, though of very different design. I understand this is now welded in place and incapable of lifting.

Deptford Creek, Creek Rd, Deptford, Greenwich, 1988 88-10e-46-Edit_2400
Deptford Creek, Creek Rd, Deptford, Greenwich, 1988 88-10e-46

Although Deptford Creek forms the boundary between Deptford (in the London Borough of Lewisham) and Greenwich for much of its length, the area around its mouth from a little south of Creek Road as far west as Watergate Street in Deptford is in the London Borough of Greenwich, including the whole now former site of Deptford Power Station. Both sides of the Creek were industrial in 1988, though the last of the three power stations had ceased operation in 1983, and it was spectacularly demolished in 1992. The first station, designed by Sebastian de Ferranti and opened in 1889 was the world’s first ‘central’ power station, operating at high voltage and on an unprecedented scale and closed in the 1960s.

Deptford Creek, Creek Rd, Deptford, Greenwich, 1988 88-10e-32-Edit_2400
Deptford Creek, Creek Rd, Deptford, Greenwich, 1988 88-10e-32

Much of the Deptford side of the Creek north of Creek Road was occupied by scrap metal dealers and in 1988 this brick building at Crown Wharf was the offices of London Iron & Steel Limited.

Deptford Creek, Creek Rd, Deptford, Greenwich, 1988 88-10e-33-Edit_2400
Deptford Creek, Creek Rd, Deptford, Greenwich, 1988 88-10e-33

The Creek turns west after going under Creek Road, then around to the north to enter the RIver Thames. There is a large pile of scrap on the wharf in front of the disused power station and Turbulence, a general cargo vessel, 1426 tons gross built in Selby, Yorkshire in 1983 is moored there. Large heaps of sand and gravel are at an aggregate works on the Greenwich bank, though previously there had been a gas works here.

Today the scene is entirely different, with large residential developments on both sides of the Creek, at Millennium Quay on the west and New Capital Quay on the east. A new footbridge joining the two across the mouth of the Creek was opened in 2015. This is a swing bridge which also occasionally has to be opened to let vessels pass at high tide.

My walk continues in a later post.


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The Wall Must Fall & Kyoto March

May 16th, 2022

Back in 2004 I was still working with the Nikon D100, one of the first really affordable DSLR cameras which I bought when it came out in 2002. It used a 6Mp Sony sensor in what Nikon called DX format – though it could have been called half-frame. For years Nikon insisted we didn’t need larger sensors, and though they were correct, marketing pressure eventually forced them to move to “full-frame” and us zombies followed them.

The D100 was a decent camera, but let down by a rather small and dim viewfinder, and to some extent by the processing software available at the time for its RAW images. If I had the time to go back to the RAW files these images would look sharper and brighter. Here are a few of those I posted on My London Diary from the two events I photographed on 16th May 2004 along with the two sections of text (with some minor corrections.)


The wall must fall. Free Palestine rally, Trafalgar Square

Israel has a right to exist and defend itself, but not to put itself outside international law. We all need peace in the Middle East. Support for Palestine is also support for an Israel that can coexist with the rest of the world, and for the rest of the world.

Peter Tatchell protests the persecution of Queers in Palestine

The wall must fall rally in Trafalgar square on 16 May 2006 started with an an ugly scene, when stewards stopped Peter Tatchell and a group from Outrage from being photographed in front of the banners around Nelson’s column.

Neturei Karta orthodox Jews had walked down from Stamford Hill on the Sabbath to oppose Zionism

The rally organisers argued that raising the question of the persecution of gays in Palestine distracted attention from the Palestinian cause. Their childish attempts to distract the attention of photographers by jumping in front of the outrage protesters, holding placards in front of theirs and shouting over them simply increased the force of Tatchell’s arguments.

Fortunately the rally soon got under way, the main speaker was Jamal Jumaa – director of the Stop The Wall campaign in Palestine, although there were many other speakers, including Sophie Hurndall, the brother of Tom the murdered peace activist, Green MEP Caroline Lucas, Afif Safieh, Palestinian general delegate to the UK, George Galloway and more. Too many more for most of us.

War On Want activists came with a wall to dramatize the effect of the wall in Palestine. When the march moved off down Whitehall, the wall walked with them, and it was erected opposite Downing Street. There was a short sit-down on the road before the event dissolved.


Campaign against Climate Change Kyoto March, London

Bristol Radical Cheerleaders in the Kyoto march to the US embassy

I caught up with the Kyoto march, organised by the campaign for climate change, as it reached Berkeley Square on the last quarter-mile of its long trek from the Esso British HQ in Leatherhead. Esso are seen as being one of the main influences behind the refusal by George Bush and the US administration to ratify the Kyoto accord. The campaign has organised a number of marches in London, and this is an annual event.

Among the marchers it was good to find a number dressed ready for the promised ‘dinosaur party’ at the US embassy, as well as the fantastic Rinky Dink cycle-powered sound system. It was also good to meet a couple of the Bristol Radical cheerleaders again, bouncing with energy as ever. A little colour was also added by a small group of of Codepink activists forming a funeral cortege, carrying the globe on their coffin.

The police in Grosvenor square were not helpful, but eventually the speeches got under way in the corner of the square.


You can find more pictures on My London Diary starting from the May 2004 page or from the pages for the two events, The Wall Must Fall and Campaign against Climate Change.


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