ASH at the ICA

February 18th, 2018


Carlton House Terrace. The ICA entrance is at a lower level on the Mall

I’ve not often been to the Institute of Contemporary Arts on the Mall, though I was briefly a member at some time in the 1960s or 70s. It’s location on The Mall and Carlton House Terrace I find rather off-putting and I’m never entirely at ease in the posher bits of the capital. And I got the impression in my early visits that it was full of cliques to which I did not belong and wasn’t at all welcoming to those of us from poor suburban working-class origins unless we had already achieved some kind of fame. Or perhaps I was just too shy.

I have been in Carlton House Terrace a few times, most notably a long time ago meeting Paul Strand – one of my photographic heroes – and having a short conversation there at his exhibition opening, and more recently being commissioned to photograph an event there, but wandering in from the Mall around lunchtime on a Saturday I really didn’t know what to expect.

I was looking for Simon Elmer and Geraldine Dening of Architects for Social Housing who were beginning a week’s residency there; I’d been invited to the opening party that evening but couldn’t attend but wanted to see their display, and wandered through the building until I chanced upon a sign pointing to their exhibition.

Social Housing has a long history in London and the UK, with various commercial and philanthropic organisations providing housing for the urban poor in the nineteenth century. Some of these continue (at least in theory) to do so, but from around the start of the 20th century that role was largely taken over by councils who built many large estates, particularly in the interwar years and following the Second World War. London had estates both the the London County Council and the various local councils, providing millions for the first time with a decent standard of housing at an affordable rent.

Many Labour councils back in the 1960s and 1970s took a great pride in providing a high standard of housing, even when working within strict cost limits, and they employed some of the country’s best architects to design estates such as Robin Hood Gardens in Poplar, Central Hill near Crystal Palace, the Heygate at the Elephant, Cressingham Gardens in Tulse Hill and many more.

Things changed with the Tory government under Thatcher, who set out to destroy council housing. It may have been making decent housing available to working class people at low cost and actually paying for itself, but it wasn’t making money for private landlords and not enough for building companies etc who where important in the party. It was also a matter of ideology; council housing was social housing, organised by society for the good of society and the Tories saw this as sapping individual responsibility, their idea that people should look after themselves. They wanted a society of home owners, every Englishman securing himself in his castle and pulling up the drawbridge against the rest. And their route to doing this was to compel councils to sell their homes to their tenants at highly discounted rates – and to make sure the councils did not get the money to replace them.

The policy worked in so far as many council tenants did take up the bargain offer, but for many being a householder and repaying even the relatively low purchase costs proved too much. Many had to sell up and move out – and into privately rented properties often far less desirable than their old council homes and at several times the rent. Some will have moved back into former council properties, now owned by landlords, where their rents were now paying the landlord’s mortgage and then some, with a huge growth in ‘buy to let’ properties. You didn’t need money to buy up houses, just the ability to borrow money which your tenants would pay back.

More recently councils have been looking at these well-planned estates from the 31960s and 70s and thinking that the land they occupy – often on very desirable sites – is worth a fortune. If only those council homes weren’t there, they could make millions from private developers eager for land in London. One of the first to go was the Heygate, close to the Elephant & Castle, near to the centre of London, the West End and the City, with good transport links, it was a prime site for development. The only problem was getting rid of the people. The saga of Southwark Council’s long campaign to do so has been told many times, and is a shameful reflection on a Labour council. And while some of those involved have done rather well from it – lavish hospitality, trips to Cannes and well paid jobs when they leave the councils – the council ended up getting short-changed by millions. The residents have been forced to outlying areas, many in high cost private renting, and some of the new blocks remain unoccupied, either unsold or owned simply as investments by overseas buyers.


Social cleansing: RED for Labour, BLUE for Tory and YELLOW for Lib-Dem

Architects for Social Housing have highlighted some of the problems, with well over a hundred estates, some very large either destroyed or earmarked for demolition by Labour Councils across London. Of course Conservative controlled councils are also guilty, but there are fewer of them. The policy under which these crimes are taking place (and they are moral crimes if not always legal crimes) is a Labour policy, introduced under Tony Blair and given the name ‘regeneration’.

Regeneration could be carried out in a way which respected the needs of the existing residents and actually bettered the lot of those in social housing, and ASH has produced alternative plans for a number of estates which show how this could be done. But when these have been presented to councils they have been dismissed with little or no consideration. The problem is perhaps that councils do not have the cash to carry out regeneration without selling off the assets, but more that they see selling off community assets as an easy way to make money.

Recently Jeremy Corbyn has made some promising noises about how regeneration should take place, and there are hopes that the largest scheme of this type, the HDV or Haringey Development Vehicle which would have given away £2 billion of public property, may be stopped. But it remains to be seen if his words can be translated into deeds in the London Labour councils which are all presently dominated by Thatcher-lite right-wing Labour groups. Although the membership of the party has seen a definite shift to the left, there are plenty of dirty tricks the right are using in their fight to remain in power.

At ASH at the ICA you can see some more pictures of their displays at the ICA, which include some related to protest by ASH.

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Dump Trump

February 17th, 2018

I wasn’t that surprised when Donald Trump won the US Presidency. After all a country that believes you can cut gun crimes by selling more people more guns is capable of anything. The contest was a crooked game on both sides, and Trump played it better, perhaps with of a little help from his Russian ‘friends’ (who perhaps just wanted to screw the USA) but more because he and his friends threw more money into the game, employing better guys to find largely legal ways to fix the results. Hilary had her dirty tricks, but mainly directed against Bernie, but perhaps it was a lack of any real appeal. Being the only woman in the game who would have become the first female president just wasn’t enough to attract the votes.

Trump’s actions since getting into office have only confirmed what people – both pro- and anti-) thought about him, though at least the ‘checks and balances’ built into the US system have to some extent constrained their effects. It’s rather the effects of them outside the USA that bother me, where the factional and often entirely fabricated reporting of particularly US right-wing media have come to create a strange and unholy meta-universe, while honest reporting – what little of it remains – is increasingly dismissed as ‘fake news’.

Not that even the most august of our news sources is to be trusted. I was reminded a few days ago of the deliberate misreporting of student protests about Vietnam by the New York Times, which wrote some of its stories before the actual events and failed to report the excesses of police violence, at times blaming the students for what were in fact police riots where they went in and smashed things up. And often reading reports in the UK newspapers of events I’ve myself witnessed I’ve been appalled at their disregard for the facts and the spin they have put on them. Not that there aren’t honest journalists doing their best to do a good job, but there are also others too ready to provide grist for the editorial mill. Even our better newsapapers need reading with a good pinch of salt, and by the time you get to rags like the Daily Mail, Sun or London Evening News finding the truth is more a needle in the haystack. Probably they get the football scores right.

This was a rather obvious picture, and I made the two versions shown here, the second when the woman holding the placard turned around as I talked to her.

At the time I thought that showing her face made the picture more interesting, but now I think it rather distracts from the image, though perhaps she is more interesting than that bleak embassy building with its eagle perched on top. And it would have been nice in both to have had more of a view of the US flag, just visible in the upper image.

The main interest that I could work with in making images was of course the posters and placards, and particularly those that people had made themselves, and there are quite a few on My London Diary in Stand Up to Trump.  And of course in the faces and gestures of both the protesters and speakers. There are a few people who often appear in my pictures for various reasons and two were here:

and one who makes her own placards,

Some people just make more interesting pictures – for different reasons, but while these attract my attention I do try to give an overall impression of the events I photograph. I’m not a news photographer, not trying to make one high-impact picture that hits the viewer hard, because they know only a single image is likely to be published (and paid for) but trying to tell the story through a set of images. I’ve nothing against impact, but only if it isn’t at the expense of accuracy, precision and balance. It’s more important that pictures are interesting.
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Remember Marikana

February 16th, 2018

Two events  I attended in London marked the 5th anniversary of the massacre of 34 striking miners by South African police at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine, and both were attended by a group of campaigners from the Marikana women’s organisation Sikhala Sonke (We Cry Together) as well as supporters from London.

The first was at lunchtime, when the Marikana Support Campaign and others protested outside Lonmin‘s Mayfair offices. It took me some time to find, as the event map and address which I’d read on Facebook had put the event around a quarter of a mile away on another street. I did come across some protesters wandering in search of it, and we walked around a little looking for it. Fortunately when I was beginning to feel it was time to give up (it was a hot day and a rest in a pub seemed tempting) someone going past recognised me and told me where he thought it was happening.

Obviously some people had got more accurate information and the protest was already in full swing when I arrived, on the pavement opposite an office block in which Lonmin had an office in an upper floor. I followed Charlie X, who protests here and in South Africa in mime as a Chaplin look-alike, when he went across the road to the offices, and found the reflections in the door were preventing me from reading the list of companies on the wall behind. Charlie-X held it open for me, but unfortunately I still couldn’t read the list clearly on my picture as in the dim light I didn’t stop down enough to get sufficient depth of field to keep it sharp.  But I did get an image I thought image when the receptionist came out to pull the door closed.

Later I went into the offices with a small group of protesters who wanted to take a letter in to Lonmin. Againt they were stopped by the receptionist, who after some discussion took the letter and promised she would deliver it to them.

That evening there was a vigil outside South Africa House in Trafalgar Square organised by the the Pan-Afrikan Society Community Forum (PACSF) and Marikana Miners Solidarity Campaign. Security there were worried about the protest and called the police, as well as insisting that the protesters removed their posters and banners from the wall in front of the building.

There the protesters as well as the posters showing the victims of the massacre also had some large sunflowers which made for some nice images. The event was rather slow to start as the women from Marikana were delayed by an interview at the BBC and I was sorry that I had to leave before it was over.

Justice for Marikana vigil
Marikana Massacre Protest at Lonmin HQ

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The price we pay for devaluing photography

February 15th, 2018

The full title of photographer Kenneth Jarecke‘s piece on ‘Medium‘ is ‘How Newsrooms Abandoned Photojournalism – And the price we pay for devaluing photography‘, and I think it’s an interesting view.

Jarecke, born in Nebraska, USA in 1963, has worked with Contact Press Images since he was 20, going around the world as a photojournalist, and has also worked for TIME. He is probably best known for an iconic and controversial picture from the Gulf War, first published in American Photo in 1991. You can see more of his work on his own web site.

His is obviously an American view, but I think in some ways the situation in the UK is worse, with few news outlets having any real interest in much beyond celebrities and the latest scandal. America still has many local papers which still employ a number of photographers and probably many more who actually pay for photographs rather than begging them from members of the public. His article was written in response to These tools will help you find the right images for your stories published by Poynter, where  you can also find some responses they asked for others to make on that story.

Here in the UK, my union, the NUJ, are having a month long campaign, #Useitpayforit, which you can also read about in Amateur photographers should charge for published work, says new NUJ campaign and Major publisher’s pictures budget is less than your daily cup of coffee a week, which I understand the company concerned has said is inaccurate, though they haven’t yet given a figure to correct it. But I did a search and failed to find any mention of the campaign on the Amateur Photographer web site.

I think most photographers like me will be used to getting e-mails and phone calls from local papers asking if they can use my work, “of course we’ll give you a credit“.  My response is simply to tell them that of course they can use my work so long as they buy a licence from the appropriate agency it is with.  I don’t think any of them ever has gone on to use an image, even though the prices are usually ridiculously low.

Foil Vedanta expose mining giant

February 14th, 2018

Foil Vedanta holds a protest every year outside the AGM of Vedanta, a FTSE 250 listed British mining company controlled and 69.6% owned by Anil Agarwal and his family through a series of tax havens and holding companies.

They accuse Vedanta of illegal mining in Goa, increasing harassment, torture and false accusations against tribal activists in Nyamgiri, Odisha and eleven years of ruinous and continuing pollution by Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) in Zambia.

As well as holding protests, Foil Vedanta have also exposed illegal activities by the company and its assocaited companies around the world, with a detailed report on their activities in Zambia which showed the company had fraudulently avoided taxes and failed to publish mandatory accounts leading the Zambian government to take action against KCM.

Their protests have usually involved some highly visual stunts, including in the past a giant inflatable Vedanta Monster, a banner drop from a neighbouring roof and a large pool of fake blood. This year there were two men in giant inflatable suits  (reminding me of  Sumo wrestlers), one with the mask of Argawal, and the second with that of CEO Tom Albanese who was stepping down to  “spend more time with his family“, a decision perhaps not entirely unconnected with a charge by the US Securities and Exchange Commission that in his former job as chief executive of Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto he allegedly inflated the value of a Mozambique coal mine the company bought in 2011 for $US3.7 billion; they say Albanese continued to mislead investors as to its true value for some years after the company realised it was worth much less. By the time Rio Tinto sold it for a measly $50 million – around 1/75th of what they paid, Albanese had gone and was CEO of Vedanta.

Albanese was not the only senior executive to leave Vedanta last year.  They also lost former CEO of Anglo American Cynthia Carroll who had joined them to advise them on their aluminium business and decided for reasons unknown not to renew her contract in February.

The two inflated figures came holding bottles of dirty water allegedly from the Kafue River in Zambia which they showed to investors going in to the AGM. Several of the Foil Vedanta supporters have single shares in the company, which entitles them to go in to the annual meeting where they are able to question the company about its activities. After they had gone in and the meeting had begun, one of the other protesters poured the dirty water over the two figures representing Agarwal and Albanese.

The protest continued outside the AGM, and the posters were graphic reminders of the activities of Vedanta, and of the protests which were taking place not just in London but in India today, and of previous protests around the world where they operate, many of which have been very much larger than this, with thousands taking part. Some have been brutally repressed by police, and protesters have been injured and killed. Today’s in London was noisy but peaceful, and police who had earlier tried unsuccessfully to keep the protesters on the opposite side of the road restricted themselves to making sure the pavement and the entrance were kept clear.

Vedanta accused of global crimes

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Grenfell ripples

February 13th, 2018

It’s shameful to know that almost 8 months after the Grenfell Fire, so few of the survivors have been rehoused. Back in August many felt that the council whose deliberate actions were responsible for what would have been a small, contained fire instead rapidly engulfing the whole block with terrible loss of life were failing to take appropriate action either to care for the survivors or to find them new homes, that they were dragging their feet and failing to cope. But that they still have done so little seems quite unforgivable.

Many local people felt that there should have been some urgent temporary action – such as taking over a number of the large empty properties as a temporary solution to finding decent accommodation. The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea is a wealthy borough with huge reserves. There appears to be no possible excuse for them having families still living in cramped hotel rooms almost 9 months after the disaster.

One empty block of flats was Duke’s Lodge in Holland Park, on of Britain’s wealthiest streets, just 15 minutes walk away. The residents of the 27 private flats there lost a battle to stay after the owners, the Candy brothers decided they could make a killing by knocking it down and putting a few luxury homes in its place. But the council refused them planning permission and the block and its grounds were on sale for £70 million.

It’s difficult to tell how feasible it would have been for the council to refurbish the block and put in people from Grenfell, but it did seem the kind of response that might have been appropriate. The small protest outside by the Peoples Republic Of North Kensington, including former Grenfell Tower resident Ian Bone of Class War along with others from Class War and local residents, was more about raising issues than providing solutions.

The protest became more interesting when a car pulled up in front and a woman got out to talk with the protesters. She was one of the displaced residents, and told them about their fight to stay in Duke’s Lodge, and of the £40,000 she had spent on interior decoration of her flat.

It isn’t just the local council, the RBKC, that have failed in their response. Prime Minister Theresa May was quick to come up with promises, including help for other councils with tall blocks with the same dangerously flammable cladding, never intended for use on high buildings. So far, none of the promises has been kept.

On the following Saturday, Focus E15 Mothers led a march from Ferrier Point in Canning Town to a rally at Tanner Point in Plaistow, two Newham Council tower blocks with the same cladding. Without a proper expert inspection it is hard to know whether they face the same risk as Grenfell, where the failure to have proper gaps, unsafe gas installion and other defects in the work carried out on a previously essentially safe building as well as lack of proper maintenance and limiting the emergency access made Grenfell a death trap.

Obviously the residents of these towers are worried about their safety, and Newham Council also seems to be dragging their feet over the issue. Newham has for years been run by Mayor Robin Wales, and is essentially a one-party state, which has often seemed to care little about the housing needs of its local residents, while encouraging many new blocks of high cost housing to attract a wealthier population.

One of several great scandals of Newham Council over the period of Wales as Mayor has been the Carpenter’s estate, a popular council estate close to Stratford Station. Newham saw its potential for development and around 2004 began forcing tenants to move out. It met with rather more resistance than it had bargained for with many people not wanting to lose their homes or to be relocated in the distant reaches of the borough or further still out of London.

Various schemes fell through, with protests at University College London helping to persuade UCL to drop its plans for a campus there. In September 2015 Focus E15 Mums celebrated the first anniversary of their fight against LB Newham’s failure to provide local housing for local people and opened and occupied one of many shamefully long empty council properties on the Carpenters Estate in Stratford. It gained national publicity, stimulating a great deal of discussion about the housing crisis, putting the issue firmly on the national agenda. Under pressure the council made a number of promises about using some of the empty housing stock on the estate, which they have largely failed to keep.

Focus E15 – who hold a weekly protest on Stratford Broadway and also support people in their fight to get rehoused by Newham Council and fight evictions – have since visited the Carpenters estate a number of times, and it was there the march ended there with a picnic with other housing campaigners.

There is now some hope that Wales’s feudal reign in Newham may come to an end. Last year he managed to engineer a vote that would have seen him as the unopposed Labour candidate by using the votes of a number of affiliate organisations (some of which have almost no membership in the borough) to outvote the various membership branches who wanted an election, but things have moved on and with greater opposition from members there is a real chance that a new candidate will be selected, and council policies will change to better serve the people of Newham.

Fire Risk Tower Blocks
Duke’s Lodge for Grenfell
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Remember Hiroshima

February 12th, 2018


Rev Nagase from the Battersea pagoda

I was only a few weeks old when the nuclear bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but was one of a generation that grew up very much in their shadow.  Both my brothers marched to Aldermaston in 1958, and my eldest brother sat down at the Ministry of Defence  in Whitehall in 1961 with the Committee of 100, though he wasn’t one of the original signatories. We all held our breath during the 13 days of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, but fortunately both Khrushchev and Kennedy came to their senses and came to a secret agreement. Both men realised that actually using nuclear weapons would be catastrophic not just for their nations but for the world; the US agreed secretly to withdraw missiles from Turkey and Southern Italy if Kruschev would publicly withdraw his from Cuba.

So the USA remains the only country ever to have used nuclear weapons in war, and it was able to do so only because it knew it could not face nuclear retaliation. By the time of Cuba the use of them had become unthinkable; only a crazed lunatic would press the button.

More recently our worries have begun to rise again. Could a man who so carelessly vents on Twitter decide early one morning that it would be a good thing to nuke those bad guys in Russia? We can only hope that there are people in the USA who have decided for safety reasons to undo one of the wires.

More recently I’ve taken part in protests and been to Aldermaston myself, walking much of the way there in 2004, and cycling to photograph to photograph the ‘Wool Against Weapons‘ 7 mile scarf from the atomic weapons factory at Burghfield to Aldermaston in 2014, as well as many other CND events. After Cuba, after the end of the Cold War it has simply become impossible to produce any military argument for the retention of a UK nuclear capability – as even many in the military now agree.


Rev Nagase pays his respects to Gandhi

Nuclear arms are useless, their use totally immoral and maintaining them a terrible waste of money that could be spent far better on health, on education and other social benefits. Their use against Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a war crime – as was our firestorm bombing of Dresden together with the USAF which killed around 25,000 civilians including some refugees. But the effects of radiation made the linger on for much longer.


Cllr Jenny Headlam-Wells, Camden Deputy Mayor lays a wreath

The ceremony in Tavistock Square takes place every year on the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, August 6th, and if I’m in London I go, and I take photographs. In 2017 there was perhaps a slightly smaller crowd than in previous years, and certainly rather fewer photographers than in 2015 when Jeremy Corbyn who had often chaired the event in the past was the main speaker.

Hiroshima Day 72 Years on

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Old and New Brentford

February 10th, 2018


Canal warehouses at Brentford Lock, 1977

When I was young one of our family treats on Bank Holidays and the like was a trip to Kew Gardens. My father was a keen gardener and always had a pair of scissors in his pocket to take the odd cutting, and even we could afford the entrance fee of one old penny. But the highlight for me was never the plants or the picnic on the grass, but the bus journey there from Hounslow, crawling through the busy High St, then through Isleworth to the highlight of Brentford.

We always sat on the top deck, glued to the windows, and chose the right hand side which gave us glimpses of the Thames, but most importantly the gas works. You could smell it long before you reached it, pervading the long and narrow Brentford High St which began at the canal bridge. Then you were in the middle of an industrial landscape, full of odd structures and workers, always stuck in a slow moving traffic jam to give you plenty of time to admire. And if you were fortunate to be in the right place at the right time there was the spectacle of a glowing wall of coke falling to the ground as an oven door was opened. Getting off the bus at Kew Bridge to walk across was always something of an anti-climax.

The gas works was demolished while at I was up north at university, and it was a shock to return a few years later and see the gap where it had been. When I went back in 1977 to photograph, Old Brentford (the eastern parish of the town) was just a different place. Since then Brentford has changed even more, its canal and riverside location which once was industrial becoming a prime location for gentrification, flats with a waterside view attracting a significant premium, though enough remains to make it an interesting area to explore, and a little of the new also has some attraction.

The latest chapter in gentrification is Watermans Park, which I got to know well back in the 1980s and 1990s for the Watermans Arts Centre at its western end, where I helped organise and took part in a number of exhibitions with the photographic group Framework that Terry King and I ran, as well as going to several other shows there.  The Arts centre is to be demolished and together with an adjacent office block replaced by expensive riverside flats, while the arts are relocated to a site in the middle of the town where a new 13 storey police station was built in 1966 but vacated  by them in 2013, at the Half Acre, where the trolley buses from Hounslow used to turn around and go back.


Town Meadow and Brentford High St, 1977

The police station was Brentford’s third. The first was on the corner of Town Meadow in a building already around a 100 years old and still standing, but a new police station was built in 1869 a little further east on the High St. This rather imposing building was knocked down to build an office block in 1969 , threeyears after the police left for their new site.


Lighters moored alongside the former gas works site on Brentford High St

The gas works was demolished around 1964 and the area became public open space, Watermans Park. Hounslow Council had for some years been attempting to evict the 25 boats moored there – some since the 1960s – to build a £5.4 million marina to gentrify the area and won their legal case last November, with the eight remaining boat owners having to pay over £300,000 in legal costs and given 21 days to move.

The Thames Steam Tug and Lighterage Company was taken established in 1856 it set up a yard on Lots Ait a few yards upstream from here in 1904 which repaired and built barges and tugs for use on the Thames. At that time the company owned 340 barges and five tugs. At its peak the Lots Ait yard employed around 150 men and 2 women.

In 1961 although business was beginning to fall the company still employed over 400 lightermen when it was taken over by the Transport Development Group, and later amalgamated with he General Lighterage Company in the 1960s to form the Thames and General Lighterage Company. Around 1979 this was bought by William Cory Ltd, who moved away from coal and oil transport to waste disposal.

Lighters like this were made from 10mm thick steel, and slowly rust both from the outside and often from the inside, eventually becoming unusable as the steel remaining gets too thin. But there are still quite a few around as this may take a couple of hundred years – and small areas that get too thin can be repaired.


Grand Union Canal, Brentford, 1977

Brentford was where traffic on the canals met the river Thames, with goods being transhipped between large barges like these and narrow boats. The company operated Brentford Dock together with the Great Western Railway, with a line from the main line at Southall which brought Welsh coal, and for some time also had a passenger service with a station on the London Road in New Brentford where you can still see the remains of the bridge which took the line across, and a part of the line further south is now Augustus Close, leading to the private Brentford Dock housing estate with its notices ‘Private Property Residents Only No Public Right of Way’.

As with the railways, it was Dr Beeching, a man deeply in thrall to the road lobby, that did for the river traffic and canals, and in 1963 he recommended that waterborne traffic be moved to the roads; the the Lots Ait yard closed in 1980.

In 2005 the Ait was sold to investors and a retired solicitor, John Watson, decided he could open a new yard there. A new footbridge to the island was built and John’s Boat Works opened there in 2012. Occasionally the island is opened for conducted tours, though I’ve never managed to go on one.

The new Marina will provide moorings for roughly the same number of boats as were alongside the former park, and will be something of an eyesore, with decreased access to the riverside and obscuring the views to Brentford Ait. But while the former moorings paid no fees, the new development will attract a rather wealthier class of boat owners though with significantly less interesting vessels, and will make money for whoever is managing it. A rather better solution, but forward by the boat owners, would have been for Hounslow Council to legalise the moorings, make some improvements and collect sensible fees.

Brentford was another place we sometimes took photography students, and if the tide was right many of them would wade onto the mud bank opposite Lots Ait and sometimes most of the way across. I don’t recall seeing any great pictures that they took, but they seemed to enjoy getting covered in mud.

You can see the pictures here and a few more of Brentford as well as other places in the 1977 section of my London Photographs site, which so far contains pictures from 1974-80.

For a more recent view of Brentford see Riverside Brentford Panoramas and Riverside Brentford, taken in March 2016.
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Tottenham remembers Mark Duggan

February 9th, 2018


Shops including this one were built at ground level after the riots and demolition of the decks

People met at Broadwater Farm for the march and rally to remember Mark Duggan and others, nearly all young Black men, killed by police in London. There was a slightly uneasy atmosphere, not because we were at Broadwater Farm, but because the media haven’t generally given Black communities fair treatment over contentious issues – such as the killing of Mark Duggan, though the bias that there clearly is often comes from those who sit in offices and studios rather than people who actually report in person.  It’s something I probably feel less than most, as there were quite a few people there that know me from other places and protests, such as the annual march by the United Families and Friends Campaign calling for justice for  deaths in police, prison and psychiatric custody.


Mark Duggan’s daughter speaks at the police station, wearing a t-shirt ‘REST IN PARADISE “DAD”‘

Mark Duggan grew up on ‘The Farm’ and was known by many there, and many regard his shooting by police in 2011 as an extra-judicial killing, a state-condoned execution, a belief that was for them confirmed by the inquest  verdict that he was lawfully killed. The only civilian witness stated he was unarmed and surrendering when killed.


Jermaine Baker’s mother – he was shot, allegedly sleeping in a car, in Wood Green in 2015

But Duggan was only one of those who have died at the hands of the police in Tottenham, which includes  Cynthia Jarrett, Joy Gardner, Roger Sylvester and Jermaine Baker as well as many more in London and across the country and the recent murders of Rashan Charles, Darren Cumberbatch and Edson Da Costa.  There have been literally thousands of deaths in custody since the last even partly successful prosecution of police officers over a black death in custody in 1971 when two were acquitted on charges of manslaughter and perjury but convicted of assault after David Oluwale was found drowned in the River Aire in Leeds.


The march sets off from Broadwater Farm on its way to Tottenham Police Station

The march left rather later than expected, and there were perhaps rather fewer than last year taking part, but more joined them at Tottenham Police Station, which had been locked up for the day. Family members of those killed gathered on the steps and around, with a crowd in front spilling onto the pavement. And on the other side of the wide road another crowd assembled, mostly of young black men.


Mark Duggan’s mother Pamela Duggan (centre) with family and friends

There was poetry and a silence and speeches by some relatives of those killed and local activists as well as a few invited visitors including Becky Shah from the Hillsborough campaign and a speaker from the Justice for Grenfell campaign. Leading the rally was the prominent anti-racist campaigner Stafford Scott, who had been co-founder of the Broadwater Farm Defence Campaign in 1985, and had known Mark Duggan well.

More pictures: Tottenham remembers Mark Duggan
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Broadwater Farm

February 8th, 2018

One common question about London on the web site Quora, largely frequented by citizens of the USA, concerns the safety of London streets, particularly after comments by people on right-wing American media about ‘no-go’ areas in London. According to some of them (and doubtless their President) there are large areas of London where it is unsafe to walk, parts which the police fear to go, areas that are under Sharia law.


Broadwater Farm seen from the large park to its north

It is of course total nonsense. London remains one of the safest cities in the world. There is not a single ‘no-go’ area in the whole of the city.  Sharia law hardly exists and is simply used to resolve some disputes between Muslims who opt to use it, mostly over marital issues – and similar tribunals exist in the Jewish community and possibly some others.


The River Moselle runs through the park and under the estate

Not that London is crime-free. Gigantic frauds and illegal money laundering are common in the City of London, probably the world centre for both, as well as being a base for some of the least principled companies that despoil resources around the world. And we do have pick-pockets, muggings and handbag thieves who operate in even some of the most popular areas, and tourists are often rather careless and may carry large amounts of cash as well as expensive cameras, phones, i-pads etc. Cycle rickshaws are a total rip-off, as are some other tourist attractions including sleazy clubs and bars. And if you are a teenage gang member you stand quite a chance of getting stabbed.


Because of the danger of flooding from the Moselle, the ground level is car parking

And we have had occasional riots, mostly provoked by police behaviour.  Broadwater Farm in Tottenham was a modern estate built in the late 60s, with blocks connected by walkways above ground level. Shops and other facilities for the roughly 4,000 inhabitants were also at ‘deck level’.  But it soon became apparent that these decks had many isolated areas and there were many minor crimes. The buildings also deteriorated rapidly, partly due to poor construction and a lack of proper maintenance by the local council, and many of the original tenants quickly moved out, with the council replacing them with people with various social and mental health problems, and it rapidly became a ‘sink estate.’


You can still see the remaining walkways, though many parts were demolished

Police adopted a robust ‘saturation’ approach to policing, with frequent stop and searches particularly for the young Black residents on the estate. And in 1985, after arresting a young man for driving with a false tax disk four officers visited his mother’s home on Broadwater Farm for a search – during which his mother, Cynthia Jarrett, died. Her daughter said at the inquest that she died after a police officer pushed her and she fell. News of her killing spread through the area; there were protests outside the local police station the following day when very unusually a gun was used with two officers and three journalists being wounded. Later in the day a police van going in to Broadwater Farm was attacked; police reinforcements went in, residents set up barricades and a shop was set on fire. Firefighters who arrived were attacked and more police came in, but left due to overwhelming opposition. Two officers became separated from the rest and were attacked; one was killed and the other seriously injured. But as the rioters realised a man had been killed the riot came to an end.


All the blocks were named after wartime airfields – this is Marston

Police investigating the murder picked on three men, who were convicted of the murder but the conviction was quashed a few years later when scientific evidence showed that the police had fabricated the three men’s statements. One, Winston Silcott, had been convicted for another murder where he had been attacked by his victim in what seemed to be a clear case of self-defence – and where  police had withheld evidence which would have proved this.  He was out on remand  before the trial when the Broadwater Farm killing occured, and it seems clear that this other case was the reason police picked on him and framed him.

The riot changed things for Broadwater Farm, bringing in a  £33 million regeneration programme which dealt with many community issues and demolished the decks which had caused many problems. By 2005 Broadwater Farm had become a popular estate with a long waiting list, and one of the lowest crime rates of any urban area in the world, with the police actually disbanding its unit there as there was nothing for it to do.

Despite this, the old prejudices linger on, and if you ask Londoners who don’t live in the area if there are any no-go areas, this is probably one of the more likely estates they will mention. And it has come back into the news again, in part because of another killing – the shooting of Mark Duggan who grew up there by police in  August 2011 elsewhere in Tottenham that led, after police failed to respond to local questioning, to the 2011 riots, and more recently because of the London Borough of Haringey’s controversial proposals, The HDV (Haringey Development Vehicle)  which would handed it and other council estates to private developer Lendlease for demolition and replacement by high-price private  housing.

More pictures at Broadwater Farm Estate

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