A Mission, More Bermondsey St & Guinness

August 12th, 2022

This post about my walk on Sunday 13th November continues from Fellmongers, Kennels, Snakes and Thomas A’Becket 1988.

Central Hall, South London Mission, Methodist Church, Bermondsey St, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11a-53-Edit_2400
Central Hall, South London Mission, Methodist Church, Bermondsey St, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11a-53

A Mission, More Bermondsey St & Guinness

Bermondsey Central Hall, BCH has been on the corner of Bermondsey Street and Decima Street since 1900 and still boasts a thriving congregation. The Methodist South London Mission has been in the area a little longer, beginning in 1889 and still providing vital services for the community, supporting mothers and children and runnning a 32 room hostel offering low cost accommodation to both working people and students.

Central Hall, South London Mission, Methodist Church, Bermondsey St, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11a-54-Edit_2400
Central Hall, South London Mission, Methodist Church, Bermondsey St, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11a-54

Back in 1988 it was offering ‘Free Beef and Butter’ to those in need and it now is a partner and distribution center for the Southwark Foodbank PECAN, a local charity, based in Peckham.

Bermondsey St, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11a-46-Edit_2400
Bermondsey St, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11a-46

I walked again up Bermondsey St. It was earlier in the day than my previous visit and the low sun was shining obliquely on the properties on its west side, among them George, a hairdressers at 126 and The Three Day Service Ltd, Printers and Stationers at 124. A stone higher up on these buildings has the initials PD and date 1828 and they are Grade II listed. The gate at the right of the picture led to Black Eagle Yard with several workshops, but the gap in the street was filled in 2015 with a passable imitation of the listed frontages and is now called Renaissance Court, though seven years later the wide gate area still looks unfinished.

Morocco St, Bermondsey St, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11a-32-Edit_2400
Morocco St, Bermondsey St, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11a-32

The corner of Morocco St, leading off to the left of the picture and Bermondsey St, with the Grocery shop of M & K Co Ltd, trading as R E Dawson. On the left you can just see one of the horses heads on the frontage of the garage on Morocco St. This is another place where a gap has been filled in with a new building in a very similar styl. The two brick-filled windows are now actual windows – Window Tax ended in 1851 and this building, now called Lantern House, may date from before this. The hoarding, then with a cigarette advert, has also of course gone.

Bermondsey St, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11a-35-Edit_2400
Bermondsey St, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11a-35

I couldn’t resist taking more pictures of these fine listed properties – my favourite building on the street which I’ve written more about on an earlier walk.

Bermondsey St, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11a-22-Edit_2400
Bermondsey St, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11a-22

Ash & Ash Ltd are still listed in trade directories on the web at this address, and appear to have been printers, later moving into the sale of computer peripherals. But other companies have their offices in these buildings.

Bermondsey St, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11b-53-Edit_2400
Bermondsey St, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11b-53

I turned off Bermondsey St just before the railway and went west along Snowsfields.

Guinness Trust Buildings, Snowsfields, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11b-63-Edit_2400
Guinness Trust Buildings, Snowsfields, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11b-63

A little way along are these fine tenement blocks. There is an extensive history of the Guiness Trust online. In 1889, philanthropist Sir Edward Cecil Guinness, the great grandson of the founder of the Guinness Brewery, gave £200,000 to set up The Guinness Trust in London as well as another trust in Dublin. This was a huge sum of money, the equivalent of around £20 million allowing for inflation.

The money enabled them to build eight tenement estates in the first 11 years, providing 2,597 homes for London’s working class, or at least those working men who were earning around 20 shillings a week, although they wanted to make homes that even the poorest families could afford.

Their Snows Fields estate opened in 1898, with 355 tenements including 830 rooms and by 1900 there were almost 1600 people living here. They had cost around £78,000 to build, including tht cost of the land. The South Eastern Railway provided £4,000 as presumably some of its workers were to live there. The flats were modernised in the 1950s and 1970s.

My walk will continue in a later post.


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I Still Quite Like Peckham

August 11th, 2022

I Still Quite Like Peckham

I Still Quite Like Peckham. Every time I visit Peckham I’m impressed by the vibrancy of Rye Lane, though perhaps if I lived there I might sometimes want to get away from the music, both live and recorded that assailed me from almost every street corner and some places between when I walked down to the Peckham Rye Station a few Saturdays ago.

I Still Quite Like Peckham

I didn’t take any photographs then – I was hurrying to catch a train, nor on my previous visit a few weeks earlier on my way to Nunhead Cemetery, but I have on some previous occasions, particularly on Saturday 11 Aug, 2007 when things were rather different and the ‘I love Peckham’ festival was in full swing. Here’s the piece I wrote about this on My London Diary and just a few of the pictures I also posted – you can see many more on the web site. The links I’ve left in the piece are all to other posts on that site, and I’ve kept the lower case only style I then used, but have corrected the odd typo.

I Love Peckham

Peckham, Saturday 11 Aug, 2007

I Still Quite Like Peckham

‘i love peckham’ is a festival backed by southwark council and based around the centre of peckham. although peckham has had a bad press – particularly over the murder of young damilola taylor in november 2000, and more recent violence on the streets, many parts of it are pleasant streets and vibrant shopping areas. recent investment – particularly since the murder – has led to a number of improvements.

I Still Quite Like Peckham

one of the more succesful regeneration projects has been in the bellenden road area which is home to a number of artists including tom phillips and antony gormley, both of whom have been involved in brightening up the streets.

I Still Quite Like Peckham

but there are still estates with corners that can hide dangers, and times when its wise to cross the road to avoid the dealers in their cars. it’s an area where it pays to be streetwise.

I Still Quite Like Peckham

as well as the activities in the square by the library and at the top of rye lane i photographed on saturday there were also other events, including a series of shop window displays.

I Still Quite Like Peckham

Like the other folks carrying built-in cameras on their latest mobile phones i did photograph some of these, but often felt that some of the other windows which had their normal displays were more interesting. but then i’ve always had an interest in shop windows, which feature strongly in projects such as ‘ideal café, cool blondes and paradise.

Kensal Green, 1988 from Ideal Café, Cool Blondes & Paradise

ideal café, cool blondes and paradise

on the main stage by peckham library were performances by indian musicians, a samba group and some young dancers from peckham. around the square were a number of sofas specially decorated for the occasion, many of which were greatly appreciated.

I Still Quite Like Peckham

this was the third annual i love peckham festival, but the previous ones had been blighted by british weather; today the sun shone on us at least most of the time, and the beach at times looked almost tropical.

The Human Rights Jukebox at Camberwell Green, 16 June 2007

i stopped off on the way home at the south london gallery, where the installation of isa suarez‘s human rights jukebox was coming to an end. i was pleased i’d stopped by to watch the video of the event and to have a beer and talk to a few of those involved with the project, including isa herself. i still find it mildly amusing to see myself on film, and there were glimpses of me (mainly my back) taking pictures, walking in the march, generally scurrying around and rather too lengthy a shot as i munched on a wholemeal sandwich.

despite these few moments, it was interesting to see the event again and from a different viewpoint. i was sorry i had to rush off to be home with friends.
more pictures


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Fellmongers, Kennels, Snakes and Thomas A’Becket 1988

August 10th, 2022

This post on my walk on Sunday 13th November continues from Bricklayers Arms, Page’s Walk and Birds of the World 1988.

The Tanners Arms, pub, Willow Walk,   Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11d-36-Edit_2400
The Tanners Arms, pub, Willow Walk, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11d-36

Fellmongers, Kennels, Snakes and Thomas A’Becket 1988

The Tanners Arms at 61 Willow Walk on the corner with Crimscott Street was closed in 2003 and demolished the following year. There had been a pub here since at least 1822 under its previous name, The Fellmongers Arms. Fellmongers were dealers in fells – animal skins – who scraped the hair or wool from the pelts and then sold or passed over to the tanners who continued to process of cleaning and preparing them for the final tanning to produce leather.

The building in the picture is a rather attractive ‘streamlined’ design, presumably dating from around 1930, and is far more interesting than its replacement, essentially a large storage shed.

Pet Shop, Old Kent Rd, Walworth, Southwark, 1988 88-11d-22_2400
Pet Shop, Old Kent Rd, Walworth, Southwark, 1988 88-11d-22_2400

I think this pet shop and the next door tailor were on a site which is now a part of the Tesco car park, unless the numbering on the street has changed since 1988. I think the tailor’s Ben Beber was closed and empty and the shop unit on the extreme left was clearly derelict and flyposted.

I was impressed by the display of kennels of different sizes as well as the other goods on the pavement outside the shop.

Old Kent Rd, Walworth, Southwark, 1988 88-11d-23-Edit_2400
Old Kent Rd, Walworth, Southwark, 1988 88-11d-23

My reason for making this picture was clearly the bust about the shopfront with its ‘WE ARRANGE HOUSE CLEARANCES’ sign, but I also liked the sign to the left above ‘ANTIQUES WANTED’ which has a snake wriggling around the name MANTLE.

There is still a Blue Mantle Antiques on the Old Kent Road, but now in the Old Fire Station at 306-312 rather than this shop, and the history page on its site shows a picture of this shop where the business began in 1969. It is the UK leading supplier of antique fireplaces also selling modern replicas.

Old Kent Rd, Walworth, Southwark, 1988 88-11d-25-Edit_2400
Old Kent Rd, Walworth, Southwark, 1988 88-11d-25

I think these poster were on the empty shops not far from Blue Mantle Antiques, possibly some of those later taken over by the company before they moved to the former Firestation.
I thought these were an interesting selection of imagery in various styles.

The Old Kent Road here is perhaps the dividing line between Bermondsey and Walworth.

Thomas A' Becket, pub, Old Kent Rd, Walworth, Southwark, 1988 88-11d-26-Edit_2400
Thomas A’Becket, pub, Old Kent Rd, Walworth, Southwark, 1988 88-11d-26

The Thomas A’Becket on the corner of Albany Street is a fine Victorian pub and became famous for its gym on the first floor where among many others Henry Cooper trained and Mohammed ALi visited – and the floor above was the rehearsal venue for David Bowie and the ‘Spiders from Mars’. The building dates from 1898, replacing an earlier 19th century building on the site, but probably it had been a pub since long before that was built. It photograph shows ‘Established 1757’ on its Albany Street frontage.

But its iconic stature failed to save it from closure, at first briefly in 1983 after boxing promoter and landlady Beryl Cameron lost her fight with the brewery to keep it open, and more permanently after ex-boxer and promoter Gary Davidson ran it for 4 years from 1985. It became an estate agents, an artists studio, and the upper floors were converted to flats. It reopened briefly in 2017-8 as the Rock Island Bar & Grill, and then in 2019 as Vietnamese restaurant Viêt Quán. There is much more about the pub and its boxing history on the web, so I won’t bother to add more.

Beyond the pub at the right of the picture is the Old Fire Station, then looking in poor condition, now considerably restored by Blue Mantle Antiques

Grange Rd, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11a-64-Edit_2400
Grange Rd, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11a-64

Another picture of the Grade II listed 8 Grange Road. Unfortunately the listing did not include the striking wheels and part of a car body which- together with the fine doorway made it impossible to pass without me taking another picture.

My walk on Sunday November 13th 1988 in Bermondsey will continue in a later post.


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Ministry of Justice cleaners protest – 2018

August 9th, 2022

Ministry of Justice cleaners protest - 2018

Ministry of Justice cleaners protest – 2018 Four years ago today we were in some ways in a very different place. For one thing it was pouring with rain on Thursday 9th of August and for another Labour’s Shadow Justice Minister had no doubts about coming to join a picket line as United Voices of the World cleaners and supporters celebrated the end of their 3-day strike with a rally outside the Ministry of Justice in Petty France with a lively protest despite pouring rain.

Ministry of Justice cleaners protest - 2018

But in other ways it was depressingly similar. We still have a Tory government that was determined to ignore the needs of the poor and low paid – and Boris Johnson is still prime minister, if not for long. But whichever of the two candidates wins to succeed him, the country is bound to lose, with the wealthy getting wealthier and the rest of us suffering.

Ministry of Justice cleaners protest - 2018
Class War and others had come to support the strikers

And of course in some ways things have got worse. We have now left the EU and are slowing finding out what a terrible deal was negotiated, largely thanks to a combative approach rather than trying to work with Europe to reach sensible solutions – and in part because of the overriding political need to “get things done” rather than read the small print.

A cleaner is waiting for a back operation for a work injury – NHS underfunding and privatision mean long waits

And we’ve had Covid, most of us several times, with a failure to take sensible actions in time that led to thousands of extra deaths, saved from being far worse by a successful vaccination programme with at last some competent planning and hard work beyond their duties particularly by NHS workers and many volunteers. But Covid also led to huge waste of public money in contracts awarded to mates of the Tory party who too often failed to deliver – or even didn’t really exist.

Leaflets tell workers leaving the Ministry of Justice why the cleaners are striking

The protest in August 2018 marked the end of a three day strike by United Voices of the World cleaners at the Ministry of Justice, but also at Kensington & Chelsea council and hospitals and outpatient clinics in London run by Health Care America. At all three workplaces they were demanding the London Living Wage and better conditions of employment.

UVW’s Petros Elia tried to take protesters in out of the pouring raid but is stopped by security

It seemed impossible to believe that workers at the Ministry of Justice should not be paid the London Living Wage. The LLW was introduced in 2002 following an initiative by the London Citizens coalition and was taken up by the Mayor of London and was calculated by the Greater London Authority until 2016. A UK Living Wage was also established in 2011. The levels are now calculated based on the real cost of living by the Living Wage Foundation, with the 2022 London Living Wage being £11.05 per hour, and the UK Living wage £9.90.

I’m getting soaked taking pictures – and Susanna from the UVW holds up an umbrella over me

In the 2015 budget, Tory Chancellor George Osborne announced a ‘National Living Wage’, replacing the earlier National Minimum Wage and almost certainly intended to counter the success of the living wage campaigns, setting the amount at a lower level. Currently this is £9.50 – even in London where it is £1.55 less than the real living wage.

Speeches continue in the pouring rain under umbrellas

While a considerable number of employers do now pay a real living wage, others still fail to do so. Too many hide from meeting the obligation to give their staff a living wage and decent conditions of service by outsourcing low paid workers to contracting companies, who usually stick to the basic minimum of legal conditions and pay, while all decent employers give significantly greater benefits and the living wage.

The rain slackens off for Richard Burgon to speak

Shadow Justice minister Richard Burgon came to support the workers and brought a message from then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who promised that a Labour government would end the outsourcing of low paid jobs. Since Keir Starmer became leader, Labour’s policies have changed, and ministers who stand with workers are liable to be sacked. It now seems to be the Labour party only in name.

American healthcare companies have now taken over even more of our health facilities, and earlier this year the High Court dismissed a legal challenge against the takeover by Operose Health, a subsidiary of American health insurance giant Centene, of GP practices in London. This is a significant stealth privatisation of part of the NHS, with Centene now running 58 GP services.

Privatised GP practices generally have failed to employ permanent doctors and rely instead on locum provided care, which greatly reduces the quality of service. Takeovers like this have also meant many doctors leaving the profession early – and we are currently short of 9,000 GPs.

And the protest ends with dancing in the street

You can read more about the protest which was supported by other groups including Class War in My London Diary Ministry of Justice cleaners protest.


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Close Down Yarl’s Wood – August 2015

August 8th, 2022

Close Down Yarl’s Wood – Yarl’s Wood Immigration prison, near Bedford

Saturday 8th August 2015 saw a large protest outside the immigration jail at Yarl’s Wood where asylum seekers are locked up indefinitely by our racist immigration system without trial, a prison run for profit by a private company where detainees are subjected to abuse and sexual harassment.

Yarl’s Wood was used to detain women, many of whom had fled abuse and violence in their own countries only to arrive in this country and be locked up and further abused here. The detention centre is in a remote location in a business park on a former wartime airfield around five miles from Bedford.

The protest was one of a long series organised by Movement for Justice, but was supported by a large number of other groups, particularly many women’s groups including Sisters Uncut. In my post on My London Diary I listed 25 of them, but there were others too. This was only the second protest they had organised at Yarls Wood, but it came after a series I’d photographed at the Harmondsworth and Colnbrook detention centres.

MfJ is a small Trotskyist group which has been one of the most active UK groups organising against racism and for civil rights in the UK since it was formed by students in North London in 1995. This protest came a couple of years before a bitter dispute led many other groups to end cooperation with them, but MfJ continue their active role, in particular in opposition to deportation charter flights and the shameful Rwanda plan.

The main entrance to the detention centre is on a private road which is gated some distance from the centre. The coaches bringing people from across the country, and me and others from Bedford Station were parked in a long line at the side of a public road around a mile to the north, close to the locked entrance to the business park. The protest began on an area of grass here as we waited for everyone to arrive, and there were speeches and much chanting and dancing.

Finally the protest began its march, setting off around 300 metres along the road to a bridleway which eventually after around a mile of walking led to a hilly field beside the 20ft high fence around the prison. The lower 10ft of this is solid metal sheeting, but the upper 10ft a sturdy metal gauze, and from the hill we could see women at many of the windows waving to greet the protesters. Those held inside feel isolated and forgotten, though there are a few prison visitors and they are allowed some phone contact with solicitors and others to pursue their asylum cases.

Protesters made a great noise, kicking and banging on the metal sheeting of the fence as well as shouting, and had brought a sound system so that they could speak to the women outside. They were also able to make phone contact with some of them and amplify their voices too.

The windows of the centre only open a couple of inches, but some were able to squeeze their arms through the gap and wave cloths or articles of clothing, while others held up messages to the glass. One carefully drawn one read ‘We Want Freedom – No Human Is Illegal – Close Yarls Wood’ while another simply read ‘Help’. Others wrote their mobile numbers large enough to be read by the protesters to contact them.

A group of people wearing face masks began to write slogans on the fence, and soon a long length of it was covered with them ‘No Borders’, ‘No One is Illegal’ ‘#SetHerFree’, ‘Shut it Down’, ‘Gaza 2 Yarls Wood Destroy Apartheid Walls’, ‘Racist Walls’ and more.

The speakers on the hill facing the prison included several who had been held inside Yarls Wood and could see women inside they knew, and others who had been in other detention centres. Most people who are held in this way are finally released and allowed to stay in the UK – sometimes after several years of imprisonment – and their seems no justification for locking them up in this way.

Here’s the final paragraph I wrote back in 2015:

Too soon we had to leave. And they had to stay. As I walked away to catch the coach back to Bedford station I felt ashamed at the way that my country treats asylum seekers. They deserve support and humanity and get treated worse than criminals.

More on My London Diary: Close Down Yarl’s Wood


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Bricklayers Arms, Page’s Walk and Birds of the World 1988

August 7th, 2022

This is the first post about my walk in Bermondsey and other parts of south London on Novermber 13th 1988. My previous walk at the end of October ended with the post Around the Abbey in Bermondsey.

Rothsay St,  Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11d-41-Edit_2400
Rothsay St, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11d-41

Bricklayers Arms, Page’s Walk and Birds of the World 1988

Rothsay Street is not far from the Bricklayers Arms roundabout on the New Kent Road to where I think I probably got a bus from Waterloo to start my walk.

This long block of council housing is still there, part of the Meakin Estate managed since 1996 by the Leathermarket JMB which manages around 1500 homes in Borough and Bermondsey. The block was built in 1935 to high standards for the time by the Metropolitan Borough of Bermondsey.

The building at left on the corner with Alice St is also still there, but there is now no sign of a door at this corner. It was a public house, The Jolly Tanners, dating from before 1851, though renamed in 1985 as Uncles and later as Sherwoods, finally closing in 1997. A couple of storeys were added when it was converted into Tayet Towers

The Victoria, pub, Page's Walk,  Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11d-42-Edit_2400
The Victoria, pub, Page’s Walk, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11d-42

Not far away I photographed another pub on the other side of Tower Bridge Road on the corner of Page’s Walk. The Victoria is still there, still very much open and still looking much the same except for a paint job and a large climbing plant on its right corner. The pub was built in 1886 when workers from the Bricklayers’ Arms railway depot across the street probably supplied much of its custom.

CAMRA gave the pub a good write-up in 2008 and in 2017. Of course Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co no longer supply the beer – they stopped brewing in 1989 though various mergers had set them on a downhill path since 1971.

Willow Walk,  Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11d-46-Edit_2400
Willow Walk, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11d-46

You can see The Victoria pub at the right of this picture on Willow Walk, where in 1988 Balfour Beatty and Jones Lang Wooton were busy on Tower Bridge Business Park, “Business, production and warehouse units … available from August 1988”.

Bricklayers Arms began life as alternative terminus opened by the London and Croydon Railway and the South Eastern Railway in 1844 to London Bridge, but was soon converted to a goods station which closed in 1981. The sidings are now built over for housing but the former stables remain in place on Page’s Walk.

Grange Rd, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11d-32-Edit_2400
Grange Rd, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11d-32

Birds of the World was at the read of a shop, possibly a pet shop which my contact sheet states was on Grange Road, and probably either on the corner of Pages Walk or Fendall Street. I liked the paintings of the birds and was amused by the shadow which put them on a tree.

Page's Walk, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11d-33-Edit_2400
Page’s Walk, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11d-33

Sapphire Laundry Ltd still own the buildings at 29-31 Page’s Walk and are still an active company, though they are their business is now registered with the classification ‘Buying and selling of own real estate.’ This building is next to a rather more substantial one, Sultra House.

Willow Walk,  Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11d-34-Edit_2400
Willow Walk, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11d-34

The “roadline” premises at the corner of Willow Walk and Page’s Walk were part of the former British Road Services Parcels Ltd which had been created as a nationalised road haulage industry in 1948. This was one of the first of Thatcher’s privatisations in 1982 when the company was sold to its employees changing from the National Freight Corporation to the National Freight Consortium. I think it probably went out of use after the Bricklayer’s Arms goods depot closed in 1981.

Willow Walk,  Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11d-35-Edit_2400
Willow Walk, Bermondsey, Southwark, 1988 88-11d-35

Another picture showing more of the Bricklayers Arms stables with their roofs with clerestory windows which were also a common feature on some early railway carriages, highly useful when coach lighting – if any – was provided by oil lamps, but not needed once carriages had electric lighting.

I will continue this walk from Sunday 13th November in a later post.


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Hiroshima Day – 6th August

August 6th, 2022

Hiroshima Day – 6th August

Hiroshima Day - 6th August
Rev Nagase, Japanese monk from the Battersea Peace Pagoda, 2011

While I was still teaching full-time I was usually away from London in August, often in Paris or on holiday with friends in different parts of England. But since 2004 I’ve usually been in London on August 6th and attended and photographed the annual Hiroshima Day Ceremony organised by London CND close to the Hiroshima Cherry Tree in Tavistock Square. The first year for which I used a digital camera was 2004, when the event was compèred by local MP Jeremy Corbyn and among those attending were Michael Foot and Tony Benn. There was a significant non-attender too, Mordechai Vanunu had been invited to come from Jerusalem where he is under house arrest for having made public Israel’s nuclear weapons, but was prevented from coming by the Israeli government.

Hiroshima Day - 6th August
Tony Benn, 2011

Back then I think the processing of digital files left something considerable to be desired, and the images on-line are rather dull, though I think could now be greatly improved if I found time to reprocess the raw files.

Hiroshima Day - 6th August
Bruce Kent, 2009

By the time photographed the ceremony in 2009, the pictures looked much better. Jeremy Corbyn was again introducing the speakers, who included CND stalwart Bruce Kent.

Bruce Kent spoke again in 2011, as did Tony Benn, but the star of the event was Hetty Bower who had begun her campaign against war in 1914 when she was a young schoolgirl, almost nine. Her’s was a remarkably powerful performance from a 105 year old who 97 years later was still taking part in every major UK anti-war march.

Nobo Ono, 2013

Hetty Bower was there again in 2013 and made a short speech. Other speakers included Bruce Kent, Peter Tatchell, Jeremy Corbyn, Walter Wolfgang, amd Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett as well as several peace activists, among them Val Brown from the London Guantanamo Campaign who talked about their work and the regular protests at the US Embassy, and Nobo Ono who spoke about the nuclear disaster at Fukushima and the weekly protests organised by Japanese Against Nuclear UK.

In 2014 my train to London was held up and I arrived after the event began, when a speaker was reminding everyone of the long life as a peace activist of Hetty Bower, and a several of those present were wearing t-shirts with her picture.

As usual, towards the end of the event there was a period of silence in memory of the dead and wreaths and flowers were laid at the Hioroshima Cherry Tree, planted in the garden here by the then Mayor of Camden in 1967.

In 2015, because of the Labour leadership contest, the event which usually attracts only a small handful of press was attended by several TV crews and a large number of photographers, many of whom more or less ignored anything but Jeremy Corbyn, seen in my picture standing for a few moments in thought after laying a sunflower at the foot of the tree.

Cllr Nadia Shah, Mayor of Camden lays a wreath, at left Anthony Flaum who had sung earlier, 2016

It was back to the usual lack of media interest in 2016, but the event was well attended with a number of familiar faces among the speakers, performers and the audience. Walter Wolfgang and Kate Hudson of CND, Mohammed Kozbar from Finsbury Park Mosque and Shahrar Ali from the Green Party were among those who spoke, and there were fine and very different perfomances from opera singer Anthony Flaum, radical folk singer Jim Radford and rap artist Potent Whisper, as well as the Raised Voices choir who as usual both performed on their own and led those at the event in singing some well-known peace songs.

Among the more memorable speakers in 2017 was writer A L Kennedy – but as usual all were worth listening to.

You can also see pictures and read the accounts from 2018, 2019 and 2021 on My London Diary.

I hope be again in Tavistock Square for today’s London CND Hiroshima commemoration – Saturday 6th August 2022 – starting at noon.


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Class War Protest Jack The Ripper Opening

August 5th, 2022

Class War Protest Jack The Ripper Opening

Class War and others protested on Wednesday 5th August 2015 outside the newly opened Jack The Ripper “museum” in Cable St days after it first opened. Class War had called this protest as soon as the news became public, and others had organised another protest the previous evening which I had been unable to attend. Class War later organised further protests outside the museum which I also photographed.

Class War Protest Jack The Ripper Opening

Unfortunately the Jack the Ripper tourist attraction in Cable Street is still open, pandering to a popular taste, particularly among tourists to the city, for the sensational and to wallow in the grisly details of this brutal and horrific series of murders in London of five working-class women on the streets of Victorian London.

Class War Protest Jack The Ripper Opening

The museum was set up according to its planning application as the “first women’s museum in the UK” which “will recognise and celebrate the women of the East End who have shaped history, telling the story of how they have been instrumental in changing society.” A number of people gave advice or worked for free or at cost because they supported the project on this basis, and felt disgusted at how they were duped.

Class War Protest Jack The Ripper Opening

As I commented in 2015, ‘People who have seen the museum have been revolted at its sensational presentation of violent crimes against women. One of the politer comments was to call it “salacious, misogynist rubbish.“‘

I’ve only seen the shop through the doors and windows, and there does seem to be a lot of merchandise for sale. The on-line reviews of the place are extremely polarised. There are many positive, even fawning examples, though some do seem to follow a very similar pattern.

I think the window had been smashed earlier in the day

Others are damning. One comments “The museum is pretty small. It’s effectively 5 small rooms. You could whizz round it in 10 minutes easily. In no way does it represent good value for money. One of the rooms was pure conjecture too (What Jack the Ripper’s living room might have looked like…!?). It’s rather light on any kind of detail. For people with anything more than a superficial interest in the history etc, this is a waste of your time and money.”

Another states “I have no idea how it got so many positive reviews… It’s £12 per person and we’ve basically seen everything after 10 minutes. There’s nothing in this museum that isn’t already in the Google images.” Others are far more negative about the exploitation of the sadistic murders of women for profit.

So if you are someone who thinks we should celebrate the work of a serial killer who eviscerated five defenceless women – three of them mothers – on the streets of London and feel your holiday would not be complete without wallowing in more of the bloody details you may well enjoy this “museum”, even though it is in the wrong location and has little authentic content.

If you are not sure about the details of the killings and have a strong stomach you can read more, rather too much more, on Wikipedia; it isn’t pleasant reading. For once I’d advise you not to click on the link, or if you do to skip some parts of the entry.

Of course the whole Ripper industry is a tacky area, with many more imaginative and profitable books speculating on the identity of the deranged killer. Although the evidence is only circumstantial the most likely suspect remains Montague Druitt who committed suicide shortly after the last of the five murders, and was one of three named in a letter written five or six years later by a senior police officer who though not involved in the investigation will have had access to the officers and the – now largely destroyed – police records of the case.

More about the protest at Class War at Jack the Ripper ‘Museum’.


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Olympic Shame, Holocaust Hero And Iraq Festival

August 4th, 2022

Olympic Shame, Holocaust Hero And Iraq Festival – 2012 On Saturday 4th August 2012 much of the nation and all of the media were in the grip of another sporting obsession the 2012 London Olympics and two of the events I covered had at least some link to this. The third was something rather more serious, celebrating the work of one of the great heroes of the Second World War, not a military hero but a man who saved the lives of many.


Adidas Stop Your Olympic Exploitation – Adidas, Oxford St

Olympic Shame, Holocaust Hero And Iraq Festival

War on Want held a protest outside Adidas on Oxford Street, playing games and handing out leaflets because workers making clothes for the official sportswear partner of London 2012 in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and China get poverty wages are not allowed to form unions and have little or no job security.

Olympic Shame, Holocaust Hero And Iraq Festival

War on Want stated:
Around the world thousands of workers, mainly women, producing clothes for Adidas are not paid enough to live. There wages do not cover basic essentials like housing, food, education and healthcare.
With such low wages, workers have to work excessive hours just to scrape together enough to get by, sometimes beyond legal limits – up to 15 hours a day.
In many cases workers are told that if they try to organise trade unions to defend their rights, they face harassment or they will be fired.

Olympic Shame, Holocaust Hero And Iraq Festival

Around 20 police stood around watching as War On Want began their games in protest, and they stopped play as the protesters began their badminton game using a banner as a net, claiming it might endanger people walking past. The street was even more crowded than usual with people who had come to London to attend the events, some of whom stopped to talk with the protesters and express their disgust at the exploitation of foreign workers, but the action by Scottish police drafted down to London perhaps reflected a lack of experience in dealing with protests.

The badminton continued for a few minutes in a side street, and then they turned to a rather short hurdles event. Again when they ‘ran’ this on the pavement in front of the Adidas shop police fairly soon stopped it, perhaps because Adidas complained that half the area of pavement was its property.

As well as leaflets, War On Want was handing out Freepost postcards to people to send to Herbert Hainer, the CEO of Adidas, care of War on Want, calling for Adidas to end the exploitation of workers.

Unusually Adidas sent out a person from their PR agency to talk to me as I began to take pictures of the event, and she later sent me an e-mail stating Adidas was “fully committed to protecting workers rights and to ensuring fair and safe working conditions in factories throughout our global supply chain.” Unfortunately it was clearly an attempt to mislead as it was irrelevant to the claims that were made by War on Want about wages and conditions in factories in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and China producing goods for Adidas. She also said that they had tried to contact War on Want to discuss their claims but had been unable to do so.

A War on Want press release gave full links to the cases on which their claims were made and stressed that they had taken part in discussions with Adidas, “but the multinational continues to deny the widespread nature of the problems and has failed to respond to the organisation’s demands that the firm commits to paying a living wage.”

Of course Adidas is not the only major sponsor of London 2012 and other major sporting events – and London 2012 showed itself also to be blind to the activities of Dow, Atos, BP and all the others.

More at Adidas Stop Your Olympic Exploitation.


Raoul Wallenberg 100th Anniversary – Great Cumberland Place

Olympic Shame, Holocaust Hero And Iraq Festival

A ceremony took place around the monument erected to Raoul Wallenberg in 1997 in Great Cumberland Place, outside the Western Marble Arch Synagogue to mark the 100th anniversary of his birth. Led by Rabbi Lionel Rosenfeld it was attended by the Lord Mayor of Westminster and the Swedish Ambassador as well as many from the synagogue and the Swedish Church in London.

Rabbi Lionel Rosenfeld of the Western Marble Arch Synagogue leading the chanting of a Psalm in Hebrew

Rector Michael Persson from the Swedish Church talked about Wallenberg, who he called ‘an average man’ who grew up in a banking family but was too sensible, too friendly and too nice to be a banker and so became a businessman. Faced with the situation of thousands of Jews being sent to their death in Hungary he did everything he could to help, following the Lutheran ideal of living, a calling to be yourself and to do good for other people, an ordinary man who was brave when the time came and became one of Sweden’s greatest heroes.

The Swedish Ambassador lays one of several wreaths

The memorial shows Wallenberg standing in front a a large wall made of stacks of the roughly 100,000 very official looking ‘protective passports’ he issued identifying the bearer as Swedish subjects awaiting repatriation. Although these had no legal status, they looked impressive and, sometimes with the aid of a little bribery, saved the bearers from deportation.

Raoul Wallenberg 100th Anniversary


Iraq Day Festival – Queen’s Walk, South Bank

Olympic Shame, Holocaust Hero And Iraq Festival

The Iraq Day 2012 festival also had an Olympic link, being “organized to celebrate the games with a hint of Iraq flavor” by the Iraqi Culture Centre in London and sponsored by Bayt Al Hekima-Baghdad in conjunction with the Local Leader London 2012 program.

Although it aimed to build stronger relationships among British-Iraqi communities and promote the the rich cultural heritage of Iraq including its music, food and art in several ways it actually demonstrated the differences between different Iraqi communities.

Given the continuing political divisions and unrest in Iraq after the US-led invasion the stated aim to promote tourism to the country seems entirely wishful thinking. Current UK advice on travel to Iraq begins “Iraq remains subject to regional tensions. Militia groups opposed to western presence in Iraq continue to pose a threat to UK and other interests in Iraq – including through attacks on Global Coalition military bases, diplomatic premises, and foreign nationals…” and ends with the paragraph “If you’re travelling or moving to Iraq, you should take appropriate security precautions before travelling. Outside of the Kurdistan Region you are strongly advised to employ a private security company, make arrangements for secure accommodation and transport and consider pre-deployment training.

US travel advice is even blunter: “Do not travel to Iraq due to terrorism, kidnapping, armed conflict, civil unrest, and Mission Iraq’s limited capacity to provide support to U.S. citizens.”

I saw one performer storm off the platform, furious at what she felt was cultural discrimination against the Kurds and overheard a loud and bitter argument between the director of a fashion show and the event organisers. I’d been told the show would start in two minutes and when I went home an hour later it still had not happened.

Afternoon prayers

There was a great deal of Iraqi food on offer, and while many of those going past along the riverside walk stopped to taste and buy some this was perhaps rather insensitive so far as many of the Iraqis present were concerned. The event was taking place during Ramadan and although they could see and smell the Iraqi food on offer they were fasting until after sunset at 2041.

Zero Hours at Sports Direct, Cleaners at John Lewis Westfield

August 3rd, 2022

Zero Hours at Sports Direct, Cleaners at John Lewis Westfield – On Saturday 3rd August 2013 I photographed one of many protests calling for an end to zero hours contracts at Sports Direct branches then hurried to Stratford, where a surprise protest inside the store demanding demanded that their cleaners get a living wage and be treated in the same way as other workers in the store.

End Zero Hours Contracts – Sports Direct, Oxford St

Over 85% of the 20,000 part-time staff at Sports Direct branches across the country were on Zero-hour contracts which deprived them of sick pay, holiday pay and other employment rights. These contracts have no guaranteed weekly hours or income and have now become widely used – including by Buckingham Palace and 13 out of 32 London Boroughs.

Essentially they deny the whole concept of a contract as normally understood, agreements without substance which gravely disadvantage workers. They provide no guaranteed weekly hours or income and are used to cut wages and avoid holiday pay and pensions. Despite no guarantee of any income, they oblige the workers to be available for work at the employer’s whim, making it impossible for them to take on other work.

Zero hours contracts are also illegal if they do not give workers the statutory minimum requirements for paid holidays, wages, sick pay, maternity pay etc, but these again are difficult to enforce. There are various types of zero hours contracts but all are essentially designed to exploit workers.

The protest started with around 50 people making a lot of noise on the pavement outside the shop and handing out leaflets to the many shoppers passing by. Many of those who took the leaflets expressed surprise that such contracts were legal – and a change in law in 2015 made it illegal for contracts to deny employees the possibility of working for another employer – though there is no effective mechanism to stop employers penalising workers who turn down shifts offered because they have another job at that time.

After around 50 minutes the protesters surged into the small street-level area of the store, intending to go down the escalator leading to the main store area. Security staff blocked their path and told them to stop, and they did. One security man tried to push a protester who complained he was being assualted but otherwise the situation remained calm, with people blocking the way to the escalators in protest being watched by police and security.

A police officer came to talk with one of the leading protesters, who made it clear they were taking care to cause no damage and would shortly leave after making their point. The officer retired and after a few minutes people left the store to continue the protest on the pavement for a few minutes before calling an end.

More at End Zero Hours Contracts – Sports Direct.


Cleaners in John Lewis Westfield – Westfield Centre, Stratford

I walked from Oxford Street to take the Central Line to Stratford where I met a group of members of the IWGB outside Stratford Station on their way to protest inside John Lewis. They have been conducting a long term campaign to get the cleaners in John Lewis stores to be treated like others who work on the shop floor.

John Lewis is very proud of the fact that its workers are ‘partners’, with higher pay and better benefits than other shop workers, getting a share in the company’s profits – in 2013 this was a bonus equivalent to nine weeks pay. But the staff who keep the store clean get low pay, lousy conditions of service and are generally treated like dirt by the contract company that employs them.

The cleaners want to be directly employed by John Lewis and so get a share in the profits and the better conditions. They were then getting £6.72 per hour, considerably less than the London Living Wage of £8.55 an hour set by the GLA and backed by the London Mayor, and only statutory sick pay, holidays and pensions from the contracting company which employed them.

Their claims are supported by many of the ‘partners’ they work alongside, and by many John Lewis customers. But the ‘partners’ are afraid to speak out; one of them, Ralph Ashley who worked at Stratford did so and urged his fellow workers to join the IWGB, and was targeted and sacked after he gave an interview to the Guardian. As well as their own demands, the protesters also demanded he get justice and be re-employed.

The IWGB members and supporters kept quiet as they moved through Stratford Westfield and made their way to to the third floor restaurant in the large John Lewis store where they got out banners, whistles, plastic trumpets and megaphones before moving out into the centre of the shop for a noisy protest.

Their noisy protest as they marched around the different levels of the store to make their way to the escalators handing out leaflets attracted a great deal of attention and they stopped occasionally to explain the protest and many stopped to watch and listen.

Eventually they reached the first floor ‘street’ level, holding a slightly longer protest there before moving outside. Here a small group of Westfield Security tried to stop the protest and to prevent me taking pictures both with little success. Eventually we left the enclosed street and went outside and around the side of the store.

As the protesters were packing up the police arrived and having been assured that this was a peaceful protest and that the protesters were about to leave took no further action.

Much more at Cleaners in John Lewis Westfield.


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