Archive for the ‘Political Issues’ Category

Homage to Catalonia

Wednesday, March 28th, 2018

Another Spanish Civil War appears now to be taking place, though fortunately at the moment rather less bloody than the last, though the repercussions of that and the repressive Franco regime are still at least in part behind the current unrest.

Without that history, the referendum in Catalonia would have not have stirred up the same problems. It might have been rather more like the Scottish vote here in the UK, raising some fairly bitter arguments and probably being won by dint of promises made by the government which turned out to be largely fairy stories.

In the end I suppose I’m not a great supporter of independence, whether for Scotland, Catalonia or for that matter the UK. Rather than proliferating countries I think we should be setting up more clearly federal structures, recognising our interdependence, devolving much more to regional authorities at every level of government, from country or even continent down to street level, setting up a truly participatory and democratic system. It’s clearly the solution for Syria too, with Rojava an inspiring model.

Spain seems to be sitting on top of a pressure cooker, managing to hold the lid down for the moment, but things inside are building up and it can’t be long until they explode, unless something fairly dramatic is done to ease the pressure.

There was a lot of anger and energy on display at this event where several hundred, mainly Spanish and many Catalan came together to wave flags and show their support for the Catalonian people, demanding the immediate release of Catalonians imprisoned for their political views and calling on the UK government to condemn the police violence against civilians who wanted to register their vote in the Catalan referendum.

It’s always the problem of how your pictures show what the event is about, both the issues and the feeling. Words – on banners, posters, placards – and actions, and particularly gestures and expressions are mainly what we have to tell the story.

March in Solidarity with Catalonia
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My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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

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Ripper ripoff

Monday, March 26th, 2018

Tower Hamlets Council have for some reason failed to take effective action against the so-called museum which shamefully exploits the horrific killing on young working class women on the streets of East London by ‘Jack the Ripper’, the name given by the press to the ghoulish serial killer who unspeakably mutilated the bodies of his victims, almost certainly  Montague John Druitt who drowned himself in the River Thames in early December 1888. Some of the ‘evidence’ that has kept controversy alive since the murders was manufactured by newspapermen for what was the first huge crime story to receive sensational tabloid-like coverage. The police appear to have considered the case closed after Druitt’s death and there were no further murders.

Class War have kept up the pressure on the ‘museum’ with periodic protests, supported by London Fourth Wave Feminists, while others seem to have given up.

The came to the protest behind the ‘Womens Death Brigade’ banner, bearing plastic inflatable hammers with which they symbolically attacked the facade and metal shutters which the council have found to be illegal but have not managed to remove. They tried to walk into the shop, but made no attempt to force their way in when they were refused entry.

A few minutes later police arrived and tried to persuade them that they should protest not outside the shop but on the other side of the road or somewhere where their protest would be entirely ineffectual. Unsurprisingly they declined to move.

The 4th Wave Feminists had come with cat masks and posters, and gave the kind of details that the museum neglects about what we know about the lives of the murdered women and why they were on the streets late at night.  Members of some families of the victims are still alive and we were read a condemnation from one of them of the voyeuristic exploitation of her relation in the displays.

A few customers pushed past the protesters to visit the shop, and others were escorted in and out by police, some looking a little shamefaced, others defiant. A few others looked at the protest and then walked away. One couple who came out while the protest was taking place told the protesters how poor they thought the exhibit was, and that it clearly did not live up to the publicity material that had brought them there.

There were relatively few customers considering that this was a Saturday afternoon, and it seems unlikely that this business is managing to cover its costs and I wonder why it is still persisting.

A police officer removed one of the Class War stickers from the glass window on the door and warned the protesters that putting stickers on the shop was ‘criminal damage’, although as he had just demonstrated they were readily removed and left no permanent damage. There were quite a few other stickers elsewhere on the frontage.

After an hour or so the protesters decided they had made their point and left for a nearby pub. They would return for a further protest in a few weeks time.

Class War return to Ripper “Museum”

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

My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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

To order prints or reproduce images

________________________________________________________

Another Cyclist Dies

Sunday, March 25th, 2018

Stop Killing Cyclists were at Kensington & Chelsea Town Hall to hold a vigil and protest for the latest cyclist to be killed by a heavy goods vehicle on London roads. The woman was knocked from her bike at the junction at the north end of Chelsea Bridge, where 36 recorded accidents took place last year, but no improvements have been made.

Kensington & Chelsea Council have resolutely opposed schemes for safer cycling in London and have built not a single metre of protected cycle lane in the borough, despite being one of the richest boroughs in London – they even gave wealthier residents some of their council tax back. The 36 year-old woman who was killed at Chelsea Bridge was the second cyclist killed by a HGV in the borough this year.

They are also of course the council responsible for making the Grenfell fire almost inevitable – and ensuring that when it took place so many of those in the tower would die, by cutting costs and deliberately modifying the building and surroundings to increase risk as well as frustrating proper safety inspections. It’s hard not to come to the conclusion that the wealthy councillors consider cyclists – and the residents of social housing – as some kind of inferior beings whose lives don’t much matter.

Usually Stop Killing Cyclists hold their vigils and die-ins on the road where cyclists are killed, blocking traffic for the duration of the die-in. Today was different, perhaps to emphasize that this was an accident largely down to the obstructive policy of Kensington & Chelsea Council towards providing safe cylcing infrastructure. The event took place on the large courtyard of the council offices, which are tucked away out of sight a few yards from the busy Kensington High St.

Fortunately the die-in happened fairly early in the event, while there was still a considerable amount of natural light at the end of a bright day, and my pictures of this are clear and the colour good. As at other die-ins, using the 16mm fish-eye enabled me to get a good overall impression. Even at full aperture the corners are almost pin sharp (they are softened slightly in the conversion to cylindrical perspective) and at f2.8 I was able to expose for 1/125 at ISO 2,200. It is a lens where there is relatively little point in stopping down – though for landscapes in good light I’d perhaps work at f5.6 – and depth of field is pretty incredible wide open.

Later it did get very dark in the courtyard, and I was working at ISO 6400 again with lenses at full aperture, though with the 28.0-200.0 mm this is only f3.5-5.6 depending on the focal length. The 18-35mm is only slightly faster at f3.5-4.5.

After the previous week’s problems with wandering fingers I kept a close eye on the aperture and shutter speed. This was a much easier event from that point of view with plenty of time and no rushing. But light was a problem, not mainly because there was so little of it, but because what there was was almost entirely a bright orange. It’s easy enough to vary the colour of the cast (and often hard to avoid) but impossible to remove it.

Cyclists Kensington Vigil & Die In

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Against Terrorism, but…

Saturday, March 24th, 2018

I tried to go to the rally organised by the Football Lads Alliance and Veterans Against Terrorism with an open mind, or at least one that would have been pleased to be able to show that some of the things people had said about them was untrue. I certainly don’t believe that the great majority of football supporters are racist or Islamophobic, and on my brief previous encounter with the FLA as they photographed themselves with club wreaths on London Bridge had found no evidence to show they were other than typical football fans.

Of course there had been some disturbing revelations, not least about the group’s founder John Meighan and his former record as a football hooligan, and there were sure to be some in the large crowd with racist views. And as I walked to the protest I passed a couple of pubs with people standing outside drinking, some of whom I recognised from protests by the EDL and other far right groups – and some who made it clear that they recognised me. But as I mingled with the crowd of several thousand on Park Lane I began to hope that such people were in a small minority.

But then came the speeches, and any such hopes were dashed. Not just by what the speakers themselves were saying, but by the reaction of the crowd, a large proportion of whom seemed to be spiritedly endorsing racist and Islamophobic sentiments. It came to a head with a vast eruption when the name of Diane Abbott was mentioned, and amid th huge noise I could clearly hear a loud voice behind me shouting “Rape Her!”.

I photographed them as they lined up ready to march, and then left, rejoining the march later as it neared Trafalgar Square. Here they were joined by a couple of hundred Gurkhas and their supporters for the final stretch down to Westminster Bridge where they were to lay wreaths.

Although protests and campaigns led to Gurkhas with more than 4 years service in the British Army being allowed to live in the UK those who retired before 1997 receive pensions under a special scheme for Gurkhas operated before then which are only around a third or a quarter of those of other army veterans, and live in poverty. They include many who served for long periods and wear the decorations they were awarded for gallantry. A small amount of support in providing affordable homes was announced in 2015, together with larger measures for those remaining in Nepal, but many in the UK are still being treated very shabbily, and their cause attracts a high degree of public support, but has failed to move the Tory government.

For a few yards the Gurkhas headed the march, but were soon overtaken as it went down Whitehall. A small group of anti-racist protesters were waiting for them opposite Downing St, handing out leaflets. Although they had been at some lengths to point out that this was not a counter-demonstration, and the leaflet was asking questions about the organisation and how it intended to ensure that it stood up to the principles it had itself announced, many on the march reacted angrily.

Although a few took the leaflets and walked along quietly reading it, others snatched the fliers from the hands of those handing them out and scattered them, or took leaflets simply to tear them up in the faces of those distributing them, others shouted in rage, and a few made to attack the anti-racists, but were restrained by police who were standing alongside those handing the leaflets out.

One woman came across to shout at me, accusing me of calling her and the FLA and racist. Which I hadn’t done and was just there recording the event, taking photographs. Some of the FLA and Veterans Against Terrorism came to try and stop the abuse and to move people on – the end of the march had come to a halt. Finally police reinforcements arrived and pushed the crowd on and they slowly moved away. I watched from a distance as around a thousand made it to Westminster Bridge for the wreath-laying, though by this time rather more had disappeared. I sat eating a sandwich in Parliament Square with a large group of them around me discussing noisily what they should do; some were clearly upset by the way things had gone and were complaining about the way they felt the movement was being dominated by extremists.

Certainly not all of those at the rally and march are racists, not all are Islamophobic. But it does seem clear that there is a core of racists and Islamophobes at the centre of the organisation, including many with previous form in ultra-right organisations including the EDL and the National Front. And it is also clear that the kind of simple solutions that some of the speakers proposed are unworkable, breach every concept of human and civil rights and would have truly disastrous results for our society. There simply are no simple solutions and you have to be simple or dangerously duplicitous to propose them.

Football Lads Alliance Rally
Football Lads Alliance March
Stand Up To Racism and the FLA

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Stopping London Traffic Pollution

Friday, March 23rd, 2018

Every Saturday evening in my youth the BBC Home Service broadcast the radio programme ‘In Town Tonight’, introduced by the music of the Knightsbridge March by Eric Coates and traffic noise, halted by a loud shout ‘Stop!’ and the radio announcer’s voice “Once more we stop the mighty roar of London’s traffic …” It carried on, even becoming a TV show for a few years, an early chat show with celebrities and the odd and occasionally interesting rather random outside broadcast segment, most famously on a night spent in the waxworks Chamber of Horrors by Brian Johnston.

Memories of this and the comfortable fug as our family sat around the radio and a coal fire in our cramped living room came back to me as ‘Stop Killing Londoners‘ again stopped that mighty roar, if a little less dramatically, first at Oxford Circus, by stepping out with banners when the traffic was halted at the lights, in the sixth of their brief protests to highlight the thousands of premature deaths each year caused by air pollution in the city, largely by oxides of nitrogen and minute particulates from traffic. Official figures put the number of such deaths at very close to 10,000 deaths a year, and of course many more suffer greatly from illnesses caused or exacerbated by the polluted air, well above the legal limits for most pollutants.

Actions such as this are intended to force action from London’s Mayor and from TfL, who the protesters see as moving far too slowly and failing to confront those with vested interests, including London’s black cab drivers who are responsible for a surprisingly large amount both of the pollution and also the opposition to measures that tackle it, including the cycle superhighways. And until there is much greater public awareness of the problem, it is hard for the politicians to take more decisive action.

I’d met with the group on Oxford St around 6 pm, and as a photographer it was frustrating to see the light fading rapidly as we approached sunset and we were still waiting for more to arrive and the action to begin. It really was quite dark, and I wasn’t too well prepared for it. I’m always very surprised by the low light levels in parts of busy streets even in the very centre of London.

Flash generally isn’t a good option in wide open spaces for overall lighting, as it falls off with the square of the distance, but it does enable you to pick out people and banners closest to the camera, as in the picture above. But I didn’t want it to remove the shadows from the main lighting which was coming from the headlights of the vehicles stopped well behind those holding the banner.  In some of the other pictures this is a little more obvious.

The effect of the light fall-off with distance from the flash becomes more of a problem when the main  subject is at an angle so that some parts of it are much closer to the camera and flash than others. I often try to lessen the problem by twisting the flash head to the side. The flash doesn’t  really cover the very wide angle of the 18mm used for the above picture, and by angling it away from the centre, in this case towards the left of the picture, puts the closer figure into the area where the light is falling off.  But still considerable burning of the closer part of the image and dodging of the further areas is called for in Lightroom.

It isn’t easy to remember to shift the flash head in the heat of the moment – and with these short protests I’m always very much aware that I do only have a very short time, and often – as on this occasion, rush around taking pictures and getting things wrong.  It’s easy to turn the flash head to the left for one picture and then forget to put it back when it really should be head on.

But my main problem in the heat of the moment was, as usual, my straying fingers.  Quite how I managed to turn the control dial and change the shutter speed from the 1/250th selected to stop motion as the protesters moved into position through 1/500th, 1/1000th, 1/2000th and even to 1/4000th before I finally noticed I had a problem is hard to fathom.  Though the problem was far less noticeable on the camera back then when I was later looking at them larger on the computer.  The above image was made on the D750 at 1/2500s, f/3.5, ISO 6,400 and is at least 4 stops under-exposed, probably rather more.

The grainy image and odd, low saturation colour actually result in a certain gritty attraction, though not one that I was aiming for – and certainly one that required rather more processing in Lightroom than I like or usually allow. At extreme underexposure the darker areas of images acquire an odd purplish colour which needs careful tinting to eliminate. Quite a few images were impossible to salvage from the gloom, and I only had time to take a few pictures as by the time I realised my error the protest was drawing to an end.

The difference in image quality is pretty dramatic, even viewed in these small web images, and I tried to retake a few of the earlier pictures, but time was very short. I did have plenty of time to reflect on my mistakes as I walked down Regent Street with the protesters to Piccadilly Circus, and here I managed to keep my errant fingers a little better under control, at least for the first part of the protest.

Although it was later, it helped too that Piccadilly Circus is generally rather better lit – here the bright lights of London are generally something of a reality. But, as you will see if you look at the images, by the end of the protest there, my fingers had wandered yet again, making me wonder if amputation is the only answer…

Stop Killing Londoners with traffic fumes

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Luxury Cars, Cheap Labour

Saturday, March 17th, 2018

I think I last owned a car in 1966 or 1967. It was both my first and last car and frankly something of a liability and it was a relief to get a few quid from the scrapyard when I drove it there. I had a driving licence for the next 48 years and did occasionally hire a car when necessary, though I stopped doing so after a minor accident when I drove off the road into a ploughed field. I wasn’t sure at the time if it had been caused by a mechanical failure or a momentary blackout. A few years later, after being diagnosed as diabetic, the second seemed most likely.

I’ve never been a car person. Except perhaps in my extreme youth where I carried my copy of I-Spy Cars onto our local streets, which were rather disappointingly short of Rolls Royce, Bentley, Ferrari, Maserati et al and rather stronger on Morris, Austin, Vauxhall and Ford, largely early post-war clapped out models. That Ford Popular was popular, as was the Morris Minor. My family never owned a car – my father rode an ancient bicycle and used a hand cart when he needed to shift anything heavy or bulky like building materials or furniture. His father had been killed in a traffic accident a few years before I was born, when his horse-drawn cart was hit by a car unable to stop as he turned right across its path into their entrance across the main road. But by the time I was born they could no longer afford a horse.

All of which has really nothing to do with the United Voices of the World (UVW) trade union protest against Kensington luxury car dealers H R Owen, except to point out that they live in a very different world to mine. A new Lamborghini apparently costs around £160,000 or more, which would take one of the showroom cleaners over 21,000 hours to earn, well over 10 years of full-time work. Small change of course for those with bankers bonuses.

Angelica Valencia and Freddy Lopez keep the Maserati and Ferrari showroom further down the road spotless, for which they are paid £7.50 an hour. It’s a miserly rate, well below the London Living Wage which is calculated as the minimum needed to live on in London – and when this protest took place was £9.75 (in 2018 it went up to £10.20.) The Living Wage is 30% more than employers Templewood (backed up by the luxury car dealers who contract them) pay their cleaners. Things were even worse than that. Not only were they on poverty pay, but they were being required to work longer hours than they were paid to do and Templewood was making unlawful deductions from those minimal wages.

Angelica and Freddy joined the union and asked to be paid a living wage, but the employers response was to suspend the two of them without pay. So the UVW decided to take the employers to the courts and protest outside the showrooms. The protest was supported by other UVW members and friends from other groups, including Class War and the Revolutionary Communist group who have long supported various campaigns to get a living wage for London’s low paid workers. Whether or not you agree with some of their political views, they are prepared to get out and protest effectively on behalf of those treated badly by society.

And this protest helped, though it took another a month or so later to finally get the employers to see how ridiculous they were being, recognise their obligations and reach a satisfactory settlement, which led to a third planned protest being called off.

Of course I was pleased for Angelica and Freddy, but I had rather enjoyed photographing the two protests and was just a little disappointed not to be able to cover a third. But there were plenty of other protests, too many other companies large and small that still pay staff the least they possibly can and treat them badly.

Cleaners at luxury car dealers HR Owen
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NHS not Border Police

Friday, March 16th, 2018

Being foreign isn’t a disease or an injury and to those of us brought up under a universal health system like the NHS, free at the point of use, it just seems wrong that doctors and hospitals should have an obligation to check someone’s immigration status when they come needing assistance. Yet since last October, a few weeks after this protest by medical staff and supporters they have been required to do so for anyone seeking non-emergency care will be required to prove they are entitled to free health service under the NHS and will be asked to pay for their treatment up front if they are not.

The change is all part of the government’s intention to ensure a ‘hostile environment‘ for anyone not entitled to be in the country, though it won’t of course affect the rich who pay for their private treatment – and they will in any case be welcomed here if they have sufficient funds to invest in the UK. There does seem to me something truly obscene about a system which welcomes the rich but hounds the poor.

The UK too is a country that believes in free trade and promotes it through various organisations. Again there seems to me a contradiction in promoting the free movement of goods but sets up great hurdles to prevent the free movement of people – except for tourism.

Roughly 10% of registered doctors and 4% of registered nurses in the UK are EU immigrants with slightly large proportions from outside the EU. Many who have migrated to work here are now British citizens, and a fairly large proportion of those born in the UK have parents who were migrants. As a frequent patient of the NHS I’m very aware of how dependent it is on migration to the UK, with so many of the staff I meet being from abroad. It seems rather inappropriate to ask these people effectively to police our borders.

The Patients Not Passports – No Borders in the NHS! protest was a slightly complicated one to photograph, as it had three separate blocs with different starting points, so I had to chose one of them. I met with the Migrants Welcome bloc, partly because I thought it might be more interesting and I knew some of those who would be there, and so was unable to photograph either the Maternity Care bloc or the Sisters bloc (I think Sisters as in Sisters Uncut rather than in the nursing sense) until the three groups came together in an undisclosed location.

Looking at where the three blocs were starting it was relatively straightforward to guess that our common destination might well be somewhere in the area of St Thomas’ Hospital, and we met with them just on the other side of the road, then walking into the garden area above the hospital car park for the joint rally. There were just one or two security staff who attempted to stop the protesters, but clearly stood no chance of doing so; either the hospital authorities (and police) had failed to notice the very public advertisements on social media for the protest or had decided only to offer a very token resistance. I suspect the latter as they will have appreciated the mood of their staff.

The protesters had decided that a very large banner would make a great photo opportunity to get press coverage, but unfortunately it was almost impossible to get the kind of result they had in mind – and at that point there were a number of security officers anxious to prevent us taking it. But the giant ‘Migrants Welcome Here‘ banner is really a difficult format to handle, being over ten times as long as it is high. I did manage to make a usable image, though the banner rather hides the rally behind it, and was rather pleased to catch a pigeon at almost exactly the right place before I was chased off the grass I needed to be on to take it with the 18-35 mm at its widest.

I had one other problem. Apparently there were some people on the protest who because of immigration issues requested that they were not photographed, and some wore small symbols to identify them. It isn’t practicable or even a sensible approach, and there is a very simple alternative if such people wish to take part in public protests (as they have every right to.) Which is to wear a mask or face-paint as a disguise. Police may sometimes ask protesters to remove masks, though not usually if they are clearly decorative, but photographers certainly won’t.

Apparently one such person appeared as a bystander in a couple of my pictures that are on the web site. I don’t know if he was wearing the ‘no photography’ symbol but from where I took the picture there was nothing to indicate he didn’t want to be photographed. It just isn’t possible for photographers to keep track of everyone taking part in a protest in this way.

By the time I had been told of the problem, one of those images had already been distributed around the world and it was too late to take any effective action. Other photographers who were at the event, including some from the major agencies, will also have taken pictures with him in the frame, and their pictures too will have gone out uncensored. But on my web site I have altered his image into a rather blurred generic figure. Like most journalists and photographers I’m opposed to such censorship, but this was a request from a friend and the presence of that person was not important to the picture. I felt unhappy to do so, but angry that I had been put into a position where it was necessary.

No NHS immigration checks

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Senate House In House

Thursday, March 15th, 2018

When security officers at London University were taken off the university payroll and instead employed by independent companies who tendered for a contract to provide their services to the university they were made a number of promises, none of which have been kept. One was that the pay differential between them and other workers would be maintained.  The workers and their union, the IWGB Independent Workers union say that since 2011 these differentials have been considerably eroded.

Although there is some theoretical protection when workers are transferred from one employer to another – the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations, usually called TUPE, in practice these are often ineffectual and tougher laws and an easier process of enforcement is desperately needed.

Out-sourcing of services is a cost-cutting measure, but costs are only cut by reducing the overall benefits the workers receive and by increasing their workload. And worse, since out-sourcing usually brings in new layers of management and in profits being taken for the company contracted and its shareholders, this too has to be paid for by the workers.

Out-sourced workers get bullied, often by managers who, to cut costs, are also not particularly well paid and often lack the proper training, qualifications and skills needed to be good managers. Usually too there is skimping on equipment and materials, often endangering the health and safety of the employees.

Workers employed at the University of London, both those in the separate universities such as SOAS and Birkbeck and those in the central administration at Senate House have been involved in a long campaign to be taken back ‘in -house’ as University employees, and also for comparable employment conditions – pensions, holiday entitlement and sick pay – with those of similar directly employed staff.

They also want proper contracts, as many are now either on zero hours contracts or on similar arrangements which guarantee only a small number of annual hours, equivalent to around six or seven hours a week.

After protesting outside Stewart House, the protesters moved on to Senate House, where they were barred from entering by other security guards employed by the same company as many of the protesting security officers. There was perhaps a little element of a game about it.

The protest then moved on and walked into the foyer of nearby Birkbeck College which had not been expecting trouble, walking past the one security office on duty there who argued with them but was in no position to stop them. They left after around ten minutes of noisy protest and returned for a final rally outside Stewart House.

There was a car parked rather in the way of where the rally was taking place, and I saw the possibility of using a reflection in its roof in a picture after the IWGB banner had been placed behind.   It would have been easy to set one up, but that would have been unethical – I’m there to record events not to direct them – though many photographers would do so without a second thought.  But for me it was a matter of waiting and hoping that someone would step into just the right place and then rushing to take the picture. Fortunately they did.

End outsourcing at London University
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A Year of the Ritzy strike

Saturday, March 10th, 2018

I’d rushed from the march to Finsbury Park to join the Ritzy strikers in Brixton, who were celebrating a year of striking for a living wage, though their campaign had began several years earlier, and I first photographed them outside the cinema in 2014.


Outside the Brixton Ritzy in July 2014

As I commented back then, “The Ritzy is the busiest and most successful art-house cinema in the the UK and can afford to treat its workers decently, but perhaps fear it will set a precedent for other workers in the Cineworld empire“. It is a large and highly profitable business, with a net income in 2016 of £82.0 million, but according to The Guardian (quoted by Wikipedia) 80% of its 4,300 staff are on zero hour contracts.

These workers are the victims not just of a greedy anti-union management who could easily afford employ their workers on proper contracts and to pay them a living wage, but of our anti-union governments, which have legislated to reduce the power of the unions and largely failed to make the laws we have about trade union rights enforceable and have not dealt with the zero hours loophole in contract law. And although we do have employment tribunals, too many employers still get away with the victimisation of workers for their trade union activities.

The strikers are members of BECTU, the leading union for the media and entertainment industries, which became a sector of Prospect at the start of 2017. It isn’t a union that has a reputation for militancy, and seems a little embarrassed by the activities of the Picturehouse workers and some of the groups that have supported them, including grass roots trade unions such as the United Voices of the World and the IWGB who were both at the Brixton rally and march.

I’d arrived as Poets on the Picket Line were performing, always interesting to listen too, but perhaps rather difficult to make particularly interesting still images. I took a few pictures while wondering if I knew how to use the video features of my cameras. I have made videos (and even in the long distant past ‘worked’ as an unpaid cameraman on a film, as well as making video recordings and real-time video editing on a campus TV network) but gave all that up after I stopped being a student and took up still photography.

I was told there would be a big surprise coming, and it arrived in the form of the newly acquired ‘Precarious Workers Mobile’ bright yellow Reliant Robin. There were also a number of speeches from supporters to photograph as well as a presentation to mark the anniversary, including some from the UVW involved in a dispute with the London Ferrari dealers.

I’d taken quite a few pictures and succumbed to the wiles of a few friends who were going to a nearby pub, where I had an enjoyable pint of a locally brewed beer (it’s become impossible to keep up with the number of breweries in London – in 2010 there were only 14, but the latest figure is 74) before saying goodbye and leaving. My timing was immaculate, and as I reached the steps into Brixton Underground I heard the noise of a protest in the distance and rushed to the junction with Atlantic Rd to see the Ritzy strikers and supporters coming along the road led by the Precarious Worker’s Robin, and photographed them as they made their way back to the Ritzy along the Brixton Rd, before returning to the station to make my way home.
One year of Ritzy strike
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Haringey march against HDV

Wednesday, March 7th, 2018

People from Haringey, including many who would lose there homes under the council’s plans for a £2 billion give-away of estates for private development, which might include some affordable housing, were joined by housing campaigners from across London for a march against the plans, the so-called Haringey Developmnet Vehicle, or HDV.

It now seems hopeful that with a change in Labour party housing policies and the likely results of this May’s council elections the plan will be stopped, though officers and councillors who perhaps stand to benefit from it appear still to be attempting to push it through. Their argument that the private development would somehow be good for the people of the area has been thoroughly discredited, and the tightening of some of the loopholes that the developer would certainly have intended to exploit announced this week by the government might also give Lendlease some second thoughts about the desirability of the project.

It was a rather long march and went slowly, starting by Tottenham Town Hall and walking a slightly long way round to Finsbury Park. I found it a little tiring, carrying a fairly heavy camera bag and of course adding to the length by walking up and down to take pictures rather than simply going straight along the road. Often I was walking backwards, which is also more tiring, though at least I managed not to walk into street furniture or trip down kerbs.

I’d intended to go the whole distance to Finsbury Park, where there was supposed to be another rally, but in the end had to give up a little before the end as I had run out of time. There had been a rather longer rally before the march moved off than expected and it had started late, and I was due at another protest.

I almost got to Finsbury Park, and abandoned the slow march at Manor House, when we had already passed at least a couple of places that I’d photographed in my work on Finsbury Park in 2002, taken with the Hassleblad X-Pan, mainly using the 30mm lens. Another picture taken just a few yards off the road to the left was the winning image in a competition about the area, though I think others that I took are more representative of the area.

Haringey against council housing sell-off

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