Archive for the ‘Political Issues’ Category

Strength in Grief

Sunday, April 5th, 2020

With so much bad news around I hesitate to write about a funeral, but in October Extinction Rebellion held their ‘Strength in Grief’ rally at Marble Arch to express their profound grief at the extinction of species taking place due to global warming and which threatens the future of human life, and followed this with a funeral procession along Oxford St.

We are now facing another great threat to human life, one we are all personally threatened with, and many of us are at particular risk from, some because they are having to work closely with people suffering from coronavirus, others because they are particularly likely to die should they catch it. As someone in the high risk category, though not with governmental ‘extremely vulnerable’ status I’m worried and also isolating myself as much as possible.

The XR rally and march took place on the anniversary of Colombus landing in South America, truly a black day for the population of that continent, bringing disease and exploitation. While some celebrate Columbus Day, for many others the 31st October is the Day of Indigenous Resistance, and a number of the speakers reminded us of this. Climate Change has already killed many in the Global South.

While in the UK the lack of preparation has been a matter of government policy, part of their programme to run down and sell off the NHS through the back door to private health companies and their more general cuts to public services and local authority spending, for many countries it is impoverishment through centuries of colonialism and neo-colonialism that has left them unable to cope with the current pandemic.

The UK is one of the world’s richest nations – thanks in large part to our imperial past which fed our economy and fertilised the inventiveness of which we can still be proud. I grew up in the immediate post-war period when the experience of the war had led to the realisation that we had to work together as a society. From that came secondary education for all, the NHS and the whole welfare state. I hope COVID-19 will have the same galvanising effect as we can’t afford to go back to ‘business as usual’. The world needs to wake up and ‘Face Up to the Problem’. I hope I’ll still be around to see it starting to happen; at least I’ve not yet had a letter from my doctor with a DNR form, though it could still come.

More pictures at XR Strength in Grief Procession.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.

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, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Trafalgar Square protests

Saturday, April 4th, 2020
Ian Hodson, BFAWU President

Back on Saturday 12th October there were two protests taking place in Trafalgar Square and it was raining. One was by trade unionists supporting Extinction Rebellion and the school climate strikers, and there was a powerful speech from Ian Hodson, National President of the Baker’s Union BFAWU.  His union is one of the older and smaller unions in the TUC, founded in 1847 in Manchester though it has changed its name a couple of times.

The BFAWU is a union that still fights actively for its members and isn’t afraid to take on large organisations, including McDonald’s, Burger King, and KFC in its campaign to unionise and improve pay and conditions for fast food workers.

The rain came on rather more heavily, and I kept my cameras in my camera bag or under my coat, and took rather fewer pictures than I would otherwise. Working in wet conditions is still rather a pain, even though some cameras and some lenses are ‘weatherproof’ this doesn’t really keep them going in the rain.

The 3million organisation representing the three million EU citizens who were living in the UK had come prepared, wearing blue and yellow plastic rain capes with a sticker on them also in the colours of the EU flag and the message ‘I am not a bargaining chip’.

They had come to protest at the broken promise made by the Vote Leave campaign, which had clearly stated that EU Citizens currently living in the UK would “automatically be granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK” in the event of Brexit. Instead we have a complex scheme of applications, with many who have applied for leave to remain having their applications rejected. Some who have lived here for over 50 years, and have children who are UK citizens may face deportation.

Together they tore up copies of the promise, though the light had dropped and the pictures I took on a longer lens were rather blurred by their motion – I hadn’t got my camera set to a high enough ISO.

I still can’t decide which is the best way to work with my digital cameras when lighting conditions are likely to change. The different cameras I use – and on this occasion it was an Olympus OMD M5 II and a Fuji XT-1 – have slightly differing implementation of auto-ISO, which would seem to be a good answer, but in practice can mean that you are too often working at full aperture.

Probably the answer is to work in manual mode, setting both aperture and shutter speed when using auto-ISO, but it is then very easy to find that either you have reached your maximum ISO set and the camera then underexposes everything, or, even worse, you are at the minimum ISO in your range and all your images are overexposed with burnt out highlights.

More on both protests:

Brexit unfair for EU citizens
Trade Unionists join the Rebellion


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.


On the Third Day

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

The rather tense stand-off between police and Extinction Rebellion protesters who were still blocking much of Westminster continued, with the police at times adopting rather rougher tactics, including the deliberate destruction of tents and other property as well as making arrests.

XR’s protest continued to be rather remarkable, with street performers, music and mimes including Charlie X as well as XR’s red and green robed troupes.

People were still determined to continue their protest and it was clear that the police were coming under increasing political pressure to end them, though quite a few officers seemed rather unhappy at what they were being ordered to do.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson had attacked the protesters, insulting them as ‘crusties’ but was still failing to take any action. XR’s demands remain, calling for the government tell the truth about the climate and ecological emergency, act to halt biodiversity loss, reduced emissions to net zero and create and be led by a Citizens Assembly.

There were many arrests during the day, with XR’s non-violent approach being maintained, and police succeeded in clearing some of the areas.

Extinction Rebellion Day 3


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.

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, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


BEIS told to Axe Drax

Saturday, March 28th, 2020
Mayer Hillman, 88 year old Senior Fellow Emeritus at the Policy Studies Institute

I arrived some time after the start of this protest by Biofuel Watch outside the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) having been at the Royal Courts of Justice for the XR Lawyers declaration of Rebellion, but was fortunately in time to hear some of the main speakers, including Mayer Hillman who has been writing about environment issues for many years – and whose work has inspired some government actions such as energy standards for housing and 20mph speed limits to reduce road deaths. But his warnings on the need for urgent climate action over many years have so far failed to produce any significant actions.

You can listen to his video “The Last and Most Important Advice I Will Ever Give” on YouTube, which puts the information on Climate Change simply and directly. Over 70% of the greenhouse gases causing global warming come from burning fossil fuels – coal, gas and oil – which are produced by around 100 companies, and we have to stop using fossil fuels. The other main source is deforestation, with the destruction of forests for agricultural land and the burning of wood.

Drax is a major UK source of carbon dioxide, and claims huge ‘environmental subsidies’ for doing so, despite their huge contribution to global warming. Switching to wood burning has made Drax a worse polluter but the UK government gives it £2 million a day for ‘renewable’ subsidies out of our electricity bills for doing so – and Drax has plans for expansion to also become the UK’s largest gas-fired power station.

As Hillman says, if life on the planet is to continue we need urgently to stop both fossil fuel use and deforestation, but our current politicians have failed to take effective action. We need to vote them out and vote in others who will do so.

He urges people to join the global rebellion led by XR and for young people to be inspired by the actions of Greta Thunberg and join the youth climate strike protests.

More at Biofuel Watch – Axe Drax at BEIS.

Lawyers Protest

Friday, March 27th, 2020

Extinction Rebellion’s October protest continued on its third day with a protest outside the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand.

It was in some ways an unusual protest, involving a number of figures from the legal world, solicitors, barristers and others, including Richard Lord QC and international climate lawyer and diplomat Farhana Yamin, as well as leading figures in XR, including Gail Bradbrook and Lawyers for XR founders Natalie Barbosa and Paul Powlesland.

Lawyers for XR is one of a number of special interest groups within the organisation, and its formation was inspired by the example of medical workers who had formed their own group.

The lawyers had come up with their own ‘Lawyers’ Declaration of Rebellion’ and copies of this, wrapped in the traditional pink ribbon for briefs were handed around, giving the protest its own look.

Lawyers have of course played an important role in the fight to save the planet, and among those remembered at this event were Scottish barrister Polly Higgins who died in April 2019 and had led a long campaign calling for a criminal law of ecocide to impose a legal duty on governments to protect the public from dangerous industrial practices. 

More pictures at All Rise For Climate Justice.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.

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, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Stirling (or Sterling?) Prize

Thursday, March 26th, 2020
ASH mocks the champagne celebration inside with Cava on the street

I was pleased to get this picture of what was a very difficult event for me to get any worthwhile photographs. I’m a great admirer of the work of Architects for Social Housing, a small group that punches well above its weight in pointing out the crimes, profiteering and failures of current housing policies pursued by local authorities and national government which amount to an attack on the poor.

A poster from a Class War supporter

Their detailed studies have laid bare the terrible effects of demolition of council estates, driving those on low incomes out of the central areas of London in a huge exercise of social cleansing and making excessive profits for the developers, as well as providing well-paid jobs for some council staff and ex-staff. Most of those London councils are Labour councils, including Southwark, Lambeth and Newham, though Tory councils are following similar shameful practices, and at the root of all this are the housing policies of Thatcher and New Labour.

A man holding his Stirling Prize invite stops to photograph the protest

Their reports have shown the financial incentives that result in demolition and new build schemes with little or no low rent social housing replacing large numbers of council homes, as well as the hugely damaging environmental consequences of such large schemes. Their detailed alternative development plans have shown how estates could be renovated and the number of housing units greatly increased without the huge social costs of destroying existing communities and retaining existing low cost housing, without the need to evict existing tenants and leaseholders.

Following the disaster of the Grenfell fire, they published a report within weeks that clearly identified the problems which had made it inevitable. ASH called for those responsible to be brought to justice, pointing out that similar disasters in other countries such as Japan had led to prosecutions within a few weeks – while we have an inquiry that is still proceeding which seems to have as its major aim the deflection of blame from those responsible for the defects and failures to the actions of the emergency services on the night of the fire. It’s right of course that these should be examined and lessons learnt, but it wasn’t the Fire Service which created a fire trap through cost-cutting , avoidance of proper fire safety measures and a sheer disregard for the safety of the people who lived in Grenfell.

Oliver Wainwright, the Guardian’s architecture and design critic speaks before going into the prize event

ASH were protesting outside the highly prestigious Stirling Awards ceremony condemning architects for social cleansing, council estate demolition and housing privatisation and calling on architects to end wanton environmentally disastrous demolitions and to serve the needs of citizens with socially beneficial, financially viable and environmentally sustainable architecture rather than corporate profits. You can read more on their web site.

In particular they had come to point out that the winning entry, widely lauded in the press as marking a new era in social housing, is actually a  a commercial venture owned by Norwich council and will not be offering secure council tenancies and that council homes were demolished to build it. They were particularly incensed that it was also nominated for (and won) the new Neave Brown Award, set up to honour the recently deceased champion and architect of council housing; they see this as an insult to the memory of our great architect of council housing.

A woman came to shout at Simon Elmer and pushed him

ASH’s approach represents a threat to many architects who rely on the highly lucrative projects of major developers (named for Sir James Stirling (1926-92) whose 1977 major public housing scheme in Runcorn was demolished only 15 years after it was built, it should perhaps be better re-named as the ‘Sterling’ prize) and the protest was not well received by many of them – with one woman going as far as coming to assault Simon Elmer of ASH. But there were also some largely younger architects who expressed support.

It was a small protest and started rather late, when many had already gone inside to enjoy the ‘free’ champagne their very expensive tickets provided. The light was falling fast and it was hard to find an angle which worked to connect the protest and the event. I was pleased when the protesters decided to mock the champagne celebrations inside with a few plastic cups of cheap Cava (and I was holding cup of it myself when I took the picture at the top of this post. I left as it got too dark to photograph without flash, though perhaps I should have stayed, as more people arrived and the protest apparently got livelier later. But I’d been on my feet far too long and needed to get home and eat.

More at Stirling Prize for Architecture


Rebellion continues

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

The second day of Extinction Rebellion’s shutdown of Westminster was in some respects a disturbing one for those of us who believe in civil liberties and the rule of law, with the police moving in at times like a group of thugs and deliberately destroying the property of the protesters.

XR have a dedication to non-violence and made no attempt to stop the police or to resist the arrests that took place, and the use of force seemed quite uncalled for. Of course large scale acts of civil disobedience do cause inconvenience and annoyance to others, but the response of a civilised society should be to try and resolve the issues rather than to attack the protesters.

Those who break laws can and in the case of XR do expect to be arrested but should not be assaulted and too many arrests that I saw seemed to involve an unnecessary use of violence and deliberate infliction of pain.

One new banner read ‘CLIMATE STRUGGLE = CLASS STRUGGLE’ and it is perhaps hard not to see the police as a force being used by the small group of those who are rich and powerful to protect their own narrow interests at the expense of the rest of the people. Their more vigorous response on this second day of protest can only have been a result of considerable political pressure on them to subdue the protests. They clearly came not to keep the peace but to try and win a battle.

As you can see from my pictures, the protests were still continuing at various sites around Westminster and the general atmosphere was something of a festival. But a festival with a great deal of commitment by people desperate that our government take effective action against the most serious problem faced by the country and the world. We are just beginning to see a government forced into taking belated action against the threat posed by COVID-19, but we need a similar level of action against climate change that otherwise will be even more catastrophic.

‘Everything Will Change’ whether we like it or not, but we have a choice to make changes which may avert the extinction of our species. But our government continues to fiddle while the planet burns.

More at Extinction Rebellion continues.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.


XR Wedding

Sunday, March 22nd, 2020

I’m not a wedding photographer. I have been asked to photograph weddings on quite a few occasions, but with a handful of exceptions for family and friends I’ve always refused – it just isn’t something I have any interest in and I’m fortunate to be able to afford to refuse work I don’t want to do. There are others who enjoy it and find it fulfilling – and who need the money.

I think until this event my full tally was five – two sons and three old friends for whom I did it as a wedding present. And at this wedding on Westminster Bridge, although I was taking pictures I wasn’t ‘the wedding photographer’, it was a part of Extinction Rebellion’s protest.

Though I had known one of the couple for some years. I think I first photographed Tamsin back in 2008 when she was leading the attempt by Climate Rush to storm the Houses of Parliament, and got to know her better at a series of protests over the next year or two, mainly against Heathrow expansion.

I hadn’t known when it was announced by XR that there would be a wedding that she was to be one of the couple getting married. The start of the event was somewhat delayed as her partner was held up at a protest outside the Dept of Business etc (BEIS) in Victoria St, and Tamsin had to go and find her, but eventually all the vital parties were present and the ceremony began.

It proceeded much like any other wedding, except there seemed to be considerably more kissing, but all the normal bits were there, including the exchange of rings.

I was some distance away and to one side, and at some parts of the ceremony the participants had their backs to me and it certainly wasn’t possible to move to get a better view. But for some of the time I was in a perfect position as this picture of Tamsin slipping the ring onto Mellissa’s finger I could not have been better placed. This is a relatively small detail from a frame (below) taken with the angle of view roughly equivalent to using 200mm lens, though I was actually working at 31mm (62 mm equivalent) using the 14-150 zoom on the Olympus OMD EM5-II.

It was a dull afternoon, but I was still working at 1/100s f8 at ISO400. I suspect the image stabilisation of the Olympus body helped to keep the picture sharp, at at lowish ISOs the quality of the Micro Four Third’s image is great. I think in low light, at ISO3200 and above, there is a noticeable advantage for full-frame, but when you can use slower speeds it is hard to tell the difference.

More pictures at XR Rebels marry on Westminster Bridge.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.

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, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


XR Westminster

Saturday, March 21st, 2020

I don’t know who these two men were, striding purposefully with their document cases but I think they had emerged from a government ministry and they were probably making their way to another or possibly the Tory party HQ. It’s possibly quite unfair, but to me they seemed to epitomise the reason why we are in the situation we are in, a determination to carry on ‘business as usual‘ when it is quite clear that to survive we need drastic system change. We can’t trust men in suits.

XR were protesting across Westminster, and it was hard to keep up with what was happening at I think eleven locations, but I did quite a lot of walking around and taking pictures, with a pretty total shutdown of all the roads in the area. Police made movement a little more difficult by setting up some road blocks of their own, which seemed totally pointless but made my job more difficult when they wouldn’t even let me walk across Lambeth Bridge although I showed my press card.

They seemed also to be making the very occasional and almost totally random arrests, picking on small groups or individuals when hundreds were blocking roads. It seemed a simply pique at being unable to control the situation of mass peaceful civil disobedience.

Although it was taking place in London, the XR protest was not a London protest, with the huge bulk of the protesters having come into the city from small towns across the country. XR has been very successful at motivating a largely white mainly middle class and highly educated population but rather less so with the urban working class, and there were far fewer from London’s ethnic communities than at most London protests, and who are well represented in movements such as the Youth Climate Strike and of course anti-racist and anti-fascist protests.

It will of course be the poor and those who have to struggle most to make a living in our cities who will be the first to suffer as the effects of global heating kick in, just as it is the countries of the majority world who are now feeling it most severely. But perhaps it is hard to persuade people who are living in precarious situations of the efficacy of the kind of apolitical and non-violent approach that appeals to XR supporters.

More at Extinction Rebellion occupy Westminster.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.

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, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


The Rich don’t care

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

The main event I had come to Mayfair to cover was the continuing dispute at one of the most exclusive of clubs, LouLou’s, where the IWGB Cleaners and Facilities Branch was holding one of a series of protests on behalf of the kitchen porters who work there.

The porters want a living wage and to be treated with dignity and respect and given decent terms and conditions including proper sick pay, holidays and pension contributions.

LouLou’s is an exclusive club and membership is apparently only available to people who are regarded as celebrities and they include some well-known names. What they appear to have in common, from their reactions as they were escorted past the protesters is any regard for the people who work long and unsocial hours to service their needs.

And of course they are also people to who spend silly amounts of money on their own entertainment – the annual subscription to the club is £1800 and a gin and tonic costs £20 – but begrudge the workers a living wage. That £20 drink is over two hours wages for a kitchen porter.

The club tried to play a very hard game, suspending some of the workers – all migrants – on trumped up charges in August. But the protests and an online petition:

Migrant workers at Brexiteer millionaire Robin Birley’s 5 Hertford Street club have been suspended on trumped up charges. #5HeartlessStreet

Their crime? Demanding a living wage & sick pay.
Sign & help end this injustice

increased the pressure. And on December 11th the IWGB made an announcement:

11 December: The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) has called off strikes planned for today and tomorrow at 5 Hertford Street, as it consults members following an offer from the club.

5 Hertford Street has offered its kitchen porters the London Living Wage from January 2020, 5 days sick pay, and regular quarterly consultations with the union on terms and conditions.

https://iwgb.org.uk/post/5df0d186b3f7c/5-hertford-street-concedes-top

More at IWGB at Mayfair club Loulou’s


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.