Archive for May, 2011

Disablement Protest at ATOS

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

© 2011, Peter Marshall

Atos, the company who run rather dodgy computer-based tests in a conspiracy with the Dept of Work & Pensions to cut down the number of people who receive disablement benefits, have their offices in Triton Square, which is on the north side of the Euston Road. This is a new development, and like most such in London is a privately owned public space, patrolled by security guards. Just the kind of area photographers were protesting against earlier this month because of the anti-photography policy they adopt.

Doubtless, parties and political demonstrations are also banned, but doubtless Atos realise the terrible publicity they would get from an obvious attempt to interfere with a protest by disabled people, many of them in wheelchairs, and although there were police and security in attendance, there was no real attempt to stop the protest or prevent photographers taking pictures of it. A security guard did come and take down one or two placards that had been taped to some of the trees, and the police provided a few barriers, but this time that was all. At the previous disabled “party and protest” on the site there had been a little more intervention, with police at first trying to prevent the protesters approaching the Atos offices and later briefly kettling the disabled, but perhaps they learnt a little from those mistakes.

I was rather annoyed to find, after taking my first 20 or so pictures, that I had not looked at the camera settings at all, and have left the camera on manual exposure when I had previously used it in bright sun, whereas particularly at the bottom of a cavern of tall office buildings it was now deep gloom.  When I looked at the display there were just traces of images and I did the only sensible thing and deleted them and then tried to retake as many as possible. Easy enough where all I had done was to photograph people holding placards, but impossible to get that security guard to repeat his taking down of a poster, or the police to set up the barriers again. And I forgot to repeat one image, a closer view of the man above with his two fists together, tatoos spelling out the word ‘FREEDOM.’ ‘DOM’ on its own isn’t quite as good.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

It is the kind of error that happens most often when something that seems worth photographing happens before I’m ready for it, and I just grab the camera out of my bag and start shooting.  Which is why I try to remember to do those ‘pre-flight’ checks on my way to events – ISO, white balance, image quality (always RAW), exposure mode, sensible settings for aperture and shutter in shutter priority, aperture priority, manual modes, suitable custom settings (most of which I never change.)  But for some reason I hadn’t, perhaps I was busy talking to someone, I can’t remember.

This image was also one that showed the need for an ‘untwisted’ camera profile. Processed normally using the ‘Adobe Standard’ profile the top right of the fluorescent orange poster changed from orange through yellows to a burnt out white, and burning it in was pretty well impossible and still maintained a colour shift towards yellow. Simply changing to the ‘Camera Neutral v3 dcpTool Untwist’ profile removed any colour shift, and the image became more or less as above, and needed very little local adjustment.

I don’t use this profile all the time, as I think the Adobe Standard one generally does give reasonably accurate and more pleasing results – as was its design objective. But it certainly is handy to have the other profile available, and it seems often to be needed when dealing with very bright oranges – such as this image. All of the other images in Disabled Protest Calls Atos Killers were produced with the latest Adobe Standard profile.

Hunger Strike Ends

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

For once there is some good news to report about one of the events that I photographed and supported. On Friday 6 May I photographed six Iranian men who had been on hunger strike for a month, three outside Lunar House in Croydon and the other three in Shoreditch when they came to protest outside the houses of Parliament and the nearby Home Office building, along with around 50 supporters.

 © 2011, Peter Marshall

My own report on the event, Iranians Hunger Strike against Deportation to Torture And Death, went on Demotix that evening, and on My London Diary a couple of days later, and I gave permission for the group supporting the hunger strikers to make use of some of my pictures to publicise their cause. Every little helps, but it was the determination of these men (of course driven by their desperate position) that impressed me and finally the UK Borders Agency to agree to reconsider their cases and their evidence, and I was very pleased to read a report in the Croydon Guardian (CG) on May 11 to that effect.

To most of us it seems insane to suggest that it can be safe to send anyone – or at least anyone except a card-carrying Muslim fundamentalist – back to Iran. Certainly not anyone who is linked in any way to the Iranian protest movement. Though the CG story attracted several comments apparently from people who knew nothing about the case and had failed to read what the CG had actually reported, but just saw it as an opportunity to air a little racist anti-immigrant bile.

Photographically I wasn’t entirely pleased with what I had taken, and felt I had missed one obvious image. Three of the hunger strikers had stitched up their lips with nylon fishing line, and really I hadn’t gone in for a close enough image to show this.  Possibly the reason was that I was using just a single camera body, the D700, with the 16-35mm Nikon and the 28-300mm Sigma, as I’d been out earlier with some of my family and didn’t want to carry more.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

The Sigma does focus reasonably close, and I took a number of fairly tight head shots in which the nylon line is clearly visible, but I could (and should) have got closer, even though the lens that would really have let me do the job well, the Nikon 60mm macro, was back on my desk at home.

Although my usual kit covers most eventualities, I try to think before I leave home if I might need any of the many bits and pieces that I don’t usually carry.  But though I might have wanted to take the macro, I also wanted to travel lighter than usual because of the other things I was doing that day.

More on the story and more pictures at Iranians Hunger Strike Against Deportation on My London Diary.

Photographers Protest

Friday, May 13th, 2011

I didn’t quite photograph myself, but for once I was as much taking part in a protest as photographing it, along with around 50 other photographers in an event organised by ‘I’m a Photographer Not a Terrorist‘ (PHNAT), an organisation set up a couple of years ago to protect photographers and the right to photograph largely as a reaction to a Met campaign which had involved posters and ads suggesting that anyone with a camera was suspicious and should be reported to them.

We’ve seen case after case in recent years of people being stopped, searched, arrested and otherwise harassed, often entirely illegally, by police and also by security personnel, and quite a few have made the national news.  But the PHNAT protest was more about the way that more and more areas open to the public in our cities are now privately owned and patrolled (and under CCTV surveillance) by security guards with an unreasonable attitude to people taking photographs.

One of the more stupid and indefensible acts of political pique in British politics of the last century was the abolition of a London-wide authority in 1986, after which the headquarters of London government, County Hall was sold off to the sorry mix of hotels and commerce that now occupies it.  Eventually at least some kind of sanity returned and we now have a Greater London Authority and a Mayor (if sanity doesn’t really describe the current incumbent) but it did not have a home of its own. The odd curate’s egg of of a building it hires for its home sits in a private estate called ‘More London’ with a huge area of public walkways on which photographers are not welcome (although thousands of tourists walk through it and photograph Tower Bridge.)

My biggest problem on the day was finding a tripod to take with me as the event organisers suggested. I do have a rather large and heavy one which used to support my 4×5, but I wanted something that was reasonably portable. It’s years since I’ve seriously used a tripod – and high ISO digital performance makes it less and less likely for my normal work, but I knew I had something smaller – but bigger than my plastic table tripod – somewhere.  Eventually I ran it to earth in a box  on top of my wardrobe.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
A herd of photographers at City Hall

I decided that the 10.5mm fisheye was going to be a very useful lens on the D300, making it possible to show the photographers and also the oddly-shaped City Hall, where a little spherical effect would hardly be noticeable. At a pinch in some images I could get in Tower Bridge as well. Of course I did some pictures with the 16-35mm on the D700 as well.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
My dinky tripod towards the right of the picture

This is a 17mm picture at f20 to get plenty of depth of field, as I’m holding my own placard again. No depth of field scale on the lens, but I thought set at 2m most of the universe should be in focus.

Photographers City Hall Flashmob

Stabbed in Rochester

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Stabbed! In the eye. By my camera strap.

It doesn’t look like a dangerous weapon, but as I raised my D300 to my eye yesterday to photograph some morris dancers, I felt a sharp pain in my right eye and the image in the viewfinder suddenly went very, very blurred.

My immediate response surprises me in retrospect. I switched the  camera to my left eye and went on taking pictures for several minutes. It wasn’t even as if I were photographing anything very urgent or important, but I kept at it rather than worry about my sight.

I did realise I had poked the strap into my eye, but hadn’t realised how much damage it had caused, though fortunately I don’t think anything particularly serious. The strap was a normal nylon webbing one, but there were a few loose inches coming out at the end of the fastening, and it had been cut off by the manufacturer at an angle of about 60 degrees, leaving a sharp corner.

Lately I’ve been trying to take pictures wearing bifocal glasses. Although my cameras have dioptre correction that I can use to see through the viewfinder, my poor close vision means that I was constantly having to put on reading glasses to  read the dials and external screen displays on the camera. Both the D300 and D700 viewfinders are more or less OK with glasses and the bifocals allow me to see the settings as well. I’m getting used to working with them, and I was doing so when this incident happened, the glasses probably serving as a guide to deflect the end of the strap into my eye.

After a minute or two working, I took the glasses off and was considerably relieved to find my vision returned to its normal clarity (or near clarity),  but slightly disturbed by the mixture of fluid including blood on the rear of the right lens. Peering in my dim reflection in a shop window I decided that the damage seemed to be limited to the corner of my eye, and decided there was no need for urgent medical attention.

The next day I bolted the stable door, cutting off the sharp corners from the straps and taping down the flapping ends.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

Rochester, apart from that wasn’t bad so far as I was concerned, though the photographer I went with lost a credit card and didn’t have a good day at all.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

I don’t know if I’ll go there again, though I’m told the earlier couple of days can be more interesting, with a lot more happening around the town. Rochester itself is an interesting place and I’d perhaps enjoy it more without the festival.

More pictures at Rochester Sweeps Festival.

May Day

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

I wouldn’t want to miss May Day, but sometimes it seems like I’m taking the same pictures each year of the same people.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

doing much the same things as last year. Sometimes I do it just a little better than other years, and I enjoy it but perhaps feel I’m not getting anywhere.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

But the Turkish communists certainly put on a spirited performance, and one that makes a part of my heart warm, while elsewhere I’m chilled by the thought of Stalin.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

Of course in my early years he was ‘Uncle Joe’ and still remembered here as the man who had led the dogged resistance that really defeated Hitler – with the help of arms and other supplies from the US and UK. We knew that without him we would have been living under German rule (or rather a later generation of German rule than the Saxe-Coburg-Gothas.)  But then few of us knew much about the purges and all the rest.

Of course there were some things new at May Day – including the launch of a new campaign for justice or at least better working conditions and more pay for one of the worst-treated groups of employees – domestic and restaurant workers.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

Last year the event proved rather embarrassing for me, as getting down on my knees to photograph some of the many children who take part I heard a loud tearing sound as my trousers ripped from waist to knee. Fortunately that day I was wearing a jacket, and for the rest of the day covering the march and a later event in Parliament Square, I was kept more or less decent by this jacket tied around my waist as a skirt to cover the gaping hole. This year I made sure to bend down more carefully as I’d left my jacket at home!

Pictures and text from this year at London May Day March.

Burke and Norfolk

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Last night at a small meeting of photographers, one of my friends came with a copy of the recent book, Burke + Norfolk (published by Dewi Lewis Publishing) and I was greatly impressed by it, truly a handsome volume, and some stories to tell about an event he had attended with Norfolk at Tate Modern where work from it is currently on show in the Level 2 gallery until 10 July 2011. A second show of the work opens at the Michael Hoppen gallery in Chelsea tomorrow (May 13) until 11 July 2011.

Much though I like Norfolk’s work, to me the major figure in the book is John Burke, whose life and work  I wrote about at some length in a feature ‘Baker & Burke: Photographers of India‘ in 2004,  the eighth of a series of features on 19th century photography in India unfortunately no longer on line, linking to work by Burke in the British Library collection and elsewhere, and as I made clear, very much dependent on the researches of Omar Khan published  in History of Photography in Autumn 1997 as John Burke, Photo-Artist of the Raj and his 2002 book From Kashmir to Kabul, a generous amount of which is available on line in a Google preview, which unfortunately does not include what Khan describes as the only known photo of Burke himself.

I don’t own the book, but it would be interesting to see, if only because Norfolk on the Hoppen site is quoted as saying “There are no photographs of him. In a couple of sketches we see him from behind, but never his face; that has to be more than just reticence, surely?” There are two sketches in the preview pages, but I think the answer to the question is in any case not really. Many photographers dislike being on the “wrong” end of a camera, and of course photography was not the ubiquitous medium it is now. I have very few pictures of my own ancestors of that period, and unless people took care to caption and conserve them most images of the time are now anonymous. Of course, Burke’s son Willie was also a photographer – having started as his father’s assistant, and might perhaps have photographed his father, but the only images of his I know about are a few in the India Office collection and they would be unlikely to include the family snaps.

You can of course see more of Norfolk’s (and Burke’s) work from this project on Norfolk’s own web site, which also has a transcript of a conversation between him and Paul Lowe about the project, and you can see him at work (not with a wood and mahogany camera that he mentions in that piece but with something more modern and possibly digital) in Afghanistan in a Tate video on YouTube. Also worth listening to is a series of 5 short audio clips of him talking to Jim Casper on Lensculture, along with 30 of his pictures from his series Forensic Traces of War.

The book is also I think a good example of the kind of production values that “proper publishing” can achieve, the kind of volume that makes me think there is still something that they can do that Blurb and other publishing on demand can’t, or can’t yet, match.

May Day Came Early in Brighton

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Getting to Brighton is faster than getting to some parts of London, though it is further away and more expensive.  I walked off the train at Brighton station at 11.27 and looked around for someone I knew, but there was nobody in sight, and I guessed few had come down from London for the ‘May Day Protest and Party‘ held a day early on April 30.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
The protesters were clearly in the mood for a party

I knew at least one photographer had come earlier, as before leaving home I’d read his tweet from a café at the station. The event organisers had decided to try and keep the police guessing by not releasing the meeting point until 11.30 when they would announce it on Twitter and Facebook. Fortunately for the benefit of people like myself with antique mobile phones which don’t read that kind of thing there was also a number we could ring and hear a recorded message. A heavy lorry passed close by just as it started, but I heard enough to guess which way to go, and set off.

Making a mental note to myself that I really need to upgrade my phone to something that will keep up with social networking. More and more tweets are used to keep people informed of exactly what is happening and in particular where the action is in demonstrations, and I’m missing this out on the street unless I’m with another photographer who can read them.

I’m fairly sure that the police will have known in advance, with at least one of those in the group planning every demonstration being an undercover cop, even if perhaps  Brighton hasn’t yet got the the stage of G K Chesterton’s ‘The Man Who Was Thursday’ where six of the seven members of the anarchist’s central council turn out to be police spies.  But certainly by the time I arrived on the seafront there were at least two mounted police and two slightly obvious plain clothes cops there, with a row of police cars watching from the opposite side of the road. More gathered as the protesters also arrived for the start.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
A large dice was used to decide the first protest target – though we never got there

It seemed to be a day when neither police nor protesters knew what they were trying to do. The police kettled and then unkettled on several occasions and seemed to panic whenever the protesters started moving, while the protesters – with rather more justification given what happened – thought that every time they saw more than a couple of police they were about to be kettled and rushed off in a different direction.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
An officer adopts an aggressive stance

A few people on both sides occasionally lost their tempers a little, and police arrested eight protesters, some apparently on very trivial or non-existent grounds. Most of the public who saw the protest seemed to be asking what it was about – and if they found out there were generally expressions of support.  All of us got sore feet, from walking and running in circles around the centre of Brighton, and well over half of the protesters had disappeared before the protest seemed finally to come to an end and the remaining group began to party on the shingle that passes for a beach and I finally went home.

Compared with the few previous protests I’ve photographed in Brighton – and certainly to some of the videos I’ve watched of other events – this was a relatively peaceful day, with less relatively indiscriminate violence by the police, and much less interference with the press and other photographers.  Most of the times I was asked to move I think there was a genuine concern for my safety by officers who realise how dangerous and unpredictable police horses can be – and there were clearly times when they were not really under control.

More about the day and many more pictures at Brighton MayDay Protest.

That Wedding

Sunday, May 8th, 2011

I’m not keen on weddings, and since I didn’t get an invite to the one that filled our newspapers, TV and radio for most of last week I didn’t go. Like more than half of the UK population I didn’t watch it either, but it was something even the most dedicated anti-monarchist couldn’t entirely fail to notice.

I got a phone call a few days before to enquire and discuss what I was going to cover,  and I listed a couple of events related to it. What I thought would be the more interesting of these didn’t happen because on the day before, police called at the home of those organising it and arrested them on an obviously fake charge, holding them in custody until the whole thing was safely over.

Although I wasn’t there to photograph the arrests, I was able to watch a video later in the day, and it seemed pretty clear from what little the police said and did that they were under orders to prevent any possible embarrassment to royalty competing with the wedding in the media.  Even if doing so meant breaking the law – or rather inventing a new one – and having to pay compensation for wrongful arrest later.  We live in a country where there is clearly one law for the monarchy and another for the rest of us.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
I’m not a Royal Wedding Mug

Instead I went to photograph the street party organised by the Republic organisation. I’m not really a republican, though I do believe that had this country ever had any half-decent socialist government it would have nationalised the crown and land without compensation, returning the estates they and others over the past ten centuries have stolen from the people, and we would have a royal family who ride bicycles and live modest comfort while drawing an average wage for their not particularly onerous duties. It really was a tragedy in the history of our nation that Cromwell and his supporters were not more reasonable people rather than religious fanatics.

But it turned out to be a rather dull event, in part because the organisers were so keen to keep politics out of what seems essentially a political event. See more at Republic: Not the Royal Wedding Party

I’d actually taken some wedding pictures the day before, on my way to photograph a protest against the government’s intentions to end most workplace health and safety checks. It is just so inconvenient for employers to have to worry about things like workers breathing in asbestos dust or having cranes fall down on top of them.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
Employment minister Chris Grayling looks a little harassed

While the Prospect union representative for London’s HSE inspectors, Simon Hester was telling the protest about the dangerous conditions he had found the previous Friday in one of the site inspections that are being abandoned to save money, his boss, employment minister Chris Grayling came out of the office and there was a short argument between them, with Tony O’Brien of the Construction Safety Campaign joining in, which ended with Grayling running off down the road.

More at International Workers Memorial Day.

The offices are just around the corner from Westminster Abbey, so I walked past the people camping out on the street there to catch a glimpse of the royal couple, and I did stop to take a few pictures.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
It should have been me!

And I also made a point of going to see the protesters in Trafalgar Square, still there despite the promises of our leading politicians to get rid of them for the wedding.  Brian Haw has been in hospital in Germany for some months, but his colleague Barbara Tucker was there and we had a long talk.

© 2011, Peter Marshall
Barbara Tucker

A little way along the pavement, Maria Gallastegui was on top of one of her boxes dressed in orange Gitmo jump suit and a black hood; I’d talked to her a few days ago and she told me then that she had agreed to cover up her display for the royal event. More pictures at Parliament Square Protests Continue.

On the day itself there were no buses in the central area of London, and I walked through the streets with another photographer on my way back to the station, looking for signs of celebration. We did find a few people on the streets, but most were still around the actual route back from the Abbey to the Palace or watching the large screens in Trafalgar Square. And  after having seen the rather pathetic flypast as I was walking towards Charing Cross, I looked up and saw the royals just leaving the balcony on those screens, as  you can see in the final image in Royal Wedding in Soho.

Thames Walk, Almost Dive

Friday, May 6th, 2011

“The St Lawrence is water, the Mississippi is muddy water, but the Thames”, said John Burns in 1929, by then a Labour MP “is liquid history” and he was right at least about the Thames, although 70 years earlier he might well have replaced those last two words with “largely sewage.”  There were reminders both of Burns and the work of the great Victorian engineers whose work so changed the river as well as more modern developments in the walk or ride I took downriver from the Thames Barrier with two of my family on the May Bank Holiday.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

They were walking, but I’m still recovering from a painful bout of plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the tissues which make up the arch of my left foot (apparently it usually takes around 9 months to go away completely) and can’t really cope with the kind of long and fast walking they like, so I’d taken my folding bike – of course a Brompton – and was either pushing or riding this.

If paths – like those by the Thames – are good it’s very useful. They are A to B people while I like to wander, and the bike allows me to detour or to stop and take photographs, and then easily catch up with them. Too often on walks in the past I’ve found mself having to run several odd quarter miles to catch up with them.

But this walk almost started with a disaster. From Charlton station we started a tedious walk along the busy main road as there is no path through the industrial area by the river before arriving at a roundabout where the Thames path extension heads off through a recent housing estate. Leading more directly to the river – where it is a dead end unless you have a boat waiting at the steps is Warspite Road, renamed presumably after the various navy vessels of that name from Trinity Street in the 1930s. Although so far as I’m aware none of the nine ships named HMS Warspite was built in  Woolwich, perhaps some were refitted there. The Woolwich Naval Dockyard ran from its east side, and on its west was and is an industrial area, though now partly occupied by warehouse stores, artists studios and other facilities.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

So I sped off down Warspite Rd to the steps leading to the river at its bottom while they continued along the Thames Path (actually the Thames Path extension here.) I’d photographed from these steps on previous visits, and to get a better view had walked out along the wall above them. It’s a fairly wide wall and seems safe enough, but there is a drop on one side to the road and on the other to some concrete steps leading down to the river. On this occasion I discovered I’d completely lost my head for heights. As I raised my camera to shoot several overlapping images for a panorama I couldn’t hold the camera still, and started shaking more and more. Then I felt myself about to faint, and only just managed the yard or two back to the safety of the rail I had ducked under earlier, falling towards it and clutching it as I subsided to my knees. Once I was holding the rail, my panic attack immediately cleared, but it had been a nasty moment, in a place with no one else around and nobody passing.

So I didn’t get that picture, and was more than a little shaken, but the rest of the walk went well, though I had to give up before the end to go elsewhere. Perhaps the highlight was again “largely sewage” with the fine Romanesque buildings of Bazalgette’s Southern Outfall, which at every high tide discharged all of South London’s sewage into the river to flow out to sea untreated until the 1950s. Next to it the huge tanks of the more modern sewage treatment plant, still in use, which now purifies it and discharges clean water – except when it rains and overwhemlms the treatment plant.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

A few yards further on is an elegant metal swan-like structure of the 1998 sludge incinerator, and a short distance further a more recent but less elegant second version which has appeared since I last came this way.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

And back to John Burns, his name was given to one of the three vessels that now provide the Woolwich Free Ferry, joining London’s North Circular Road to the South Circular that never really became a joined up road. We didn’t really want to go to North Woolwich but we took the ferry across, walked around for a few minutes and then came back on the John Burns.

More pictures at More Thames Path.

St George Takes a Rest

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

There didn’t seem to be a great deal happening in and around London for St George’s Day – April 23 –  this year.  Not that that is unusual, as for many years the only national saint’s day we really celebrated here was St Patrick’s, but in recent years there has been more of a movement to celebrate the ‘English’ saint.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

St George wasn’t of course English. His father was a Roman citizen, his mother a Palestinian, and he was born in either in Roman occupied Palestine, in Lydda, where he was martyred or in Turkey. Lydda since 1948 has been a part of Israel and RAF Lydda eventually became Israel’s main ‘Ben Gurion International Airport, just a few miles from Tel Aviv.  We share him as patron saint with a dozen or so countries and numerous cities around the world – including his native Palestine. So perhaps on St George’s Day we should demonstrate in support of the Palestine cause.

The St George’s flag became the flag flown by English ships over 800 years ago, but in more recent times has become a flag associated with English sporting teams, and with football hooligans and extreme right wing nationalist groups. Part of the increasing demands to celebrate our national saint’s day comes from these groups, but it also arises from those who want to reclaim St George and the flag from the extremists.

St Georges Day is also celebrated as Shakespeare’s birthday, although his real  date of birth is not known, and it is actually the day on which he died in 1616, so perhaps after demonstrating for Palestine we should all go to watch one of his plays.  Cervantes also died on April 23, 1616 (though not the same day as Shakespeare as they used different calendars) and for this reason UNESCO in 1995 declared April 23 World Book and Copyright Day.

Well, at least I did read a book, as I usually do when travelling on the train the half hour or so up to London. And I just about found some St George celebrations, although most seem to have been either postponed or cancelled in favour of the royal wedding celebrations six days later.  But the event in Trafalgar Square did seem rather desultory and I didn’t stay long. There are a few more pictures on My London Diary: St George’s Day in London

It was actually a day when most of the events that were in my diary didn’t happen. I’d started looking for a small extreme right wing group who were planning to march along to the St Georges day non-events, but they were so small I couldn’t see them.  Later in the day I’d been promised there would be several hundred people marching elsewhere, but again they didn’t materialise. I’d been sent an invitation by yet another group who were to be protesting at an embassy and then marching, but by the time I arrived they had abandoned their protest without the march.

I’d started the day with seven events listed and in the end only found three to photograph (and took a few pictures of a fourth I hadn’t intended to cover.) But it was a day when logistics – working out how to get to seven different places at suitable times – was more of a problem than the actual photography. I didn’t expect to see all seven, as many events are planned and publicised but don’t take place, but it isn’t usually this bad.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

St George is perhaps surprisingly not the patron saint of Armenia, but Armenians were out on the streets a day early, as April 24  is Genocide Remembrance Day, when in 1915 the Turkish authorities began the arrest and killing of the  around 1.5 million Armenians in Turkey, around 70% of the Armenian population. Armenians in the UK hold an annual march calling for Turkey to recognise the Armenian Genocide, calling on the UK government to put pressure on them to do so as a condition of joining then EU. This year they gathered outside Selfridges in Oxford St and marched from there to lay wreaths and to hand in a letter to Downing St. You can read more about the event and the Armenian Genocide in Recognise The Armenian Genocide.

I left the Armenians near Piccadilly Circus to take the tube to go to a no-show at Trafalgar Square, and then another further north, before making my way to Great Portland St, and here it was my planning that let me down. Great Portland St is around a kilometre long and I’d assumed without checking that I wanted the wrong end.

© 2011, Peter Marshall

So I had to run a bit and arrived just in time for a lively protest by the International Congolese Rights organisation who were marching from the Congolese Embassy in Great Portland Street to Downing St calling attention to human rights violation in the DRC.  It was an all-singing all-dancing event, and there were a lot of police surrounding them. More at Congolese Protest in London

I left them at Oxford Circus in time to make my way to the next march that didn’t happen.  By the time I’d found it wasn’t there I was ready to go home.