Archive for February, 2017

The Capa Controversy

Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

Regular readers will have seen (and perhaps got rather tired of seeing) my frequent posts about the persistent detective work by A D Coleman and his co-workers, Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist J Ross Baughman, photo historian Rob McElroy and military historian Charles Herrick. Together they have succeeded in putting together a minutely detailed and evidenced examination of Robert Capa‘s exploits on D-Day and the subsequent processing and publication of the ten or eleven frames he took before leaving Omaha beach along with the stories fabricated around this begun by Life‘s then assistant picture editor John Morris within hours or days of the events and shortly after by Capa himself but with later embroidery by others.

It was of course obvious to any photographer who looked at the published images and thought about the story that was being told that it was absolute bunkum – film just doesn’t melt like that – but that didn’t stop it being repeated in book after book after film and web site, even those of some of the most prestigious organisations in photography (or perhaps especially them.)

I return to it because of a post by Coleman in iMediaEthics, Conflict of Interest, Cubed: Robert Capa’s D-Day Photos, John Morris, and the NPPA in which he looks at the article in the US NPPA’S (National Press Photographers Association) publication, News Photographer, The Fog of War – D Day and Robert Capa by Bruce Young. You might like to read both before continuing with my comments, though if you have been following the story I think you may well agree with me.

Young got considerable cooperation from Coleman and Baughmann who hoped he was going to acknowledge their work and put the record straight, but he does the opposite, muddying the water, adding some half-baked and unsubstantiated suggestions and parading a great deal of ignorance while somehow pretending to make some kind of objective overview that would put the matter to rest. NPPA members surely deserve better – we all do.

When Young gets down to business, he quotes at length from Capa’s own published account, written in Capa’s best story-telling mode, a fictionalised Hollywood version of his life story, followed by John Morris’s totally unbelievable account of the darkroom mishap. Young’s next paragraph is interesting, beginning by stating that this was the established story and legend for 70 years (which isn’t quite true – many of us challenged parts of the story long ago) and goes on to say “but if the devil is in the details, this story carries enough demons to populate all nine rings of Dante’s Hell“, going on to list a series of questions.

If he had bothered to read all of the published research by Coleman and others and had understood it, he would have found we now have answers to all or virtually all those questions, supported by evidence from various sources, but instead he goes on to suggest that Coleman, one of the best known and highly regarded critical writers about our medium over very many years, is not really qualified to comment because he has never been a professional photographer. While I sometimes think it helps, being a pro is neither necessary nor sufficient, why mention it when the research was the result of a team including one player with a Pulitzer for photjournalism?

There are many other curiosities in Young’s piece. Speaking about Morris’s reactions to Coleman’s research he suggests “But what if John Morris, now 98, sticks to the story because … well, it’s true? There are problems with some exacting details, but…” But it isn’t exacting details there are problems with but a fairly tremendous weight of evidence, and Morris himself has since accepted at least some of the facts, whilst spinning new fictions.

Young then goes into rather a lengthy digression on memory, which is to some degree irrelevant, as the fictions were written down close to the event, but rather fails to see that what he says about memory makes a nonsense of relying on Morris’s memory – having based his life and career around the story for the past 70 years he doubtless came to believe in his story. That’s how memory works!

I started writing not meaning to criticise Young, meaning to leave it to readers to make their own judgements. But it is really so bad I couldn’t resist, but I’ll spare you the rest of my thoughts. Of course Coleman has a lot more to say about it and about many details, and its hard not to feel his criticisms are at least largely justified.

But does it all matter about Capa? Well, obviously it does, from the angry responses that publishing the series of articles has generated from much of the photographic establishment. I think it matters because of the wider issues. Personally I’ve never been a great advocate of academic research that is too concerned with the details and minutiae, I’ve always been more concerned with the fate of the forests rather than the leaves on the tree. Integrity is the bedrock of photojournalism and documentary practice, and I think this research calls into question not so much the integrity of Capa – who didn’t make up the story about this or about the Falling soldier (about which Young also seems uninformed about the most recent research) but of the whole system that promulgates news to the public – immediately through Life Magazine in this case, but in the 70 years since then various other organisations including Magnum and the ICP.

Of course I didn’t know Capa, who was killed when I was still in short trousers, but I get a strong impression of him from his writing and photography and the stories about him I’ve heard over the years. I can imagine him opening the magazine and seeing the caption under the ‘Falling Soldier’ or the D-Day pictures, shrugging his shoulders and saying ‘Oh well, it’s a better story’ and thinking it was in any case too late to stick to the truth.

And of course the picture is still the same, still a powerful, truly iconic image of war. For me it isn’t diminished by knowing the truth, and it in no way diminishes my respect for Capa as a photographer to realise that he was only human, cold, wet, scared and shaking as he lay on the beach, only able to make ten or eleven exposures in the 20 minutes or so he was there. One was really enough.

You can read Coleman’s post about this at iMediaEthics and the NPPA, though I wrote this post before doing so. It contains a link to Young’s change of mind over the ‘Falling Soldier’ that I was unaware of, and also to another of Coleman’s own articles, Ethics in Photojournalism Then and Now: The Case of Robert Capa which I’m now reading with considerable interest.

NHS Bursaries

Monday, February 27th, 2017

The NHS is above all a service about people – nurses, doctors and other health workers, and of course patients, all coming together and working for the common good, for the health of the nation and the people of the nation. Providing a comprehensive service that  meets the needs of everyone, free at the point of delivery and based on clinical need not the ability to pay.  It never quite managed to meet those ideals on which it was based, in part due to the intransigence of the dental profession, and was eroded slightly over the years by the introduction of prescription charges,  but for those who work in it, and for all of us who use it as patients, these remain its guiding principles.

But for our current government, the NHS is viewed largely as a bottomless pit into which taxes are poured and as an opportunity for them and their friends and donors to make money from, with the aspects that are more easily converted to profit being hived off to be run by private companies. Still at the moment free to patients at the point of use, but that could well change, and pulling money out of the system and making it more expensive to run what remains in public hands.

For nearly all of those who go into any aspect of the medical profession it is more than a job, truly a vocation. Many jobs involve unsocial hours, excessive workloads and considerable stress. They don’t do it for the money – and almost all could earn more in various overseas countries. They do it because they care for people and want to help them.

The NHS bursaries are vital for many who want to train to be nurses and allied professions, and in particular make it possible for many more mature entrants to enter training. The government’s decision to get rid of them and replace them by loans appears driven by a kind of mad logic that it will enable them to get more people to take up nursing training because it will cos the government less to provide it, while ignoring the fact that it is only these bursaries that enable many to take the courses. The cutting of bursaries will transfer training costs from the NHS to students, resulting in an increase of around 70% for them.

It’s also deeply unfair, as nurses in training are a vital part of the NHS workforce, providing nursing care while learning on the job, working long hours in the wards. They work for those bursaries, and the long hours they need to work preclude them taking on the part-time jobs most other students need to supplement their loans.

I’ve chosen pictures here to show some of the people campaigning for NHS bursaries, not on their own behalf, as the changes will only affect new students, but because they realise how important these bursaries are for future students and the future of the NHS. Of course I took other photographs, including those of the celebrities and others who spoke at the rally and more general pictures of the protest. We have now seen that the axing of the bursaries has, as expected cut down the numbers applying for courses, down by 23% this year, at a time when the need for nurses is desperate and growing with ouver 24,000 vacancies – and when Brexit threatens to cut the supply of nursing staff from the EU.

Rally against axing NHS student bursaries
March to save NHS student bursaries


Heathrow at 70

Friday, February 24th, 2017

It often isn’t easy to photograph some of the ideas that people have – and this occasion was one, with the Harmondsworth village green planted with over 750 small black airplanes and people holding 70 heart-shaped balloons with the message ‘No 3rd Runway’. There aren’t quite that many balloons in the picture, partly because a few had escaped into the sky, but also because quite a few of the protesters were standing behind me or to one side, some taking pictures themselves and others feeling shy. And a few people (and balloons) had escaped into the Five Bells behind me, where there were a number of balloons on the rafters.

But the real problem was one of scale – which is of course the main problem with Heathrow too. It started as a relatively small (and allegedly military) airport, though the military aspect was always a deception by the aviation lobby to enable a civil airport to be built here – which would probably never have got off the ground otherwise. By the 1980s it was clear that it should be replaced, but the government of the day chickened out – and so we never got the airport London needed, but had to suffer a huge and unsuitably placed expansion at Heathrow, with terminal 4 (promised as the last expansion the airport would ever ask for) and terminal 5 (ditto.)

As a local resident, I celebrated when plans for a ‘third runway’ (Heathrow began with six, but larger, heavier and noisier planes have made all but two unusable) were dropped, with a firm promise from then PM David Cameron and his party that this expansion would not take place, but the aviation lobby would not take his ‘No’ as an answer.

But there were other opportunities for pictures: Armelle Thomas, a Harmondsworth resident holding a photograph and the medals of her late husband Tommy who had flown as a rear gunner in Lysanders and later worked at Heathrow for BEA had brought the piece of the cake from last year’s protests which she had tried to present to Heathrow bosses but they had refused to see her;

John Stewart holding a giant cheque for ZERO pounds – the amount Heathrow want to pay towards the huge infrastructure costs that will be needed if the third runway ever goes ahead – and will be borne completely by the taxpayer;

several campaigners with boxes of empty promises – made by Heathrow over the years;

and what is still the only attempt at a practical solution to the huge problems of noise and pollution the extra traffic – in the air and on the ground – the extra runway would produce, the Heathrow Adobe Hat, complete with portable air purifier in a environmentally bio-diverse suitcase.

Apologies for all the typos that are in the captions to the photographs of the event at No 3rd Runway Heathrow 70th Birthday, which I will try and find time later to correct.


Hull Photos: 16/2/17-22/2/17

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017

The posts last week were rather more difficult than usual as I spent most of the week in Hull, making pictures for a new project, and the software on my notebook made rather a mess of editing the files. And it didn’t help that I had forgotten to put the file with my notes about the pictures on to the memory stick… But I hope things are back to normal now.

16 February 2017

Another view of the tenfoot, with Essex Street crossing it in the foreground. Unusually this image also includes a person, though rather in the distance; at the time I tended to avoid people in the pictures of buildings and places, regarding them as sometimes diverting attention from the subject.

28k24: Tenfoot, near end of Essex St, Gipsyville, 1981 – Hessle Rd

17 February 2017

A portrait format view of Cawoods from the end of Essex St, which I think was the view selected for the National Building Record.

28k26: Cawoods, Essex St, Gipsyville, 1981 – Hessle Rd

18 February 2017

Trend had I think been a shop selling Ladies Fashion, but by the time I took this picture appears to have moved to premises closer to the centre of town at 274 Hessle Rd, opposite Eton St. It appears to be no longer trading, though is still listed at that address in some internet directories, both as selling ladies clothing and also as a hairdresser.

28k36: Trend, Hessle Rd/Dorset St, 1981 – Hessle Rd
19 February 2017

This was a five storey warehouse at the north end of the Pease Warehouses that had been largely destroyed by fire. It was about to be rebuilt and, along with the rest of the warehouses turned into flats in 1981. The warehouses date from around 1750 and were Grade II listed in 1952.

Robert Pease and his family fled Hull at the restoration of the monarch in 1660 to escape religious persecution as they were Puritans and settled in Amesterdam, where his businesses prospered and his son Robert married into one of the wealthiest banking families there, the Cliffords. In 1708, the youngest of that family’s three sons, Joseph Pease, was sent back to England to set up the family business here. Having failed to find suitable premises in London he came up to Hull, and bought A house in High St with riverside frontage, setting up warehouses for various businesses including whaling, shipping as well works in Hull for linseed oil milling, whiting, lead and paint. And on the High St site he set up Yorkshire’s first bank in 1754. One of the most successful businessmen of the era, when he died the businesses were estimated to be worth over half a million pounds

28k41: No 17 Warehouse, Wilberforce column and Hull College, 1981 – Hessle Rd

20 February 2017

Erdmann Ltd advertised themselves on the board as welders, fabricators, burners, turners and I think were on or just off Tower St, probably where the Royal Mail site now is. I can find no record of them as a limited company.

28k52: Erdmann Ltd, Welders & Fabricators, Tower St, 1981 – River Hull

21 February 2017

The swinging area was in a fairly deserted area when I was there, with a few small craft in the picture moored at the back of it behind the Clarence Mills. Swinging areas were to allow boats to turn around in the fairly narrow River Hull, and on a later occasion I photographed this area being used for that purpose.

The leftmost boat has the name ‘Commander Snowden‘ on top of the cabin and was apparently at one time to be the reserve Hull roads launch for the pilot cutter and was a former fishing boat in the Scottish Lochs.

28k53: Swinging Area, River Hull, Tower St, 1981 – River Hull

22 February 2017

Boats and barges crowded the River Hull and their names often intrigued me. Gilyott and Scott (Transport) Ltd (part of the The Transport Development Group) had a whole series of ‘Poem’ barges, such as Poem 24 shown here and also owned the tug ‘Gillian Knight’ tucked in behind, and R35 behind.

It’s long been a mystery to me that Hull despite being a city has no cathedral, and that Holy Trinity is just a parish church. Apparently it isn’t unique in this, sharing the distinction (according to Wikipedia) with Bath, Brighton and Hove, Cambridge, Lancaster, Leeds, Nottingham, Plymouth, Preston, Salford, Southampton, Stoke-on-Trent, Sunderland, Swansea, and Wolverhampton. Perhaps the reason is that the church, although large just wasn’t fancy enough, though as part of this year’s celebrations it is apparently being upgraded to a Minster on May 13th. Or perhaps the Church of England was simply ignorant and prejudiced about Hull like so many who’ve never really been there.

The buildings at the right are still there, but the large central building has gone and this area is now a car park. The trees are in the garden of Wilberforce House.

28k55: River Hull with Poem 24 and other barges and Holy Trinity, 1981 – River Hull

Dog control

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017

In his latest contribution to Photocritic InternationalOn John Berger on Photography‘, A D Coleman provides the answer to something which had worried me about the photographs of Finnish photographer Pentti Sammallahti. I remember looking at length at a display of his photographs at a corner in Paris Photo a few years ago and wondering how he managed to control the dogs who play such an important role in many of his images (such as Solovki, White Sea, Russia, 1992.)

It wasn’t as if the same dogs appeared in many images, so it was unlikely that he had a troupe of highly trained canine actors, and the pictures were taken in various countries, which would create tremendous logistic problems for such a company. And the animals certainly did not look stuffed (though some stuffed animals have been realistic enough to fool the judges in prestigious wildlife photograph contests.) Many of the images show the dogs on a background of snow, which would have made it rather easier to add some or all of the dogs in printing, but there were none of the signs of that making it highly unlikely. But obviously the photographer had to have some way to attract and place the animals, and something that left little trace in the images. There were no signs of bones.

Coleman’s revelation, first made in an essay for a 2010 book, comes in a shortened form on his web site, but there is a link to download his whole essay. In it he comments on a text by the late John Berger which was printed in Sammallahti’s ‘The Russian Way‘ and is also on-line.

Berger, like Coleman and myself and almost everyone else who looks at the work of Sammallahti had of course noticed the dogs – it would be hard not to – and he posits:

“It was probably a dog that led Sammallahti to the moment and place for taking each picture.”

Coleman comments that on this occasion Berger (for whom he expresses respect and admiration) got it precisely wrong – and spills the beans, having asked the photographer and, perhaps surprisingly, got a straightforward reply – which you can read in his post. I’m pleased too, that Coleman mentions his collaboration with Jean Mohr, which produced the works by Berger I most admire, and was the main subject of my remembrance of him in Berger & Mohr last month, though neglected in much of the media comments.

It is of course, as Coleman makes clear, not just a matter of the dogs, but about how critics need to examine the actual evidence – and where necessary to ask appropriate questions rather than simply postulate theories. It’s often also important to be or have been a photographer so as to appreciate what is likely or possible – and what isn’t. Those who write about photography without having had an intimate practical involvement in making photographs are often likely to get the cart before the horse.

Coleman has also recently added more to his comments on John Morris’s continuing fabulation about Capa’s D-Day pictures. Morris’s story (or now rather stories) fails on many points, but not least the photographic practicalities. Things like knowing that in the days of film, working photographers when unloading 35mm film would usually rewind the leader inside the cassette or at least tear it off so there was no doubt the film had been used and could not be reloaded by accident. Like knowing that after fixing, unexposed film is clear.

Crane River

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

The River Crane became famous in 1949 with the formation of the Crane River Jazz Band, the real fount of Trad Jazz in this country. It all took place very close to where I was living, but since I was only four at the time I knew nothing about it.
Like me, trumpeter Ken Colyer was living in Hounslow and got together with a few mates, including Monty Sunshine and Lonnie Donegan to play together away from everywhere in the park on the the banks of the river so as not to annoy the neighbours, and finally decided they were good enough to play at the local pub, the White Hart pub in Cranford, where they set up a jazz club. The pub is no more, and probably just as well as it would be hard to listen to music there now as the jets come in and out of Heathrow at rooftop level. Though presumably those who now frequent the KFC and Starbucks that replaced it either wear headphones or have had their hearing permanently impaired by their use.

Fortunately the rehearsals didn’t take place a mile or so further south, or it might have been called the Duke of Northumberland’s RIver Jazz Band which wouldn’t have slipped so easily off the tongue. Though they could have been the Crown and Sceptre Jazz band but that sounds far too English as well.

A wide-angle can make the planes seem quite small

The Crane runs along a short distance the east of Heathrow, and the pleasure of this walk was considerably diminished by the deafening noise of large flying machines threatening to land on top of us every minute or two. Fortunately none actually dropped short out of the sky during our passage.

I got plane spotting out of my system early, standing out in our back garden in the days when planes had large registration letters on the lower surface of their wings and crossing them off in my book, probably produced by Ian Allan publications, another local business just a few hundred yards from the suburban home to which J G Ballard moved a few years later. But seeing them go over so close is rather disturbing, as they do sometimes seem a little precariously Heath Robinson. Thinks did occasionally drop off in our back garden back in the old days, but fortunately missed all of us.

We began and ended our walk at Hatton Cross, right at the edge of the airport, and stayed on to have a meal in the Green Man, which still looks like the country pub it used to be, and inside the noise of the aircraft is not too noticeable over the general background of a busy pub.

I played in the Crane as a child, paddled and fished and failed to swim. Played too in the woods and ruins and trenches of Hounslow Heath. When I grew older it was time for a little Chemistry, and we made bombs to attempt to destroy the remains of the gunpowder mill close to Baber Bridge, in what where then known to all as the ‘Crown and Sceptre’ woods. I’ve no idea where people got the name now used, Donkey Wood from – it certainly wasn’t called that in my youth. The Crown and Sceptre is no more either, transmogrified into a Tesco Express.

Fortunately I wasn’t injured in those explosions, and the damage to the massive concrete blocks was pretty superficial, though we did often come home bleeding from falling out of trees or sledding down gravelly slopes on sheets of corrugated iron or other abandoned rubbish. Kids definitely were tougher in those days, and our parents would all now have their children taken away be social services for the freedom we all took for granted.

It wasn’t the first time I’d been back – most of the riverside we walked along is now on the London Loop, and where we had to squelch in deep mud there are now raised walkways. Wear good earplugs and it makes a pleasant day out in a little country inside London. You can walk most of the way to the Thames close to the river if you have time.

The Crane is something of a mystery, which most sources avoid by stating it runs from somewhere near North Hyde Road in Hayes to the Thames at Twickenham, the lower third or so of a river that gathers water from a large area of Middlesex, and is known for most of its course as the Yeading Brook. Its name in the lower course comes from Cranford, which got its name from the flocks of heron – cranes – that used to live around the ford on the Bath Road. The source of the Yeading Brook seems to be just to the north of the Kodak Sports ground at the back of the houses on Pinner Park Lane, just to the west of the Kodak factory at Headstone Drive, Harrow. It used to provide the water for the moat of Headstone Manor.

But there are many small streams that contribute to the river (which used to be called the Fishbourne, certainly back in AD 704, possibly for obvious reasons.) Though many of them are largely now culverted, and it is hard to trace the course .

Housing & Mental Health

Monday, February 20th, 2017

Sometimes luck smiles on you a little, though often only if you are awake and keeping your wits about you.  I’d seen the adverts on the side of a bus for the London Property Show and was ready when it drove slowly behind the protesters, but it was a fleeting opportunity and there were no second chances. But while for the rich ‘Your Dream Home Awaits You’, for most Londoners, housing is a nightmare, and for too many becomes, as the poster below says, ‘A Mental Health Issue.’

London property prices are now simply beyond the reach of most Londoners, partly because property here has become an investment opportunity for the wealthy around the world, particularly in the Far East.  Developers advertise properties in Singapore and elsewhere, suggesting that prices will increase at rates much higher than bank interest rates or most investment bonds, and their predictions have proved correct over the years.

Market rents for even relatively small flats in less popular areas of the city are now too expensive for most,  and while they used to be advertised with their monthly rates (pcm), increasingly in the agent’s windows the figures are weekly, with little below £400 a week. A worker doing 40 hours a week on the legal minimum wage that the government now refers to as the living wage of £7.20 per hour (starvation wage would be a more accurate term) would make £288 per week before deductions, and even those fortunate enough to get the real London Living Wage of £9.75 per hour would find it entirely swallowed up.

There is still some lower cost social housing, though the current government policies seem aimed at getting rid of it, either by bringing up rent levels to the market rent, or at least to 80% of that,  which is ridiculously called an “affordable” rent – still usually well above the weekly earnings on that so-called ‘living wage’. There is of course housing benefit – though generally that is capped well below market rents in London, and its main effect has been to push up rents and put money into the pockets of the landlords.

London urgently needs more social housing – and that should really be council housing, which Margaret Thatcher put a stop to councils providing – while forcing them to sell off existing stock at knock-down prices to the sitting tenants. Just one of many policies that have earned her the eternal hate of a large section of the community. Relatively few came out to dance when she died, but many, many more celebrated in the privacy of their homes, pubs and clubs. And as they say to those who want to set up some monument to her, she already has one in the thousands of food banks around the country.

The protest by Focus E15 housing campaigners and mental health activists was in Stratford, the centre of the London Borough of Newham, which has one of the largest housing problems in the country, one of the longest waiting lists for council housing, the great majority of whom will never get it, and is currently in the middle of a huge building site, with tall blocks of apartments going up. But few if any of these huge schemes will offer accommodation at prices locals can afford – over a third earn below the London Living Wage.

Newham puts many into temporary accommodation, often of a very poor standard, dangerous and infested with vermin, provided by companies that fail to repair or maintain them properly and a long way from friends and jobs. They try to force those with urgent housing needs that they have a statutory obligation to rehouse to move to towns and cities in distant parts of the country, breaking the links they have to family, services and schooling. And scandalously they have been trying to empty and sell off one of their best loved council estates close to the centre of Stratford, the Carpenters Estate, where people have been moved out of hundreds of good quality homes, some now vacant for well over ten years.

A 1 bed flat to be completed here in Spring 2017 was recently on offer at a bargain £420,000 – the market price was £470,000

Newham is a one-party state, with 60 Labour councilors and an elected Labour Mayor, Sir Robin Wales (who campaigners refer to as ‘Robin the Poor‘, though financially he has done pretty well out of the job he has held since 2002. Recently Private Eye revealed the ballot rigging in Newham that made him the only Labour candidate for the 2018 elections. Party members voted 424 members to 351 in favour of other members being allowed to stand, but then affiliated groups were allowed to vote and their votes overturned the local party decision.

Its long past time that Labour Party members in Newham began to take a good look at how their borough is being run, and to get back to asserting the values that the party traditionally stood for. But the chances of any real change in policy seem low at the moment. It’s boroughs like this that are far more in need of investigation than the neighbouring Tower Hamlets, where the Mayor Lutfur Rahman was deposed. Had he, like Robin Wales have been Scottish rather than Bangladeshi he would still be Mayour – and still doing a rather better job for his residents.


Dosta, Grinta, Enough

Sunday, February 19th, 2017

You don’t often see horses on the grass in Parliament Square these days, though the odd mounted police officer rides past (and occasionally a troop of them will charge protesters) and I think the Queen still gets her post by a small horse-drawn coach which daily rattles past, and herself appears in a rather more ornate vehicle on special occasions. But while the horse-drawn vehicles brought to the square by Roma, Travellers and Gypsies as a part of their ‘Dosta, Grinta, Enough!’ protest, are very much a part of our heritage, they were not welcomed by the Mayor’s ‘Heritage Wardens’, cut-price security officers who police the bylaws here and in Trafalgar Square.

Eventually they were told the horses had to leave the grass to people, and instead they made a number of circuits of the square, followed by protesters on foot, effectively holding up but not entirely stopping traffic. Eventually the real police got fed up with this and warned them that they would think up some offence they could stick on them, though I’m not quite sure what that could be, but the travellers didn’t want to do anything illegal and drove away down Millbank while the protest continued in Parliament Square.

Life on the road has become increasingly difficult for these people, with more and more bylaws and restrictive legislation. Recently local authorities have been allowed to stop providing sites for them, and even where they own land – as at Dale Farm – they have not been allowed to stay on it.  Planning laws are used against them in a discriminatory fashion – and that site now seems likely to be developed as a housing estate despite the travellers having been evicted at huge expense because it was a part of the ‘green belt’.

It’s hard to argue against their conviction that the changes being made by the Government to the  Gypsy and Traveller planning guidance and other actions are an attack on their ethnicity and way of life. There has been a long history of persecution of the Roma and other travellers in this country, and there some changes to a more civilised attitude in the last  century which these new attitudes have reversed. More pictures at Dosta, Grinta, Enough!

Earlier in the day I had covered two other protests, with Foil Vedanta protesting inside the Royal Festival Hall against Vedanta sponsoring the Jaipur Literary Festival attempting to enhance its extremely blemished reputation through support of the arts, and the latest in a series of actions to get the Chancellor to implement his promise to remove the VAT on tampons and related products – pictures at Tampon tax now Osbourne!

But I still had another protest to cover – and will write about it in a later post.

Capita accused of racism

Saturday, February 18th, 2017

I’d got a message from the Cleaners and Allied Independent Workers Union that they were going to stage a protest in the city against an employer who they said has sacked two African workers because they were African, and was given a time and place where they were meeting.

They hadn’t advertised the protest in advance, hoping to keep it secret, and I knew that they hoped to be able to rush into the entrance hall of some offices and protest inside, leaving after a short time to continue the protest outside.

The group of around a dozen cleaners gathered close to an underground station and when everyone had arrived walked together, stopping just a few yards before the offices to get out posters and other materials for the protest. I still didn’t know exactly where the offices were we were headed to, and was slightly taken by suprise when some of them rushed down a few steps and into a door, but managed to take a picture before following them inside.

The sacked cleaners had cleaned offices for Capita, who had offices on one or two floors of the building, but were employed by the contractor Mitie; there were three African workers at the site and Mitie had sacked two of them, and reduced the hours of the third. They were among the group of workers in the CAIWU who had put in a demand to be paid the London Living Wage.

Some of the cleaners, including those who worked in the building, stayed to protest on the pavement outside, but the group who went inside protested noisily, while people who worked inside came in and out for lunch. Betwwen bouts of noise, union organiser Alberto used a microphone and a sound system in a trolley to explain the reason for the protest, demanding the re-instatement of the sacked workers and the London Living Wage.

Several security men approached him, and one made an attempt to snatch the microphone away, but he shrugges them off and continued to speak. Eventually after a few minutes of protest, two of them managed to push him out through the door and the other protesters followed.

At a later date one of the security men came and asked me not to publish his photograph, as he was worried about the safety of his family in another country, and I have pixelated his face in these images. It isn’t something I normally do, but there were special circumstances in his case.

The protesters then made their way around to the rear entrance to the block which was now being used by more of the workers to go to lunch and continued to protest noisily and hand out fliers explaining the protest. After a few minutes they were joined by a police officer, who talked briefly with them and then stayed to wtach and ensure the protesters kept on the pavement but did not block it.

The officer came in useful a few minutes later, by which time the protesters had moved back to the front of the building. A man in a suit walking by suddenly got angry and tried to grab Alberto’s microphone, told me I should not be taking pictures and then grabbed one of the protesters by the shoulder.

If there is one way to make sure I take your picture, it is to tell me I can’t when I know have a perfect right and an interest in doing so, and of course I took his picture, and the police officer came over, asked the protesters what had happened and then took the man to one side and told him to leave the area – and warned him about his actions.

At the end of the lunchhour the protesters packed up and I went home. More pictures at Cleaners protest at Capita.


Hull Photos: 9/2/17-15/2/17

Friday, February 17th, 2017

9th February 2017

28j44: Air Whistles, Great Union St, 1981 – East Hull

I think this office on Great Union St was roughly opposite Hyperion St. As well as air whistles you could also order a diesel engine and other things you might need for your ship. The site is now occupied by The Crossings, a centre for the homeless which opened in 2011.

In the book ‘Still Occupied’ I placed this image in the East Hull chapter, though it would have been more sensibly in the River Hull chapter, close to the river and with an obviously strong connection.

I also took a second picture through the same window, this time concentrating on the reflection and seeing the line of whistles only dimly through it.

28j45: Air Whistles, Great Union St, 1981 – East Hull

I think in 1981 I preferred the second version, with the air whistles floating rather insubstantially above the roofs opposite, but it was the first image that I chose for the book in 2011.

10th February 2017

28j54: River Hull view upstream from North Bridge, 1981 – River Hull

Peeling paint on a wall advertises the coal and sand wharf belonging to ‘Henry’, which I think may be Henry Mead & Co at 15 Lime Street, which was wound up in 1973. On the west bank of Hull are a long line of wharves and buildings on Wincolmlee, with the towering silos of R&W Paul (now Maizecor) in the distance. A single vessel is visible moored at one of the Lime St wharves.

Floods from the Hull, mainly because of a tides coming up from the Humber, were fairly frequent before the tidal barrier was built, because the corporation failed to get wharf owners to maintain adequate flood defences. A number of derelict properties made their job more difficult. More recent floods have been because of excessive rainfall in the Hull valley.

11th February 2017

28j55: North Bridge Warehouse (Hull Ships Stores c.1850), Charlotte St, 1981 – River Hull

The old North Bridge replaced a ferry here in 1541, and the remains of the old bridge (many times renewed) can be seen to the left of the warehouse in my picture. It was replaced by the current Grade II listed bascule bridge in 1928-30. Above the ruins is the large building of Hull College and in front of that the buildings, some Georgian, of Dock Office Row.

Hull Ships Stores, a ship supplies warehouse built in 1870, architect RG Smith, were Grade II listed in 1994, a few years after they were converted into flats as Northbridge House.

12th February 2017

28j56: River Hull, view south from the east bank below North Bridge, 1981 – River Hull

The path on the east side of the River Hull between North Bridge and Drypool Bridge was blocked in 1981, but limited access was possible. This picture was taken close to North Bridge looking south towards Drypool Bridge.

The Rank (later Rank Hovis) Clarence Flour Mill immediately left of the bridge opened in 1891, designed by one of Hull’s best known architects, W. Alfred Gelder. Much of the mill was destroyed in heavy wartime bombing in 1940, when Hull was often used as a secondary target by any bombers who had failed to drop them in Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool etc, and was one of the most heavily bombed of all UK cities. When I was taking these pictures older Hull residents still complained that their city was never named in the wartime reports of bombing, just referred to, if at all, as “a north-east city.”

The tall silo is mostly the original Victorian build but the mill was rebuilt and enlarged post-war. This former Hull landmark was demolished in 2016.

Obscuring much of the mill is another brick building which was probably a part of the Gamebore Cartridge Co. Ltd, whose Shotwell Tower at the left still produces the lead shot for use in their world-leading shotgun cartridges.

At the right of the picture are the gates of the Yorkshire Dry Dock, with a crane, and beyond them what remains of the entrance to Queen’s Dock Basin which used to lead into Queens Dock, filled in as a rather dull and still part-sunken public park in 1930-34.

13 February 2017

28j62: Wright St & Charles St corner, 1981 – City Centre

Both Wright St and Charles St still exist on the map of Hull, but they no longer meet as they used to, and the surrounding area has been changed by the building of the Freetown Way, opened in 1986, five years after I took this picture.

Charles St was on the northern edge of Hull when it was developed by the Rev Charles Jarratt in the 1830s and 1840s, and there are still a few buildings from that period surviving in both it and Wright St.

Although there are broken windows and boards over the shops at right, the corner shop appears to be still in business, though not open early on a Sunday when I took the picture. Under the cloths in the windows are what look like cakes or doughnuts, and the notice in the doorway states ‘Golden Touch Bingo Vouchers Accepted Here’.

Charles St has been described as a long street of almost continuous small shops where you could buy almost anything you might ever need. And of course pubs. And it was in this street that one of the least likely ‘Jack the Ripper’ suspects, writer and journalist Robert Donston Stephenson (aka Roslyn D’Onston) was born. He was in the London Hospital when Mary Ann Nichols, the first ‘Ripper’ victim was killed only a couple of hundred yards away, and took a great interest in the case, suggesting an unlikely link to occult practices which he had studied. Others suggested he might really have been the murderer, not least because his wife had disappeared without trace a couple of years earlier. Of course there is really no mystery about the ‘Ripper’, just a huge industry of profit in denying the facts.

14 February 2017

28k11: Cawoods, Essex St, Gipsyville, 1981 – Hessle Rd

The Dairycoates (Gipsyville) Industrial Estate is a couple of miles west of the city centre and was purpose-built with 8 streets of terraced housing named after English counties running south from the Hessle Rd around 1900. THe first companies there were F. Atkins & Co making canisters (later they became part of ‘Metal Box’ and then moved away) and Hargreaves Bros, & Co, a black lead company, whose “Gipsy Black Metal Polish” gave the whole area its name, including the extensive inter-war council housing to the north. The industrial estate was enlarged in the 1980s, with large factory sheds of little interest.

Cawoods fish curing works are the most distinctive part of the estate, and they produced dried salted fish in Hull for around a hundred years. There Grimsby factory came later, and they moved all production there in 2002, a few years before the Hull fish market closed.

15 February 2017

28k22: Tenfoot, near end of Essex St, Gipsyville, 1981 – Hessle Rd

A ‘tenfoot’ is any side or back alley, often 10 foot wide, though not always. There are also some ‘twentyfoots’ in Hull. Some tenfoots are now gated, while others have been recognised as public rights of way – restricted byways. In some places they were used by refuse collectors and others making deliveries, as well as play areas by the local children, but in other areas are seen as problem areas with fly tipping, access for burglaries, drug-taking and sex. Gating them is currently a controversial subject in some areas of Hull.

This tenfoot runs along the end of all of the 8 streets of terraced housing built around 1900 as workers housing for the Dairycoates industrial estate, with a long brick wall on the south side. There were a couple of entrances to the estate from it, from one of which I took the previous picture.

You can see the new pictures added each day at Hull Photos, and I post them with the short comments above on Facebook.
Comments and corrections to captions are welcome here or on Facebook.