Archive for August, 2017

Trump, Trump

Thursday, August 31st, 2017

There is a particularly Stygian gloom in front of the US Embassy, as if by some secret technology they are able to extract light from the area for when protests are taking place, but the under-exposure of the image above was more down to my fidgety thumb, always a problem when I work in shutter priority mode. I’d set the shutter speed to 1/60 when I gave up working without flash, but gradually the setting had been nudged up as I walked around taking pictures. While I was still using flash, or in areas where there was movie lighting it wasn’t a problem and things looked fine on the camera back when I bothered to check. The frame before this one was exposed at 1/400th f4, and while the background is dark, the foreground figures are well exposed (a little too well) by the flash.But for this I needed the shadow, and so off went the flash and I took the picture by ambient light; 1/400th at f4, ISO3200. Of course I usually deliberately under-expose at night – it doesn’t look dark otherwise, but this was another three stops less, and three stops too far. When I saw later what I had done, Charlie’s comment below the red button he was carrying seemed rather apt.

Even with a lot of noise reduction and burning and dodging it really is just a little too far out, though I could probably improve a little. You can see the purple that covers highly underexposed shadow areas in quite a few areas of the picture, and further retouching could reduce this, as well as apllying some more local noise reduction in some areas.

It was the night of President Trump’s inauguration and there didn’t seem to be a great deal of celebration going on at the Embassy, but the was a sizeable crowd protesting outside – and more in Trafalgar Square where I went later.

Perhaps the poster this woman in pink was holding up in the flower beds in front of the embassy, ‘Dear Queen, We’re Sorry. Take Us back? Love, An American‘ was rather widespread.

There were some speeches, and a large crowd gathered around the tented platform from which they were being made. But a strong fluorescent tube light just behind the speakers head made trying to photograph the speakers unrewarding, and the posters seemed more eloquent. Many in the crowd probably thought so too, or perhaps it was just too crowded to get near enough to hear, but they spread out over a wide area in front of the embassy – the booth from which speeches were made was out of the picture above to the left.

Here’s another picture of Trump, Trumping thanks to Charlie X. The speeches were still trundling on when I left to see what was happening in Trafalgar Square, where a protest had also been called.

The answer when I arrived was not very much, though there was a giant orange Trump head and groups of protesters rather scattered around the square, with Heritage wardens telling them they were not allowed to protest there. The protest there had not really begun, and I decided I’d had enough and left.

Later I heard that things did get going some time after I went home, and that there had been several arrests after protesters had come under an unprovoked attack from the police.

Crowds protest Trump’s Inauguration
F**k Trump

Brixton against deportation

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

The following Saturday I was with Movement for Justice again protesting against deportations, but in Brixton, marching through areas of the community to gain support along with people from groups including Sisters Uncut, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! and the Mazimbabweans, a movement for freedom, democracy and equality in Zimbabwe.

I arrived almost an hour late, thanks to my train being held up by signalling problems in the Clapham Junction area, and found there was nobody at the meeting point in Windrush Square. I tried the phone number I had for one of the organisers, but only got her answering service, and wondered what to do. I wandered up towards the underground station and as I came opposite it could hear the sound of a protest, though there was nothing in sight. But walking on a few yards in the direction the noise was coming from I saw them coming around 50 yards down Atlantic Rd.

The march turned on to the Brixton’s main street, holding up traffic on the busy road and being seen by many of the shoppers, quite a few of whom applauded, waved or shouted in support. Once people saw the banners and posters and saw what the protest was about there was a very positive response from most.

We turned off down the Brixton Station Road to march through the market stalls there, and past the few remaining businesses still refusing to be moved from Brixton Arches and continued a tour of the neighbourhood,  going along Gresham Rd to Brixton Police Station and then turning back onto Brixton Road to march through the centre back to Windrush Square.

The march held up traffic as it went slowly towards Windrush Square, but  many of the drivers passing on the northbound lane waved and beeped in support, and again there was a very positive response from shoppers on the street.

At the junction with Acre Lane the march spread across the whole crossroads and briefly blocked all traffic before moving on to Windrush Square for a rally, where everyone who wanted to speak was allowed to do so, giving a range of views and experiences of the problems facing those coming to this country. Many of those on the march were people who had come here as refugees and asylum seeks, and some were still waiting to receive permission to stay.

As one woman said, every time she went for her regular routine appointment at one of the immigration reporting centres she knew that she might not be allowed to walk out and go back to her friends, but might find herself handcuffed and being taken to be put on a plane back to the country from which she had fled, fearing for her life.

More at: Brixton march against mass deportations


Nigerian Flights

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

On Wednesday Jan 11th I joined Movement for Justice at their protest outside the Nigerian High Commisison in Shaftesbury Avenue, always one of London’s gloomiest streets, lined with tall buildings and large trees. Darkness was falling anyway as the protest began in late afternoon, and I set the D810 on Auto ISO with a minimum speed of 1/100th to take some pictures without flash. Working with the 28.0-200.0 mm f/3.5-5.6 lens the pictures were taken with the lens wide open and then the ISO went up to 4500 and then my maximum setting of 6400 and then the shutter speed began to drop. When it arrived at 1/40th I decided I had to use flash as these protests are fairly lively events.

I kept the ISO fairly high, generally around ISO2500 to keep a decent amount of exposure in the background and avoid a typical bad flash look, and changed to shutter priority (Nikon’s flash gets some crazy ideas in P mode, using the ISO setting to stop down the lens, which to me makes absolutely no sense.) I began with a shutter speed of 1/160, but as usually happens that slowly crept up as handling the camera jogged the main control dial.

On the wideangle images taken with the D750 and the 16.0-35.0 mm f/4.0 I’d forgotten to move the dial from ‘P’ to ‘S’ with the result that the first few images I took were at f11 (see above) and gave a typical background gloom with closer figures far too light. I could compensate partly by some burning in with the RAW files in Ligthroom, but it wasn’t ideal.

Fortunately I soon noticed the error and switched to working in A, aperture priority, mode. With the wide angle I’m less worried about shutter speed and decided I would get sufficient depth of field working more or less wide open, occasionally taking it down a half a stop or so. The 16-35 is a good performer wide open, but improved by just that little stopping down.

The Home Office arranges charter flights to Nigeria every couple of months, and to help with its figures isn’t fussy about who it decides to forcibly deport. Many are people who have been in the UK for most of their lives, with parents, partners and children here, as well as students who have not yet finished their courses, some are still in the course of making their claim for asylum, others people with serious health problems and carers for elderly and disabled relatives and some those who will face violence on their return, particularly if gay.

People don’t matter to the Home Office. They are just numbers in their racist ‘numbers game’.  The protest called on Nigeria to refuse to accept these flights

End Deportation Charter Flights to Nigeria


15 Years of US Shame

Monday, August 28th, 2017

It’s hard to believe that its 15 years since the first men were illegally taken to a new prison camp that was being set up at the US base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Harder still to believe that there are still around 40 detainees held there, despite a promise by President Obama to close it down.

It’s hardly fair to blame Obama for failing to keep that promise, given the opposition he had to face from both Democrats and Republicans; he made an attempt soon after he was first elected but was opposed by both the administration and the Senate and by 2011 he had been largely defeated. But during his time in office the number of men imprisoned there went down from around 245 to 41.

The camp was illegal in almost every respect from the start, flouting international law, the Geneva Conventions and every standard of human rights and common decency; it is hard to think of anything that has more negatively affected the reputation of the USA around the world.

Even its presence on the site in Cuba was in breach of the agreement under which the naval base was established in 1903 on what the USA still regards as sovereign Cuban territory. Though the whole US presence there is also of doubtful legality as the agreement was repudiated after the Cuban revolution as having been made under duress.

But the prison camp remains, and people held there are still being subjected to inhumane treatment, apparently still being tortured routinely – if no longer with the involvement of the UK’s security services. It remains a shameful blot on the USA.

Surprising this year was the absence from the anniversary protest of the human rights organisations that have joined in marking it in at least some previous years. The protest was organised by the Guantanamo Justice Campaign and included the London Guatanamo Campaign who still hold monthly protests outside the US Embassy.

This year the protest had a clown theme with slogans such as ‘Guantanamo is no laughing matter’ and ‘I weep 4 Justice’, and a number of those taking part were dressed and made up as clowns.

15 Years of Guantanamo – No Joke!


End of Year Walks

Sunday, August 27th, 2017

Most years we have some kind of a family Christmas, usually at home, and one of our traditions is to go on walks. On either Boxing Day or Christmas Say, we walk the five or six miles (depending on the route we chose) for lunch at my sister’s house, partly for a little exercise, but also because there is generally no pubic transport. We could cycle, but usually we have more people staying with us than bikes- or even people who can’t ride a bike, so we walk.

We are happy to accept a car ride home, though I suppose we could also walk back, but its less comfortable in the dark. We could take a taxi, but I don’t work on these days and don’t want to make someone else work.

I no longer have a driving licence, and seldom drove for the last 45 years, partly for environmental reasons – and I’ve also, whenever possible avoided flying – I can still just count the number of journey I’ve made on my fingers.

And later in the holiday, usually either New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day we take a longer walk. Last year, on 31st December it was from Sudbury to Brentford, some of it along the River Brent and the Grand Union Canal.

I’d planned the route to have something to appeal (I hoped) to all of the family, with a section through an industrial estate at Perivale, a couple of interesting churches and a long section by rivers and canal.

It turned out to be a little too long – or rather we walked too slowly – and we ended in darkness and missed a train home by seconds – and so had half an hour to wait for the next, but otherwise it was fine. Though I did have to drag people past a tea-room screaming when it was really far too late to stop.

And certainly the weather could have been better. We climbed the hill to arrive at a well-known viewpoint and could see very little. And there was just a little rain.

New Years Eve Walk
Boxing Day Walk


Bangladesh and Harrods

Saturday, August 26th, 2017

My New Year’s Resolution to take things a little easier this year started well and it was not until Saturday 7th January that I picket up a camera with intent, traveling to Whitechapel in the East End, the centre of London’s Bangladeshi community, for the London event in a the global day of protest to save the Sunderbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest.

I’ve never been to Bangladesh, though in the past I’ve been invited and we now have parts of our wider family there through my son’s marriage last year. But it would be a very long way on a bicycle and I really would have to have some vital reason to justify the environmental cost of flying there.

The Sunderbans protest was all about the environment, and the loss of a unique habitat and the species it supports, including the Bengal Tiger, threatened by the development of a coal-fired power plant on its northern edge at Rampal. The development would be disastrous for this fragile ecosystem, and also another nail in the coffin of our world as a whole, increasing the production of greenhouse gases and reducing an important area for their absorption.

It’s difficult for me to understand why anyone should want to build a coal-fired poor station in an area with such a abundant supply of solar energy, with the cost of generating electricity from this falling at a huge rate. If it goes ahead by the time it is built it will be outdated technology – but of course the same will be true about our own fearfully expensive white elephant under construction at Hinkley Point.

More at Save the Sunderbans Global Protest.

The journey from Whitechapel to Harrods was from one side of London to the other – East End to West End – and to very different issues, though I suppose still at base about the greed of the wealthy, who profit from wrecking the environment and also from stealing the waiter’s tips.

United Voices of the World were protesting outside Harrods on behalf of the many waiters who are paid on or a few pence above the minimum wage in an establishment that caters for the ultra-rich. When these diners leave tips for the waiters they expect them to go to to the waiters and catering staff – but much of them instead was going to swell the profits of the owners, probably the richest family in the worlds, the Qatari royal family.

The action by the UVW was supported from its inception by Class War, who turned up with a couple of banners and helped to make the protest even more noticeable. It was perhaps the reputation of Class War that aroused a huge reaction from the police and the interests of some of the press, and the policing was really at extreme levels, with officers on all sides of the block containing the store and vans parked in all the side-streets around, considerably outnumbering the protesters. Harrods too seemed to have a large number of extra security officers on duty inside the store.

Officers came and told the protesters that if they entered the store to protest they would immediately be arrested for aggravated trespass. Some had already gone inside earlier, hiding leaflets about the protest in places where customers and staff would find them later, and had left undetected.

Class War’s methods were more direct, though largely street theatre rather than posing any real threat to property. There was a struggle to open the main doors, and to cover them with their banner to stop those inside filming the protesters, but mainly a lot of shouting and dancing.

And there was very much a clash of cultures, which seemed to me to be summed up by the expression on the face of one well-dressed woman on seeing some of Class War’s more distinctive characters.

The protesters moved off the pavement onto the Brompton Rd in front of the store and were intending to march around the block, but police surrounded them and kept them blocking the road for some time, urging them to go back onto the pavement when they would probably have moved away much more quickly. Eventually the police gave up pushing and threatened to arrest anyone who stayed in the road and the protest moved back to block the pavement. One woman standing on the curb was arrested for arguing with the police that she was on the pavement, and a few minutes later police snatched another who they accused of letting off a smoke flare earlier.

The protesters moved to a wide pedestrian are at the corner of the building for a short rally and then brought the protest to an end, and people, including myself left. Later I heard that as the UVW was packing up police came and arrested four of them including the UVW General Secretary Petros Elia. They were kept in cells at Belgravia police station for up to 18 hours before being released without charge (though the guy accused of letting off a flare apparently accepted a police caution) but on police bail with a condition that they were not to go within 50 metres of Harrods.

These arrests of trade unionists seemed a clear abuse of police powers and a clear demonstration of whose side the police were on. I commented at the time:

It appears to be a deliberate abuse of the law to try to stop protests at Harrods – however legitimate these may be. Harrods and their owners, the Qatari royal family have many friends in high places including the Foreign Office and presumably these were able to put pressure on the police to take action against the protesters.

Many more pictures at: Harrods stop stealing waiters’ tips.


Howl for the NHS

Friday, August 25th, 2017

I saw the best minds of my generation howling in protest for the NHS, though fortunately they had not been destroyed by madness but were just howling mad at our governments plans to dismantle and privatise our National Health Service. The privateer’s latest ploy is the ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plans‘ (STPs) which were due to be signed off that day in all 44 areas of the country.

According to some of the placards, STP stands for ‘Slash Trash and Plunder‘ and many see it as a continuation of plans to move our NHS away from the public sector and into the hands of healthcare companies.

In 2005 Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt was one of the authors of a Conservative Party policy pamphlet that called for the NHS to be replaced by an insurance market system delivered by the private sector and in 2014 was one of 70 Conservative and Lib-Dem MPs listed by the Daily Mirror as having links with healthcare companies.

Many of those at the protest were health workers, and others were those who rely heavily on its service; all support the three basic priciples laid down by Aneurin Bevan back in 1948:

  • that it meet the needs of everyone
  • that it be free at the point of delivery
  • that it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay

Nye Bevan was very much in evidence at the protest, his face on posters and t-shirts with his message “The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it.” Though he expressed similar feelings, apparently Bevan never actually said this, but it was said by his character in a TV play.

But one thing he did say:

“The eyes of the world are turning to Great Britain. We now have the moral leadership of the world, and before many years are over we shall have people coming here as to a modern Mecca, learning from us in the twentieth century as they learned from us in the seventeenth century.”

Instead what we see is Tory politicians and theorists going to the USA and getting ideas from a medical system that is at least three times as expensive and totally fails to provide for the need of the large numbers of the less wealthy to bring back here and destroy a system that still in many respects is the envy of the world. It makes sense only to those crazy for greed.

More about Howls of protest for death of the NHS on My London Diary.


Thursday, August 24th, 2017

People often say things about it being a nice day to take photographs when its bright and sunny with a clear blue sky, but such days, welcome though they are for other reasons, especially in winter, are ones that photographers dread, with sun from a low angle, deep shadows and ridiculous contrast.

And December 22nd was one of those days, and I left home knowing things were likely to be tricky as I walked to the station. The trial of the Rising Up “M4-15” who had blocked the motorway spur into the airport in a protest against Heathrow expansion was taking place at Ealing Magistrates Court, and a protest in solidarity was starting there rather early in the morning.

I seldom do early mornings. For me its one of the perks of being my own boss and doing what I like to have a reasonably leisured start to the day, and in any case catching an early train doubles the fares. I decided arriving a little after 10am would be plenty early enough, and although the protest had been going for a while I hadn’t missed anything of importance. Many of those coming to the event had made a similar assumption too.

While there were a few things to photograph, the event only really got going later, and like almost everything to do with courts there was a lot of waiting around. And waiting around.

John Stewart’s head could have done with a little less exposure

You can see my problems with the light in a few pictures. Some of them could have been solved by using fill-flash, but others it would have created worse problems, so although I’d had the flash in my bag I hadn’t used it. There are some situations where the flash creates a very different atmosphere and this event, largely very informal, was one of them.

I like to keep things technically as simple as possible when I’m taking pictures, and the Exif data on every picture I took reads Mode: P, Meter: Matrix, No Flash, Auto WB. It’s mainly amateurs who express surprise that I usually work using Program mode, but it works and the dial under my thumb lets me chose a faster speed or a slower one for a wider aperture should I think it necessary. 99% of the time it gives the result I want without my having to pause and think about it.

Nikon’s matrix metering is pretty good too, though I usually have a third of a stop underexposure set to keep a little more of the highlights, I should probably have made that two or even three thirds for the high contrast light, as just occasionally I lost important highlights. Shadows don’t matter much as there is always more you can dig out from the RAW file in Lightroom.

I do sometimes use spot metering (or at least what Nikon call spot.) Back in the days of film I used it most of the time, both the spot metering of the Olympus OM system (surely the OM4 remains the best camera of all time for exposure metering) and also a handheld spot meter, because you needed to be precise, especially with transparency film, and even with black and white I enjoyed placing the key value on the Zone where I wanted it. But spot metering requires you think about it, and when you forget to change back to matrix produces some very uneven results, as I’ve too often proved.

Technically, digital cameras are almost certainly more clever than I am and, so long as you keep the highlights, allow you to play almost infinitely back on the PC with print exposure and contrast. I’m happy to put the camera on P and do that stuff while I concentrate on content and framing. As I’ve often joked, ‘P’ stands for Professional.

Eventually the 14 defendants had to go into court and those of us who didn’t want to go in with them were left standing outside. I don’t like having to hand all my camera gear over so I stayed out. And waited.

Not for all that long, as courts break early for lunch, and the defendants came out and some spoke. They were in good spirits as they felt things had gone well for those who had pleaded guilty but whose solicitor had been allowed to make clear that they were “but only guilty of standing up to climate injustice”.

I’d been hanging around long enough and left when they went back into court and only heard the verdict and sentences later in the day. The 12 who pleaded guilty were all given ‘conditional discharges’, and had to pay £20 victim surcharge and £85 prosecution costs. The cases of the two who had pleaded ‘not guilty’ were adjourned. The Daily Mail clearly didn’t like the verdict, but would probably not have been satisfied with anything less than them being hung, drawn and quartered.

See more at Heathrow “M4-15″protesters at court


Another Saturday

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

It was getting close to Christmas and I’d been expecting people to be too busy getting ready for the festival to be out protesting, but there were still protests happening in London.

It was apparently Chelsea Manning’s 29th birthday and she was still in jail serving a 35 year sentence for espionage, theft and other offences. She had twice attempted suicide in the previous six months, the second time in November while in solitary confinement as a sentence for the first attempt.

Both a formal petition and one with over 100,000 signatures had been made earlier in the month to President Obama for clemency, asking him to reduce her sentence to time already served. Most commentators thought it unlikely to happen, although the protesters were hopeful – and a month later Obama did commute all but 4 months of her remaining sentence, saying it had been ‘very disproportionate’. President Trump said that she was an ungrateful traitor and should never have been released, but despite this, she was set free in May 2017.

This was a static and more or less silent protest on the steps of St Martin-in-the-Fields – all that is allowed there – and I was pleased to be able to produce quite a variety of images – and of course to have another opportunity to photograph Bruce Kent.

Vigil on Chelsea Manning’s 29th birthday

Kurds can always be relied on to be colorful, and I have a great deal of sympathy for them, particularly in Turkey where they have long been oppressed by the Turkish government. But this was a protest by Iraqi Kurds who have enjoyed some autonomy in Iraq since 1970 and more so in recent years, in support of the Peshmerga (or Peshmarga), the military force of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of Iraqi Kurdistan, established in 1992 with the protection of a US no-fly zone after the first Gulf War.

The Peshmerga stood their ground when ISIS invaded Iraq, while the Iraqi army fled and were the most effective fighting force in the area. But ISIS captured a great deal of up to date US equipment left behind by the Iraqis and are better equipped than the Pershmerga, who need more support – and this protest was calling on the UK government for help.

The UK and other western nations have been reluctant to give much help to the Peshmerga, and the scarf worn by the woman on the right , with its map of Kurdistan explains why, including as it does a healthy chunk of the territory of one of our allies, Turkey, as well as parts of Iraq, Iran and Syria (and I think some of Armenia), all of the territory where Kurds are in a majority.  Having the Kurds fight and help defeat Da’esh is a good thing, but Kurdish nationalism and the establishment of a Kurdish state, which the protest was also for,  would not suit the UK or USA, or for that matter, Russia. It might not even suit the Kurds, as the constitution of Kurdish Syria (Rojava) currently a de-facto autonomous region thanks to the civil war, while inspired by the Turkish Kurd leader ‘Apo’ (Abdullah Öcalan) from his Turkish jail is a rather different politics to that of the Iraqi Kurds.

Kurds protest for a Free Kurdistan

Syria was the subject of a very different protest a few hundred yards away in Old Palace Yard, where healthcare workers, including some who had volunteered in Syria,  held a die-in at Parliament in solidarity with the Syrian people, calling for an end to the bombing by Russia and Assad of hospitals and for the UK government to pressure the Assad regime to allow the delivery of medicines and other aid.

Since the protesters were on the circle in the pavement I thought it would be good to photograph them from directly above. Unfortunately I hadn’t brought my helicopter with me, not even a drone or a monopod, and the best I could do was to stand on the edge of the circle and stretch up my right arm forward and up as high as possible, holding the camera with the 10.5mm fisheye on it. I couldn’t see the viewfinder or the screen on the back of the camera, so had to do my best and then bring the camera down and look to see how I’d done. It took only one frame to decide it looked better without the camera strap in it, but quite a few to get the framing right.

There was still one problem. Because I hadn’t had the camera above the centre of the circle it was definitely not a circle in the image. So I’m afraid I cheated, turning what had been a 1.5:1 image into the 1.31:1  image you see here and making that circle look much rounder.

Doctors & Nurses Die-in for Syria


Students rent protest

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017

Students have more or less always protested, though they sometimes seem rather passive to those of us who were students in the sixties. We protested about various things but in particular about education and the universities, where we sat in various offices and liberated documents about the connections between the universities and the military-industrial complex and called for a revolution and an end to an education system that was geared to supporting the status quo rather than questioning it.

We got a few concessions but really achieved little, though perhaps universities did start to take the teaching of undergraduates a little more seriously and a few more radical courses emerged, though it was more a matter of fashion rather than a change of direction.

But what we have seen since then is an increasing corporatisation of the universities and the professionalisation of management, with students less and less seen as an important part of a collegiate body and more as units to be processed and cash sources to be milked.

It’s a process which has been given a huge boost with the removal of grants and the introduction of student loans and huge course fees for students.

Of course it isn’t just the universities that see students as sources of profit, but also the private companies – in which many in Parliament, particularly on the Tory side have an interest. Student loans have an interest rate which is set to rise to more than 24 times the official Bank of England base rate next month, and student loan debt is now more than £100 billion and fast growing. It is already around one and a half times the total UK credit card debt. The student loans company was set up as a government owned non-profit company, but student debt is now being sold off to private companies.

Another huge earner from students is the provision of student housing, and many of the cranes now visible in London are building high-rise towers for students – or at least for wealthy students, as the rents in many of them are equal or greater than the maximum student loans.

Students used to live either in university halls of residence, in digs with local landladies providing bed and breakfast (and sometimes an evening meal) or in private flats, usually owned by small landlords. Now universities see halls of residence as businesses to make money rather than as a service to its members, and providing student flats has become a huge and highly profitable big business, attracting capital from overseas – such as Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund.

University College London, normally now only known by its initials UCL, has a number of halls of residence, and last year over a thousand students staged a rent strike. Some were striking because of the appalling conditions of their rooms, but others simply because the rents were too high, and the strike was a success, winning over £1.5m in concessions.

But students say the rents are still too high, say many students have to have two or three part-time jobs to study and live in London. They asked for a 10% cut in rents and were protesting after UCL management refused their demand.

The protest started in the main quad at UCL with its steps and classical architecture, and after a few short speeches took a tour inside the main buildings, passing perhaps its most famous resident, its “spiritual founder”, Jeremy Bentham, (1748-1832), certainly now its oldest member at 268, still sitting in his cupboard.

Fortunately the students knew the way as we made our way along corridors and down stairs eventually to emerge into a courtyard and walk around the streets back to the main quad for some more speeches …

and of course some smoke flares. I made a lot of pictures (and you can see quite a few of them on My London Diary) but wasn’t entirely happy. Smoke is rather unpredictable and it’s difficult to know the best distance; getting in too close can simply mean your whole view becoming a coloured  mist.

UCL Students protest rents and marketisation