Archive for August, 2017

UN Human Rights DAY (and Christmas)

Monday, August 21st, 2017

Christmas was approaching fast but protests were still coming at a furious pace, and on December 10th I was kept busy, though I did spend a little time with the Santas at what has now become an annual Santacon, a rather alcohol-fuelled mass invasion of the streets by hundreds or probably thousands of Santas of both sexes along with elves and a few reindeer. It’s an event that has become rather toned-down over the years under considerable pressure from the police who don’t approve of a little merry mayhem on the streets.

But there were also more serious events taking place. My day began in Old Palace Yard opposite the Houses of Parliament where protesters were forming a human chain against the danger to human rights posed by leaving Europe. December 10th is UN Human Rights Day and protesters in various cities were holding similar protests against the threat of Brexit under our right-wing Tory government to workers rights to paid holidays, maternity leave and fair treatment at work, to the right of free movement around Europe to live in the EU and for EU citizens to live here and to disability rights and the right to freedom from discrimination.

Along the road in Parliament Square on my way to the tube I met a couple of people in elaborate if not entirely convincing rhinoceros costumes. The fact they only had two legs and particularly the bright blue shoes one of them wore were something of a give-away. They were being photographed to ‘Save the Rhino’ but I didn’t have time to stop and talk and only took a couple of pictures.

The tube took me to Oxford Circus. I could have taken a bus, but traffic holdups in London make the tube a much better way to get around in Central London, even though I had to walk up from Oxford Circus to Broadcasting House, where another UN Human Rights Day protest was taking place, against the failure of the BBC to report on people wrongly held in prison around the world, including Irish Republican prisoners held in Northern Ireland, Mumia Abu Jamal on Death Row in USA, Palestinians held in Israeli jails, victims of Erdogan’s purge in Turkey and more.

My next stop was Mornington Crescent, a station that always gives something of a sense of achievement, and today my day was feeling a little like playing that popular game. As I came out of the station I could see in the distance the rather fat red line of the North London Santacon approaching in the distance from Camden Town and rushed to join them. I followed them into a small park where they stood around and then began a little jousting.

Then it was back to Mornington Crescent for a trip down the Northern Line to Charing Cross and the short walk down Whitehall, where several more human rights protests were taking place opposite Downing St.

Probably few in the UK know where Balochistan us, let along about the human rights abuses taking place. I only know because I’ve photographed several earlier protests about the situation there. It’s another of the legacies of our Empire and the disastrous partition of the Indian sub-continent when we decided we had to get out in 1947. Balochistan, on the Pakistan-Iran border became a part of Pakistan, retaining some autonomy, but was absorbed fully in 1948 – since when Balochs claim they and their culture have been brutally repressed both in Pakistan and in Iran. They claim over 25,000 Balochs have disappeared – abducted, tortured and killed by Pakistan police and security forces, and their bodies abandoned in desert areas.

Next to them the Guantanamo Justice Campaign was holding a Human Rights Day protest calling for an end to torture, the closure of Guantanamo and an end to British complicity in torture. Obama failed to meet his promise to end the illegal camp and Trump seems likely to worsen the situation for those still held there. It’s a depressing prospect for those concerned about freedom and human rights.

Finally, as I was getting ready to leave for home, a small group of women from WAVE (Women’s Action against Violent Extremism) came along the street from where they had been protesting in Parliament Square, and stopped to hold a protest opposite Downing St. They called for help for the Yazidi women who were targeted and captured by ISIS (Da’esh) in Iraq. Their protest was a part of 16 days of action begun by UN goodwill ambassador Nadia Murad Basee Taha who escaped from ISIS in 2014.

Save Yazidi women and girls
Human Rights Day call close Guantanamo
Balochs UN Human Rights Day protest
London Santacon 2016
BBC censors prison struggles
Save the Rhino
Silent Chain for Europe


How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Friday, August 18th, 2017

Cleaners were again on the street protesting, this time at King’s College, another of the leading colleges of London University, although as usual the problem arises because instead of King’s College employing cleaners they outsource the cleaning to a contractor, Servest. King’s doubtless feel they have to treat all employees with dignity and respect and give them decent condition of work and terms of service, but cleaning contractors seem generally happy to treat their workers with contempt, employing poor managers without proper supervision, and giving their workers low pay and unreasonable workloads and cutting things like pensions, sick pay and holidays to the minimum they can.

Cleaners at Kings belong to one of our major trade unions, Unison, and the union and Servest have been in talks at ACA, but haven’t manage to resolve the issues and Servest’s response had been to write to all of the cleaners wanting them thatthey intend to ‘restructure’ the workforce and that all of their jobs are at risk.

The warning letter came just a few weeks before Christmas, a time when family budgets are always under extreme stress, just about the worst Christmas present the workers could imagine. They felt that Servest, like Dr Suess’s Grinch, was trying to steal Christmas – and their jobs – away from them.

It seemed to be a pretty inept piece of management by Servest, with the union members about to vote on strike action, almost guaranteeing that there would be close to 100% support for this in the ballot – and it was no surprise to find 98% of them backing strike action. They also received great support from students and staff, with more than 50 academics at King’s signing a letter in support of their dispute, protesting at how the cleaners were being treated.

Although the pavement in front of Kings is wider than most, it got pretty crowded, making it a little hard to work as a photographer, and my wide angle lens was essential much of the time.

But it’s important to try an vary the views, and I tried hard to also use a longer lens, concentrating on individuals or small groups with the 28-200mm in DX mode. At the 28mm end this gives an effective 42mm, more or less a standard lens for full frame. The 50mm we usually consider as the standard is actually just a little on the long side, simply because in the early years of 35mm cameras it was a little easier to make lenses of that focal length rather than the image diagonal of 43mm (and the image diagonal is more generally the normal ‘standard’ focal length.)

It was a fairly dull winter’s day and the tall buildings around cut down the light; although it was lunchtime I found myself increasing the ISO to 1600 once the rally really got going. Although Unison is a rather more traditional British union the cleaners and their supporters soon increased the tempo and noise to match that of the grass roots unions such as the United Voices of the World, several of whose members (and the UVW General Secretary) had come to show their solidarity.

And in typical UVW style they made a rush into the foyer of King’s, confronting the security staff inside who were keeping an eye on the protest. But Unison’s organiser stopped his members from following their example.

I’m glad I stayed on until the official rally had ended, although I’d been thinking of leaving along with a couple of colleagues. But the cleaners and some of the students and other supporters remained, and there was loud music and dancing, and more space to work – and the Grinch appeared.

More pictures: King’s College cleaners Servest protest

Hull Photos: 28/7/17-3/8/17

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

A few from Goole as well as some from Hull. Comments welcome on any of these pictures.

28th July 2017

Taken from the swing bridge between Bridge Rd and South Bridge Rd at the entrance to West Dock. Shed 23 has since been demolished. Around the corner is Stanhope Dock, built in 1891 as the ‘New Extension Dock’. The dock had a crane capable of lifting railway wagons and emptying them into the hold of a ship before placing them back on the rails. Now the track ends at Bridge St, and West Dock is the only dock served by rail. At left is the bridge pit.

Berthed in Stanhope Dock is Jurgen, a 444 ton coaster built in Hamburg in 1956 and originally named Heinrich Knuppel; it then became Heinrich Raap in 1966 before being renamed Jurgen in 1966. It had capsized and been written off in 1971 while loading timber in Finland, but was salvaged and back in service the following year for a company registered in Limassol, Cyrpus. Its troubles did not end there and on 5th March 1986 half way between Boston and Antwerp it was in collision with a Yugoslav bulk carrier, MV Kotor in the North Sea around 40 miles off Walcheren Island at the mouth of the Scheldt Estuary. It sank and is still on the sea bottom in around 40 metres of water.

36h51: Shed 23, West Dock Entrance, Goole Docks, 1983 – Goole

29th July 2017

I think this door and windows were facing Bridge St on the west end of Shed 23 which was on the north side of the entrance to West Dock. The reflection in the window shows several cranes and stacks of timber, presumably across the road along the North side of West Dock.

36h52: Detail, Shed 23, West Dock Entrance, Goole Docks, 1983 – Goole

30th July 2017

There is still a ‘Shed 20’ on the south side of West Dock, but it looks nothing like this. Along with most of the other sheds around the docks these old wooden structures have been replaced by more modern sheds. There are now two sheds here, Shed 20 and Shed 21, and I think this view was probably taken from Lower Bridge St and from the same position would now show Shed 21.

In the foreground are two conveyors, presumably used of the bulk handling of solids such as sand or gravel, and behind them a lorry load shrouded in a tarpaulin stencilled ‘Wrights Transport Goole’. Fred Wright started the business in Selby in 1938 and ran it with his brother Charles. It remained a family business, and Graham Wright took over in the 1960s, moving to Goole in 1978, and his two sons worked in the business, which was sold up in 2004 when Graham Wright retired. The auction raised £600,000.

36h64: Shed 20, West Dock from Bridge St, Goole, 1983 – Goole

31st July 2017

A crane holds 4 sacks in mid-air over the hold of the Jurgen berthed in Stanhope DOck in front of Shed 25 while behind 2 men stand waiting on the platform of a lorry. They and the crane-driver are slowly loading or unloading the vessel, and it looks as if the job could take several days. It’s easy to see why containerisation rapidly swept away the old-fashioned ways of handling goods like this – and the modernisation of the docks has meant that the dockside sheds have also gone. The space where Shed 23 was is now empty, while a blander modern structure has replace Shed 25.

The Parish Church of St John the Evangelist is still there – and the very visible lightning conductor going up its spire to the cross on top may well have helped.

Shed 25 replaced the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway “Ghent and Antwerp Shed” and Bergline began working from it in 1972, providing regular freight services to Sweden etc. The company appears now to have disappeared.

36h66: West Dock Entrance, Stanhope Dock, Shed 23 and Shed 25 from West Dock Bridge, 1983 – Goole

1st August 2017

I think I felt that the tilted camera was somehow appropriate for the dilapidated state of the pier when I took this picture.  Or perhaps it was just grabbed rapidly as the seagulls flew off as I approached.

Rather than repairing the pier, a a layer of some kind of board had been nailed over part of it and a fence put up to stop people falling down the gaps outside. It perhaps reflected a general attitude of neglect and half-hearted attention to the heritage of the city.

36i11: Seagulls at Hull Pier, 1983 – Old Town

2nd August 2017

Shifting mud in the River Humber makes navigation tricky and shops require pilots to make a safe passage up the river.  The earliest UK laws about pilots date from around 1200 and members of Hull Trinity House, founded in 1369 were pilots, although it was not until 1512 that they formally undertook to act as pilots to bring ships into Hull.  The Humber Pilot Act of 1800 gave Trinity House the authority to appoint pilots and 30 men working from 6 pilot boats were licenced.

From 1812 to 1998 the Humber pilots worked from a fine purpose-built office at 50 Queen St, but were evicted when this was turned into flats in 1998. In 2001, the independent Humber Pilots went on strike against plans by Associated British Ports (the private company who took over when British Transport Docks Board was privatised in 1982/3) who had decided to train and employ their own pilots. All 150 independent pilots had their licences revoked in 2002 ending 490 years of independent pilotage on the Humber.

36i22:  Pilot boat Camilla waiting at Nelson St, 1983 – Old Town

3rd August 2017

This view of the pilot boat was taken from the Horse Wash at Nelson St. The ‘Oss Wash’ is a wide fairly gently slope down to the river inset into the river wall here where tradesmen would bring their horses to wash them down, presumably drawing water from the Humber using buckets on a rope or even taking them down into the river to wash and then walk back up the wide slope.  I think old photographs show some railings coming out at intervals from the river wall around half way across the wide slope to divide it into a number of stalls, but these had gone.

All ships greater than 60 metres in length are required to take on a pilot to ensure safe passage up the Humber estuary unless the master or first mate is a Pilotage Exemption Certificate Holder. This service, provided from 1512 to 2002 by independent Humber Pilots is now provided by the privatised Associated British Ports. Very Large Ships need two pilots

Fees depend on tonnage, and as an example, for a vessel of up to 300 tons there is a charge for pilotage from Hull to Goole of £267.39 and also a boarding/landing fee of £104.47. Larger vessels pay more.

36i21:  Humber pilot boat Camilla waits off Hull Pier, 1983 – Old Town

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.

Yarls Wood 10

Monday, August 14th, 2017

Detainees inside who could get to the windows welcomed the protest

Nothing expresses the racist and and oppressive state of our country more obviously than our immigration detention centres and the whole state apparatus for harassing asylum seekers and refugees. People fleeing violence and persecution, often rape and attacks flee to the UK and are greeting with a Home Office wall of disbelief. While in our legal system you are innocent until proved guilty, for migrants the system works in reverse; the Home Office assumes that they are liars and cheats unless they can produce evidence to prove their claims – and evidence is often impossible to provide.

Detainees in Yarl’s wood are subjected to rape, sexual abus and mental torture

Routinely gay asylum seekers are told they are not gay – and sent back to countries where they will face danger and violence because they are gay, Some have to go into hiding, others commit suicide rather than return or after they arrive home.

Others who came here when young or even may have been born here are told they have no right to be in this country – and are sent to countries they may never have been in and where they have no families or friends, removing them and splitting up families living in the uk.

Increasingly under Theresa May and now Amber Rudd as Home Secretary it has become simply a numbers game, trying in any way possible to cut down the number of migrants without regard to personal circumstances or hardship, using mass deportation charter flights to send people to Nigeria and elsewhere, including many whose asylum claims are still being processed.

People climb up to show placards and balloons and speak to the detainees

Our immigration prisons are now officially called ‘removal centres’, although many who are held in them will have a legitimate right to remain here. The name change reflects the aim to remove them – whether or not they will be able to prove a right to remain, as many still do.

Refugees to the UK are refused their rights in centres such as Yarl’s Wood

The protest on December 3rd was the 10th at this remote centre in Bedfordshire organised by Movement for Justice, and I think the ninth I’ve attended to photograph. It’s a journey of several hours, made easier on the protest days by a coach provided by MfJ from Bedford Station. Most of those held are effectively cut off from their friends and fellow migrants by the length of the journey and its cost – as most migrants live in urban centres and are poor if not destitute. MfJ also organise coaches from London, Birmingham and further afield for the protests and make it possible for refugees and others short of funds to make the journey. Otherwise it means an expensive train journey to Bedford followed by an over five mile taxi ride from the station.

I don’t cover events like this for the money – and seldom make enough to cover my costs from them – but because I think it important to record what is happening in our society and to make people aware of the issues and I want to do what I can to make that happen. I think the same is true for many of the other photographers there taking pictures.

Movement for Justice has led the fight to end immigration detention

Many of those who spoke – and could be heard by those inside the prison – were people who had spent time inside Yarl’s Wood or other detention centres. And a few inside were able to speak from inside using mobile phones – one of the few privileges detainees have over those in our normal prisons. These are prisons in all but name, but with the difference that none of those held knows what will happen to them. Some have been held for weeks, others for years, and many find themselves being taken from them and put on a flight home. Now these are mainly special chartered flights after passengers on regular flights objected to the forcible restraint of detainees on them, at times refusing to let the flights take off, clearly recognising the inhumanity involved.

These detention centres are also a threat hanging over refugees and asylum seekers living in our communities, who have to attend regularly to reporting centres. Every time they go it for these routine appointments they know they may be leaving in transport direct to Yarl’s Wood or another removal centre – sometimes returning from where they have previously been released. Inside these centres, run by private firms such as Serco, they are routinely refused their rights, bullied and poorly treated. Some have died because they have been refused medical treatment, others have been sexually abused.

These centres are a national disgrace, and a quite unnecessary punishment for those who have committed no crime and pose no threat to our society. They make it harder for the claims of those inside to be furthered and justice to be obtained. Any humane government would close them down and offer real help and support to asylum seekers in their place.

I took a great many pictures of the protest, and you can see a selection of them on My London Diary, as well as read a short account of the day in Shut Down Yarl’s Wood 10.

Cleaners & Students united

Friday, August 11th, 2017

One chant common on marches and at protests – both in Spanish and in English is ‘El pueblo unido jamás será vencido‘ – or for us monoglots, ‘The people united will never be defeated’. It began life three months before Pinochet’s military coup in 1973, a part of the left-wing New Chilean Song movement with music by Sergio Ortega and was unfortunately followed by the huge setback of the overthrow and assasination of Salvador Allende, though of course the people continued their struggle. In 1975 it was the basis for a piano piece of the same name with 36 variations by modern US composer Frederic Rzewski.

LSE cleaner Mildred

Cleaners & Students united (along with a few members of staff) and with the backing of the cleaners union the United Voices of the World and a few of their friends to secure dignity of treatment and equality of working conditions for the cleaning staff at the LSE. I’d been present when the campaign was launched at the end of September 2016, and again at their protest in October, and was pleased to be back with them again at the start of December. And even more pleased when after around 9 months of campaigning they finally achieved a successful conclusion to their fight.

LSE Anthropology Professor David Graeber with sacked cleaner Alba

Students, some carrying mops, in a corridor of LSE’s Old Building

The campaigners met in Houghton St, and then defied security and marched through the corridors of the Old Building to Portugal St. As well as protesting on behlaf of the cleaners, this was also at statement by the students that this was their university. As marchers on the streets shout ‘Whose Streets? Our Streets!’ they shouted ‘Whose University? Our University!’. It was a reminder how far institutions like the LSE have been been taken over by managements who seem to regard students as inconvenient but necessary clients who provide the institution with income rather than as members of a collegiate body.

Protesters in Portugal St

Once outside the building the protest continued, and finally marched down Kingsway to the corner with Aldwych, where at 1 Kingsway are the offices of the Estates Division from which Noonan, the outsourced company which employs the cleaners, operate on the campus. The loud protest there made their campaign very visible to the many members of the public on the busy street.

Outside 1 Kingsway

I took many pictures and put rather a lot of them on-line, probably too many, but it was a lively protest and I found it almost impossible to take bad pictures! You might like to look at them with ‘Quilapayún 1973 – El pueblo unido jamás será vencido‘ as a sound track. The protest at the LSE was considerably smaller but had something of the same spirit.

Justice for LSE Cleaners

Class War

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

I always like photographing protests by Class War. Although they are a small group (though sometimes quite large numbers join with them them) their protests are often very effective in raising issues, and are often unpredictable. The protests are always interesting, both because many of them have interesting views which they share freely and often amusingly, but also because of a sense of theatre.

Generally too there is some visual interest which a photographer can work with, with some excellent banners and posters. And they believe in having fun with their serious politics.

Their confrontational style also tends to make for good pictures, though at Croydon Box Park this was somewhat mollified by the owner coming down and having a serious talk with them, agreeing with much of what they were saying about the gentrification of Croydon and inviting them to come and have a talk later. Though there was more of a confrontation later when they spotted the BBC developers’ apologist Mark Eaton making his way into a meeting.

The heavy showers also dampened the atmosphere a little, sending us all into a nearby bus shelter. Later the large banner with its quotation from US anarchist Lucy Parsons showed its worth as those holding it carried it held over their heads to keep off some driving rain.

I had my own small confrontation too. As I note in the caption for the picture above, “The only possible response when someone says ‘You can’t photograph me’ is to photograph them.”

A week later I met up with Class War again, this time protesting against architect Patrik Schumaker of Zaha Hadid Architects, who had talked at a conference in Berlin about getting rid of social housing and public space in cities. The posters from Class War carried what was apparently a quotation from his presentation, “We must destroy Affordable Housing and remove the unproductive from the capital to make way for my people who generate value

It was a chilling sentence, with clear similarities to the thinking and actions of the Nazis, and brought condemnation from a wide range of those concerned with human rights and equality, and housing campaigners in particular.

Schumaker’s views were not shared by all architects, and Class War received a message of support from one of those working under Schumaker. Not surprisingly their attempts to make contact with him through the entry phone at the gate and an invitation to come out and discuss the issue were met with no success.  There were extra security guards at the entrances, and even Lisa McKenzie couldn’t charm her way in.

Joining Class War in the protest were others from the London Anarchist Federation and the Revolutionary Communist Group, who also favour a similar kind of direct action and often cooperate at protests.

More text and pictures:

Class War Croydon ‘Snouts in the trough’
Class War protest ‘Fascist Architect’


No Justice over Ricky Bishop

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

Rocky Bishop is just one of the 1,619 people have died while in contact with the police, whether in custody, being pursued, or shot since 1990 – around one every six days on average.

Of course not every one of those is a result of police actions; a few will have died of natural causes, some may have taken their own lives, but the great majority of them are previously healthy people who have been killed, some accidentally but others deliberately by the actions of police. It’s hard to know how many we should describe as manslaughter and what fraction as murder, but a very large number died as a result of actions that had they been carried out by a member of the public would have resulted in convictions.

But, as you may know, and as certainly many of us at the sixth anniversary of the shooting by police of Mark Duggan did know, not a single police officer has been convicted of any crime for these many deaths.

Whenever someone dies at the hands of the police, the first reaction is always to cover up. Police deliberately spread false rumours about the victim – he was a drug dealer, he choked swallowing a package of drugs, he was carrying a gun, he was a dangerous criminal, a gang leader…. And the papers and media broadcast these falsities, creating an atmosphere where the public believes the victim had it coming to him.

One of the most blatant cases was that of an innocent Brazilian electrician, catching the tube on his way to work, gunned down as he sat quietly in the carriage at Stockwell Station. A few days ago it was Rashan Charles, where police spread the lie he was a drug dealer and swallowing drugs. As so often, once the idea had been firmly lodged in the public mind, they issued a correction, which got much less publicity.

Not only this, there is seldom if ever a proper investigation. If we were a suspect in a possible murder or manslaughter case we would be questioned at length, almost certainly arrested and statements taken, but after these lethal incidents occur there seldom seems to be any proper inquiry. Often we find the officers involved have not been questioned days or weeks after the event.

Doreen Jjuko, Ricky Bishop’s mother holds white roses

Sixteen years after her son Ricky Bishop died in Brixton police station, Doreen Jjuko is still calling for justice. He was in a car stopped by police who searched him but found no drugs, and taken to Brixton police station, though not arrested. Four hours later he was dead. The judge at his inquest denied the jury the possibility of a verdict of manslaughter and brought in a verdict of death by misadventure.

Sister Unity had also brought flowers in memory of Ricky Bishop

His family are convinced the 12 officers concerned are guilty of murder, and as they marched through the centre of Brixton they and their supporters shouted out ‘Who Killed Ricky Bishop?‘ with the answer ‘Police killed Ricky Bishop!’ and going on to name each of the 12 officers, calling them murderers.

The march went very slowly along Brixton’s main street, stopping for some minutes in front of Brixton’s busy Underground station, blocking one lane of the road, but getting their message across to those in the busy street. A police car with two officers drew up beside the march, blocking the second lane – and thus the whole of the north-bound traffic, and the officers got out to tell the marchers they were obstructing the highway and putting themselves in danger, trying to persuade them to leave the road and walk along the pavement.

It seemed an act of senseless naivety, but the protesters were surprisingly polite in their refusals, simply telling the police that if they stopped murdering people they arrested and investigated crimes by fellow officers properly they would not be marching, but otherwise they ignored them and carried on their slow march to Brixton Police Station for a rally at the tree outside, which they call the ‘lynching tree’.

This tree was for some years adopted by the community as a memorial to those killed at Brixton Police Station, with pictures and tributes to Ricky Bishop, Sean Rigg and others. But when police knew that all the family members would be at the annual United Families and Friends march in Whitehall on October 31st 2015, police stripped the tree and have kept it bare since. Their action showed an appalling disregard for community relations, disgusting many.

Rhonda, Ricky Bishop’s sister tapes the flowers to the memorial tree

There were speeches and Sister Unity performed her poem ‘The Lynching Tree Down Brixton Way‘ which she wrote after hearing an interview with Doreen Bishop in 2004, and then there was a silence and candles were lit in memory of Ricky. Had he lived he would now be 41, the same age as my elder son.

Doubtless soon after the vigil ended, the police would come out and remove the flowers, the pictures and the candles. At least I hope they at least waited until the vigil had ended, but I had to leave shortly before.


No Third Runway

Monday, August 7th, 2017

Heathrow has over the years shown a voracious appetite for growth, always at the expense of the local community who have continually been made promises that have never been kept. The airport was set up in war-time under the false pretence it was needed for military use and the lies have continued ever since.

Of course it has created jobs in the local area – and for some time there were many skilled jobs, but increasingly now they are low paid and low skilled jobs in what has become more and more a shopping centre with an airport attached. Increasingly jobs will be lost as automation at the airport continues, and Heathrow is likely in the future to create less employment than almost any other possible use of its huge site.

What it does bring to the area – and in great variety – is pollution. Most obviously noise pollution, now affecting a large swathe of West London and further out in Berkshire, but also air pollution, not just from the planes and vehicles using Heathrow, but from the cars and lorries which bring and take away passengers and freight, and by the congestion that these cause to other non-airport related traffic in the area.

By the 1970s it had become clear that Heathrow was in the wrong place, and that London needed a new site for its major airport. Had the right decision been made, Heathrow would long ago have joined Croydon as a former London airport (and Croydon was probably rather better placed.) But Government buckled to the interests and lobbying of a powerful aviation lobby, joined by others, and Heathrow continued to be allowed to expand, with a fourth terminal, and then a fifth, and then the push for the ‘third runway’.

I took part in an photographed the protests against that third runway and the celebrations when that proposal was defeated, with even the Conservative Party leader David Cameron making a clear promise it would not be built. But Heathrow and the vested interests came back, with the setting up of an inquiry by the government on premises that were almost bound to favour further expansion, and the spectre of the third runway re-emerged, despite the ever-increasing argument of the enviromental catastrophe it would be.

I’m not a fan of Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative MP who had organised a rally on Richmond Green – and had resigned when his party changed tack to back Heathrow expansion, and was fighting a by-eleciton on the issue, but I went to photograph the rally which was supported by all the local groups fighting against the plans.

What I hadn’t expected was to be harassed by one of Goldsmith’s crew, who told me that this was a private event and that I couldn’t take pictures, threatening to get the police to evict me. I told him that this was a public meeting in a public place and I had every right to report it, but for several minutes he followed me around trying to stop me. I told him rather forcefully to go away and talk to the police – and he did, so I was bothered no more. But so much for freedom under the Conservatives!

I wasn’t sorry when Goldsmith lost his seat to Sarah Olney – also opposed to Heathrow expansion, and whose supporters were also present (looking rather less like estate agents) and it was something of a disappointment when he regained it – by 75 votes in the June 2017 election. Goldsmith took the seat in 2010 from Susan Kramer, a Liberal Democrat MP who had been a staunch fighter against Heathrow expansion.

From Richmond I took a train and a bus to the Three Magpies on the Bath Road at Cranford on the northern edge of Heathrow. Nearby some activists from Rising Up! were blocking the motorway spur into the airport while on the bridge above the road a few hundred yards away I covered the ‘family friendly’ rally that was also taking place – with a huge and unnecessary police presence.

More at:

Climate Crisis rally against Airport Expansion
Rally against Heathrow Expansion


Down with Arsenal!

Saturday, August 5th, 2017

I hate the idea of Arsenal. I don’t mean the north London football team, which has always seemed to me one of the more acceptable London teams to support, though if I retained any interest in the game I’d more likely go to QPR or Brentford, the latter a team that several of my team mates when I played under-11 football in the cub league ended up at. But I wasn’t one of the stars of the side and even on the good days when we scored 40 or 50 goals in a match I seldom strayed goal-wards but stayed was left back in my own half. Though I was reasonably lethal to the opposing forwards and we seldom if ever let a goal in.

Arsenal, the intelligent camera assistant is a little device that sits on top of your camera and thinks for you, currently on Kickstarter. I watched one of the videos on the site and was appalled.

I don’t think I’m being a Luddite when I say that ‘I hate the idea of Arsenal.’ It represents the apotheosis of all that is wrong with photography on Flikr and other web-sharing photo sites, reducing the medium to a mechanism for making pretty pictures. Decorative wall art.

I’ve nothing against some of the automation that Arsenal offers (though I’m not convinced it will entirely provide.) It would be good to have something that makes it easy to get the right depth of field – something that was easy when we used manual focus and prime lenses with depth of field scales, but the switch to auto-focus and zoom lenses has made largely guesswork.

But when it comes to using a databank of pictures to decide how to come up with the best treatment for a particular scene this seems to be a certain recipe for the kind of dreary uniformity that distinguishes much of those pretty pictures that attract thousands of on-line ‘likes.’ And also occupy a certain section of the art photography market.

I used to confuse students by telling them that ‘photography isn’t about making pictures’, and I think this device illustrates well what I meant it wasn’t. Photography for me is about having something to say and finding a way to say it effectively. And that means trying to say it in a different way, not how other pictures have done it, though that isn’t easy. The pictures that are best have an element of visual surprise and don’t correspond to rules or stereotypes.

Arsenal sits on top of the camera which sits on top of a tripod, which to me is generally a basic mistake in taking photographs. There are some highly specialised areas where a tripod is needed, but only a very small percentage of good photography is make using one. If you want to do time-lapse photography I think ‘Arsenal’ would be a good buy. But if you want to use an 8×10″ – which admittedly is a little tricky hand-held – you won’t find Arsenal able to cope.

Way back in the 1890s, Kodak and art photographers such as Alfred Steiglitz liberated the camera from the tripod in many areas of photography, and advances in materials and equipment in the roughly 120 years since has meant that cumbersome appendage is seldom needed.

Hull Photos: 21/7/17-27/7/17

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

21st July 2017

If it wasn’t for Sky Sports the Whalebone Inn would be a near-perfect pub. When I took these pictures it was a Tetley’s pub, which didn’t endear it to me, but it now has a good range of real ales. While the memorabilia make it something of a museum, so too apparently do some of the regulars. Back in 2010 writer and film-maker Dave Lee described it in his blog as “probably the city’s last remaining example of a true docker’s pub; it has traditionally been frequented by them and most of the current clientele seem to be former fishermen.”

I think the pub has gone through several phases of closure and internal reorganisation, but its exterior has seen relatively few changes. The blank wall at the left now sports a door and windows, that dreaded ‘Sky Sports’ banner was hanging there, and there are new notices including a new decorated large name board replacing the Tetley’s name sign across the frontage and the hanging pub sign with its sailing ship has gone.

36g26: Whalebone Inn, Wincolmlee frontage, 1983 – River Hull

22nd July 2017

The first railway bridge on this site was built in 1853, to carry the Victoria or East Dock Railway over the River Hull. A single line bridge with speed and axle load restrictions it became inadequate to deal with the growing traffic to the Eastern docks as well as that going to Hornsea and Withernsea, and was replaced with a twin track bridge, with Hull Corporation paying the extra needed to provide a foot and cycle way along its north side. From 1864 it was also used by trains from Hull to Hornsea on the Hull and Hornsea Railway which diverted from the Victoria Dock Branch at Wilmington Station just to the east of the bridge.

This old footbridge and cycle path is now longer in use, instead there is a wider foot and cycle path where the trains used to run. When Dr Beeching shortsightedly axed much of our railway network, passenger trains to Hornsea and Withernsea stopped in 1964 but goods traffic on the Victoria Dock line continued until 1968. The Hornsea line was a useful route and well loved and could well have survived at least in parts as a light rail project; much is now a walking and cycling route.

The bridge opened by rotating around a central axis under the operating cabin, powered by two powerful electric motors, with the electricity being supplied through high-level electrical cables. The bridge had a three-man crew – a mechanic and two steersmen with each motor having its own controls, and the system also required three manned signal boxes, one also serving the nearby Wilmington station. The 160 foot long bridge which weighs around 500 tons could be opened and closed in around 2 minutes. When open there was 53ft 6in of clear water to the west of the bridge and it had been designed so that a further river channel could if ever needed be dug on the east side allowing another 40ft of passage.

The Grade II listed bridge was restored in 1991 and the opening mechanism is said to be in full working order. It is one of 12 Hull bridges due to be opened (plus one long permanently open) in an event on the Autumn equinox creating “a symbolic wall denying the freedom of movement across the city” between East and West Hull as part of Hull 2017’s Freedom Season. The River Hull has always been a symbolic and physical divide between the two.

36g51: Wilmington Bridge, River Hull, 1983 – River Hull

23rd July 2017

J.A.Bell (Hull) Limited was incorporated on 10 Jan 1947 and later dissolved. A possibly related company, J A Bell II Ltd, also a general construction & civil engineering firm, was set up in Hull in 1993 and last submitted results in 2000. Without looking at records in Hull I can’t place it precisely, but I am convinced the building is no longer standing.

The picture was taken after I had photographed the Wilmington Swing Bridge and the next possibly identifiable pictures hows the premises of Enterprise Plastics Ltd – but Google tells me nothing about them. I think this was somewhere in the streets to the between Wincolmlee and the Beverley and Barmston drain. There seems to be a wild area at left of the house and some distant rooftops, but to the right is the builder’s yard. The high brick wall at its back has a ladder leaning against it from the other side and behind the parked car are some roof timbers for a building and a heap of sand.

Although the front door has been bricked up, there is a letter box in it, suggesting – as does the car – that the building was still be in use with an entrance at the side or rear.

36g54: J.A.Bell (Hull) Ltd, Wincolmlee area, 1983 – River Hull

24th July 2017

At the left of this image is the roof of the 1864 NER Sculcoates Goods Shed (Grade II listed six years after I took this picture) and in the distance the Sculcoates Tannery, established here on what was then called Church St by John Holmes who came from Doncaster around 1803. They later also had a larger works at Campbell St on Anlaby Rd, but the entire business moved to the site on Air St at the top of Wincolmlee in the 1930s. Now Holmes Halls (processors) Limited it was still tanning and dressing leather and dressing and dyeing fur on part of the site in 2016, along with the RE:GROUP recycling facility for oils etc. A few of the buildings remain, though the close more modern building, the taller factory and the brick chimneys have gone. Further along the bank, almost disappearing around the bend the small brick wharf-side building is still present on Bankside. On the right of the picture on the other bank of the river is one of Hull’s well-known mills, still standing – of which more in tomorrow’s picture.

This image was one of a series of five which together covering a 360 degree view from a position close to the end of the bridge. These were of course taken on film; in 1983 digital images hardly existed and were generally crude and pixillated – or even made up of ANSI characters, and I don’t think digital image stitching software existed as there was nothing for it to stitch. I intended not to produce a single panoramic image but a series of images that would be mounted in sequence with a small gap between them.

Making actual photographs join together before the days of digital stitching was a very tricky business, and would have needed rather move pictures, preferably taken with a longer lens, careful cutting of prints with a scalpel, shaving the edges and sticking them together with rubber cement, retouching with a brush and diluted black dyes and then rephotographing the whole. It was only really possible with very carefully taken images using standard or longer lenses.

These pictures were taken with an extreme wide angle – probably a 21mm lens – and the distortion inherent in rectilinear wide-angle images would have made accurate joining impossible.

It was easier to use a panoramic camera, but these were generally expensive – with some costing the price of a house in Hull – although cheap but limited Russian Horizon cameras became widely available in the 1990s. I bought a Japanese swing lens camera for around a month’s wages in 1990, but cameras of this type – first used with curved daguerreotype plates though mine took standard 35mm film – only cover an angle of view of a little over a third of a circle, not the full 360 degrees. Everything changes with digital, first of all with stitching software and then with cameras with panoramic modes – though I’ve never quite been able to get these to work adequately for anything except the web.

Photoshop will do a good job of joining any adjacent pair of these 5 images together but gives up on a third. But with dedicated stitching software I can join three of them. Possibly I could join all five, but since one of the missing others is almost entirely a section of stone wall and the other largely long grass I decided to stop at three. The result is an image roughly 15,000 by 4,000 pixels, a 3.75:1 aspect ratio that doesn’t display well on screen as a single image, but would print nicely at around 40 inches by 12 inches. But I will put it on-line in a smaller version later.

36g65: River Hull north of Wilmington Swing Bridge, 1983 – River Hull

25th July 2017

This was the next of the 5 images making a 360 degree panorama, and shows two of Hull’s listed buildings, the British Extracting Company Silo off Foster St at left and the Wilmington Swing Bridge at right. The silo at the oil extracting mill with the attached riverside receiving house was built in 1919, and designed with its interesting Baroque Revival detailing by architects Gelder & Kitchen of Hull, responsible for many of Hull’s finest buildings. It was listed Grade II ten years after I took this picture and is one of Hull’s most photographed buildings, both from the exterior and by urban explorers on the inside.

The company had bought the site which was a brickyard in 1915 and it had a rail link to the Hull Docks branch. The factory mainly produced margarine and cooking oils from rape, flax, linseed and other vegetable oil plants brought in by river and was a part of British Oil and Cake Mills. They also set up a soap factory adjoining this – Lever Brothers didn’t like the competition and bought up British Oil and Cake Mills in 1925, closing down the soap factory. The mill had been disused for over 10 years when I took this picture and was listed around ten years later. The company logo with a capital R and a crown was still clearly visible on the blue water tank in 1983, and the blue contrasted nicely with the long fire escape which was yellow (and I also photographed the building in colour and made a bad screen print of it.) The factory buildings to the right of the mill have all now been demolished.

36g66: River Hull, British Extracting Company and Wilmington Swing Bridge, 1983 – River Hull

26th July 2017

A few more from Goole.

Grab hopper dredger Goole Bight, built in 1958 at Yarwood & Sons in Northwich, 325 tons gross, was owned by the British Transport Docks Board which became Associated British Ports and was privatised in 1983. Sold to Humber Work Boats (Barton) Ltd in 2001 she became Abigail H. Unfortunately she sank at Heysham in 2008 and was scrapped at Ramsey Shipyard the following year.

The dredger used to work on a more or less daily basis to remove mud from inside Goole docks, which would then be dumped downstream at Goole Bight on the River Ouse, the sharp bend between Swinefleet Reach and Goole Reach around which ships have to go to reach the port. Dumping of mud is also allowed further downstream at Whitgift Bight.

There are several ships called Sabine, but this one is a Russian general cargo ship of 2,478 tons built in 1970 and still working, currently as I write in the Black Sea heading for Rostov-on-Don, rather a long way from her home port of St Petersburg.

In the background you can see the two water towers, Goole’s famous ‘salt and pepper pot’. When I took the picture I had just come across a wide lock gate on a footpath and I think this must have been at Ocean Lock.

36h24: Goole Bight and Sabine in Goole Docks, 1983 – Goole

27th July 2017

Goole’s two listed water towers, described in an earlier post, are here seen from the opposite side and a closer position. The slender brick tower from 1885 proved too small and was replaced by its fatter reinforced concrete neighbour in 1927. Both are Grade II listed.

Between the two is the spire of Goole’s Parish Church, St John the Evangelist in Church St, next to the docks and also Grade II listed. Built in 1843-48, architects William Hurst and W B Moffat it was paid for by the Aire and Calder Navigation Company.

The railway tracks are those leading to various parts of Goole Docks from the main line which was just behind me as I took this photograph, not far from a public footpath. The building at left is on the corner of Mariners St and Stanhope St and was the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Goods Offices.

36h44: ‘Salt and Pepper Pot’ and Goole Parish Church, 1983 – Goole

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