Archive for October, 2017

August 2017 complete

Friday, October 6th, 2017

As usual it took me longer than expected to finish uploading my work from August, but today I finally managed it. The pictures from my week’s holiday at the end of August had been holding me up, partly because they were all taken on Fuji-X cameras, and the files need a little more work, but more it was a mental block, with a large number of pictures I couldn’t persuade myself to get down to.

I didn’t really warm to the Cotswolds, although I did get to visit a few places I’d long wanted to go to, notably William Morris’s house at Kelmscott and the Rollright Stones. But the countryside is pretty but not exciting, and the towns and villages seem chocolate box and suffocatingly twee. Somehow I just couldn’t feel I fitted in. It wasn’t that it was rural – had it still been Cider With Rosie I might have enjoyed it, but that atmosphere was gone, mown down by wealthy commuters in their Range Rovers and the towns overrun with tea shops. When we went to the Model Village at Bourton-on-the-Water it somehow seemed just as real as the actual place.

August 2017

Cotswold Holiday
Ghouta 4th Anniversary
ASH at the ICA

Stand Up to Trump
Travellers evicted in Staines
Justice for Marikana vigil
End dependent visa system abuse

Marikana Massacre Protest at Lonmin HQ

Vedanta accused of global crimes

Fire Risk Tower Blocks
Duke’s Lodge for Grenfell
Hiroshima Day 72 Years on

Tottenham remembers Mark Duggan
Broadwater Farm Estate

Stop Killing Londoners road block

London Images


Bow Creek

Thursday, October 5th, 2017

March 2nd I was going to see people at Cody Dock on Bow Creek, but it was such a nice day that I decided to go early and walk there from Canning Town and afterwards to walk to Stratford. Things didn’t turn out quite like that, as the bridge over the DLR I’d hope to walk across was firmly barred and this meant a longish detour.

I’d hope also to be able to walk beside the creek from the East India Dock Rd, where a path exists along much of the way, but again there was no access, and time was getting short, so I had to go back to Canning Town and take the DLR to Star Lane to get to my meeting on time.

Paths beside Bow Creek seem to pose special problems. There was a path next to Canning Town Station for over 20 years before the access to it from Canning Town was finally opened up, and that closed bridge I wanted to use had been closed for many years too, opening only for a brief period. The walkway from Canning Town still ends a few yards south of the station entrance, but had been planned to take you all the way down to the Thames at Trinity Buoy Wharf, with the aid of a new footbridge. But money ran out, the bridge was never built and Crossrail works still block the path.

At Cody Dock, the path south is still blocked, though it is already laid out, and it would be possible if rather dangerous to climb around to get onto it. But one of the bonuses of the development of Cody Dock is that it is now possible to walk north from there along what was previously a path that came to a dead end. My route here is a part of East London’s sculpture trail, roughly following the Greenwich Meridian, ‘The Line’, a splendid initiative but which would be a much better walk if it could include a further length of path alongside Bow Creek.

It’s thanks to Cody Dock too, that the path south from there will hopefully soon be open (if it isn’t by the time you read this.) They proposed and helped negotiate this rather more obvious route rather than the much more expensive earlier plans for a new footbridge and a path through the former gasworks site on the opposite bank – which again fell through for lack of cash.

Further north, there was one long awaited improvement now open, with a ramp leading down from the bridge at Twelvetrees Crescent. Previously the route here required a detour alongside the busy approach road to Blackwall Tunnel, where the traffic fumes can be cut with a knife.

I’m still surprised to come across Londoners who don’t know of London’s most important industrial heritage site at Three Mills. The Grade I listed House mill may only be an eighteenth century building, but a mill here was in operation at the time of the Domesday book and this is not only the earliest recorded example of a tide mill but is thought to be the largest surviving tidal mill in the world. The Three Mills complex is also of some more recent historical import, as it was here in Nicholson’s Distillery that Chaim Weizmann set up a pilot plant for an improved fermentation method to produce acetone, vital for the production of cordite, on an industrial scale.

Weizmann’s contributions to the war effort were important in gaining the support from the UK government for his Zionist proposals, and were almost certainly an important factor behind the Balfour Declaration of 2nd November 1917 – and certainly Lloyd George was clear abou this in his later War Memoirs, though some historians are rather sniffy about it, and there had been lengthy series of meetings and talks before. The final draft of the declaration stated:

“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

Weizmann, who had been a leading Zionist since the era of the first Zionist conference in 1897, became the first President of Israel in 1949, having previously been Chairman of the Provisional State Council of Israel since the previous year, and continued in office until his death in 1952.

The water was high behind the mill and their were warnings of floods, but fortunately I was able to make my way to Stratford High St without getting my feet wet. I walked down to the Lea Navigation, where I took my first pictures of the Lea many years ago.

After walking around the area a little, I made my way back along the High St to the DLR station, returning to the East India Dock Road to take some pictures here I had not had time for in the morning. By now the sun was very low in the sky, and this made working difficult.

You can see more pictures from my walks on My London Diary

Bow Creek & Canning Town
Cody Dock
Leawalk to Bow Locks
Three Mills & Stratford


Cable St & Bermondsey

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

I meant to write yesterday about it being the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Bermondsey, probably an even greater street fight against the fascists that took place a day before the first anniversary of the Battle of Cable St, and perhaps more decisive.

Although we celebrate Cable St as a pivotal moment in the fight against Fascism, as historian Daniel Tilles points out it was actually followed by an increase in membership and support for the fascists in the East End, an an increase in anti-semitic propaganda and physical attacks on Jews.

You can read a newspaper report of the battle in an Australian newspaper online, as well as a blog post The Battle of Bermondsey by Lydia Syson, and it is also mentioned in a more general article with the lengthy title British Union of Fascists and the East End battles that ensued, a history worth revisiting.

I think many might question the conclusion that Tilles draws from the events, suggesting that the kind of street activism represented by both Cable St and Bermondsey is counter-productive. We can after all only speculate on what the consequences might have been had the two marches by Mosley been unopposed or met by entirely peaceful protest rather than stopped. Fascism at the time was clearly on the rise and backed by many in the British establishment and perhaps needed to be fought both on the streets and by more moderate methods which he suggests were more effective.

But it was international events which were eventually decisive both in making clear the true nature of the fascist threat and a war far more violent than street resistance that brought a more decisive end to fascism, though it lingered on after the war it was clearly a sad and broken movement.

Of course it never entirely went away, with various lunatic fringe organisations over the years, more recently in groups such as Britain First and the EDL that I’ve photographed. And it would I think be hard to argue that the kind of active on-street opposition to these groups by Unite Against Fascism and Antifa generally has acted as a recruiting sergeant for them.

My pictures are of the Cable St anniversary events in 2006, 2011 and 2016 and you can see more on My London Diary:

Cable St 70th anniversary -2006
Cable St 75th anniversary – 2011
Battle of Cable Street 80 Rally
Battle of Cable Street 80 March
Black bloc rally at the Cable St Mural


Business as Usual

Monday, October 2nd, 2017

One of the reasons I post here about my work on My London Diary earlier in the year is to check up on that web site. In some ways its a rather primitive site, a throw-back to the early days of the web, entirely hand-coded, though usually with the aid of an ancient version of the best WYSIWYG software, though now that outdated description ‘What You See Is What You Get’ no longer really applies, and what I see when I’m writing the pages is very different to the web view.

I first designed the site back in 2001, and even then it was somewhat archaic, reflecting my views on simple web design at at time when flash bang and wallop was infecting the web, largely running on our relatively slow connections that weren’t ready for it. Designing image-loaded sites like this that were reasonably responsive was something of a challenge, and needed relatively small images carefully optimised for size, with just a small number on each page.

Although the site still has the same basic logical structure, times and the site have changed a little to reflect the much higher bandwidth most of us now enjoy, with several re-designs and many more images per page, as well as slightly larger and less compressed images. Size is now more a problem of controlling use (or abuse) of images than download time, and new images are now always watermarked, if fairly discretely. The latest small changes in design have been to make the pages ‘mobile friendly’ without essentially changing their look.

I suspect that My London Diary is one of the largest hand-coded sites on the web – with over 150,000 images on over 10,000 web pages. But the simple site design means the great majority of the time involved in putting new work online isn’t actually the web stuff, but editing the images and writing the text and captions, so there is little incentive for me to move away from hand-coding.

But I’m not really a writer of web sites (though I have quite a few as well as My London Diary) or this blog but a photographer and though My London Diary is important in spreading my work and ideas, it has to fit in with that. Often the web site gets written late at night or when I have a little time to spare before rushing to catch a train, and often I have to stop in the middle of things to run to the station – or fall asleep at the keyboard. So while in theory I check everything, correct my spelling and typos, make sure all the links are correct and so on, there are always mistakes. And just occasionally my ISP has something of a hiccough and puts back an earlier version of a page or loses or corrupts an image (though they deny it.)

This morning I opened the pages on End homophobic bullying at LSE , the first protest I covered after returning from Hull, only to find I’d not put any captions on them, not even adding the spaces between pictures for them to go in. So before I started to write about them I had work to do.

Otherwise I might have had more to say about the pictures. Yet again how useful the fisheye can sometimes be, or about reflections in pictures or to fulminate against homophobia, the failure of LSE management to live up to the pricinciples the instituion espouses, the inherently evil nature of out-sourcing and the need to treat everyone with dignity and respect and to pay a proper living wage. But today you can relax and take that as read.

The pictures are workmanlike, they serve a purpose, do the job, but it wasn’t one of my better days. Dull weather perhaps didn’t help, but sometimes the magic just doesn’t happen. The following day was perhaps a little better (I’ll let you decide) and certainly much busier, with pictures from five events.

I started with Shut race-hate LD50 gallery, a crowd outside the place which they say “has been responsible for one of the most extensive neo-Nazi cultural programmes to appear in London in the last decade” ,  but didn’t really offer a great deal to photograph. The gallery itself was on the first floor above  a shuttered shopfront, and had clearly had a brick through a window, and there were a couple of arguments outside, but mainly it was scattered people standing in small groups on the street.

Trying to do too much, I arrived late and left early for the Picturehouse recognition & living wage protest in front of the Leicester Square Empire.  There’s a pleasant symmetry in the picture above, but I missed the scrum later when Jeremy Corbyn arrived to give his support.

It’s always difficult to know when to leave (or arrive) at events, and photographers spend many hours standing around waiting. But I’m impatient by nature and sometimes miss things. Other times I find a place to sit and read a book, and if its a decent book have been known to miss the action.

But I was in Brixton, meeting Beti, a victim of gentrification and social cleansing, not in her case by one of the mainly Labour London councils but the Guiness Trust, formed by a great-grandson of the brewery founder in 1890 to provide affordable housing and care for the homeless of London and Dublin and now as The Guinness Partnership owning 65,000 homes in England.

Betiel Mahari lived in one of these with her family on the Loughborough Park Estate in Brixton for ten years, paying a ‘social ‘ rent but was never given a secure tenancy. Guiness demolished her flat in 2015, giving her a new flat a few miles away in Kennington – but at a hugely increased ‘affordable’ rent, going up from £109 per week to £265.  The move meant too she was unable to keep her full-time job as a restaurant manager, and is now on a zero-hours contract as a waitress and facing eviction as she cannot pay the increased rent.  DWP incompetence meant that her benefits were suspended completely for three months (and on zero hours contracts the benefits have to be re-assessed every three months in any case) and Guiness were taking her to court over rent arrears.

The case was heard around 10 days later and as thrown out by the judge who ordered the Guiness Partnership to pay Beti’s court costs, but the struggle to get this rapacious ‘social’ Landlord to treat her and others in similar straits continues. I was pleased to be able to support her, though not entirely happy with the pictures at Stop Unfair Eviction by Guinness, which also include some of Brixton Arches.

I arrived back in Westminster just in time to meet the Khojaly marchers coming down Whitehall to end their protest in front of Parliament.  Few of us will remember the massacre on the night of 25-26 February 1992 when Armenian forces brutally killed 613 civilians in the town of Khojaly, including 106 women and 83 children, but the name Nagorno-Karabakh  may prompt some memories. In 25th anniversary of Khojaly Massacre I try to give a little background to the still unresolved situation.

But I was on my way to an event marking the shameful failure of Theresa May and her government to take the action demanded by Parliament to bring the great majority of the refugee children stranded at Calais and similar camps into this country. By passing the Dubs Amendment, Parliament made its view clear and it reflects a failure of our constitution that there seems to be no legal mechanism to force the Tory government to carry this out. This is truly a stain on our country’s history and May and her cabinet deserve to be behind bars for this crime against humanity.

Dubs Now – let the children in


More Hull

Sunday, October 1st, 2017

There really is so much to see and do in Hull, though the city is not so huge as to feel unapproachable, as can sometimes be the case with London. Most of what is more interesting is within walking distance of the city centre, and what isn’t is largely a short bus ride away.

Though there are parts of Hull that are rather cut off, particularly by the A63, a busy major trunk route that was pushed through south of the city centre with little or no regards for the movement of local people. It was of course necessary, but while other cities might have got a by-pass, Hull got a through-pass.

It went partly through former dock areas but split the old town in two, cutting off its southern tip, with its marina, wholesale vegetable trade and the redundant pier, none of which were greatly valued by the authorities responsible. There were plans for a wide pedestrian overbridge in time for Hull2017 to give easy access to Hull’s new leisure area but this never happened. Getting across on foot requires a lengthy wait at one of a couple of pedestrian crossings, or a longer walk around to the one road that goes under the A63 where it rises to cross the River Hull.

But it does mean that it is much easier for visitors to get to Hull’s most popular tourist attraction, The Deep. Worth a visit if only to go to the cafe, where you can climb the stairs to the upper level viewing area. You don’t have to pay and can walk past the queues, and though I can’t recommend the food, at least it isn’t silly expensive like at many tourist attractions.

Mostly you will be looking through glass, and it can’t be easy to clean so your vision will be slightly impaired, but you will be spared the wind and rain. It was quite blustery on the small outside area, and the view is a little limited, but does give a splendid view of the Western Docks.

The Deep

But better still you can visit these on foot, taking a few steps along the Trans-Pennine Trail, my favourite Hull footpath. If that rather flimsly looking lock gate puts you off, there is a much more solid structure as an alternative at the East end of the lock, and from either you go up onto the rooftops of the Riverside Quay.

Albert Dock

Walking along there, or taking the bus out along Hessle Rd to West Dock Ave and then finding the rather well camouflaged path under the railway and Clive Sullivan Way (that A63 again) will take you to the remains of the former fish dock, St Andrews Dock.

This is another site of failed plans, and you many need to hurry as there are applications for the demolition of the unlisted Lord Line building, and probably designs on getting rid of the two listed buildings close by.

On the ‘bullnose’ at the former dock entrance is one of several memorials around Hull to fishermen, many of whom sailed away and never returned. Even in recent times deep sea fishing was a dangerous occupation, though made a little safer by the protests of one of Hull’s heroes recently commemorated in a Hull mural, Big Lil, who led a fight to get radio operators on every voyage. A short walk further west there is now another memorial.

St Andrew’s Dock

You can see more of the pictures I took on this trip in the ‘Hull Supplement‘ on My London Diary.