Archive for November, 2017

LSE Cleaners Strike for Equality

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

As a photographer I see it as my role to record events and not to set them up, but sometimes that does mean not quite getting the pictures that I would like. But I think it vital to place integrity above impact, though of course I work hard to make pictures that tell the story as best I can.

I’d earlier walked several times past a poster in one of the many street-facing windows of LSE buildings which celebrated the LSE’s record in fighting inequality, and thought it was one which spoke to the central theme in the dispute between the cleaners and the LSE, and thought it would be good to use it in a picture.  So as students marched past holding the appropriate banner I tried, but rather failed as you can see above.  The marchers were walking quite fast and there were a number of parked bicycles at my right that made it difficult to get into exactly the right position, and I was a foot or so too far back to keep ahead of the banner by the time I could take the picture.

Had I been setting this up I would have had a second chance – and more, but the moment had gone as soon as I pressed the shutter. It would have been nice to have had the letter ‘I’ at the start of the word ‘Inequality’, to have got the gut carrying the rear pole of the green banner to move a little to the right, to have moved a little to my right and framed the poster and the banners a little more tightly…  But that would not have been how it happened.

Of course there are some posed images in my set LSE Cleaners strike for equality on My London Diary. But they are pictures that those taking part set up and posed themselves in, not ones that I imposed on them.  Sometimes other photographers do set up pictures and I sometimes also photograph these, though I try to make clear in the caption with phrases like “pose for photographs”. But generally I photograph things that happen as they happen, though of course I impose my own order on them. Though I do like a bit of chaos, which can help to get away from the clichés.

There was perhaps a little more chaos two weeks later when ‘Life Not Money at the LSE’ staged a somewhat surreal happening in the cleaner’s support. Though perhaps my rather deadpan description at End Gross Inequality at the LSE does it little justice:

The group sprayed chalk slogans on the road chanting ‘London School of Exploitation’ in a wide range of silly voices and then performed a short play in which a character playing the LSE director tore the shirts off the backs of several cleaners and boasted about his huge and rapidly rising salary.

The tall buildings surrounding Portugal St created a rather eerie echo as the players chant loudly ‘London School of Exploitation’ in a range of silly voices, and the interruption of proceedings by a cement mixer and a man on some kind of cherry-picker (what a useful photo accessory that would be) somehow added to the event. But I did feel it was one event where sound and movement would have helped, though I think it would have needed a team with several cameras to film it adequately.

It wasn’t too easy to follow the finer details (such as they were) of the playlet that ended the performance, with several cleaners having the shirts stripped off their back by the ‘LSE Director’, a little rogering and a lot of tinsel, but I did my best.

LSE Cleaners strike for equality

End Gross Inequality at the LSE


Hull Photos: 20/10/17 – 26/10/17

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

Another week of my daily postings to Hull Photos which are continuing through all of Hull’s 2017 year as UK City of Culture. You can follow them daily where each picture appears, but the pictures appear with comments on Facebook – and in the weekly digests here.

Comments and corrections are welcome here or on Facebook.

20th October 2017

A second picture of Ellerman’s House at the end of Bishop Lane Staithe taken from just a few yards further down the riverside path shows the river frontage of this building, converted to flats around 2000. The shed bridging over the path and overhanging the river in this picture has now gone, though there is a faint echo in some cantilevered balconies on the converted building. Also gone is the Clarence Flour Mill in the background, and the barges, with only the museum trawler Arctic Corsair moored a little upstream from here.

The listed buildings on the north side of Bishop’s Lane Staith were for some years the Ellerman’s Wilson Line Bishops Warehouse (listed Grade II, “Former warehouse, now flats. 1655, rebuilt c1800, converted c2000”). John Ellerman from Hull was a man noted for being unnoticed, highly secretive and shunning all publicity, but he was made a baron in 1905 for supplying ships to the government during the Boer War. He became Britain’s richest man, leaving over over £36 million, mainly to his son, when he died in 1933.

John Ellerman was born at 100 Anlaby Rd in 1862, but moved away from the city. He started his shipping company in 1892 when with two others he bought 22 vessels from the executors of the Liverpool-based shipping firm Frederick Leyland and Co Ltd. The company expanded through a series of acquisitions and became Ellerman Lines in 1903, with offices in Liverpool, Glasgow and London, becoming the world’s larges shipping company. During the First World War, Ellerman, then the wealthiest man in Britain, bought the Wilson Line of Hull for about £4.3m after the Wilson family had been devastated by the sinking of three of its largest vessels and renamed it Ellerman’s Wilson Line. It continued to trade seperately until 1973. Despite this, Ellerman remains almost unknown in Hull, and doesn’t even rate a mention in the most detailed book on the history of the city.

In 1971, The founder’s son, also John Ellerman gave the funds from Ellerman Lines to set up a charitable foundation, the Ellerman Foundation, which supported Hull’s 2017 City of Culture programme with a grant of £200,000 to Hull Truck Theatre Company.

85-5j-36: Ellerman’s House & River Hull, 1985 River Hull

More about Ellerman.

21th October 2017

A similar tank to this still stands on the corner of Hodgson St and Lime St, part of the bulk storage facility of IBL Bulk Liquids, though while the ladder still looks the same, the skin of the tank is now different. IBL was formed in Hull in 1947.

85-5j-41: Shadow on bulk storage tank, Lime St, 1985 – River Hull

22nd October 2017

Another picture of one of the few remaining old houses in the area close to Wincolmlee, Victoria House, built around 1840 and still standing.

The ornate entrance into the yard, described in the Grade II listing text written 9 years after I made this picture as “wooden doorcase with enriched scroll bracket to cornice and panelled recess with C20 door” is now gone, with just a faint trace in in the brickwork as a reminder of its loss. When I took this picture the building was in use by a printing firm.

85-5j-61: Victoria House, Cooper St, 1985 – River Hull

23rd October 2017

The padlocked door to this building with the IN boldly marked also less clearly has a Champion spark plug logo, which clearly suggests the nature of the business which went on, or once went on, inside. The empty hole in the upper floor perhaps suggests the building was no longer in use, and I think it has since been demolished as I can no longer see it in the area. It was the next picture I took after the previous image on Cooper St and the frame after shows Paul’s granary on Wincolmlee, but my walks often wandered considerably

Perhaps what made me stop and take a picture was the twin four rod aerial, which I don’t recall having seen elsewhere, perhaps for CB or Ham radio or could it be for a taxi service? I hope someone can tell me more.

85-5j-62: Industrial premises, Green Lane/Wincolmlee area, 1984 – River Hull

24th October 2017

The road side of Paul’s riverside granary building next to Scott St Bridge, with a regular pattern of reinforcements and bricked up windows.

The raised pavement here is presumably because of frequent flooding on the low-lying road. The Cottingham Drain, now culverted, entered the River Hull a few yards off the left edge of the picture. Just a few yards further on is also the Beverley & Barmston Drain. The area is known as ‘High Flags‘, said to be because of the large flagstones of a wharf used for handling whale oil, but perhaps because of this raised path beside the road. High Flags Mill is a little further upstream, on the bank of the River Hull a little north of the ‘Barmy’ drain.

85-5j-63: Bricked up windows on Granary, Wincolmlee, 1985 – River Hull

25th October 2017

A more than usually artistic spray paint addition to the wall and porcelain of the urinal, with a undoubtedly female figure facing the male member of the user of the facility.

Hull had a large number of these street urinals, simple enclosures with tall walls and no roof, around the city, and they remained well-used both by workers during the day and by drinkers at night, when it wasn’t unusual for their to be a queue snaking outside some of the more popular locations. It isn’t entirely clear why the council decided they were no longer required, and their removal certainly led to a huge rise in men urinating in the streets at night. Public conveniences across the country were shut down around this time in a huge wave of anti-gay sentiment, and the provision of these male-only locations led to a demand by some for their closure rather than the more logical provision of new facilities for women.

As a then undiagnosed diabetic who spent long hours wandering the streets I felt their loss sometimes rather keenly. You can still see the traces of this structure with some glazed bricks in the wall and lying on the ground beside it overlooking the River Hull, and a little angle of brickwork provides some slight privacy for those still using it for its former purpose.

85-5j-64: Scott St Urinal, 1985 – River Hull

26th October 2017

A smokehouse with 15 chimneys along its peak must be one of the finest examples of the type in Hull. Although it is still standing it has been considerably altered and all the chimneys have gone.

Despite their significance in the history of the city, none of the nine existing buildings on the local list has been given national listing – something that would certainly have been appropriate as a part of the celebrations of Hull2017.

85-5k-14: Fish Smokehouses, Subway St, 1985 – Hessle Rd

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.

Travelcard Day

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

The following Saturday I could well have used that bicycle again, but decided to take it a little easier and stick to a Travelcard. The Brompton is a fine machine for getting around London, but has one vital flaw – it is a magnet for thieves, with a relatively high value and so easy to pop into a car boot or van. And – as videos on YouTube show – there is no bike lock made that can delay a well equipped thief for longer than 30 seconds. I do have a sturdy lock, and occasionally use it in out of the way places, but in London it’s best to keep a Brompton with you wherever you go. It just isn’t possible to photograph protests and keep your eye on it at the same time, though I have very occasionally done so when I know there will be few problems.

I’ve several times been interviewed by journalists who have asked to name my most important photographic accessory and my answers have varied according to mood and the kind of photographs we are talking about. A good pair of shoes is one of my favourites, but the thing that really made much of my photograph of London possible was the Travelcard, introduced when Ken Livingstone was in charge of the Greater London Council before Mrs Thatcher put London Government back thrity years in a fit of pique by abolishing the GLC and selling off its building. Before the Travelcard travelling around London was a ticketing nightmare, and could become ridiculously expensive. Of course it is still expensive compared to public transport in most cities, but sometimes you can make enough journeys to make the Travelcard good value, and this day was one of them.

There were two protests starting at 11.00am in Trafalgar Square, so that was where my day started – after just a short journey on the Bakerloo from my London Terminus. Both were rather smaller than I – and the organisers – had hoped, though perhaps expecting teenagers to get to something starting that early on a Saturday was a little optimistic. Probably the numbers on both picket up after I had taken my pictures and left, but I wanted to be elsewhere.

Teen Voice says votes at 16
End dog and cat meat trade

Next the Travelcard took me on the Northern Line to Kings Cross, where I had a short walk to The Guardian in Kings Place, for another protest starting at 11 o’clock – though it was nearer noon when I arrived. This was a livelier affair with more scope for photography, particularly as the show of solidarity with President Maduro and the working class Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela, had attracted a counter-protest by more middle-class  Venezuelans violently opposed to his socialist reforms which have decreased poverty, provided free health care and education, devolved power into the hands of local collectives and built homes for the working class.

The protest was taking place outside The Guardian as those protesting accuse it of failing to report the truth about what is happening in Venezuela, which appears to be a fairly typical US-backed right wing coup attempt backed by wealthy Venezuelans including the newspaper owners there, who fail, like The Guardian, to report the many deaths in attacks on hospitals, schools and socialist cities. The counter protesters called Maduro a murderer and there were some heated exchanges of views.

End media lies against Venezuela

It was back to Kings Cross and the Piccadilly line to Holborn to change to the Central to Stratford for me.  There Focus E15 were protesting in the wide open public space in front of Stratford Station, launching and handing out the free copies of their latest publication, ‘The Newham Nag’, based on and visually similar to  Newham Council’s fortnightly information sheet,  delivered at council tax payers expense to every address in Newham.

A protester dressed as a cockroach to highlight the poor conditions in which Newham houses some people

Though the look was the same, the content was rather different, revealing Newham’s financial ineptitude in taking out risky LOBO loans which they say means that 80% of council tax goes direct to the banks as interest payments, and that the council has the largest number of homeless of any borough in the country and is failing in its duty to provide housing for its residents.

Focus E15 are not popular with Newham Council for pointing out such failures and for their attacks on the competence of Newham’s long-term Mayor whose major skill seems to be in manipulating the party processes to keep in power. Police and council officials have often harassed their weekly street stalls in the town centre, once going so far as to carry out an actual arrest of a table (which they later had to return) and this occasion was no different. Police first tried to get them to move, and then two Newham Council staff handed out a fixed penalty notice of £100 for alleged obstruction of the highway in the wide public open space in front of the station.

Focus E15 launch The Newham Nag

I left Stratford on the Central Line, which took me straight through to Bond St for the next protest which was outside the US Embassy. This year’s March Against Monsanto in London wasn’t a march but a static protest with a number of speeches.

Again it wasn’t too exciting a protest to photograph, though I did my best, and there were a few posters, including one set from a woman (made by her daughter) who had come along to protest in favour of GMOs, and calling for any opposition to be based on scientific evidence. It’s not a simple issue, and is clouded by the fact that much of the research is paid for by companies such as Monsanto, while other researchers certainly have a bias against them; it is difficult if not impossible to separate the science from the politics on either side of the issue. What is certainly true is that some of the products can be used in a way that is destructive of biodiversity and destroys the livelihoods of many while making nice profits for the bio-tech companies – and that governments around the world have been lobbied and bribed to prevent proper controls of their activities.

The whole area is one where we need to be far more cautious and call for much greater and more objective testing before introducing new technologies. And also one where there need to be proper legal safeguards that prevent some of the attempts of wealthy companies to bully poor farmers around the world.

From the Embassy it was back to Bond St and the Jubilee back to Waterloo for my train home. I think I’d got pretty good value from my Travelcard.


Yarl’s Wood 11

Saturday, November 25th, 2017

This was Movement for Justice’s 11th protest at Yarl’s Wood, and the 10th that I’ve attended, having missed the first and perhaps most exciting when people actually broke down a fence to get to the prison fence. Now the authorities leave a gate open that they can go through to the field next door to the detention centre.

I don’t often travel so far to take pictures, except for very special events, partly because of the time it takes, but also because it gets a little expensive. And partly for medical reasons I no longer drive, no that I ever did much. So that means public transport, and getting to Bedford is easy enough, though it costs more than the average repro fee I get. Financially any trip out of London is likely to be a loser for me, but this is a protest that I cover not for the money but because I think the cause is a particularly important one.

Yarl’s Wood is a little over 5 miles north of Bedford which is a little over 50 miles from where I live. Going by train to Bedford station takes around 2 hours, but from there the journey is a little tricky. MfJ put on coaches from London, but I’d have to leave home rather early to catch them, and there was also a coach from Bedford station, for a donation of a fiver for the return journey, which I’d used previous times, but it was slow (especially when the driver didn’t know the way) and has sometimes meant I’ve arrived rather late. I could take a taxi, but unless I found someone to share this would be expensive. There is a bus from Bedford, to nearby Milton Ernest, which would be free for me, but leave me with a mile walk uphill to the meeting point. As the bus is only hourly it would add considerably to the journey time.

So the obvious thing to do was to take my folding bicycle on the train. I could then walk off the train at Bedford, unfold the Brompton and pedal away, getting to Yarl’s Wood rather quicker than the MfJ coach which would be waiting around and probably only leaving the station car park more or less as I was riding to the Yarl’s Wood meeting point.

It more or less worked out. But I hadn’t really allowed for the hills, and the road goes up and down a bit. The down is OK, but the ups were just a little tiring, particularly as for some reason I could only get the middle and top of the bikes three gears. And the last stretch up from the main road at Milton Ernest was pretty exhausting, but fortunately the road levels out just before my destination and I was able to arrive at the protest at a reasonable speed – and to cheers and catcalls from some of my colleagues who had come up from London by car.

Carrying my photo gear on the bike probably isn’t good for it, but the Brompton has a front carrier bag which will double as a rather poor camera bag simply by fitting a shoulder strap on it. Back when I first got the Brompton at the end of 2002, I used it mainly for taking me out into the landscape with a panoramic camera.

At the protest I locked the bike to a fence, took off the bag and put it on my shoulder and worked as normal. But then the protesters set off on the march to the field next to the immigration prison. I cycled ahead of them on the road, then jumped off and took some pictures, and some more as they were going into the first field. From there it got difficult, as there is around three-quarters of a mile of footpath mainly along the edges of some fields, some of which were a little rough and muddy. The Brompton isn’t a good off-road bike and most of the way I had to get off and push – and there are no pictures on My London Diary from this section of the march. Once we got the the field I could lock it and leave it again and get down to work.

Fortunately the weather had been reasonably dry for the previous few weeks, or the mud on the path would have been more of a problem. And where we were protesting was relatively dry – on some previous visits the mud had made it very hard to keep on your feet while taking pictures, particularly as the ground is uneven.

As always there was a huge welcome from the prison windows which overlooked the protest, with those inside shouting and waving and pushing out messages and anything to hand through the narrow slits that the windows will open. Between us and them is a 20ft high fence, the lower half solid, but the upper part a mesh through which we and they could see, though making it hard to take photographs.

Mabel Gawanas spent almost three years inside Yarl’s Wood

It’s totally shameful that this country looks up asylum seekers in this way for indefinite periods, leaving them never knowing whether at any moment they will be taken away and an effort made to deport them. Something like two thirds are eventually given leave to remain; some others are released with their cases still undetermined and some are packed onto planes and flown home, sometimes to face persecution in their own countries. Locking them up makes it much harder for them to prove their cases, and is no way to treat people who have fled persecution and physical danger, often beatings, torture and rape, and are in need of care and compassion. As too many reports, particularly those by undercover journalists who have got jobs inside them have shown, in Yarls Wood and the other immigration removal centres they are physically and mentally abused, even sexually abused. And of course there are the stories from the detainees themselves, some of which from both current and former detainees, are heard at these protests. Unlike convicted criminals, the detainees in our immigration prison are allowed mobile phones and their calls can be relayed to us outside.

The centres like this one are run for profit, with corners being cut on food and care, often understaffed and by people with inadequate training and unsuitable for the job. These centres should be closed down, and only those people who present a real threat to others – a vanishingly small percentage of those currently held – should be detained.

Getting back home was quicker too and I could leave when I liked. Better still, apart from one short very steep hill it was more or less downhill all the way, and caught a train an hour earlier than I would probably have done on the coach. The total journey home, with two trains and the underground between London stations was actually a little faster than the only time I’ve gone to Yarl’s Wood by car.

Many more pictures at Shut down Yarl’s Wood Prison


Back at the LSE

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

I seem to have spent a great deal of time at the LSE recently, with two separate groups of protesters both supporting the campaign by the cleaners for parity of terms and conditions with staff employed by the LSE. It is time to end the practice of outsourcing key services like cleaning as a way to get the work done using employment practices that the University itself would never allow.

The cleaners belong to the United Voices of the World, a registered trade union which follows normal trade union practices – if a little more boisterously than most, picketing the workplace and also taking part in peaceful though noisy protests, together with sympathisers and students. ‘Life Not Money at the LSE’ is a direct action group allied to Rising Up, which calls ‘for a fundamental change of the political and economic system to one which maximises well being and minimises harm’ and believes that a more confrontational approach is necessary.

Life Not Money came to the LSE on May 3rd and tried to protest at the entrance to the library but were moved by security onto the road outside where they handed out fliers and displayed banners, posters and flowers. But the main point of their protest that day was to force the LSE to get someone arrested, with one of them attempting to write the slogan ‘END INEQUALITY AT THE LSE’ in spray chalk next to one of the doorways.

Unfortunately his timing wasn’t too great and he only got as far as EN and halfway through the D when he was tackled by a security guard, who held him until two police officers arrived to make an arrest. Life Not Money feel it will shame the LSE into action if a number of people get arrested for ‘criminal damage’ in this way, particularly as the chalk used wipes off cleanly with no damage and should any case get to court there is a good chance of it being dismissed as a petty waste of the court’s time.

Eight days later there was a further protest at the LSE when the UVW cleaners were holding a one-day strike and a lunchtime rally in the street outside the LSE Library. They came with vuvzelas and megaphones as well as banners and leaflets and made a great deal of noise. Although there was plenty of support from many who walked past, one or two staff stopped to argue with the protesters and tried to make them stop, but police supported their right to protest. But police also harassed some of the supporters, including Sid Skill from Class War, and it seemed likely they might arrest him. He left, followed by two officers, but managed to jump on a bus just as the doors were closing and left them behind.

As the UVW rally was coming to an end, after a march around other sites on the campus we were listening to performances by several of Poets on the Picket Line in the area outside the student’s union when we heard a disturbance a short distance away and rushed to find three protesters from Life Not Money blocking Portugal St and the entrance to the LSE’s extensive building works.

This time they had chalked on the road and not on the walls, and their message read ‘Next Director on £500,000 But No Pensions for the Cleaners! London School of Exploitation – L$E‘ and they were sitting patiently on the road in colourful red and shiny gold costumes waiting to be arrested. But on this occasion there were no arrests.

LSE Equality Life Not Money protest

LSE Cleaners strike

Since the successful end to the LSE campaign some of the same activists and others have been involved in another Rising Up campaign ‘Stop Killing Londoners‘ against the almost 10,000 premature deaths a year in London caused by excessive pollution levels. Four were arrested on November 6th 2017 and held in custody on remand until their trial on November 14th, with some going on hunger strike. They had been under bail conditions not to return to City Hall after having been arrested there for chalking slogans the previous day, but had returned and chalked ‘Cut Air Pollution – Air Pollution Kills’ in large letters and waited to be arrested. At their trial they were found guilty and fined £385 each but no conditions were imposed. There is an appeal for donations to cover their legal costs.


Manchester & Rochdale

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

Canals and railways at the heart of the industrial revolution

I lived in Manchester for seven years, mainly as a student, though also for two terms as a teacher in nearby Chadderton, only moving away for a further year of study, after which I hoped to return. But I failed to find a job in the area and ended up moving down to Bracknell, where there was work and a housing corporation flat.

Manchester played an important part in my life. Of course there were the lectures and stuff, but more important were the student societies and student politics, and political involvement outside the university and the experience of the city itself. In my first year I walked to college through the slums of Hulme and later watched as they were demolished, leaving empty acres with the occasional church or pub still standing, earth banks around the edges to keep the travellers out – and went with other students to defend those travellers who did get in from eviction. By the time I left I’d been in many of the new modern slums that replaced them, interviewing there and on other council estates for surveys by the social sciences department.

Rochdale Canal, Manchester

Although I didn’t get married in Manchester, it was to a fellow student I met there, and we spent our honeymoon in a Manchester flat, getting out on a couple of day trips to the Lake District and the Derbyshire hills. And, it being the sixties I took part in the occupation of the university offices and various other protests about education, Vietnam and more. A little of which I remember, along with hazy memories of jazz clubs, pubs, concerts, markets and more in the city some fifty years ago.

What I don’t have is photographs, or very few of them. I had a camera, but couldn’t afford to use it scraping by most years on a student grant meant to only last the three short terms; though things got a little easier as a post-grad on around £10 a week. I hadn’t learnt until the year after I left the city how to save money by doing my own developing and printing and loading cassettes from bulk film, and my camera was in a poor state, having never recovered from spending some time at the bottom of the lake at Versailles in 1966 on my first trip abroad.

Rochdale Town Hall
Since then, my visits to Manchester have been short and far between – mainly the occasional conference in the area, with little time to see much of the city. And in May this year we were on our way to a conference too, but travelled early to give ourselves time for an afternoon walk. We went along the canal, dirty and forgotten when we lived in the city, but now a popular recreational area, stopping for a drink at a canalside pub before crossing into Salford to walk back by the Irwell before catching our bus from Shude Hill. The Irwell looks rather different – back in the 60s it always looked as if you could walk on it by the Cathedral, now it seems rather clean and clear. And on our way back down south we stopped off for and hour at the People’s History Museum, though this really needed much longer visit.

Co-operative stamps on foil made at the Rochdale Pioneers Museum

The event we were attending took us to Rochdale on the Saturday morning, and after a short guided tour which took us to the Town Hall and the Toad Lane museum where the Co-operative movement started I had a couple of free hours and walked around following a town trail leaflet on my own – though my walk ended at a pub not mentioned on it.

Bull Brow in the town centre



Disabled protest Tory hate

Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

One of the problems of the Conservative Party has long been a failure to understand how most people live. Of course there are poor people who vote Tory, and people in the party who have come from working class backgrounds, but their policies are largely made by people who have never known (or long forgotten) what it is like to live in poverty. And those few who started poor often seem to blame those who remain poor, feeling they worked their way out of it so why can’t everyone else?

Austerity was always the wrong policy and it hasn’t worked, but it has led to a great deal of suffering and misery, punishing the poor for crimes of the rich and the failures of successive governments to regulate the activities of the wealthy, allowing huge levels of tax avoidance and encouraging scams such as ‘buy to let’ and the use of housing as an investment vehicle, particularly for foreigners, which, along with a concerted attack on social housing are at the root of our ‘housing crisis’. We don’t really have a housing crisis – there are enough homes to go round, but many are empty part or all of the time and beyond the means of those who need them, while private landlords benefit from high rents made possible only by heavy housing subsidies – and low pay for workers means companies are subsidised by ‘in-work’ benefits while CEOs and other higher management get silly money.

A recent study published by the BMJ concludes that austerity has led to an increase in death rates and suggests that this has led to 120,000 additional deaths since 2010 due to cuts in public expenditure on healthcare and social care. The study’s lead author was quoted in The Independent as saying “It is now very clear that austerity does not promote growth or reduce deficits – it is bad economics, but good class politics. This study shows it is also a public health disaster. It is not an exaggeration to call it economic murder.” Though those who get their news from the BBC will probably have missed the story.

The Tories seem to have a special hatred reserved for the disabled. They seem to see them simply as a drag on the economy, taking high levels of benefits without any return to society (though paradoxically they have cut much of the support which did previously enable many to make a positive contribution.) They appear to have thought the disabled would be an easy target and would just go away and die quietly. But although far too many have died, campaigning groups such as DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) and MHRN (Mental Health Resistance Network) have been some of the most active protesters against their policies. And on this protest they reflected back a little of the Tory hate with t-shirts that read ‘Who 2 vote 4? Not the f**king Tories’.

In part this comes from desperation, and from clearly seeing that the cuts are life-threatening. But it is also helped by considerable public sympathy – at least once the public are told what is happening. The police find disabled people difficult to deal with, partly out of a genuine sympathy, but also because they realise how badly they might look in the press attacking the disabled – which is one reason why its important that I and other journalists cover their actions. There are also practical difficulties for them in making arrests, needing specially adapted vehicles for those protesters in wheelchairs or on mobility scooters – and police stations also may lack disabled facilities.

Not all disabled people are in wheelchairs, and not all disabilities are visible. One of the groups present at many of these protests is Winvisible, women with visible and invisible disabilities, and of course there are men too. But wheelchairs and scooters have proved very useful in protests, especially for blocking roads, and after protesting outside Parliament on the last day of its sitting before the General Election and then going on to protest outside the Tory HQ nearby, the protest finished by bringing traffic to a halt on busy Victoria St, leaving the road only after final warnings of arrest from the police. Stopping traffic in London, though an annoyance to those blocked, is one of few reliable ways to get any protest noticed.

More at: DPAC against Tory Hate


October 2017

Monday, November 20th, 2017

My pictures from last month – October 2017 –  are now on My London Diary.  Links to the stories are below along with a few of my favourite images  from the month.

My London Diary

Oct 2017

Halloween protest for living wage at HR Owen
Pregnant Then Screwed March of the Mummies
UFFC annual remembrance procession
March for a Safe Uxbridge Road

30th Birthday cake for London City Airport
Grenfell protest celebrates Russian Revolution
Guardians of the Forest – COP23
Safe Passage for the Children of Calais
Stop Robbing the Homeless
Class War levitate the Daily Mail
Class War levitate Kensington Town Hall

March in Solidarity with Catalonia
Floral tributes still on Westminster Bridge
Stay in Europe
BHP AGM Solidarity Demonstration
Zimbabwe vigil celebrates 15 years

Class War return to Ripper “Museum”
Little Social don’t break the cultural boycott

Cyclists Kensington Vigil & Die In
Prime Minister, Please Sentence
Roadblocks against Air Pollution
Stand Up To Racism and the FLA
Football Lads Alliance March
Football Lads Alliance Rally
Silent Vigil for Elephants and Rhinos
Stop Killing Londoners with traffic fumes

London Images


May Day, May Day

Sunday, November 19th, 2017

As always, May Day was a busy day in London. For once May Day was actually a Bank Holiday (I suppose it happens on average every 7 years) but this didn’t seem to make much difference to the numbers for the May Day March and other events. When I worked as a full time teacher, around 5 years out of seven I had classes to teach on May Day. Now I always work on May Day, but as well as taking pictures I’m also celebrating International Workers’ Day.

It’s a day when I don’t need to get up too early, as the May Day march only begins to gather at noon:

Class War didn’t actually go on the march, but they had come to Clerkenwell Green to sell copies of their newly launched newspaper – and quite a few people were keen to buy a copy.

They had a new banner too, celebrating Simon Chapman who died earlier this year in his early 40s. He never really recovered from being arrested and imprisoned in Greece where he was fitted up by police who switched his rucsac for one containing petrol bombs in anti-capitalist protest in Thessaloniki, in 2003. Held in terrible conditions in prison he took part in a lengthy hunger strike which had a permanent affect on his health, and eventually due to international protests he and the other ‘Thessaloniki Seven‘  hunger strikers were released and sent home. The Greek government knew the police evidence would not stand international scrutiny they could not afford to create martyrs, though the UK Labour government refused to take any action to protect its citizens. He continued to campaign and protest after his return to the UK – and returned to Greece for a further trial  with three of the seven in 2010, when all of the original charges were thrown out after being completely discredited by  the defence evidence but he and four others were found guilty of the offence of ‘minor defiance of authority’ with Simon getting a suspended six month sentence.

By the time the march was ready to depart the area was pretty crowded, and as the march left, Class War made their way to The Crown Tavern, a pub with an interesting history, where Lenin and Stalin are said to have first met in 1905, and serving some fine local beers.

May Day March Gathers

Stalin and Lenin were of course on the march today, along with Marx, Mao and others including Abdullah Öcalan, the Kurdish leader still languishing in a Turkish island jail; as always there were many from London’s migrant communities taking part. But the best banners are still some from branches of UK trade unions and it is quite a sight to see them, along with all the others, marching along the CLerkenwell Road, and I tried to photograph most of them without walking too far from the start.

May Day March

As the last of the marchers passed me I turned and made my way towards The Crown. If it was good enough for Lenin and Stalin it was good enough for me to have a pint there too. I’d intended to leave after a short break and take the tube to go to Trafalgar Square for the rally there, and some of Class War in the pub were also intending to do the same. Somehow it took us rather a long time to leave, and the tube system is designed to make the journey from Farringdon to Charing Cross difficult.

I think most of the rally was over when we reached the square as John McDonnell was coming to the end of his speech, but I was pleased to be able to photograph Mark Serwotka, who can speak about the NHS form some considerable experience following his heart transplant. I took a few pictures, including some of John McDonnell as well as of Class War with the third edition of their election banner, ‘All F**king Wankers’ featuring Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and some Liberal Democrat and UKIP guy. The police seized one of the earlier versions as evidence – and then lost it; I hope Class War claimed compensation.

May Day Rally

Once the mainly rather boring official rally had finished on the plinth at Trafalgar Square people carried on the celebrations in their own way, but soon I had to leave as the May Day F**k Parade was scheduled to start shortly a few minutes away in Leake St, London’s ‘graffiti central’ in the wide pedestrian underneath Waterloo station.

It really was dark in there, much darker than my pictures suggest. Several photographers came up to ask my advice about taking pictures there as it felt rather edgy, but I told them not to worry too much – and if they were worried to ask. There were quite a few people there that I knew (and more that knew me) and the main problem I had was simply the lack of light. I used flash for a few action pictures of people playing games, but it really didn’t capture the atmosphere there. Except for the flash pictures, the others were taken at ISO 6400 with the lens fully open, quite a few at 1/30s. Unfortunately I hadn’t though to take my LED light, which would have been useful in the darker corners.

May Day F**k Parade Meets

I was please when we left the tunnel and started on a walk around London, though by now I was getting rather tired. There were a few flares set off and the march was accompanied by a large group of police, but wasn’t causing any great problems. As it was a Bank Holiday there was little traffic actually in central London.

On Waterloo Bridge I was standing next to a group of police when one of the protesters set off a flare. An officer shouted to the others ‘Let’s grab him’ and they rushed into the crowd, surrounded him and made the arrest. It was a deliberately provocative act, and looked for a while as if they had started a riot, but most of the protesters were there to enjoy themselves, not to start trouble. It was a parade, not an insurrection, and the police action seemed excessive.

The parade continued, going through Covent Garden and making its way to Leicester Square, going to a recent squat in Soho (though we only knew that later.) But as it made its way out of the square I decided I’d had enough and headed for home.

May Day F**k Parade


Class War Paper Launch

Saturday, November 18th, 2017

Way back, soon after Ian Bone moved to London, Class War began to produce a newspaper or magazine, an irregular tabloid size publication, which became notorious for some of its covers, several of which have more recently appeared as posters, such as ‘We have found new homes for the rich’, showing a huge cemetery of crosses. In its early days it was produced in an obscure tower block in North Kensington where Bone was living, which has more recently headlined the news, Grenfell Tower.

When Class War decided to produce a new issue of the newspaper, I was asked if they could use some of my pictures from their events, and I was pleased to let them do so. It was perhaps more serious than the earlier issues, with some substantial articles about Class, Housing, the Women’s Death Brigade etc, as well as some hilarious horoscopes and features on Duncan Disorderly and Potent Whisper.

The protest outside the White Cube Gallery had been planned earlier as a protest against gentrification, following on from earlier protests there  in December 2015 –  Class War at Gilbert & George ‘Banners’ and January: Class War Footy at White Cube. As with many Class War events, in started in a nearby pub, where copies of the newly printed newspaper were read.

Eventually people walked down the street to the yard in front of the gallery:

And people posed for a group photograph with copies,

before playing a little football, something which isn’t usually allowed on the yard, empty space in a crowded inner city with astronomical land prices, seen by Class War as akin to burning £50 notes under the noses of the working class population of the area, still present in the Peabody and council flats despite the increasing hipster invasion.

But the real treats of the afternoon were at a higher cultural level, though not appreciated by the gallery staff hiding behind police and security with the gallery locked for the afternoon. First Potent Whisper performed his latest spoken word piece on the housing crisis, Estate of War, followed up by speeches by Simon Elmer from Archtiects for Social Housing (ASH), Ian Bone and another well-known anarchist, Martin Wright, then songs from ‘one-man anarcho-folk-punk-hiphop phenomenon’ Cosmo, more from Potent Whisper and then a truly incredible new improvised performance from Adam Clifford and his guitarist (unfortunately not recorded for YouTube), after which Jane Nicholl performed her introduction to   Adam’s performance of ‘The Finest F**king Family in the Land‘.

Adam ended his performance in his usual style:

and the event was still continuing with other musical performances when I had to leave.  It had been, as I wrote at the time, a legendary performance, rather eclipsing anything the White Cube has had to offer at their site, and I felt privileged to have witnessed it.

Class War at White Cube