Archive for December, 2017

Save Council Housing

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

In June I photographed three events connected to the housing crisis in London, and in particular to the loss of social housing as London councils, mainly Labour dominated, rush to realise the asset value of the sites that council estates are built on.

Many London council estates are built in places that have good transport links to the City and West End where some are fortunate to have well-paid jobs and want somewhere convenient to live and can afford to pay the ridiculously high London market rates – well beyond the means of the average worker and of key public sector workers including teachers, social workers, police etc. Many Londoners are forced to live on the outskirts and travel in to work, often with long journey times.

Council housing generally pays for itself with rents half or often considerably less than market rents, providing housing that those on average or lower incomes can afford. But when council estates are demolished, their replacements involve little if any truly low cost housing, and often only a token amount of ‘affordable’ housing, which at up to 80% of market cost is usually well beyond most people. Often existing tenants are made promises of rehousing, but end up paying twice as much rent as before and with a less secure tenancy and usually in a far less convenient area. Those who have bought their properties find the compensation they get is only around half the cost of inferior properties built on the site of their former homes, and are forced to move, often to the edges of London and beyond.

Councils team up with private developers or with housing associations which are now little different to private developers, with the result that huge publically owned estates and properties become privately owned. It’s a bonanza for the shareholders, but a tragedy for the residents, and often fails to deliver for the councils, though a few councillors and council officers seem to end up with lucrative jobs in the private housing sector. Calling it ‘Regeneration’ is a con, though the policy comes from New Labour but its application is part of a long history of corruption in local politics by politicians of all parties.

The first two protests were outside the Berkelely Square London Real Estate Forum, an annual event involving council, architects and developers all after a piece of the lucrative cake from the private development of what is currently public housing, transforming what are now homes for the low paid into homes for the wealthy and investments often kept empty for overseas investors relying on the increase in prices on the London housing market.

Some of the estates that have been demolished or that councils intend to flatten are of genuine architectural merit, and many more are communities that have developed to give a decent life to those who live there and want to remain. Often they have suffered from a lack of maintenance over the years and need some bringing up to current standards for example of insulation, but most older properties were built to higher standards of space and basic construction than currently apply.
The Heygate estate deservedly won an architectural medal and its basic concepts were sound and despite a long attempt by Southwark to demonise it, using it to house problem residents and employing a PR firm to do it down, remained popular with many residents and was developing into a maturity. The council actually gave it away, making a loss on the deal which has converted it into the private Elephant Park. And rather than learning from their mistakes they are currently repeating them on the nearby Aylesbury Estate and others in the pipeline.

Another fine estate under threat, this time from Lambeth Council, is Central Hill and I was pleased to be able to be there when former Lambeth Council leader Ted Knight came to speak about the vision that led to its building, that nothing was too good for the working class. Now Lambeth want the working class to be forced out of the area. Our current listing process, run by Historic England, has shown itself to be averse to listing large projects of considerable architectural merit such as this, or the Robin Hood estate in Poplar, in favour of quirky oddities with some popular appeal (such as Philip Larkin’s former flat in Hull) which involve little or no financial considerations.

Stop demolishing council estates
London Co-operative Housing Group report
Ted Knight speaks for Central Hill


May Has to Go…

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

But she didn’t go. Not yet. Despite losing her absolute majority in the General Election, the Tories were still the majority party. None of the other parties was keen to form a coalition to support her, but despite the need for austerity she was able to put together a large enough bribe to gain the support of the DUP, the so-called Democratic Unionist Party, founded and dominated for 37 years by the Rev Ian Paisley. It is a right-wing party, opposed to anything that threatens ‘Protestant’ domination of Ulster or in any way advances the rights of nationalists or human rights generally in Northern Ireland, and according to Wikipedia, it:

“was involved in setting up the paramilitary movements Third Force and Ulster Resistance.

It is right-wing and socially conservative, being anti-abortion and opposing same-sex marriage.”

It’s social policies are dominated by the bigotry of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, another Paisley creation, with just 15,000 members, mainly in Northern Ireland.  Its continuing opposition to social reforms have meant that there is very much a different law applicable in Northern Ireland to that in the rest of the UK, and make it hard for many of us to understand any real object to different laws relating to the movement of goods – as customs boundary at the Irish Sea.

The people have spoken’ – but not quite clearly enough

So far the ‘support agreement’ between the Tories and the DUP has held, though it appears to have needed some further bribery to get the recent agreement with the EU to enable the talks with them to move on to the next stage, and it seems likely that as talks develop further it may be impossible to keep the DUP on side. And since the coalition between the Tories and Lib-Dems from 2010-2015 led to the near demise of the Lib Dems and has made coalition a poisonous concept in UK politics it seems more than likely we will have a further election well before 2022.

But back in early June, immediately after the election it seemed unlikely that May could hang on, and protesters were out on the streets  with the message ‘May Must Go.’  I went to Downing St on the morning after the results and photographed protesters there and outside the temporary media village on College Green.

The following day was a Saturday and there was a May Has To Go Party/Protest #notourgovernment in Parliament Square, celebrating Jeremy Corbyn’s performance in bringing Labour close to victory, despite the opposition to him within his own party. The result showed clearly that he was electable even if not this time, destroying the arguments of his right-wing critics, though some continue to mutter and plot.

At the end of the rally, most of those present marched to Downing St and protested there for a while, before marching off. But there was no plan, and nobody knew where to go, and at Trafalgar Square they simply turned around and marched back to Parliament Square where I left them.

Protests follow Hung Parliament Vote
May has to go rally!
May has to go march!


Hull Photos: 10/11/17 – 16/11/17

Tuesday, December 19th, 2017

Another digest of daily posts during Hull2017 on Facebook, about the pictures added daily on the intro page at Hull Photos. Comments and corrections to the captions and texts about the pictures are always welcome here or on Facebook.

Hull Photos

10th November

Another view of Bentleys Snowflake Laundry. The house at the right is number 78 and a few doors down from the laundry building is a terrace entry with a small shop on the nearer corner, but I failed to remember or identify the street. The address of Bentley’s laundry business was Plane St, though later it moved to more modern premises in Harrow St. Plane street is still largely intact and the houses in this picture are not the same.

The laundry site was a large one, and thanks to Pauline, Rimmmer, Wendy Woo, Lesley Gowen and others in the ‘Hulll The good old days’ Facebook group I can confirm that this warehouse was at 74-76 Greek St, just around the corner from the main entrance in Plane St. There are now two semis – 4 houses – where the laundry entrance was at 110-116 Plane St, with some behind in Bentley Court which is named after the works.

On Greek St the telephone post in this picture is still there, with a single fairly recent semi-detached house, No 74-6 exactly where the laundry building – evidently a warehouse where wash powder was kept – used to be, though the rest of that side of the street as far as Hawthorne Ave was an empty site when Google Steetview last went down there in 2015.

85-10j-56: Bentleys Snowflake Laundry, Greek St, 1985 – Hessle Rd

11th November

Another view of the sheds on the Hull Fair site in Walton St which were demolished in 2009, though the larger building beyond had gone earlier. The Hull telephone box is still there.

85-10j-62: Hull Fair Site, Walton St, 1985 – Argyle St

12th November

Underneath the Clive Sullivan Way (A63) at the roundabout leading to St Andrews Quay retail development, looking roughly west. There are now trees planted on the roundabout that obscure the view, but I think nothing visible in this picture other than the roads and the supporting columns (now without their plastic wrapping) is still standing.

85-10k-13: Under Clive Sullivan Way, St Andrews Dock roundabout, 1985 – Hessle Rd

13th November

The footpath from the end of Liverpool St led over a footbridge across the railway lines into the dock. . The Lord Line building, long allowed to rot but still there despite attempts to get permission for demolition, opposed by those who see it as representing an important part of Hull’s heritage is in the distance just to the right of the horse.

85-10k-15: Horse in Field, footpath to St Andrew’s Dock, 1985

14th November

G Stanley – Sail & Cover Co. and W Dukes Ship Riggers. Dukes was only incorporated in 1983, but had traded previously for a few months as Mendanengine Limited.

St Andrew’s Dock, originally planned for the coal trade became Hull’s Fish Dock when it opened in 1883 as the fishing industry was expanding rapidly with the introduction of steam trawlers and the rail network which could rapidly move the fish across the country. The expansion was so great that a dock extension was opened in 1897.

Road transport took over from rail, with the last fish train from Hull running in 1965. Fishing had a boom in the 1970s, and with larger trawlers and deteriorating buildings around the St Andrew’s Dock the fish docks moved to William Wright dock/Albert Dock, only for the industry to disappear with the cod wars. The dock extension was filled in to become a retail area, St Andrew’s Quay. In 1990 Hull Council declared the area around the entrance lock a conservation area but the area is still in limbo. Various schemes have been proposed for the development of the remaining dock area with a marina, an education campus, a heritage museum and more, but the remaining buildings have been allowed or encouraged to become derelict and unless the council takes some radical action are likely to be lost.

85-10k-21: St Andrew’s Dock, 1985 – Docks

15th November

At left is the St Andrew’s Dock Extension; an approach road at right leads up to Clive Sullivan Way. In the background the Humber Bridge stretches across most of the image.

85-10k22: St Andrews Dock Extension, Humber Bridge and Clive Sullivan Way, 1985 – Docks

16th November

The Humber St Andrew’s Engineering Co Ltd was incorporated in 1946 to take over the business of of Humber Shipwright Co. Ltd and the St. Andrews Engineering and Shipwright Co. Ltd. One of Hull’s trawler firms, Hellyer Bros. was the majority shareholder by the 1970s and the company became a a wholly owned subsidiary of their successor B.U.T (British United Trawlers) and closed in 1976.

Hellyer Bros had started in Brixham as Devon Fishing Company Ltd in the nineteenth century and moved up to Hull in the 1850s when large herring stocks were discovered in the North Sea. By the 1960s were the largest trawler company in Hull and probably the UK, with a reputation for being ruthless employers. They became a part of Associated Fisheries Ltd in 1961.

85-10k-23: Humber St Andrew’s Engineering Co Ltd, St Andrew’s Dock, 1985 – Docks

You can see the new pictures added each day until the end of Hull2017 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.

DPAC at Maidenhead

Monday, December 18th, 2017

As regular readers will know, I seldom travel outside London simply to photograph events, the main exception recently being a number of visits to Yarl’s Wood for the protests their about immigration detention. But when Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) announced they were going to protest at Maidenhead, I added that to my diary.

‘Please Sir, I want some more’ and a lunchbox – May was promising to replace free school lunches with a 7p breakfast

Maidenhead is the constituency of Prime Minister Theresa May, and the General Election she had called was only a few days away. The disabled have suffered most from the Tory cuts since 2010; DPAC say Tory polices are heartless and are starving, isolating and ultimately killing the disabled and that they regard them as unproductive members of society, a sentiment recently stated rather clearly by the Chancellor, Philip Hammond. They also point out that a UN investigation has found the UK guilty of grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s human rights – though of course that verdict was rejected by the Conservative government.

Maidenhead is also not very far from where I live, a part of the true blue London fringe of wealth tax avoidance and complacency (though my particular area is rather more down-market, but electorally swamped by its neighbours.) I could have gone there by bicycle, mostly a pleasant ride of around 13 miles along towpath and various tracks with just a little on main roads, or slightly faster by keeping to the roads, and it was a nice day. But it was rather hot and I was feeling lazy and decided to take the bus – or rather two buses – which was only a little slower.

Buses still exist but are neither frequent nor very liable in these outer areas, and the service to Maidenhead from Windsor was roughly hourly in the main part of the day. And should there be problems I could always return – if rather slowly and expensively by train. By three trains (and a short walk between stations!) Most of those taking part in the protest had a much shorter journey than me with a fast and direct service from London Paddington, and they met up with local protesters to march from the station.

The bus journey to Maidenhead proved a little more difficult that expected, when my bus arrived at a different stop to that shown on-line, I think thanks to a one-way system, and a quick look on my phone showed I needed to be a quarter of a mile away in two minutes. I made it, somewhat out of breath, and the second bus was seven minutes late in arriving. Things came more or less to time on the way home, and the schedule meant I had 19 minutes to make the change – and from the same stop. All would have been fine had I not reached into my pocket for my phone when I arrived home and found it missing – I must have left it on the second bus.

I was able to confirm this, tracking its progress on my computer as it slowly made its way back to the depot at Slough, with nobody answering my calls. But the software enabled me to put a message on to it with my phone number, and I was relieved an hour or so later to get a call from the driver to tell me he had found it and it would be in the depot at Slough where I could collect it the next working day – Monday.

This time I did get on my bike, though it was a rather cooler and windy day with the odd spot of rain in the air, and was pleased to get to Slough rather faster than the bus would have taken me (it does go a rather longer way round) and relieved to get my phone back in one piece.

There were no problems in photographing the protest, though it was rather less lively than some by DPAC, and there were relatively few Maidenhead residents in the pedestrian area outside the shopping centre where the police suggested was the best place to protest (and I think they were probably right.) After the protest they marched back to the station where they had met, and a couple of photographers who had travelled by train from London left. I stayed on because I was sure something would happen.

Most of the police had left too, and the protesters then turned around and as I expected, blocked the road at a busy junction close to the station. The police were soon back and trying to persuade them to leave, with rather less patience than the Met usually show.

Police were a little mystified when one of the protesters identified himself as identified himself as General William Taggart of the NCA and claimed the law gave the military privilege a right to block roads in times of national emergencies such as these, but they shortly decided to argue with DPAC’s Paula Peters instead, threatening her with arrest unless she got off the road. Slowly the protesters moved off the road having blocked it for around 15 minutes, and the last were just leaving as I walked away to try to find the bus stop for my bus that was due shortly. Fortunately it was a few minutes late as the stop was not quite where Google marked it and not in the street it was named after.

Theresa May of course won comfortably in her constituency, though her share of the vote was down very slightly at 64.8%; the Labour vote was up 7.5% but still under 20% and even the Lib Dems gained slightly to get 11.2%. The remaining ten candidates shared a little over 4%.

DPAC Trash The Tories in Maidenhead

LSE Cleaners struggle and win

Friday, December 15th, 2017

June 2017 began for me with three protests related to the campaign by cleaners at the LSE. At the start of the month I wrote:

After 8 months of their campaign for equality the LSE have only offered derisory concessions and are refusing to recognise the UVW and and hold sensible talks with them, or to reinstate a sacked worker.

and I went to the LSE to photograph the sixth and seventh days they were on strike.  On both days the cleaners had been there since early in the morning, forming a picket line to lobby workers coming to work to try and persuade them to support the strike. There are strict rules limiting the activities of pickets, putting a limit on numbers (I think a maximum of 6) and what they can do, but the union can also hold rallies and protests so long as these are clearly not a part of the picket, and supporters came to these on both days.

This was a campaign I’d been involved with from the start, having been invited to photograph the initial meeting last year when cleaners and students decided to work together, and it had led to some interesting events, but I’d rather hoped – doubtless with the cleaners – that the campaign would have ended rather sooner.  Noonan and the LSE were obviously hoping they would wear the cleaners down, and losing seven days pay is a considerable hardship for people who don’t have enough to live on to start with, though there was a strike fund with donations from other trade union branches and individuals that will probably have alleviated the worst of the hardship.

United Voices of the World is a small grass-roots union, run on a shoestring from members subscriptions and donations from supporters. It’s total annual staff costs for 2016 were under £10,000  and its legal fees slightly greater.  But it has taken on organisations that have budgets in billions and won, and it was great to hear later in the month that they had reached a successful settlement with the LSE and employer Noonan, and it was good to be able to attend and photograph their victory party.

It’s hard to know how much the protests by Life Not Money at the LSE’  contributed to the LSE’s decision to settle the dispute, though they were certainly a noisy embarrassment which added to the pressure to settle.

It’s difficult as a photographer to keep photographing a whole series of essentially similar events, and to take pictures which are fresh.  There may be an infinite number of ways to photograph people blowing vuvuzelas and holding posters, but they do tend to look rather similar when it is the same people and often in the same places. I guess it is a challenge, and one I haven’t always been too successful at, though it does help when the people are as interesting as some of the students and cleaners involved in this long-running protest. And there were a few little incidents that kept up my interest at most of the events I photographed.

So of course I was delighted to hear that a further protest had been called off because the cleaners demands had been accepted by the LSE and Noonan (although it took a little longer for one outstanding matter, the illegal sacking of a worker to also be settled.) And pleased to be invited and able to attend the victory celebration where the LSE students awarded the cleaners  ‘Masters of Arts’ certificates with First Class Honours in Justice and Dignity.

LSE Cleaners strike for equality
LSE Cleaners strike Day 7
Street Theatre against LSE Inequality
LSE Cleaners Victory Party


Civil Rights for Photographers too

Thursday, December 14th, 2017

It’s some while since I last mentioned a post from the New York Times Lens blog, which publishes something of interest most days.

Today’s story, A Look at the Heart-Wrenching Moments From Equal Rights Battles, comes with a slide show of 18 amazing images, many of which have become well-known. One of the most striking of them shows a row of Memphis sanitation workers and supporters walking with posters ‘I AM A MAN’ (and one man without) past a row of the fixed bayonets of the Tennessee National Guard fixed bayonets  in 1968. What upsets me somewhat is that the picture is not attributed.

It isn’t the fault of Lens. I’ve searched the web and not found any better attribution than ‘Unknown photographer’, though I’m sure that there are still people out there who were on Beale St in 1968 and will know who took it. Probably it would be a name none of us have heard of, perhaps an amateur, perhaps a press photographer ‘working for hire’. It might be someone who had good reasons to keep their name out of it.

But generally I think photographs should always be attributed to the photographer. It annoys me that some of my pictures have been published as by Alamy or Corbis or some other agency and without my name, or with no name at all. Many pictures that I know who they were taken by have been published as if Hulton or Getty was a photographer – and the civil rights image is published as if it was by Bettmann Collection/Getty Images.

Fox Sake May

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

I don’t usually work on Bank Holidays. Actually now they don’t have a great deal of significance for me, working as a freelance, they are just another day. I don’t drive so I’m not going to spend hours sitting in a traffic jam to some popular destination. Sometimes its a day or a weekend where we go away and stay with family who have an extra day off work, or we go out for a longish walk. But generally for us it’s a day just like any other.

This year, in our rather silly late May Bank Holiday (a kind of fixed Whitsun) there was a protest to tell the Prime Minister that the public are against having a vote in Parliament on the fox hunting bill. It’s a cruel and barbaric practice, chasing a terrified animal across country and often ending with it being torn apart by dogs. Something there should be no place for – like bear-baiting and dog fighting. Something that still goes on despite the act, and the efforts of hunt sabs – and often with police turning the other way so they can’t see either the illegal hunting or the violence against the sabs.

It has never been an effective way of controlling the numbers of foxes – and of course always depended on foxes being kept alive to hunt. Foxes can be a problem, as the bloody mess of chickens in one of my friends coops a few years back made only too obvious. But where necessary they can be killed humanely without making it a so-called sport.

I wouldn’t join the sabs because although I’m against it, there are many other things I feel more strongly about, but I rather admire them for standing up for their principles, despite the abuse and violence they are often met with. If we had a local hunt I’d probably go along and take pictures of that and try to expose what they are subjected to.

Despite a little celebrity support (and the little celebrity in this case was Bill Oddy) it was a protest that got relatively little coverage in the media, partly because the organisers determination to keep it well-behaved and entirely legal made it a little boring and predictable. The police were obviously expecting something rather more interesting and came in force, including some sniffer dogs, though I did wonder if they got extra overtime pay for working on a Bank Holiday.

And of course hunting is very much a class issue, more so now than ever. Keeping a horse is an expensive business, and packs of hounds even more so, though it does provide a small amount of employment in the countryside. So it wasn’t surprising to find Class War on the march, but like me they soon lost interest in the speeches opposite Downing St and went to the pub.

Class War were not standing any candidates in the General Election a couple of weeks later, but the Animal Welfare Party were, in Theresa May’s Maidenhead constituency. And although their banner read ‘Maidenhead Says No to Fox Hunting’, Andrew Knight got only 282 votes, around a third of that of the Green Party and UKIP and was rather comprehensively eclipsed by May’s 37,718 – though perhaps they contributed to this being down by 1.1%.

And the Animal Welfare Party did get rather more votes than Lord Buckethead, Grant Smith, Howling ‘Laud’ Hope of the Monster Raving Loony Party, the Christian Peoples Alliance candidate Edmonds Victor, The Just Political Party’s Julian Reid and Yemi Hailemariam and Bobby Smith!

Keep the Fox Hunting Ban


Friday Protests

Monday, December 11th, 2017

I’ve had a few busy days and not had time to write on this blog, partly with several events to photograph, but also with other things to do and to worry about, but also with trying to get my main web site, My London Diary, a little more up-to-date with events. A diary should really be something you write up at the time, not as I’ve been doing recently around a month later. But should you click on the link above today when I post this, you should find that it only a day or two adrift – and later today it should include some of the latest pictures I’ve taken from Saturday.

Yesterday, Sunday, as I came around in bed the curtains were open and I could see snow falling, and when an hour or two later, having posted my daily picture of Hull I turned to post this onto Facebook I was greeted by picture after picture (mainly by rather bad picture after picture) showing people’s back gardens and streets with a little snow on them. I’d been wondering whether to go and photograph a couple of things in London, but decided not to; although I could have coped with the snow, our transport system would probably be on the blink. Later several of the things I’d had in mind were cancelled due to the weather, and there were reports of transport chaos. And more bad snow pictures.

It wasn’t much of a snowfall where I live (and today it has all disappeared and we are getting cold rain with the odd snowflake mixed in) and I decided not to bother to try and take photographs of it. We had snow rather better in the past, with weeks in the 70s and 80s where it lay inches deep – and drifts of a foot or more, with many suburban roads only passable with difficulty on foot and some closed to traffic for several days, and I felt I’d already served my share of snow pictures.

Today it feels quite good to look back to when days were longer and warmer around the end of May, and another Friday where I was busy, starting with a very similar event. Human rights group Inminds holds regular fortnightly protests about Palestine, usually on a Friday afternoon, drawing attention to the human rights abuses by Israel against the Palestinians, and calling for freedom for Palestine and for a boycott of Israel, and when I’m free and in London I try to cover these events, although often my visits to them are rather brief. The protest on this occasion was outside the Moorgate offices of the UK Mission of the International Committee of the Red Cross, demanding it end complicity with Israel’s violation of the rights of Palestinian prisoners, many of whom were then taking part in a hunger strike.

It was easier to photograph than most of their protests, partly because it was a new location, but also because there were specific posters for the event, and unlike some other of their protests there was little traffic and few pedestrians to get in my way as I was taking pictures; it was almost a private event, so photographs, mine and also those that Inminds itself take – had an added importance as the only way it reached the public.

There are accusations made that some of those who belong to Inminds are antisemitic, but protests such as this are clearly against particular illegal activities of the Israeli state and part of their campaign against the occupation of Palestine. I’m clear that it is possible to support the Palestinian cause without being antisemitic, though it isn’t possible to do so without being accused by some of antisemitism. I’m also clear that I’m not a member of Inminds, but a journalist who reports on some of their protests – as I do on protests by many other groups.

From Moorgate my next stop was Walthamstow Central, where parents and children were marching after school to a rally against education cuts. Photographing children has become difficult now, and photographers are always under suspicion if they point a camera at a child for whatever reason, and I did feel a little difficult doing so. In the past there were so many great photographs of children and I think it is a shame that we are now so inhibited about taking pictures of them. Of course there are terrible abuses of children and it’s right to do all we can to prevent the activities of abusers, but there is no real connection between those abuses and people taking pictures on the streets.

If taking photographs will not generally harm children, the changes in funding for schools certainly will, and that effect will be greatest in city areas such as London E17, where Waltham Forest schools were to lose over £25m from their annual budgets – £672 per pupil on average, with some schools losing over £1000 per pupil. It means fewer teachers – coincidentally also around 672 fewer in Waltham Forest, and at a time when numbers in schools are increasing. As a retired member of the NUT as well as a current member of the NUJ I have a particular concern.

I listened to a few of the speeches, but then had to leave, traveling back to the centre of London with the Victoria line taking me direct to Westminster. I’d missed the pre-election protest by Stop Killing Cyclists a few days earlier outside the Labour HQ, but this evening it was the turn of the Tories in Matthew Parker St, a short walk from Parliament.

There I photographed another child, wearing a face mask sitting beside his father who was lying ‘dead’ on the ground outside as a part of a protest against traffic and air pollution both killing cyclists in London. Not just cyclists of course, traffic and pollution both kill pedestrians and drivers too, but cyclists face a particular risk when riding amongst faster moving and much more massive vehicles, and breathing their fumes on the road.

Later enough of the cyclists lay down to fill the frame of my fish-eye lens – and the house in the centre behind them is the Tory HQ.  Money spent on making safe protected cycle paths encourages many more to use their bikes to get around the city, reducing transport pollution which currently results in over 9,000 premature deaths a year in London as well as much suffering from illness, and more people getting on their bikes also means more people getting a little exercise to improve their healths.  More people cycling also cuts traffic congestion – with an increase in road space considerably greater than the loss caused by building protected cycle routes. In fact the only downside is that it leads to greater traffic speeds and so greater impact damage when vehicles hit people, something that needs to be mitigated by greater use and enforcement of 20mph zones.

But policies are generally driven not by facts, not be research, not by safety but by lobbying of politicians and the prejudices of the press, also  firmly guided by the saloon bar ‘common sense’ (not that we still have saloon bars – but we still have the attitudes.) Neither of the main parties had a sensible road traffic policy and was willing to spend the amounts needed to encourage cycling by making it safer.

Red Cross act for Hunger Strikers
E17 Protest Against School Cuts
Cyclists Tory HQ die-in against pollution


Hull Photos: 3/11/17 – 9/11/17

Thursday, December 7th, 2017

Still catching up with putting these weekly digests on line. You can keep up to date by following my daily posts on Facebook, and can of course see the pictures but not the texts on the intro page at Hull Photos. Comments and corrections to the captions and texts about the pictures are always welcome here or on Facebook.

3rd November

A group of three youngsters on bikes at the end of Essex St, with Cawoods (Fish Curers) smoke house behind them. They saw me taking pictures and were keen to have their picture taken. I’ve written more about Cawoods in earlier comments.

85-10j-26: Cawoods, Essex St, Gipsyville, 1985 – Hessle Rd

4th November

There is still an HB Motors in Hull, with a shop-front since around 2010 on Anlaby Rd, but these premises were a short distance away on Hawthorne Avenue, filling the area between the level crossing and Haddon St. This whole area has been extensively redeveloped this century.

85-10j-32: HB Motors, Haddon St/Hawthorn Ave, 1985 – Hessle Rd

5th November

Bentleys Snowflake Laundry was a family firm established in Hull in 1890, becoming a private limited company in 1917 and changing its name to Bentley’s Industrial Services Ltd in 1979. It became one of the UK’s leading commercial laundry companies. The company, at one time in Plane St, by 2005 had large works on Harrow St and 140 employees, was sold up then with its three divisions going separately to different laundry operators. Thanks to a number of people on the Facebook group ‘Hull: The Good Old Days’ who worked at or lived near the laundry I can confirm that this shed was on Greek St. The whole site, which had its main entrance on Plane St, was redeveloped as a small housing estate a few years after I took this picture.

Presumably the name was intended as a reference to their service making linen as white as snow, but they share their name with the man from Vermont, USA who dedicated much of his like to making photographic images of snowflakes, Wilson Alwyn “Snowflake” Bentley (1865-1931). Probably the first person to successfully photograph them, he made thousands of pictures which showed every snowflake to be different, and his work established the six-armed dendritic pattern which has become synonymous with our idea of snowflakes, though it is only one of possibly over 80 forms they take.

85-10j-42: Bentleys Snowflake Laundry, Greek St, 1985 – Hessle Rd

6th November

A shop door at No 95 almost certainly on Greek St, on the corner of Carlton Villas. The shop was closed, possibly for good and seemed rather in need of the repair which was stated to be its speciality. Most of this area was demolished around 2012, but few of the streets were long enough to have a No 95 on them.

85-10j-43: Repair A Speciality, Greek St, 1985 – Hessle Rd

7th November

This shop on the corner of Greek St and Hawthorne Avenue was not demolished until around 2013. A helpful street sign in the image makes it easy to locate.

There were extensive demolitions in the area as a part of a government backed ‘Gateway Pathfinder’ scheme, started in 2002. The Hull and East Riding Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder was the last of nine schemes to be granted funding, and by the end of 2009 had received £113m, and a scheme for a further £400m to be spent in West Hull had been approved in principle, but the scheme was ended by the coalition government and ended early in 2011, with considerable hardship for many who lived in the area.

The letters B, B, E, C on the wall were something of a mystery to me when I took this, but are the initial letters of items the shop sold, and there are very faint traces of other letters in a darker paint, though it requires a little guesswork. Going down vertically at left was I think BACON, while the larger sign was for BUTTER EGGS and CHEESE.

85-10j-46: Shop, corner of Greek St/Hawthorne Avenue, 1985 – Hessle Rd

8th November
These sheds on the Hull Fair site in Walton St were demolished in 2009.

Hull Fair is one of the largest travelling funfairs in Europe, and the largest in England and it comes to this site for 8 days around 11th October each year. The first charter for the fair was granted in 1278, but the city celebrated the 700th anniversary in 1993, probably for good historical reasons – or perhaps they just didn’t notice it fifteen years earlier. Back in 1294 the fair – largely a market – lasted 6 weeks. It moved to the present 16 acre site in 1888.

85-10j-52: Hull Fair Site, Walton St, 1985 – Argyle St

9th November

One of many small businesses in Hull, Modern Systems would appear to have seen better days. A smaller notice on the gate at left gives the name J A Drury ‘Building Joinery Plumbing Free Estimates’.

The photograph was taken on one of my long and often rambling walks in West Hull, probably somewhere between Anlaby Road and Hessle Rd, and this property has been demolished and I was not able to find any trace of it or the business on-line.

But posting it in the Facebook group Hull: The good old days, Liz Cook immediately came up with a suggestion that I could quickly confirm. This building was indeed on Arthur St, and I could recognise the row of houses whose backs are behind it as being on Plane St. There is still a lamp post in the same place (though a different post), but the business has been replaced by a more modern semi-detached house.

I photographed in Arthur St on at least one other occasion, and probably went down it because I knew it was the street where my father-in-law had grown up and lived, one of a large family of Hoults, around the time of the First World War. In June 1907, the Hull Coroner Colonel A. Thorney concluded at an inquest “Congestion the lungs consequent upon measles, was the cause of the death of the seventeen months old child of Mary Hoult, wife of a boilermaker, of 57, Arthur-street” and a verdict of death from natural causes was returned.

85-10j-55: Modern Systems Building Plumbing, Arthur St, 1985 – Hessle Rd

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Thursday Lates

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

I hate the early nights we have at this time of year, when sunset comes to London at around 15.52 and so many things, including most protests take place in twilight or darkness. So I look back with some warmth at my diary for May 25th, when the sun only set at 9pm, giving me some colourful sunset skies to watch from the train window on my way home.

Photographers notice the light more than others, or at least we should, though on some winter days I’ve been caught out by the falling light and only realised too late that my shutter speed in some auto mode has dropped far too low giving an unwanted motion blur to my subjects, often only noticeable when I zoom into the image. Viewing the whole image on the camera back can seem sharp even when images are unusable.

The answer I’ve now adopted on the Nikons is auto ISO. Working in Program mode and setting the minimum shutter speed to perhaps 1/100th and the maximum ISO to 6400 or even 12,800 more or less guarantees usable results except at more extreme focal lengths. Once I realise its getting dark, or have a need for flash or greater depth of field or stopping faster movements I’ll change the settings, but until then I find this works. The Nikons have an Auto setting for the minimum shutter speed, which takes into account the focal length of the lens, and does allow you to choose different settings, faster or slower, based on this, which sounds useful, but I think fails with moving subjects, where the fixed speed seems to work better.

But back in those longer days, I had no such problems. I started work at 4pm – which at this time of year is just after sunset, but towards the end of May was bright sunlight outside the building behind Harrods which houses both the Ecuadorian and Colombian embassies. A small die-hard group of supporters of Julian Assange was outside as they had been on so many occasions over the almost five years he had been holed up in there. His continuing detention is a monument to the stubbornness of Theresa May, but it is a pointless act which has cost us millions and harms us diplomatically. He should have been allowed to leave for Ecuador when granted immunity there.

Grant Assange Safe Passage


Protesting on the same pavement – and with some overlap both physically and in terms of people – were the Colombian Solidarity Campaign, demanding that the Columbian government end the use of force against the people of Buenaventura and instead tackle the social, economic and ecological problems that have led to the civic unrest there.

Photographically my problems were mainly that half of the protest was in bright sun and half in shade, giving a huge dynamic range. Even with careful exposure this still requires considerable post-processing to reveal shadow details and tone down the brightly lit areas.

Timing was also a problem, and although the protest was due to begin at 4 pm,  people only began to drip in slowly some time after that – and I had to leave before the event had really got going. South American time, as I learnt when I visited Brazil some years ago – is a rather different concept to English time.

Lift the Siege of Buenaventura

Axe the Housing Act were rather more punctual for their protest intending to make housing an issue in the snap general election which was taking place, thanks to a moment of madness on the Prime Ministers walking holiday.  Labour were still in disarray, with its centre and right MPs refusing to accept the zeitgeist that had moved the party membership to elect Jeremy Corbyn and were still acting like spoilt children who had lost their toys and encouraged and supported  by a Tory-dominated media were determined to undermine him in any way possible with a series of smears,  lies, coup attempts and party machinations.  Had they accepted defeat with any grace and got down to work for the party rather than for their own interests the election would never have been called, as Labour would have had a massive lead in the opinion polls.

But we had an election, and housing despite the effects of protesters which have put it on the political agenda, never became a major issue.  It’s an area where Labour still has a great deal of work to do, with many Labour councils still busy demolishing council estates and cosying up with private developers despite a new direction from the leadership which at the party conference a few months later called for policies based on housing people rather than realising asset values. Its a battle still to be fought, let alone won. Although the protest was called a vote for decent, secure homes this wasn’t generally a choice on our ballot papers.

The picture above shows Piers Corbyn (Jeremy’s elder brother) signing the poster-sized letter which the protesters were to deliver to Downing St, and the sun is still bright at ten to six, a time when now we would have passed through civil twilight and nautical twilight and be about to move from astronomical twilight into full blown night time.

Vote for decent, secure homes

I left the housing protesters as they left for Downing St and walked down to Tate Britain, where the PCS Culture Group were to picket the leaving party for retiring director Nicolas Serota. Staff there, many of whom are on zero hours contracts with lousy conditions from Securitas and are paid on or close to minimum wage – much less than the London Living Wage and something the Tate could not dare to justify for anyone it directly employed were asked to contribute to a leaving present for him of a sailing boat – and of course were not invited to his leaving party.

Instead they launched their annual Golden Boat Awards, naming Serota as the first recipient for his services to the cause of privatisation, casualisation and low pay at the Tate. They demand an end to this cheapskate use of facilites companies to provide staff who should be employed directly with acceptable conditions and pay.

It was around 7pm when I left the Tate, still two hours before sunset.

Golden Boat Award for Serota