Archive for February, 2018

Big Day of Arms Fair actions

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

Friday I had a day off from the Arms Fair protests. It was an all day academic seminar, Conference at the Gates, on militarism and peace which sounded unlikely to be very visual, and I needed a day off to rest and catch up with other things. But I was there again on the Saturday, which was billed as the Big Day of Action, including Art The Arms Fair.

I started at the East Gate, where there were speakers, workshops, choirs and groups and a few attempts to stop cars and lorries going to the Arms Fair, but protesters were soon removed from the road by police and vehicles were only delayed by a few seconds

Things went quiet around lunchtime and I heard things were happening at the West Gate, so I jumped on the DLR and went to see, arriving just in time to see police leading away Charlie X, a Chaplin mime, which made for some rather surreal images.

There were quite a few other protesters at the West Gate, some standing at the roadside with posters and placards, and others, including a ‘Critical Mass’ group who had ridden here with a sound system they were dancing to on the roundabout.

Police suddenly surrounded one of them who had been standing quietly on the roundabout and I wondered what was going on. After a minute or so they took him across the road and continued to question him. One of his friends came and went up to talk to him, asking the police what was going on – and when he found out the man was being arrested for having a bicycle lock around his neck, he told the police what he thought about this and was himself threatened with arrest.

This was clearly the most bizarre arrest I’ve ever witnessed. The police had taken away a man who was standing wearing a bike helmet a couple of yards from his bike, and arrested him because he had a bike lock chain around his neck. Fortunately I think his friends looked after his bike.

I went back to the East Gate to find a lorry had been stopped by another lock on, with the two people joined together surrounded by a tight ring of police and protesters surrounding them. After a few minutes most of the protesters went and sat down on the already blocked road, and I managed some clearer pictures.

There were perhaps a hundred people sitting in a large circle on the road, which was in any case blocked by the lock-on, but police (and police horses) decided to start moving some of them, warning them they might be arrested if they stayed on the road. The protesters pointed out that they were hardly obstructing the highway as the highway was already blocked, but police persisted and made a few move, arresting one woman who kept on arguing with them and rushing her away to a police van. The arrest seemed to satisfy their pride and they soon gave up hassling the rest of the protesters.

A few minutes later they cut the first of the two locked-on free, and led him away to another van, only to find a man lying under the wheels of the lorry. Police dragged him out, hand-cuffed him and carried him away.

Meanwhile the ‘Art’ was continuing with a poetry recital, singing and dancing on the street and still well over 50 people were sitting or standing on the road in front of the blocked lorry.

Police by now didn’t seem to know what to do, as there were perhaps too many people to arrest – or they simply couldn’t face the paperwork involved. They surrounded a group of eight who were sitting in a circle with linked arms and warned them, but didn’t try to make an arrest. I stood watching for some minutes and they were still there. Eventually I had to leave to go home, with the road still blocked.

 CAAT (Campaign Against Arms Trade) continued their protests on Sunday and Monday, but I had other things to do. Altogether through the week of protest police made 103 arrests. Only around half of those arrested had charges pressed against them – and surely it would have been difficult to find an offence with which to charge a man carrying a lock for his bike. Most of those who were taken to court have been found not guilty, and the police have been told they gave insufficient weight to people’s right to protest in their policing. Nine people pleaded guilty and with 42 of the 48 remaining cases completed only 9 have been found guilty – though there are expected to be some appeals.

If the arms fair comes to ExCeL again in 2019, it seems likely there will be protests on an even larger scale, which police will find it very difficult to deal with. London clearly doesn’t want dirty dealing in arms on its patch.

DSEI Festival Morning at the East Gate
Festival of Resistance – DSEI West Gate
DSEI East Gate blocked

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Free movement for people not weapons

Saturday, February 24th, 2018

Thursday I was back at the protests against the arms fair, for a day dedicated to the  free movement for people not weapons, with Veterans For Peace attempting to set up a military-style checkpoint on the road into the DSEI in order to check lorries arriving for any illegal weapons. Protesters called for refugees and others to move freely across borders while stopping the movement of arms.

Veterans for Peace began their action with a briefing, with people being assigned into groups with different roles and being given orders for the operation in some detail, before marching to the road carrying a large poster for the Banned Weapons Search Checkpoint and taking up their positions.

Two advance groups waved at lorries to slow down and the a group led by Ben Griffin stepped out into the road to stop a lorry. Police rushed to surround the Veterans, and Griffin read a statement saying that there were good reason to believe that some lorries would be carrying illegal weapons, and that unless the police would stop and search them the Veterans would try and do so.  The police officer refused to engage with the argument, simply telling them that unless they got off the road they would be arrested, and eventually the Veterans were forced off the road.

They attempted several further stops of lorries and vans, with police again rushing to move them away. Eventually the police went in groups to the road side and waved lorries on, encouraging some drivers to speed up, and after one lorry came through at excessive speed putting some of the Veterans at danger they decided to end their attempt to stop traffic. The police action seemed to me to contravene the clear duty of care they have for the public – including protesters.

There were a few diversions, with people playing games on the road, including with the large DSEI dice, and police largely cleared the road as lorries arrived, and there was music and dancing.

Then at lunchtime, North London Food Not Bombs moved onto the road, blocking it with their picnic, serving free food to all who wanted it, most of whom then sat on the road to eat it.

At first police liaison officers in blue waistcoats came to tell people politely that they were obstructing the highway and ask them to leave and were ignored. A few minutes later more police arrived and moved in, telling the diners that unless they moved they might be arrested, at first as a block and then hunkering down individually with each person and giving them a final warning. I think all did then move to the pavement and there were no arrests, though some did get a little forceful help to move.

One of the problems of being a photographer was that I was far too busy taking pictures to eat, and though I’d had my eyes on the Food Not Bombs cake I only got to photograph it. Of course it probably wasn’t suitable for diabetics, which for me was one of its attractions. What was insulin discovered for if not to let me indulge occasionally in unsuitable foods?

After lunch the protests continued with some dancing and a large scarf which had been knitted for some hours with the aid of two missiles as sewing needles – I’d earlier declined to add a few stitches myself but had photographed Ben Griffin doing so. You can see a picture of this as well as many more of the day’s activities at Protest picnic & checkpoint at DSEI.

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No to Nuclear

Friday, February 23rd, 2018

The theme for Wednesday’s protests outside the DSEI arms fair was ‘Arms to Renewables – No to Nuclear’, and as I arrived a street theatre group began their performance of a playlet in which the audience rejected the collusion between Theresa May and an arms dealer to sell missiles for use in Yemen and demanded instead that we promote renewable energy, with two actors tranforming the missile into a wind turbine. It was difficult to photograph as the audience were clustered closely around the performers and so I had to work very close – and for some things even the 18mm of my 18-35 zoom wasn’t wide enough. I would have done better to switch to the 16mm fisheye, but it was so crowded it would have been tricky to get at my bag and change lenses without elbowing peole on both sides.

After that came some poetry, not generally a great subject for still photography, and I wandered around taking pictures of the various banners and posters, including a large Sadiq Khan declaring his opposition as Mayor to an arms fair in London. Then I was told there was a lock-on at the West Gate, and made my way – two stops on the DLR to photograph there.

Three people were joined together with their arms linked through two large boxes which seemed to be filled with pitch and metal grids which were taking the police special unit a great deal of effort to remove without injuring those locked together. While a couple of the police worked away, the rest crowded around, mainly it seemed to prevent photographers from getting a clear view – and at times there were certainly some officers who deliberately moved to block my view, though there were moments when most moved away. One or two protesters did rush in to take pictures before police removed them, but I decided I needed to cooperate with the police.

When they had broken up the first of the two boxes and arrested the person who was freed from the lock-on the police took a rest. The special team wanted to leave the remaining two linked together who were now at the side of the road and causing no obstruction, and only began to remove the second box after being told they must by the officer in charge. A crowd of supporters watched and gave encouragement to the two protesters while police struggled to separate them, and cheered them as police carried them away.

As the second of the three was being put into the police van, people started to move towards the Excel gates across the road, as another lock-on was taking place on the road inside the Excel site by two protesters who had made their way through a side pedestrian route. By the time I ran up the gates they were shut and I could only photograph through the mesh of the fencing from perhaps a hundred yards away. I went back to photograph the third protester being taken to the police van and then decided to return to the East Gate to see what was happening there.

The answer was yet another lock-on, and one that was likely to block the road for quite a while, with the special unit still busy at the other gate, and with all vehicle access to ExCeL blocked for several hours, the protesters were having a successful day. They were on the road with banners and singing and chanting and obviously there was no point in the police clearing them as the road was blocked by the lock-on. And as it looked as if little more would happen I decided it was time to leave for home.

Many more pictures at Protesters block DSEI arms fair entrances.

 

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No Faith in War

Thursday, February 22nd, 2018

Every two years, London is host to the world’s largest arms fair, DSEI (Defence & Security Equipment International), held at the ExCeL centre, owned since 2008 by Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company, since 2001. ExCeL is a large purpose built exhibition centre on the north bank of the now redundant Royal Victoria Dock, which closed to commercial traffic in 1981, but still has access from the Thames for shipping at North Woolwich. But exhibits other than a few naval ships which moor alongside the centre are brought in by lorry, through two entrance gates at the east and west end of the large site, around three-quarters of a mile apart.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the UK is the world’s sixth largest supplier of arms, after (in order from the largest) USA, Russia, China, France and Germany. And although we have bans on supplying some arms to some countries, many of the exhibitors at DSEI are not from the UK and don’t even pretend the scruples that our government and manufacturers do. Arms deals are made at DSEI for selling banned weapons to dodgy regimes around the world, and visitors allowed in have found banned weapons on display and also under the counter and produced on request.

Britain of course sells arms to corrupt regimes around the world, although there are some countries to which export licences are not granted. But British-made armaments are currently killing people in Yemen and pretty well everywhere else there is a war, often used by both sides.

The protesters attempted to stop lorries taking arms in for the show which was being set up. They managed to close the routes to both gates for some time, disrupting the preparations, though I’m sure all the weapons, legal and illegal, eventually got through, thanks to a huge police exercise. But although the protesters knew that this would be the case, their protests did raise public awareness about what was happening, and of the opposition to the fair across London, including from the Mayor of London and local councils.

I’d missed the first day when the emphasis had been on the Israeli arms industry, which actually markets arms as having been field-tested in Gaza on Palestinians. The second day was dominated by various faith groups, most of whom are pacifists and believe disputes should be settled by diplomacy and discussion rather than military might and killing people. Many were Quakers, but there were also Catholic, Anglicans and other Christians as well as a small group of Buddhists.

As well as holding religious services on the road leading to the gates, standing on the road holding banners or lying down on them, and walking slowly in front of lorries there was a rather more spectacular protest when 4 men abseiled down from a bridge across the road and held banners in pairs with messages ‘Theresa May who would Jesus sanciton, starve and then blow to pieces #StopDSEI’ and ‘DSEI is state terrorism #StopDSEI’.

Police seemed to handle most of the arrests and those arrested with more than usual care, though some not arrested were pushed pretty roughly. Over the whole week of protest more than a hundred people were arrested and some of those have beeing coming to court in recent weeks. Although there have been a few convictions, many have been acquitted, as the police were judged not to have properly weighed the right to protest against the need to keep a road open, while other cases failed as where they were charged with obstruction of the public highway was in fact private land.

As often happens with arrests at protests, many of the cases have been dropped before coming to court, sometimes only hours before the time set for trial, in what appears to be a deliberate police tactic of using the threat of trial as a punishment where there is insufficient evidence for a conviction. It seems likely that quite a few will get some compensation for wrongful arrest, and it will be interesting to see if this has any effect on policing the protests that will doubtless occur assuming the arms fair goes ahead in 2019.

More pictures: No Faith in War DSEI Arms Fair protest

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Stop Killing Cyclists

Wednesday, February 21st, 2018

I’ve been a cyclist for over 65 years, getting my first two-wheeler (a very secondhand small bike cleaned up and repainted by my dad) on my sixth birthday. And by the end of that day I was able to ride it without someone with a hand on the saddle as I went along the pavement outside my home. A couple of years later I had a larger bike handed down to me, and was riding on the roads in traffic. And despite what people think, there was plenty of traffic back in the 1950s on some of the roads in outer London where I lived, before any motorways took it away, though there were differences. Traffic speeds were generally much lower, as most cars had very poor acceleration and there were far fewer parked cars on the roads.

There have been many improvements in the design of cars and of roads since then, all of which seem to have concentrated on making cars go faster, with very little thought about other road users. I remember going in my teens on a visit to the Road Research Laboratory (then not far from where I lived at Harmondsworth) where we saw films and presentations about making dummies inside cars safer in crashes (doubtless an inspiration for J G Ballard) and also designing roads so that cars could go faster around corners and roundabouts. I asked what research they were doing about cyclists and I think the answer was that there was no economic benefit from cycle journeys; certainly they had nothing to show, and their answer to my suggestion that changing corners to make them so cars could go round them faster made them more dangerous for pedestrians was to show me their plans to make pedestrians walk down the street some distance to a crossing point. Pedestrian time had zero value too.

Since my visit in the 1950s, the RRL, now the TRL, has changed a little, and they and others have looked at cycling, though perhaps the best study of cycle-friendly road design has come from Sustrans, for example in their chapter on junctions and crossings.

It was interesting on a visit to Brussels a few years ago to hear the squeal of brakes as motorists stopped to allow pedestrians to cross the road they wanted to turn down. Here drivers assume they always have right of way unless there is a traffic light or marked pedestrian crossing, and the Highway Code, which is fairly clear:

  • watch out for cyclists, motorcyclists, powered wheelchairs/mobility scooters and pedestrians as they are not always easy to see. Be aware that they may not have seen or heard you if you are approaching from behind
  • watch out for pedestrians crossing a road into which you are turning. If they have started to cross they have priority, so give way

is almost always ignored.

The most common cause of cyclist deaths is lorries and other large vehicles turning left and crushing them. Poor vehicle design means that drivers often cannot see cyclists (and pedestrians) and I cannot understand why this has been allowed to continue. It would be a relatively simple matter to fit glass panels and appropriate mirrors, and now more high-tech solutions are obviously available. There is really no reason why any vehicle with such restricted visibility should be allowed on the road.

Of course cyclists, particularly inexperienced cyclists, squeeze up on the left side of vehicles waiting at crossings, and the use of Advanced Stop Lines at junctions makes this a more safe manoeuvre – but only if drivers recognise that their left turn is a turn across a cycle lane and should require them to ensure it is clear.  There also seems to be an increasing trend for motorists to ignore the need to signal for left turns – something of great importance to both cyclists and pedestrians.

Campaign group Stop Killing Cyclists organised a vigil and die-in on the Camden Rd in the London Borough of Islington following the death of Ardian Zagani who suffered fatal injuries when he was struck by a Ford Transit van just after 6am while cycling to work as a caretaker at a local college on August 29th, 2017. Police originally arrested the driver on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving, but she was later de-arrested and interviewed under caution. One of the passengers in the van attempted first aid on the victim but A scheme to put a protected cycle lane along this busy road was put forward in 2014, but was not acted on, and campaigners say that it was dropped because TfL (Transport for London) prioritise bus timetables over cycle safety. There have been a number of deaths on this stretch of road in both Islington and Camden and it has been labelled ‘death mile’.

After the speeches, police stopped the traffic for police to go onto the road, where they lay down for 10 minutes to block traffic. Those at the end of the protest, closest to the motorists who were forced to wait were shocked to hear some complaints and comments about cyclists from a few who were suffering this minor delay in memory of the man who died here.

Die-in for cyclist Ardian Zagani

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Vegans and McStrike

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

Back from Holiday my work kicked off the following day with two protests, the 2017 Official Animal Rights March which started from Hyde Park and later the McStrike rally at McDonalds HQ in East Finchley.

I’m  not a Vegan, and find some of their righteous indignation rather trying. Should we eat animals? I look to nature and eating animals seems a very natural thing to do, though I think we should do so in ways that avoid unnecessary suffering.  From our earliest days man hunted animals and ate them, and the whole mesh of nature is one of predators and prey. Why should we believe that people shouldn’t farm and eat cows, pigs and sheep but not equally campaign against lions eating antelopes or other prey? Veganism seems to me to be against nature, and many farmers take great care over the animals who would not have been brought into existence without them.

Of course I’m against the cruelties of some intensive agriculture, and accept the environmental arguments that eating less meat would be good for the planet – and happily often eat meals without meat or fish, and pay more for some foods which are ‘free range’ or ethically produced.  And I’ve no problem if some people decide to forgo meat or even all animal products, but I do object to them claiming some ethical superiority over us omnivores for doing so.

And I’m also unreservedly ‘speciesist’. While I have no problem with ‘animal rights’ I do believe that ‘human rights’ are more important, and it does somewhat grieve me to see large numbers at animal rights protests while rather fewer come out in support of human rights. We need to fight for both.

Farm animals are an important part of our country and its landscape, much of which has been formed by and for them. If we were all vegan there would be no cows, no sheep, no pigs, no chickens or goats, other than perhaps a very few kept by a few wealthy as curiosities from a bygone age or in green museums. Fields kept open by grazing would soon be full of thickets and the whole nature of the countryside would change. Some might be ploughed to grow crops, but others are too marginal to be useful

So I marched only partly with the marchers, and only along a part of the route as far as Green Park station, where I joined the underground for the journey to East Finchley.

McDonald’s UK HQ is conveniently right next door to the station, and I particularly liked the Fast Food rights placard which gave a great summary of what the strike was about. I’m not a fan of McD’s, and had a particularly unfortunate experience after visiting one in Germany in the 1980s, largely because I knew that despite my poor German I could get a burger without difficulty there. It probably wasn’t the meal I had there that led to an uncomfortable few days in hospital after I returned home, but I wasn’t impressed with the quality of the food or beer (of course it was beer in Germany) either.

Since then I’ve hardly been in a McD’s, dragged in occasionally by others, when I’ve limited myself to the coffee, which is only averagely poor. Photographers sometimes use these places for the free wifi to file their work, but I’ve always preferred to do this from home or my hotel.  I’ve often wondered how it succeeded when it was so clearly worse than some other chains that went down.  I suppose it’s driven by kids with no taste.

The protest was led by the Bakers union, BWAFU, and its General Secretary Ian Hodson was there, and they had brought a table, inviting McD’s to sit down and talk, as they had refused to do so. The BWAFU is one of the few TUC affiliated traditional unions in the UK that currently seems to be sticking up actively for low paid workers and against zero hours contracts, though in New Zealand it was their Unite that took on McD’s and won, and Joe Carolan from Unite union New Zealand was there to tell us how they did it.

Also present were several people from the United Voices of the World, a grass roots union that has taken on many large companies in London on behalf of their cleaners, with some notable victories. Claudia holds a poster ‘No One Should Be Working Poor’ as she speaks while Victor, whose speech in Spanish she is interpreting hugs a poster ‘Kickin’ Ass for the Working Class’. Again the words in the image tell the story.

McStrike rally at McDonalds HQ
Vegans call for Animal Rights

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On Holiday

Monday, February 19th, 2018

It seems a long time ago that I was on holiday in the Cotswolds at the end of last August. I probably ought to go away somewhere without a camera, but I know if I did I would keep seeing great opportunities for pictures. A few years ago when in Germany I went out for a day and left the spare batteries for my Fuji XT1 back where we were staying as I thought we would be going back to pick up things before leaving on a trip.

It turned out we weren’t, but I could hardly ask my hosts to drive several miles out of their way to pick them up, and the one battery in the camera ran out immediately, so I spent a day seeing so many opportunities in a place I will never visit again. I still sometimes see some of those pictures in my mind and then realise with a start that I didn’t take them. Some of us are severely addicted.

I do travel relatively light on holiday, though most people wouldn’t consider 2 camera bodies and four or five lenses light. But they are Fuji-X and weigh around half of their Nikon equivalents (even if I do need to take five batteries for a day’s pictures.)
I’m not quite sure which lenses I had with me, but I think the 8.5mm Samyang fisheye, the 10-24 and 18-55 zooms and the 18mm. Obviously I didn’t really need the 18mm, but it is so small and light and good for candid images. I’m not sure if I had any other lenses, though it wouldn’t surprise me. I was only going to take the X-T1 body, but it had been playing up a little and the X-E1 hardly weighs anything…

We do a lot of walking on our holidays, and this was no exception. But this lot in a shoulder bag, together with umbrella, water bottle and sandwiches was still light enough to hardly notice, even on the hotter days. Though perhaps my legs would have been a little less tired without. Some of the group we were staying in a holiday cottage came on various of the walks, and we went on car journeys to a number of places but I did spend a little time wandering around on my own, which is perhaps always the best for a photographer.

What was something of a holiday was being largely away from wifi and the internet. It was hard to get a phone signal in the cottage, and each morning I had a short walk after breakfast to get a wifi signal and post that day’s picture to my Hull web site, a project in recognition of Hull being UK City of Culture. And since these pictures were taken for my own enjoyment there was no need to caption and file them, though I think you can find out where they were taken from Cotswold Holiday.
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ASH at the ICA

Sunday, February 18th, 2018


Carlton House Terrace. The ICA entrance is at a lower level on the Mall

I’ve not often been to the Institute of Contemporary Arts on the Mall, though I was briefly a member at some time in the 1960s or 70s. It’s location on The Mall and Carlton House Terrace I find rather off-putting and I’m never entirely at ease in the posher bits of the capital. And I got the impression in my early visits that it was full of cliques to which I did not belong and wasn’t at all welcoming to those of us from poor suburban working-class origins unless we had already achieved some kind of fame. Or perhaps I was just too shy.

I have been in Carlton House Terrace a few times, most notably a long time ago meeting Paul Strand – one of my photographic heroes – and having a short conversation there at his exhibition opening, and more recently being commissioned to photograph an event there, but wandering in from the Mall around lunchtime on a Saturday I really didn’t know what to expect.

I was looking for Simon Elmer and Geraldine Dening of Architects for Social Housing who were beginning a week’s residency there; I’d been invited to the opening party that evening but couldn’t attend but wanted to see their display, and wandered through the building until I chanced upon a sign pointing to their exhibition.

Social Housing has a long history in London and the UK, with various commercial and philanthropic organisations providing housing for the urban poor in the nineteenth century. Some of these continue (at least in theory) to do so, but from around the start of the 20th century that role was largely taken over by councils who built many large estates, particularly in the interwar years and following the Second World War. London had estates both the the London County Council and the various local councils, providing millions for the first time with a decent standard of housing at an affordable rent.

Many Labour councils back in the 1960s and 1970s took a great pride in providing a high standard of housing, even when working within strict cost limits, and they employed some of the country’s best architects to design estates such as Robin Hood Gardens in Poplar, Central Hill near Crystal Palace, the Heygate at the Elephant, Cressingham Gardens in Tulse Hill and many more.

Things changed with the Tory government under Thatcher, who set out to destroy council housing. It may have been making decent housing available to working class people at low cost and actually paying for itself, but it wasn’t making money for private landlords and not enough for building companies etc who where important in the party. It was also a matter of ideology; council housing was social housing, organised by society for the good of society and the Tories saw this as sapping individual responsibility, their idea that people should look after themselves. They wanted a society of home owners, every Englishman securing himself in his castle and pulling up the drawbridge against the rest. And their route to doing this was to compel councils to sell their homes to their tenants at highly discounted rates – and to make sure the councils did not get the money to replace them.

The policy worked in so far as many council tenants did take up the bargain offer, but for many being a householder and repaying even the relatively low purchase costs proved too much. Many had to sell up and move out – and into privately rented properties often far less desirable than their old council homes and at several times the rent. Some will have moved back into former council properties, now owned by landlords, where their rents were now paying the landlord’s mortgage and then some, with a huge growth in ‘buy to let’ properties. You didn’t need money to buy up houses, just the ability to borrow money which your tenants would pay back.

More recently councils have been looking at these well-planned estates from the 31960s and 70s and thinking that the land they occupy – often on very desirable sites – is worth a fortune. If only those council homes weren’t there, they could make millions from private developers eager for land in London. One of the first to go was the Heygate, close to the Elephant & Castle, near to the centre of London, the West End and the City, with good transport links, it was a prime site for development. The only problem was getting rid of the people. The saga of Southwark Council’s long campaign to do so has been told many times, and is a shameful reflection on a Labour council. And while some of those involved have done rather well from it – lavish hospitality, trips to Cannes and well paid jobs when they leave the councils – the council ended up getting short-changed by millions. The residents have been forced to outlying areas, many in high cost private renting, and some of the new blocks remain unoccupied, either unsold or owned simply as investments by overseas buyers.


Social cleansing: RED for Labour, BLUE for Tory and YELLOW for Lib-Dem

Architects for Social Housing have highlighted some of the problems, with well over a hundred estates, some very large either destroyed or earmarked for demolition by Labour Councils across London. Of course Conservative controlled councils are also guilty, but there are fewer of them. The policy under which these crimes are taking place (and they are moral crimes if not always legal crimes) is a Labour policy, introduced under Tony Blair and given the name ‘regeneration’.

Regeneration could be carried out in a way which respected the needs of the existing residents and actually bettered the lot of those in social housing, and ASH has produced alternative plans for a number of estates which show how this could be done. But when these have been presented to councils they have been dismissed with little or no consideration. The problem is perhaps that councils do not have the cash to carry out regeneration without selling off the assets, but more that they see selling off community assets as an easy way to make money.

Recently Jeremy Corbyn has made some promising noises about how regeneration should take place, and there are hopes that the largest scheme of this type, the HDV or Haringey Development Vehicle which would have given away £2 billion of public property, may be stopped. But it remains to be seen if his words can be translated into deeds in the London Labour councils which are all presently dominated by Thatcher-lite right-wing Labour groups. Although the membership of the party has seen a definite shift to the left, there are plenty of dirty tricks the right are using in their fight to remain in power.

At ASH at the ICA you can see some more pictures of their displays at the ICA, which include some related to protest by ASH.

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Dump Trump

Saturday, February 17th, 2018

I wasn’t that surprised when Donald Trump won the US Presidency. After all a country that believes you can cut gun crimes by selling more people more guns is capable of anything. The contest was a crooked game on both sides, and Trump played it better, perhaps with of a little help from his Russian ‘friends’ (who perhaps just wanted to screw the USA) but more because he and his friends threw more money into the game, employing better guys to find largely legal ways to fix the results. Hilary had her dirty tricks, but mainly directed against Bernie, but perhaps it was a lack of any real appeal. Being the only woman in the game who would have become the first female president just wasn’t enough to attract the votes.

Trump’s actions since getting into office have only confirmed what people – both pro- and anti-) thought about him, though at least the ‘checks and balances’ built into the US system have to some extent constrained their effects. It’s rather the effects of them outside the USA that bother me, where the factional and often entirely fabricated reporting of particularly US right-wing media have come to create a strange and unholy meta-universe, while honest reporting – what little of it remains – is increasingly dismissed as ‘fake news’.

Not that even the most august of our news sources is to be trusted. I was reminded a few days ago of the deliberate misreporting of student protests about Vietnam by the New York Times, which wrote some of its stories before the actual events and failed to report the excesses of police violence, at times blaming the students for what were in fact police riots where they went in and smashed things up. And often reading reports in the UK newspapers of events I’ve myself witnessed I’ve been appalled at their disregard for the facts and the spin they have put on them. Not that there aren’t honest journalists doing their best to do a good job, but there are also others too ready to provide grist for the editorial mill. Even our better newsapapers need reading with a good pinch of salt, and by the time you get to rags like the Daily Mail, Sun or London Evening News finding the truth is more a needle in the haystack. Probably they get the football scores right.

This was a rather obvious picture, and I made the two versions shown here, the second when the woman holding the placard turned around as I talked to her.

At the time I thought that showing her face made the picture more interesting, but now I think it rather distracts from the image, though perhaps she is more interesting than that bleak embassy building with its eagle perched on top. And it would have been nice in both to have had more of a view of the US flag, just visible in the upper image.

The main interest that I could work with in making images was of course the posters and placards, and particularly those that people had made themselves, and there are quite a few on My London Diary in Stand Up to Trump.  And of course in the faces and gestures of both the protesters and speakers. There are a few people who often appear in my pictures for various reasons and two were here:

and one who makes her own placards,

Some people just make more interesting pictures – for different reasons, but while these attract my attention I do try to give an overall impression of the events I photograph. I’m not a news photographer, not trying to make one high-impact picture that hits the viewer hard, because they know only a single image is likely to be published (and paid for) but trying to tell the story through a set of images. I’ve nothing against impact, but only if it isn’t at the expense of accuracy, precision and balance. It’s more important that pictures are interesting.
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Remember Marikana

Friday, February 16th, 2018

Two events  I attended in London marked the 5th anniversary of the massacre of 34 striking miners by South African police at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine, and both were attended by a group of campaigners from the Marikana women’s organisation Sikhala Sonke (We Cry Together) as well as supporters from London.

The first was at lunchtime, when the Marikana Support Campaign and others protested outside Lonmin‘s Mayfair offices. It took me some time to find, as the event map and address which I’d read on Facebook had put the event around a quarter of a mile away on another street. I did come across some protesters wandering in search of it, and we walked around a little looking for it. Fortunately when I was beginning to feel it was time to give up (it was a hot day and a rest in a pub seemed tempting) someone going past recognised me and told me where he thought it was happening.

Obviously some people had got more accurate information and the protest was already in full swing when I arrived, on the pavement opposite an office block in which Lonmin had an office in an upper floor. I followed Charlie X, who protests here and in South Africa in mime as a Chaplin look-alike, when he went across the road to the offices, and found the reflections in the door were preventing me from reading the list of companies on the wall behind. Charlie-X held it open for me, but unfortunately I still couldn’t read the list clearly on my picture as in the dim light I didn’t stop down enough to get sufficient depth of field to keep it sharp.  But I did get an image I thought image when the receptionist came out to pull the door closed.

Later I went into the offices with a small group of protesters who wanted to take a letter in to Lonmin. Againt they were stopped by the receptionist, who after some discussion took the letter and promised she would deliver it to them.

That evening there was a vigil outside South Africa House in Trafalgar Square organised by the the Pan-Afrikan Society Community Forum (PACSF) and Marikana Miners Solidarity Campaign. Security there were worried about the protest and called the police, as well as insisting that the protesters removed their posters and banners from the wall in front of the building.

There the protesters as well as the posters showing the victims of the massacre also had some large sunflowers which made for some nice images. The event was rather slow to start as the women from Marikana were delayed by an interview at the BBC and I was sorry that I had to leave before it was over.

Justice for Marikana vigil
Marikana Massacre Protest at Lonmin HQ

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