Archive for April, 2021

7 Days to save the NHS

Friday, April 30th, 2021

‘7 Days to Save our NHS’ on Westminster Bridge, 30th April 2015

Any remaining doubts about the Tory party’s intentions to privatise the NHS should have been eliminated by the recent appointment of Samantha Jones, the outgoing chief executive of Operose Health, as an “expert adviser for NHS transformation and social care“.

Openrose is the British subsidiary of giant US private healthcare firm Centene, and recently bought AT Medics, a GP led company that was ran many of London’s GP surgeries and other primary care services. Openrose was already running around 20 GP surgeries as well as various opthalmology services, a dermatology clinic in Kent and an urgent treatment centre in Birmingham.

Despite health secretary Matt Hancock’s claims that his proposed changes to the NHS would put an end to 30 years of NHS privatisation, the process is currently being accelerated, with these and other changes making it easier for US and other companies to take control of parts of the NHS.

The launch of the ‘7 Days to Save our NHS’ Campaign’ on April 30th, 2015 came a week before the 2015 General Election, and urged people to use their vote on May 7th to save the NHS. It was one of many protests against the creeping privatisation of our health service that I’ve photographed, along with more protests over hospital closures and other attacks on the service which left it in a poor state at the start of the Covid pandemic.

Fortunately – and largely thanks to the dedicated work of NHS staff – it more or less coped, but at the price of far too many deaths in hospitals and care homes, with high levels of hospital-acquired infection due to a lack of proper protection – and we saw photographs of staff having to improvise with bin bags.

But although some of us could have used our vote to try to save the NHS, for many their was no such credible alternative. Both of our major parties have been guilty of privatising the NHS, with New Labour responsible for much of the present crisis in our healthcare system, particularly for saddling hospital trusts with crippling long-term debts through insanely thought out and poorly negotiated private finance initiative hospital building projects – which have forced programmes of hospital closures. The Daily Express described these in 2012 as “a Klondike gold strike for investment firms” which will result in the taxpayer paying £301billion to receive facilities worth £57.4 billion.

And many MPs – mainly but not entirely Tory – are very much in on the gravy train that NHS privatisation is already providing, and very much rubbing their hands in anticipation of more. In 2015 the Daily Mirror published what they called a full list of MPs with links to private healthcare firms. Among the 70 on that list were the then prime minister David Cameron, Andrew Lansley, described as ‘Former Health Secretary & architect of privatisation’, former Home Secretary David Davis, and most of the leading Tories – including current secretary of state for health and social care Matt Hancock MP.

NHS banner on Westminster Bridge
‘7 Days to Save our NHS’ Campaign launch

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

Kensal Town & Notting Hill 1988

Thursday, April 29th, 2021

Emslie Horniman's Pleasance, Park, East Row, Kensal Town, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988  88-2c-34-positive_2400
Emslie Horniman’s Pleasance, Park, East Row, Kensal Town, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

Who you might ask was Emslie Horniman? You may recall the name ‘Horniman’s Tea’, though the company, founded in 1826 in Newport, Isle of Wight by Emslie’s grandfather, the more prosaically named John. It was tea that made the family’s fortune, particularly after the company moved to London in 1852. The family were Quakers and determined not to cheat their customers were the first to sell tea in sealed packets, ensuring it was not contaminated with contrary materials used by many others to increase profits, and by the end of the Victorian era under Emslie’s father Frederick John Horniman they had become the largest tea company in the world.

Emslie Horniman's Pleasance, Park, Kensal Town, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-2c-22-positive_2400
Emslie Horniman’s Pleasance, Park, Kensal Town, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

It was the money from tea that enabled Frederick Horniman, an inveterate collector of curiousities, to set up the Horniman Museum in south London which opened in 1901 and was extended after his death by his son Emslie, also a collector. Born in 1863 Emslie had been educated by private tutors before attending the Slade School of Art and travelling around the world and became a Liberal party politician in London. From 1906-10 he was Liberal MP for Chelsea and in 1911 he planned and donated the park in Kensal Town, Emslie Horniman’s Pleasance, to the London County Council. He probably had little interest in the tea business, which was sold in 1918 to J Lyons & Co and is now owned by Jacobs Douwe Egberts; the brand is apparently still popular in Spain.

The walled garden shown in these two pictures was designed for Horniman by C.F.A. Voysey and Madeline Agar and is Grade II listed.

Ladbroke Grove area, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988  88-2c-31-positive_2400
Ladbroke Grove area, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

Perhaps someone will remember where Rose’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetables were sold somewhere in Notting Hill. The house number, 222, should be a good clue, as relatively few streets aspire to such high numbers, but it doesn’t appear to match those I have looked at. The previous frame was taken on Ladbroke Grove, close to Barlby Rd, and the next on Southern Row.

Sculpture, Portobello Rd, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

A mannequin holds a light fitting to illuminate a shop sign at the north end of Portobello Rd, close to Bonchurch Rd. I can’t read the sign because of the angle of the picture, but it later years at least it read ‘3 4 5’, the number (and name) of the shop below. Back in 2019 this figure was still on the wall, in a different pose and with its left arm and the sign missing.

Cobden Working Mens Club and Institute, Kensal Rd, Kensal Town, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988  88-2c-12-positive_2400
Cobden Working Mens Club and Institute, Kensal Rd, Kensal Town, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

The Grade II listed Cobden Working Men’s Club and Institute at 170-172 Kensal Road was built in 1880, as a part of a Fabian initiative to educate the working classes and is the earliest known surviving purpose-built working men’s club and apparently retains many original features. These include an upper floor song room, probably where Bill Clinton played his saxophone as a student, and where Christmas parties were held for local children until the club closed at the end of the last century.

Architects for the building were Nathan Glossop Pennington and Thomas Edward Bridgen, and recently a ceremonial mallet awarded to Pennington on the opening of the building was presented back to Golborne Life by a woman from Texas who had bought it some years ago, possibly in the market on Portobello Rd.

Opinions seem to differ over whether the building was named after 19th-century radical politician Richard Cobden or a Fabian philanthropist, Lord William Cobden, who is said to have put up the money for the club. After it closed money was raised in 1995 to open it as a restaurant and night club; this closed in 2010 and the building was bought as a private residence by American businesswoman, model, actress, and television personality Caprice Bourret.

Bramley Rd, North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-2b-16-positive_2400
Bramley Rd, North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

Roseblades were brass or non-ferrous metal founders, incorporated in 1962 and struck off in 2004 several years after the company ceased operation. The firm was run by Ron Roseblade and his two sons John and Martin. Wilkinsons were also metal founders, but with a longer history, having been founded in 1793 as Philip Wilkinson and Sons and trading in Westminster, becoming just P Wilkinson & Sons in 1936.

The two companies became associated in 1972 when Wilkinsons moved out of Tottenham Mews and Tottenham Street to Stanmore – though the also appear to have had a part of this building. Roseblades also moved to works at 18 Minerva Road, Park Royal, Brent. The two companies made a number of memorials etc together “Four bronze servicemen on the War memorial outside Euston Station, the Wreath on the Cenotaph in Whitehall as well as the external lantern work at Victoria and Albert Museum”, some possibly with G W. Lunts of Birmingham.

Malton Rd,  North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-2b-12-positive_2400
Malton Rd, North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

Malton Road runs parallel to Westway, seen at the right of the picture, and is a service road for the businesses underneath the elevated roadway here between St Mark’s Road and Ladbroke Grove. The buildings at right are of the London Ambulance Service. At left of picture are the backs of the houses in Cambridge Gardens.

See larger versions by clicking on any of the above images, all of which are in my album 1988 London Photos.

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

Workers’ Memorial Day

Wednesday, April 28th, 2021

April 28th is International Workers’ Memorial Day

As the TUC points out:

Every year more people are killed at work than in wars. Most don’t die of mystery ailments, or in tragic “accidents”. They die because an employer decided their safety just wasn’t that important a priority. International Workers’ Memorial Day (IWMD) 28 April commemorates those workers.

The day is commemorated around the world and is officially recognised by the UK Government. It is a day both to remember those we have lost and importantly to organise in their memory. The motto is ‘Remember the dead, fight for the living‘.

Each year the International Trades Union Congress sets a theme for the day and for 2021 this is:

Health and Safety is a fundamental workers’ right

There is a dedicated web site for the day set up by the ITUC and Hazards magazine which gives information about IWMD events in over 25 countries and an annual hashtag – this year #iwmd21. The ILO estimates that there 2.3 million people worldwide die each year because of their work – and there are 340 million workplace injuries.

Covid has brought the need for health and safety protection for workers to the fore – in 2020/21 there were around 8,000 recorded deaths of workers from Covid-19. This year the TUC has organised a national zoom meting and there is an online memorial wall, but there are also various local mainly virtual events.

In most recent years before 2020 I managed to attend the main London event held at the statue of a building worker on Tower Hill, and occasionally to also cover other events around the capital.

An article by Annabelle Humphreys for Talint International lists the most dangerous jobs in the UK, based on information from the Health and Safety Executive. Fishing is the most dangerous of UK industries although the actual numbers of deaths is small. Seven fishermen lost their lives in 2018, but all were cases that were preventable. Waste and recycling also has a small workforce but a high level of ill-health and deaths. It’s hardly surprising also that oil and gas riggers have a high injury rate and that deep sea diving is also a dangerous occupation , though the numbers involved again are low.

What stands out is the construction industry, were 40 UK workers died in 2020 and around 81,000 suffered work-related ill health. Almost half the deaths were from falling from a height, while others died when trapped by things collapsing or overturning or by being hit by falling objects or struck by moving objects or vehicles or by electrocution.

But there are also high levels of deaths in other industries, particularly farming – often cited as the most dangerous of all – and manufacturing. And while Healthcare always has the highest sickness rate in the UK, Covid-19 will have greatly increased the number of deaths in this sector.

Unite Against Racism

Tuesday, April 27th, 2021

Two years ago today, 27 April 2019, I joined with a large crowd in Southall remembering the murders there of Gurdip Singh Chaggar and Blair Peach, calling for unity against racism.

The march took place on the Saturday after St George’s Day, and marked the 40th anniversary of Blair Peach’s murder by police officers. Several thousand police had packed the town to defend the National Front who were holding a meeting at Southall Town Hall. A large group of the local community and supporters from across London had come to oppose the meeting, and and police rioted and attacked what had been a determined but largely peaceful protest. Wikipedia has a long and well referenced article on the murder from which many of the facts below are taken, though speeches at the 2019 protest also included some eye-witness accounts. Peach was a member of my own union at the time, the NUT, which also made me very aware of the events and was prominent in the fight to see justice.

Blair Peach was in a group of friends who tried to escape the violent police attacks on Southall Broadway and make their way home down a side street, but unfortunately this led nowhere and the police Special Patrol Group drove up in several vans and began attacking the crowd there, who responded with bricks and bottles. Witnesses, including residents on the street say the police were hitting everybody and fourteen saw a police officer hitting Peach on the head.

People obseve a minute of silence where Gurdip Singh Chaggar was killed

Forensic evidence found he had been hit with an illegal weapon, probably a lead-filled cosh or pipe, and searches of the lockers of the SPG unit involved found 26 illegal weapons. None of the witnesses were able to identify the police officer involved – perhaps because one officer had shaved off his moustache and another grew a beard and refused to take part in the identity parades. Many also had their uniforms dry-cleaned before the police investigation inspected them.

Although the police investigation had produced a great deal of evidence against the SPG, the DPP decided it was insufficient to justify a prosecution. The report was kept secret, though parts appeared in the press early in 1980, and the inquest was hampered as the legal team acting for the Peach family were not allowed access to it. The verdict of the inquest, ‘death by misadventure’ was widely considered – even by The Times – to have been inappropriate. The coroner afterwards wrote an article including his comments that some of the civilian witnesses had lied as they were “politically committed to the Socialist Workers Party” of which Peach was a member and that some Sikh witnesses “did not have experience of the English system” to enable them to give reliable evidence but was persuaded not to publish it.

At Ramgarhia Sabha Gurdwara

The fight to get justice over the murder continued, but none of the officers involved was ever brought to trial. Apparently all left the police force shortly after the investigaton. Peach’s family were awarded £75,000 compensation in a tacit admission of police guilt by the Metropolitan Police in 1988, but requests for a public inquiry were turned down by the Home Office. The SPG was disbanded in 1987, but replaced by a very similar Territorial Support Group. It was only following a member of the TSG killing newspaper vendor Ian Tomlinson as he was walking home past the G20 protests at Bank in 2009 that the report of the police investigation into Blair Peach’s death was finally made public.

The 2019 march and rally in Southall convened close to where Gurdip Singh Chaggar, an 18 year old student, was murdered by racist skinheads in June 1976 as he left the Dominion Cinema and began, at the request of his family with a karate display. It paused for a minute of silence where his was killed before moving on to stop at the Ramgarhia Sabha Gurdwara which the Chaggar family attend, where prayers were said.

Flowers were handed out which were then laid at the street corner where Blair Peach was murdered before we moved on to a rally outside Southall Town Hall where the National Front held their meeting. Peach’s murder inspired the formation of both the anti-racist grassroots group The Monitoring Group, whose founder and director Suresh Grover introduced the event and of Southall Black Sisters, whose founder Pragna Patel who was one of the speakers, along with other community leaders and anti-racists.

Perhaps surprisingly absent was the local Labour MP, Virendra Sharma, who in 2019 lost a vote of no-cofidence by the local party apparently due to his low attendance at party meetings, slow responses to constituents and failure to campaign over local redevelopment issues. John McDonnell, Labour MP for a neighbouring constituency and then Shadow Chancellor was there from the start of the march and made a powerful speech.

More about the event and many more pictures: Southall rally for unity against racism

We Need Bees

Monday, April 26th, 2021

Yesterday I walked down my garden and found our three apple trees in full blossom, a fine sight, though one I didn’t feel a need to photograph. I rather like the way it appears just for a few days each year then disappears. I stood there for a minute or so, breathing in the scene, then realised there was something wrong.

One of the things that I’ve enjoyed with our various lockdowns has been the silence with fewer flights from Heathrow. We’re off the flightpaths but only a couple of miles distant, and in usual times there is a virtually constant drone – along with the noise of the various motorways a mile or two distant. Road traffic is more or less back to normal but we still here the birds singing and other natural noises more clearly.

Standing by the trees I realised what was missing – there were no bees. For a couple of minutes, no bees. Then along came a solitary bumble-bee. Quite a large one, but that bee is going to have a problem pollinating all that blossom.

Most crops rely on insects to pollinate the flowers and without them there are no crops. Bees are not the only pollinating insects but I think they are the main ones, and the decline in bee colonies has a drastic effect on food production – including my own apple trees.

The beekeepers and environmentalists came to protest outside parliament to urge the UK to vote for a EU ban on bee-killing neo-nicotinoid pesticides which both kill bees directly and reduce their resistance to other factors. The EU later backed a ban on these pesticides with Michael Gove, then environment secretary stating that the risks of using them “to the bees and other pollinators which play such a key part in our £100bn food industry, is greater than previously understood.”

Katherine Hamnett and and Dame Vivienne Westwood with the ‘Save the Bees’ petition

However although the are generally now banned for outdoor use, the government early in 2021 authorised the use of one of these pesticides on the sugar beet crop to combat the threat of the virus yellows disease, though in the event the threat was found to be less than anticipated and the pesticide was not used.

Bee population in the UK seems to be continuing to decrease, though this year’s dearth in my back garden may be more a matter of the particular weather conditions and local habitat loss. Surveys of pollinating insects have shown a fairly consistent decline since the 1980s, with around a third having been lost since then, though the recent decrease in pesticide use may have reduced the rate of decline.

March of the Beekeepers

Reclaim Brixton 2015

Sunday, April 25th, 2021

Brixton has been in the news again recently, with various analyses published on the 40th anniversary of the 1981 Brixton uprising (aka Brixton riots) which began on 10th April. Official reports put the 3 days of unrest which caused £7.5m of damage and left almost three hundred police (and an impossible to estimate number of the local community) injured down to poor housing, unemployment, and police harassment.

It was largely the actions of the police that led to the events. Their failure to effectively investigate the arson attack on a party in New Cross which killed 13 young black people in January 1981 scandalised much of the nation and the racist reaction of the mass media to a protest march about this raised tension, exacerbated by the police arrests of the march organisers who were charged with riot – and later acquitted. But the final straw was when police at the beginning of April began ‘Operation Swamp 81’ with large numbers of officers coming into Brixton and stopping an searching almost a thousand people – almost entirely African-Caribbean – under the ‘Sus law’, the 1824 Vagrancy Act which allowed police to stop and search anyone they believed was acting suspiciously.

Little changed after the official reports came out, and it was only 19 years later, following another scandalous police failure to properly investigate the murder of Stephen Lawrence in April 1993 that the Macpherson report found that the Metropolitan Police was institutionally racist. Although some changes have been made, there are still plenty of signs that this continues to be deeply embedded in the ethos of the force.

The publication of ‘The report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities’ on 31st March this year (2021) came at perhaps a particularly insensitive time for a report that is widely seen as a whitewash by a commission set up to reflect particular views. Set up in opposition to the protests by the Black Lives Matter movement over the death of George Floyd (and three weeks before the trial of his killer ended in three guilty verdicts) it evoked fury from many experts in the field as well as the millions who still experience discrimination.

More recently is has been condemned in remarkably forthright terms by the independent experts of the Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council who state “In 2021, it is stunning to read a report on race and ethnicity that repackages racist tropes and stereotypes into fact, twisting data and misapplying statistics and studies into conclusory findings and ad hominem attacks on people of African descent” and call on the British government to categorically reject its findings.

Brixton has changed since 1981 and some of those changes are very much for the worse for the local population. There were further riots, and there have been deaths at the hands of police – such as those of Ricky Bishop in 2001 and Sean Rigg in 2008 – but the main threat facing the local communities is gentrification as Brixton is changing from a working class area home particularly to migrant communities to a trendy up-market suburb. Its a change which is in part inspired by the vibrant communities which it is displacing, but also driven by the excellent transport links the area enjoys.

25 April 2015 saw Reclaim Brixton, a day long protest against gentrification which saw several thousands gathering at various events in what is still so far as I’m aware the largest protest of its kind. One major blow to local people has been the decision by Network Rail, backed by Lambeth Council to redevelop the railway arches in the centre of the town, home for many years to some of Brixton’s best loved – and cheapest – businesses. The current tenants, one of which came here in 1932 – are being evicted and after renovation the rents will be triple and their places largely taken by the same chains and franchises that we see in so many other high streets.

Soon after I left Brixton – in what seemed like a quiet period and I thought things had probably ended, activists took direct action against some of the major players they hold responsible for gentrification, breaking a large window Soon after I left Brixton – in what seemed like a quiet period and I thought things had probably ended, activists took direct action against some of the major players they hold responsible for gentrification, breaking a large window at Foxton’s estate agents, going into Brixton Village with their banners and briefly occupying Lambeth Town Hall.

More at:
London Black Revs ‘Reclaim Brixton ‘march
Reclaim Brixton celebrates Brixton
Take Back Brixton against gentrification
Brixton Arches tenants protest eviction

North Kensington 1988 (1)

Saturday, April 24th, 2021

I continued my personal exploration of London in January 1988 with some extended walks around the north of Kensington. It was an area I was largely unfamiliar with, though I had walked just outside its northern edge on the towpath of the Grand Union in Kensal Town – and had been to a few meetings and workshops in a studio in that area.

In the following years I would come every August to carnival and photograph it on Ladbroke Grove – and you can see many of those pictures in the album ‘Notting Hill Carnival – the 1990s’, but in 1988 my version of Notting Hill was still coloured by the memories of the press reports of the Notting Hill riots 30 years earlier – and the continuing misrepresentation of the carnival in the media as a hotbed of violence.

St Mark's Rd, North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988  88-2c-65-positive_2400
St Mark’s Rd, North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

These pictures come from the area north of the Westway, the most destructive of all road projects in Greater London, laying waste a wide swathe through the area when it was constructed in 1964-1970. Part of a plan for ‘Ringway 1′, the London Motorway Box’ conceived in the 1950s when the car was seen as the future, and the development seen as so obviously beneficial that the GLC didn’t even bother to present evidence to justify the case for it and the huge expense involved.

St Mark's Rd, North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988  88-2c-62-positive_2400
St Mark’s Rd, North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

But it was the social destruction caused by the Westway that awakened many to the huge impact of road-building and the end of the massive road building plans for a number of concentric ring motorways in London that had come from the drawing boards of our post-war planners. The only ring that was completed was of course the M25, mostly passing through rural land on the outskirts of the city, providing perhaps the most accurate boundary to London.

Ladbroke Grove, North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988  88-2c-46-positive_2400
Ladbroke Grove, North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

I find it hard to look down on this wide expanse of largely empty street and recognise it as Ladbroke Grove, that place where I’ve so often stood since inside crowds of people standing and watching and dancing along behind the carnival floats.

Paul House, Ladbroke Grove, North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988  88-2c-45-positive_2400
Paul House, Ladbroke Grove, North Kensington, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

Back in 1988 most blocks of council flats were still entirely open to the public, with no security doors or entry systems, and even the few that had these, the doors were largely wedged open by residents to make access easier. I was able to walk in and walk up to take views from the stairways and balconies – as in this picture and that above of the street.

Saint Michael, North Kensington, Ladbroke Grove, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988  88-2c-44-positive_2400
Saint Michael, North Kensington, Ladbroke Grove, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

Saint Michael and All Angels, the Anglican Parish Church here on Ladbroke Grove is Grade II listed, as the listing text states was built in 1871 to the designs of J and JS Edmeston in a Rhineland Romanesque style though in London stock brick with terracotta, red Mansfield and Forest of Dean stone dressings, and clay roof tiles.

St Charles Square, Ladbroke Grove, North Kensington,  88-2c-43-positive_2400
St Charles Square, Ladbroke Grove, North Kensington, 1988

Sean’s poorly written tag also appears on the previous picture which shows the same building taken a yard or two further from the corner of Ladbroke Grove. The house is a substantial one facing onto Ladbroke Grove, the main thoroughfare in the area, and these steps are up to a second front door for its sizeable rear extension. The main house has five floors including a basement (which explains the steps) and an attic. The next house on Ladbroke Grove, behind me as I took this picture, has a blue plaque for Hablot Knight Browne, better known as ‘Phiz’, whose illustrations enlivened the novels of Charles Dickens and who lived here from 1874-80.

Ladbroke Grove, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988  88-2c-41-positive_2400
Ladbroke Grove, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

There was something of a brooding, menacing atmosphere of these house-fronts on Ladbroke Grove, with shuttered lower windows and bushes and trees in the narrow space in front of the basement. The house looks much more open now as the last tree here was taken down around ten years ago and the whole row of houses is in much better condition. These houses which were pretty run-down back in 1988 are now almost all flats, perhaps eight to a house, and a nearby basement flat sold for over £1million in 2017.

All these pictures are from my album 1988 London Photos. Clicking on any will take you to a larger version in the album which you can the explore.

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

St George

Friday, April 23rd, 2021

The details of the life and death of St George (as you can read in Wikipedia) are recorded in accounts dating back to around 1600 years ago, though details vary and the Pope in 494 CE who officially made him a saint called him one of those “whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose actions are known only to God.

According to the early texts, George was born in Cappadocia, now a part of Turkey, where his father came from, but his mother was a Palestinian Christian. Cappadocians were generally historically regarded as Syrians, though St George’s family are usually said to be of Greek descent. St George became, like his father, a Roman soldier, becoming a member of the elite Praetorian Guard, and was beheaded in the eastern capital of the Roman Empire on 23 April 303CE, 1718 years ago, during Emperor Diocletian’s purge of Christians who refused to recant the faith.

His behaviour and suffering apparently convinced one prominent Roman woman, Empress Alexandra of Rome, possibly the Emperor’s wife – to become a Christian – and to share his fate. The purge failed to have its intended result, and around 21 years after George’s execution, Christianity became the preferred religion in the Roman Empire under Emperor Constantine.

George’s body was buried in Lydda in Palestine and Christians there soon became to regard him as a martyr. Some legends say that his martyrdom resulted in the conversion of not just the Emperors’s wife but 40,900 other pagans.

The dragon came along considerably later, only appearing in legends around 700 years after his death, apparently terrorising the city of Silene in Libya, which there is no evidence that St George ever visited. The dragon in my picture above, from a St George’s Day procession in Southwark, seems to have come from Chinatown. But dragons can fly.

The traditional patron saint of England was the last king of Wessex, Edward the Confessor who died in 1066, and it was only in 1552 that as a part of the English Reformation that St George officially became the only saint recognised in England, although along with various other countries English armies adopted him during the crusades and in our battles with the French in the Hundred Years War from 1337-1453. Surprisingly we didn’t drop St George although we lost rather badly.

St George’s Day remains an official feast celebrated by the Church of England, usually, though not always, on April 23, as Easter sometimes interferes. Rather more is made of it by some other countries and churches.

The St George’s cross, widely used by football supporters and right-wing extremists in England, comes from the 10th century in the city of Genoa in Italy, becoming used in England in 1348 when Edward III founded the Order of the Garter and made St George its patron saint. It has never been officially adopted as the national flag, though now widely used as such. It is of course a component of many other flags, including the UK’s national flag.

Over the years I’ve photographed many different celebrations of St George’s Day in and around London, and the pictures come from a few of these in 2005, 2009, 2011 and 2016.

2005 St George’s Day
2009 St George & the Dragon
2009 England Supporters,Trafalgar Square
2009 The George Inn, Southwark
2009 The Lions part: St George & the Dragon
2009 St George’s Day – Trafalgar Square
2011 St George’s Day in London
2016 St George in Southwark Procession
2916 St Georges Day in London

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

Scientists Call For Research-Based Policies

Thursday, April 22nd, 2021

Recent events have brought scientists much more into centre stage, and politicians now claim to be “following the science” although this often means simply picking and choosing those bits from the wide range of scientific advice that suits their particular agenda.

Science isn’t monolithic, and its predictions are generally in terms of probabilities rather than certainties. Different disciplines may bring rather different emphases to aspects of complex problems and sometimes we need a wider view than that of a particular specialism – and even some common sense.

It seems clear that at the beginning of the Covid outbreak our government placed to much confidence in the advice of some mathematical modellers and failed to follow that based on medical experience in dealing with earlier pandemics on wearing masks and tightly controlling international travel that kept infection rates near zero in some countries. And that they had dismissed the evidence of earlier exercises in pandemic control and failed to follow the conclusion that we needed stockpiles of protective equipment.

Simple mathematical predictions close to the start of 2020 – like those I made metaphorically on the back of an envelope from then available data – suggested that by leaving the progress of the virus essentially unchecked we might expect around 400,000 deaths. It was perhaps calculations such as these that led to a massive programme of ordering vaccines.

Our various lockdown control measures – too little and too late – and gradual improvements in the care of those infected have so far managed to keep the numbers down to a little under half that initial estimate, though another wave may take us rather closer, particularly if variants prove more resistant to current vaccines.

A couple of days ago I was invited to complete an online opinion survey about the political challenges facing our government. One question asked me to pick one from a list as the major political challenge facing the UK government. I read through the list, which began with something about immigration and was shocked to find after reading the 10 choices I had to pick ‘Other’ and type in ‘Climate Change’.

It was climate change that essentially prompted the protest by scientists on April 22nd 2017 to march through London from the Science Museum to a rally at Parliament. They came to celebrate the vital role that science plays in our lives and to call for an end to the fake news and fake science such as climate denial by politicians such as Trump which will prove disastrous.

The march drew attention to the need for international cooperation to combat the existential challenge of man-made global warming – and warned of the danger to this from Brexit and isolationism around the world.

It was an unusual event in many respects. As I pointed out on My London Diary and elsewhere:

“It was a considerably more nerdy protest than most, and some of the posters and placards were difficult event for someone like me with a couple of science degrees in my past to understand. Many scientists do seem to have a problem in communicating with the rest of us and write slogans like ‘Do I have large P-value? Cos I feel Insignificant’ or ‘dT=α.ln(C1/C0)’.”

My London Diary

As well as covering the march and rally by scientists I also photographed campaigners calling for the reform of our secretive Family courts, Poice and Social Services which cover up their failures and corruption by gagging orders, and a protest outside the Consular department of the Russian Embassy to show solidarity with LGBT people in Chechnya, where over a hundred men suspected of being homosexual have been rounded up an put into camps and tortured, with three thought to have been killed. You can see more about these events and the scientists’ protest on the links below.

Reform Family Courts
LGBT rights abuses in Chechnya
Scientists Rally for Science
Scientists march for Science

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

Property Vultures Self Awards

Wednesday, April 21st, 2021

Outside the Housing Awards event at Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane

We suffer from a housing benefits system that actually benefits landlords rather than tenants and a housing policy that is led by the advice of estate agents and developers.

Combined with governments dedicated to austerity and cuts this has led to a record level of evictions, doubling of rough sleeping in London and the worst shortage of truly affordable housing in history, while property developers cash in by building luxury flats for largely overseas investors who have made profits from rapidly rising market prices for flats which are often left empty for all or most of the year.

Protesters pay a brief visit to Foxtons on Park Lane

The attack on social housing was largely begun by Margaret Thatcher, who forced councils to sell off housing stock under her ‘right to buy’ scheme, and stopped councils from using the funds to replace them. Many or most of these properties were later sold to private landlords and became ‘buy to let’ properties at high market rents.

Housing Action Trusts, set up under the 1988 Housing Act took many council estates out of council control, eventually handing them on to housing associations, many of which have become hard to distinguish from commercial landlords.

New Labour ratcheted up the crisis with their emphasis on estate regeneration – whether the tenants wanted it or not. Though possibly begun with good intentions it became a tool used by many councils to demolish social housing and replace it by mixed developments in cooperation with private developers or housing associations which often contain only small amounts of genuinely social housing at ‘council rents’ (though with much less security of tenure) along with various shared ownership and so-called ‘affordable’ rent schemes and a large proportion of properties at market prices.

Often the original tenants and leaseholders of such regenerated estates have been ‘socially cleansed’, forced to move out of the area to lower cost fringe areas. Over 50,000 families have been forced to move out of London, where many more properties remain empty, thanks to housing policies that serve greed rather than need.

Protesters held their own award ceremony outside the hotel

I’m not a fan of awards ceremonies, industry events to pat each other on the back and make effusive speeches. Too often the awards go to the wrong people, but in the case of property developers there are perhaps only wrong people involved. But the protesters held their own, with large cardboard cups going for the Placard Making Award, Demonstration of the Year, Occupation of the Year and Young Protester Personalities of the Year.

Those who turned up to protest outside the plush hotel where the awards event was taking place included many who have been affected by the greed of developers and are fighting against the demolition of their estate or their eviction so that property owners can replace them by wealthier occupiers at market rents.

More pictures on My London Diary: Property Awards at Mayfair Hotel