Archive for May, 2021

Death at the Elephant

Friday, May 21st, 2021

Cyclists die-in where a cycle bypass would have prevented a cyclist death

When I was growing up in a working-class area of Greater London there were few private cars around. Only one of my friends was from a family that owned a car, and they could only afford it because both of his parents worked. Working mothers were much looked down on in the area at a time when most married women were housewives, and many employers still expected or even required women to stop work when they got married. There were men in middle-class occupations, but even few of them had cars, walking to local companies or to the station for the train to London. Otherwise people walked to work or took a bus or rode a bike.

My father at the time was self-employed, a man who did odd jobs; a little building work, plastering, plumbing, carpentry, roofing, glazing, electrical wiring, painting, decorating as well as gardening and bee-keeping. He worked for people in our area who mainly were as poor as we were; every penny counted – and there were seldom any spare to count at the end of the week. He rode around on an ancient bike, often with a bucket on the handlebars for his tools, and when he needed a ladder or more equipment or materials, left his bike at home and pulled everything on a hand cart.

For us kids, a bike was a great liberation. We played games on them, sometimes rather dangerously, and rode for miles often along busy main roads. But there was less traffic then and it moved much slower. I got my first two-wheeler – old but newly painted – for my sixth birthday, learnt to ride it that day and was then off, at first along our street and its side avenues, but soon much further afield, either with friends or by myself. By the time I was at grammar school I was riding miles out from London as well as cycling to school.

But things changed. It became the aspiration of many if not all working men to own a car – and more and more married women worked to make it possible. Car makers produced more and more cars aimed at a wider market, something that perhaps began in this country with the 1948 Morris Minor and Ford Popular, introduced in 1953, but accelerated in the late 1950s, when Harold MacMillan told us “most of our people have never had it so good.” Though in 1957 it still had to make its way down to areas like that I lived in.

Riding a bike began to be associated with poverty and cycle clips became an icon of failure. England developed a strong anti-cycling culture, with cyclists becoming an object of derision and hate. They cluttered up the road, preventing the free movement of motor cars. It’s an attitude still prevalent among car owners, and one pandered to by our road designers who until recently largely discounted cyclists in designing roads to enable drivers to drive faster. Pedestrians too were something of a nuisance, to be caged off whenever possible and forced to move away from crossing near corners to motorists could negotiate the rounded profiles at greater speed.

We have seen some changes in recent years. The 2005 bombings made many more consider cycling in cities, and increasing concern about healthy exercise has also led to more recreational cycling – if often by people carrying bikes by car to safer places to cycle. And we now have a few segregated cycle routes in London and elsewhere.But London as a whole is still often a very dangerous place for cyclists (and pedestrians.) One reason is the poor design of many large vehicles with very limited visibility for the drivers. Another is road design inherited from years of ignoring the needs of cyclists and the continuing failure to put enough money into developing roads and paths that are safe for cyclists.

The problems are in part political, with a lack of national leadership and many local politicians remain rabidly anti-cyclist and respond to powerful lobbies from some drivers and in particular taxi drivers organisations. In London it was made worse by the local government reorganisations of the 1960s and the abolition of the Greater London Council in the 1980s. Traffic – including the problems faced by cyclists – is one area that clearly needs to be dealt with for London as a whole and not left to the whim of local boroughs as is currently the case. Some have an almost complete disregard for the safety of cyclists.

Stop Killing Cyclists has organised a number of bike die-ins taking place shortly after cyclists have been killed at the sites where they died. The protest these pictures come from was at the Elephant and Castle in Southwark on Wednesday 21 May 2014, following the death of 47 year-old Abdelkhars Lahyani on May 13, killed by a HGV (heavy goods vehicle) whose driver was arrested on suspicion of causing death by careless driving.

The traffic system here was completely redesigned a few years earlier at a cost of £3 million, but without making proper provision for cyclists. Southwark Council’s transport plan argues against segregation of cyclists and says that including them in traffic is useful to slow traffic flows. While it may do so, it is at the expense of regarding them as expendable.

The protesters marked out a bike ‘bypass lane’ which if implemented would have taken Lahyani away from the dangerous area where he was killed. Many accidents at junctions are caused by drivers turning left and driving over cyclists they have failed to see on their left side, either in a blind spot because of bad vehicle design or simply because they have failed to check their route before turning.

More at Cyclists protest Death at the Elephant on My London Diary

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.

London 20 May 2017

Thursday, May 20th, 2021

Probably the question I’m most often asked about my photographs of protest is how I find out what is happening. Back in the old days of the last century it was difficult, and I photographed far fewer events. I’m not sure if there were fewer protests, though I think so, but it was certainly then much harder to find out about them. Apart from the printed newsletters and magazines of organisations there were posters pasted illegally on mainly derelict sites around parts of London and the flyers that were handed out at one protest about others in the following months. And word of mouth, again mainly from people I met at protests.

With the Internet, and in particular the World Wide Web and web browsers things began to change, though fairly slowly at first. Organisations slowly began to have web sites and advertise their protests on them; others set up e-mail lists and in 1999 Indymedia began. Google had been founded a year earlier, but there were other search engines more prominent for some years; at the time I was earning money writing for a commercial web site and much of my work depended on web searching to find content to write about – and I also searched for protests, building up a long list of useful sites.

Over the next few years, Google came to dominate web searching and social media began to be more important. By around ten years ago most protests had become Facebook events and much of my diary could be filled in by a search through the events on that platform. Also as I put more of my photographs on-line, at first through Indymedia and later through Facebook and Demotix, I began to get more and more invitations by e-mail and through Facebook to events, some in London and others around the country and world I could not possibly attend. And of those that were in my area I could only cover a fairly small fraction, generally those I saw as most important.

But there were and are those protests I came across by accident, often when covering other events. I’m not sure now whether or not I was aware that 20th May 2017 was Fight Dog Meat Kindness and Compassion Day, but while I’m against torturing animals I would not have gone out of my way to photograph the End dog and cat meat trade protest but was there in Trafalgar Square for Teen Voice says votes at 16, where young people were saying it was unfair they had not been able to vote in the Brexit referendum – while they can work, pay taxes and even join the armed forces they had no say in a decision which will effect their future to an arguably greater extent than anyone who voted.

The protest at The Guardian newspaper was very definitely in my diary, and I was saddened by their coverage of events in Venezuela, which has consistently taken the side of the right-wing middle class in that country against President Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chávez whose reforms have done so much, decreasing poverty, providing free health care and education, devolving power into the hands of local collectives and building homes for the working class. While reporting on the ‘pro-democracy’ protests which are part of a US-backed right-wing coup it has failed to report their attacks on hospitals, schools and socialist cities which have led to many deaths and the mass demonstrations in favour of the government by working class supporters.

Thanks to the Jubilee Line I was able to travel on to Stratford to photograph Focus E15 launch The Newham Nag, a handout giving some of the facts about Newham Council which somehow were not included in the council’s glossy information sheet. Newham has more homeless than any other local authority in England – one in 27 residents – and more evictions from rented accommodation than any other London Borough. As well as failing housing policies with many homes deliberately kept empty for over ten years, Mayor Robin Wales is also responsible for huge and disastrous expensive long-term loans which mean 80% of council tax from Newham’s residents goes directly in interest payments to the banks.

The protesters here on the wide plaza in front of Stratford Station were harassed by both police and Newham Council officers who made the ridiculous claim they were causing an obstruction in the large uncrowded area and issued them with a £100 fixed penalty notice, part of the ongoing attempt by Newham to silence Focus E15 who continue to throw a spotlight on the activities of Newham Council and Mayor Robin Wales, both a disgrace to the Labour movement. Eventually even Newham Labour could no longer stomach another term for Robin Wales, though his successor has yet to greately improve matters.

Finally it was back on the Central Line to Grosvenor Square, still then the home of the US Embassy, where March Against Monsanto was protesting – along with others in an international day of protest – against the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup, dangerous bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides, and the need for improved protection victims of multinational corporations. It turned out to be a disappointingly small protest even though the then ongoing secreetive TTIP trade talks between the EU and the USA could have lead to a deal which would override our national laws which protect our health and safety and endanger the integrity of our food supplies as well as banning or greatly restricting the traditional practice of farmers saving their own seeds.

March Against Monsanto
Focus E15 launch The Newham Nag
End media lies against Venezuela
Teen Voice says votes at 16
End dog and cat meat trade

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.

More Holland Park & Notting Dale 1988

Wednesday, May 19th, 2021

Holland Park Ave, Holland Park, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-1b-44-positive_2400
Holland Park Ave, Holland Park, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

I made these pictures in January 1988, on one of many walks around various areas of London. At the time I was working on two photographic projects, one in black and white and the other in colour. In black and white I was largely concerned with recording the physical infrastructure, photographing both buildings and streets I felt were exceptional and also examples that I thought were typical. My colour project was more difficult to explain, but both were linked to the changing nature of London.

Holland Park Ave, Holland Park, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-1b-41-positive_2400
Holland Park Ave, Holland Park, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

January was a good month to take pictures of the streets. One of the smaller projects I’d undertaken was about trees in London, and in the Summer months they hide many of the buildings. Google Streetview is a great resource, but almost all the images around London appear to be from late Spring or Summer, and for some streets almost all you can see is trees. My project on the buildings of London tailed off around 1999 to 2000 because it then seemed to me that it would not be long before we would have something like Streetview with more comprehensive coverage, though it hasn’t entirely replaced the kind of pictures I took.

Holland Park Ave, Holland Park, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-1b-31-positive_2400
Holland Park Ave, Holland Park, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

Holland Park Avenue is an ancient route to the West from London dating back to before the Romans. In later years until the nineteenth century it was known here as the Uxbridge Road. Land to the south of it was a part of the Holland House estate and from the middle of the 18th century land to the north became owned by the Ladbroke family of wealthy bankers. In 1819 after he inherited the land James Weller Ladbroke began to develop it, beginning with the parts along the Uxbridge Road.

The first houses along the road were built in 1824, but proved difficult to let or sell being so far from the centre of London. Building on the Ladbroke estate halted in the mid-1830s but began again in the following decade. When built, each terrace had its own name and house numbers, but in 1895 this section of Uxbridge Road was renamed Holland Park Avenue and the houses renumbered. You can read more about them on the Ladbroke Association web site.

Holland Rd, Holland Park, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-1a-35-positive_2400
Holland Rd, Holland Park, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

Holland Road is a rather busy street that leads up from the south to the Holland Park roundabout at the western boundary of Notting Hill and was a part of the Holland estate whose development was carefully overseen by Lord and later Lady Holland. Just to its west is the railway line- now part of the London Overground network as well as carrying National Rail trains and the Underground service as far as Kensington Olympia.

The original plans for the railway in the mid 1830s had it going on a viaduct a short distance to the east close to Addison Road and new houses already built on the Holland estate, and an objection by Lord Holland moved the line to the edge of his estate and largely hidden in a cutting – as well as enabling him to see a few acres to the railway company for £5,000 and get them to largely finance a new covered sewer that ran along Holland Road enabling its development.

Kiln, Walmer Rd, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-1b-35-positive_2400
Kiln, Walmer Rd, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

Walmer Road is the oldest street in Notting Dale, an old footpath which became the main street of the area and was renamed James St in the early 19th century and Walmer Road in the 1850s. Much of the area was dug for clay and bricks and tiles were made here and the area became known as the Potteries – and also because of the pigs kept in the area, the Piggeries. It became a notorious slum area with high levels of cholera, lacking proper sanitation until a new sewer was dug around 1850. The worked out brickfield ‘Ocean’ was filled in in the 1860s, part becoming Avondale Park in 1892. The kiln, a designated Ancient Monument, is opposite the park.

Walmer Rd, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-1b-21-positive_2400
House, 106, Princedale Rd, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

Walmer Road is one of those that was cut short by the building of the Westway and it used to go north to meet Latimer Road. It now comes to an end just south of Grenfell Tower. It’s southern end is also confusing, with a junction with Princedale Road, Kenley Street, Hippodrome Place and Pottery Lane. I think Princedale Rd (formerly Prince’s Rd) along with Pottery Lane may well also have once been part of the old footpath which became Walmer Rd. The two roads run closely parallel and Pottery Lane rather looks like a mews – and its opposite side was once the stables for the racecourse.

Prince’s Road was developed piecemeal between 1841-1851. It became Princedale Road in the late 1930s to remove the confusion with several other Prince’s Roads in London. There are no listed buildings in the road which in 1978 became part of the Norland Conservation Area.

Shop, Portland Rd, Clarendon Cross, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-1b-11-positive_2400
Shop, Portland Rd, Clarendon Cross, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

This shop on the corner of Portland Road and Clarenden Cross is still there with its half pots and name ‘Fired Earth’ a reminder of the origin of the area as the ‘Potteries’, about a hundred yards from the remaining kiln in a picture above.

My introduction to this area came in the book ‘Absolute Beginners’ by Colin MacInnes published in 1959 which I read when I was a teenager and which is loosely based around the Notting Hill race riots of 1958, later filmed. It has rather gone up in the world since then.

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.

Ladbroke Estate: 1988

Tuesday, May 18th, 2021

Stanley Crescent, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-1c-33-positive_2400
Stanley Crescent, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

When James Weller Ladbroke inherited his 300 acre largely rural estate on the western edge of London in 1819 he wanted to develop the area and employed landscape architect Thomas Allason to draw up a picturesque plan based on his visits to Italy and the London example of John Nash’s Regent’s Park. It was a plan that Ladbroke never found the money to build, but influenced some of those the estate sold land to and can still be seen in the map of the area, most of which was built up in the 1850s with large villas and terraces and in parts retained the communal private gardens between the streets.

Stanley Gardens, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-1c-25-positive_2400
Stanley Gardens, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

Stanley Crescent and Stanley Gardens were developed by Charles Blake, who returned from running a highly profitable business in India and bought the area from Felix Ladbroke in 1852. He got artist and architect Thomas Allom to design the area based on Allason’s plans.

The streets were probably named after Lord Stanley who was Prime Minister in three separate short governments from 1852 on. In them he abolished slavery and reformed Parliment and created the modern Conservative party. Building began in 1853.

Stanley Crescent, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-1c-13-positive_2400
Stanley Crescent, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

Allom was architect for the houses on the estate and, according to the Survey of London his designs broke away from the late Georgian restraint of earlier streets inn the area “in favour of a grand display in the latest taste … with scenic effect uppermost in his mind. The design of houses, streets, gardens and tree planting is seen with a painter’s eye, so that each turn and every vista is composed in a picturesque manner…”

Lansdowne Rd, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-1b-65-positive_2400
Lansdowne Rd, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

Most of the houses remained in single ownership until after the First World War, when costs of upkeep became ridiculous and they were converted for multi-occupation and often allowed to deteriorate. By the time I took these pictures this process was in reverse, with houses being renovated and wealthier tenants paying considerably higher rents and some houses converted back to single family occupancy as the area became popular among the ultra-rich.

You can read a detailed account of the houses, many of which are listed on the Ladbroke Association web site.

Lansdowne Rd, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-1b-56-positive_2400
Lansdowne Rd, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

Landsdowne Road was also a part of the Ladbroke Estate, built around 10 years earlier than Stanley Crescent in the 1840s, while the estate was still owned by James Weller Ladbroke. He let plots to various developers to build, and the road lacks the overall view of the later area, with some quite varied houses. This suggests that the name ‘Landsdowne’ comes from “the much admired Montpellier and Lansdown residential estates in Cheltenham, built in the first three decades of the 19th century”. Alternatively it might have been named for another prime minister, William Petty, Earle of Shelburne, who served briefly in 1782-3, after which he was made 1st Marquess of Lansdowne. His major achievement as prime minister was securing a treaty which lead to the end of the American War of Independence.

Lansdowne Rd, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-1b-54-positive_2400
Lansdowne Rd, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

Again you can read a detailed account of the buildings on the street on the Ladbroke Association web site.

Lansdowne Rd, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-1b-52-positive_2400
Lansdowne Rd, Notting Hill, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988

When I was taking these pictures in 1988, information about this and many other areas of London was relatively hard to find. There was of course no World Wide Web and few books with any detailed description outside the City of London and some parts of Westminster. The volume of The Buildings of England by Cherry and Pevsner for this area was only published in 1991. In areas such as this, almost all I had to guide me was the A-Z and other street maps.

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.

Shepherds Bush 1988

Monday, May 17th, 2021

I’ve always found Shepherds Bush confusing. My first visits to the area were infrequent trips with my mother to visit an elderly woman relative who lived alone in a flat on the Goldhawk Rd, an exiting visit, travelling to Hammersmith on the tube and then a bus. And it was a secret mission on which I was sworn to silence; Blanche had been ostracised by all her relations except my mother. This was around 1950 and divorce was still seen by many as something shocking. I remember being rather disappointed to find this ‘scarlet woman’ was much the same colour as me.

Subway, Shepherds Bush, Roundabout, Hammersmith & Fulham, 1988 88-1d-44-positive_2400
Subway, Shepherds Bush, Roundabout, Hammersmith & Fulham, 1988

Sheep could certainly not safely graze at Shepherds Bush, and were best keeping well out of trouble on this arch above the subway under the M41 West Cross Route, built as part of Ringway 1, part of a series of motorway rings which would have destroyed London. The damage they would cause became very apparent during the building of the Westway and West Cross Route and the scheme was abandoned, with fortunately only a few sections completed. The road was demoted to the A3220 in 2000 but cyclists are still prohibited. The subway is immediately to the north of the Holland Park roundabout.

Subway, Shepherds Bush, Roundabout, Hammersmith & Fulham, 1988 88-1a-22-positive_2400
Subway, Shepherds Bush, Roundabout, Hammersmith & Fulham, 1988

Eight years later, in July 1996, I returned here together with around 6,000 others to hold a party and protest on the M41 here which blocked the road for over 8 hours. I left before it ended, climbing over a wall and ending up on Freston Road, taking the Underground to Hammersmith from Latimer Road Station.

Shepherds Bush Station, Uxbridge Rd, Shepherds Bush, Hammersmith & FUlham, 1988 88-1c-42-positive_2400
Shepherds Bush Station, Uxbridge Rd, Shepherds Bush, Hammersmith & Fulham, 1988

One of the confusing things about Shepherds Bush were the two Underground stations around 500 yards apart and on different lines, but both named Shepherds Bush. I think both were built around 1900. The Central Line station in the picture was replaced by a new station in 2008, and the Hammersmith & City station was then renamed Shepherd’s Bush Market.

Shepherds Bush Green, Shepherds Bush, Hammersmith & Fulham, 1988 88-1c-56-positive_2400
Footbridge, Shepherds Bush Green, Shepherds Bush, Hammersmith & Fulham, 1988

The footbridge leading across Shepherds Bush close to the Central Line Station to the large 1967 shopping centre on its south side added to the confusion with a giant Intercity 125 Train on its side, despite it leading to the Concorde shoppint centre. It confused me still more by disappearing completely two years after I too its picture, plagued with problems as the escalators kept breaking down and a few people found it funny to drop things from it onto passing traffic.

There are still two quite separate stations called Shepherds Bush, as a new National Rail Shepherds Bush station opened close to the Central Line station in 2008. It had been meant to open as a Silverlink station on the line from Clapham Junction to Willesden Junction in 2007, but when completed they found one platform was 18 inches less wide than safety regulations required. By the time this was put right the following year it was a part of the London Overground. Perhaps had this change been anticipated it would have been designed with a tunnel leading the the Underground station rather than having to go through two ticket barriers and across a roadway busy with buses to change trains here.

Shepherds Bush, Hammersmith & Fulham, 1988 88-1a-25-positive_2400
Providence Capital, Shepherds Bush, Hammersmith & Fulham, 1988

The station developments were for the opening of the huge Westfield shopping centre on the White City site. Although the new Overground station was built on the site of the long-disused Uxbridge Road station it required the demolition of the building I rather liked close to the Holland Park roundabout. Its design as a giant gate echoes in plain form the excessively ornate gateway built here at Shepherd Bush for the 1908 Franco-British Exhibition at White City which attracted over eight million paying customers, and I believe this was indeed a much slimmed-down version of the entrance to the exhibition halls, converted for office use.

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.

Protests – May 16th 2015

Sunday, May 16th, 2021

The purpose of protests is to bring whatever cause they support to the attention of others, particularly those who bear some responsibility for them or who could act in a different way to address the problem that led to the protest.

The current Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill seeks to make protests entirely ineffectual – allowing police to insist they will only take place where they will not be noticed and banning them from making any noise or causing any inconvenience. Given the Tory majority and the lack of concern for civil rights shown by most MPs it seems likely to come into force, but I think unlikely to actually be enforceable by police, though it will lead to clashes and arguments which will greatly reduce public trust in the force.

On May 16th 2015 I was privileged to be able to cover a protest by the grass roots trade union United Voices of the World from their meeting before the protest to the end of the event. Most of the members are low-paid migrant workers and most of the business was conducted in Spanish, with some key items translated into English for the benefit of me and the few other non-Spanish speakers.

From the meeting in Bethnal Green we travelled by bus to Liverpool St and then walked quietly as a group to meet up with others close to the Barbican. Many were carrying drums, flags and placards as they rushed past the two security guards on the door of the centre who held up a couple of them but couldn’t stop the rest, and the group made its way to the heart of the Barbican Centre, where people were already gathering for evening performances.

Rather than employ cleaners directly, the Barbican Centre uses a contractor, Mitie. The Barbican is a relatively good employer and offers its employees decent terms and conditions, but MITIE cuts costs to a minimum and has threatened the cleaners with sacking if they protest for a living wage and proper sick pay and other conditions, and the union says they employ bullying managers who disrespect staff and fail to provide proper working conditions. One disabled worker had recently been assaulted by a manager and accused of ‘terrorism’ after posting a short video clip showing his working conditions.

The protesters held a short noisy protest, using a megaphone to let the public know why they were protesting and calling for an end to the victimisation of trade unionists and for negotiations to get satisfactory conditions of work and service and a living wage. They called on the Barbican to meet its obligations to people who work there by insisting that any contracts they make include safeguards to protect the workers – rather than denying any responsibility for those who keep the centre clean.

After a few minutes, police arrived and argued with the protest organiser Petros Elia who agreed to move, and the protesters then went on a walk around the centre to make sure all those in it where aware the protest was taking place and why the union was protesting. Finally they agreed with police to leave the centre, going out the way they had come in and rejoining members who worked at the Barbican who had stayed outside to protest. The protesters then walked around some of the public streets around the Barbican before returning to protest in front of the main entrance, where I left them still protesting noisily.

Under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill all of this would have been illegal, and perhaps they might have been allowed just a small and quiet display some distance across the road from the centre, which few would have noticed.

I’d earlier photographed three other protests, two of which I’m sure would have fallen foul of the proposed new law. Newham Council had been trying to get rid of Focus E15’s weekly street stall in Stratford Broadway since it started almost two years earlier, and today’s protest celebrated the dropping of a contrived case against Jasmin Stone, one of the protest leaders. Later in the year the police and council came and ‘arrested’ the Focus E15 table – but had to release it a few days later.

While it might have been possible for the Free Shaker Aamer campaign to get permission for their protest on the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square, I think their activities and use of the megaphone would have been severely curtailed.

The small, silent ‘Stay Put’ vigil – seven people holding posters in silence by the wall in a corner of the square – is perhaps a model of what Priti Patel considers an acceptable level of protest. Though more probably she would like to go full North Korea.

Cleaners invade Barbican Centre
Silent protest over Sewol ferry disaster
Caged vigil for Shaker Aamer
Victory Rally For Jasmin Stone

Rally For Jerusalem – Save Sheikh Jarrah

Saturday, May 15th, 2021

Rally For Jerusalem - Save Sheikh Jarrah, London, UK

Like many I’ve been shocked at the accounts, pictures and videos coming from Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel and occupied Palestine, particularly Gaza, in recent days, and on Tuesday 11th May 2021 I went to Whitehall to cover the emergency protest there, the ‘Rally For Jerusalem – Save Sheikh Jarrah’ .

Rally For Jerusalem - Save Sheikh Jarrah, London, UK

The event was called by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign UK, Friends of Al Aqsa, Stop the War Coalition and Palestinian Forum in Britain, and supported by a wide range of other groups.

Rally For Jerusalem - Save Sheikh Jarrah, London, UK

Several thousand had turned up and more were arriving as I left to go home after a little over an hour, as I was getting rather tired. Police had tried at first to keep Whitehall open for traffic, but it was soon clear that there were just too many people to allow that, and first one carriageway and then both were stopped by people spilling out into the road. It also seemed very likely that later there would be some confrontations if police tried to move the protesters. But it was a peaceful protest with many families and children present and there seemed little need for any police intervention other than some increased security of a few key sites – such as the gates and armed police at Downing St. It is important to protect the public from them.

Rally For Jerusalem - Save Sheikh Jarrah, London, UK

I listened to a few speakers and photographed some of them, including a Palestinian woman who had grown up in Sheikh Jarrah, rapper Lowkey and Glyn Secker of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, but moved away to photograph in the crowd before the main speakers arrived.

Rally For Jerusalem - Save Sheikh Jarrah, London, UK

As usual a group of Neturei Karta Jews had come to support Palestinian rights against Zionism which they see as the cause of bloodshed in Israel, and there were also other Jewish groups who had come to protest against the actions of the Israeli police force and the Israeli government who have launched disproportionate attacks on Gaza, with air strikes killing over 30 people, including many women and children, and demolishing homes.

Rally For Jerusalem - Save Sheikh Jarrah, London, UK

I missed the speech by Jeremy Corbyn, in which he called for an end to the occupation of Palestine and the recognition of the Palestinian state, but he tweeted earlier in the day:

Deliberately provocative attacks on the Al-Aqsa mosque and the ongoing home invasions #SheikhJarrah have led to horrendous violence in Jerusalem. As the occupying power, the Israeli government has it in its gift to rectify the current situation and not exacerbate it. #Palestine
Rally For Jerusalem - Save Sheikh Jarrah, London, UK

Saturday 15th May is Nakba Day, and there will be a large march in London today, gathering at Marble Arch at noon and marching towards the Israeli embassy against the continuing repression and attacks on Palestinians in Jerusalem and in Gaza and elsewhere in occupied Israel. I’ve put almost 50 of my pictures from Tuesday including those above into a Flickr album, Rally For Jerusalem – Save Sheikh Jarrah.

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.

London 14 May 2016

Friday, May 14th, 2021

Class War at UVW protest against Topshop sacking and suspensions of cleaners

May 14 has always been a special day for me, and five years ago I celebrated my birthday on the streets of London photographing various protests around town before going home to a more private event. The day’s work ended for me on Oxford St, where the United Voices of the World union were protesting against Philip Green’s Topshop after members who work as cleaners were suspended and one sacked for their union activities – demanding the London Living Wage. The protest was supported by other groups including Class War, cleaners from the CAIWU and other trade unionists including Ian Hodson, General Secretary of the BWAFU and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. Although Philip Green makes millions, the cleaners were on the national minimum of £6.70 per hour, nothing like a enough to live on in London.

Police were out in force to prevent the protesters entering the Topshop store and there was a noisy protest on the pavement for some time facing the line of police before Class War led the protesters into the centre of the road to block Oxford St.

Police tried to clear the road, and began threatening arrests and the protesters decided to march west down Oxford St, briefly blocking Oxford Circus

before stopping to protest outside John Lewis, where the UVW have been campaigning for several years to get the cleaners recognised as a part of the workforce with similar respect and conditions of service to other John Lewis staff.

There were heated arguments as police manhandled some of the protesters there, but things calmed down a little and the campaigners moved on for a final protest outside the Marble Arch Topshop.

Things seemed to be coming to an end and I was late for dinner so I hurried away.

My day’s work had begun in Holloway, where Islington Hands Off Our Public Services, Islington Kill the Housing Bill and the Reclaim Justice Network were holding a rally and march to HMP Holloway, demanding that when the prison closed the site be used for much-needed social housing and community facilities, rather than for expensive private flats. Local MP and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn rode up on his bike to speak at the rally.

I moved on from the rally at the end of the march outside Holloway Prison to Oxford St, where the Revolutionary Communist Group and friends were reminding shoppers of the continuing oppression of the Palestinian people, and opposing attempts to criminalise and censor the anti-Zionist boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. The rolling picket urged shoppers to boycott stores which support and fund Israel, including Marks and Spencer, and stopped for brief speeches in front of some of them for short speeches.

A small group of militant Zionists had come along to wave Israeli flags and shout insults at them. The protesters (who included several Jews and some Palestinians) made clear that this was not an anti-Semitic protest but against some actions of the Israeli government and it took place the day before Nabka Day, the ‘day of the catastrophe’, remembering when roughly 80% of the Palestinian population were forced to leave their homes between December 1947 and January 1949, and later prevented by Israeli law from returning to their homes, or claiming their property. This year the attacks on Palestinians in Jerusalem have largely been precipitated by the continuing attempts by Jewish settlers to displace the Palestinian population of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem. Founded in 1865, the area became home to Jerusalem’s Muslim elite, but in 1948 became home to Palestinian refugees from Jerusalem.

Vegans had come to Trafalgar Square holding laptops and tablets and wearing masks to show the film ‘Earthlings’ which includes scenes of horrific cruelty to animals and calling for an end to the farming and eating of animals. Some also pointed out the contribution that becoming vegan could make towards solving the climate crisis as Vegan dietts use less water, land and grain and produce less CO2.

Also on the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square were a small group of protesters standing in front of the National Gallery who held posters calling for human rights, fair treatment and support for refugees. Some held a banner with the message ‘free movement for People Not Weapons’.

More about all these protests on My London Diary:

Topshop protest after cleaners sacked
Refugees Welcome say protesters
Vegan Earthlings masked video protest
68th Anniversary Nabka Day
Reclaim Holloway

Barnet Bans Photography

Thursday, May 13th, 2021

Barnet Council tried to stop me photographing the petition handover

I photographed several protests on Wednesday 13th May 2015 before making my way to Barnet Town Hall where campaigners from Sweets Way and West Hendon estates had come to question councillors at a Town Hall meeting and hand over petitions with over 200,000 signatures to council leader Richard Cornelius.

Local residents protest through an open window at the Town Hall

They held a loud protest outside the hall before a small group went inside to hand over the petition, and security on the door let me go in with them when I showed my press card, and I began to take pictures, along with another photographer. But the council press officer intervened, looked at my press card and firmly told me “No Photographs” and called on security to escort me and the other press photographer out of the building.

And people come over to block my view of the protest

I protested but went with the security team who led me towards the door. They couldn’t take me out as the large crowd outside was trying hard to push its way inside to attend the meeting. From the lobby I could see that some were trying to climb in through a window with council staff blocking them and I took a few pictures – through a glass partition – until another council employee moved to block my view, holding up a coat in front of my lens.

After being thrown out I photographed it from the outside

I wasn’t too upset, as in both cases I had managed to take pictures before I was stopped, but did feel that the council were acting in an unreasonable manner in trying to stop reporting of events in which there was a clear public interest about a public authority taking place in a public building. The security men who were following the order to escort me out were behaving reasonably and I think were unhappy at being asked to take me outside – which eventually they did. They and the police on duty had earlier let me inside when I showed my press card.

A councillor coming to the meeting tells me I can’t take his picture

Then I was able to photograph the crowd outside trying to make their way in. Eventually things calmed down after some of them were told they would be admitted, but I was firmly told I could not come in as I had taken photographs earlier. I was actually pleased to leave as I was getting tired and hungry after a rather long day.

Local government here in the UK has become far less transparent, with decisions being taken by small cabals under ‘cabinet’ systems which even leave many councillors unaware of what is going on. Local newspapers have largely disappeared, their place taken by ‘local editions’ of nation-wide organisations which have few if any local staff – and who seldom attend or report on council meetings, relying instead on PR handouts.

Some wore masks showing Barnet Council Leader Cllr Richard Cornelius

Local authorities have a long history of corruption, with various projects and deals which benefit the particular business interests of councillors and officers rather than simply the people they are supposed to serve. Of course what is good for the town should also be good for businesses in the town, and many councillors have been local businessmen – though of course council decisions should not give special favours to their businesses, as so often happened.

The petitions: 64,848 signatures for Sweets Way, 132,939 for West Hendon

But decisions like those to demolish the West Hendon estate involve major property developers and seem to be being taken not about the local residents whose homes are being demolished but about huge profits for developers and some financial advantage for the councils, often with significant personal inducements for those councillors and officers concerned with making the decisions. The West Hendon council estate is being demolished because it is on an attractive site overlooking the Welsh Harp reservoir and new flats will be highly marketable – council and developers see social housing there as a wasted business opportunity.

My treatment at Barnet was in itself of no real importance, but a symptom of the lack of transparency and a culture of secrecy that now pervades local government. If we are to have confidence in our councils we need a much greater openness.

Sweets Way & West Hendon at Barnet Council

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.

Fuel Poverty and Independent Living 2014

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021

Disabled activists were prominent, along with pensioners at the Fuel Poverty Action FPA) protest outside the British Gas AGM taking place at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in Westminster. And when that protest ended they made their way to the Dept of Work & Pensions protest against plans to end the Independent Living Fund.

There were over 10,000 excess deaths in Winter 2013-4 because people could not afford to heat their homes, the situation exacerbated after British Gas raised its prices in November, gas by 10.4 %, electricity by 8.4 %. Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, made £2.5 billion in 2013.

FPA call for an increased investment in renewable energy, which in the long term will result in cheaper energy and will help us tackle climate change. But this isn’t popular with the big six energy companies (and the government which is led by their lobbyists) as it enables greater local generation and control of energy, threatening their monopoly of energy production and profits.

They say “Our energy system & economy are run to make private profit at all costs – our rights to warm home and a safe climate are sidelined. We’re being ripped off and left to freeze. We say: things have to change. We need and affordable. sustainable energy system owned by us, not big business.”

At the protest they launched their ‘Energy Bill of Rights’ with the following statements:

  • We all have the right to affordable energy to meet our basic needs.
  • We all have the right to energy that does not harm us, the environment, or the climate.
  • We all have the right to energy that does not threaten health, safety, water, air, or the local environment of a community.
  • We all have the right to a fair energy pricing that does not penalise those who use less.
  • We all have the right not to be cut off from energy supply.
  • We all have the right not to be forced to have a prepayment meter.
  • We all have the right to energy that is owned by us and run in our interests.
  • We all have the right to properly insulated, well repaired housing that does not waste energy.

They were joined by an actor carrying a skull, one of a group which had entered the Centrica AGM and performed Hamlet’s iconic monologue ‘To Heat or Eat, that is the question’ and repeated this for the protesters.

For a final photo opportunity, the protesters planted 100 small windmills made of British Gas bills in the grass outside the centre.

The Independent Living Fund (ILF) helps over 18,000 disabled people who have high support needs to live an independent life in the community rather than live in residential care. The funding is ring-fenced and is highly cost-effective compared with the costs of residential care, the care package costing on average £300 per person per week.

Despite this and a Court of Appeal ruling that the minister had not specifically considered the duties imposed by the Equality Act, and that the proposals were unlawful, the DWP announced in March 2014 that the scheme will end in June 2015. Responsibility for care will pass to the local authorities, and provision will be subject to the usual constraints and cuts of local authority expenditure.

At the centre of the protest was a small cage, with the message ‘NO ILF – NO LIFE’ across its top, and below the barred window ‘Without Support We Become Prisoners In Our Own Homes – Save the Independent Living Fund’. Squeezed into this was Paula Peters of DPAC, Disabled People Against Cuts, the group who had organised the protest.

Many at the protest were going on to lobby their MPs, and one who had travelled from Newcastle had phoned Mary Glindon, the Labour MP for North Tyneside, who came down the the protest. She tried to deliver a letter from the protesters to the DWP but was at first refused entry by the DWP security, though eventually they allowed her to do so through a side entrance away from the protest.

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.