Archive for October, 2021

Swanscombe Peninsula 2021

Saturday, October 16th, 2021

Pilgrims Rd (DS31)

A couple of days ago I walked around the Swanscombe peninsula together with two photographer friends and took some more pictures of the area.

Footpath (DS12)

I first went to Swanscombe back in 1985 as a part of my project on lower Thameside and in particular the area close to the river between Dartford and Cliffe. The area between the main road and the Thames had been one of a chalk hill leading to marshes, and the chalk had largely been quarried years ago after the invention of Portland Cement, with major factories producing it in Stone, Swanscombe and Northfleet.

By 1985, only the Northfleet factory was still in production, with just a few largely ruined buildings of the Swanscombe factory still standing. The ancient pathway of Pilgrims Road, by then just a footpath, ran down from the main road to the marsh on a narrow section of chalk which remained., and the floor of the former quarry to the east of this was occupied by various industrial sites.

Then you could wander fairly freely across the marsh where there were still the clear traces of its its former industrial use, with relics from the overhead cable and conveyor belt which took materials from the jetty to the works, and various heaps of waste materials. There are still a few sections of the railway lines that lead to the jetty, but much more of the land is now either fenced off or has recent notices prohibiting access.

There are several public footpaths through the area, and we took a route along most of them, although a part of one near the jetty appears to have been blocked and needed a slight detour. A new route going east beside the jetty and then alongside the river to the saltings had been approved as a part of the England Coast Path “from Autumn 2021” and we walked along this section of it, although I’m not sure if it is as yet officially open.

Although we took care not to go past any of the notices marking areas a private, we did find at one point as we walked past a notice that it claimed the track we had just been walking on was private. But by then it was too late, although of course we were doing no harm by walking along this unfenced path. One of the public footpaths (DS12) has a short section that is now totally overgrown, and we had to push our way through a few yards of rather boggy reeds to keep within its fenced route. We ended out walk at Greenhithe, which had two pubs but virtually no beer or food and caught the train to Darford for a meal.

Since 2021 the area has been under threat of a planned development as London Resort, 535 acres of a “world class, sustainable, next generation entertainment resort on the bank of the River Thames” and a kind of London equivalent to Disneyland, with a theme park, hotels with 3,500 beds, jetties on both the north and south bank of the river and a new road connection from the A2.

Although this would provide new jobs, there has been considerable opposition to the scheme, particularly as it would threaten the huge diversity – the area is home to many plant species and bees, butterflies, beetles, cuckoos and marsh lizards, more than any other brownfield site in the UK, and is one of only two places where the critically dendangered Distinguished jumping spider (Attulus distinguendus) is found. Following a request by the Save Swanscombe Marshes campaign the area was declared a site of special scientific intrest (SSSI) by Natural England who describled it as “one of the richest known sites in England for invertebrates”.

Many new housing estates have been developed in the surrounding areas since 1985 and others are likely to be built on various quarry areas in the region. It would be a great shame to lose this important area of green riverside space to the proposed development. Leisure doesn’t need theme parks.

More pictures on Facebook at Swanscombe October 2021.

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Architecture is always political

Friday, October 15th, 2021

Simon Elmer of Architects for Social Housing (ASH) holds up a poster with the quote ‘Architecture Is Always Political’ from Richard Rogers, Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects at a protest on the pavement outside the RIBA on Portland Place on Thursday 15th Oct 2015.

The protest was against the nomination of NEO Bankside, a luxury development beside Tate Modern in London which breaks all planning requirements for social housing and sets a dangerous precedent for social cleansing for the prestigious Stirling Prize. Rogers was responsible for the design by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners of “the 217 apartments and penthouses in four Pavilions … with unparalleled views towards The City and St Paul’s Cathedral”. Or, as some might see it, degrading many views from the CIty and St Pauls. Some residents in the new development have taken and lost a case seeking to have the Tate Modern extension’s viewing platform closed as it overlooks their flats – and have now appealed to the Supreme Court, where a hearing is expected in December 2021. I hope it rejects their case. The flat dwellers could readily install blinds or curtains to protect their privacy.

The protesters stated on the reverse of the flyer that “this development is a class war against the poor and on the reverse explained why. NEO Bankside contains 217 homes with a market price ranging from £1.25 million to £19.75 million when 345,000 Londoners, 4% of the city’s population, are on council waiting lists for homes.”

NEO Bankside reduced the percentage of its affordable housing required uder Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act from 40% to a paltry 27.5%, by getting the property developers Native Land to undervalue the estimate of sales to just over half of the actual sale value.They then paid Southwark Council £11 million to build its reduced affordable housing quota off-site on land sold to them by the council for a pittance, demolishing a council-run children’s home and day-care nursery in the process.

ASH pointed out that rather than 217 luxury flats mainly for non-resident tax exiles and foreign investors, the cost of NEO Bankside could have built 2,260 Peabody flats at the cost per flat of another of the Stirling nominations. At a time when 42,000 families were evicted from rented accomodation last year and 88,000 London children will be homeless this winter, such buildings are clearly socially unacceptable.

Having made the flyer, at the protest they folded them into paper aeroplanes and made them fly, although the police threatened them with fines for littering (but they picked them all up after flying them) and then attempted to call paper aeroplanes offensive weapons and that flying them could constitute and assault – which was laughed out of court on the pavement as it would surely have also been had any case been taken.

The protest then carried out its own award ceremony, ‘The O J Simpson 2015 Prize for getting away with murder’, The winner was NEO Bankside, but no one from the architects came to claim it. Although most of those going into RIBA for the official ceremony (tickets at over £200 a head including VAT and booking fee) walked past trying to ignore the protest, there were some architects who stopped to share their reservations about NEO Bankside with the protesters, and it seems that RIBA had clearly been embarrassed by the revelations about NEO Bankside and were misled over some aspects of the scheme. The prize instead went to Burntwood School, an impressive revitalisation of a 1950s LCC comprehensive girls’ school in Wandsworth by architects Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM).

More pictures at NEO Bankside Stirling Prize nomination.

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Four Years Ago

Thursday, October 14th, 2021

Four years ago, on October 14th 2017, I found myself in the unusual position of looking for a Michelin starred restaurant in Mayfair, definitely something well outside of my normal social and financial territory. But I wasn’t looking for somewhere to eat, but to photograph a protest outside calling on the restaurant’s owner and his head chef not to break the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel by participating in Brand Israel culinary event ‘Round Tables’ in Tel Aviv in November 2017.

The protesters say that events like these are part of an Israeli government’s Public Relations efforts to distract from its policies of occupation and apartheid by bringing international prestige to Israel’s culinary scene and that his event is sponsored by Dan Hotels who have a branch built on stolen Palestinian land in occupied East Jerusalem.

This was a peaceful protest, with Palestinian flags, banners about Israeli apartheid and ethnic cleaning and supporting the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel (BDS) and calling for justice for Palestinians. Those protesting included both Palestinians and Jews. A small group of counter-protesters also came, holding an Israeli flag, one of whom came to tell me that everything it stated on the protesters banners were lies. I told him that I had friends in Palestine and know how they were treated both by the Israeli government and by Jewish settlers who came and destroyed their olive trees while Israeli forces stood and watched taking no action against them.

I left to join Class War and London 4th Wave Feminists who were protesting again outside the tacky tourist trap in Cable St which glorifies the exploits of ‘Jack the Ripper‘ and his brutal series of 19th century murders and exhibiting materials relating to the death of working class women who were his victims.

The so-called ‘museum’ only gained planning permission by claiming it would celebrate the history of women in the East End and not their horrific slaughter, and although Tower Hamlets council were unable to withdraw the consent they were now failing to enforce decisions about inappropriate signage and unuathorised metal shutters. Class War came with plastic inflatable hammers to symbolically attacked these.

Police tried hard to get the protesters to move away from the shop with no success, and escorted a few customers past the protesters inside. There were few during the hour or so of the protest, and at least one group went away when they heard what the protesters had to say, while another group who had been inside came out and told them that they thought the “museum” was very disappointing in the way it treated the murders.

I left as the Ripper protest was coming to an end to go to the Zimbabwe Embassy, where every Saturday afternoon the Zimbabwe democracy and human rights vigil takes place. Today was a special day as the first vigil was held on 12th October 2002 and they were celebrating 15 years (780 vigils) having vowed to continue until the human rights abuses of the Mugabe regime are ended and there free and fair elections in the country.

Among those present were several who had been at that first vigil in 2002 including human rights activist Peter Tatchell who had been badly beaten when he attempted a citizen’s arrest on Mugabe in Brussels in 2001, and his is one of the hands holding the knife to cut the cake.

Zimbabwe vigil celebrates 15 years
Class War return to Ripper “Museum”
Little Social don’t break the cultural boycott

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October 13th 2001-2015

Wednesday, October 13th, 2021

Thinking about events I had photographed on October 13th I found rather a lot over the years – so here are links to some of them from 2001-2015.

There are just a few black and white pictures from the October 2001 Stop The War March in London. Back in 2001 I was still working on film, and although I had taken pictures in both black and white and colour I only had a black and white scanner.

By 2003 I was working with a digital camera, a Nikon D100, and on the 13th October I joined another thousand or so people from around the country to say ‘No to GMO’. Most of the work being done on genetic modification was aimed at increasing the profits of companies and at locking farmers into using patented seeds which had to be purchased from them and which required expensive chemical inputs and would penalise or even lead to prosecutions of those who continued with traditional methods, particularly organic farmers, and severely reduce bio-diversity. The protesters were largely concerned about the possible risks of genetic modifications that were not being subjected to thorough long-term testing. The government seemed simply to be preparing to give way to commercial pressures.

The protesters went first to the National Farmers Union, then to Downing Street (or rather outside the gates to Downing Street) then on past the Houses of Parliament to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in Smith Square. The digital pictures I was making then seem rather dark and muted and processing software then was still rather poor.

It was 2007 before I photographed anything at all relevant on 13 October again, and this time I was on a walk about The Romance of Bethnal Green, a book by Cathy Ross, which had included a number of my pictures from the 1980s.

In 2008 came ‘Climate Rush – Deeds Not Words’:

Exactly 100 years ago, more than 40 women were arrested in the ‘Suffragete Rush’ as they attempted to enter The Houses of Parliament. To mark this centenary, women concerned with the lack of political action to tackle climate change organised and led a rally in Parliament Square, calling for “men and women alike” to stand together and support three key demands:

  No airport expansion.
  No new coal-fired power stations.
  The creation of policy in line with the most recent climate science and research.

Those attending were asked to wear white, and many dressed in ways that reflected the styles of a century ago, and wore red sashes with the words ‘Reform Climate Policy’, ‘No New Coal’ ‘Climate Code Red’ and ‘No Airport Expansion’, with campaigners against a second runway at Stansted having their own ‘Suffrajets’ design. We were also offered fairy buns with ‘Deeds Not Words’ and ‘Climate Bill Now’

It was a protest that brought together some fairly diverse groups, including the Women’s Institute and the Green Party as well as Climate Rush, who, led by Tamsin Omond tried to storm their way in to the Houses of Parliament like their Suffragette predecessors, but were stopped by police. She was later arrested, not for this action but for breach of her bail conditions from the ‘Plane Stupid’ roof-top protest at the Houses of Parliament 8 months earlier.

On 13th October 2012, Zombies invaded London in a charity event, to “raise the dead and some dough in aid of St. Mungo’s“, a charity which reaches out to rough sleepers and helps them off the streets.

I went on from there to the steps of St Pauls, where on the first anniversary of their attempt to occupy the Stock Exchange, Occupy London joined a worldwide day of protest, #GlobalNoise, by the Occupy movement, to target the “political and financial elites who are held responsible for destroying our communities and the planet, resonating the ongoing wave of anti-austerity protests in Europe and around the world. At the same time #GlobalNoise is a symbol of hope and unity, building on a wide variety of struggles for global justice and solidarity, assuring that together we will create another world.

From a rally at St Paul’s they went on to sit down at a few places around the City, before crossing London Bridge heading for an undisclosed location to occupy for the weekend. Some wanted to occupy the ‘Scoop’ next to City Hall, but others felt it wasn’t suitable. A group went on to block Tower Bridge, but then returned to join others at Scoop.

In 2015 the Zionist Federation organised a protest outside the Palestinian Authority UK Mission against the stabbings of Jews in Israel. Jewish and other groups supporting Palestinian resistance to occupation and Israeli terror came along to protest against all violence against both Jews and Palestinians in Israel and for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

I left while the two protests were continuing to shout at each other to join the candlelit vigil at Parliament by Citizens UK calling for 1000 Syrian refugees to be resettled in the UK before Christmas and 10,000 a year for the next 5 years. Six children froze to death in the camps last year and many in the UK have offered homes and support.

Around Lots Road

Tuesday, October 12th, 2021

For various reasons the pictures in my albums online are not always in the order that they are taken, but it often makes more sense to write about them in the same order as I walked around taking them – which I can normally see from the contact sheets I made at the time. Usually too these contact sheets identify at least the rough locations of the images, though I often have to resort to maps and sometimes Google Streetview to find the precise spot. Chelsea hasn’t changed radically since I took these pictures but in some other areas this can be impossible. How I wish we had GPS on cameras back in 1986 – and I’m surprised so few cameras incorporate it now.

Westfield Park, Tetcott Rd, Lots Rd Power Station, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-5j-16-positive_2400
Westfield Park, Tetcott Rd, Lots Rd Power Station, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-5j-16

Most people know Lots Road because of the power station of the same name which was built to power the District Railway (now the District Line.) Completed in 1905, it enabled the line, most of which in central London is underground, to convert from steam to electric traction, which must have made it very much more pleasant to use.

Lots Rd, Chelsea,  Kensington & Chelsea, 1988  88-5k-62-positive_2400
Lots Rd, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-5k-62

The power station, which has Chelsea Creek on one side and Lots Road on the other finally closed in 2002 and the area on both sides of the creek was developed as Chelsea Waterfront. The development only began in 2013, delayed both by having to get planning permission from both Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham and then by the financial crash and was finally due to be completed in 2021. The power station should by now be “193 highest quality luxury loft-style apartments together with high-class restaurants, bar, cafes, boutique shops and a health & fitness club.”

Lots Rd, Chelsea,  Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-5k-63-positive_2400
Lots Rd, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-5k-63

As the pictures show, I wandered a little around the area before returning east along Cremorne Road and Cheyne Walk to Battersea Bridge where I took a bus back to Clapham Junction.

Tadema Rd, Chelsea,  Kensington & Chelsea, 1988  88-5k-64-positive_2400
Tadema Rd, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-5k-64

Tadema Road runs north from Lots Road and I doubt if I walked far up it. It’s hard now to see where this Cafe could have been.

Cremorne Rd, Chelsea,  Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-5k-66-positive_2400
Cremorne Rd, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-5k-66

I had wandered perhaps up Tadema Road to Cremorne Road some way west from its junction with Lots Road to get to Cornwall Mansions at left of this picture, which is looking east past the junction with Edith Grove with a small part of the World’s End Estate towering in the right half of the picture.

Ornamental gate, Cremorne Gardens, Chelsea,  Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-5k-52-positive_2400
Ornamental gate, Cremorne Gardens, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-5k-52

I walked back east on Cremorne Road to the junction with Lots Road and back down on to the riverside Cremorne Gardens. A house was built here around 1750 and later became home to the 1st Viscount Cremorne, an Irish peer from County Monaghan who gave it his name – which came from the Irish for ‘Mountains of Morne’. Charles Random De Berenger, Baron De Beaufain, (actually a fraud called Charles Random) bought the house and grounds here in 1831, turning into a sports club and adding some popular attractions including balloon ascents. The business failed in 1843 and was reopened in 1845 by James Ellis as the Cremorne Pleasure Gardens, with entertainment including concerts, fireworks, balloon ascents and galas. It closed in 1875, losing its licence with accusations that it was a “nursery of every kind of vice”. Much of the gardens were then built over then and later in the 20th century by the 1960s Cremorne Estate. A small riverside garden was re-established and opened in 1981, and the gate which had originally been at the King’s Road end of the Cremorne gardens was re-erected here, having spent the interim at Watney’s Brewery.

Chelsea Wharf, River Thames, Chelsea,  Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-5k-53-positive_2400
Chelsea Wharf, River Thames, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-5k-53

I think this view was taken looking upriver from one of the two landing stages at Cremorne Gardens.

Houseboats, River Thames, Chelsea Embankment, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988  88-5k-55-positive_2400
Houseboats, River Thames, Chelsea Embankment, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-5k-55

I think this view is from Old Ferry Wharf, which is actually on Cheyne Walk. The bridge is Battersea Bridge.

Houseboats, River Thames, Chelsea Embankment, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988  88-5k-42-positive_2400
Houseboats, River Thames, Chelsea Embankment, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-5k-42-positive_2400

Another view from a little further east.

Cheyne Walk, Chelsea,  Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-5k-56-positive_2400
Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-5k-56-positive_2400

These houses at left are on the corner with Blantyre St. The blue plaque at No 120 marks where Sylvia Pankhurst (1882-160) lived as an impoverished art student from 1906-09.

Whistler's House, Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-5k-31-positive_2400
Whistler’s House, Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-5k-31

James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s house at 98 Cheyne Walk. Some of his best-known pictures show the Thames at Cremorne Gardens. The house next door to the right, hardly visible from the road, was the home of both Sir Marc Isambard Brunel and his son  Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Click on any image to see a larger version in the album 1988 London Photos, from where you can browse the whole album.

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11 October 2008

Monday, October 11th, 2021

It was the start of the final 100 days of the Bush adminstration and the ‘Hands off Iraqi Oil’ coalition whose members included Corporate Watch, Iraq Occupation Focus, Jubilee Iraq, PLATFORM, Voices UK, and War on Want and was supported by the Stop the War Coalition and others had come to Shell’s UK headquarters at Waterloo to protest against plans by Britain and the USA for Iraq to hand over most of the country’s oil reserves to foreign companies, particularly Shell and BP.

Iraq had nationalised its oil by 1972, and it provided 95% of its government income. Many had seen the invasion of Iraq by the US and UK (along with Australia and Poland) as largely driven by the desire to gain control of Iraq’s huge oil reserves and the US had engaged consultants to help it write a new oil law which it got the Iraqi cabinet to approive in 2007 which would give foreign oil companies – including Shell and BP, long-term contracts within a safe legal framework. But large-scale popular opposition meant the Iraqi parliament failed to approve the new law. But in June 2008, the Iraqi Oil Ministry went ahead with short-term no-bid contracts to the major foreign oil companies – including Exxon Mobil, BP, Shell, Total and Chevron and later these and other contracts were made more favourable to the oil companies.

After the protest at Shell’s offices the protesters marched to protest outside the BP HQ in St James’s Square and then to the US Embassy, and I left to cover the London Freedom not fear 2008 event outside New Scotland Yard. Similar protests were taking place in over 20 countries to demonstrate against excessive surveillance by governments and businesses, organised by a broad movement of campaigners and organizations.

The London event highlighted the restrictions of the right to demonstrate under the Labour government’s The Serious Organized Crime and Police Act 2005, (SOCPA),, the intimidatory use of photography by police Forward Intelligence squads (FIT), the proposed introduction of ID cards, the increasing centralisation of personal data held by government, including the DNA database held by police, the incredible growth in surveillance cameras, ‘terrorist’ legislation and other measures which have affected our individual freedom and human rights.

For something completely different I walked a quarter of a mile down Victoria Street to Westminster Cathedral where people were assembling for the Rosary Crusade of Reparation, one of the larger walks of public witness by Catholics in London.

This tradition began in Austria in 1947 with the roasary campaign begun by a priest praying for his country to be freed from the communist occupiers. The first annual parade with the statue of Our Lady of Fatima took place in 1948 in Vienna on the feast of the Name of Mary, Sept 12, which had been established by Pope Innocent XI in 1683 when Turkish invaders surrounding Vienna were defeated by Christian armies who had prayed to the Blessed Virgin.

As the procession to a service at Brompton Oratory began I walked back up Victoria St to Parliament Square, where a number of other small protests were in evidence. All over the centre of London there were people giving out leaflets about the growing problems faced by Tamils in Sri Lanka, where they allege a program of ethnic cleansing is being carried out by the government. International media are banned from the Tamil areas of the country and NGOs have been ordered out of some areas, so there are few reports of the war. Worse was to come and in 2009 in the final stages of the war conservative estimates are that 70,000 civilians were killed in the the Mullivaikkal massacre.

Others in the square were protesting against the UK’s scandalous treatment of asylum seekers and calling for the asylum detention centres to be closed down.

Brian Haw was still there, and I wrote:

Facing Parliament, Brian Haw‘s peace protest continues – he has been there for almost 2700 days – over 7 years – and it will soon be his 60th birthday. Brian says that now the police seem to have largely abandoned attempts to get rid of him legally there have been a number of odd attacks against him and others in the square – which the police have ignored. I took some time talking to a man who smelt of alcohol, was talking nonsense and acting unpredictably – and who then went and started to insult Brian. One of the other demonstrators stood between him and Brian who was filming him. I put down my bag as I took photographs in case I needed to step in and help, but fortunately he eventually moved away.

There were others protesting in Parliament Square, including one man who asked me to take his picture. He told me his name was Danny and that he had been there on hunger strike for two weeks, protesting over his failure to get his case investigated. He claimed to have been abused by police and social services following an incident in which as a seven year old child in Llanelli he was implicated in the death of a baby brother. I was unable to find any more information about his case.

Finally I saw a group of people walking past holding leafelts with the the word CHANGE on them and rushed after them to find they were Obama supporters hoping to persuade Americans they met to register and vote in the election. It was time for me to go home.

Parliament Square
Rosary Crusade of Reparation
Freedom not Fear 2008
Bush & Cheney’s Iraq Oil Grab

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A Busy 10th October – 2014

Sunday, October 10th, 2021

Solidarity for Care UK Strikers

NSSN, TUSC and Southwark Unison protested at the Care UK offices in Southwark during the nation-wide day of solidarity with Doncaster Care UK workers who had been on strike for 81 days after huge cuts in pay and services by a private equity company taking over a part of the NHS, part of the continuing largely hidden privatisation of our NHS.

This protest was one of many around the country outside offices of Care UK and Bridgepoint, the private equity firm that owns Care UK, as well as at shops including branches of Fat Face and Pret a Manger also owned by Bridgepoint. As I wrote:

Their strike is not just about their own cuts in wages, but a stand against the principles involved and the whole idea of a values-based health service. The workers at Care UK are no longer able to proudly address the needs of those with learning disorders in their own community, but are simply required to meet minimum needs at the lowest possible cost – and the greatest profit to Bridgepoint and the company to which they will be sold on once the private equity company has slimmed services and pay to the bone.

Solidarity for Care UK Strikers

Free Ghoncheh Ghavami – SOAS action

Protesters at outside SOAS called for the release of former SOAS Law student Ghoncheh Ghavami, held in prison for 104 days and on hunger strike for 10 days after being detained in Iran with other women after she went to watch a volleyball match. Among those who spoke at the protest was Ghavami’s brother.

According to Wikipedia, “Ghavami was released on bail on 23 November 2014. She was sentenced to a one-year jail term and a two-year travel ban.”

Free Ghoncheh Ghavami – SOAS action

City Panoramas

I had a little time to spare between events and took a short walk in the City, including along one of the remaining areas of ‘highwalk’ at the southwest of the Barbican site, part of the post-war plan to segregate pedestrians from traffic.

The Museum of London had decorated the wall at left with characters related to an exhibition about Sherlock Holmes.

This large building site was on what used to be St Alphage Highwalk. The ambitious post-war plans to separate pedestrians from traffic in the City were never really practical on a large scale and large sections such as this have been demolished, although there are still some highwalks including throughout the large Barbican estate.

City Panoramas

Palestine protest at Hewlett Packard

The Palestinian Prisoners Campaign continued their campaign against Hewlett-Packard, which boasts of ‘a massive presence’ in Israel and are the IT backbone for the Israeli war machine with a picket outside their London offices in Wood St in the City.

Palestine protest at Hewlett Packard

Solidarity with the Umbrella Revolution

The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts organised a protest at the Chinese Embassy in solidarity with the ‘umbrella revolution’ of the students and workers of Hong Kong in their fight for democracy. Many of the protesters carried umbrellas and others had small yellow paper umbrellas as well as their posters and placards.

Solidarity with the Umbrella Revolution

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Datacolor SpyderPRINT

Saturday, October 9th, 2021

In an earlier job I used to often review anything concerned with photography, including hardware, books and exhibitions, but its now a while since I’ve done so, but I was pleased to be sent a Datacolor SpyderPRINT for review. It’s part of a whole range of Datacolor equipment for use in studios with cameras, computers and printers to provide professional image output. The Spyderprint enables users to produce specific profiles for each combination of printer, ink set and printing paper to provide prints which accurately match the on-screen image.

Years ago I used to do a lot of printing, locking myself in the darkroom for hours at a time. Printing black and white I enjoyed, but with colour, even after I’d installed a processing line it became something of a chore. Making quick proof prints was still reasonably fast, but to get good exhibition prints could mean a lifetime of test prints and fiddling.

Once inkjets became available I soon moved to them at least for the routine printing, and after I got a high quality pigment printer the results could – on the right paper – almost match the C-types I had been making in the darkroom – and were more archival. But getting a great exhibition print was still a matter of test prints and time. Fortunately you can put a sheet of A4 through a printer many times and make prints of small sections on different parts of the page, so it didn’t use too much paper, just time and time and time.

Printing from a computer – whether black and white or colour – differs radically from printing in the darkroom. Good darkroom printing is a performance, a ballet performed with hands and fingers, cut out cards on wires and precise timing to control the light reaching the paper – and with multigrade paper usually involving two or more exposures through different filter packs to control contrast in various areas. Some printers caressed areas of the print in the developer with their fingers to warm areas of the print and increase local agitation, or used chemicals such as ‘ferri’ to bleach highlights. Some used ‘flashing’, not the criminal offence but a short exposure to white light to lower contrast in some or all areas of the print.

Printing from a computer is quite different. All the manipulation takes place on the computer using software such as Photoshop. This enables much greater precision and makes it possible to reverse the mistakes you make without loss, giving unprecedented control. Good printing is still a skilled process – and at its basis is still knowing what you want to achieve, and what is possible from a specific negative or digital file. But the actual physical printing is simply a process of transferring the image you see on the screen accurately onto paper.

The initial step is to make sure you have a good monitor and proper working conditions and to ensure that the monitor displays images accurately and to the normal standards of colour temperature and gamma. A colour temperature of 6500K is standard for normal computer use and for sRGB files, while gamma is normally either 1.8 or 2.2. Windows 10 and MacOS both include display calibration tools and there are various web based tools that give a more precise result, including the free Calibrize 2.0 software. (See more at How to Calibrate Your Monitor.) For an even more accurate calibration you can buy hardware tools such as those from Datacolor or X-Rite.

Of course not all monitors are created equal and most are not capable of displaying the full colour range or sRGB or AdobeRGB files. Older monitors in particular may have a problem, but may still be good enough for all practical purposes.

Years ago when I bought a relatively expensive pigment inkjet printer I invested in expensive hardware and software, made my own printer profiles, had also had printer profiles made for me. Things almost worked, but for those exhibition prints I still had to tweak things at little – though with rather fewer test prints.

Eventually that pigment printer came to an end of its life (and so earlier had the calibration hardware). I pulled an cheap inkjet out of my loft, old but unused, bought for a project that never materialised and put it to work. The prints aren’t bad, but often a bit darker than they should be, and I thought it would be nice to get a profile that did a better job.

Datacolor SpyderPRINT

I installed this on my Windows 7 computer which has this cheap Epson inkjet attached, slotted the installation CD into a drive, then followed the installation instructions, selecting English (US) as the language. After agreeing to the usual set of licences and installation choices installion continued smoothly.

My next step, following the Quick Start Guide, was to plug the supplied Datacolor 1005 Spectrocolorimeter into one of the spare USB ports on the rear of my computer, and then to start the Sypderprint software from the desktop icon. For some reason it didn’t work the first time I tired, but removing it and replacing worked and it then asked me to put in the 16 bit serial from the CD envelope. I did so, putting in my personal details as requested, and tried to activate the software online. On-line activation failed, but the alternative manual process going to the Datacolor web site provided the new serial number needed to run the software. When I did it told me a rather newer version of the software was available, which I immediately downloaded and installed.

Next step was the page setup. I thought I’d just change to landscape and accept the default margins, but that gave me a warning that the margins were too large. I put in a smaller value, 6mm, for all four and continued. Next I was invited to learn about colour management before profiling my printer and took a quick look at what seems to be a clear exposition before returning to start printer profiling.

First I entered a printer name, paper name and ink name and driver media setting. The Media Setting Check help page gave me information about the settings for the print driver and invited me to print out small samples to see which would be optional, printing out up to 4 on the same A4 sheet to compare.

Next came printing the targets, pages with small blocks of different shades and tones.
There are a choice of nine targets in two groups taking from 1 to 9 sheets of A4 paper. I went for the Help button to read more and as a first attempt I chose the single page Classic ‘High Quality Target’.

At this point I thought ‘How will I know if the calibration will have improved things’ and stopped to print out a copy of a Datacolor test target, labelling it ‘Before’, and then went on to print the target page. By now it had taken me a couple of hours work – though next time it would have only been a few minutes – and I was ready for a rest and a drink while the print was drying for at least 30 minutes before the next step.

I taped the target print to a flat surface and put the supplied plastic guide on it, again following the fairly lengthy help. It required some practice to move the colorimeter along the guide smoothly and at the correct speed – and there is some good advice and a practice tutorial in the help. Even so I made rather a mess of it the first time I tried. By the second try I was getting better, having learnt how to recognise when I hadn’t scanned a row properly and using the arrow key to repeat any of the 15 rows where I thought I hadn’t done the job properly – the software sometimes accepts a badly scanned row. Perhaps because my computer is now a little old and slow, the audio signals which help greatly in getting the right scan speed as you push the colorimeter across sometimes lagged a little.

It was only after I’d printed the target that I came across the advice that on Windows systems it is sometimes best to print the target at 110% and it required very careful alignment of the guide on my one I had printed at 100%.

I would have liked the colorimeter to engage a little more on the guide and run more smoothly, it sometimes seemed to slip a little, perhaps because I was pushing down too hard. Some rows I had to measure 3 or 4 times to get acceptable readings. I’m sure this would become easier with practice, but calibrating printers and papers etc isn’t something you do every day.

I think too that the packaging could have been better designed with storage of the equipment in mind – somehow I couldn’t quite get everything back into the box nicely. This is equipment that most of the time will be left on a shelf, and only got out when you change printer or paper or inks, and it would be nice to have a better storage box.

Finally came the acid test. Did the new profile actually produce a better print? The software now provides an option for testing it with a Datacolor test print, similar but not identical to the one I had printed earlier. And I was impressed as the print was significantly improved, and a good match to the on-screen original. Not a perfect match, but very close and very acceptable. So good that I didn’t feel I needed to do more tests with targets with more patches to get any closer. I’ve not included before and after images becuase the differences are fairly small and unlikely to be too clear in web images – but you can take my word for it. The difference was particularly noticeable in the black and white images included on the test image,

Despite minor quibbles this is hardware and software I can recommend, and in the UK it currently sells for a penny under £300. If you are a professional photographer or someone who does a lot of printing who wants to make good quality prints or proofs of their own work it would be money well spent.

Printing photographs well is never cheap, and with my old pigment printer I would get through several hundred pounds of ink a year even doing relatively little printing. Good quality photographic printing paper now costs over £2 for an A3 sheet, and anything that will both reduce waste and make better prints is work considering. When you consider the total costs of printing the cost of the SpyderPrint doesn’t seem excessive.

There are other ways to get printer profiles and paper manufacturers such as Hahnemühle or Canson provide a range of generic ICC profiles, though these may not include any for your printer model or particular inks you use. These generic profiles if available are better than nothing but your printer is not going to be exactly the same as another of the same model, and for best results you need a specific profile, like that I made with the SpyderPrint. Some paper sellers provide a free service to make specific profiles from a target print you send them, while others offer a paid remote profiling service, with the best costing around £95 a profile. Printers and inks do age, and it’s probably a good idea to profile your monitor each month and your printer perhaps each year – or when you change to new inks, so having your own profiler seems a good idea.

System Requirements:

▪ USB Port
▪ Windows 7 32/64, Windows 8.0, 8.1 32/64, Windows 10 32/64
▪ Mac OS X 10.7, 10.8, 10.9, 10.10
▪ Monitor Resolution 1280×768 or greater, 16-bit video card (24 recommended),
1 GB of available RAM, 500MB of available hard disk space
▪ Internet connection for software download

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October 8th 2006

Friday, October 8th, 2021

Back in October 2006, October 8th saw the celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Cable St. The battle took place on Sunday 4th October 1936, but the celebrations now take place on the nearest Sunday – which was the 8th. You can see my pictures of the 85th anniversary this year on Facebook.

Some of those taking part dressed in clothes of the 1930s and others carried the letters
though it wasn’t easy to photograph the whole message with them all facing the right way.

Several who took part in the event had been there and played a part in the events in 1936, including Beattie Orwell and Max Levitas (in the group below next to Dan Jones, one of the organisers of the event.)

There were many reminders too that many who fought the fascists on the streets of London (though most of the actual fighting on that day was with the police) went on to join the International Brigades to fight the fascists in the Spanish Civil War, with banners and a flamenco dancer – and there was more music too, including by a Bangladeshi group and a klezmer band.

More on My London Diary Cable St 70th Anniversary

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October 7th 2017

Thursday, October 7th, 2021

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On 7th October 2017 I started the day at a silent vigil for Elephants and Rhinos in Parliament Square before going on the the main event, the Football Lads Alliance and Veterans Against Terrorism rally and march. They were protesting against the recent terror attacks in the UK and Europe, remembering the victims and calling on government to take decisive action against the extremist threat, including locking up all terrorist suspects and deporting those of foreign origin.

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I had some slight hopes that the FLA would turn out not just to be another extreme right organisation like the EDL and the organisers had emphasised that they were opposed to all extremism and racism, but the speeches at the rally in Park Lane and the response from the crowd soon made their position clear, with demands for many thousands of British Muslims to be locked up as extremists. And as I wrote “there was a huge outcry when the name of Diane Abbott was mentioned, with a loud shout from behind me that she should be raped. It was hard to avoid the impression that it was a meeting to stir up Islamophobia, and there seemed to be a total lack of sympathy with refugees fleeing their countries to seek asylum here.”

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Although most of the supporters were happy to be photographed with their wreaths there were a few times when I was greeted with abuse and threats and moved quickly away from some groups.

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More people joined the march as it moved up Picadilly and by the time it reached Trafalgar Square what had been billed as a silent march had become very noisy. There it was joined by a couple of hundred Gurkhas, many wearing medals, who marched at the front for a short distance before being overtaken by some of the organisers and fans.

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On Whitehall a group from Stand Up to Racism had gathered to stand as the march went past, handing out a flier ‘Some questions for the leaders of the FLA‘, which asked them to take steps to ensure their movement was not taken over by racists. The called on the marchers to stand together with the slogan ‘No to racism & Islamophobia, Football for All’.

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Many of the marchers took exception to this, shouting insults and threats, with some taking the leaflets and tearing them up, though there were some who seemed to take an interest and read it. Police formed a line to protect those handing out leaflets – making both handing the leaflets and taking photographs difficult, but preventing us being assaulted – and eventually forced the marchers who had stopped in a block against Stand Up to Racism to move away. Relatively few of the marchers seemed to make it to the final rally and wreath-laying on Westminster Bridge, with pubs in the area getting crowded and others hanging around in groups in Parliament Square.

Stand Up To Racism and the FLA
Football Lads Alliance March
Football Lads Alliance Rally
Silent Vigil for Elephants and Rhinos

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