Archive for November, 2021

Ten Years Ago – 30 Nov 2011

Tuesday, November 30th, 2021

Occupy protesters outrun police down Haymarket

Ten years ago today on Wednesday 30th November the TUC called a one day general strike over the government plans to cut public service pensions and their failure to enter any meaningful discussion with the trade unions on them.

The Southern & Eastern Region of the TUC, SERTUC, organised a march and rally in London, and at least 20,000 people came for a peaceful march through the capital. At the head of the march was TUC Deputy General Secretary Frances O’Grady, along with leaders of several of the other unions and professional associations taking part in today’s strike by public sector workers.

Frances O’Grady, Dep Gen Sec of the TUC and NASUWT president John Rimmer and a French trade unionist

Along with many strikers, including many taking strike action and marching for the first time there were also others who came to join them, including students and groups including UK Uncut and activist groups such as the Education Activist Network and other student groups, and a number of people wearing ‘Anonymous’ Guy Fawkes ‘V for Vendetta’ masks.

Some of these people began walking ahead of the official march and police stretched a line of officers across Aldwych stopping both them and the march behind them, but eventually they let the march continue. Although the march was going to Parliament along the Embankment, police had closed off Whitehall and created more traffic chaos than the large march.

UK Uncut had come to support the march and were handing out cups of tea from a yard in front of some offices on the square in what they called a ‘solidaritea!!’ action to support the strike.

Later around a hundred protesters from Occupy London rushed into the building in which mining company Xstrata has its offices in a protest against Mick Davies, its CEO, who they say “is a prime example of the greedy 1% lining their own pockets while denying workers pensions.”

They met at Picadilly Circus under the eyes of around a hundred police watching and photographing them from the steps around Eros, and after around half and hour in intermittent rain a small group rushed across the road to stand outside a branch of Boots with a banner reading ‘Precarious Workers Brigade’, but made no attempt to enter the store, which then quickly put down its metal shutters.

Protesters rush into Panto House

But this was just a diversion, and the rest of the group rushed down Haymarket behind a long banner reading ‘All Power to the 99%’ and then turned abruptly down Panton St and rushed into Panton House. The police had got rather left behind and were unable to stop them, and I followed in after some of the protesters, but got very out of breath rushing up the stairs.

A crowd of protesters make it hard to get up the stairs

I hadn’t picked up completely on what was happening, and failed to get up to the roof where a group of around 20 was continuing the protest against Mick Davies, CEO of mining Company Xstrata and the highest paid CEO in the UK. Police forced me and other protesters still on the stairs to go down and leave the building.

I was disappointed not to get onto the roof with other photographers, but rather pleased that, since it was impossible to take more pictures I could now go home. Those on the roof were kept there by police for rather a long time and those who had hung around on the street outside were also kettled.

See more on My London Diary:

Occupy London Expose Corporate Greed
TUC Nov 30 March

Global South leads Climate March 2015

Monday, November 29th, 2021

Global Frontlines bloc banner ‘Still fighting CO2onialism – Your Climate Profits Kill’

Many groups came together for a march through London on 29th November 2015 about the need for action over global warming and climate change on the weekend before the Paris talks. It had been agreed that the march should be led by the Global Frontlines block, as the Global South is already being more affecte by climate change.

But on the day the organisers, representing the large groups including Avaaz, changed their mind. They decided to put the main march banner along with some of those in carnival animal costumes at the front of the march as they felt the Global Frontline was too radical, wanting system change not sops.

The organisers decided to put their main banner and a section of animal costumed carnivalistas in front to hide this more radical group, but not surprisingly the Global Frontlines group were not having this and moved back in front of the carnival. The organisers then sent in the private security guards they had employed to steward the march rather than relying as most other protests do on volunteers, with orders to hold back the more radical block and remove some of the more political placards and coffins that were being carried.

It was hardly surprising that this move was resisted, and the protesters stood their ground, and repelled the security guards. The organisers then called the police to try and enlist their help to move the bloc from the front of the march, but other than passing on the organisers’ request I understand they sensibly refused to try to illegally remove the block. The whole argument was a disgraceful attempt to de-politicise the event and to marginalise those facing the sharp end of climate change, and one which they successfully resisted.

The banner at the front of the Global Frontlines block – and thus march as a whole – read ‘STILL FIGHTING CO2ONIALISM YOUR CLIMATE PROFITS KILL‘ and there were others with anti-colonial messages including ‘Extractivism is Colonialism‘ and other anti-mining sentiments. Apparently what worried the more conservative charities most was the message ‘British Imperialism causes Climate Change‘ as well as two coffins naming companies BP and BHP Billiton.

The organisers held back the rest of the march to leave a longish gap between this group and the rest of the march led by the the ‘The People’s March for Climate & Jobs‘ banner which the organisers had tried to put in the lead, along with its white rabbit and giraffes. But when the Global Frontlines stopped and sat in the road for a protest close the offices of BP in St James Square, many of the more radical groups in the main march streamed past this banner to join the march up again.

It was an unfortunate dispute, and one that for many of us undermined the credentials of some of the more affluent protest groups, who many on the left suspect of being funded by corporations and governments to try to tame the environmental movement rather than effectively oppose climate change. It seems quite clear that without some drastic system change we are doomed to see business as usual taking us to extinction.

More about the march and many more pictures – giraffes and all – on My London Diary:
Global Frontlines lead Climate March
March for Climate Action Starts

Abbey Rd, South & West Hampstead – 1988

Sunday, November 28th, 2021
Rowley Way, South Hampstead, Camden, 1988 88-6d-54-positive_2400
Rowley Way, South Hampstead, Camden, 1988 88-6d-54

Camden council bought the Alexandra Road estate, part of the Eyre estate in North London and their architect Neave Browne designed this ziggurat style terrace in 1968, but construction only began in 1972. Browne saw the design, with vehicles restricted to the basement level as a better solution than tower blocks, which had been discredited by the Ronan point collapse and other problems. Family flats with small gardens opened onto the walkway at ground level, with smaller flats stepped back above them, so all got good light and air. The height of the 8 storey block at left gave some protection to the rest of the estate from the noise of the main West Coast railway line from Euston.

I had wrongly titled this Langtry Walk, which runs at the south of this estate a few yards away with a single lower row of flats by Browne built on similar principles. The name Langtry walk refers to royal mistress Lily Langtree, nicknamed “The Jersey Lily”, who, as local historians Dick Weindling and Marianne Colloms have shown had no connection with the area but was co-opted by a resident whose house in Alexandra Road was to be demolished for the new estate.

The estate was Grade II* listed in 1993, remarkably early in its life and the first post-Second World War council estate and one of very few public housing schemes to acheive this status.

Snowman House, Casterbridge, Abbey Rd, Camden, 1988 88-6d-55-positive_2400
Snowman House, Casterbridge, Abbey Rd, Camden, 1988 88-6d-55

This photograph was made from Abbey Road, with the back of Rowley Way at the right of the picture. Snowman House at left is on Abbey Road and Casterbridge at the corner of this and Belsize Rd and both are in Camden Council’s Abbey Estate. Both were approved in 1965 and building completed in 1967. They have 20 storeys above ground and are 59.4m tall – about 195 feet.

Snowman House, Casterbridge, Abbey Rd, Camden, 1988 88-6d-42-positive_2400

A bridge across Abbey Road connects the Casterbridge tower with another Abbey estate building, Emminster, which has a parade of shops at ground level. Both the 8 storey Emminster and another block, Hinstock, are scheduled for demolition to make way for new affordable homes to be built, and improvements to the road layout. This bridge was still there in April 2021, but will presumably soon be gone.

Finchley Rd, Camden, 1988 88-6d-35-positive_2400
Finchley Rd, Camden, 1988 88-6d-35

I walked back towards Kilburn Grange Park and then to West End Lane, and then across to FInchley Road. On my contact sheet this row of heraldic figures on the front garden wall of a house is labelled ‘Finchley Rod’, but it may have been a few yards down a side turning.

The Alcove Cafe, Finchley Rd, Camden, 1988 88-6d-36-positive_2400
The Alcove Cafe, Finchley Rd, Camden, 1988 88-6d-36

The Alcove Cafe was in a part of the former station entrance for the Finchley Road (Midland) station which first opened as Finchley Rd & St John’s Wood in 1868. Around 1905 a row of seven shops and offices named Midland Crescent was added to the entrance on the west side of FInchley Road. The station closed in 1927 but the shops remained, being demolished in the early 1990s for the building of the O2 Centre here. Various planning, finanacial and other problems held up the new building which finally opened in 1998.

Neasden Electronics, Tandoori Cottage, Finchley Rd, Camden, 1988 88-6d-21-positive_2400
Neasden Electronics, Tandoori Cottage, Finchley Rd, Camden, 1988 88-6d-21

Neasden Electronics was roughly opposite the former station, and these buildings have now been replaced by a hotel.

Broadhurst Gardens, South Hampstead, Camden, 1988 88-6d-22-positive_2400
Broadhurst Gardens, South Hampstead, Camden, 1988 88-6d-22

I walked down towards Swiss Cottage turning briefly into Broadhurst Gardens to make a picture of the rear of the St John’s Court flats on FInchley Rd, built in 1937-8, architect T P Bennett, with the lower three floors for the department store John Barnes, with five floors above housing 96 flats. In 1940 the store became part of the John Lewis Partnership. It closed as a department store in 1981 and the ground floor are now occupied by Waitrose.

Swiss Cottage, South Hampstead, Camden, 1988 88-6d-24-positive_2400
Swiss Cottage, South Hampstead, Camden, 1988 88-6d-24

I made a couple of photographs of new office buildings at Swiss Cottage.

Swiss Cottage, South Hampstead, Camden, 1988 88-6d-25-positive_2400

Swiss Cottage, South Hampstead, Camden, 1988 88-6d-25-positive_2400
Swiss Cottage, South Hampstead, Camden, 1988 88-6d-25

And then went on the photograph Ye Olde Swiss Cottage, a Grade II listed Samuel Smiths pub originally built as an alpine-style chalet and called The Swiss Tavern.

Ye Olde Swiss Cottage, Finchley Rd, Camden, 1988 88-6d-26-positive_2400
Ye Olde Swiss Cottage, Finchley Rd, Camden, 1988 88-6d-26

Various dates for the building of the chalet can be found on the web, including both 1804 and 1840. Possibly CAMRA may be more reliable given the nature of the building, which they state “was built in 1830 by T Redmond and it stood next to a toll gate; travellers would stop at the tavern while waiting to pay their fees. There had been a gabled building on the site called Lausanne Cottage said to have been used by Charles II as a hunting lodge and their may have been an earlier pub called the Swiss Tavern.”

I didn’t pop in for a pint of ‘Old Brewery Bitter’ (and probably it wasn’t then on tap) but continued my walk – and will do so in a later post.

Click on any of the pictures to go to a larger version on the album 1988 London Photos from where you can browse the whole album. Pictures there are usually in file name order which differs from the order in which they were taken.

Kilburn Again – 1988

Saturday, November 27th, 2021

St Lawrence Mansions, Priory Park Rd, Kilburn, Brent, 1998 88-6d-03-positive_2400
St Lawrence Mansions, Priory Park Rd, Kilburn, Brent, 1998 88-6d-03

I continued my walk along Kilburn High Road, photographing again some of the buildings I had photographed on my previous walk in Kilburn, and going down Priory Park Road to take a couple of pictures of St Lawrence Mansions, Victorian flats. These were used for some years by Brent Council to house homeless families, and applications by the owners to demolish them were turned down in 2012. In 2017 they were in used to house over 200 asylum seekers in desperately poor and overcrowded conditions in a hostel run by run by Clearsprings Ready Homes, a company that has been criticised in media reports about this and other asylum hostels.

Locksmiths, Willesden Lane, Kilburn, Brent, 1998 88-6d-61-positive_2400
Locksmiths, Willesden Lane, Kilburn, Brent, 1998 88-6d-61

I’ve always been interested in trade signs and liked the large keyhole of this locksmith’s,on Willesden Lane, close to its junction with Kilburn High Rd.

Willesden Lane, Kilburn High Rd, Kilburn, Brent, 1998 88-6d-62-positive_2400
Willesden Lane, Kilburn High Rd, Kilburn, Brent, 1998 88-6d-62-positive_2400

Taken just a few yards closer to Kilburn High Rd, with Kilburn State Cinema tower visible. The large sign for Brondesbury Garage above Brondesbury Mews entrance has now gone, the Gentlemen’s convenience has disappeared, the billboards have gone and Biddy Mulligans is now a betting shop, but the view is still much the same.

Kilburn State, cinema, Kilburn High Rd, Brent, 1998 88-6d-63-positive_2400
Kilburn State, cinema, Kilburn High Rd, Kilburn, Brent, 1998 88-6d-63

Grade II* listing has protected the Gaumont State Theatre, a splendid art deco building withh opened in 1937, seating over 4,000. Since 2007 it has been a church and still contains one of the largest fully functioning Wurlitzer organs in Britain.

The National Club, Kilburn High Rd, Camden, 1998 88-6d-65-positive_2400
The National Club, Kilburn High Rd, Camden, 1998 88-6d-65

The National Club is another building I’ve previously photographed and written about in my post To Kilburn High Rd 1988 – and like the Kilburn State is now also a church. The boundary between Brent and Camden runs down the Kilburn High Road, with properties on the east side being in the LB Camden.

Wallace, chemists, Infected, graffiti, Netherwood St, Kilburn, Camden, 1998 88-6d-66-positive_2400
Wallace, chemists, Infected, graffiti, Netherwood St, Kilburn, Camden, 1998 88-6d-66

Wallace Manufacturing Chemists Ltd is still active according to Companies House, but no longer in Netherwood St. Its business is described as ‘Manufacture of basic pharmaceutical products’ with a registered office in Brentwood and I think is now a part of the Alinter Group based in Abingdon. Perhaps the graffitied ‘INFECTION’ was a mildly humourous comment on the closure of the premises making medicines – Histergan cream and tablets, Ironorm drops and Malarivon and Vigranon-B syrups.

Quex Rd, Kilburn, Camden, 1988 88-6d-45-positive_2400
Quex Rd, Kilburn, Camden, 1988 88-6d-45

These pictures show the doorway at 15 Quex Rd, on the corner with Mazenod Avenue, part of a set of mansions at 9-15 Quex Rd, just a few yards from Kilburn High Rd. I’ve called it Kilburn, but certainly for estate agents this is West Hampstead.

The road was built on a large estate on both sides of West End Lane which had been inherited in 1813 by John Powell Roberts following the death of his brother who fell from a horse. His brother had previously inherited this and a large house a Quex Park in Birchington, Kent under a trust following the death of his uncle, and the terms of that trust meant changing his surname to Powell, and John Powell Roberts became John Powell Powell. When he died in 1849 the various estates held by the trust passed to his nephew, Col Henry Perry Cotton.

Quex Road, named after the Powell-Cotton family seat, was at the heart of plans for the development of the estate made in 1866, which included a Roman Catholic church and Wesleyan Methodist and Unitarian chapels on Quex Rd built in 1868-9 and the street was more or less fully developed by 1885.

Eugene de Mazenod was a leading French Catholic bishop in the nineteenth century and founder of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate who became missionaries across the world and founded the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Kilburn in 1866, though their temporary building was replaced by one designed by E W Pugin and built after his death from 1875-1899.

Quex Rd, Kilburn, Camden, 1988 88-6d-46-positive_2400
Quex Rd, Kilburn, Camden, 1988 88-6d-45

Click on any image to go to a larger version in my album 1988 London Photos from where you can browse the other images in the album.

Fuel Poverty, NHS Staffing & Zero Hours – 2013

Friday, November 26th, 2021

Eight years ago there were protests about fuel poverty and NHS staffing which seem still very much in the news today, and zero hours contracts remain a problem, though unscrupulous employers have found another unfair way to screw their workers with ‘fire and rehire’, although legal actions brought by smaller and more active unions have begun to curb some of the more obviously illegal aspects of the gig economy.

Justice Not Jumpers at NPower HQ

But fuel costs are rising fast and putting many energy companies out of business. Not that they were really energy companies, simply middlemen gambling to make a quick profit, buying energy as cheaply as they could and attracting customers to deals which have become uneconomic to honour as fuel prices have risen. The scheme to rescue their customers, passing them on to those companies still in business makes life tougher for those who have to pick them up, and with the latest company to go under – or at least into administration – means that either taxpayers or possibly electricity customers – we await the details – will have to shoulder the bill.

It’s a crisis that has its roots in the privatisation of the industry and the absurd belief in competition that has created an overpopulated market in companies taking a cut out of our bills, with others profiting from persuading people to switch suppliers. Along of course with a government failure to provide proper support for insulation of homes – as Insulate Britain have been gluing themselves to the M25 and elsewhere to highlight, as well as ending the building of onshore wind farms, failing to put investment into other renewable sources such as tidal power and instead backing climate-destroying wood burning and expensive nuclear schemes. The recent half-hearted support for heat pumps is yet another failure by government. We should have schemes that ensures that new build properties are built with either air or ground source heat pumps and high levels of insulation and provides incentives for them to have solar panels.

On Tuesday 26th November I went with fuel poverty activists to march to the offices of NPower, one of the big six energy providers to protest against the profiteering by them that leads to people having to choose between eating and keeping warm, causing unnecessary deaths.

They included people from Fuel Poverty Action, UK Uncut, the Greater London Pensioners’ Association and Disabled People Against Cuts and were protesting against the huge increase in energy costs and against the deception of the energy companies who blame price rises on ‘green taxes’. The protests, in London and at British Gas’s new Oxford HQ, as well as in Lewes and Bristol were supported by other groups including No Dash for Gas, Campaign Against Climate Change, Climate Revolution, Young Friends of the Earth, Frack Off London, Power for the People, Barnet Alliance for Public Services, Lewes Against the Cuts, SOAS Energy & Climate Change Society and Southwest Against Nuclear.

They went to the NPower offices in Threadneedle Street in the centre of the City of London because NPower is the UK’s most complained about energy company with double the customer complaints of its nearest rival EDF and higher price rises in 2013 than any of the other Big Six companies. It had then paid zero corporation tax for the past 3 years despite a 34% profit rise of £413million and in the previous winter its price hikes were estimated to have pushed 300,000 people into fuel poverty.

Fuel poverty leads to premature deaths – and the figure for these announced that day for winter 2012-3 was a shock, with an increase of almost a third on the previous year, to 31,000 people. The protesters emphasized this by carrying a coffin to the offices, with several of the wearing masks with the faces of the prime minister and chancellor, David Cameron and George Osborne, and wearing jumpers with the logos of major energy companies.

Police protected the offices of NPower while the protesters held a peaceful rally outside, where many testimonies were read from people who were having to chose between heating and eating, already cold and dreading the coming winter. In a press statement, Susan Jarrett of UK Uncut said: ‘The fact that people are dying of fuel poverty as Npower and other energy companies rake in the money and avoid tax is a scandal. This Government is not only unnecessarily cutting our services in the name of austerity but are allowing these energy companies to literally get away with murder which is why we are fighting back today.’

This winter fuel costs are higher. Global warming means our weather is far less predictable, and its possible we may have an unusually cold snap. Or we may be lucky and avoid extremes of cold. But if we do get them, then there will be more deaths.

4:1 legal minimum NHS staffing

Back in 2013, the Dept of Health was still in Richmond House on Whitehall, and nurses were there to campaign for a manadatory staffing level of one nurse for every 4 patients in the NHS. They were joined by other groups protesting against closures and privatisation in the NHS. Its probably because of protests like this and many others that the department moved to obscure offices some way down Victoria St – which at least one protest I photographed marched past without noticing and got several hundred yards down the road before they realised they had missed it. Richmond House is now set to hold Parliament while the old building undergoes extensive and very expensive modernisation.

The protest was a response to various disastrous news stories about the problems of the NHS, including the RCN (Royal College of Nursing) revealing the NHS has over 20,000 nursing vacancies and the Department of Health’s decision to downgrade (effectively close) 100 A&E departments. Protesters also urged people to sign a petition calling for the NHS to be exempted from the provisions of the EU-US trade treaty then being negotiated in secret; and post-Breixt the government has made clear they will not protect the NHS in UK-US negotiations.

Cultural Workers against Zero Hours

Finally I went to photograph PCS members from national cultural institutions in London at Tate Modern and on the Millennium Bridge protesting against zero hour contracts which give them no guaranteed weekly hours or income, while stopping them taking on other work. Employers use zero-hour contracts to cut wages, avoid holiday pay, pensions, and ensure the maximum flexibility and profit for themselves. Workers are also unable to take on other part-time work, as they are obliged to be available for work at the whim of the employer.

There have been some minor changes in the law and in 2015 employers were banned from requiring workers to get permission before accepting other work but zero hours contracts continue to be a problem for many workers. Workers on them have no way of knowing their income week to week and although in theory they have the right to refuse any work offered, this still often leads to them being offered fewer hours in future. And while in theory zero hours workers have employment rights, these are often denied – and virtually impossible for individuals to enforce. All workers – particularly those suffering from zero hours contracts – need to join an effective union.

Around Kilburn Square – 1988

Thursday, November 25th, 2021

Kilburn Square, Kilburn High Rd, Brondesbury Rd, Kilburn, Brent, 1988 88-6c-21-positive_2400
Kilburn Square, Kilburn High Rd, Brondesbury Rd, Kilburn, Brent, 1988 88-6c-21

My next visit to Kilburn came in June 1988 and I began my walk from Kilburn Park station on the Bakerloo line. I took a couple of pictures in Cambridge Ave, but nothing exciting and then walked up Kilburn High Road to Kilburn Square.

Kilburn Square, Kilburn High Rd, Brondesbury Rd, Kilburn, Brent, 1988 88-6c-22-positive_2400
Kilburn Square, Kilburn High Rd, Brondesbury Rd, Kilburn, Brent, 1988 88-6c-22

Kilburn Square was built in the 1960s for Willesden Municipal Borough Council with a 17 storey high rise with 85 flats and four low rise blocks with a shopping centre and market area in a wide pavement in front of them on Kilburn High Rd. Work began on the tower block in 1961. The estate replaced Victorian terraced houses in the square.

Kilburn Square, Kilburn High Rd, Brondesbury Rd, Kilburn, Brent, 1988 88-6c-25-positive_2400
Kilburn Square, Kilburn High Rd, Brondesbury Rd, Kilburn, Brent, 1988 88-6c-25

These pictures are from the front block of the estate, the shops fronting Kilburn High Rd. It was designed to have shops on the first floor, but these were never very successful. They could be reached by steps or a long slope. This shows the tower on the estate behind the shops.

Kilburn Square, Kilburn High Rd, Brondesbury Rd, Kilburn, Brent, 1988 88-6c-26-positive_2400
Kilburn Square, Kilburn High Rd, Brondesbury Rd, Kilburn, Brent, 1988 88-6c-26

The management of the estate behind the shops passed to a Tenant Management Organisation in 1994 following the Right to Manage Legislation. Currently Brent Council is still consulting on plans to add infill housing to the estate, and appears to be taking some of the residents views into consideration. Although it’s sad to lose green space, if infill is done sensitively its better than the comprehensive demoltion of many estates across London which always result in a loss of social housing.

Kilburn High Rd, Kilburn, Brent, 1988 88-6c-11-positive_2400
The Cock Tavern, Kilburn High Rd, Kilburn, Brent, 1988 88-6c-11

The Cock Tavern at 125 Kilburn High Road has a plaque stating it was licenced in 1486 and rebuilt in 1900 and was a Truman pub. It was later owned by Greene King and from 2009-11 was also home to a theatre on the first floor, but this had to close as the staircase was found to be unsafe. It was sold in 2016 and closed in 2019, reopening in January 2020 as The Juniper. The building is locally listed by Brent Council.

Quex Rd, Camden, 1988 88-6c-13-positive_2400
Quex Rd, Camden, 1988 88-6c-13-positive_2400

This estate office in Quex Road appeared have something of an obstacle course to enter, apparently designed to eliminate access for any disabled clients. I think there was probably a slope down behind the front gates then two sets of steps to the entrance.

The Earl Derby, Priory Park Rd, Kilburn, Brent, 1988 88-6c-15-positive_2400
The Earl Derby, Priory Park Rd, Kilburn, Brent, 1988 88-6c-15

The Earl of Derby dates from around 1869 at 155 Kilburn High Road. Having been called the Golden Egg for some years it reopened in 2013 and was described as a gastro pub under a shorter version of its original name, simply Earl Derby. It claims to be home to the cheapest pint in London, and in 2020 some beers were £2.00 a pint.

The side of the pub shown is on Priory Park Rd, and the block further down the road is Ryde House, designed by Willesden Borough Council Architect’s Department and built in 1964.

Sadly the wrought iron entrance at the left of the pub has been lost in alterations to the side of the pub. I hope it has been preserved somewhere.

Click on any image to go to a larger version in my album 1988 London Photos from where you can browse the other images in the album.

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Students Protest Fees & Cuts – 24 Nov 2010

Wednesday, November 24th, 2021

It was a Labour government under Tony Blair that first brought in fees for undergraduate and postgraduate certificate students at universities in September 1998. And it had been a Tory government under Harold Macmillan that had exempted UK resident students from tuition fees and given a right to means-tested maintenance grants back in 1962, though previously local authorities had also paid fees and grants for students from low income families. At the same time maintenance grants were replaced with repayable student loans for all but the poorest students.

When they were brought in, the full fees were £1000 a year, but those with family incomes of less than £23,000 – roughly the average salary then – paid nothing, and only those with over £35,000 paid the full fees. £1000 in 1998 is equivalent to around £1800 now allowing for inflation. The Labour government put up the fees to £3000 in 2004, and set up the Browne review of Higher Education funding in 2009, which published its recommendations after they had lost power, but most of which were implemented by the Tory-Lib Dem coalition.

Browne had argued that there should be no cap on University fees, but the government decided on a cap of £9,000 and Browne also was responsible for recommending a system of student loans, although minor changes were made by the coalition government in its implementation. The Government’s spending review had also called for the Educational Maintenance Allowances (EMA), intoduced nationally under Labour in 2004 to be scrapped. This had given allowances to 16-18 year-olds in full time education from a household with an income of less than £30,810 with the full amount of £30 a week only for those whose household income is less than £20,817. It was these changes being introduced and other cuts in education which led to the student protests in 2010.

There have been further cuts since, as well as changes to make the student loan scheme less fair – and there are further changes planned which seem to make the loans considerably less generous. I was fortunate enough to have had all my undergraduate fees and a full maintenance grant paid by my local authority. My two sons also just scraped in before the 1998 changes at the time I was a teacher and the sole wage earner for the family and I think both got more or less a full maintenance grant.

Many countries still manage to provide free higher education for their own nationals and in some cases for foreign students – including Scotland and most of Europe but also many other countries around the world, and it is a right recognised in a number of international conventions. Since the UK is the sixth richest country in the world, it seems rather surprising that our students have to pay, and pay increasingly. It’s hard not to see it as a deliberate attack by the wealthy on the poor.

One of my most published pictures (at the top of this post) from the student protest on Wednesday 24th November shows a group of schoolgirls holding hands around a vandalised police van to protect it from further damage. Police who had harassed the march from the start and stopped it briefly several times had finally stopped it with a large force of police and a line of vans across the end of Parliament St, but, as I commented “had thoughtfully left an old police van as a plaything for the protesters outside the treasury. Perhaps because the tread on its tyres was so worn it would have been a traffic offence to move it – and it looked very unlikely to pass an MOT.” Press and protesters around it were told by march stewards that “it was obviously a plant” but this “didn’t stop a few masked guys attacking it (and I was threatened with having my camera smashed for photographing them doing so)”.

Many of the students were protesting for the first time, and although some protesters pushed through the police line, few of the others followed them. It was hard to understand the police actions at times.

As I was about to leave, riot police decided to charge towards the people between the pavement barriers and the west side of Whitehall, again with what appeared to be some fairly indiscriminate batoning. I was threatened by police and forced to move away from the wall over which I had been leaning rather than be hit. They stopped their charge a few yards down the street.

I commented:

It had been a pretty confused situation, and it seemed to me that neither police nor students came out of it with much credit. The police tactics seemed designed to create public disorder by kettling and a small minority of the students rose to the bait. Although most of the students were out for a peaceful march and rally and to exercise their democratic right to protest, the police seemed to have little interest in upholding that right.

More about the protest and more pictures on My London Diary Students Protest Fees & Cuts.

A Mixed Day: 23 Nov 2019

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2021


Bon Marché, the first purpose-built department store in the UK closed in 1975

I can’t remember why I went to Brixton on Saturday morning two years ago, though there must have been some reason. My events diary has nothing relevant in it and neither the text or pictures in My London diary contain any clues as to why I should have decided to take a walk up Brixton Road. I suspect I may have had a tip-off about something which was supposed to be taking place outside Brixton Police Station which turned out to be inaccurate.

It isn’t unusual to arrive at the time and place I had been told something would happen to find I am the only person there. It’s rather better for those things with an events page on Facebook which tells you how many people have said they will be going, though these are often wildly inaccurate. After walking up and down the road I left for central London.

Carnaby Street Show

Three of my Notting Hill pictures in a Carnaby St shop window

I’m not quite clear either about my next movements, as I seem to have taken the tube to Charing Cross and looked for another event in Trafalgar Square, where again I clearly didn’t find what I was looking for and only made two pictures. I was on my way to Carnaby Street where I wanted to see how three of my pictures were being used in ‘A retrospective on the musical footprint of an iconic sneaker‘ in a window display and screens inside the shop.

Stand With Hong Kong

After a brief look at the shopfront in Carnaby Street I hurried down to Parliament Square where protesters were gathering for a march to Downing St calling on the Prime Minister to act over China’s breaches of the Sino-British Joint Declaration. They called attention to Hong Kong’s humanitarian crisis, widespread injustices and erosion of autonomy and called for the Hong Kong protesters 5 demands to be met.

Some carried yellow posters stating these demands: complete withdrawal of the Extradition Bill; a retraction of characterising the protests as riots; withdrawal of prosecutions against protesters; an independent investigation into police brutality; the implementation of Dual Universal Suffrage.

Unfortunately even if Boris Johnson could be persuaded to lift a finger it would not attract the slightest notice from the Chinese authorities.

March Against Fur 2019

A short walk took me to Leicester Square, where several hundred were gathering for the annual march against fur, a tour of the West End and stores selling fur products, calling for an end not just to using fur in clothing but against all exploitation of animals of all species, whether for meat, dairy, wool, leather or other products.

Using fur in clothing has a very long history, but it is a practice that should now be in the past. We now have so many alternatives and there is abundant evidence of barbaric cruelty in the trapping and farming of animals for their fur. Most in the fashion industry and most shops have been persuaded by various campaigns over the years to abandon fur, but too many still sell clothes with fur trims or use animal skins or down fillings. There are long-running campaigns against stores such as Canada Goose.

More pictures and details in My London Diary

March Against Fur 2019
Carnaby Street Show
Stand With Hong Kong

7 Years Ago in London

Monday, November 22nd, 2021

Seven years ago on Saturday 22 November 2014 I photographed four very different events.

Occupy Democracy at Supreme Court

Occupy Democracy activists had camped out overnight in front of the Supreme Court, watched by police who had fenced in almost all of the grassed areas in Parliament Square to prevent them being occupied. The activists were hoping to hold two days of workshops there, but things had not started when I left after taking pictures.

Justice for Shahzad & Shama

Pakistani Christians and others were protesting opposite Downing St calling for justice for the brutal murder in Pakistan of Shahzad Masih and Shahzad Masih , bonded labourers at a brick kiln, who were falsely accused of burning pages of the Quran, attacked by a Muslim mob, tortured and burnt alive.

There are around 4 million Christians in Pakistan, a little under 2% of the population and they face extreme persecution, with those who have converted from Islam at greatest danger. Christians are treated as second-class citizens, discriminated against in employment, where they largely do the lowest status jobs, and girls are at risk of abduction and rape, sometimes being forced to convert to Islam and marry their attackers. Christians are often accused of blasphemy, as in this case to settle civil disputes, with those accused being attacked or killed by Islamic extremist groups, whose criminal acts are largely ignored by the authorities.

Class War Griff Rhys Jones Mansion Tax

Class War went to the £7m Fitzroy Square home of Griff Rhys Jones who said he would leave the country if Labour levied a mansion tax, telling him to “f**k off now”, offering to pay the fare. Class War’s manifesto for the 2015 general election includes a 50% mansion tax.

No one came to answer the door when they put their leaflet through and after a few minutes making their presence felt outside, the walked around to the south side of the square to protest outside the outside the home of Guy Ritchie, another millionaire objector to a mansion tax. They put a few stickers on other places around the square, including the Magistrates Association and the gates to the private garden in the centre of the square, returned for another short protest outside Griff Rhys Jones’s house before retiring to the pub. Unfortunately I couldn’t join them as I had another event to photograph in Brixton.

Still No Justice for Ricky Bishop

Ricky Bishop, a fit young black man, died from unexplained injuries hours after being taken to Brixton Police Station on 22 Nov 2001. Family and supporters call it a modern day lynching and march annually to remember him and call for justice.

The marchers met up at Windrush Square and then marched slowly through the centre of Brixton to the police station, where a tree outside has been adopted as a remembrance tree for Ricky Bishop and the others killed there by police.

At the tree there were speeches, including a detailed and forceful presentation by Marcia Rigg of the battle she and others faced to get any proper investigation into the death there of her brother Sean Rigg in August 2008.

These two are not the only young black men to have died at the hands of Brixton police, but so far there has been no police officer bought to justice from the crimes they committed. The only real action by the police has been to remove all of the photographs and momentos placed by some of the families from the tree in front of the police station.

More on all of these on My London Diary:

Still No Justice for Ricky Bishop
Class War Griff Rhys Jones Mansion Tax
Justice for Shahzad & Shama
Occupy Democracy at Supreme Court

West India – North Dock 1988

Sunday, November 21st, 2021

The Ledger Building,  Hertsmere Rd, West India Docks, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-52-positive_2400
The Ledger Building, Hertsmere Rd, West India Docks, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-52

The Offices of the West India Docks an Hertsmere Rd at the west corner of what was the Import Dock of the West India Docks and were Grade I listed in 1950 together with the adjoining warehouses. They were built in 1803 , architect George Gwilt and converted to hold the dock ledgers by John Rennie, who added the portico in 1827.

In 2000 it was converted into a Wetherspoon pub, the Ledger Office and can be visited during normal opening hours and displays some information about the history of the docks which can be read while drinking a cheap pint.

Warehouses, Hertsmere Rd, West India Docks, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-53-positive_2400
Warehouses, Hertsmere Rd, West India Docks, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-53

These listed warehouses are now converted for various uses including the Museum of London Docklands which has both permanent and temporary displays on the history of the River Thames, the growth of Port of London and the docks historical link to the Atlantic slave trade, in which this building, a sugar warehouse, played an important role. Temporary exhibitions there have included some of my pictures including in the show ‘Estuary‘ celebrating the museum’s 10th anniversary in 2013

Warehouses, Hertsmere Rd, West India Docks, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-55-positive_2400
Warehouses, Hertsmere Rd, West India Docks, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-55

The area has been opened up by the removal of the dockside sheds and is now a popular tourist venue, though it has lost most of its previous allure. But it’s still an interesting area, both for the old and the new buildings.

Crane, West India Quay, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-44-positive_2400
Crane, West India Quay, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-44

Two dockside cranes remain on the side of the dock, close to West India Quay DLR station, perhaps left there to divert attention from a rather hideous hotel building to their north.

Bridge, West India Quay, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-45-positive_2400
Bridge, West India Quay, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-45-positive_2400

This picture taken I think from more or less underneath the DLR which goes across the North (Import) Dock gives some impression of the scale of the West India Docks , which I think when constructed in 1800-1806 were I think the largest enclosed high-security docks in the world – and a model for later docks elsewhere.

This dock now looks considerably smaller, with around half of its width taken up by a strange building on top of a new Crossrail station, looking to me rather like a woodlouse. Nothing in this picture remains except the listed dock wall at bottom left (and possibly the bollard on it.)

Bridge, West India Quay, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-46-positive_2400
Bridge, West India Quay, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-46-positive_2400

I think this bridge, built from what looks suspiciously like Meccano, was the Great Wharf Road Bridge, later replaced by what was intended as a more permanent structure as the Upper Bank Street Bridge. I can find no information about it on-line, but it appears to have a central lifting section with heavy counterweights in those four towers. That more permanent bridge was removed for the construction of the Crossrail station in 2012 and a new, much shorter bridge was built in five sections in Belgium by Hollandia and welded together in situ in, opening in 2020.

Docklands Light Railway, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-32-positive_2400
Docklands Light Railway, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-6c-32

It was time to leave Docklands for home, and together with my two young assistants we got on the DLR, sitting right at the front of the train. This view from the front window as the train had just left Poplar Station and about to cross Aspen Way shows dockland cranes at left and St Anne’s Limehouse at right. Then DLR trains were single two-carriage units like the Stratford service in this picture.

This is the final part of posts here about my pictures from my walk around the docks on the Isle of Dogs in June 1988.

Click on any of the pictures to see a larger version in my album 1988 London Photos, from where you can browse the album. The pictures there are largely ordered by my negative reference numbers, which do not in detail reflect the order in which the pictures were taken used in the posts here.