Archive for January, 2022

2015 March for Homes – Shoreditch to City Hall

Monday, January 31st, 2022

2015 March for Homes – Shoreditch to City Hall. A year before the march Against the Housing and Planning Bill featured in yesterday’s post there was another march about housing at the end of January, the March For Homes.

Outside Shoreditch Church

The event called by Defend Council Housing, South London People’s Assembly and Unite Housing Workers Branch involved two separate marches, one coming from Shoreditch in north-east London and the other from the Elephant & Castle in south London converging on London’s City Hall close to Tower Bridge for a final rally.

Max Levitas, a 100 year old communist veteran of Cable St

I couldn’t be in two places at once and chose to go to Shoreditch, partly because I knew people from several groups I had photographed at a number of housing struggles would be marching from there. The event was certainly enlivened by the arrival of activists who had marched from Bethnal Green, including supporters of Class War, Focus E15 and other groups.

Many couldn’t get into the churchyard

The Shoreditch Rally was held in a crowded area in Shoreditch churchyard at the front of St. Leonard’s, Shoreditch, the ancient parish church of Shoreditch, and I took the opportunity to go inside and have a look at the church before the rally. The list of speakers there showed the wide range of community support for fairer housing policies, including more social housing desperately needed in London and included Jasmine Stone of Focus E15, Lindsey Garratt from New Era, Paul Turp, vicar of St Leonards, Nick from Action East End, Paul Heron of the Haldane Society of Socialist Laywyers, Max Levitas, a 100 year old communist veteran of Cable St, a speaker from the ‘Fred and John Towers’ in Leytonstone and Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman.

Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman

Tower Hamlets benefits from having been formed from some of the London Metropolitan Boroughs with the best records of social housing – such as Poplar, where in the 1920s councillors went to jail to retain more money for one of London’s poorest areas. Unfortunately Rahman, the borough’s first directly elected mayor was removed from office in April 2015 after he was found personally guilty of electoral fraud in his 2014 re-election. Many of the other charges made against him in the media were dismissed by police after investigation.

It was raining slightly as over a thousand marchers set off for City Hall behind the March For Homes banner.

As the march came to the junction with Aldgate High St, Class War split off for a short protest at One Commercial St, where they had held a lengthy series of weekly ‘Poor Doors’ protests against separate entrances for residents owning or leasing at market rates and the smaller section of social housing tenants who had to enter through a door down a side alley. Class War had suspended their 20 weeks of protest for talks with a new owner of the building a month or so earlier, but these had broken down without a satisfactory resolution and the protests there restarted the following week.

As the march approached the Tower of London it was met and joined by Russell Brand riding a bicycle,

and on Tower Bridge, Class War came up to lead the march.

I rushed ahead to meet the South London march as it turned into Tooley Street for the last few yards of its march.

The rally in front of City Hall was large, cold and wet. By now the rain was making it difficult to take photographs, with drops falling on the front of my lenses as I tried to take pictures, and my lenses beginning to steam up inside. But I persisted and did the best I could, though the rain-bedraggled speakers in particular were not looking their best.

The rally was still continuing when some of the activists, including Class War and the street band Rhythms of Revolution decided they needed to do something a little more than standing in the rain listening to speeches. They moved onto Tooley Street and blocked the road. More police arrived and blocked the road even more effectively as the activists moved eastwards to protest at One Tower Bridge, a new development mainly for the over-rich next to Tower Bridge and then left for a long walk to the occupied Aylesbury Estate. But I decided it was time to go home.

More on My London Diary:
March for Homes: After the Rally
March for Homes: City Hall Rally
March for Homes: Poor Doors
March for Homes: Shoreditch to City Hall
March for Homes: Shoreditch Rally


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March Against Housing & Planning Bill

Sunday, January 30th, 2022

The March Against Housing & Planning Bill on January 30th 2016 was organised by activists from South London, particulary from the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark.

These include many who are fighting against the demolition of social housing that is taking place across London, including in Lambeth and Southwark. Council tenants and leaseholders on council estates are fighting to save their homes – and fighting against Lambeth and Southwark councils who together with private developers and estate agent advisers are bent on demolishing the estates and replacing them with new estates which are largely for private rent or sale at London’s inflated market prices.

Southwark Council in particular carried out an expenisive PR exercise to demonise the Heygate Estate at the Elephant & Castle, having failed to carry out necessary maintenance and flooded the estate with people with various social problems over a number of years. The whole disastrous history has been documented in depth on the Southwark 35% site. A prize-winning estate with 1,214 homes built in 1974 to provide social housing for around 3,000 people was deliberately run-down and demolished. It’s replacement, Elephant Park has less than 100 social housing units. Many of its new flats are simply investments for overseas owners.

Southwark sold the Heygate to developers for one third of its previous valuation, and spent more on the scheme than it received. A study by Global architect firm Gensler concluded that the £35m spent by Southwark in rehousing the estate residents was exactly the same as it would have cost to refurbish the estate up to modern standards – and would have avoided the huge carbon footprint of demolishing and rebuilding.

A well as Heygate, Southwark Council’s main target has been the Aylesbury Estate, where Tony Blair chose to launch the Labour regeneration policy which has enabled corrupt councils to destroy much of what remained of social housing. For many council officers and some councillors it has enabled them to move into highly paid jobs with developers as a reward for their services. Lambeth has also been pursuing similar policies (along with other boroughs in London) and in particular with the Central Hill estate close to Crystal Palace.

An angry heckler – their argument continued after the speech by Livingstone

The protest against the Housing & Planning Bill in 2016 was also attended by people from both Lambeth and Southwark Council, and when Southwark Council Cabinet Member for Housing Richard Livingstone stepped up to the microphone to speak at the rally before the march some trouble was inevitable. Among those loudly heckling him was another of the speakers, Simon Elmer of Architects for Social Housing.

Class War have also been active in support of social housing in South London in particular and livened up the march by dancing along the street with banners singing the ‘Lambeth Walk’. One banner carried the words of a leading US Anarchist Lucy Parsons (1853-1942), “We must devastate the avenues where the wealthy live” and another had a field of crosses with the message “We have found new homes for the rich“.

Class War supporters rushed across the street for a short impromtu protest in front of a large branch of one of the leading estate agents driving the gentrification of London and advising councils and government on housing policies, but soon rejoined the main march of around 2,000 people heading for Westminster Bridge and Downing St.

At Downing St there was another protest outside the gates. Police had formed a line across Whitehall and directed the march to the opposite side of the street opposite Downing St. The march followed them across but then many simply walked back across the street to mass in front of the gates for a rally led by Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! who have been active in supporting the Focus E15 Mothers in their campaign against the housing failures of Newham Council.

More on My London Diary at Housing and Planning Bill March


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Student Fees & Cuts And Two Views On Egypt

Saturday, January 29th, 2022

The main event I covered 11 years ago on 29th January 2011 was a march by thousands of students, teachers, parents and others through London to defend education and the public sector. The demonstration, backed by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts was one of two national marches today, with another taking place in Manchester.

Two months earlier on Nov 10th a similar national protest had ended with some protesters storming into the Conservative Party HQ on Millbank, where considerable damage was caused and a number of protesters and police injured. Protest stewards tried to stop them but were unable to do so, and there were apparently very few police around as they rushed in. It was an hour before riot police arrived and began to fight the students and force them out. Around a dozen of the protesters were injured badly enough to require hospitalisation, along with three police officers. Fortunately no one was killed when a protester threw a fire extinguisher off the roof into the crowd below. 54 people, mainly students were arrested.

I’ve often criticised the police estimates of numbers taking part in protests, typically less than a half of the actual participants, and on that occasion they had been misled by their own estimate that only 20,000 would attend the protest. On the day it was more than twice that number, and the 225 officers deployed was far too few.

There were further student protests in November and December where police came out in larger numbers and some seemed to be taking revenge for their earlier failure – including twice dragging one protester from his wheelchair and across the roadway and almost killing another who was later charged with taking part in violent disorder along with four others – and eventually all were found not guilty.

But by 29th January police tempers had cooled, and too many videos and reports of their extreme actions had been aired on social media and even in the mass media. They were taking no chances this time and there were many more police around, but they were also doing their best not to provoke confrontation.

As I commented in my report on My London Diary:

Police do seem to have learnt lessons after their mistakes last year, and I saw no real problems arising today. Despite the number of protesters in anarchist dress with facemasks, most students are not out to cause trouble. But if police start pushing people around, or kettling them, problems are going to arise.

And later:

At one point outside the Millbank tower complex, police wanted to drive a couple of vans of reinforcement through a crowd, and some people sat down on the street. Police asked them to move but met with no cooperation. Rather than try and force the issue, police just formed a line so that the two vans could bypass the seated students and drive along the pavement. It was a simple solution that avoided further friction. Later there were reports of half a dozen people arrested in minor incidents.

My London Diary

As in November, the event ended with a rally close to Tate Britain on Millbank, but by the time I arrived with the tail end of the march this had ended. I was a little surprised by this as it was a much smaller event then in November, with perhaps 5,000 marchers, but perhaps few speakers had wanted to attend. Some of the marchers planned to go on to protest in Oxford St and at the Egyptian Embassy, but for me it was a chance to walk across Vauxhall Bridge and catch a train home.

I’d been at the Egyptian embassy earlier in the day, and photographed two protests taking place there. Opposite the embassy Egyptians had gathered “”to show our solidarity & support of our fellow Egyptians in our beloved country, who decided on making Tuesday 25/01/2011 a day of protests & demonstrations in Egypt against the unfair, tyrant, oppressive & corrupt Egyptian regime that has been ruling our country for decades.”

A hundred yards away Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamist group calling for the establishment of a Muslim caliphate was also holding a protest. The Egyptians opposite the embassy had told very firmly that the embassy protest – like the Egyptian revolution – was to be entirely non-sectarian and that they were not welcome there.

More about all three protests on My London Diary:
No Fees, No Cuts! Student March
Solidarity with the Egyptian Revolution
Hizb ut-Tahrir Turned Away


University of London 3 Cosas Strike

Friday, January 28th, 2022
On the IWGB battlebus

Eight years ago on Tuesday 28th January 2014 low paid workers at the University of London were on the second day of their 3 day strike. Their union had organised a day of action around London and I had been invited to come and photograph it, having photographed a number of their previous protests.

University cleaners, maintenance and security staff were demanding that the University recognise their trade union, the IWGB (Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain) and give them better pay and conditions, comparable with other university staff they work alongside. The ‘3 Cosas’ were sick pay, paid holidays and pensions – all areas where these staff were only being given the legal minimum (and sometime not even that.)

As I wrote in 2014:

“although these workers work at the university and carry out work essential for the running of the university, the university does not employ them. Most low paid workers – cleaners, maintenance and security staff, catering works and others – at the University of London are no longer directly employed by the University, but work in the University on contracts from contractors Cofely GDF-Suez (who took over the former contractor Balfour Beatty Workplace at the end of last year.) The policy of outsourcing these workers seems largely intended to evade the responsibilities of London University towards an essential part of their workforce.”

3 Cosas’ Strike Picket and Battle Bus

It meant an early start for me, although the pickets had been outside Senate House for four hours when I arrived at 9am. Living outside London though on its edge I seldom arrive before 10am as it doubles my travel costs and I’ve never been a happy early riser. Fortunately the weather was good, a bright winter day and I’d dressed for the weather with thermal underwear, thick socks and a woolly hat, though it was still pretty chilly on top of the open-top bus.

The bus turned out to be a 1960 Routemaster which was sold by London Transport in 1986 but only converted to open-top in 2001. (I’d long thought that there was a plentiful supply of such vehicles after drivers attempted routes under low bridges, but apparently not, although a couple of bridges near where I live have had quite a few victims over the years.) Compared to modern buses, Routemasters offered a very bumpy ride with considerable vibration, and taking pictures on the upper deck required some faster than normal shutter speeds and most of the time working one-handed while clinging on with the other.

Space on bus tops is also quite small and moving around impeded both by the seats and the other riders (I think it’s a more appropriate term than passengers) and though they were very cooperative the top of the bus was pretty full. Most of the pictures I made were taken when the bus was stopped either at junctions or for short protests and my fisheye lens proved really useful.

The bus trip began at Senate House, and then began an extensive tour around central London, making a tour of various university sites where IWGB members were striking. There was a great deal of booing as we passed the Unison headquarters on Euston Road, as many of the workers had left Unison in disgust as they felt the were not supporting the demands of low-paid workers. The IWGB had intended to stop outside the offices of The Guardian newspaper, but had been held up too much by London’s traffic and drove past and on to Parliament Square.

Here we jumped off the bus and marched to Parliament where the IWGB had arranged to meet Labour MPs John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn for a short rally (and Andy Burnham sent a short message of support.)

There was a short shower before the bus came to pick us up on the Embankment, taking us to a side street near the Royal Opera House. Everyone kept quiet as we got off, then rushed around the corner and into the foyer. IWGB members there had voted for a strike the following month for union recognition and the London Living Wage.

In the foyer we were met by a man who introduced himself as the Unison Health & Safety rep and told the IWGB President and the other protesters that the ROH had already agreed that the cleaners will get the Living Wage, but had not yet told them. The Opera House recognises Unison, despite the workers almost entirely being IWGB members. It’s a ridiculous situation but one which is allowed under our poor trade union laws, though not one that makes sense for either workers or employers.

After making their views clear the IWGB members left quietly and got back onto the bus for the final visit of the day, to the Angel Islington, where Cofely GDF-Suez (who took over employing the workers at the University of London from the former contractor Balfour Beatty Workplace in December) has its offices. As at the Royal Opera House, there were plenty of police present and waiting for the protesters, but here they managed to lock the metal gates on the two entrances to Angel Square as the bus arrived, leaving the protest to take place in front of one of them in Torrens Place.

From here the bus was going on to the union offices at the Elephant and Castle and I was invited to join them for a very late mid-afternoon lunch but unfortunately I had work to do on the many pictures I had taken and had to leave them and make my way home.

IWGB at Cofely GDF-Suez
IWGB in Royal Opera House
IWGB at Parliament
‘3 Cosas’ Strike Picket and Battle Bus


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Defend Afrin, end Turkish Attacks

Thursday, January 27th, 2022

The largest protest I attended on Saturday 27th January 2018, four years ago was against the Turkish attacks on Afrin in Northern Syria, then a part of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS) or Rojava, a de facto autonomous region in northern Syria.

Turkey, a NATO member with probably the largest and best-equipped army and air force in the Middle East was taking on the small and poorly equipped Kurdish forces, and despite a valiant fight the final result was predictable, particularly once Russia, the other major player in the Syrian conflict had given them their blessing.

Turkey has continued its attacks on Northern Syria, but mainly through air strikes, but these are seldom reported in UK media although covered by specialist sources such as ‘Foreign Policy‘, part of the Slate Group.

The US gave some support in other battles fought by the Kurds against Islamic State forces, but this was always limited and mostly ended with the withdrawal of US troops which was announced by Trump in December 2018, and again in October 2019, although around 900 were still there in October 2021. Turkey has been a major source of finance for ISIS, allowing them to profit from smuggling of oil, and backing some groups which were fighting with them.

In recent days there have been short mentions on the BBC about the continuing battles being fought by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed, Kurdish-led militia against Islamic State in Northern Syria. The prisons and refugee camps where former ISIS fighters and supporters are held are largely in Kurdish territory and ISIS are still active and fighting to release people from detention to increase their strength.

As I wrote in 2018, “the constitution of Rojava treats all ethnic groups – which include Arabs, Assyrians, Syrian Turkmen and Yazidis as well as Kurds – equally and liberates women, treating them as equal to men. The constitution is based on a democratic socialism and its autonomy is seen by many as a model for a federal Syria.”

Unfortunately there seems little chance that such a model with be adopted more widely. Turkey continues to attack the Kurdish areas and does so using weapons sold to them as a NATO member by the UK, France and UAE. Turkey claims that the Kurdish forces fighting ISIS are an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK, founded in 1978 which began its armed struggle for self-rule for Kurds in Turkey 1984.

PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan has been held in a Turkish jail since 1999 and the organisation has been proscribed in many countries allied to Turkey, including the USA and UK. Several PKK flags were seized by police at the start of the march.

More at Defend Afrin, stop Turkish Attack.


This was not the only protest in London on that day, and I also photographed two other events. African Lives Matter and the International Campaign to Boycott UAE were outside the UAE Embassy in London protesting against the funding by the the United Arab Emirates United of armed Groups in Libya which imprison, torture and kill African migrants and sell them as slaves. On Regent St, the long-running protest outside the Canada Goose flagship store in Regent St was continuing asking shoppers to boycott the store because of the horrific cruelty involved in trapping dogs for fur and raising birds for down used in the company’s clothing.

Canada Goose protests continue
End UAE support for slavery in Libya


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Poplar To Limehouse 1988

Wednesday, January 26th, 2022

Poplar To Limehouse 1988 – my walk continued on the East India Dock Road.

East India Dock Rd, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-51-positive_2400
East India Dock Rd, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-51

From the posters in the window this was clearly a video rental store, a relatively new thing back in 1988 – the first Blockbuster Video store only opened in Dallas, Texas in 1985. Home video recording only began to be popular after the introduction of Betamax in 1975, followed in 1977 by VHS (along with other formats.) By 1988 VHS had become the dominant format.

But my attention was caught by the notice on the door, ‘NO DOGS OR BIKES ALLOWED’ with a very small ‘Thankyou’ and the two bikes (I think a BMX and a racer) flung down on the pavement outside unlocked by their two young owners.

Poplar Labour Party, East India Dock Rd, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-53-positive_2400
Poplar Labour Party, East India Dock Rd, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-53

Poplar Labour Party, led by George Lansbury, gained control of Poplar Borough Council in 1919. Poplar was one of the poorest areas of the country and so rateable values there were low. With councils then being responsible for supporting the unemployed and poor, council rates thus had to be set at a much higher level than in wealthy boroughs, which was clearly unfair on boroughs like Poplar who had so many more people needing support. Their rates were the highest in London, twice as high as in the wealthy borough of Kensington.

Poplar Labour had come into office to make changes, to provide greater support for the poor, to set a higher minimum wage for council workers and to pay women equally to men. When a demand from government came in 1921 to increase contributions for cross-London authorities Poplar council refused to pay, instead voting to use the money for the local poor. The authorities took them to court, and 30 councillors marched there with two thousand supporters. All of the councillors were sentenced to prison, where one of the six women, Minnie Lansbury, died, only 32.

Public outcry with large demonstrations and some riots – and other councils following Poplar’s lead – led to the councillors being released with an Act being rushed through Parliament to make the system more fair, with richer boroughs contributing more and the poorer less.

Their protest had clearly been illegal, but was clearly justified, and it led to a much-needed reform. It’s a lesson which still has relevance, particularly with such current matters as statues and the Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

Richard Green, statue, Poplar Baths, East India Dock Rd, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-54-positive_2400
Richard Green, statue, Poplar Baths, East India Dock Rd, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-54

The statue of Richard Green still stands outside Poplar Baths, a Grade II listed building from 1933, replacing an earlier baths from 1852. The baths were largely to provide washing facilities when few homes had bathrooms in this poor area of the city. As well as ‘slipper baths’ there were also vapour baths, showers and laundry facilities. The new baths in 1933 was a huge building including these facilities and two swimming pools, the larger of which could be covered over and used as a dance hall, theatre and sports hall.

The baths reopened in 1947 after the war despite considerable damage and was closed and converted into a training centre in 1988. My picture from 1988 shows a board advertising the support of the London Docklands Development Corporation in providing disabled access.

The building later became derelict but after a strong local and national campaign for its restoration work began on its redevelopment in 2014 and it reopened again as Poplar Baths Leisure Centre and Gym, along with 100 new homes, in 2016.

Richard Green (1803-63) was a local shipowner, shipbuilder and philanthropist, supporting a Sailors’ Home, schools, an orphanage and hospitals in the area, some of which had been founded by his father, George Green. His Blackwall Yard built many ships for the East India Company and for trade with Australia and China. His company, R & H Green in 1919 joined with Silley Weir as R. and H. Green and Silley Weir, with large premises at the Royal Albert dry docks and others and continued in business until sold to become a part of the government owned River Thames Shipbuilders in 1977.

George Green School, East India Dock Rd, Sturry St, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-43-positive_2400
George Green School, East India Dock Rd, Sturry St, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-43

George Green (1767-1849) was the father of Richard Green whose statue with his dog still sits outside Poplar Baths. George married the boss’s daughter and made the reputation of the Blackwall Shipbuilding Yard, building many whalers.

As well as this school dating from 1828 on the East India Dock Road the older Green also endowed schools in Chrisp Street and Bow Lane. The current huilding from 1883 is part of Tower Hamlets College. George Green School in new buildings on Manchester Road became the secondary school for the Isle of Dogs with its first comprehensive intake in 1975.

Poplar Recreation Ground Memorial, schoolchildren, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-44-positive_2400
Poplar Recreation Ground Memorial, schoolchildren, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-44

The War memorial to the children of Upper North Street School is https://britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/101065215-war-memorial-to-the-children-of-upper-north-street-school-poplar-ward Grade II* listed and includes the inscription: ‘IN MEMORY OF/ 18 CHILDREN/ WHO WERE KILLED/ BY A BOMB/ DROPPED FROM A/ GERMAN AEROPLANE/ UPON THE L.C.C./ SCHOOL UPPER/ NORTH STREET/ POPLAR ON THE/ 13TH OF JUNE 1917./ ALFRED H. WARREN O.B.E./ MAYOR/ J. BUTEUX SKEGGS,/ TOWN CLERK. ‘

There is a fuller story at the link above about the first mass German raid on London by Gotha bombers on 13 June 1917 which killed 162, including these 18 children mainly aged 5 or 6. At least 37 other children at the school were among the 432 injured by the raid.

St Mathias, church, Woodstock Terrace, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-45-positive_2400
St Mathias, church, Woodstock Terrace, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-45

St Mathias Church is also Grade II* listed, with a number of Grade II listed monuments. Poplar’s oldest church, it was built in 1766 as the Chapel of the East India Company, and became St Mathias as a parish church in 1866. You can see the company’s arms in the roof, and allegedly its columns came from wrecks of the Spanish Armada.

The exterior of the church was altered and enlarged by Teulon in 1875. The church closed in 1976 and was restored for community use by the LDDC in 1990.

Grieg House, Garford St, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-36-positive_2400
Grieg House, Garford St, Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-36

Built in 1902–3 as an officers’ annexe to the Scandinavian Sailors’ Temperance Home, founded by Swedish Free Church missionary Agnes Hedenstrom (1849–1928) who began her mission in the East End in the 1870s, opening the home here in 1888. The mission was taken over by the Salvation Army in 1930.

This was I think the last picture I took on my way to Westferry station where I returned a couple of days later for another walk – and the subject of a later post.


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


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My London Diary – 25th January 2008

Tuesday, January 25th, 2022

My London Diary – 25th January 2008

Here is my diary entry for the day, now 14 years ago, reproduced from the My London Diary web page. I’ve included the headings for the four events which in the original are separated from the text in a different column, and a few more of the pictures, but there are many more on the linked pages. The original format makes it more difficult to associate pictures with text, particularly on mobile phones.


Stop Kingsnorth – No New Coal

E.ON Office, Pall Mall, London.

Police kept demonstrators back against the wall and refused me permissio to work sensibly

Friday was a busy afternoon for demonstrations in London. I started in Pall Mall, outside the E.ON offices. This power company is a massive producer of pollutants, and its latest plans, recently approved by Medway Council, are for a new coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth.

Currently this is awaiting government approval, but since it entirely contradicts their stated environmental policies it seems almost inevitable it will be given the go-ahead. When I left soon after the start of the demo there were perhaps 50 people present, but more may have come later.

Police were being rather officious in keeping the pavement clear, impeding myself and another photographer trying to cover the event. My reminder that police were supposed to allow the press to do their job was disregarded and I was told I was not allowed to stand on the edge of the pavement in the gaps between the police, although I would clearly not have been obstructing the pavement or getting in the way of the police carrying out their duty. So much for cooperation.
more pictures

Kenyans protest against Ugandan President

Ugandan High Commission, Trafalgar Sq, London.

The demonstration was just starting as I ran by

From there I headed up to Whitehall, on my way passing the start of a demonstration by Kenyans against the Ugandan President Museveni, who has lent support to the fixing of the elections in Kenya.
more pictures

Pakistanis protest at Musharraf London Visit

Whitehall, London.

Waiting for Musharraf to arrive

In Whitehall, a number of Pakistani protesters were waiting the arrival of President Musharraf who was expected to arrive by car at the Banqueting House. I took a few pictures and then left, deciding that I was unlikely to be able to get a decent picture when he arrived given the level of security.

One of the other photographers present mentioned that he had no difficulty in photographing Musharraf in Leicester, where he was allowed to be close enough to be able to reach out and touch him. It wasn’t clear to us why photographers are thought to be so much more of a risk in London
more pictures

Feminist Fightback protest CMF Abortion lies

Christian Medical Fellowship, Southwark, London

Hanging washing on Marshalsea Street outside the CMF office

Finally I headed for the Borough, where Feminist Fightback were demonstrating outside the offices of the Christian Medical Foundation. The CMF gave misleading evidence to the Parliamentary Committee which was considering possible reforms of the abortion act last year, and a number of its members with little direct scientific knowledge also gave evidence as if they were expert witnesses. They also support (and host) the minority report, which is in part based on their unreliable evidence.

In particular the CMF is still pressing the government to reduce the current 24 week time limit on abortions. FF fixed up a washing line outside the CMF offices on which to hang cloth pieces with a number of their slogans and demands.

The CMF issued a press release stating that they welcomed the demonstrators and supported their right to protest – and also offered soft drinks and biscuits, as well as coming out to talk to the demonstrators (and film and photograph them.)

I think most of us would welcome a lowering in the number of abortions, but the way to do this is not by stricter laws on abortion. Similarly, the best approach to reducing the already small number of late abortions is to reduce some of the procedural bottlenecks that lead to delay in the system.

The practical arguments seem almost entirely on the side of the measures proposed by the feminists in simply being more effective and less hypocritical. But I also felt very much more at ease talking to the feminists than the christians, who somehow seemed to exude a self-righteousness that rather made my flesh creep. I’m with Charlotte Bronte when she wrote “self-righteousness is not religion.”

more pictures


There are more pictures on My London Diary, including a few hidden away and not covered by the text taken as I walked from Westminster to Southwark.


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BBC Ban Gaza Appeal 2009

Monday, January 24th, 2022

BBC Ban Gaza Appeal 2009

Tony Benn speaking

Listening to the controversy in the last few days over the BBC licence fee, frozen for the next two years by Nadine Dorries, who has also threatened that the fee will be abolished after the corporation’s current royal charter expires in 2927, my mind went back to January 24th 2009, when I photographed a protest which began at the BBC against their biased reporting of the Israeli attack on Gaza, and calling for an end to the blockade and of arms sales to Israel, for a free Palestine and for Israli war criminals to be brought to justice.

Tony Benn leads a delegation into the BBC to deliver a letter

Earlier that morning, for the first time ever, the BBC bosses had refused to run the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for humanitarian relief for Gaza. I’d listened with incredulity to their explanation that they had done so to uphold their reputation for impartiality – as if their were sides to be taken on delivering much needed humanitarian support.

Listening to the Radio 4 Today programme as I ate my breakfast I rose to applaud Tony Benn who in a live interview condemned the BBC for their ban and proceeded to make the DEC appeal on the programme for them. Quite clearly the Today presenters and editors were also appalled by the one-sided stance taken by their bosses, and though they felt unable to defy the management had created the opportunity for Benn to do so.

I was pleased later that morning to be able to congratulate Benn in person for his action, and to hear him speaking about the ban both before going in to deliver a letter of protest to the BBC and a few minutes later at a rally a short distance down the road. Unfortunately police prevented me from going in with him to the BBC to photograph him handing over the letter, but I was able to photograph him outside with others including Jeremy Corbyn, MP, Lindsey German and George Galloway, MP.

A huge crowd at the rally before the march

I don’t remember any report of the protest appearing on the BBC, who generally fail to report protests in London unless they involve violence, criminal damage or major celebrities, though it probably got a small mention. The Press Association also got things a little wrong, reporting the smaller press conference with its roughly 400 attendees while not noticing the 10,000 protesters a hundred yards or so down the road.

People often blame journalists for the failure to report protests and similar events, but this is seldom the case. Journalists report but editors fail to publish. This is even more true when it comes to protests in London about events in overseas countries, which some editors have been known to dismiss as “tribal matters”.

I was pleased at the rally to hear a message from the then General Secretary of my Union, the NUJ, condemning the BBC ban – along with many others. The problem with the press in the UK is not down to journalists, but to the ownership of the mass media, with 90% of the UK-wide print media is owned and controlled by just three companies, Reach plc (formerly Trinity Mirror), Murdoch’s News UK and DMG Media, publishers of the Daily Mail. Six billionaires own or have a majority shareholding in most of our national newspapers.

The BBC should be both independent and impartial, and the licence fee was seen as a way of giving it an income independent of government control. But in recent years this has seemed to be less and less effective. It operates under an agreement with the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, and is overseen by the BBC Board, with day-to-day operations being overseen by an executive committee of senior BBC managers.

Appointments to the Board (and its predecessor the BBC Trust, earlier the Board of Governors) and some BBC jobs have often been politically motivated. Its current chair is a former banker who was an adviser to Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London. We need a new model which guarantees independence from government while continuing to finance the BBC as a public service broadcaster.

The BBC in deciding on what is and what isn’t news has generally a conservative approach, not in a party sense, but in supporting the status quo and establishment views. It also generally follows the lines established by the billionaire-owned print media. It should be something that challenges their assumptions and reports fairly and independently, but while it retains an excellent reputation around the world for its World Service, confidence in its national news services has dropped considerably.

Now many feel that to get the kind of impartiality it should be delivering you have to treat it as just one source of broadcast news – along with ITV news, Sky and other questionable sources such at the Russian-owned RT and Qatari-owned Al Jazeera.

You will have to look hard to find much real investigative reporting now in the British media, either broadcast or print, though occasional examples appear. But the only place it appears with any consistency is now Private Eye, which publishes a great deal of serious reporting along with its often rather schoolboy humour.

More on the protest at the BBC and the march to Trafalgar Square on My London Diary. I didn’t stay for the final rally as I had already heard many of those speaking earlier.
Gaza: Protest March from the BBC.


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More Poplar 1988

Sunday, January 23rd, 2022

More Poplar 1988 continues my walk Limehouse, Isle of Dogs & Poplar.

Chaplain’s house, East India Company, Poplar High St, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 198888-7p-31-positive_2400
Chaplain’s house, East India Company, Poplar High St, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 198888-7p-31

The Survey of London has a long story about this house at 115 Poplar High Street, now a private residence oddly called Meridian House and built together with 26 new almshouses by the East India Company in 1801-2. They had first set up almshouses in Poplar for disabled and retired employees and their widows and orphans in1626, built partly using money seized from the estate of Hugh Greete after his death in 1619. Greete had been discovered to have been swindling the company while trading Indian diamonds and they seized his assets.

The old almshouse was demolished in 1802 replaced by the new buildings. After the Crown took direct control of India in 1858 the government took over these buildings as Poplar Marine Hospital, selling all except the chaplain’s house, burial ground and chapel to Poplar District Board of Works in 1866. They demolished the almshouses to become Poplar Recreation Ground.

The chapel became the Church of St Matthias with the Chaplains house as its vicarage – and it was further enlarged in the following years. When St Matthias was closed in 1976 the house was sold to become a private residence.

Former District Board of Works Offices, Poplar High St, Woodstock Terrace,  Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7p-32-positive_2400
Former District Board of Works Offices, Poplar High St, Woodstock Terrace, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7p-32

This Grade II listed building from 1869-70 for the Poplar District Board of Works was the result of a competition for designs which attracted 43 entries and considerable controversy when the prize went to Walter Augustus Hills (c1834–1917) and Thomas Wayland Fletcher (1833–1901) of Bow, both former assistant surveyors to the board. One architectual magazine at the time described it as ‘terribly ugly’. They were obliged to cooperate with the second place pair of Arthur and Christopher Harston over a final design. Once constructed the building was found to have various problems, not least that in the boardroom ‘reverberation was so excessive as to make the speaker almost incomprehensible’.

Various alterations were made and in 1900 the building became the town hall of the new Metropolitan Borough of Poplar, who extended it and then replaced it in 1038 by a new town hall in Bow. It continued in various uses by the council and in 1987 became the Borough of Tower Hamlets’s Directorate of Housing.

Poplar High St, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7p-34-positive_2400
Poplar High St, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7p-34

This small paved area is just off the High St between Norwood House and Holmsdale House and the block in the centre of the picture is Constant House on Harrow Lane, built by Poplar Council in 1936-7designed by the Borough Engineer and Surveyor, Rees J Williams. Both Holmsdale and Constant House were rehabilitated in 1986-7, with more work in recent years. Norwood House was added in the late 1960s and this paved area looks as if it may date from then.

Holmsdale House,  Poplar High St, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7p-36-positive_2400
Holmsdale House, Poplar High St, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7p-36

A similar style block to Constant House, also built for Poplar Council in 1937-8, designed by Rees J Williams.

The Resolute, pub, Harrow Lane, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7p-21-positive_2400
The Resolute, pub, Harrow Lane, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7p-21

Built in 1937 on the corner of Poplar High St and Harrow Lane, to replace an earlier pub the Resolute survived until closed and demolished in 2011. The pub on this site was The Harrow from 1797 (or earlier) until renamed the Resolute Tavern around 1881.

The best-known ship of this name was fitted out for arctic service at nearby Blackwall Yard in 1850 and made several trips to the Arctic searching for the lost expedition of Sir John Franklin who had been searching for a North West Passage. Finally the Resolute got stuck in ice and was abandoned in May 1854, the crew escaping across the ice to a relief fleet.

The ship was found drifting by an American whaler over a thousand miles from where she was abandoned in September 1855 in perfect order and was sailed back to New London, Connecticut, arriving on Christmas Eve. Eventually she was bought by the US Congress, refitted and sailed back to be presented to Queen Victoria and rejoining the navy. The Resolute was retired from the Navy in 1879, possibly at the time the pub was renamed. Some of her timbers were then used to create a substantial desk presented by Queen Victoria to US President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880. Moved out for some years it has been back in use by most presidents in the Oval Office since being replaced there by Jimmy Carter.

East End Snooker and Social Club, East India Dock Rd, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-01-positive_2400
East End Snooker and Social Club, East India Dock Rd, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-01

This club was at 253 East India Dock Road and has since been converted into Poplar Central Mosque.

Blackwall Tunnel Approach, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-65-positive_2400
Blackwall Tunnel Approach, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-65

The crunched rear end of D814 VRG presumably had its match on the front end of A506 DMX, but at least it appeared that there were no casualites in the collision at the north end of the Blackwall Tunnel, viewed by me from Poplar High St. A sign a little down the road says ‘Welcome to Tower Hamlets‘ though I think most of the tunnel is in the borough. At left is the unmistakable profile of Erno Goldfinger’s Balfron Tower, built in 1965-6 for the GLC and recently stolen from its residents by Poplar HARCA housing association and sold as luxury housing.

Follett St Seamen's Mission, Follett St, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-66-positive_2400
Follett St Seamen’s Mission, Follett St, Poplar, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-7q-66

Just on the edge of the elaborate interchange between the East India Dock Road and the Blackwall Tunnel Approach is this small Seamen’s Mission, built in 1898 a Christ Church House and a part of the St Frideswide’s Mission House Conservation Area, but this building only locally listed. The mission here was set up by members of Christ Church College Oxford who in 1881 decided to support missions in the East End. Now converted into six flats.

My 1988 walk in Poplar will continue in a later post.


Margareta D’Arcy, Education and Africans in Israel

Saturday, January 22nd, 2022

Margareta D’Arcy, Education and Africans in Israel
Three protests on Wednesday 22nd January 2014

Release Margaretta D’Arcy Now! Irish Embassy

Selma James calls for the release of Margaretta D’Arcy

I don’t think my path has ever crossed, at least not knowingly, with that of ‘Guantanamo Granny’ Margaretta D’Arcy, though Facebook tells me we have 163 mutual friends. My eldest brother, around her age but long since dead, may well have sat down with her on Whitehall with Bertrand Russell’s Committee of 100 back in 1961. Her life has been “decades of playwriting, acting, pageantry, pirate radio, books, peace activism, protest and imprisonment whilst bringing up her family of boys. She addresses Irish nationalism, civil liberties and women’s rights.”

Her political activities led to imprisonment in Northern India, in Armagh, in Holloway (for protests at Greenham Common against Cruise missiles.) This protest came after she was due in court after being jailed for lying down on the runway at Shannon in a peaceful direct action by members of Galway Alliance Against War against the use since 2001 of Shannon by US war planes in violation of Irish neutrality – and she served three months for refusing to sign a bond against further trespass on the airport.

The protest at the Irish Embassy called for her immediate release and was supported by organisations including the Global Women’s Strike, Troops out of Ireland, Winvisible, Women of Colour, Kilburn Stop the War, Labour Caribbean Solidarity, Payday Men’s Network, Irish Republican Prisoners Support Group.

Students march to protect Education

London University Students held a peaceful protest to show they intend to keep up their protests for democratic, public education free from exploitation and police violence and to support university cleaners on a 3-day strike for ‘3 Cosas’ – sick pay, holidays and pensions – and for recognition of their trade union, the IWGB.

After a rally outside the University of London Union in Malet St they marched on a tour of key sites including Senate House, the University & Colleges Employers Association in Woburn House in Tavistock Square, Holborn Police station, where they protested loudly against police violence and in particular at the execution by police of Mark Duggan and ending with another short rally outside the Royal Courts of Justice.

At the Tavistock Square offices, a few of those in a black block at the front of the march made a brief token entry into the lobby, accompanied by rather more photographers and videographers, and some paint was thrown at the outside of the building, hitting several protesters and photographers.

Solidarity with African Refugees in Israel

People protested close to the Israeli Embassy in response to a call by African asylum seekers for international action to support their protests against the arbitrary arrests, imprisonment and inhumane treatment of refugees inside Israel.

Tens of thousands of African asylum seekers have been protesting on the streets of Israel since the beginning of the month, holding mass rallies against their treatment by the Israeli authorities. New laws mean anyone entering the country without proper papers to be held for up to a year without trial, and for those who are already in the country to be held in infinite detention, at a detention facility in the Negev desert which like many other Israeli prisons is run by the private security company G4S.

Although there are around 50,000 African refugees in Israel, only a few hundred have had their applications processed. Most live illegally on the streets, taking whatever work is available in the ‘black economy’, with constant exploitation and threat of arrest. A recent strike by those working as cleaners, cooks, dishwashers and other low paid workers had brought many restaurants, hotels and businesses to a standstill.

Police tried to move the protesters to the opposite side of the busy main road, still further from the embassy which is in a private street, but they refused to move. Eventually police gave up and brought some cones from across the road to allow others to pass the growing protest in safety.

More on all these on My London Diary:

Solidarity with African Refugees in Israel
Students march to protect Education
Release Margaretta D’Arcy Now!


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