Archive for September, 2022

Luxury Cars, Poverty Wages

Friday, September 30th, 2022

Luxury Cars, Poverty Wages

Five years ago on 30th September 2017 United Voices of the World, a grassroots trade union for low paid, migrant and precarious workers, protested in South Kensington against luxury car dealers H R Owen who had suspended their two cleaners without pay for asking to be paid a living wage.

Luxury Cars, Poverty Wages

The UVW has many members among London’s low paid minority ethnic communities, particularly Spanish speakers, and has led successful campaigns to get them better treatment at work and to be paid the London Living Wage.

Luxury Cars, Poverty Wages

In this and other protests they have been supported by other groups, particularly Class War and the Revolutionary Communist Group and there were a number from these and other unions at the protest.

Angelica Valencia

The Ferrari showrooms have only two cleaners, Angelica Valencia and Freddy Lopez, and they were then employed at the minimum wage by cleaning company Templewood, who the UVW also say have made unlawful deductions from their wages and are in breach of the minimum wage legislation.

Freddy Lopez, speaking in Spanish, with Claudia ready to translate

Almost a hundred supporters met outside South Kensington Station in the late afternoon and then marched to the Ferrari showroom. On their way they paused briefly to protest at H R Owen’s Lamborghini showrooms and then the entrance to their offices.

They stopped outside the showrooms on the Old Brompton Road for a long and noisy protest, with speeches, chanting, drumming and ending with dancing on the roadway.

Ian Bone of Class War waves his stick at a branch of Foxtons

Loud peaceful protests such as this attract a great deal of local attention to the disputes and shame employers into meeting the demands of low paid and badly treated workers. They are effective in persuading the owners of businesses to lean on outsourcing companies to treat their staff better.

Although outsourcing companies are only concerned with exploiting their workers for greater profits, businesses such as H R Owen are very much aware of the negative publicity from the exploitation on their premises being made public.

The success of protests like this, particularly against some of the leading companies in the City of London, by the UVW and other active grass roots unions is doubtless one of the reasons that led the government to enact the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 which gave the police powers to act against noisy protests. It remains to be seen how the police, and the Met in particular, will make use of these.

Jane Nicholl makes her opinion clear

The amount of money involved in paying decent wages to the two cleaners is clearly miniscule compared the the price of the cars being sold in the showrooms. The web site tells me that in 2022 the Ferrari range is priced between £166,296 – £263,098.

Class War had brought some ‘DO NOT ENTER CRIME SCENE’ tape and some of the supporters of the cleaners had come carrying mops which they waved at the people inside the showroom.

Victor of the UVW speaks with his usual passion

As the poster states, both of the cleaners voted for strike action in the workplace ballot, giving this a 100% vote. Most if not all the strikes by the UVW have had very high levels of support among workers. The poster also points out that H R Owen are making £400 million a year but the strikers were only paid £7.50 an hour. Paying them a living wage would have a totally insignificant impact on company profits but make a huge difference to the cleaners.

Police talked to the protesters and tried to keep traffic flowing along the road, though there was very little of it and little disruption was caused. But Class War did hold up a few cars for a minute or two with their banner.

The peaceful protest ended with music and dancing – and some more speeches. On their web site, the UVW state:

“In a David vs Goliath battle, UVW members Freddy and Angelica, friends from Ecuador, took on luxury car dealership HR Owen and beat the odds; overcoming intimidation and suspensions, they won the London Living Wage. Their victory was a testament to the power of UVW’s worker-led direct actions.”

You can see many more pictures of the successful protest at Cleaners at luxury car dealers HR Owen.

Kew, Brentford, Syon & Isleworth Walk

Thursday, September 29th, 2022

Part 2 Syon and Isleworth

Kew Bridge, Brentford, Syon & Isleworth

A public footpath, now also on the Thames Path, leads from Brentford across Syon Park to Isleworth. Its a longish stroll with parkland on one side and at times just a high wall on the other, but does pass several historic buildings, though you would need to pay the entrance fee to the gardens and great conservatory to see most of them well. The estate is still privately owned and permission is needed for any filming and photography within the park.

Entry is free to the garden centre, and we went in to look at some of the buildings inside as well as to use the toilets. They also have a cafe and restaurant but we didn’t stop. Much of the garden centre was once the Riding School.

I wasn’t feeling well as we walked though here – still perhaps suffering from the virus which I’d had a couple of weeks earlier. So I didn’t feel much like taking pictures as we walked though. But I hadn’t found much I thought worth photographing on previous walks through here, expect for the view of Zion House. This is on the flight path into Heathrow, and there is an aircraft in my picture coming in to land there.

Kew Bridge, Brentford, Syon & Isleworth

In my teens I was a Sea Scout in Isleworth, or rather a Senior Scout, and we theoretically went boating in the Thames here, though I think rather rarely. But this was also another route into Kew Gardens, with Church Ferry going across the names from by the corner of Parke Street and Church St. I also remember coming here to paddle and possibly even swim in the river, though it was pretty polluted back in the 1950s.

Kew Bridge, Brentford, Syon & Isleworth

Isleworth was also the place where I drank my first pint of beer, which I think cost 1s/5d or around 7p. Not at the London Apprentice, which we thought of as a rather snooty place for the nobs, but at a small pub further down Church Street which had few problems with serving under-age drinkers. It’s no longer there.

Kew Bridge, Brentford, Syon & Isleworth

We made it into the London Apprentice, sitting outside by the river for a drink, though still feeling ill I stuck to tonic. One of my colleagues found an excellent real ale, which I looked at longingly. It was a very pleasant place with a good atmosphere and friendly bar staff, so we stayed for another, and then thought the menu seemed fine and had a meal.

Kew Bridge, Brentford, Syon & Isleworth

Finally we made it out of the pub and continued along Church St to the Duke of Northumberland’s River, perviously known as the Isleworth Mill Stream. There were several mills which relied on the stream, including one close to here said in 1845 (by which time there were also a couple of steam engines on site) to be the largest flour mill in England, Kidd’s Mill. This section of the river was built in the late 15th century for Syon Abbey, before the Northumberland’s built their house on the abbey site, and brought water from the River Crane at Whitton to augment a small stream which ran into the Thames at Isleworth.

Kew Bridge, Brentford, Syon & Isleworth

But the River Crane couldn’t provide a sufficient and reliable supply of water, and in 1530 a new section of the river was dug from Longford to take water from the River Colne. This merges with the Crane close to Baber Bridge on the edge of Feltham, though there are then separate channels across Hounslow Heath and through Crane Park before the eastern section of the river diverges. I played around, paddled and fished in much of this as a boy.

Kew Bridge, Brentford, Syon & Isleworth

The walkway beside this small river on its last few yards into the Thames was closed, but a nearby alley took us to to the riverside opposite Isleworth Ait. At Swan Street we made a brief detour to admire the Grade II listed Old Blue School built in 1842 and now converted into expensive flats, before returning to the riverside. The tide was low and there was almost no water in places here, and we watched as a man left work at the boatyard and walked across the mud to his works van parked by the river.

Kew Bridge, Brentford, Syon & Isleworth

We continued through a small park area, once part of the grounds of the Catholic Convent Nazareth House, until the Thames Path we had been following took us out onto Richmond Road. Here we left the Path, turning right onto Richmond Road and then going down Queen’s Terrace to Kings Terrace, walking north to turn down Byfield Road.

Kew Bridge, Brentford, Syon & Isleworth

Where this turns to the left we stopped to admire the small 1885 Elizabeth Butler almshouses, almost missing behind us the finely decorated May Villas from a similar era before taking the alley to Twickenham Road. Here next to the bus stop where our walk ended was the house with its blue plaque informing us ‘VINCENT VAN GOGH the famous painter lived here in 1876.” The bus came before I had time to make a photograph. It will still be there the next time I’m in Isleworth.

Kew, Brentford, Syon & Isleworth Walk

Wednesday, September 28th, 2022

Part 1 – Kew Bridge and Brentford

My walk a few days ago in September 2022 began at Kew Bridge Station. I’d come half an hour before I was due to meet my two companions to take a short walk around one of the newer parts of the area before meeting them for a longer walk to Isleworth.

Lionel Road runs north of the railway up to meet the Great West Road. It used to be a rather run down area with railway sidings on one side and a few old commercial buildings and works to the north. The last time I’d walked down here on my way to Gunnersbury Park in 2018 the whole area had been a building site, but now is home to Brentford FC, currently doing pretty well in the Premier League.

Brentford was my local team when I was a kid, and several members of the award-winning under-11 team I played for at left back on went on to play for them at their old ground (and at Chelsea.) One of the other patrol leaders from my scout group stayed there until he retired, though I never met him after I hung up my woggle, but read his obit in the local rag.

Past there I came to the Great West Road, a 1930s dual carriageway with cycle tracks I sometimes used further west on my way home from school. In the 1980s or 90s I photographed most of the remaining Art Deco factories along it, though the bulldozers got to some first. Now it reminds me of J G Ballard’s novels, particularly ‘Crash’, set around the area we both lived in, with the elevated M4 above the older modern road.

A new Brentford of tall blocks has sprouted here, though more land remains to be built on. A little-used rail line goes through it, the Kew Curve, with Brentford’s stadium replacing the sidings and cattle pens to its west, with new building on the east in what was Brentford Market. It moved to this site in 1893 after the Brentford Local Board had bought the 2 acre site from the Rothschild estate because market trading in the area around the Express Tavern immediately south of the station which had developed informally away from Brentford’s traditional market in Market Place had become a public nuisance. The site was extended in 1905 and then covered land now part of the Chiswick Roundabout. The market moved to the edge of Southall in 1974 as the new Western International Market and the Fountains Leisure Centre was built on part of the site, with the rest staying derelict for years.

My maternal grandfather, then a market gardener in Feltham, would drive his cart with produce to Brentford Market in the early years of the last century, past the house in Hounslow where my father, then a young boy, used to see him driving past. Around twenty years later when he became engaged to my mother he found out who he was.

I met my two colleagues and we walked together down by the west side of Kew Bridge to the Thames. To our right was where the Kew Bridge Ecovillage had squatted from June 2009 until May 2010, now occupied by 164 flats, a business centre, gym and pub.

The Hollows runs west between riverside moorings and recent blocks of luxury flats, eventually returning us to Brentford High St, and a park beside the river now called Watermans Park. This was the site of Brentford Gas Works which straddled the High Street here and was a great attraction when we took the bus through it in my childhood, usually on our way to Kew Gardens. Entrance then was only an old penny, and it was a cheap outing for families in the area. My father would have his scissors in his pocket and perhaps take the odd small cutting to grow in our garden. Rather cheaper than garden centres.

But if you were lucky as the bus drove slowly down the usually congested street, one of its Intermittent Vertical Retort would open sending a wall of red hot coke to the ground, quite an amazing site as we peered from the top deck. It almost made up for the smell.

A gas works had been set up here and began production in 1821, first supplying has for lighting the turnpike to Kensington, but later serving large areas around. Later other gas works were set up in Southall and then elsewhere as demand continued to rise. in 1926 the Brentford gas company became a part of the Gas Light and Coke Co which later became British Gas plc. Brentford Gas Woks closed in 1963 and the riverside buildings were demolished in 1965 though the large gasholder remained until 1988.

All than now remains of the gas works are some of the substantial posts of the gas works jetty, where colliers once brought in coal. There has been a long battle over the rights to moorings here between boat owners and Hounslow Council with boat owners claiming that the foreshore here belongs neither to the council nor to the PLA but to the Bishop of London, and refusing to abide by various eviction notices. Most have now moved but some derelict boats remain.

Brentford Ait runs along the centre of the river here. It was bought in the late 19th century by the Crown who planted trees on it to hide the gas works from visitors to Kew Gardens on the opposite bank. A few yard upstream is Lot’s Ait, where the Thames Steam Tug and Lighterage Company Ltd set up a boatyard in 1920 – most of the Thames lighters were built there. The boatyard closed in the 1970s, but was reopened in 2012 when a new footbridge was constructed to it.

As well as the park, the Watermans Arts Centre was also built on the gasworks site. We walked between it and the river, and continued on the riverside path, past the bridge to Lots Ait and recent blocks of flats. There are new moorings around here too.

A small spit of land leads from the bottom of Ferry Lane (more new flats) to an artwork by the riverside. I’m not quite sure what to make either of Liquidity or another similarly decorated column not far away, but it could provide a useful windbreak in bad weather. This was where once a ferry ran across to Kew Gardens.

We followed the Thames Path around a small dock, on what was the site of the Thames Soap Works and then continued along the side of the River Brent which flows into the Thames here, continuing along this beside the winding river past another boatyard to Brentford High Street.

A few yards along we turned left down Dock Road to Thames Lock, past a huge mural and the other end of the boatyard, to Thames Lock, the southern end of the Grand Union Canal. Here we took the path beside the north side of the canal, leading across a bridge over the Brent to Johnson’s Island and Catherine Wheel Road.

The mural, on the side of a multi-story car park had included a giant kingfisher, and I’d joked saying this was the only kingfisher we’d see in Brentford. But as we walked across the bridge over the River Brent and stopped to take pictures, perched on the top of a post there was one, still only for a second before flying out of sight. By the time I’d raised my camera to my eye it was gone, though since I had and extreme wideangle lens it would hardly have been visible, just a few more colourful pixels.

I’d planned to walk along Brent Way and rejoin the canal towpath, but the whole of this area is now a huge building site, and instead we walk along the High Street to the canal bridge. I couldn’t bring myself to walk down to the Gauging Lock preserved there, though I’ve done so several times before, but the changes to the area, now with a marina, flats and hotel made me feel too sad; we simply stood on the bridge and looked for a while before moving on.

Part 2 will continue the walk from here to its end in Isleworth. You can see more pictures from the walk in a Facebook album.

Nanas Ask Queen To Stop Fracking

Tuesday, September 27th, 2022

One of many senseless and potentially very dangerous decisions by the new UK government has been to give the go-ahead to companies to explore sites around the UK for possible fracking. It makes no sense as it will have no short-term impact on energy supply and takes us entirely in the wrong direction so far as our stated aim towards net-zero carbon emissions. And it would almost certainly result in considerable earthquake damage.

On Tuesday 27th September 2016, Lancashire’s famous anti-fracking Nanas – the Nanas from Nanashire – came to Buckingham Palace in a protest with tiaras and tabards as well as tea and scones to present a detailed report by Anna Szolucha on ‘The Human Dimension of Shale Gas Developments, and to call on Her Majesty as the most powerful grandmother in the land to stop fracking for the sake of future generations.

Of course they were not allowed into the palace but protested on the Queen Victoria Memorial fountain opposite the front of the palace, where police made clear to them that they were not allowed to display their banners. They were accompanied there by Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley. The Nanas came to petition the Queen as they say they have exhausted all other democratic openings.

Some, including leading campaigner Tina Louise Rothery put on tiaras for the protest, and after most of the police had left some did get out their banners and display them briefly before getting down to the serious business with tea and scones.

As well as banners they had come with umbrellas and posters, which had not been proscribed by the police. Though perhaps these were too small to be read by the Queen, though being a horse-racing owner she doubtless has a very good pair of binoculars and was possibly peering out through the curtains from one of the seventy or more windows across the front of the palace.

I stayed around for an hour or two talking with the protesters and photographing. Apparently shortly after I left a man arrived and tried to serve a court order on Tina Louise Rothery who is being pursued over a huge legal bill claim against her by fracking company Cuadrilla who took a case against her for “for camping in a field, doing no damage and exercising a right to protest peacefully“.

She was the only named defendant in the case which appears to have been taken in an attempt to prevent further protests, grossly inflating the costs of a called eviction carried out when the protesters had already left. She has consistently refused to cooperate with the court over payment, saying that the costs are totally illegitimate, and if Cuadrilla persist risked being sent to prison for contempt of court.

The Nanas kept up their protest in front of the palace for around 24 hours before going back to Lancashire. Perhaps King Charles will have greater sympathy with the aims of their protest.

More pictures at Nanas call on Queen to stop Fracking.

People’s Health, Chapel Furniture, Sutherland Square & Groce Bros

Monday, September 26th, 2022

This continues my posts on my walk in Walworth on 8th January 1989. The previous post was Heygate, Shops, English Martyrs & St John the Evangelist

Municipal Offices, Borough of Southwark, Larcom St, Southwark, 1989 89-1b-34
Health Centre, Borough of Southwark, Larcom St, Southwark, 1989 89-1b-34

This building on the corner of Larcom Street and Walworth Road is now Larcom House and has a blue plaque for “Michael Faraday – 1791-1867 – Scientific genius and discoverer of electromagnetism’ put there by the London Borough of Southwark. It isn’t clear why they put it here as he was born in Newington Butts.

Built as a health centre in 1937 this Grade II listed art deco building is now office space and offers are invited for internal development behind the listed facades

Health Services Department, Metropolitan Borough of Southwark, Walworth Rd, Larcom St, Southwark, 1989 89-1b-36
Health Services Department, Metropolitan Borough of Southwark, Walworth Rd, Larcom St, Southwark, 1989 89-1b-36

This is the main frontage of the 1937 Grade II listed health centre, with statues of mother and children on the roof showing its association with family health, and the text ‘THE HEALTH OF THE PEOPLE IS THE HIGHEST LAW’. It appears to be still in use as the Walworth Clinic.

Houses Cleared, Browning St, Walworth, Southwark, 1989 89-1b-22
Houses Cleared, Browning St, Walworth, Southwark, 1989 89-1b-22

The building remained in use as a secondhand furniture business, Chapel Furniture, until it was demolished in 2016 and replaced by a new block. At 4 Downing St it was not actually a former chapel, but St Mark’s Church Hall, for St Mark’s Church in East Street, opened around 1874.

There was a much larger and well-known chapel a little further along Browning St, the York Street Chapel, an Independent or Congregational chapel built in 1790. It was renamed Browning Hall in 1895 after Robert Browning, the Victorian playwright and poet who was baptised here in 1812, and York Road was also renamed Browning St in the 1920s.

The church was very active in relief of poverty in the area and had a settlement on Walrworth Rd, opened in 1895 by Herbert Asquith. Charles Booth began a campaign here with a conference in 1898 and in 1899 Browning Hall became the headquarters of the National Committee of Organised Labour on Old Age Pensions, which eventually led to the Old Age Pensions Act of 1908. Browning Hall was demolished in 1978 when a council housing estate was built here.

King & Queen St, Walworth, Southwark, 1989  89-1b-24
King & Queen St, Walworth, Southwark, 1989 89-1b-24

Until the 1920s I think this street was simply one of many King Streets in London. Many London streets were renamed in the 1920s and 30s to try make their names unique in the city. There was at the time a Queen’s Head pub in the street, long gone.

Although my contact sheet suggests this was taken in King & Queen Street, there is nothing in the picture which allows me to confirm that. I’d walked some distance before I took my next pictures on the west of Walworth Road, and it could well have been another nearby street.

But this was certainly somewhere in Walworth and I think demonstrates the run-down nature of the area at that time. The rubbish on the grass here may have been in part because this was close to the busy East St Market which I avoided on this walk, though I did photograph there in later years.

Sutherland Square, Walworth, Southwark, 1979 89-1b-26
Sutherland Square, Walworth, Southwark, 1979 89-1b-26

The oldest houses in Sutherland Square date from the early 19th century and most of the houses and railings are Grade II listed. The square was built on part of the former Royal Surrey pleasure gardens, but not long after it was completed the London, Chatham and Dover Railway line was opened on a viaduct across the east end of the square. The gardens continued as a the Surrey Zoological Gardens and Surrey Music Hall until sold for housing development in 1877, and a small area of them became a public park, Pasley Park, in the 1980s.

Southwark designated the Sutherland Square Conservation Area in 1982.

Sutherland Square, Walworth, Southwark, 1989 89-1b-14
Sutherland Square, Walworth, Southwark, 1989 89-1b-14

The notice on the wall states ‘COMMUNITY GARDEN. PLEASE DO NOT STEAL PLANTS AND FLOWERS. THEY ARE PROVIDED FOR OUR ENJOYMENT by NO 12 the Sq’ . The notice has gone, but there is now a rather more healthy looking area of planting here on the corner just to the west of the railway viaduct.

Macleod St, Walworth Rd, Walworth, Southwark, 1989 89-1c-61
Macleod St, Walworth Rd, Walworth, Southwark, 1989 89-1c-61

Macleod Street leads from Sutherland Square east to Walworth Rd, and this building on the corner is now a gym, with the ground floor on this corner being an Iceland store.

The building has a long frontage on Walworth Road, which now houses several shops. It was built around 1960 as a Co-operative store. Previously the site had been occupied by Grose Bros department store. This had started as a drapery business in the area by John Wellington Grose who was born in Padstow, Cornwall around 1840. He had two daughters and four sons, some at least of whom continued the business.

To be continued…

The first post on this walk was Elephant, Faraday, Spurgeon & Walworth Road.
Comments and corrections to these posts are alway welcome.

Veils, Ahava, Justice, Rentokill & A Walk

Sunday, September 25th, 2022

Veils, Ahava, Justice, Rentokill & A Walk - Fish on Regent's Canal
A fish on the Regent’s Canal

On Saturday 25th September 2010 I made a few pictures while travelling around London to photograph some rather varied protests and then took a walk mainly beside the Regent’s Canal in Shoreditch and Haggerston before going home.

Veils, Ahava, Justice, Rentokill & A Walk

My day in London began with a bus ride from Clapham Junction to Knightsbridge, where around 80 Muslim women from Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain had come with a letter to the French Ambassador protesting the French parliament decision to ban face veils.

Veils, Ahava, Justice, Rentokill & A Walk

Although the ban prohibits all face coverings, it is mainly aimed at Muslim women who wear the niqab or burkha. Both were then uncommon in France outside of Paris and some Mediterranean coast cities and some estimate they were only worn by around 2000 of France’s 2-3 million Muslim women, most of whom, like the great majority of women at the protest wear headscarves rather than face coverings.

Judging from the slogans, placards and speeches this was more a protest against ‘liberal values’ and “the objectification and sexualisation of women’s bodies in pornography, lap-dancing clubs, advertising, and the entertainment industry, all permitted under the premise of freedom of expression and driven by the pursuit of profit in Western societies.”

The French ban seems an unfortunate restriction of the rights of women to decide how they wish to dress, but is also a measure to oppose the power of clerics and others to limit the freedom of women by forcing them to wear face coverings, which seems to to be fully in line with the French tradition of liberty. And being a liberal and secular society doesn’t necessarily mean giving free rein to the exploitation of women or others for profit. We can oppose these without wanting to impose the kind of restrictions on others that groups such as Hizb Ut Tahrir advocate.

From Kensington I went on to Covent Garden where Pro-Palestinian demonstrators were holding another of their fortnightly demonstrations outside the Covent Garden Ahava shop which sells products manufactured in an illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

As on previous occasions their protest was met by a smaller counter-demonstration by supporters of the right-wing English Defence League (EDL) and Zionists. At previous protests there had been some attacks by the EDL on the protesters, but while I was present they were content with shouting.

The Ahava protests are part of an international ‘Stolen Beauty’ campaign organised by ‘Code Pink’, a women-initiated grass-roots peace and social justice movement which began when American women came together to oppose the invasion of Iraq. They say that Ahava “has openly flouted tax requirements by exploiting the EU-Israel trade agreement and violates UK DEFRA guidelines in respect of proper labelling.”

I walked down to the Embankment, pausing to photograph a rather fine Routemaster bus with vintage advertising, and a few boats taking part in the ‘Great River Race’. In Temple Place I met protesters from ‘Families Fighting For Justice’, members of families of murder victims, who were calling for tougher sentences for murder – with life sentences meaning life imprisonment.

Some of the stories I heard from them were truly heartbreaking and showed why many ordinary people have lost faith in our justice system. Although I don’t feel that their ‘Life 4 A Life’ campaign would actually do much if anything to solve the problem, clearly some action is called for, both in improving child protection by our social services and also in how we regulate behaviour on our streets. Part of this is better policing, but increased spending on youth services and community support is vital. Instead we got years of austerity cutting these and other essential services.

I left the march as it headed off towards a rally in Waterloo Place; it was smaller than expected and police insisted they march on the pavement rather than taking to the road, which reduced its impact.

I was on my way to Old Street where the RMT and other unions were holding a short demonstration outside the Initial Rentokil Offices in Brunwick Place as the start of a campaign against the company’s union-busting activities towards its cleaning staff.

The RMT say Initial Rentokil intimidates and bullies its members and deliberately employs workers whose immigration status is doubtful so that they can pay minimum wages and provide sub-standard working conditions, often requiring them to work without proper safety equipment or precautions. They allege that workers who question their rights or attempt to organise have been reported to the immigration authorities who have then raided the workplace. The protest was also supported by members of Unite and Unison.

It was still before 3pm when the rally ended and I decided to take a walk before going home. I walked roughly north to the Regent’s Canal.

On the Haggerston Estate I found flats bricked up as people have been moved out to redevelop the estate. They are said to be moving back when new social housing is built – along with some at market prices.

Shoreditch and Haggerston were both very much up and coming areas, with some expensive flats beside the canal.

One of the reasons to walk this way was to see a large art work on the long block of flats by the canal, ‘I am Here’, one of London’s largest art installations., with giant portraits of the residents.

But I was also keen to photograph other buildings in the area, including the Bridge Academy.

And, on Kinsgsland Road, the Suleymaniye Mosque.

Even when finally I got on the 243 bus I was still taking pictures, including a rather sad view of the former Foundry, a lively venue where I had been to a great photo show not long before, now boarded up and covered with a giant advertising hoarding,

More pictures from my walk and the protests on My London Diary:

Hizb ut-Tahrir Protest French Veil Ban
Protest Against Illegal Israeli Goods
Families of Murder Victims Call For Justice
Protest over Initial Rentokil Union Busting
Walking Around London

Class War Occupy Rich Door – Aldgate

Saturday, September 24th, 2022

Class War Occupy Rich Door - Aldgate

Wednesday 24th September 2014 saw one of the more interesting protests in the long-running series by Class War at the tower block of One Commercial Street which has a plush foyer with a 24hr concierge for the residents of the expensive private flats in the block on Aldgate High St, but social housing tenants in the same block are denied entry here and have to use a small door into an empty passage from an alley at the side of the building.

Class War Occupy Rich Door - Aldgate
The building manager opens the door to let a resident leave

Developers of new housing in London are generally required to provide a small proportion of social housing in their schemes, though they often find legal ways to reduce or even eliminate this, either by building separate social housing blocks or paying others to do so, or simply by pleading (often misleadingly) they cannot make high enough profits.

Class War Occupy Rich Door - Aldgate
and finds the door is held open

Boris Johnson when London Mayor said he would discourage the use of separate entrances for social housing tenants and Sadiq Khan made clear that there should be a “tenure blind” approach with affordable homes and private homes having entrances that were not distinguishable by quality, type, or location with the goal of “social equality and dignity“.

He makes the mistake of walking away

But despite these words, new developments continue to feature separate doors in what activists describe as “social apartheid”. And in July 2014, Class War began a series of weekly pickets outside the ‘Rich Door’ in a campaign to publicise and hopefully end the practice.

and Class War walk in with a banner

Over the following months I followed their campaign, photographing around 30 of their protests, missing only two when I was out of London. As well as putting pictures on My London Diary and elsewhere on the web I also in 2015 published a ‘zine’ ‘Class War – Rich Door, Poor Door‘ (ISBN 978-1-909363-14-4) packed with pictures from the pickets(still available.)

Jane Nicholl enters with the Class War Women’s Death Brigade Banner rolled up

The protests certainly added to the debate about the practice and exposed some of the lies of the developers, but I think there are still separate and very different doors for rich and poor at this and many other of London’s new developments. The protests may also have speeded the decision of the developer Redrow to sell the building to new owners Hondo Enterprises. There were also some minor victories, with the alley getting cleaned up and new lighting installed.

Ian Bone holds up a framed notice from the reception desk as he speaks

Since then the building, which in 2014 was nominated for the ‘Carbuncle Cup’, has changed its name to ‘The Relay Building’ and there has been considerable remodelling of the ‘rich door’ which now has the separate name of the Crawford Building. The flats served by the ‘poor door’ are called the Houblon Appartments. Despite claims by Redrow that the two groups of flats were internally quite separate I was taken from the rich part and out of the poor door by one of the residents who told me she often took her dog out for a walk that way.

Residents walk in to the flats past the protesters

There were no police in evidence as Class War arrived on 24th September and began their picket. When the building manager opened the door to let a resident out protesters held the door open and the manager was unable to close it. He made the mistake of walking away, and several people then walked in with a Class War banner. Others from Class War followed them and made themselves at home in the large foyer.

Ian Bone stands next to the desk with its vase of flowers

Ian Bone picked up Redrow’s Gold Award certificate from the concierge desk and began talking about it and the separate doors to the building, and about the notice describing the concierge service, comparing this foyer to the bare entrance to the social housing flats, and others too spoke.

I turned after hearing a crash and saw the flowers had gone

Ian was waving his walking stick around as I took pictures and I was turned away from him when I heard a crash, and I’d sensed a movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned around and saw that the vase of flowers which had been at the corner of the desk was no longer there. I couldn’t be sure whether Ian had knocked them off deliberately or by accident, though I thought the latter unlikely.

Two officers came, and one went to talk to the building manager

Eventually the police arrived and walked in talking with the protesters and the building manager and asking the protesters to leave. I went out when the building manager requested the protesters to go outside and joined the others who had stayed protesting and watching from outside. More police came and eventually those inside came out and the protest continued there, with several more speeches including a former local resident who was complaining he could no longer live in the area as it had become too expensive.

Class War come out of the Rich Door

After continuing their protest outside for a while, Class War decided it was time to leave and rolled up their banners and began to move away. A woman police officer then stood in Ian Bone’s way and stopped him leaving. More officers came to surround him and he was led away to a waiting police van which then drove away.

A police officer stops Ian Bone as he was leaving

The following week Class War were back again at the Rich Door and I learnt that Ian Bone had been told by police that his breaking the vase had been recorded on CCTV and had then agreed to pay £70 in compensation. No charges had been brought, probably because Redrow wanted to avoid publicity. But Class War had brought with them two very tacky looking vases with flowers to try to give to the building manager.

Ian Bone is briefly searched before being put in the van and driven away

More at Class War Occupy Rich Door

Council Housing Crisis & Cinema Strike

Friday, September 23rd, 2022

Five years ago on Saturday 23rd September 2017 I photographed a lively march in North London against council plans for a huge giveaway of council housing to developers before rushing down to Brixton in South London where low paid workers at the Ritzy cinema had been on strike for a year.

Haringey against council housing sell-off

Council Housing Crisis & Cinema Strike

When Labour came to power in 1997, Tony Blair made his first speech as prime minister in the centre of London’s Aylesbury Estate, declaring that “the poorest people in our country have been forgotten by government” and promising that housing would be at the centre of his government’s programme.

Council Housing Crisis & Cinema Strike

But their policy of estate regeneration has proved a disaster, leading to the demolition of social housing and its replacement by housing for the rich and overseas investors, along with small amounts of highly unaffordable ‘affordable housing’ and a largely token amount of homes at social rents.

Council Housing Crisis & Cinema Strike

As an article in the Financial Times by Anna Minton in January 2022 pointed out, Labour’s continuing support for Thatcher’s ‘Right-to-Buy’ and for ‘buy-to-let mortgages’ together with the pegging of housing benefit to market levels encouraged an enormous growth of buy to let properties from previously council flats and houses. In 2019 a Greater London Authority report found that 42 per cent of homes sold under Right to Buy were now privately let, with average rents in London of £1752 in the private sector compared to social rents of £421 a month.

As Minton also points out, under New Labour there were only 7,870 new council homes built during their 13 years in office, a miniscule number compared to Thatcher’s period as Conservative prime ministers when the lowest annual number was 17,710 homes.

Under New Labour the average was 562 per year compared to 41,343 under Thatcher – though numbers dropped steeply during her tenure. Housing Associations have provided some social housing, but have become increasingly more commercial in their operations.

Labour’s housing policies were disastrous and largely continue, with Labour councils in London continuing to collude with developers to demolish council-owned homes. A prime example of this was the proposed ‘Haringey Development Vehicle’, HDV, under which Haringey Council was making a huge transfer of council housing to Australian multinational Lendlease.

The protest in Haringey was a lively one involving many local residents as well as other housing activists from across London. The council’s deal would have led to the destruction of many of the council’s estates over a 15 year period, and led to a revolt at local elections which replaced many of those backing the scheme by more left-wing Labour members supported by Momentum.

Under new management, the council has produced an updated version of its redevelopment plans, although some activists see these as still representing a give-away to developers. But there does seem a greater emphasis on collaboration with the local community over redevelopment schemes and on providing a greater element of social housing.

Local government is still subject to restrictions imposed by national policies, and in particular policies that encourage rising house prices, rents and subsidise private landlords, while still making it hard for councils to build new council properties.

I left the march close to its end at Finsbury Park to catch the tube down to Brixton.

Haringey against council housing sell-off

One year of Ritzy strike – Brixton

Strikers at the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton were celebrating a year of strike action with a rally supported by other trade unionists, including the United Voices of the World and the IWGB and other union branches.

The BECTU strikers were demanding the London Living Wage, sick pay, maternity and paternity pay and for managers, supervisors, chefs and technical staff to be properly valued for their work. The also demand that four sacked union reps are reinstated.

BECTU had been in dispute with the Ritzy since 2014, and had called for a boycott of the cinema, which was only finally called off in 2019. The Ritzy is one of a network of cinemas operated by Picturehouse Cinemas Ltd and owned by Cineworld, the world’s second largest cinema chain, based in London and operating in 10 countries including the USA.

The Ritzy was closed for the rally, After a number of speeches there was a surprise with the arrival to cheers of a newly acquired ‘Precarious Workers Mobile’ bright yellow Reliant Robin, equipped with a powerful amplifier and loudspeaker. After more speeches this led the protesters in a slow march around central Brixton.

One year of Ritzy strike

Druids, Paddington & Women March For Syria

Thursday, September 22nd, 2022

On Sunday 22nd September 2013 Druids carried out their annual Autumn Equinox (Alban Elued) ceremony on Primrose Hill at noon and later in the day women from the radical fundamentalist Islamist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain marched from Paddington Green in protest against the chemical attacks and massacres of women and children by the Assad regime in Syria. Between the two events I spent some time taking pictures around the Paddington Arm of the Grand Union Canal.

Druids Celebrate Autumn Equinox – Primrose Hill

Every year for a little over 100 years the Druid Order have celebrated the Autumn Equinox on Primrose Hill, a site of historical significance in the history of Druidism and the re-invention of a Druidic tradition. Here on the Autumn Equinox in 1716 John Toland made a call for a meeting of Druids a year and a day later at the Apple Tree Tavern in Covent Garden, and on Midsummer’s day 1792 Iolo Morganwg (1747-1826) held the first meeting of the Gorsedd of the Bards of the Isle of Britain, the precursor of the modern Eisteddfod.

Morganwg was the bardic name of Edward Williams and his work “was a prime force behind the cultural revival that saw the birth of modern Wales” according to the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies whose web site describes him as “a profoundly complicated character: a struggling provincial poet in London, a manipulator and victim of the world of literary patronage, a radical, a medievalist, a forger of pasts, an opium eater and a forceful and opinionated critic.”

Most of the Druidic traditions we now have come from forged manuscripts he produced in particular the “Gorsedd Beirdd Ynys Prydain” (“The Gorsedd of Bards of the Isles of Britain”.) It was only in the twentieth century that the extent of his imaginative forgeries became clear. But although his work came almost entirely from his own extremely fertile imagination it had a dramatic effect in creating a new view of the Welsh nation.

The Druid Order made its first recorded appearance at the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge in 2021, though its founder, the remarkable George Watson MacGregor Reid, a trade union and Labour party activist with a great interest in oriental mysticism was probably there 3 years earlier. In 2014 he returned for the Solstice describing himself as a High Priest and “the direct successor of the Chief Druids who have been” and dressed in a very similar manner to that still adopted by The Druid Order.

I’ve photographed the Equinox ceremonies of the Druid Order, Spring at Tower Hill and Autumn on Primrose Hill on several occasions and have been impressed by the solemnity and spirituality of those taking part. Whatever its origins, it is a movement which respects the Earth and is peace loving and free-thinking with the apparent aim of developing themselves through being rather than through intellectual learning.

My account on My London Diary gives quite a detailed description of the event both in pictures and text so I won’t repeat that here.

Druids Celebrate Autumn Equinox

Paddington Basin – Paddington

The main line of the Grand Union Canal enters the River Thames at Brentford, from where it was possible for goods to travel along the river to London, but a direct canal route was obviously desirable and only two years after the Act of Parliament for the main route to Brentford was passed a further Act to allow the construction of a canal joining the this to a canal basin at Paddington, then on the western edge of London. This opened in 1801.

Unusually there are no locks on the 22km of the Paddington Arm – and you can travel a total of around 43 lock-free miles along the pound made up by it the Grand Union and Regents canal.

The area around the final length of the Paddington Arm from Little Venice to Paddington Basin has been the site of huge redevelopments in the past thirty or so years. A few older canalside buildings remain. Much of the land and paths open to the public in the area are on private land.

Paddington Basin

Hizb ut-Tahrir Women March for Syria – Paddington Green

Over a thousand woman gathered on Paddington Green for a march to the Syrian Embassy to show solidarity with women and children in Syria and to condemn the chemical attacks and massacres being carried out by the Assad regime.

Hizb ut-Tahrir oppose Western military intervention in Syria but call for the replacement of the current corrupt rulers in Islamic states by a Khilifah (caliphate), a state that will truly implement Islamic values and end the corruption and oppression of the current states. They call for Muslims to rise up and get rid of corruption, and in particular of “the criminal regime of the butcher Bashar Al Assad” in Syria, and for “Muslim armies to mobilise and replace the rule of the dictator with the rule of Allah.

At the front of the march children carried a small coffin and other children and women carried bundles representing dead children. There were a few young boys taking part, but I saw few men – just one small group with a banner and a heavy public address system – and the event was clearly led by the women, almost all of whom were wearing headscarves, with very few in niqabs or burqas which covered the whole face.

At most other Hizb ut-Tahrir protests I’ve photographed there have been clearly separate groups of men and women, and I’ve sometimes had problems with male stewards for photographing the women, though not from the women themselves. At this event most seemed keen to be photographed to help get their message across. I left the march which was going to the Syrian Embassy in Belgrave Square at Edgware Road.

Hizb ut-Tahrir Women March for Syria

Duck Race, Climate, Zimbabwe & Clean Air

Wednesday, September 21st, 2022

Saturday 21st September 2019 was an even more varied day than usual for me in London. I began by travelling to Bow Creek for a duck race, moved to Trafalgar Square for a climate protest, then visted the weekly Zimbabwe vigil before going to Catford for a march against air pollution.

Bromley-by-Bow to Star Lane & Cody Dock Duck Race

Duck Race, Climate, Zimbabwe & Clean Air

It was a fine day and still warm for the time of year as I walked from Bromley-by-Bow District Line the short distance to Tweletrees Crescent and Bow Creek.

I’d decided to come to see the Duck Race along Bow Creek being organised by the people at Cody Dock, but had arrived early to give myself time to revisit the gas works memorial site nearby.

Duck Race, Climate, Zimbabwe & Clean Air

Bow Creek is the tidal section of London’s second river, the River Lea, and the duck race was a part of the ‘Lighting Up the Lea’ festival for ‘Totally Thames 2019’. It was meant to start at 11.00 but this was delayed as the people in canoes who were to shepherd the ducks were a few minutes late in arriving.

Duck Race, Climate, Zimbabwe & Clean Air

It was close to low tide, and there was little water in the creek when the ducks were dropped from the bridge, and a westerly breeze soon blew the ducks onto the mud on the east side of the creek.

Cody Dock’s Simon Myers had beached his kayak on the gravel bank a hundred yards or so downstream and strode through the shallow stream and mud to rescue the ducks and through them back into the middle of the stream. But the breeze soon returned them to the mud and he had to get them again.

I decided I had to move on to complete my walk and get back to central London for my next event and walked on towards Cody Dock, past several small groups of people waiting to see their ducks. At Cody Dock there were a small line of catchers waiting hopefully in the stream, but they were in for a rather long wait.

I’d hoped to be able to continue my walk by the riverside to Canning Town, but this further section of the Bow Creek path has yet to be opened, and after taking a few pictures at Cody Dock I made my way to Star Lane DLR station.

Cody Dock Duck Race
Bromley-by-Bow to Star Lane

XR Youth International – Trafalgar Square

Members of Extinction Rebellion Youth International came to Trafalgar Square and held a brief protest for the UN Climate conference.

This was a rather more low-key event than I had expected and the group was ignored by heritage wardens as they sat in a circle in the centre of the square with posters while one member at the centre read the letter they are sending to the UN calling for real urgent action to avert the impending climate catastrophe.

XR Youth International

Zimbabwe protests continue – Strand

The weekly Zimbabwe Vigil every Saturday at the side of the embassy at 429 Strand began on 12th October 2002. I’ve joined it and photographed occasionally over the years, but mainly for special occasions. It’s hard to say something new about an event which happens every week.

Mugabe had been forced to resign in 2017 died earlier in the month and had died two weeks before my visit, but the vigils continue and little has changed in Zimbabwe. His successor Emmerson Mnangagwa was Mugabe’s right-hand man for 40 years, and is accused of the genocide of over 20,000 Ndebeles in the 1980s. Although he promised reform he has delivered state terrorism and protesters have been killed, beaten, tortured and raped by the security forces.

Zimbabwe protests continue

Clean Air for Catford Children

The South Circular Road brings large volumes of traffic through Catford, often pumping out fumes at standstill during peak hours. Particles from brakes, tyres and the road add significantly to the pollution – and won’t be reduced as we switch towards electric cars.

Although a major traffic route, the South Circular has always been more an idea than a planned route, going along many fairly narrow roads lined with houses which were never designed for the traffic. Fortunately major schemes which would have laid waste large areas of highly populated parts of South London have never come to fruition – the obvious environmental devastation of roads like the Westway having put paid to urban motorway schemes.

The answer has to be policies at both national and local level which reduce vehicle use and promote greener alternative transport including walking and cycling as well as public transport use. But although Lewisham Council are not responsible for the South Circular Road, remedial actions such as planting screens of trees and hedges can reduce local pollution levels, particularly the levels of harmful particulates.

I met local residents at the Corbett Library on Torridon Road in Catford, built with funding from Andrew Carnegie in 1907. It is now a Community Library run by volunteers and is on the Corbett Estate, 3,000 houses around Hither Green developed by Glasgow-born Archibald Corbett from 1896 to 1911.

They were busy finishing placards and posters for the march, which soon set off, marching up on the pavement to the South Circular at Brownhill Road, on their way to a rally at the council offices in Lewisham. Traffic on the South Circular made it a little difficult for me to take photographs as it was seldom possible to stand on the road. I left them before the rally to travel home.

Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, a nine-year-old girl who lived near the South Circular Road in Lewisham died from asthma in 2013. Following a 2020 inquest ruling she was the first first person in the UK to have air pollution listed as the cause of her death on her death certificate.

Clean Air for Catford Children