Archive for November, 2022

Laundry, Timber and Glengall Road

Wednesday, November 30th, 2022

The previous post on this walk I made on Sunday 29th January 1989 was Housing and the Grand Surrey Canal – 1989 .

Elite Laundry, Willowbrook Rd, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-65
Elite Laundry, Willowbrook Rd, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-65

The Elite Laundry at 48a Willowbrook Road was on the edge of the canal walk and had obviously been closed for some time when I made this picture. It has since been demolished but the property in the left half of the picture, behind the roadside structure made mainly of corrugated iron sheeting has been renovated and is now on the Surrey Linear Canal Park. For some time it was the Willowbrook centre, a community planning and education centre of Southwark Council but they decided to sell it in 2017. It is Grade II listed as Willowbrook Urban Studies Centre.

The canal bridge a little further down Willowbrook Road is almost identical to that on Commercial Way, and both were built for the St Giles Camberwell vestry around 1870. This was then named Hill Street Bridge, though the 2015 map still refers to it by the older name of Taylor’s Bridge. The map also names the wharf here as Langdale Wharf. It was the site of timber merchants William Sharvatt & Son Limited.

Timber Yard, Colegrove Rd, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-66
Timber Yard, Colegrove Rd, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-66

Timber from the Surrey Docks was the main cargo of the barges which came down the Grand Surrey Canal, and this yard will once have been a wharf on the canal. I’m unsure exactly where on Colegrove Road it was as this side of the street is now a large run of modern flats and I think all the buildings shown, both those on the wharf and the more distant flats have been demolished.

Factory, Glengall Rd, Latona Rd, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-51
Factory, Glengall Rd, Latona Rd, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-51

Glengall Road and Latona Road were still full of the industrial units that grew up around the Grand Surrey Canal, twith the large building on the corner and the adjoining property on Glengall Road in 1989 being occupied by Hays Chemicals Ltd. These buildings still remain, now occupied by Gadmon Industries, a German company specialising in steel tubing and pipelines, but those further down Glengall Road at the left were demolished in 2022.

Factory, Glengall Rd, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-52
Factory, Glengall Rd, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-52

Some of the older factories and warehouses in the area had been replaced by more modern buildings, which I have now also been demolished. I think this particular warehouse was built on the actual filled in canal where it went under Glengall Bridge, no trace of which remains. I’m unsure what these stacks are, but I think they were probably made from wood. The peeling paint at left looked to me like a map of some unknown part of the world.

Glengall Rd,  Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-53

The house at left is 41 Glengall Rd, which has since been extended. The factory buildings have been replaced by a modern equivalent built with a slight echo of the previous structures and is not the Glengall Business Park. The canal ran just to the south of here. I think this was the Glengall Works, where Chubbs moved their Patented Safe Manufactory in 1868, producing fire and burglary resistant safes and strong-room doors. They closed the factory in 1908 moving all production to their Wolverhampton works.

Travellers Camp, Surrey Linear Canal Park, Glengall Rd, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-54
Travellers Camp, Surrey Linear Canal Park, Glengall Rd, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-54

Caravans were parked on a part of the canal park. The building at left is still there but the block of flats was demolished as a part of the North Peckham regeneration scheme.

Houses, Glengall Rd, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-55
Houses, Glengall Rd, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-55

Houses on Glengall Road were built on open fields to the south of the Old Kent Road between1843-and 1834 in what was then called Glengall Grove to emphasize its rural nature – though a short walk would have taken the new middle-class occupants to some noxous industries beside the canal. The street was planted with lime trees, some of which survive.

Houses, Glengall Rd, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-42
Houses, Glengall Rd, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-42

These houses are thought to have been designed by the well-known architect Amon Henry Wilds who also designed other houses in the area including some still remaining on the Old Kent Road. But I don’t think there is any sign of his trademark decoration and perhaps he was not personally involved in their construction though providing the look of the houses.

Houses, Glengall Rd, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-43
Houses, Glengall Rd, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-43

Nos 1-35 (odd) & 24-38 (even) Glengall Road are all Grade II listed, as well as similar houses in Glengall Terrace.

Houses, Glengall Rd, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-46
Houses, Glengall Rd, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-46

The listings date from 1972, but in 1989 some of the properties were still in a poor state of repair. This picture shows houses which are part of a terrace at 36-50, a later development probably from the 1860s. Having spent some time photographing the houses at the top of Glengall Road I was walking back down the street when I made this picture.

My walk will continue in a later post.

The first post on this walk I made on Sunday 29th January 1989 was Windows, A Doorway, Horse Trough and Winnie Mandela

Cyclist Deaths and Militant Muslims – 2013

Tuesday, November 29th, 2022

On Friday 29th November 2013 I went to two very different protests in London.

Islamists Protest Angolas Ban on Muslims – Angolan Embassy, Friday 29th November 2013

I’d had an interest in the rise of extremist Islamic movements in the UK since 2004, when I first photographed a march by Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, and the activities of Anjem Choudary had attracted my attention for some years before this event in 2013. In 1996 he had been one of the founders of the Islamist al-Muhajiroun, an organisation which dissolved itself shortly before it was banned by the UK government as a terrorist organisation in 2010, going on to found a series of new organisations considered by many to be al-Muhajiroun under different names.

I can’t now remember under what title Choudary had announced ‘DEMONSTRATION AGAINST THE CHRISTIAN TYRANNY UPON MUSLIMS IN ANGOLA!’; another group he was associated with, Muslims Against Crusades, had been banned in November 2011, but I think many of those at this protest were the same individuals. The many posters they held named no organisation.

I’d gone to the Regents Park Mosque where a march had been announced to start to the Angolan Embassy, but as the crowds emerged after Friday prayers there was no sign of Choudary or his followers. Asking people there I learnt a small group had been present earlier but had left before the time announced and I gathered it had been made clear they were not welcome at the mosque.

I hurried down to the Angolan Embassy in Dorset Street, arriving to find a noisy demonstration taking place, but with no sign of Choudary. Another photographer told me I had missed them setting off firecrackers when they arrived. There were some loud chants echoing the message on the placards that ‘Muslims Will Destroy The Crusade & Implement ISLAM!’

As I wrote in the captions, “I came to the protest thinking for once that Amjem Choudary and his supporters had a just cause – Angola is clamping down on non-Christian religions including Islam. But it isn’t a ‘crusade’ but something that most Christians around the world and secularists would firmly oppose. But they would oppose it in the name of freedom. This was something rather different.

Finally Choudary himself arrived and began a lengthy speech. It was interesting and there was much that many including myself would agree with, as the Angolan regime has embarked on a purge of all non-Christian religions in the country. According to a report in The Guardian, there are only 83 approved religious organisations in Angola, every one of them Christian, and a statement from the Angolan embassy in the US claimed that they had ‘lots of religions’, citing “Catholic, Protestants, Baptists, Muslims and evangelical people.” In other words, freedom of religion – so long as it is Christian.

But what Choudary and his supporters advocate is not freedom of religion but the establishment of an Islamic Khilafah (caliphate), establishing Sharia law, where the only religion tolerated would be their extremist distortion of Islam. There was something new in his speech, when he talked about Islamic armies rising to “establish the Sharia” which at the time I thought was just wishful thinking on his part, but was in fact a chilling reality which became obvious as ISIS rose to occupy not Angola but a large territory in the Middle East around six months later.

Many of us were convinced in 2013 that Choudary was, if not an MI5 agent, at least protected by them and the police as a ‘honeypot’ for Islamic extremists, gathering them together to enable them to be readily recognised and kept under observation. It’s difficult to see otherwise why he had not been arrested for some of thee statements in his speeches at protests, careful though he was. But it was the rise of ISIS and his support expressed for Islamic State that led to his eventual arrest and sentencing in 2016 for five and a half years under the Terrorism Act 2000.

Islamists Protest Angolas Ban on Muslims

Cyclists ‘Die in’ at TfL HQ – Blackfriars Rd,
Friday 29th November 2013

Cyclists are the most vulnerable of road users, riding unprotected among cars and lorries whose drivers are cased in powerful and heavy metal shells. Pedestrians also lack any protection, but are usually provided with pavements which cyclists cannot legally use.

That of course is stating the obvious, but it’s an obvious that is almost always obscured by heated anti-cyclist opinions forcefully expressed, about cyclists who get in the way of motorists, or who ride aggressively on pavements, cross red lights and fail to wear cycle helmets etc.

I write as a cyclist and a pedestrian, and a former if reluctant driver. As the latest Highway Code makes even clearer, cyclists have a right to be on the road and are a part of traffic just as much as any car or lorry. And there are probably about as many bad cyclists as there are bad drivers, perhaps rather more given the number of people too young to get a driving licence who ride bikes.

We now have many shared paths for bicycles and pedestrians and accidents on them are rare, and very seldom cause significant injuries to either party, though the few that do get great publicity. Many of us also occasionally ride on pavements which are not officially shared, and do so with care for those on foot, in places where the roadway is dangerous and there is no separate provision for cyclists. I won’t get into cycle helmets in depth, but they provide little protection and may well decrease the safety of cyclists as well as making cycling a rather less convenient activity. And the emphasis on their use is simply trying to put the blame on the victims of road accidents rather than trying to make the roads safe.

There are many reasons why cycling should be encouraged and proper facilities provided. It improves the health of those who cycle and leads to a cut in expenditure on health services, is an almost non-polluting form of transport and much more efficient in the use of road space, reducing congestion for others, and a cheap solution particularly to many shorter distances in cities. Many cities have become better places to live by welcoming and providing proper provision for cycling.

The protest outside the London HQ of TfL demanded safer road provision for cyclists. It was organised after 14 cyclists had been killed in London over the previous years. For more than 50 years the design and provision of roads has been almost entirely based on increasing the flow of motorised vehicles, with other considerations being largely ignored. And faster traffic becomes more dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists – congestion actually makes cycling in central London safer.

Even where TfL has begun to provide cycle ‘superhighways’, these have been badly designed at many junctions, and marked cycle paths are often used as parking places, forcing cyclists into the heavy traffic the path is meant to avoid. Some cycle lanes in my area are far too narrow and on uneven road edges making them dangerous to ride on even where they are not obstructed by parked vehicles, others have stop signs at every minor road or even injunctions to dismount.

On My London Diary you can read the list of eight demands the protest made to improve safety and get more people using bikes. As well as spending more money on cycling infrastructure they included a ban on vehicles whose drivers are unable to see adjacent road users. Most deaths of cyclists are caused by drivers who turn left at junctions unaware that there is a someone on a bike in their path.

After a short introduction to the event there was a long silent vigil while a cellist played solemn music, and those who had brought candles came and lit them around a bicycle. Then there was a speech reminding us that Amsterdam had become a much more pleasant city with high bicycle use following a series of protests in the 1970s had prompted the city into action – with die-ins such as that which followed. Police at the scene estimated a thousand bicycles and cyclists took part, though organisers thought it was double this. The BBC reported it as ‘hundreds’ in a typical media response to cyclists and protests. Then the rally continued, with more speeches and the reading out of the names of cyclists killed on the streets.

More at Cyclists ‘Die in’ at TfL HQ.

University Protests – Carpenters Estate & Outsourcing

Monday, November 28th, 2022

Ten years ago today, on Wednesday 28th November 2012, I photographed two protests at London University. The first at UCL against their plans for a new campus in Stratford and the second by outsourced workers at the University demanding decent conditions of employment.

Save Carpenters Estate from UCL – University College. Wednesday 28th November 2012

University Protests - Carpenters Estate & Outsourcing
Joe from CARP talks to one of those attending the UCL council meeting

University College was founded in 1826 as London University, a secular alternative to the highly religious ancient institutions at Oxford and Cambridge. It bought an 8 acre area of waste land in Bloomsbury, just south of the Euston Road, and developed its elegant buildings around a large quadrangle. Although started in 1827, these were only finally completed in 1955.

University Protests - Carpenters Estate & Outsourcing

What had seemed a very large site when they started now with many more students seems very restrictive, and in October 2012 UCL announced it had come to an agreement with Newham Council to take over the entire site of the Carpenters Estate close to the centre of Stratford, displacing all of the residents remaining in this popular council estate.

University Protests - Carpenters Estate & Outsourcing

Newham Council, under its elected Mayor Robin Wales had long been hoping to realise a huge amount of cash by selling off the Carpenters Estate, a now extremely valuable area particularly because of its location close to Stratford Station and had been emptying out properties since around 2004 to facilitate this. UCL’s £1 billion proposal was exactly the kind of deal they had in mind, and it was quickly approved.

University Protests - Carpenters Estate & Outsourcing

Residents remaining on the estate had for some years been fighting to remain in their homes forming CARP (Carpenters Against Regeneration Plan) to oppose the emptying and estate demolition under so-called ‘regeneration’. Newham’s reaction was to used underhand means to remove many of the activists from the tenant’s management organisation, but most most of the remaining members were now opposed to the UCL scheme.

Also expressing concern about the proposal were UCL’s own highly-regarded development planning unit, who issued a statement calling for a review of the proposals which should “include a clear commitment to the well-being of local and East London borough residents, the active participation of affected communities, as well as engagement with local government” of a scheme which had only emerged from private talks between Newham Council and UCL.

The protest at UCL began in the Main Quad with around a hundred people, including leading members of CARP and students and staff of UCL. After a few short speeches, the protesters moved to picket the main entrance to the building where the UCL council meeting had been rescheduled. They were then able to talk with some of the council members as they went in to the meeting, and one of these assured the protesters that the plans were not fully developed and there would be consultation with the residents before any development took place.

More protesters arrived, including members of Unison and the UCU who were picketing the meeting about proposals to change academic contracts which they say threaten academic freedom. The protesters then heard that the council meeting had been moved, and they decided to try to go closer to the new venue, moving into the university building. I walked with them, going past the dressed skeleton of Jeremy Bentham to a meeting room where they decided to hold an alternative council meeting. I left to go to another event, but some of the protesters kept up an ocupation of part of UCL for most of the day.

Save Carpenters Estate from UCL

3 Cosas – Sick Pay, Holidays and Pensions – Senate House, University of London.
Wednesday 28th November 2012

UCL and the University of London both received charters officially establishing them on 28th November 1836, and so today UoL was celebrating its Founder’s Day with an evening event inside Senate House. Cleaners and other low paid outsourced workers at the University of London protested outside the celebrations, calling for an end to unfair conditions and for equal employment rights — the ‘3 Cosas’ of Sick pay, Holiday Pay and Pensions.

UoL outsources its cleaning, maintenance, security, and catering services to private companies who cut their costs to make profits by paying low wages, with the legal minimums of sick pay, pathetic or no pension schemes, major pay problems, and lots of intimidation and bullying. They work under conditions no reputable employer would consider imposing – and much worse than similar grades of workers directly employed by the University alongside them in the same buildings.

The services these workers provide are essential in keeping the University running, but they are treated unfairly. Protests over several years led by Unison have led to the university finally agreeing that all those working on the site should be paid the London Living Wage. Many of the outsourced staff are Spanish speakers, some migrants granted asylum or right to remain and others EU citizens, often with qualifications not recognised in the UK. Their ‘3 Cosas’ campaign was led by Unison branches and the cleaners’ union, the IWGB, and supported by students and academics.

Over 50 protesters, some with drums and many with banners and flags protested outside the main gates to Senate House, handing out leaflets to those attending the Founders Day event. Many took these, while others angrily brushed them aside.

One student president who had an invitation to the event stopped to address the protest, only prepared to cross the picket line after the protesters after the protesters gave him leaflets and urged him to go inside and argue for their case.

Some of those attending the event were going in by the back way, and after a while the protesters noisily marched around the street along the side of the building to continue the protest there. The protest was still continuing when I decided it was time to go home.

3 Cosas – Sick Pay, Holidays and Pensions.

Housing and the Grand Surrey Canal – 1989

Sunday, November 27th, 2022

The previous post on this walk I made on Sunday 29th January 1989 was Peckham – Pubs, Shops, AEU And A Fire Station.

Derelict House, Peckham Hill St, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1h-22
Derelict House, Peckham Hill St, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1h-22

These two large semi-detached houses are still there on Peckham Hill Street but now restored and in a very different condition. I think they are at Nos 102-108. Built around 1820 they were Grade II listed in 1972 and are part of the Peckham Hill Street Conservation Area designated in 2011. Although that at right seemed still occupied the left-hand pair looked to me as if it had been left empty to decay and I suspect may have once been squatted.

Bonar Garage, Bonar Rd, Peckham, Southwark 89-1h-14
Bonar Garage, Bonar Rd, Peckham, Southwark 89-1h-14

Bonar Road was constructed across the back gardens of some of the houses in Peckham Hill Street and led to a depot for the Metropolitan Borough of Camberwell formed in 1901. Although this is now a part of the conservation area, no part of the Bonar Garage has survived. The house with the chimneys at left is I think onf of the listed buildings in the picture above, but whatever building had the square brick chimney on the right side has been demolished.

Surrey Canal Walk, Canal Bridge, Commercial Way, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1h-12
Surrey Canal Walk, Canal Bridge, Commercial Way, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1h-12

A number of schemes for canals south of the Thames in London were proposed in the late 18th century and two were approved by Acts of Parliament in 1801. These were the Kent and Surrey Canal (later known as the Grand Surrey Canal) and the Croydon Canal from Rotherhithe. The horse-drawn Surrey Iron Railway roughly following the course of the River Wandle from Wandsworth to Croydon was also given approval the same year. A canal scheme for this was turned down as there were too many mills relying on the water from the Wandle.

Surrey Canal Walk, Canal Bridge, Commercial Way, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1h-16
Surrey Canal Walk, Canal Bridge, Commercial Way, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-02

The Grand Surrey Canal was authorised to go from Rotherhithe to Mitcham, with provision for branches, including to Vauxhall, but the proprietors had ambitions to extend it as far as Portsmouth. They began at the Thames in Rotherhithe and soon became a part of the new Surrey Docks scheme with an expanded basin and ship lock completed in 1807 into what became Stave Dock, with the canal running what became Russia Dock. Plans to join with the Croydon Canal at Deptford rather than that canal having its own line from the Thames provided an incentive to open the canal as far as the Old Kent Road by 1807.

Surrey Canal Walk, Canal Bridge, Commercial Way, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-61
Surrey Canal Walk, Canal Bridge, Commercial Way, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-61

The Croydon Canal, not being involved with the new docks, got on with digging and the stretch from the Surrey Canal at Deptford was opened to West Croydon in 1809. It didn’t last too long never attracting a great deal of traffic and closed in 1836, though many of us will have travelled along parts of it as it was bought by the London & Croydon Railway company for their line from London Bridge to a station on the former canal basin at West Croydon. Parts of its route not needed for the railway are now parks and nature reserves.

The Grand Surrey Canal company had run out of money and needed another Act of Parliament in 1807 to raise money to go further and were able then to extend the canal to Camberwell, opening this section in 1810. Apart from the entrance lock there are no locks on the canal, but they would have been necessary to go further, and the company could not afford the extra expense, and this was the furthest it ever got, despite the original plans and dreams.

Surrey Canal Walk, Canal Bridge, Commercial Way, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-61
Surrey Canal Walk, Canal Bridge, Commercial Way, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-61

Two more Acts of Parliament were needed to enable the company to raise money to cover costs and a short branch to a a large basin at Peckham was added, ocpening in 1826. Other plans put forward for extending the canal to Vauxhall and even Reading failed to attract investors.

But the Surrey Docks were developing and the canal got a new entrance lock in 1860, close to the earlier lock but leading into a new basin, Surrey Basin. There was a new entrance lock into the canal itself at Russia Dock. When Greenland Dock was extended in 1904, a lock from there became the start of the canal, almost a mile from its original entrance from the Thames.

Surrey Canal Walk, Canal Bridge, Commercial Way, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-64
Surrey Canal Walk, Canal Bridge, Commercial Way, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1i-64

Surrey Docks were mainly used for timber, and this also made up much of the traffic on the canal, but an important customer was George Livesey’s South Metropolitan Gas Company with its Old Kent Road gas works relying on coal being brought to it on the canal on its own fleet of barges. Production of gas stopped on the site in 1953.

Other traffic on the canal also fell off dramatically, with many of the industrial sites which had sprung up beside it at various wharves along its length turned to road transport and new companies moved in which had no need for bulk transport. The canal became disused and most of it was filled in by 1960. The section down to the basin at Peckham now occupied by Peckham Library is a pedestrian and cycle route called both the Surrey Canal Walk and Surrey Canal Linear Path.

London Canals has a good account of the canal with some old photographs along with more recent images of various remaining features.

Flats, Willowbrook Estate, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1h-14
Flats, Willowbrook Estate, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-1h-14

Close to the canal was the Willowbrook Estate constructed by the London County Council in the early 1960’s and handed over to the London Borough of Southwark in 1980. It became a part of Southwark’s drastic 1995 Five Estates Peckham Masterplan and the large block at the left of this picture, the 112 home Tonbridge House was demolished, along with Tilbury Close while most of the lower maisonettes remain. The regeneration of the estate had begun in 1988 and was completed by 1995, although there has been considerable refurbishment since the estate voted to be taken over by Willowbrook TMC in 1998.

My 1989 walk in Peckham will continue in a later post.

The first post on this walk I made on Sunday 29th January 1989 was Windows, A Doorway, Horse Trough and Winnie Mandela.

King’s Cross, Victoria Dock, Excel Arms Fair

Saturday, November 26th, 2022

2005 seems a long time ago now, but some of the same names are still often in the news. At a rally at King’s Cross station about fire safety remembering the victims of the disastrous fire in the Underground station there in 1987 that killed 31 people there were speeches from trade unionists and politicians including MPs John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn.

King's Cross, Victoria Dock, Excel Arms Fair

RMT leader Bob Crow died in 2014 but since 2021 RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch has been very much in our minds recently – and like Crow putting the case for his members and the working classes effectively to the mass media, challenging the silly class-based observations of many reporters and interviewers and making clear the facts about the rail dispute.

King's Cross, Victoria Dock, Excel Arms Fair
John McDonnell

Trains were very much in my mind at the start of Saturday 26th November 2005, not because of strikes but because of the problems of our privatised rail system which led to me arriving in London half an hour later than anticipated. Privatisation only really made any sense when it could introduce real competition and that was never possible for the railways – and only by introducing an expensive and wasteful middle layer of companies for utilities such as gas, electricity and water. In all these sectors the results have been inefficienies, high prices and large profits at the expense of customers and taxpayers for the largely foreign companies who bought our ‘national silver’.

Kings Cross – never again! – 26th November 2005

King's Cross, Victoria Dock, Excel Arms Fair

So I arrived late, running up the escalators at King’s Cross and remembering the stories of those who had been caught up there in the terrible fire, thinking how hard it would be to find the way out in smoke-filled darkness. Even with good lighting and reasonably clear signage it’s sometimes difficult to take the correct route.

Outside I photographed the joint trade union protest in memory of the fire, made more urgent by the plans of the management to change safety rules which protect workers and public using the system in order to cut costs. As well as those mentioned earlier, there were also speakers from ASLEF, the Fire Brigades Union and others.

On the 18th November 1987 a fire started when a lit match was dropped on an escalator around the end of the evening rush hour, falling through a gap and setting fire to litter and grease beneath. The small fire this started quickly spread, engulfing the escalator. People were told to leave the station by an alternative escalator and trains were told not to stop at the station.

Then at exactly 7.45pm while the ticket hall was still crowded a fireball suddenly erupted from the escalator into the ticket hall, followed by dense black smoke which made it impossible to see the exits. The heat was intense, melting plastic wall and ceiling tiles which added to the blaze. It took two and a quarter hours to get the fire under control, and a further five hours to put it out completely. 31 people died in the fire including a senior fire officer who was in the ticket hall telling people to get out when the fireball burst in.

Government and management justify cutting safety as “getting rid of red tape” and simplifying procedures and 12 years after this protest we saw the terrifying consequences of their approach to safety at Grenfell Tower.

The inquiry into the fire established a previously unknown mechanism by which the fire had spread so rapidly and also found that an over-complacent management had not had sufficient concern for the dangers of fires underground. New regulations were introduced, smoking was banned and a programme of replacing wooden escalators begun (though it was only in 2014 that the last was taken out of service.) Heat detectors and sprinkler systems were installed and better communications systems, improvements in passenger flow and staff training meant that almost all of the reports recommendations were put into practice.

Things changed in later years as Government and management justified cutting safety as “getting rid of red tape” and simplifying procedures and 12 years after this protest we saw the terrifying consequences of their approach to safety at Grenfell Tower. Had the reports and the coroners recommendations following the Lakanal House fire in 2009 been implemented and the lessons learnt, the fire at Grenfell would have been a minor incident, confined to the flat inside which it started. There would have been no deaths and we would never have heard about it on the news.

Poppies and leaves in Whitehall

Workers and their unions saw clearly the dangers of this change in attitudes to safety in this 2005 protest.

more pictures

Excel and Victoria Dock – 26th November 2005

I’d hoped to go from the safety protest at King’s Cross to a lecture at the ICA, but my work finished too late, and instead deciding first to go to Whitehall where I had expected to find another protest. There were still quite a few poppies from the Remembrance Sunday event, but I found nothing else to photograph in the area.

I decided the weather would be fine to take a trip to the Royal Victoria Dock and take some more photographs around there. It was a fairly quick journey now thanks to the Jubilee Line from Westminster to Canning Town and then a couple of stops on the DLR.

I got off at Custom House and walked past the entrance to the Excel Centre, making my way to the high level bridge across the dock, which had been closed on an earlier visit but was open now. And the lift was working.

I took rather a lot of pictures both on the dockside and from the bridge which has some interesting views of the buildings around the dock and further afield, including the Millennium Dome on the other side of the Thames, Canary Wharf and the London skyline in the far distance.

I took pictures with the full range of the lenses in my camera bag, from the 8mm fisheye to the a not very impressive telephoto zoom, which I think stretched to 125mm, equivalent on the DX camera I was then using to 187mm, which give a some quite different angles of view. I would now process these rather differently, partly because RAW software has improved significantly since 2005, but also because my own preferences have changed. Most of those fisheye images I would probably now partially ‘defish’ to render the verticals straight.

The camera I was using them, a Nikon D70 also now seems rather primitive, particularly as its images are only 6Mp and only offering a ISO 200 – 1600 range. But it did the job well, and the only real improvements in later models – unless you really want to make very large prints – were in the viewfinders. The D70 viewfinder was usable (and much better than the D100 which it replaced) but still not as good as those on film cameras.

Towards the end of the time I spent there, the sky turned orange, though perhaps the photographs slightly exaggerate the colour.

more pictures

East London Against the Arms Trade – Musical Protest, Excel Centre, 26 Nov 2005

I’d photographed more or less everything I could see and was beginning to make my way back to the DLR station when “I heard the brassy notes of the red flag, and made my way towards them.”

Musicians from ‘East London Against the Arms Fair’ were treating visitors to the Excel centre to a musical welcome. They were calling for Excel to stop hosting the DSEI (Defence & Security Equipment International) arms fairs which attract visitors from around the world, including many repressive regimes to come to London and see and buy arms.

London’s then Mayor, Ken Livingstone had spoken against having the arms fair in London as have the nearby London boroughs, and local residents had voted 79% against them, but the arms fairs continue every other year – with several days of protest against them.

One had taken place here in October, and the musical protest was calling for those already booked for 2007, 2009 and 2011 to be dropped. But their protest fell on deaf ears so fast as Excel’s owners were concerned and they continue, supported by the government, to be held there.

more pictures

As well as seeing more pictures on the links in this post you can also see the accounts I wrote back in 2005 by scrolling down the November 2005 page of My London Diary. You can see photographs of further protests against the DSEI arms fair by putting the four letters DSEI into the search on the front page of My London Diary.

Hampton Hill Christmas Lights 2011

Friday, November 25th, 2022

Today’s date reminds me that Christmas is still a month away. Personally I’d like to see a moratorium on any mentions of the forthcoming annual festival banned before December 1st and after January 6th with stiff fines for those who breach the rules. Thirty-seven days is more than a tenth of the year and surely that’s enough?

But perhaps we – and especially photographers – need something to cheer us up ofter the imposed blackout each year at the end of October when the clocks are returned to our archaic Greenwich Mean Time (and usually I forget to change the hour on at least one of my cameras for a week or two.) And at least the event at Hampton Hill was only a month early.

I doubt if there would be a great deal of support for my idea of a time system which came to me in a dream as I was in bed at around 2pm (or was it 3pm) when our clocks were changing, of avoiding the two sudden jumps in time each year by making incremental changes to keep sunrise always at 7am, although it would now be possible when so many timekeeping devices take their time from a distant time-server rather than being altered by pushing around the hands of a clock. But it would be rather better to do as we did for some years to keep to British Summer Time all year, as we did from 1968-71, and perhaps appropriate as our global temperature rises.

I’ve never much liked taking photographs in the dark, and many flash photographs are horrible, with overlit forergrounds and pitch-black backgrounds. Fortunately digital cameras now enable us to get away from this, at least to some extent, by working at much higher ISOs, which enable us to make photographs more readily in low light. Flash systems have also improved tremendously, an Nikon’s iTTL was, at least in 2011, the best of all, though their camera systems were designed to frustrate its best use. I got better at fooling it in later years. And just introduced were cheap handheld LED lighting systems, powerful enough to illuminate subjects a couple of metres away, though not much further. I used both flash and an LED light on different pictures at Hampton Hill as well as making use of available light where I could.

So here is the whole of my introductory text from My London Diary (with a few minor corrections) for the event. You can find more pictures with the original article online along with some picture captions.

Hampton Hill Christmas Lights – Hampton Hill, Middlesex.
Friday 25th November 2011

Crowds filled the High St in Hampton Hill for the 43rd annual Christmas parade last night, along with music, Morris Dancing and many stalls on the street and in the URC church hall making this a real community event

Although Christmas is still a month away, the people of Hampton Hill, just to the west of Bushey Park in the London Borough of Richmond, were out on the streets celebrating last night. Many of the shops along the street were open late, with some holding special events and handing out balloons and sweets.

Santa was kept busy in his grotto seeing groups of children, and quite a few other Santas were out on the street, with a group in the parade accompanying the mayor. Morris Dancers performed in the middle of the road, closed to traffic, and tried to teach some brave young ladies one of their dances. The several pubs along the street were all kept busy, and it was also crowded at times inside the church hall, with several rooms full of stalls, as well as a continuing series of events inside the church itself.

The highlight of the evening was of course the parade, which included some children on ponies and people leading Christmas-decorated dogs behind Santa in a large sled, and a large engine. But it was the energetic kids from local schools and youth groups that really brought the event to life.

Unlike some other Christmas ‘lighting up’ events, Hampton’s seems very much to be one that involves large sections of the local community, which is perhaps why it is still very much alive after 43 years.

More at Hampton Hill Christmas Lights.

Extinction Rebellion Funeral, Iran Protest – 2018

Thursday, November 24th, 2022

Saturday 24th November 2018 was the second day of action in London by Extinction Rebellion calling for urgent action over the climate crisis which threatens the future of life on Earth. After photographing their protest I walked through Trafalgar Square where Iranian activists were calling for the release of political prisoners in Iran.

Extinction Rebellion Parliament Square

Extinction Rebellion campaigners gathered in Parliament Square and set up road blocks to prevent traffic moving on the roads leading into the square.

Police tried to move the protesters who were blocking the road, but they refused to move and some had ‘locked on’ to make their removal more difficult and time-consuming.

On the grass in the middle of the square a rally began with the mass reading of XR’s Declaration of Rebellion, which was followed by a number of speeches and musical and poetry performances related to the forthcoming environmental collapse.

Many had come with flowers for a funeral and eventually grave-diggers began to dig a hole in the centre of the crowd for the coffin. They carefully cut the turf and set it aside in squares to avoid damage before beginning to dig down into the hardened earth.

Then the police pushed their way in from one corner of the square through the crowd who had linked arms to stop them approaching. They trampled the area, destroying the carefully piled up turf and pushing the protesters back. The crowd remained non-violent but tried to hold their ground, standing and facing the police who pushed them roughly and shouted in their faces.

Soon the police were in the centre of the large crowd, standing on the area where XR had begun to dig the grave.

Pall bearers arrived in the corner of the square carrying a black coffin with the text ‘OUR FUTURE’ on its side and lilies on top. Police stopped this and were again soon surrounded by a large crowd of XR supporters as well as photographers and legal observers.

Eventually the XR organisers decided it was time to abandon plans for the burial in Parliament Square and began a funeral procession.

Extinction Rebellion Parliament Square

Extinction Rebellion Funeral Procession – Whitehall & The Mall

Campaigners formed up behind the behind the coffin, with its message ‘OUR FUTURE’ for a funeral procession, led by drummers and a trumpeter.

The procession made its way slowly up Parliament Street to Whitehall coming to a halt at Downing Street where there was a silent sit in for several minutes.

After the main body of campaigner moved off, some stayed behind and lay on the roadway to form the XR symbol for a few minutes before getting up to rejoin the procession.

There were several arrests on Whitehall as a few protesters sprayed slogans or wrote on walls of government buildings and a memorial. A few police tried to stop the procession as it turned into The Mall, but soon gave up as people simply walked past them, continuing on its way to Buckingham Palace.

Extinction Rebellion Funeral Procession

Extinction Rebellion Buckingham Palace

The coffin halted in front of the gates of Buckingham Palace, where the bearers lifted it high in the air – but the gates were much higher.

They put it down on the ground and began shouting for climate action.

XR posed for a group photo in front of the palace and then

Gail Bradbrook read out a letter calling on the Queen to get her government to take the urgent action needed to save her country – and the world

before the crowd was led again in reading their Declaration of Rebellion. After this there were a few more speeches and a silence to remember those already killed by global warming, and the species that have become extinct.

During the silence those who had brought flowers, wreaths and other objects then laid them on the coffin in front of the palace gates. After this ceremony there was music and dancing but I was tired and walked back to catch a bus in Trafalgar Square.

Extinction Rebellion Buckingham Palace

Free Political Prisoners in Iran – Trafalgar Square

As I walked across Trafalgar Square to catch a bus in Duncannon Street I met activists from the Worker-Communist Party of Iran – Hekmatist who were protesting in solidarity with the Iranian People’s Struggle and calling for the release of all political prisoners.

Many opposition politicians were arrested earlier in 2018 following widespread protests in cities across Iran, and there have been many executions. The protesters called for all of the political prisoners to be released and the executions to stop, and for there to be properly independent trade unions in Iran.

Shaker Aamer, Ricky Bishop and Pakistan Drones

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2022

On Saturday 23rd November 2013 I photographed three protests in London.

Free Shaker Aamer March – Northcote Rd, Battersea

The march and rally in Battersea began close to the family home of Shaker Aamer, a British resident charity worker kidnapped in Afghanistan and sold to US troops. There was no evidence against him and he was first cleared for release from Guantanamo in 2007, but was still there and still being routinely tortured in 2013.

It was convenient for me, being just a short walk from Clapham Junction station, but too far from central London for most of the photographers who cover protests who largely stick to Zone 1 of the London Underground, so I felt my coverage of the event was particularly important in recording the event.

Aamer had gone from London with his family in June 2001 to work for a charity in Kabul. Four months later when Kabul was bombed he took his family out from the city for safety. Local bandits then seized a money making opportunity, kidnapping him and selling him to US forces on November 24, 2001.

He was then tortured by the US in Bagram and Kandahar, at times in the presence of British intelligence agents, before being illegally rendered to Guantanamo Bay in February 2002. Abuse and torture continued daily there and much of the time he was being kept in solitary confinement, subjected to particularly extreme treatment for continuing to protest his innocence and acting as a spokesperson for other prisoners, demanding his and their rights.

In 2013 despite never having been charged with any offence and twice being cleared for release Aamer remained a prisoner, the last British resident there. Many think he was still being held as the testimony he would give about his torture would be highly embarrassing to both US and UK intelligence agencies, and that the British government had been halfhearted in their public demands for his release, and in private urging the US to keep him locked away.

The campaign by the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign with years of protests outside Parliament and elsewhere had attracted considerable public support, including from his local Conservative MP and other MPs from all parties. There was a short rally outside the Baptist Church on Northcote Road before the marchers, many in orange Guantanamo-style jump suits and some with shackles and black hoods, began the short march through the busy shopping streets close to Clapham Junction to hold a longer rally at Battersea Arts Centre. I said goodbye and left them going up Lavender Hill to catch a train to my next event.

More at Free Shaker Aamer March in Battersea.

Remember Ricky Bishop – Jail his Killers -Brixton Police Station

Twelve years earlier on November 22, 2001, young black man Ricky Bishop was in a car being driven by a white friend in Brixton. Police stopped the car under suspicion as part of their area-wide anti-drug ‘Operation Clean Sweep’, searched Bishop on the spot and found nothing, but still handcuffed the two men and took them to Brixton Police Station. The white driver was not searched and was released without charge.

In the police station Bishop was taken into a small room and attacked by officers, though there was no CCTV evidence available of what went on. He went in a healthy 25-year-old fitness trainer. The beating caused him to have a heart attack, but the officers simply held him to the ground and only later called for a paramedic. Drugs were pushed into his mouth and stories invented to justify the arrest and assault. He was probably dead before an ambulance arrived and took him, still in handcuffs, to A&E at King College Hospital, standing around his dead body and making jokes. By the time his mother was informed of his detention he was dead.

Police issued a misleading press report and covered up what had happened, hiding evidence both immediately and at the inquest, where the jury were not allowed to come to a verdict that would assign any blame to the police. The Bishop family have accused 12 officers of murder, and their names were chanted at the protest around the ‘Remembrance Tree’ in front of the police station, each followed by a loud shout of ‘Murderer!’.

The arrest and subsequent treatment of the two men clearly reflected the racist nature of policing in Brixton, and the events following the death showed the failure of any real accountability of the police, with a criminal justice system that is complicit in letting police in this and many, many other cases literally get away with murder. Ricky Bishop’s death is one of several high-profile cases to have involved Brixton police over the years, in particular the death here of Sean Rigg in similar circumstances in August 2008.

There have been many marches and rallies in Brixton over these deaths in police custody, often at the tree in front of the police station, called the Remembrance Tree or the Lynching Tree by campaigners. There has been no sign that the police have taken real action to root out the systemic racism in the Metropolitan Police (and other forces.) The only action the police have taken is to remove all posters, candles, flowers and other signs of remembrance from the tree outside Brixton Police Station.

Remember Ricky Bishop – Jail his Killers

End Drone Attacks in Pakistan – Downing St to US Embassy

I arrived by Tube from Brixton too late for the start of the march by the PTI (Pakistan Movement for Justice party) from Downing Street to the US Embassy, then still in Grosvenor Square, but caught up with it as it went along Pall Mall, a few hundred yards from the start.

Around 500 supporters of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party and a few from Stop The War and anti-drone groups were marching in protest against US drone strikes in Pakistan which have killed many innocent men, women and children.

It was I think the first march which the PTI had organised in London, and this showed, with the march sticking to the pavement and stopping at crossing lights.

London’s pavements are too busy for marches of this size and the march was soon broken up into a number of small groups by the lights, as those at the front carried on regardless of what was happening behind them. Some were carrying coffins, others posters and flags.

From Hyde Park Corner they went up Park Lane, which although always busy with traffic has wide pavements with few people on foot, and the march gathered together again, to make the final part of its journey to the embassy, walking past a camp with hunger strikers from the People’s Mojahedin of Iran to hold a rally in front of the embassy.

It was a noisy rally and the amplification for the speakers was not really enough for an outdoors event of this size. I listened to a couple of speeches then left for home.

End Drone Attacks in Pakistan.

Croydon Snouts in Trough Protest – 2016

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2022

Croydon Snouts in Trough Protest

Unless you were a reader of Private Eye, one of the last bastions of investigative journalism in the UK, or a reader of Inside Croydon, which has been casting its critical on-line eye of the dubious activities of the local council since 2010 you would probably have been unaware of what was happening in the Borough when Class War held this protest in 2016.

Croydon Snouts in Trough Protest

Things came into more general light a few years later, particularly after the council collapsed into bankruptcy in 2018, largely due to attempting to become a major housing developer with poor governance and few financial controls , as well as some risky investments to become a property developer. These led eventually in September 2020 to chief executive Jo Negrini leaving with a golden handshake allegedly worth £440,000 for her failures and to council leader Tony Newman resigning after 6 years in charge of this Labour run council.

Croydon Snouts in Trough Protest

Inside Croydon quotes Private Eye that “… thanks to the wonder of revolving doors, ‘Negreedy’ has resurfaced as a ‘cities and development consultant’ on the books of Arup, the giant engineering and planning specialists”. This was one of the firms that “she favoured so lavishly when she was frittering tax-payers’ money“, and a textbook example of the careers of may who have left well-paid council employment to move into the private sector.

Croydon Snouts in Trough Protest
Ian Bone and a Class War banner

And as they say, her Brainchild Brick by Brick, and its £200million borrowings produced precious few new homes. Negrini also oversaw the “£70million Fairfield Halls refurbishment, which delivered rich profits for a handful of consultants but little in the way of the long-promised improvements to the much-loved arts centre.” In 2022 Croydon Council’s report on possible fraud linked to Fairfield Halls and council-owned developer Brick by Brick was passed to the Metropolitan Police, despite determined efforts by some councillors to keep it private. Croydon Council then took Inside Croydon to the High Court for having published documents and information about the report. The case was thrown out, with Private Eye describing it making the council “a national laughing stock.”

Ian Bone & Jane Nicholl shelter from the rain

Class War has strong links with the London Borough of Croydon, and with the South Norwood Tourist Board who on 21st December 2020 organised a Solstice ceremony “sacrificing Croydon Council to the Gods, so that the sun may once again rise on our benighted borough.” Unfortunately I was unable to attend that event bacause of Covid restrictions but there is an impressive short video on their web site, also available on YouTube. Apparently two Conservative Councillors objected to the video and had it removed from the Facebook page of the Save South Norwood Library campaign. Previously held by Labour the council now has no party with an overall majority, 34 Labour councillors, 32 Conservative councillors, two Green councillors and one Liberal Democrat councillor.

Class War came to the recently set up Croydon Boxpark on Tuesday 22nd November 2016 to protest against property developers and council leaders who were attending the Develop Croydon Conference, aimed at transforming Croydon into a desirable metropolitan hub with luxury apartments, prestige offices and the capital’s latest Westfield.

The lunchtime protest demanded that Croydon be developed to meet the needs of the inhabitants rather than to line the pockets of developers and become a piggy bank of largely empty flats and offices owned by overseas investors. Their protest led conference organisers to cancel a scheduled walking tour of Croydon and few of the attendees came to the boxpark where they had been scheduled to lunch, probably finding plusher restaurants in the town centre. The few councillors and property developers who did arriave and walked past the protest to enter the site and were greeted with shouts of ‘Scum!’ and ‘Snouts in the trough!’

Class War had no issues with the boxpark, though some considered it a rather hipster venue, but it is clearly a leisure facility for the people of Croydon. Box Park owner Roger Wade came to talk with the protesters and invited them to come and talk with him at a later date as he felt they had views in common about the future of the town.

A short thunderstorm brought a temporary halt to the protest, with some of us sheltering in a bus shelter before returning to picket. Some used a banner as an umbrella and marched to the East Croydon Station entrance to the Boxpark for a brief protest there, while others continued opposite the conference. Mark Eaton, seen as the BBC developers’ apologist got a noisy welcome as he walked back into the venue for the afternoon session. A security office came out to harass Class War as the area in front of the offices is private land – and told me I could not take picture. I continued to do so. Police soon moved the protesters back to the opposite side of the road where they had been protesting earlier. Soon after the protesters decided that everyone would now be inside the conference and ended the protest. I walked with them to the Dog and Duck before leaving for home.

More at Class War Croydon ‘Snouts in the trough’.

Students March against Fees and Cuts – 2012

Monday, November 21st, 2022

A student displays the #DEMO2012 t-shirt

One of the main issues that led to a huge slump in votes for the Liberal Democrats in the 2015 General Election was their support as a part of the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government for increasing student fees. In 2010, there were 57 Liberal Democrat MPs, but their number fell to 8 in 2015, and has only recovered slightly in the two following elections, with currently 11 MPs. Of course the drop is exaggerated by our first past the post electoral system which is grossly unfair to minority parties, but it still reflects an enormous drop in public confidence in the party.

Students March against Fees and Cuts - 2012

Before the 2010 election, the Lib-Dems had been seen as a moderate centrist party opposed to both Tories and Labour, but their actions in the coalition shifted perceptions; in many eyes they became seen as simply a rather lightweight branch of the Conservative Party and certainly no longer a credible opposition.

Students March against Fees and Cuts - 2012

It was the Labour Party who had introduced student tuition fees under Blair’s New Labour government in 1998, setting them at £1,000 a year. New Labour again raised them in 2006 to £3,000. But in 2012 the Tory Lib-Dem coalition tripled them again, to £9,000 – so totalling £27,000 for a normal 3 year course. The fees were stated to be a maximum, but it was soon what almost all universities were charging.

After World War 2, most local authorities had provided maintenance grants for students, enough to cover their living costs for the roughly 30 weeks a year of most courses. The 1962 Education Act made this a legal obligation; the grants were means-tested with a minimum of around a third of the full grant, with wealthier parents being expected but not obliged to make up the difference. But all of us from poorer families got the full grant.

When the Tories under Mrs Thatcher replaced these grants with student loans in 1980 there was an immediate fall in university applications – the 1981 figures showed a drop of 57% from 1979. The loan system was a boon to students from wealthy homes, taking the obligation from their parents for supporting them – and at the start the terms of the loans made it an advantage for rich students who had no need for them to take them out. Since then the terms of the student loans have worsened considerably.

Many have since found that with rising costs the maintenance loan available isn’t enough to pay for their accommodation and food and some need to take out more expensive loans than the student loan to keep alive during their course. I’ve seen too the long queues for the free food offered by Hare Krishna in Bloomsbury at lunchtimes, and students have also had to go to food banks and other places offering support.

Many students now work during term-time, some putting in long hours in bars and other part-time work which must affect their studies. When I was a student, taking paid work could have led to me being thrown off my course, although of course I did work during vacations, and needed to, as these were not covered by the grant.

Higher education students are not the only ones who were suffering from the cuts made by the Coalition government. Younger students, 16-18 year olds still in schools, sixth form colleges and FE, were angry at the loss of the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) of up to £30 per week, which many needed to pay their fares to college and to buy midday meals while studying.

And as I pointed out “Students are also concerned about other cuts being made by the government which will affect them, and also by the increasing efforts to privatise the education system at all levels. There were also many placards pointing out the class-based nature of our education system and our government, with a cabinet stuffed with privately educated millionaires who appear to have little idea of how difficult times are for ordinary people and no real sympathy for them.”

Since the student protests of November and December 2010 the police had become very worried about the possibility of violent scenes – often provoked by police action – at student protests, and were out in force. The march organisers too had agreed a route with the police which would cut down the possibilities, taking the marchers across Westminster Bridge to end with a rally in Kennington Park, well away from any government ministries and Tory and Lib-Dem party headquarters. This was a peaceful protest although the roughly 10,000 attending were clearly very angry and small groups who attempted to break away from the protest in Parliament Square where the march stopped for a photocall and many sat down on the road were fairly soon moved on.

There were still a few sitting on the road or standing around outside parliament when I decided to leave; it was raining slightly and dark clouds suggested a downpour was on the way. I decided nothing more was likely to happen at Westminster and that a rally in pouring rain was unlikely to be of great interest and started on my way home.

More at Students March on Parliament.