Archive for January, 2023

Brexit Day – 31 January 2020

Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

The UK finally left the on 31st January 2020. The wrong decision taken for the wrong reasons and one which we will continue to suffer from for many more years.

But having thrown out the baby the government are still busily throwing out the bath water. Three years on their are just some small signs that our government is beginning to realise this and finally get down to some serious dialogue with the EU over at least some of the problems it has caused rather than make threats and silly demands. Though any progress is still likely to be blocked by the Tory far right, at least until the next General Election.

But on that day, three years ago, there were groups in Westminster both celebrating and regretting Brexit, and I spent some time photographing both of them.

Brexiteers celebrate leaving the EU – Parliament Square

Brexit Day - 31 January 2020

I arrived in Parliament Square long before the more official celebrations were due to begin, but it was already beginning to fill up with Brexiteers, many with Union Flags, celebrating.

Brexit Day - 31 January 2020

Some had placards and posters repeating the idle hopes on which much of the Leave campaign had encouraged – and lied about. By now perhaps some at least will be realising that much of what they had been promised was illusory. It’s really hard to find anything positive that has come out of Brexit which has left a huge trail of broken promises.

Brexit Day - 31 January 2020

Of course the people who made most of these never believed them. They supported leaving because it would enrich them greatly and never mind the nation. Some made huge profits, others were more concerned about protecting their obscene wealth from an EU that was beginning to tighten restrictions on offshore funds and other scams.

Brexit Day - 31 January 2020

But the in main, most just came with union flags and posters about being ‘free’, ironic when we now have a government that has done more to restrict our freedoms than any other in our history, and is still hell-bent on removing much of the protections on our liberty which came from not just the EU, but also from the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights which our government in 1948 played a central role in establishing.

The UK parliaments The Human Rights Act 1998 incorporated the rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into domestic British law. In its new bill, the UK will join with Russia and Greece (when under military dictatorship), as the only countries to have abandoned the ECHR.

There were just a few of the more lunatic fringe present and I largely managed to avoid them. I left a couple of hours before the square really became crowded – the official celebrations were timed for much later in the day.

Brexiteers celebrate leaving the EU

British National (Overseas) Passport Holders – Old Palace Yard

There were more union flags a few yards away in Old Palace Yard, but this turned out not to have any direct connection with Brexit. Holders of British National (Overseas) Passports from Hong Kong were calling for the UK government to identify BNO holders as British Nationals and grant their children British Nationality.

BNO passports were a device invented in the talks between China and the UK over the future of Hong Kong, and give no right of abode in the UK and the special status is not passed onto children. Only those who could provide evidence of not being of Chinese origin qualified for them. These were sham passports, a compromise driven by both British institutional racism refusing to give full British citizenship to the Chinese and Chinese nationalism wanting to keep Chinese as citizens of China.

Further repression in Hong Kong led exactly a year later to the UK Government setting up an immigration route on 31 January 2021, providing British National (Overseas) passport holders from Hong Kong and their eligible dependants with the opportunity to come to the UK to live, study and work, on a pathway to citizenship. The government stated that this reflected the UK’s historic and moral commitment to those people of Hong Kong who chose to retain their ties to the UK by taking these passports.

British National (Overseas) Passports

Extremist Brexiteers Behaving Badly – Whitehall

Supporters of staying in the European Union had come to Downing Street for procession to the European Commission at Europe House in Smith Square to say goodbye. Extreme right wing Brexiteers came there to abuse and attack them, with police trying hard to keep the two groups apart.

A few tried to talk reasonably with the EU supporters, but most were there just to shout insults and gloat that we were leaving, calling them traitors and telling them they were not British, bad losers and more.

Police eventually moved them away to the centre of Whitehall facing the pro-EU group. There, surrounded by photographers they tried to set fire to EU flags. This proved difficult as the flags were nylon which doesn’t burn well and had to be assisted, mainly by a flammable aerosol spray.

Extremist Brexiteers Behaving Badly

À bientôt EU, see you soon

Finally the procession of EU supporters set off on their march from Downing Street to the European Commission at Europe House in Smith Square.

They went to “bid a fond farewell to our much loved friends in the EU, hoping that we will be united again one day soon“. As the organisers wrote, for many this “may be a sad day but let’s celebrate the 47 years we were in the EU and all we contributed and the positive influence it has on our country.”

The march had been organised to take place much earlier in the day than the official Brexit celebrations in an attempt to avoid any confrontation, but as well as the few extremists who came along to cause trouble at Downing Street there there were continued jeers from Brexiteers as they made their way down Whitehall and through Parliament Square.

At Europe House staff came out to greet them and were handed flowers as they bid goodbye, celebrating 47 years of cooperation and hoping that we will be reunited with Europe before too long. As they said outside Europe House, they are no longer remainers but rejoiners.

I finished my report: “I went home. I’d had enough of Brexit. We will have to live with its consequences for some years and I’m not looking forward to it. Times are likely to be tough for the poor, the disabled, the sick and for workers generally, including most of those who voted for it and were celebrating in Parliament Square. The wealthy will of course gain – not least by avoiding the clamp down on tax evasion which the EU is now beginning.”

À bientôt EU, see you soon

Shia Muslims Arbaeen Procession London

Monday, January 30th, 2023

From My London Diary for 30th January 2011, with minor amendments. You can see many more pictures with the original post.

Shia Muslims Arbaeen Procession London

Several thousand Shia Muslims came to Marble Arch on 30th January 2011 for the 30th annual Arbaeen (Chelum) procession in London, commemorating the sacrifice made by the grandson of Mohammed, Imam Husain, killed with his family and companions at Kerbala in 680AD. Arbaeen takes place 40 days after Ashura, the day commemorating the martyrdom and marks the end of the traditional 40 days of mourning. After prayers and recitations they paraded along Park Lane in a ceremony of mourning.

Shia Muslims Arbaeen Procession London

Imam Husain is seen by Shia Muslims as making a great stand against the oppression of a tyrant and representing the forces of good against evil. Husain and his small group of supporters were hugely outnumbered but chose to fight to the death for their beliefs rather than to compromise. Their stand is a symbol of freedom and dignity, and an aspiration to people and nations to strive for freedom, justice and equality.

Shia Muslims Arbaeen Procession London

Arbaeen is also said to commemorate the return of the wives and families of those killed – who were marched away as captives to Damascus after the massacre – to Kerbala to mourn the dead after their release around a year later.

Shia Muslims Arbaeen Procession London

Millions now attend the annual Arbaeen event in Kerbala (though it was banned while Saddam Hussein was in power) and the London event attracts Muslims from all over the UK, although numbers this year seemed rather fewer than in some previous years.

The Hussaini Islamic Trust UK first organised this annual procession since 1982, making it the oldest Arbaeen/Chelum Procession of Imam Husain in the west. It was the first annual Muslim procession in Central London and is still one of the larger annual Muslim processions in the UK. It is held on the Sunday closest to Arbaeen.

The procession includes several large replicas of the shrines of Karbala; known as Shabbih, these gold and silver models are over 10 feet high and the largest in Europe. There was also a decorated and blood-stained white horse or Zuljana representing the horse of Imam Husain, a cradle remembering his 6 month old child Hazrat Ali Asghar who was also murdered and a coffin.

The day started at Marble Arch with prayers and recitation which were followed by speeches in English, Arabic and Urdu before the procession set off. I missed some of this as I was busy covering another event, but returned shortly after the procession set off down Park Lane.

Groups among the men chanted and all those marching beat their chests as a token of mourning, most in a symbolic rather than very physical manner, but as the procession made its way down the road some were soon stripped to the waist and beating themselves vigorously, producing red marks and some drawing blood.

The women marched in a tightly packed separate group at the rear of the march, held back by a number of women stewards and pushing the cradle and one of the Shabbih. Like the men they chanted and made gestures of mourning. Although they were almost all dressed in black, many of them were carrying standards and flags, and some had some brightly coloured embroidery and headscarves.

After the march there are light refreshments provided, but I left before that, catching a bus along Park Lane. The procession only occupies one of the three lanes of each of the dual carriageways and traffic keeps flowing throughout, although with some slight delays.

More pictures from this event in 2011at Shia Muslims 30th Arbaeen Procession. I photographed this procession in other years from 2007 to 2012 and you can find pictures from these by entering Arbaeen in the search box on My London Diary.

As I mention in the account above, I left the march to photograph another protest, in Oxford St, a short walk away from Marble Arch. Around 50 UK Uncut activists dressed as doctors and nurses a staged a peaceful protest in Boots in Oxford St against their avoidance of UK tax, closing the store. You can read about it in UK Uncut Protest Boots Tax Scam.

SOAS Cleaners and Denmark Street Squat

Sunday, January 29th, 2023

Two unconnected events on Thursday 29th January 2015.

SOAS Cleaners demand Dignity & Respect – SOAS, London University

SOAS Cleaners and Denmark Street Squat
‘Justice for Cleaners – Bring us in House – Dignity and Respect’ – Unison Branch Rep Sandy Nicholl

Cleaners working at the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies – SOAS – held a rally calling for improved conditions of service and an end to being treated as a second-class workforce. Supported by students and staff they continue their campaign to be employed by the University rather than cleaning contractor ISS.

SOAS Cleaners and Denmark Street Squat

SOAS is a university with an international reputation for its progressive views on political issues around the world and exposing the detrimental effects of neo-liberalism, but its management had failed to acknowledge the beam in its own eye, its disgraceful treatment of cleaners.

SOAS Cleaners and Denmark Street Squat

Most of those who keep the SOAS building clean and working smoothly are immigrants to the UK, mainly with Spanish as their first language. Instead of putting these people on the SOAS payroll and treating them as employees with similar rights to all the others who work in the same building, SOAS contracts out its cleaners. This denies them care and protection and leaves them open to exploitation and abuse by cut-price cleaning contractors.

SOAS Cleaners and Denmark Street Squat

Even worse in June 2009, SOAS management collaborated with the Home Office by calling a 6am “emergency meeting” of the cleaners which was in fact an immigration service raid, resulting in the deportation of nine cleaners. The raid came shortly after the SOAS Justice For Workers (J4W) had a successful campaign to achieve union recognition and the London Living Wage and was widely seen as a spiteful retaliation by the SOAS management following this victory.

The immigration raid is remembered at SOAS every year on its anniversary in June. The J4W campaign led by the SOAS Unison Branch continued and on 29th of January their protest for direct employment under the slogan ‘One Workplace, One Workforce’, supported by students, teaching and administrative staff as well as other trade unionists and organisations.

Eleven long years of protest, as well as work to show SOAS the advantages to the organisation of employing the cleaners directly finally resulted in a victory in 2018, when SOAS sent a letter to all staff, unions and support staff stating, ‘Our current staff in central facilities teams will be directly employed by the university. This means that they will be on equal pay and conditions with existing SOAS employees’.

More pictures at SOAS Cleaners demand Dignity & Respect.

‘Tin Pan Alley’ 12 Bar club faces eviction – Denmark St

Denmark Street is a short street linking St Giles High Street with Charing Cross Road, first developed in the late 17th century and named after Prince George of Denmark. When I first went down it in the 1970s it was a one-way back-street with little or no traffic, and both sides were lined with shops, offices and studios connected with the music industry.

Squatters outside the Royal Courts of Justice on 28th January 2015

This was Britain’s “Tin Pan Alley” where session musicians and artists gathered, meeting each other and looking for work. The Rolling Stones recorded their first album here and David Bowie recruited his first band in a bar. The Sex Pistols lived in the street and recorded their first demos here – and so much more. It became a huge centre for musical instrument sales; I came here to look in windows full of guitars and saxophones I couldn’t afford and later came her to buy a professional Roland keyboard for my sons.

Outside the club in Denmark St, 29 January 2015

But above the mainly early 20th century shop fronts were the houses, some dating from from the original buildings of 1686-9, and others not much later. Eight were Grade II listed, two as early as 1951 and the others in 1974. The street is one of very few, if not the only, one in London with such early facing terraces on both sides.

In the alley at the side of the club was a free musicians noticeboard

Listing ensured that the redevelopment of the street as a part of the Crossrail development around Tottenham Court Road would keep the facades, though much behind them is now new, and most of the old businesses have gone – many moving earlier as the music business changed and rents had rocketed. A petition with 10,000 signatures opposed the redevelopment asking for the street to be given full heritage status.

Redevelopment had already begun behind the bar

The 12 Bar Club had been running as a small live music venue since 1994 at 26 Denmark Street, in a listed building that began life in 1635 as stables but had in the early 18th century become a terraced house. The club closed in January 2015, and was then squatted by a group of musicians and supported opposed to its loss.

Everyone on the music scene at some time played at the 12Bar

I went there on 29th January when the squatters, #Bohemians4Soho had called for a street festival of resistance against their expected eviction the following day, having met and being invited by some of the squatters on the 28th as they demonstrated at the Royal Courst of Justice where a court case over their eviction was taking place.

Live music in the club

Shortly before I arrived to take pictures they had been served with an IPO (interim possession order) giving them 24 hours to leave before they were committing a criminal offence. They left as the bailiffs arrived the following lunch time.

The Ligaments – Nicola ‘Nitro’ Itro, Jake Maxwell & Zel Kaute – had played the last night of the 12Bar and came back to play during the occupation

The listed building was stabilised, then lifted by crane for redevelopment to take place below it, after which it was lowered back into place. The old 12 Bar club room is now a part of a larger venue at the site.

More pictures: ‘Tin Pan Alley’ 12 Bar club faces eviction.

Joan Liftin (1933-2023)

Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Joan Liftin at Duckspool, 1993

I didn’t really know Joan Liftin who died recently well, but met her when I attended a workshop led by her husband, Charles Harbutt (1935-2015) at Duckspool in Somerset in the 1990s. I was impressed by some photographs she showed there and both she and Charlie were sympathetic and made helpful criticisms about my own work as well as expressing some views on photography which influenced me. Later she sent me a copy of her first book, ‘Drive-Ins‘ which I reviewed for the photography site I was then running for, long defunct.

I heard about her death on The Eye of Photography, where you can read an obit by her friend, the photographer Brigitte Grignet, though unless you are a subscriber you will not be able to see more than a couple of her photographs. But you can see more on Liftin’s web site, which has a few pictures from each of her three books.

There is a lengthy podcast interview with her on ‘Right Eye Dominant‘ where she talks at length about her life and career at Magnum, ICP and more, working with almost every photographer whose name you will know. The sound is a little rough but her character which attracted me really comes across. Close to the end she talks a little about Harbutt and his work. You can also hear her talking on the B&H Photography Podcast. There is a written interview with her on Visura magazine, which in many ways I prefer to a podcast, though it was good to hear her voice again.

Harbutt played an important part in my own photography, particularly through his book ‘Travelog‘ published by MIT in 1973. This was one of the first photography books I bought and opened my eyes to different ways of working. His workshops were legendary, and it was one of those which inspired Peter Goldfield, who I met in the 1970s to leaving Muswell Hill where he had set up Goldfinger Photographic above his pharmacy in Muswell Hill and set up the photography workshop at Duckspool and I wrote about this at the time of Peter’s death in 2009.

Liftin’s web site also has links to a post in the NY Times archive, Moving Freely, and Photographing, in Marseille, with text by Rena Silverman and 16 photographs, though again access may be limited if you are not a subscriber. There are also links to some other features on her Marseille book on her site.

Liftin wrote an introduction to The Unconcerned Photographer published in 2020 which includes the text of a lecture given by Harbutt in 1970 which first publicly expressed his views on photography.

No Sweat, Street Photos, Holocuast Memorial Day

Friday, January 27th, 2023

Saturday 27th January 2007 was a rather unusual day for me. Of course one of the joys of working as a photographer is that most days are different, but perhaps this was more varied than most, though I only had three sets of pictures to put on line

No Sweat Protests Burberry Factory Closure – Regent St

No Sweat, Street Photos, Holocuast Memorial Day

I’ve never owned or worn any clothing made by Burberry, but they are very much a traditional British brand, producing and selling clothing that seems rooted in the British countryside and images of farming, hunting shooting and fishing. But I’ve always been a town or city dweller.

No Sweat, Street Photos, Holocuast Memorial Day

Until 2007 their clothing was proudly Made in Britain, and for years had come from a factory in Treorchy in the Rhonda where the factory had started in 1940 and employed large numbers of local skilled workers. The factory was set up when Alfred Pollikoff received funding in 1937 from Lord Nuffield to bring new industries to distressed areas of the country and began production in 1939 producing clothes for all kinds of workers and military uniforms for the Second World War.

No Sweat, Street Photos, Holocuast Memorial Day

The Pollikoff factory was bought by Great Universal Stores in 1948 and was taken over by Burberry, also a part of GUS, in 1989 when they changed its name, although many locally continued to refer to it as Pollikoff’s.

No Sweat, Street Photos, Holocuast Memorial Day

They became one of the largest employers in the Rhonda, at its peak employing around a thousand workers, though by 2006 increased mechanisation had reduced that to around 300. It was a great shock to the workers and the local economy when Burberry in September 2006 announced they were closing the factory at the end of March 2007 and moving production to China.

The Treorchy factory was efficient with high productivity and profitable. But UK labour costs meant that production was more expensive than overseas. According to the GMB union it cost around £11 to produce a polo shirt in Wales, but with cheap labour only around £4 in China. Burberry sold these shirts for around £60 in shops such as that on Regent St.

The Treorchy workers began an huge campaign to keep the factory open, gaining support from many in parliament and such unlikely figures as the owner of Harrods, along with stars including Sir Tom Jones, Michael Sheen, Ioan Gruffudd, Rhys Ifans, Charlotte Church and Ben Elton.

Local MP for Rhonnda, Chris Bryant (brown jacket) with Treorchy workers

A group of workers had come to London to pursue their fight and to demonstrate outside the Bond St and Regent St Burberry stores on January 27th. And a team from ‘No Sweat’, “an activist, campaigning organisation, fighting sweatshop bosses, in solidarity with workers, worldwide”, dressed as removal men arrived to support them, attempting to wrap the shops and workers in brown paper and ship them, second class, to China.

No Sweat’s protest was an amusing act of street theatre and one which helped an otherwise rather vanilla protest gain publicity in the media, always hard for protests to achieve unless they involve celebrities or violent illegal acts. Generally our media are very much on the side of the bosses (like the billionaires who own most of the papers) and the status quo, and the vast majority of protests are simply ignored by them, as “not news”.

Burberry workers destroy a Burberry polo shirt made in Treorchy

Burberry still makes some clothing in Britain (and elsewhere in Europe), and in 2015 enraged some who had fought to keep Treorchy open by announcing plans for an new factory in Leeds, though this was to replace two existing Yorkshire factories.

A number of small businesses were set up after the closure on the factory site, including the Treorchy Sewing Enterprise Ltd, set up by former Burberry employees.

West End Walk – Bond Street, Piccadilly, Leicester Square

I’ve never really thought that ‘street photography’ was a useful definition of an area of photography, and certainly never thought of myself as a street photographer, though the huge majority of my work has been made on the streets.

And while there are some ‘street photographers’ whose work I admire, there does seem to me to be a huge amount of totally vacuous and pointless work that is produced under this label. It too often seems to be an excuse for having nothing to say.

Fortnum and Mason’s clock from 1964 is surely the most hideous in London.

So while the little performance in the tree at the side of the National Gallery may be ‘street photography’ the rest of my pictures on this little walk are more concerned with architectural detail and illustrate the profligacy which was (and is still) enabled by our exploitation of the British Empire. They pictures on this walk also say something about taste and attitudes to women, both in previous eras and of course my own.

Holocaust Memorial Day – Soviet War Memorial & Peace Garden, Lambeth

I was unable to be at the wreath-laying ceremony to mark Holocaust Memorial Day at the Soviet War Memorial in Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park as I was taking pictures on Regent St. But I did go there later in the day.

The memorial is dedicated to all of the 27 million Soviet civilians and military personnel who died for Allied victory in World War II and off course the Soviet Union played a vital role in the defeat of the Nazis, but the Russian record of persecution of the Jews both before and after the revolution is horrific. The Russian Orthodox Church for centuries led opposition to Jews who were not permitted to go ‘beyond the pale’ into Russia unless they converted. The first recorded pogrom was in Odessa (now in Ukraine) in 1821 and there were widespread pogroms in the Russian empire later in the century which led to many fleeing to Britain and the USA. Tens of thousands of Jews were massacred in the civil war following the 1917 revolution. Antisemitism continues to be rife in Russia after the Soviet era.

Close to the Soviet War Memorial is the Holocaust memorial tree, planted in 2002 by the then Mayor of Southwark where wreaths are also laid at this annual ceremony.

The park surrounds the Imperial War Museum, which houses a moving exhibition on the holocaust, but I didn’t visit it on this day. Instead I went past to the Tibetan Peace Garden in the park, opened in Summer 1999 by the Dalai Lama. It seemed an appropriate place to sit and reflect for a while, which I did, as well as taking some pictures.

You can read more about these events by scrolling down the January 2007 page where there are links to more pictures

Save the NHS – Lewisham 2013

Thursday, January 26th, 2023

Save Lewisham Hospital March & Rally – Saturday 26 January 2013

Save the NHS - Lewisham 2013

On Saturday 26th January 2013 an estimated 25,000 people marched through Lewisham to save their hospital from closure and to protect the NHS, showing south London united against the closure on pure financial grounds of its highly successful and much needed A&E and maternity departments.

Save the NHS - Lewisham 2013

Now the whole NHS is facing a crisis, and a similar united response across the country is needed to save it. It becomes clearer and clearer that this crisis has been deliberately engineered in order to destroy our health service and hand it over to private providers, particularly the US health giants.

Save the NHS - Lewisham 2013

Two years ago, US health insurance giant Centene Corporation took over 49 NHS GP surgeries and practices. Now as Jeremy Corbyn posted a couple of days ago on Facebook, “US health insurance giant, Centene, is the single largest provider of NHS primary care in England. Privatisation is the cause of — not the solution to — the NHS crisis. Stop wasting money on private contracts and start investing in a fully-public NHS instead.

Save the NHS - Lewisham 2013

Unfortunately both Tory and Labour parties have taken part in the move towards privatisation of the NHS, though Tories have been more open in their support of such changes as suggesting the introduction of charges to see a doctor. But both parties have introduced changes which have brought private companies into providing NHS services, have taken large donations from private health companies, and have leading members who profit from them.

It was under Labour that the NHS took on poorly thought out Private Finance Initiative contracts that have landed many local health trusts with huge debt repayments, many of which extend to the middle of the century, and it was these which led to the crisis in Lewisham.

The PFI contracts were negotiated by civil servants and were and are a bonanza for private companies. Under them we pay totally ridiculous charges for simple jobs – such as Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals Trust paying £8,450 to install a dishwasher because they are locked into maintenance contracts. Changing a light bulb can cost a couple of hundred pounds.

Lewisham Hospital wasn’t directly affected by PFI, but it was in 2009 put into the South London Hospitals Trust, which had two hospitals at Orpington and Woolwich whose PFI contracts saddled the trust with debts of over £60 million a year until 2032.

Lewisham Hospital was successful both medically and financially, but Health Secretary Andrew Lansley appointed a special administrator to the trust with a remit to drastically cut the trusts costs. And Matthew Kershaw decided to do so by closing the highly successful and much needed A&E and maternity departments at Lewisham.

It was a decision that made no sense. There wasn’t the spare capacity at other hospitals to cope with those no longer able to get treatment at Lewisham – the system was actually working in the other direction, with these other hospitals having to send patients to Lewisham.

Financially it made no sense – the patients would still require treatment and this would cost more elsewhere. The small annual savings the closure would give would be more than offset by increases in costs elsewhere – though some of these might be in other trusts.

The proposal generated an incredible amount of local opposition, with the campaign to save the hospital supported by all local MPs and policitician both in the area and across south London. Community groups and organisations all came together to save the hospital – Millwall football club even changed their weekend fixture to Friday night so the team and supporters could join the march.

As I wrote back in 2013, “The fight to save Lewisham Hospital isn’t just a local issue, but very much a national one, with the provision of medical services that form the bedrock of the NHS under attack. If the government can close down services at Lewisham, no other successful hospital in the UK is safe in their hands.”

Nurses and ambulance workers are now striking not just for a better deal for themselves, but for the future of the NHS, which the Tories have deliberately run down with drastic underfunding and a deliberate failure to train and recruit staff. Perhaps their most obvious action was the removal of the bursary for nurse training, but as well there has been the continuing decrease in real salaries with below inflation wage rises over the years. Together with the failure to keep European staff in this country after Brexit and the impact of Covid the results have been disastrous – except for those private companies providing agency nurses and doctors, often at horrific cost to the NHS.

If the NHS is to be saved it will need the kind of public mobilisation that saved Lewisham Hospital, with the people as a whole getting behind the nurses and doctors and others who are fighting to save it. We need to fight the policies and greed of the Tories and of Labour and of the billionaire press to preserve the NHS as a national service free at the point of use and organised for the national good rather than for profit.

More pictures at Save Lewisham Hospital

IWGB Protests University Outsourcing – 2018

Wednesday, January 25th, 2023

On Thursday 25th January 2018 I went out to photograph one protest in the evening and found myself getting transported to another by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain.

End Outsourcing at University of London – Senate House

IWGB Protests University Outsourcing

Striking security officers and receptionists from the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain picketed Senate House and were joined by supporters for a noisy rally at the gates. Cleaners, receptionists, security officers, porters and post room staff are all demanding that the university ends discriminatory employment practices and makes them all direct employees.

IWGB Protests University Outsourcing

Outsourcing is a way for organisations like the University of London to get essential jobs done on the cheap by people working under terms and conditions that would be a blot on their reputations as responsible employers. They contract out the people who work in their business to contracting companies who employ them under far worse pensions, holiday entitlements, sickness entitlements, and maternity and paternity leave than in-house employees.

IWGB Protests University Outsourcing

Those working at the UoL say they are often bullied and overworked and sometimes paid several months late. Many are also on zero hours contracts, which fail to offer them consistent work, and have no guarantee that they will get any work, and and can be used to further bully or punish workers, often those who are active in the unions. Following earlier protests the University is considering bringing some of the workers in-house, but they and their union, the IWGB, were insisting that all should be put onto the university payroll. The savings from outsourcing are often illusory and organisations always get better service through direct employment.

The workers had been on strike all day and had been picketing and in the early evening were joined by a large and noisy crowd of supporters, including IWGB member from other workplaces and students, including a samba band who considerably livened up the protest.

IWGB President Henry Chango Lopez

After the band had played for some time there were speeches from some leading members of the union including IWGB President Henry Chango Lopez and others who came to give support including United Voices of the World General Secretary Petros Elia. He was able to give news of another campaigning success, where after a noisy protest outside its offices by the UVW in the previous month another company had agreed to pay cleaners the London Living Wage.

United Voices of the World General Secretary Petros Elia

As the protest drew to an end IWGB General Secretary Jason Moyer-Lee announced that a double-decker coach had arrived and would take IWGB members and any more they could fit in to a surprise protest at another secret London location. Although I was rather cold, tired and hungry it was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.

More at End Outsourcing at University of London.

Cleaners rush into Royal College of Music – Royal College of Music

Unloading the bus

We crowded into the bus which drove off into the London rush hour, and it was soon clear we were going west. We passed the Royal Albert Hall and then turned off into a side street a short way from our destination, which turned out to be the Royal College of Music.

People got off and unloaded the union flags, banners and drums quietly. Then two people went a little ahead of the rest of us to hold open the doors of the RCM ready for the rest of the crowd to rush into the foyer for a surprise protest.

Cleaners there had recently been taken over as the RCM had agreed a new contract with a different company, Tenon FM. They had decided to unilaterally cut hours in half and change shift times, telling the cleaners they must work at times most already have other cleaning jobs, and they are now threatened with dismissal for refusing to accept the new hours.

Both Tenon and the RCM were refusing to hold any discussions over the changes with the IWGB, who had because of this launched a collective grievance and balloted the cleaners for strike action; the union was also considering a legal challenge under law governing the transfer of undertakings.

Inside the foyer the protesters waved IWGB union flags and placards, banged drums and shouted slogans but were careful to avoid any damage. THe RCM called the police who arrived after 12 minutes and ordered the protesters to leave. They did so and continued the protest on the pavement outside. It was a dark street and the blue flashing lights of the police cars made photography challenging.

I continued to photograph for a few minutes and then decided I had taken enough pictures and little else was likely to happen. I was already very late for dinner and had a longer than expected journey home.

More pictures at Cleaners rush into Royal College of Music.

Stop Trident & Occupy Democracy

Tuesday, January 24th, 2023

On Saturday 24th January 2015, eight years ago, I photographed three protests against the replacement of our so-called independent nuclear deterrent, Trident with new nuclear submarines and missiles and Occupy Democracy asserting the right to protest and challenging the attempt by then London Mayor Boris Johnson to prevent protests in Parliament Square.

Christian CND against Trident Replacement – St Martins-in-the-Fields to Whitehall

Stop Trident & Occupy Democracy

I began work at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square with a Christian CND service. Thet held a long piece of the seven mile knitted pink peace scarf which had been joined together the previous August between the UK atomic bomb factories at Burghfield and Aldermaston on Nagasaki Day in a protest against the senseless waste of £100bn in replacing Trident missiles, which would clearly breach the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Stop Trident & Occupy Democracy

CND has since revised the figure of the costs of this senseless programme, which was stated by the defence minister in the parliamentary debates and in the November 2015 National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review to be £31 billion. This turned out to be simply the estimate for the four new submarines. Using government figures CND later calculated the total cost to be £205 billion, well over a year’s total spending on the NHS. And of course like all defence programmes it will end up costing considerably more. Of course cost is not the main reason why people oppose nuclear weapons but this is an entirely senseless waste of resources that should be put to better use.

Stop Trident & Occupy Democracy

After their brief service they walked with the part so the scarf to the main CND protest against Trident replacement outside the Defence Ministry.

Christian CND against Trident Replacement

Wrap Up Trident’ surrounds Defence Ministry – Whitehall

Stop Trident & Occupy Democracy

Several thousand CND supporters met at the Defence Ministry before surrounding the block with a knitted peace scarf and then moving off for a rally opposite the Houses of Parliament calling for the scrapping of the UK’s Trident missiles.

A group held the front of the scarf outside the Ministry of Defence building in Horseguards Avenue and then led off down Whitehall, left into Bridge St and left again up the Embankment and back to the MOD. While the leaders set off with the scarf at a cracking pace, gaps soon developed further back as those adding lengths from the many rolls of scarf were unable to keep up. So while there was far more scarf than needed to wrap the whole block – and it went back and forth on the river side of the ministry – it may never have entirely joined up completely.

When the leading group arrived back at the MOD there where certainly people spread out along the whole of the course holding parts of the knitting, and most seemed at a loss of what they were supposed to do next. Eventually the message came for them to walk on and take their pieces of knitting back to the MOD.

Here the knitted and crocheted lengths of scarf were rolled up. Rather than being wasted most of it was later turned into blankets for refugees, with just a few of the more interesting lengths being retained for further protests and displays.

The CND supporters then marched the short distance down Whitehall and Parliament Street and on to Old Palace Yard where they were to hold a rally.

Many more pictures at ‘Wrap Up Trident’ surrounds Defence Ministry.

CND Scrap Trident rally at Parliament – Old Palace Yard,

Lindsey German of Stop the War

Among the speakers were at the rally were Lindsay German,

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour MEP Julie Ward, Shahrar Ali, the Deputy Leader of the Green Party,

Kate Hudson and

Bruce Kent of CND,

Rebecca Johnson, an internationally-recognized expert on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation,

Heather Wakefield of UNISON, the Rt Revd Alan Williams, Bishop of Brentwood, Khalil Charles from the Muslim Association of Britain, Ben Griffin, of Veterans for Peace,

and Angie Zetter, who thought up the idea of the peace scarf.

The rally ended with a new song composed for the occasion by Leon Rosselson. There are more pictures including all the speakers and those in the crowds at the rally at CND Scrap Trident rally at Parliament.

Occupy defy GLA ban on Democracy – Parliament Square

As people streamed away from the CND Trident protest, several hundred supporters of Occupy Democracy most of whom had been at the CND protest walked on to the grass of Parliament Square to hold discussions on foreign relations and war as the GLA private security guards (Heritage wardens) and police watched.

This was one of a series of monthly events in which Occupy are asserting the right to protest and challenging the attempt by London Mayor Boris Johnson to prevent protests in Parliament Square.

Police and the Mayor’s ‘Heritage Wardens’ watched the protest. I followed the wardens as they went across to the police and asked them to take action to stop the protest. Police lacked the officers needed to take effective action and if they had tried to do so many more of those leaving the CND protest would have joined those on the square. They told the wardens that the protesters would eventually leave of their own accord, which apparently they did a few hours later.

More pictures at Occupy defy GLA ban on Democracy.

Before the Olympics – A walk in 2005

Monday, January 23rd, 2023

I published this post seventeen years ago on My London Diary, following an organised walk around the Olympic Site by locals while London was making its unfortunately successful bid to host the 2012 games. I’ve corrected the capitalisation but otherwise it remains as written. Going around the area some ten years after the games there is nothing I would want to change in the piece, though the legacy has turned out even worse than we feared back then, with so many broken promises.

Olympic site? – Stratford and Temple Mills, 23 Jan, 2005

Before the Olympics
Carpenters Road lock, Old River Lea, London

I first got to know the lower Lea (or Lee) valley around twenty-five years ago, when many of the traditional industries, many based around the Lea Navigation, had or were just ending. Parts of it were almost a dark continent, with the Bow Back Rivers machete country. Secateurs became an essential photo accessory, and together with a heavy duty tripod swung with abandon hacked a path alongside streams overgrown with bramble, nettles and bushes.

Before the Olympics
Channelsea River, allotments and path near Eastway Cycle Circuit

Since then, things have changed, with proper paths, nature trails, signposts and more, although it remains an area of relative peace and quiet. All this could soon change. You can hardly move in or around London without the almost continuous reminder of the 2012 Olympic bid. Large sums are being spent to convince us it is a good thing, despite concurrent claims that over 70% of Londoners already support it.

Before the Olympics
Bully Point Nature Reserve, Stratford

For this particular area of London it will mean dramatic changes, and whatever the good intentions of the developers (and I’ve read them) these will probably be environmentally disastrous. Development on this scale almost always is. Even the proponents acknowledge short-term problems, while local environmentalists point out the massaging and misrepresentation in parts of their planning, as well as the failure to ensure a proper post-games future for the area. While some of the proposals make sense for the area, the short-term priorities of the games will result in many that do not.

Before the Olympics
Off-road tracks at Eastway Cycle Circuit, Temple Mills

I’m not against the Olympics as such; in some ways they could be a good thing for the country, although the whole movement has been allowed to get seriously out of hand. I’m cynical enough to know that much of the enthusiasm for London 2012 comes from companies who are already making serious money from the promotion and will make even more should they happen, and realistic enough to know that any local opposition to them can only enforce very minor changes to their impact. Such local views are likely to carry far more weight on developments in the area should the London bid fail.

Allotments on ridge between Old River Lea and Channelsea River, Stratford.

Sunday I cycled from Stratford to Temple Mills to join a walk around the northern part of the site, organised by No To London 2012, a coalition of East London community groups and social justice campaigners. A group of just over twenty of us spent an enjoyable couple of hours looking at the area and the impact the Olympic developments would have. it was an opportunity that IOC delegates are not likely to have, with their view of these particular areas expected to be with a pair of binoculars from a distant tower block.

Clays Lane estate, Stratford

We stood first of all on a part of Hackney Marshes, watching the local footballers play on an area marked for a vast coach park, wondering how long it would take for it to be returned to recreational use, before making our way south across the A12 to the Eastway Cycle Circuit, now a well-used recreational area which will also be dramatically changed, becoming in the long term part of a larger Velopark, and on to the recently established Bully Point Nature Reserve at the southwest of the site between the Channelsea River and the River Lea, a viewpoint over the major land-forming currently taking place as a part of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link works and the future development of Stratford City.

Wick Field on edge of Hackney Marsh

Returning to Eastway, we climbed over a barrier onto Arena Field. Until a few years back this was a cricket ground, but travellers occupied it and the pavilion was burnt down. It was then used as a landfill site, raising the overall ground level around twenty feet. On the other side of Eastway we walked through Wick Field, site of massive tree-planting by Hackney. The new path we walked through, designed and made by one of those on the walk, was pleasant if muddy.

Canary Wharf towers from Eastway Cycle Circuit

At the end of the walk I went back to the bench in Wick Field, in the centre of a fine row of plane trees running parallel to the Lea Navigation and sat down to eat my lunch. In front of me a grassy fire-break path stretched into the distance, marred only slightly by dimly seen lorries at its end on the elevated roadway. As I sat there, the unmistakable low-slung red-brown shape of a fox strode slowly across the path a hundred yards away.

London 2012 Olympic advertising at Stratford Station

I made my way back to Stratford by Leyton, returning to look at some of my memories – St Josephs Cemetery and the nearby crossroads on Langthorne Road, the stump of Claremont Road and then a few pictures around the centre of Stratford itself.

You can see more pictures from the walk and my cycle rides from and to Stratford Station before and after the walk with the original posting. All pictures were made with a Nikon D70, with some of the panoramas stitched together from several images.

You can see these and more pictures from the area on my Lea Valley web site, Some are also in my book Before The Olympics, first published in 2010, ISBN: 978-1-909363-00-7 still available from Blurb both as an expensive paperback or as a PDF.

March against police racism 2000

Sunday, January 22nd, 2023

March against police racism

One of the earliest protests I put on My London Diary was a march in Wood Green to Tottenham Police Station organised by Movement For Justice on 22nd January 2000, and two years ago I posted come of the black and white images from this on this site in a post Marching For Justice.

March against police racism

At the time as well as working on black and white film I was also taking pictures with a consumer digital camera, the Fuji 2.2 Mp MX-2700. It had a fixed 35mm equivalent lens and was probably the best consumer digital of the time, though obviously rather limited.

March against police racism

The protest was organised by the Movement for Justice and the Lindo Campaign. Delroy Lindo started a campaign ofter his friend Winston Silcott was wrongly imprisoned for the murder of PC Keith Blakelock during the 1985 Broadwater Farm riots. The Winston Silcott Defence Campaign played an important part getting Silcott acquitted and released. Silcott had been convicted with two other men despite not being anywhere near where the murder took place.

Two police officers were later tried for fabricating evidence but were acquitted, despite the evidence against them. They had picked on Silcott because of his record and fabricated confessions by the three men.

Silcott was chosen because of his record and because the police could find no evidence over the murder of one of their officers. Six years earlier he had been acquitted in another murder trial and sentenced to six months after a nightclub brawl. When Blakelock was savagely killed he was on bail on another murder charge, for which he spent 18 years in jail after the jury did not believe that he had killed a night club bouncer in self-defence.

Later Silcott, much to the obvious disgust of the BBC and many politicians was awarded £17,000 compensation for wrongful conviction and a further £50,000 in an out-of-court settlement of his civil case for malicious prosecution.

Lindo and his wife were harassed by police after they began to campaign over the imprisonment of Silcott and other cases including the killing of Roger Sylvester and the harassment of Duwayne Brooks, a friend of Stephen Lawrence who had been with him when he was murdered in 1993. Instead of treating him as a witness, they treated him as a suspect and he suffered severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

Police arrested Brooks after he took part in an anti-racist march against the British National Party following the murder. and he was charged but the judge dismissed the case. Later he sued the Met Police and was awarded £100,000 compensation. The treatment of Brooks and the parents and other friends of Stephen Lawrence played an important role in the Macpherson report that concluded the Metropolitan Police Force was “institutionally racist“.

Roger Sylvester lived in Tottenham and worked for a drop-in mental health centre. He had suffered some mental health problems himself some years earlier and in January 1999 was detained outside of his home, under section 136 of the Mental Health Act 1983. Eight police officers restrained him “for his own safety” and took him to St Ann’s Hospital were he was further restrained, going limp after 20 minutes. An inquest jury found his death was caused by being restrained for too long in the wrong position, without sufficient medical attention, but their verdict was overturned and a judge replaced it with an open verdict.

Recent event have shown that the force remained a safe space for racists, misogynists and rapists, although of course many police officers are trying hard to do an honest and necessary job. It remains to be seen if the current head of London’s Metropolitan Police Service, Sir Mark Rowley, will be any more successful than his predecessors in turning the force around.

Back on the original post about the event there are six pictures, four in black and white and two colour. I took many more in black and white but very few have been digitised.