Archive for February, 2023

A Walk In the City – March 1989

Tuesday, February 28th, 2023

My walk in the City of London towards the end of March 1989 began at Bank Station, perhaps because the Bank of England is in many ways the centre of the City, but probably also because until 1994 the Waterloo and City line was a part of our railway network and I could travel there as a “London terminus” on my rail ticket. In 1994 it became part of the London Underground (they paid £1 for it) and from then on I needed to pay them for the journey. I think back then there were no services on the “drain” on Saturday aftenoons or Sundays.

War Memorial, Bank of England, City, 1989 89-3d-64
War Memorial, Bank of England, City, 1989 89-3d-64

Over the years I’ve taken many slight variations on this picture with the London Troops War Memorial and the Bank of England. The memorial to the troops of London who died in the Great War was designed by Sir Aston Webb, with carving and lettering by William Silver Frith and the bronze figures by sculptor Alfred Drury and was unveiled on the day after the second anniversary of Armistice Day on 12th November 1920.

Later a further dedication to those who died in the Second World War was added. The quality of the statues and carving and overall its design make it one of the more impressive of war memorials. Grade II listed when I made this picture it was upgraded to II* more recently for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

The memorial stands in the triangle of public space in front of the Royal Exchange but this picture was taken from the side to include the Bank of England as the background. It’s perhaps slightly unfortunate that I included the sign for the public toilets at the bottom edge, useful though they were – and then like others in the City – free to use.

George & Vulture, George Yard, City, 1989 89-3d-52
George & Vulture, George Yard, City, 1989 89-3d-52

The George & Vulture describes itself as a City institution and there has been an inn on this site since 1142 or 1175, depending on who you believe – or 1600 according to my picture. Before the 1666 Great Fire there were supposedly two inns here, the earliest The George and a later establishment, The Lively Vulture, but they were amalgamated in the rebuilding.

It gets numerous mentions in Dicken’s Pickwick Papers and has been the headquarters of the City Pickwick Club since it’s inaugural dinner in March 1909 when it was founded incorporating his earlier Pickwick Coaching Club by Sir James Roll. Initially limited to 30 members that has increased over the years and in 2009 was raised to 100; they still meet for dinner there four times a year, and it is also host to other Dickens events.

Rather than a pub it is now a City chop house or restaurant, though open some evenings for cold plates and drinks; run by Samuel Smiths Old Brewery it offers a full range of their beers as well as other drinks.

Fountain, George Yard, St Michael's Alley, City, 1989 89-3d-53
Fountain, George Yard, St Michael’s Alley, City, 1989 89-3d-53

The City’s alleys have long fascinated many, and I’d first explored them before I was taking many photographs, following walks from one of many guides to London. It’s still easy to get a little confused in following them, particularly when some parts such as George Yard has changed rather.

You will search in vain for this fountain which then stood in the open area at the end of George Yard and St Michael’s Alley (though you could also reach it from Bell Inn Yard or Bengall Court and it was just a few steps from the end of Castle Court.

Fountain, George Yard, St Michael's Alley, City, 1989 89-3d-42
Fountain, George Yard, St Michael’s Alley, City, 1989 89-3d-42

Both the George & Vulture and the the Church of St Edmund the King in the background of this picture remain, but much of the rest around here has been replaced.

Fountain, George Yard, St Michael's Alley, City, 1989 89-3d-43
Fountain, George Yard, St Michael’s Alley, City, 1989 89-3d-43

I assume the statue was of St Michael and to me it and the mosaic floor have a look of the 1950s or 60s about them, but neither this statue nor the fountain in which it stood get a mention in any of the books about London I own. Most of my pictures were of the mermaids who obviously appealed to me more.

I have no idea what happened to these sculptures, and have been unable to find any more information about them. The yard is now home to rather Dalek-like structures, surrounded by seats and flower beds, presumably provided ventilation for areas below. The whole site on the west side of Gracechurch Street south of Bell Inn Yard which was the headquarters of Barclays Bank was redeveloped shortly after I made these images, with the distinctively curved 17 floors of 20 Gracechurch being completed in 1994.

Sculpture, Lombard St, City, 1989 89-3d-46
Sculpture, Lombard St, City, 1989 89-3d-46

I walked out onto Lombard Street where I made several exposures of this Grade II listed bronze ‘Chimera with Personifications of Fire and the Sea’ by Francis William Doyle-Jones from 1914 on the 1910 bank building. I was at the time thinking of putting together a compilation of pictures of London’s ‘topless’ women.

Sculpture, Lombard St, City, 1989 89-3d-33
Sculpture, Lombard St, City, 1989 89-3d-33

A wider view taken from the corner with Birchin Lane, where the view today is little different to that in 1989, except that the hanging TSB 1810 sign on Falcon House at left, there until 2016, has since been replaced by one peculiarly illegible one for Falcon Fine Art.

My walk around the city continued, though I’ve digitised relatively few pictures from it and soon moved away further east towards Spitalfields, as you will see in my next post on it.

Saving the Whittington

Monday, February 27th, 2023

Saving the Whittington

Saving the Whittington
A huge campaign in 2010 led to Andy Burnham, then Health Secretary stopping the Whittington hospital board’s plans to close its maternity and A&E Departments. A major event in this campaign was the march I photographed on Saturday 27 February 2010 from Highbury Corner to a rally at the hospital at Archway.

Later in 2013 when the board announced plans for more cuts another successful campaign stopped these, and in 2016 there was yet another campaign over redevelopment plans in concert with a private contractor.

Many people tell me that protest never works and that campaigners are simply wasting their time, but in 2022 the hospital announced a £100 million refurbishment of Whittington Hospital’s maternity and neonatal facilities, which still deliver over 3,600 babies a year, and the A&E department is still open for business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

I counted almost 2000 people walking past me a short distance from the start on the two mile march to the hospital, and more arrived for the rally, swelling the numbers to around 3-5,000. Or as the BBC at the time called it, in their usual way of minimising protests, ‘hundreds’ of protesters. But at least, unlike most protests, they did report on it.

Among the marchers and speakers where almost every local politician, including David Lammy, MP for Tottenham and then Minister for Higher Education and Intellectual Property in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, who pledged his support for the hospital and all its services, revealing that he had been born there. Frank Dobson MP who was Secretary of State for Health from 1997 to 1999 also gave a powerful speech in support, as did Lynne Featherstone, Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood Green. MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornberry were also at the event, as well as Terry Stacy, the leader of Islington Council.

The proposals for the cuts and downgarding of A&E had come from a rationalisation programme initiated by Lord Darzi, a surgeon and national adviser in surgery to the Department of Health and a Labour Peer from 2007 until he resigned the whip in 2019. His report suggested moving much care from hospitals to GP-led polyclinics and to greater centralisation of trauma, stork and heart attack services to centralised specialist services.

Frank Dobson

Polyclinics remain rare, but although the greater specialisation of acute services made clinical (and financial) sense it failed to take into account the problems of London’s congested streets which would have led to long delays in treatment for many patients. Those inevitable delays would have meant deaths. And the selection of Whittington for closure neglected its good road and public transport connections which make it an ideal location for emergency cases as well as other patients and visitors.

Why Whittington was chosen as suitable for closure probably came down to two factors. One was certainly the age of the buildings, but perhaps more important was that the same factors of location and transport links made it an exceptionally valuable site for property developers. Had the cuts gone ahead in 2010, the rest of the hospital would probably by now also had been closed, with the site developed, including some of those old buildings converted into luxury flats.

Many more pictures from the march and rally at Save the Whittington on My London Diary.

Arab Spring Libya, Bank Teach-in: 2011

Sunday, February 26th, 2023

Libyan Embassy Protests – Knightsbridge

On Saturday 26th February 2011 we were in the heady days of the Arab Spring, and two groups of protesters came to the Libyan Embassy to call for Gaddafi to go.

Arab Spring Libya, Bank Teach-in

Gaddafi had tried to prevent the movement spreading to Libya, reducing food prices, purging the army leadership and releasing some political prisoners, but major protests had still begun across the country on February 17th. Gaddafi had not quite been the evil dictator that the Western press portrayed him as, but there had been extensive corruption and patronage and unemployment had reached around 30%.

Arab Spring Libya, Bank Teach-in

Gaddafi had begun to use the army to hunt down the protesters and hundreds had been shot, shocking many of the countries leading politicians some of whom defected to the rebels who by the end of February were in control of many of the major cities including Benghazi, Misrata, al-Bayda, and Tobruk.

On the day I photographed these protests were taking place outside the London embassy the UN Security Council passed a resolution suspending Libya from the UN Human Rights Council, implementing sanctions and calling for an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into the killing of unarmed civilians.

Arab Spring Libya, Bank Teach-in

Around 200 Hizb ut-Tahrir supporters had arrived first to protest and had occupied the pavement opposite the embassy, with a large orange banner ‘ ‘Arab-Muslim Rulers Are Traitors’. Many of the men waved large black flags with white Arabic calligraphy, but there were also placards in English, calling for an end of Western interference in Muslim countries.

There were a few women too, in a separate pen to once side, many of whom appeared to take little part in the protest, though some did join in the chanting of slogans. Hizb ut-Tahrir were calling for the replacement of Gadaffi by a Muslim caliphate, although there was apparently little support for this in Libya.

Arab Spring Libya, Bank Teach-in

Coming later, a number of Libyan students and supporters wanted to make clear they were separate from this Islamic protest. They went into Hyde Park to protest from a low grassy bank above the other group. They were at pains to make clear that the last thing that they wanted would be Islamic rule, which, as several pointed out has created a similar tyranny in Iran to Gaddafi’s Libya.

Later NATO intervened, supplying air cover for the rebel forces and launching air strikes against Gaddafi’s army. He was forced to flee, recording a farewell message and returning to his home area. Taking refuge from an air strike on a construction site, sheltering inside a drainage pipe, he was taken prisoner and killed by militia.

After his death, while Western leaders were triumphant, many across the rest of the world mourned him as a hero (as the Wikipedia article makes clear.) The future for Libya looked brighter, with trade unions legalised, press freedom and elections. But things have not gone smoothly since, as the UK government’s advice indicates:

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advise against all travel to Libya. This advice has been in place consistently since 2014. If you’re in Libya against this advice, you should seek to leave immediately by any practical means. …

The political situation in Libya remains fragile and the security situation remains dangerous and unpredictable. Uncertainty about when postponed Libyan elections will take place is likely to heighten tensions throughout the country, which may lead to security incidents such as inter-militia clashes and oil blockades.

Libyan Embassy Protests

UK Uncut Lecture in TSB – Oxford St

From the Libyan Embassy close to Hyde Park Corner I made my way to Oxford Street to join around 70 UK Uncut protesters who were taking part in one of around 50 protests around the country against RBS/NatWest who had been bailed out in the banking crisis with £20 billion of public money – so we now owned 84% of it. But despite which it didn’t seem to be behaving in the public interest.

The Nat West branch in Regent Street where the protesters had intended to protest had shut down completely for the day, and after a short protest outside it, the protesters announced we would be moving fast to another location, and the mainly young protesters set off at a jog.

I managed to keep up with them – and was actually a few yards ahead when suddenly they turned and swarmed into a Lloyds TSB branch. I turned round and followed them in. There they began a series of lectures on the failures of the banking industry, tax avoidance and the alternative’s to the public sector cuts.

After around 25 minutes the police and branch manager came to ask the protesters to leave, warning them they would otherwise face arrest.After a short deliberation they went outside and continued the lectures on the pavement, and I left for other protests.

UK Uncut Lecture in TSB

Freedom For All Arab Nations! Trafalgar Square

The main event I wanted to be at next was in Trafalgar Square where around 200 people took part in an Arab unity demonstration.

This had been called at at short notice by British Libyans and friends demanding freedom for all Arab nations. Heritage Wardens forced them to move from the main square where protests need permission from London’s Mayor to the North Terrace, still officially a public highway although pedestrianised.

It was an animated protest, with a number of emotional speeches, mainly in Arabic and calling for Gadaffi to go, and there were plenty of placards, poster and banners for me to photograph.

More on My London Diary at Freedom For All Arab Nations!

I also photographed a couple of small protests taking place at the gates of Downing Street:

9/11 Truth Protest at Downing St
Hands Off Our NHS

LD50, Picturehouse, Guinness, Khojaly & Dubs Now

Saturday, February 25th, 2023

Saturday 25th February saw me travelling around London to photograph unrelated protests in Dalston, Leicester Square, Brixton and Westminster.

Shut race-hate LD50 gallery – Dalston

LD50, Picturehouse, Guinness, Khojaly & Dubs Now

People protested outside the small LD50 gallery in Dalston just off the Kingsland Road which they say has promoted fascists, neo-Nazis, misogynists, racists and Islamophobes in one of London’s more diverse areas.

LD50, Picturehouse, Guinness, Khojaly & Dubs Now

The gallery gets its name from the does of any substance which kills 50% of those taking it, and the protesters said it “has been responsible for one of the most extensive neo-Nazi cultural programmes to appear in London in the last decade.”

LD50, Picturehouse, Guinness, Khojaly & Dubs Now

One man, “dc miller“, came to argue that it was a matter of free speech and the right to freely discuss ideas, even repulsive ones, should be defended. He got considerable verbal abuse from the protesters and eventually police came and advised him firmly to leave, and later wrote a number of articles about the gallery and the protest.

LD50, Picturehouse, Guinness, Khojaly & Dubs Now

The protest didn’t immediately close down LD50 despite the claims of the protesters and a couple of months later it put on a show of defiance called ‘Corporeality’, though it is now permanently closed.

Perhaps an article in the Baffler by Megan Nolan, Useful Idiots of the Art World best expresses the position in this quote:

LD50 is a real place, in a real neighborhood, filled with people who are directly threatened by the vile speech of the very real racists who were invited into it. Repeatedly, the defense mounted by the gallery has been that it was attempting to have an open discussion about reactionary ideologies. The implication is that LD50 were engaging in some sort of completely neutral anthropological consideration of current events, rather than extending a fawning welcome to alt-right lynchpins.

More pictures at Shut race-hate LD50 gallery

Picturehouse recognition & living wage – Leicester Square

I rushed down to Leicester Square where workers from four Picturehouse cinemas at Brixton, Hackney, Wood Green and Picturehouse Central were holding a rally outside the Empire Cinema in Leicester Square to campaign for recognition of their union BECTU and to be paid the London Living Wage.

The Empire was recenetly acquired by Cineworld the owners of Picturehouse who have refused to recognise trade unions, but instead set up a company run staff forum.

They are not paying staff in London a living wage and offer poor conditions of service despite making large profits from cinema-goers paying £13 or more to see a film in central London. I’d arrived late and had to leave before the speeches to get the tube to Brixton.

More pictures Picturehouse recognition & living wage

Stop Unfair Eviction by Guinness – Brixton

The Guinness Trust was set up in 1890 by Sir Edward Cecil Guinness, then head of the family brewing business, to provide better housing for working class Londoners. One of the estates they built was the Loughborough Park Estate in Brixton.

Betiel Mahari had lived on that estate and moved into a new Guinness Trust flat, but the rent on this was more than doubled, increasing from £109 to £256 a week, although some of her neighbours are paying around a weekly rent of £100 less.

Beti has problems paying the new rent and because she works on a zero hours contract here housing benefit claim is constantly being reassessed leading to delays and errors in payment, leaving her in arrears. Guinness are not taking her to court to evict her and her two young sons. Supporters of the ‘Save Beti Campaign’ including Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! and Architects for Social Housing were campaigning outside Brixton Station collecting signatures for a petition to oppose the eviction of Beti and other tenants threatened by estate demolition.

I had time in Brixton to take a little walk around, particularly going to look at the railway arches where many long-standing local businesses are being evicted, though some are still trading.

More at Stop Unfair Eviction by Guinness.

25th anniversary of Khojaly Massacre – Westminster,

Back in Westminster the Justice for Khojaly Campaign were marching, calling for justice 25 years after the Khojaly Massacre in Azerbaijan where on the night of 25-26 February 1992, Armenian forces brutally killed 613 civilians, including 106 women and 83 children.

The call for an official apology from the Armenian govenment with full reparations and those responsible for this war crime to be brought to justice. The massacre was the larges in the war that folloed the secession of the majority Armenian population of the Nagorno-Karabakh region to form the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic which ended in 1994 with an uneasy truce.

More at 25th anniversary of Khojaly Massacre.

Dubs Now – let the children in – Downing St

My final event of the day was at Downing Street, where Help4Refugee Children was calling on the Government to honour its promise to let unaccompanied Syrian children into the UK after it reneged on its pledge earlier this month.

Theresa May’s high heels tread on a child

When Parliament had passed the Dubs amendment it had been very clear that this should happen and the government’s shameful and heartless decision overturned this, leaving many vulnerable young children forced to continue living in intolerable conditions. Many local councils say that they had made offers to take the children but these have been ignored by government.

Dubs Now – let the children in.

High Rise, Houses, Car Parts, and a Club

Friday, February 24th, 2023

Continuing my walk in Peckham in March 1989. The previous post on this walk was Asylum, Lorry Park, Works, Museum & Office Door.

Bird in Bush Rd, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-3c-21
Bird in Bush Road, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-3c-21

I spent some time exploring the area around Malt Street and Ossory Road, now on the other side of Asda, where some demolition was taking place but took few photographs, none on-line, and then walked back along along the Old Kent Road to Peckham Park Road, going down this to Green Hundred Road. I found myself in a large area of council housing, much of which was fairly standard LCC five storey blocks dating from the late 1930s, solidly built, their height limited back then by the lack of lifts.

The foreground flats in this picture are from the late 60s and are on Bird in Bush Road, part of the GLC designed Ledbury Estate, and as well as these 4-storey maisonette blocks there were also four identical 14 floor H shape tower blocks, including this one, Bromyard House, which has its entrance on Commercial Way.

Bird in Bush Road, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-3c-22
Bird in Bush Road, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-3c-22

This picture was taken from close to the east end of Bird in Bush Road, and the building cut off at extreme left of the image is the former Arthur Street Board School (now Camelot Primary School.)

The design dates of these flats, also on the Ledbury estate, is from the early 1960s and was replicated across London by the GLC, using the prefabricated Danish Larsen-Nielsen system. After one at Ronan Point suffered a disastrous collapse following a gas explosion flats built using this system should have been strengthened, but somehow Southwark Council failed to do so on this estate. I’m not sure whether this had now been put right. but none have yet collapsed.

Doddington Cottages, Commercial Way, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-3c-24
Doddington Cottages, Commercial Way, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-3c-24

This semi-detached residence dating from 1836 which was Grade II listed together with the neighbouring Doddington Place around nine years after I took this picture.

The name possibly comes from Doddington Hall in Cheshire, built by Samuel Wyatt for Sir Thomas Broughton in 1777-90 and its parkland landscaped by Capability Brown. There is also Doddington Place at Doddington near Sittingbourne in Kent, but this was only built around 1870.

Tustin Estate, Old Kent Rd, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-3c-11
Tustin Estate, Old Kent Rd, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-3c-11

The Tustin Estate is on the north side the Old Kent Road immediately west of Ilderton Road. It has three 20 storey towers, Windermere Point, Grasmere Point (in the centre here) and Ambleside Point, each with over 70 flats which were approved by the GLC in 1964. There are also six low-rise blocks on the estate.

According to Southwark Council, “In March 2021, residents voted in favour of demolishing and rebuilding the low-rise buildings in a residents’ ballot. This will include replacement council homes, additional council homes and key worker housing, shared equity homes and homes for private sale. There will also be a replacement school building, new commercial spaces and a new park. All existing residents will be able to move to a new council home in the first phase of the scheme.” I’m unsure how far this scheme has so far progressed and it remains to be seen whether the council will keep its promises, which it almost completely failed to do on some earlier schemes.

Clifton Crescent, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-3c-13
Clifton Crescent, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-3c-13

I returned to Clifton Crescent which I had photographed earlier and too a rather better and closer picture of this magnificent curved terrace. As I explained earlier, it was Southwark Council’s decision in 1972 to demolish this crescent that led to a local action group which became the Peckham Society in 1975. Fortunately they managed to stop the demolition when only No 1 had been lost. They convinced the council that retaining and restoring the properties was a cheaper option, and the lost house was rebuilt and the entire crescent, Grade II listed thanks to their efforts in 1974, was restored by 1977. The Crescent was built in 1847-51 and represents an interesting transition between earlier Regency styles and the simpler Victorian terraces.

Car spares, Loder St, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-3c-15
Car spares, Loder St, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-3c-15

From there I made my way east, going under the railway on Culmore Road or Clifton Way and then south to Loder St. This whole area has been redeveloped since I made these pictures in 1989 and is now covered with low-rise housing. I made two pictures of this car breaker’s yard (you can see the other on Flickr).The tower blocks are those of the Tustin Estate.

Hatcham Liberal Club, Queen's Rd, New Cross, Lewisham, 1989 89-3d-61
Hatcham Liberal Club, Queen’s Rd, New Cross, Lewisham, 1989 89-3d-61

I walked down to Queen’s Road, I think along York Grove, stopping briefly to photograph a street corner. On Queen’s Road before catching a bus I photographed the Hatcham Liberal Club, built in 1880 in Queen Anne Dutch style and Grade II listed ten years after I took this picture. It was one of the largest of a number of late Victorian working men’s clubs and became a popular venue with a large hall at the back available for hire for parties and gigs and also for until it closed in 2006. In 2009 most of the interior was converted into flats.

Shops, John Ruskin St, Camberwell, Southwark, 1989 89-3d-62
Shops, John Ruskin St, Camberwell, Southwark, 1989 89-3d-62

I changed buses in Camberwell, where I made a slight detour to make another visit to photograph the row of shops on John Ruskin Street as the final picture of the day and this walk.

The first post about this walk was Shops, Removals, Housing and the Pioneer Health Centre. I’ll post about my next walk in 1989, in the City of London, shortly.

Venezuelan Gold, Democracy for Sudan and more

Thursday, February 23rd, 2023

Saturday 23rd February 2019 seems now a long time ago. Although it’s only four years ago it was in the pre-Covid era. It was a busy day for me.

Stop Trump’s Venezuela gold & oil grab – Bank of England.

Venezuelan Gold, Democracy for Sudan
Ken Livingstone

A protest outside the Bank of England calls for the bank to return the $1.3 billion of Venezuelan gold (31 tonnes) to the Venezuelan government and for an end to the US-backed attempted coup.

Venezuelan Gold, Democracy for Sudan
Trump and May hold up gold bars

Right-wing opposition leader Juan Guaido, illegitimately recognised by our government as President, has written to Theresa May calling for the funds to be sent to him. Among the speakers were former London Mayor Ken Livingstone and Kate Hudson of CND.

Venezuelan Gold, Democracy for Sudan

Venezuela’s 32 tons of gold are still held in the Bank of England, with the High Court’s latest decision in July 2022 based on the UK foreign secretary’s ambiguous statement about Maduro’s legitimacy as president refused to hand the gold back to its owners.

Venezualan Gold, Democracy for Sudan

More pictures at Stop Trump’s Venezuela gold & oil grab.

Sudanese support non-violent uprising – Trafalgar Square

Sudanese in Trafalgar Square support the peaceful protests in Sudan which began in December calling for democracy and for President Omar Al-Bashir to step down.

Eventually in April 2019 Al-Bashir was forced out of office, and later many of his supporters were sacked. But protests continued in Sudan against the military regime and following another coup in Octorber 2021 the country remains in conflict.

More pictures Sudanese support non-violent uprising.

Yellow Jackets continue protests – Westminster

Every weekend around this time a small group of Right-wing pro-Brexit extremists wearing yellow jackets were out protesting in Westminster for several hours, walking along the street and disrupting traffic, accompanied by a number of police.

They were angry at the slow pace at which Brexit was taking place and the failure of the EU to accede to every UK demand and play dead with its legs in the air. The Leave campaign had made great promises, none of which were achievable but which had conned the public into voting for it, and had stirred up a wave of xenophobia and racism – and this was one of its results.

Another was of course the election victory at the end of the year which led to Boris Johnson becoming Prime Minister – thanks to the help of Keir Starmer who effectively sabotaged the Labour Party’s vote. Johnson pushed through an agreement which apparently he hadn’t even read and which we are still seeing the problems from in Northern Ireland.

Although I voted to remain in Europe, I can see there were some valid complaints about our membership – but these were not what the Leave campaign was fought on. Instead they pursued a course based on lies and self-interest..

Yellow Jackets continue protests

Bolivians protests against President Morales – Parliament Square

Bolivians were in Parliament Square to protest against President Evo Morales, saying he is a dictator and accuse him of corruption and interfering with the court system to remain in power.

Morales was a labour leader and activist who became the first from the indigenous population to become president in 2006. Under his leadership there were huge gains in legal rights and social and economic position for the indigenous poor in the country.

Some of those gains were at the expense of the middle classes who had been used to ruling the country, and much of the opposition to him came from them and from their international friends, particularly in the US his opposition to neoliberalism as a dangerous example to other south American countries. Almost all press reports on Bolivia (and other countries) reflect the views of the urban middle classes rather than the people as a whole.

The constitutional question to some extent cut across communities in the country and although his standing for a fourth term as approved by the Electoral Tribunal it went against a 2016 referendum which had narrowly rejected by 51.3 to 48.7% of the votes. Like Brexit a slim majority.

Violent protests continued after Morales was forced into resigning in what his supporters called a coup d’état in November 2019, though others describe it as an uprising against his unconstitutional attempt to be president for a fourth term. Protests continued to get him reinstated and were met by violence from the security forces who were exempted from any criminal responsibility by interim president Jeanine Áñez.

A new election took place after two delays in October 2020, and resulted in a landslide victory for Morales’s Movement for Socialism (MAS) party now led by Luis Arce who was sworn in as President of Bolivia the following month. One of the new government’s first actions was to return a huge loan to the IMF taken out by Áñez in order to protect Bolivia’s economy from its unacceptable conditions.

In 2021 Áñez was arrested and in 2021 she and others were sentenced to 10 years for making “decisions contrary to the constitution”” and “dereliction of duty” for her role in the coup. Other cases are still being brought against some of those involved and protests against this continue.

Bolivians protests against President Morales

Leake Street graffiti

As I was approaching Waterloo Station I realised I had just missed a train home and would have to wait over 20 minutes for the next one so I decided to take a longer route through the tunnel under t he tracks coming out of the station to take another look at the graffiti there.

This is one of the few places in London where graffiti is allowed and encouraged, with space for some large and sometimes very intricate designs. Few last for long before they get painted over with new work, though those on the ceiling usually last a little longer.

More at Leake Street graffiti.

Asylum, Lorry Park, Works, Museum & Office Door

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2023

Continuing my walks in Peckham in March 1989. The previous post was Bird in Bush, Wood Dene, Asylum and a School.

Caroline Gardens, Licensed Victuallers’ Benevolent Institution, Asylum Rd, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-3c-53
Caroline Gardens, Licensed Victuallers’ Benevolent Institution, Asylum Rd, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-3c-53

I stepped a few feet inside the Caroline Gardens Estate to photograph No 79A, which was one of two identical lodges at the ends of the main site. This one is at the north end and the plaque above the doorway has been restored and can now easily be read, ‘THIS LODGE ERECTED 1849 HENRY ENGLAND CHAIRMAN’.

Caroline Gardens, Licensed Victuallers’ Benevolent Institution, Asylum Rd, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-3c-54
Caroline Gardens, Licensed Victuallers’ Benevolent Institution, Asylum Rd, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-3c-54

The corner of this lodge occupies most of the right half of the picture, looking down the rather uneven pavement with some vintage street lamps to more of the Asylum buildings. I didn’t go further into the estate as I think I felt this and the earlier pictures of it were enough. The buildings of the Licensed Victuallers’ Benevolent Institution (Caroline Gardens) in Asylum Rd are Grade II listed and as my previous post mentioned were acquired by Southwark Council in 1960.

Lorry Park, Asylum Road, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-3c-55
Lorry Park, Asylum Rd, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-3c-55

The lorry park on Asylum Road was something of a contrast to the elegance of the Asylum buildings, though I liked its selection of lines and blocks, the trailers, the fence, barrier and posts and wires.

I can’t see any trace of this now and but I think it was probably on the east side of the street where there is now a large car park for Lidl.

Wales Close, Asylum Rd, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-3c-56
Wales Close, Asylum Rd, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-3c-56

On the west side of Asylum Road was this dead end back street, not named on my map from the 1980s but was where Wales Close is now. The tall blocks in the background are on the Ledbury Estate on Commercial Way.

Streets such as this were very much a reminder of London as a city full of industry with many areas like this full of small manufacturing businesses of all trades, as well as larger companies and great industrial estates.

Livesey Museum, Old Kent Rd, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-3c-43
Livesey Museum, Old Kent Rd, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-3c-43

Asylum Road ends at the Old Kent Road and the Livesey Museum was at No 682, just a short walk towards central London. The Livesey Museum was commissioned by George Livesey, chairman of the South Metropolitan Gas Company, in 1890 as a library for workers of the local gasworks and later entrusted to the people of the old parish of Camberwell as a public library. It was damaged in wartime bombing but restored and opened as the the Livesey Museum for Children from 1974 to 2008.

Southwark Council wanted to sell the building off, but found that they were not the owners, as it was owned by a covenanted trust. It was squatted in 2010 but then became home to Treasure House, providing special education to vulnerable young adults in Southwark.

Offices, Malt St, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-3c-32
Offices, Malt St, Peckham, Southwark, 1989 89-3c-32

I kept walking along the Old Kent Road towards Bermondsey, taking a few pictures including of Christ Church next to the museum and the murals on the North Peckham Civic Centre by Polish artist, Adam Kossowski. Plans for the demolition of this building were approved by Southwark Council in 2019, preserving the mural, listed in 2017.

I haven’t digitised my black and white picture as I thought I had taken better images in colour, but if so I’ve yet to digitise those either. The former North Peckham Civic Centre was the Twentieth Century Society’s Building of the Month for November 2020, and has been described as ” by far the finest 20th Century building on the Old Kent Road.” and was once described by Southwark Council as a building of ‘Architectural or Historic Interest’. But that seems not to be enough to save it, although it was still standing a few months ago.

The doorway to Offices I photographed at 500 Old Kent Road, on the side of the building in Malt Street has since disappeared, along with the row of late Victorian terrace housing in my next frame which I think were also on Malt Street. 500 Old Kent Road is now a part of the address of Asda Old Kent Road Superstore at 464-504, and Malt Street is considerably wider to give easier vehicle access to the Asda car park.

More on this walk in March 1989 to follow. The first post about this walk was Shops, Removals, Housing and the Pioneer Health Centre.

Shrove Tuesday Pancake Races 2012

Tuesday, February 21st, 2023

Shrove Tuesday Pancake Races 2012
The Worshipful Company of Furniture Makers get ready for the inter-livery pancake races

Back in 2012, Shrove Tuesday also fell on February 21st. The annual date depends on the date for Easter, calculated by an esoteric formula, the computus, agreed in AD395, which makes it first Sunday after the Paschal full moon, the first full moon after the fixed approximation of the March Equinox, 21 March. The actual date differs between the western Christian tradition (Protestant and Catholic) which uses the Gregorian calendar introduced in 1582 and the eastern Orthodox churches which stuck with the Julian.

Shrove Tuesday Pancake Races 2012
The Chief Commoner shows how to toss a pancake

Of course historically its more complex than this, but fortunately we don’t need to bother about it, as the annual dates are marked in calendars published in print or online. Shrove or Pancake Tuesday is always 47 days before Easter Sunday, and the ecclesiastically more important day that follows, Ash Wednesday, is the first day of Lent.

Shrove Tuesday Pancake Races 2012

Few of us still give up things for Lent, though some still stop eating things like chocolate or biscuits, but it used to be a much more serious and widespread observance. Making pancakes was simply a way to use up eggs, milk and fat before the start of Lent and it was also an occasion for a bit of fun – hence pancake races.

Shrove Tuesday Pancake Races 2012
The Gunmakers fire a cannon to start each race

But there was also a more serious side to Shrove Tuesday, with people attending church and confessing their sins to a priest and being assigned appropriate penance, after which they were absolved from their sins, a practice known as shriving.

There are separate races for men, women and Masters

Until relatively recently, pancake races were only held in a few villages, reputed to have their origin in 1445 at Olney in Buckinghamshire, a few miles north of Milton Keynes, when a local housewife was still making her pancakes when the church bell for shriving rang, and she ran to the church holding her pan.

Earlier in origin were mob football games with large crowds taking place and streets and commons, sometimes between goals large distances apart, which sometimes caused a great deal of chaos and injury. In 1835 football was banned on public highways by Act of Parliament, and the practice has largely died out, though still celebrated in a few towns around the country.

Pancake races have come back in a big way this century, often as charity events such as that which takes place in Guildhall Yard in the City of London. The races here, which are between members of the various City of London Livery companies, where begun by the Worshipful Company of Poulters in 2004 and raise money for the annual Lord Mayor’s charity.

A fancy dress competitor – the 2012 event was supporting Bart’s Trauma unit

I’ve several times written more about what goes on in these races on My London Dairy, including in 2012 and won’t go into more detail here. But its interest is very much in the way that the City lets its hair down a little and in the hugely competitive spirit which has perhaps made the City what it is – for better or often for worse.

The other pancake race I photographed in the City in 2012 was very different, although those taking part were also workers in the city. This is very much a fun event, organised by businesses in Leadenhall Market, particularly the Lamb Tavern which provided the prizes.

There has been a market here since 1309, though the current structure is splendidly Victorian from 1881, finely restored in 1991. The alley on which the races take place is a little narrow and hard to keep clear for the races as tourists wander through and customers go into the shops on each side. There was only room for two teams to compete in any race, which were run as relays with three legs.

Shoe-shiners kept at work between races

The race was first held here only in 2011, and the contestants are teams from local offices and businesses in and around the market. In 2012 a number of heats eliminated all but a team from the shoe-shine stand on the corner by the Lamb Tavern and another from a nearby cheese shop.

But the final provided a surprise with the cheese shop team making no effort to win and simply walking the course as they preferred the second prize of £50 to spend at the Lamb Tavern bar to the first which was a £75 voucher for the pub’s restaurant. After some haggling the Lamb called for a rerun promising both teams a bar tab, and there was then a hard fought battle battle for the honour of winning, won narrowly for the second year in the short history of the race by the team from the shoe stall.

Neck and neck as they come to the finish

I won’t bother to go and photograph the races this year, either these or several others around London which I’ve also photographed in some past years. The Guildhall event has become rather more organised and attended by many, many more photographers making getting good pictures almost impossible and accreditation – which I can’t be bothered with – essential. And while I’ll certainly return to Leadenhall Market and the Lamb Tavern, I’ll do it again (as I did a couple of months back) on a day there are no races and it is less crowded.

Pancakes in the City – Leadenhall Market
Pancakes in the City – Guildhall

Peckham Pride

Monday, February 20th, 2023

Earlier this week I took a walk with a couple of friends in Peckham, one of my favourite parts of south London, and currently on this site I’ve been making a number of illustrated posts about walks I made there back in 1989, the latest, a couple od days ago being Bird in Bush, Wood Dene, Asylum and a School. But I’ve also photographed other events in Peckham, including the first Peckham Pride, seven years ago on Saturday 20th February 2016.

Peckham Pride

LGSMigrants and Movement for Justice organised the event to put the politics of resistance which has for many years been sidelined by the growing commercialisation of Pride marches and events back into Pride.

Peckham’s FIRST EVER Pride march is for everyone with and without citizenship, papers or no papers. We REFUSE to accept stigma or discrimination over the colour of our passports, the colour of our skin, our gender, our sexuality or our ability.

They had chosen to come to Peckham for this event as the area had become a major target for anti-immigration raids, racist go-home vans, and street harassment by the Home Office.

The are has a large Nigerian and Ghanaian community which makes it a convenient target for racist raids leading to brutal deportations on cattle-like charter flights to Nigeria and Ghana. But its residents have also made it a focus of growing popular resistance on the streets to these illegal and immoral activities.

Several hundred supporters of the event met on the square by Peckham Library – now threatened along with the Peckham Arch by Southwark Council who are eager to build on much of the area – and perhaps to end the community events which gather there, sometimes critical of council activities.

At a rally there were speeches calling for refugees to be welcomed in Britain and to find here a safe haven where they can enjoy freedom, oppourtunity and education. Instead they are faced with a government which is increasingly making the country a hostile environment both for them and for the majority of citizens. The speakers emphasized the need to organise and act together to oppose and defeat these polices.

From the arch on Peckham High Street Peckham Pride marched down the major shopping street of Rye Lane, attracting attention and some encouraging gestures and comments with some loud chanting and a samba band.

They stopped again a little past Rye Lane station where there were more speeches, including by another former Yarl’s Wood detainee who told how they had organised and held together to stop a fellow detainee being forcibly deported. A local shopkeeper came to talk about the Border Force raids, including one on his premises and the community opposition close to them, and there was a powerful speech from a local resident about the need to organise resistance and oppose these raids.

Local resistance is both effective and appropriate, as the Home Office employees who carry them out are generally acting in abuse of the law. I had to leave before the end of the march and missed the performances which were to follow it at the Bussey Centre at the centre of Peckham.

Peckham Pride

Prisoners in Iraq, Ireland & Egypt & Atos Day of Action

Sunday, February 19th, 2023

Wednesday 19th February 2014 saw me travelling around London for protests calling for the release of political prisoners in Iraq, Ireland and Egypt before a protest at Atos’s offices led by DPAC.

Solidarity vigil for Shawki Ahmed Omar – Elvaston Place

Prisoners in Iraq, Ireland & Egypt & Atos Day of Action

The vigil outside the Iraqi consulate in Kensington was a small one, with only four people taking part while I was there, though a few more were expected later.

Prisoners in Iraq, Ireland & Egypt & Atos Day of Action

Shawki Ahmed Omar, an American citizen held and tortured in Iraq by US and Iraqis since his arrest in 2004, was then held in Abu Ghraib. Arrested by US soldiers while on a business trip he was held by the US in Iraq and tortured but never charged. Later in 2010 he was sentenced to 15 years in jail after a trial where he was unable to defend or even properly identify himself as the US had refused to hand him back his passport. When they left Iraq and handed him over to the Iraqis, who tortured him more.

His treatment has been described by former Attorney General of the United States Ramsey Clark as one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in recent United States history. It is a case where the US government essentially lied to the US Supreme Court to cover up torture and to be able to turn an American citizen over to people who they knew would torture him.

I had previously met Omar’s wife and daughter – who has never seen her father – on some of their series of protests outside the US Embassy. So far as I am aware he is now still in prison in Iraq.

Solidarity vigil for Shawki Ahmed Omar

Free Margaretta D’Arcy picket – Irish Embassy

Prisoners in Iraq, Ireland & Egypt & Atos Day of Action

My next stop was at the Irish Embassy, a short walk from Hyde Park Corner. It was the third picket there to demand the immediate release of Margaretta D’Arcy, imprisoned for protesting against illegal US flights from Shannon Airport, and now in Mountjoy Women’s Prison, Dublin.

D’Arcy, a long-term peace campaigner, member of the Committee of 100 and Greenham Common veteran and writer, actress, playwright and film director, was then 79 and suffering from cancer and arthritis. Two years earlier she had been arrested and imprisoned for lying down on the runway at Shannon in a peaceful direct action by members of Galway Alliance Against War. They were protesting the violation of Irish neutrality by US military flights using the airport.

Prisoners in Iraq, Ireland & Egypt & Atos Day of Action

She was again imprisoned in 2014 after she refused to sign a bond not to trespass again on the airport property in further protests against the US flights. She was released on 22nd March, but later imprisoned again and released in July 2014.

Free Margaretta D’Arcy picket

NUJ demands Egypt release jailed journalists – Egyptian Embassy

Prisoners in Iraq, Ireland & Egypt & Atos Day of Action

A few minutes walk took me into Mayfair and to a protest organised by my own union, the National Union of Journalists, calling for press freedom in Egypt and the release of all jailed journalists, including the four Al Jazeera journalists.

One of these had been in prison for 6 months, but the other three were arrested on 29th December 2013 and were among 20 journalists charged at the end of January with a string of offences including being a “member of a terrorist organization, disturbing public peace, instilling terror, harming the general interests of the country, possessing broadcast equipment without permit, possessing and disseminating images contrary to the truth.

The NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet and Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn took a letter up the steps to the main door of the embassy for a photograph but then had to walk to a less impressive neighbouring door to actually deliver it.

This was one of a number of protests organised by journalists in cities around the world. Some of those present had their mouths gagged with tape. The journalists were only finally released in 2015. Wikipedia has more on the case.

Reporters Without Borders now report “Egypt is one of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists. The hopes for freedom that sprang from the 2011 revolution now seem distant.” They say that 24 journalists are currently held there in jail.

NUJ demands Egypt release jailed journalists

Atos National Day of Action – Triton Square

Paula Peters of DPAC

Finally I made my way to Triton Square, just north of the Euston Road, close to Warren Street station.

Dennis Skinner MP speaking

A day of action there at the London HQ of Triton was a part of a day of action with protests at each of the 144 ATOS assessment centres around the country. The protesters called for the company to lose its contracts to carry out the tests and to be prosecuted for the way they had been handled, and for the resignation of the minister concerned, Iain Duncan Smith.

Among the many groups supporting the nationwide day of action were Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), Black Triangle, Atos Miracles, the Green Party, NUS, Occupy New Network, PCS and Unite.

The tests, based on tick boxes on a computer form had been widely discredited with a report commissioned by the government pointing out serious flaws. They fail to take account of the complex and differing natures of illnesses and their individual effects and are particularly poor with the assessment of mental illness.

Many of those found ‘fit to work’ have been obviously completely unable to do so – with over ten thousand in the last year for which figures were released dying within six weeks. The government reaction to the adverse publicity after these figures for 2011 were released was simply to stop issuing figures for later years. These numbers include some who committed suicide after being unfairly assessed by Atos.

The Atos administered tests take no account of proper medical evidence. The protesters call for the assessments to be made by qualified medical doctors, ideally by “the GP who regularly sees and treats the sick or disabled individual in question” who they say “is the only person able to decide if an individual is fit for work.”

At the end of the long protest, those remaining moved to the wider square in view of the Euston Road and released yellow balloons in memory of those who have taken their lives because of ATOS unfairly refused them support as Paula Peters of DPAC read a poem about the deaths.

Much more about the protest at Atos National Day of Action on My London Diary – and, as always, more pictures.