Archive for April, 2023

Goods Way, Gasholders & St Pancras

Sunday, April 30th, 2023

Goods Way, Gasholders & St Pancras: My walk around King’s Cross continued after the walk led by the Greater London Industrial Archeology Society finished on Saturday 8th April 1989 . The previous post was More from King’s Cross Goods Yard.

Works, Goods Way, King's Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4g-35
Works, Goods Way, King’s Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4g-35

I walked west along Goods Way, running parallel to the canal a short distance to the south. It was a way I’d walked before and I didn’t stop to make many photographs. Ii wanted to photograph the bridge across the canal to the goods yard, but couldn’t get the view I wanted and had to make a note to come back another day – which I did a couple of weeks later when I arrived early to take a train from St Pancras.

But this rather nicely proportioned building seemed worth recording at 3 and 3A, perhaps offices and a factory at right, particularly as it seemed unlikely to survive the redevelopment of the area. You can see the girders of a gasholder reflected in the window above the main doorway.

Gasholders, Goods Way, King's Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4g-36
Gasholders, Goods Way, King’s Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4g-36

This splendid group of gasholders is of course no longer at the corner of Goods Way and Camley Street. The last gasholder on Goods Way, on the south side and not included in this picture was demolished around 2010 while these ones were moved a short distance away to the other bank of the canal by St Pancras Lock.

The large name on the wall, HADEN YOUNG were electrical contractors and one of the smaller signs is for Balfour Beatty. The gasworks had been here and although the UK had been converted to gas the gasholders were still being used for storage.

Gasholder, Camley St, Goods Way, King's Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4g-25
Gasholder, Camley St, Goods Way, King’s Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4g-25

Looking across Goods Way from the corner of Camley Street this gasholder remained in place until around 2010.

Gasholders,  Goods Way, King's Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4g-14
Gasholders, Goods Way, King’s Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4g-14

Another view of the gasholders, this time from close to the bridge under the lines out of St Pancras, now underneath the widened viaduct for the Eurostar high speed rail link. Nothing in this picture remains in place, with gasholders and the brick Victorian water tower having been re-sited and the rest demolished.

St Pancras Station, Pancras Rd, Somers Town, Camden, 1989 89-4g-15
St Pancras Station, Pancras Rd, Somers Town, Camden, 1989 89-4g-15

Pancras Road runs down the west side of St Pancras Station and this view disappeared with the building of St Pancras International Station which was officially opened in 2007, with much of the original station being converted into a shopping mall.

Culross Buildings, Battlebridge Rd, King's Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4g-16
Culross Buildings, Battlebridge Rd, King’s Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4g-16

Culross Buildings was built by the Great Northern Railway as housing for railway workers in 1891-2. As well as flats 1-40 and a basement workshop and boiler room there was an adjoining Mission Hall, Culross Hall and a canteen at 41 Battle Bridge Road. Derelict in postwar years and squatted the building eventually became a part of a housing co-op and the flats were brought closer to modern standards.

As the large writing on the wall states, in 1989 the building was home to 150 people. The buildings were unlisted but within the King’s Cross Conservation Area and were demolished in 2008.

This walk will be completed in a later post.

The first post on this walk was Kings Cross, St George’s Gardens & More.

More from King’s Cross Goods Yard

Saturday, April 29th, 2023

My posts about my walk around King’s Cross led by the Greater London Industrial Archeology Society on Saturday 8th April 1989 continues with this post. The previous post was Coal Drops and Canal Kings Cross 1989

Western Goods Shed, Kings X Goods Yard, Kings Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4f-23
Western Goods Shed, Kings X Goods Yard, Kings Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4f-23

A couple of the others on this GLIAS walk are on the right edge of this picture, which gives a good impression of the state of the building at the time with scattered rubbish in the foreground and a large pile of it in the distance. You can find more about the site in Peter Darley’s post on the Gasholder blog, from which much of the information here comes.

Behind Western Goods Shed, Kings X Goods Yard, Kings Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4f-11
Behind Western Goods Shed, Kings X Goods Yard, Kings Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4f-11

The Western Coal Drops were converted to become a part of the Western Goods Shed in 1897–99 when the timber viaduct which had been on their west side leading over the canal to Samuel Plimsoll’s coal shoots in Cambridge Road in 1886 was also rebuilt. (I think ‘shoot’ was simply an alternative spelling of ‘chute’.) Darley says that this iron on brick Plimsoll Viaduct was later dismantled and re-erected on their east side when the Western Goods Shed was built. I think this was at the north end of the Goods Shed at left and the Coal Drop roof at right.

North End, Goods Shed, Kings X Goods Yard, Kings Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4f-12
North End, Goods Shed, Kings X Goods Yard, Kings Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4f-12

Although this was taken over a barbed wire fence, the next pictures (one below) were made from the other side of this. I think at least this row of buildings from the original 1850s buildings although in part rebuilt. I don’t think these have survived in the redevelopment though I could be wrong.

North End, Goods Shed, Kings X Goods Yard, Kings Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4f-14
North End, Goods Shed, Kings X Goods Yard, Kings Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4f-14

Another picture from further down the yard in the image above.

Eastern Coal Drops, Kings X Goods Yard, Kings Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4f-16
Eastern Coal Drops, Kings X Goods Yard, Kings Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4f-16

We returned to the northern end of the Eastern Coal Drops where I think this shows the brickwork that once supported the two lines of rails. In the distance you can just see the tops of the Kings Cross gasholders.

1864 Viaduct, Kings X Goods Yard, King's Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4g-62
1864 Viaduct, Kings X Goods Yard, King’s Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4g-62

This shows a ground level view of the ‘Berlin Bank’ viaduct seen in an image on my previous post at left and also on the right the viaduct for the Eastern Coal Drops. The area was still in use for storage and as you can see several vehicles were parked around in and between the arches.

Eastern Coal Drops, Kings X Goods Yard, King's Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4g-64
Eastern Coal Drops, Kings X Goods Yard, King’s Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4g-64

Another view at ground level between the two coal drops, looking towards the Eastern Coal Drops.

Under the 1864 Viaduct, Kings X Goods Yard, King's Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4g-41
Under the 1864 Viaduct, Kings X Goods Yard, King’s Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4g-41

For this picture I used flash to illuminate the brick arch which was only dimly lit. Beyond this the area of the actual coal drops was open above and illuminated by daylight.

Coal Drops, Kings X Goods Yard, King's Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4g-33
Coal Drops, Kings X Goods Yard, King’s Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4g-33

The viaducts merged together at the northern end of the Coal Drops site.

Coal Drops, Kings X Goods Yard, King's Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4g-34
Coal Drops, Kings X Goods Yard, King’s Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4g-34

This is now part of the restored building which can be seen from what is now called Stable Street. It was the last of the roughly 50 pictures I took inside the Kings Cross Goods Yard where I was able to benefit from the insights of several of the country’s leading industrial archaeologists before the GLIAS walk ended at the exit from the area on York Way.

From there I continued to wander unguided around the area to the north of Kings Cross and St Pancras stations, and I will continue with pictures from this in the next post in this series.

The first post on this walk was Kings Cross, St George’s Gardens & More

April 28th 2015 IWMD

Friday, April 28th, 2023

April 28th 2015 IWMD; April 28th every year is International Workers Memorial Day, and last year here on >Re:PHOTO I wrote about this, beginning with a quote from the TUC web site:

Every year more people are killed at work than in wars. Most don’t die of mystery ailments, or in tragic “accidents”. They die because an employer decided their safety just wasn’t that important a priority. International Workers’ Memorial Day (IWMD) 28 April commemorates those workers.

TUC – International Workers’ Memorial Day

I wrote more about it and illustrated the post with pictures taken mainly at previous years on Tower Hill. You can still read it at International Workers’ Memorial Day (IWMD).

This year there are events planned in Stratford, Barking and Walthamstow marking the event, as well as others around the country, and many workplaces will be holding a minute’s silence at 12 noon.

On Tuesday 28th April 2015 two of the three events I covered were related to IWMD, but I also went to Holloway Prison with protesters demanding the release of an immigration detainee being held there.

Qatar Slave Labour deaths – World Cup 2022 – Qatari Embassy, Mayfair

April 28th 2015 IWMD

My working day began with trade unionists outside the Qatari embassy in Mayfair, where they attempted to deliver a letter on International Workers Memorial Day protesting the slaughter of migrant slave labour workers on World Cup building sites. At current death rates, over 4,000 migrant workers will die by 2022.

April 28th 2015 IWMD

According to a Guardian report, on average one Nepalase worker there dies very two days, and including the deaths of Indian, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi workers the death rate is most likely more than one every day. At least 964 workers from Nepal, India and Bangladesh died working in Qatar in 2012 and 2013.

April 28th 2015 IWMD

Work had still to begin on eleven of the 12 stadiums needed for the 2022 World Cup and there are likely to be many more dying due to the appalling exploitation and abuse of these migrant workers.

April 28th 2015 IWMD

The International Labour Organization had urged Qatar to “ensure without delay, access to justice for migrant workers, so that they can effectively assert their rights […] strengthening the complaints system and the labour inspection system”.

According to Amnesty many of the migrant workers have there passports confiscated when they arrive for work in Qatar and are forced to work long hours for very low pay day after day with no rest and are often physically and sexually abused.

Police moved the protesters away from the embassy to the other side of the road but allowed a small deputation to approch the doorway with a letter. A police officer went inside the embassy to ask if someone would come to the door to accept this from Gail Cartmail, Assistant General Secretary of Unite the Union. After a lengthy wait, a man came to the door and refused, and the protesters then left it on the doorstep.

In 2021 The Guardian revealed that “More than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died in Qatar since it won the right to host the World Cup 10 years ago“. A few days football came at a very bloody price.

Qatar Slave Labour deaths – World Cup 2022

Holloway protest for Yarl’s Wood protester Anna – Holloway Prison

From Mayfair I travelled to a very different area of London for a protest outside Holloway Prison, a Victorian prison in one of the poorer areas of North London which had housed only women prisoners since 1902 and was closed a year after this protest.

Anna, a detainee in Yarls Wood immigration detention prison, had been one of a group of women defending another detainee, a torture victim, who was about to be deported. Thirty guards rushed into the room and brutally assaulted them all, taking them to solitary confinement in the ‘Kingfisher’ isolation unit at Yarl’s Wood. Both Anna and another woman, Lillija, were threatened with prison, but only Anna was transferred to Holloway prison and was being held there although she was had not been charged with any offence.

Both women had been involved in a Channel 4 News exposure of the abuses of women by guards in Yarls Wood which had led to one guard being suspended.

Many of those at the emergency protest organised by Movement for Justice demanding Anna’s release had served time in Yarls Wood or other immigration prisons.

When a group of three prison employees came out to argue with the protesters that their protest simply upset women being held inside the jail they told them from their first hand experience how greatly they had welcomed knowing that there were people outside the prison who were aware of them and wanting to help.

Free Yarl’s Wood Anna from Holloway

Hotel Workers Rise Up on Workers Memorial Day

Finally I came back to central London and the Hilton London Metropole hotel on the Edgware Road in Bayswater and in another protest for International Workers’ Memorial Day against the exploitation of workers, mainly migrants organised by the Unite Hotel Workers branch. Workers at luxury hotels in portering and household services are employed by agencies on minimum wage, zero hours contracts and denied basic rights.

Several workers including former room attendant Barbara Pokryszka spoke at the protest, complaining of heavy workloads and abusive treatment by management, who fail to treat them as human beings, saying “We Are Not Machines”. As in other areas of work outsourcing to contractors who pay minimum wage and impose abysmal conditions is at the root of the abuse.

Luxury hotels have a world-wide reputation to maintain and this would be damaged if they were found to be treating staff on their payroll in such a disgusting way. A night’s stay for two in a room costs over £200 and housekeeping worker would usually have to clean between 12 and 20 rooms in an 8 hour shift. The worker’s pay for cleaning – before deductions would be around £85 while the hotel guests would be paying over £3000 for their stay. Hotels could surely pay more to their essential workers.

Hotel Workers – Workers Memorial Day

Coal Drops and Canal Kings Cross 1989

Thursday, April 27th, 2023

Coal Drops and Canal Kings Cross 1989: My posts about my walk around King’s Cross led by the Greater London Industrial Archeology Society on Saturday 8th April 1989 continues. The previous post was Gasholders, Flats and the Goods Yard – Kings Cross 1989

Eastern Coal Drops, Kings X Goods Yard, Kings Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4f-44
Eastern Coal Drops, Kings X Goods Yard, Kings Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4f-44

The Coal Drops Yard was reopened to the public in 2018, 29 years after I made the pictures in this post as what TripAdvisor calls “King’s Cross’ boutique shopping and foodie hotspot“, and I went along shortly after they opened to take some photographs of the transformed site which you can see on My London Diary at Euston to Kings Cross Coal Drops. You can read more about its early history in a post by Peter Darley on the Gasholder site.

Eastern Coal Drops, Kings X Goods Yard, Kings Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4f-45
Eastern Coal Drops, Kings X Goods Yard, Kings Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4f-45

Coal was carried in railway waggons from coalfields in the Midlands and North of England to the coal drops and these facilities built in the 1850s were an early example of bulk handling of goods. The Eastern Coal Drops, together with a coal and stone basin opened in 1851 could handle 1,000 tons of coal a day. Later around 1860 a second set, the Western Coal Drops were added. Derelict for many years, parts of the Eastern Coal Drops were badly damaged by fire in 1985.

Coal Drops, Kings X Goods Yard, Kings Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4f-46
Coal Drops, Kings X Goods Yard, Kings Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4f-46

Rather than unload the coal waggons by hand, the coal drops allowed a waggon at a time to be discharged into a storage hopper below, at the bottom of which it could be fed into sacks and loaded onto the waiting horse-drawn coal carts. There was also a coal drop to allow the waggons to be discharged into barges for onward transit.

The waggons could be tipped sideways in a special rig to empty, but it was easier to use waggons which had a bottom that could be opened to simply let the coal fall into the hopper of the floor below the track.

Gasholders, Regents Canal, Kings X Goods Yard, Kings Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4f-31
Gasholders, Regents Canal, Kings X Goods Yard, Kings Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4f-31

As well as supplying coal to businesses and homes across London, the nearby gasworks would also have been a major coal user. But I imagine they would have had their own rail sidings for delivery. The gasholders have been relocated since I made these pictures, which sometimes makes it difficult to understand the geography of the area.

In 1866 a viaduct was opened across the canal from the Western Coal drops to Samuel Plimsoll’s coal yard on the south on what was then Cambridge Street (marked as Coal Shoots on the OS map. He patented an improved coal drop which treated the coal more gently and avoided much of the breaking up and dust produced by the earlier drops and was more suitable for the softer household coal he traded in. (There were also coal drops on the other side of Cambridge St, on a siding from the lines into St Pancras.) However visiting the Camley Street Natural Park now on his site shortly after it opened in 1985 I found at least in parts the ground was still more coal dust and fragments than soil. Parts of the demolished viaduct could still be seen when I photographed from the canal towpath in 1979.

Viaduct, Kings X Goods Yard, Kings Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4f-33
Viaduct, Kings X Goods Yard, Kings Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4f-33

As well as taking waggons full of coal to the coal drops, a second track was needed on the viaducts to bring back the empty waggons, which were moved sideways using a traverser or waggon turntable. I think these had long disappeared before our visit in 1989.

This picture is I think of the viaduct for the Western Coal Drops, and the sign BERLIN BANK presumably reflects its use as a location for a film. Perhaps someone can tell me more.

Western Goods Shed, Kings X Goods Yard, Kings Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4f-34
Western Goods Shed, Kings X Goods Yard, Kings Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4f-34

The covered loading bay of the Western Goods shed was in rather poor condition at the south end, but was still providing cover for the loading and unloading of lorries further along. The lorries have the name ‘newsflow’, a name now in use for a number of media and news aggregators but then I think rather more physically connected with the newspaper and magazine industry, possibly for delivery of the printed papers.

Although looking rather derelict parts of the area were still in use for various purposes and I think a small piece of sculpture visible here suggests a sculptor’s studio. In the 1980s and 90s the goods yard was a popular spot for raves.

Viaduct, Kings X Goods Yard, Kings Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4f-35
Viaduct, Kings X Goods Yard, Kings Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4f-35

We were able to wander around the area fairly freely, although there were obviously some rather dangerous areas where we could have fallen like the coal, and others where roofs or walls seemed unsafe. But our wanderings make it difficult to place the exact location of some of my pictures. I think this is the viaduct for the Eastern Coal Drops, and it clearly shows the two tracks, one for the coal drop and the closer for the return of emptied waggons. Underneath you can see the area for the hoppers and where carts would be loaded, in the picture used for parking. Across the tracks are a line of newsflow lorries.

More of my pictures from the GLIAS walk around the area in a later post.

The first post on this walk was Kings Cross, St George’s Gardens & More

March of the Beekeepers 2013

Wednesday, April 26th, 2023

March of the Beekeepers 26th April 2013: Where would we be without Bees? Personally as I’ve written before I wouldn’t be here at all. I owe my own very existence to them, as when my father as a young man decided to become a beekeeper he went to a class at the Twickenham and Thames Valley Beekeepers Association in Twickenham, given by a professional beekeeper, Alf. Fred and Alf became friends, and both had sisters (my father five of them, but Alf only one.) And so I grew up with an Uncle Alf, my mother’s brother and his wife Mabel was one of Dad’s sisters.

March of the Beekeepers

Alf and Dad were both beekeepers with prize certificates for honey etc to prove it. In our house, honey came in 28lb tins which I’d spent hours in a room sealed against bees sweating turning the handle of an extractor, and there were hives at the bottom of the garden against the factory wall, often surrounded by the sharp metal curls of swarf which came over, more dangerous than the bee stings.

March of the Beekeepers

My father had hives in several other gardens in the area, and looked after bees for at least one nearby middle-class resident, and for some years the hives at the Twickenham apiary, a job he took over from Alf. I think most of dad’s bees came from swarms which the police would regularly call and ask him to deal with – and he would get on his bike with a box to bring them back. He was something of a jack of all trades, growing vegetables to feed us and doing odd painting, decorating, plumbing and building work as well as selling a few jars of honey. Alf was a dedicated beekeeper and travelled further afield, with hives as far away as Gloucestershire, busily pollinating the orchards.

March of the Beekeepers

Somehow I never took up beekeeping, though I’d helped Dad for years. Living in various flats for around ten years took me out of the loop, and when I finally moved to a house with a garden I was too busy with other things, not least photography.

March of the Beekeepers

Bees are essential for all of our lives as one of the major pollinators of fruit and they are under great threats. Bee colonies have been dying, and a major cause of this has been the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. These can kill bees but also seriously weaken their resistance to other factors – including climate change and the Varroa mite.

Though there had been strong pressure particularly in the EU for these pesticides to be banned, the UK had abstained from a vote to ban them following a report by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA). This was despite the decline in bee numbers being particularly drastic in England, with the number of colonies down to under half of those present in the 1980s. These pesticides don’t only kill bees they also kill other pollinating insects such as moths, which have also seen a huge decline in recent years.

The protest on Friday 26th May 2013 was supported by a wide range of organisations including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Pesticide Action Network (PAN), RSPB, Soil Association, The Natural Beekeeping Trust, the Wildlife Trusts and 38 Degrees and urged Environment Secretary Owen Paterson to take urgent action and to support a further EU ban being debated the following Monday.

While the protesters stayed in Parliament Square I went with a small group led by fashion designers Dame Vivienne Westwood and Katharine Hamnett to take a petition with 300,000 signatures to Downing St.

A ban on the use of three neonicotinoids came into force in the UK and EU in 2018, but the UK government has since in the last three years running allowed a so-called emergency use of the banned pesticide thiamethoxam – a teaspoon of which is enough to kill around 1.25 billion bees on sugar beet crops. This is against the advice of the government’s own Expert Committee on Pesticides and would be unlawful were we still in the EU. Brexit means we can kill bees.

More at March of the Beekeepers.

End outsourcing at University of London

Tuesday, April 25th, 2023

End outsourcing at University of London: Five years ago, on Wednesday 25th April 2018 I was with workers from the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain – IWGB on the first day of a two day strike at the University of London central administration by over 100 cleaners, porters, security officers, receptionists, gardeners, post room staff and audiovisual staff.

End outsourcing at University of London

They were calling for an end to the outsourcing of their jobs in the university to various contracting companies and demanding to be directly employed by the University, and receive the same conditions and benefits as directly employed colleagues. As well as the workers, academics, students and other trade unionists came to support them in a lively rally outside the gates to Stewart House in Russell Square..

End outsourcing at University of London

The rally was part of a successful campaign led by the IWGB which began in 2010 and ten years later the university central administration changed to directly employ porters, receptionists, post room and audio visual technicians, with cleaners following shortly after in November 2020.

End outsourcing at University of London

The IWGB are still campaigning to bring workers in-house in other universities in London, including UCL, and they and other unions have been successful elsewhere. United Voices of the World are one of these and some of their members had come to the rally to show their support.

Here’s what the IWGB say about their campaign:

Cleaners and security staff at universities across London are organising for equality with directly-employed staff!

Outsourced workers suffer from far worse terms and conditions than directly-employed colleagues, facing no sick pay, bare minimum holiday entitlement and meagre pensions. Bullying, mismanagement and discrimination by unaccountable outsourced managers are common.

Workers in the IWGB union are leading the fightback. Through public campaigning and strike action we can end outsourcing at London universities!

End outsourcing at University of London

Among the speakers at the gates of Senate House was Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell who also brought support from Jeremy Corbyn and promised a Labour government would bring in new trade union laws and end the unfairness of outsourcing. Unfortunately should we now get a Labour government at the next election its policies will be more about protecting company profits than protecting workers.

There were plenty of others as well as IWGB members who spoke, and one was a woman from UCU at Goldsmiths University who had come with a large donation from them to the strike fund.

Billy Bragg came to give his support, singing three songs, and got us joining in on some of them, and Archie Shuttlebrace sang with Rebecca Wade Morris. Chip Hamer (Grim Chip) and another of the poets from Poetry on the Picket Line performed some of their work.

Then it was time for a march around Russell Square, with over 200 people briefly holding up traffic. The march was lead by the yellow Precarious Workers Mobile three-wheeler and a samba band.

They returned to the gates of Stewart House and the rally continued with more music, poetry and dancing.

More at End outsourcing at University of London

NHS, Shaker, Drax, Gurkhas, Herbalists & Bikes

Monday, April 24th, 2023

Wednesday 24th April 2013 was a busy day for protests in Westminster. And there was one in the City.

Protest the Privatisation of NHS – Old Palace Yard

NHS, Shaker, Drax, Gurkhas, Herbalists & Bikes

The House of Lords was debating NHS regulations which imposed full competitive tendering on the NHS, a key part in the escalating backdoor privatisation of the NHS.

Unite had set up a ‘Wheel of Fortune’ game show hosted by people wearing ‘David Cameron’ and ‘Jeremy Hunt’ masks and listing the likely costs of various procedures due to the tendering system. They feared “that the coalition’s NHS policies, including a multi billion pound funding squeeze coupled with a massive reorganisation, will destroy the 65 year old health service, paving the way for a new marketised system where paying up to £10,000 for maternity costs or £13,450 for a new hip is the norm.”

NHS, Shaker, Drax, Gurkhas, Herbalists & Bikes

Unite said that already more than £20 billion of health costs go to private companies, who take their decisions on the basis of profit rather than the interests of patients. The Lords were debating a motion for the annulment of the regulations on the grounds that Parliament had been assured “that NHS commissioners would be free to commission services in the way they consider in the best interests of NHS patients“.

Protest the Privatisation of NHS

Bring Shaker Aamer Home – Parliament Square

NHS, Shaker, Drax, Gurkhas, Herbalists & Bikes

Following a petition with 117,387 signatures to bring Shaker Aamer home from Guantanamo, a debate had been held that morning by MPs in Westminster Hall, where most of the 17 MPs who spoke called for his release, including Shaker’s own MP, the Conservative MP for Battersea, Jane Ellison, who also came out to speak with the protesters.

NHS, Shaker, Drax, Gurkhas, Herbalists & Bikes

Unfortunately such debates, although they do increase pressure on the government to take action have no actual consequences. But perhaps it did help to persuade the government that it had to ignore the embarrassment of British agents at being complicit in his torture by the US and make clear to the US government he should at last be released after being held for 12 years, long after he had been cleared of any involvement in terrorism. As I noted, “The facts about torture are now largely public and totally indefensible and it is time for justice to be done.”

Bring Shaker Aamer Home

Drax Biomass Threat to our Planet – Princes St, CityDrax AGM, wpp

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett speaking at the protest

I had to take the tube to the City to attend a protest outside Gocer’s Hall where the AGM of Drax, the huge coal-burning power station near Selby in Yorkshire was being held. Drax was planning to convert half its capacity to bio-mass and become the largest biomass-burning power station in the world, using 1.5 times the total UK wood production per year.

The wood pellets would come mainly from devastating clear-cutting of highly diverse forests in North America, and although re-grown will eventually remove the same amount of carbon this will take a hundred years or more – during which time the carbon Drax emits – roughly 50% greater than burning coal – will be contributing to disastrous global warming.

Drax already has a disastrous impact in South America were land is being grabbed from traditional communities for open cast coal mining, usually with complete disregard for their human and civil rights, cleared of its biodiverse forests and diverted from food production – often in places where food is desperately needed. Conversion to wood-burning at Drax will result in even more environmental and social destruction.

The incentive to change to wood-burning is that under current government policies Drax will receive huge government subsidies from funds intended to promote renewable energy, diverting funds from schemes for energy production and conservation that actually will help to combat climate change.

Drax Biomass Threat to our Planet

Gurkhas Call for equal treatment – Old Palace Yard

I returned to Westminster, where Several hundred Gurkha pensioners and supporters were holding a rally on the 198th anniversary of the first recruitment of Gurkhas into the British Army to deliver a petition to David Cameron asking for equal treatment to other British Army ex-soldiers.

British Army Gurkhas who retired before 1997 were granted the right to settle in the UK in 2009, but their pension remains only a fifth of that of other British soldiers, and is impossible to live on in the UK, being based on the cost of living in Nepal.

Gurkhas Call for equal treatment

UK herbalists Want Regulations – Old Palace Yard

Also in Old Palace Yard were UK herbalists, both traditional and Chinese, protesting against the failure of the government to bring in the statutory regulations they had promised to do by 2012.

Under EU regulations from 2004, traditional remedies then in use could continue to be provided until 2011, but after that had to be covered by national policies to regulate their safety and effectiveness. Although the government had promised to set this up, it has so far failed to do so, and they are now unable to prescribe many commonly used and effective common herbal remedies.

UK herbalists Want Regulations

Get Britain Cycling Report Launch – Parliament Square

Finally, in Parliament Square, Christ Boardman, a gold medal cylist in the Barcelona Olympics posed with MPs from the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group to launch their report ‘Get Britain Cycling.’

This calls for more to be spent on supporting cycling and that it should be considered in all planning decisions. They want more segregated cycle lanes and for the 30mp urban speed limit to by reduced to 20mph. Children should be taught to ride a bike at school and the government should produce and annually report on a cross-departmental Cycling Action Plan. Cycling has enormous advantages both individually and for us all in better health and reducing pollution with reduced health spending.

Get Britain Cycling Report Launch

St George’s Day 2009

Sunday, April 23rd, 2023

St George’s Day 2009: On Thursday April 23rd 2009 I came up to London to find and photograph celebrations taking place of St George’s Day. People had for some years been calling for a proper celebration of the English Patron Saint’s day, but it was still hard to find much celebrations to photograph.

St George’s Day – Trafalgar Square

St George's Day 2009

I began at Trafalgar Square, where some events were said to be taking place, but there was relatively little happening when I arrived shortly after lunch. In 2009 St George’s Day was a Thursday which was perhaps why few people had come.

There were a handful of people from ‘The English Democrats’ who had dressed up for the day as a part of their campaign for an English Parliament and for St George’s Day to be made an English national holiday. I photographed them together with a couple of women making a charity collection for ‘Save the Children’.

St George's Day 2009

The English Democrats told me that the previous year they had been refused entry to the National Gallery because they were wearing the flag of St George. I went with them when they tried again this year and they were allowed in but were told they could not campaign or collect money in the gallery.

St George's Day 2009

While I was in the square a number of others wandered in wearing shirts, hats or badges or red roses were obviously expecting something to be happening and were disappointed. Although some event was planned for the Saturday it seemed odd there seemed so little interest on the day itself.

St George’s Day – Trafalgar Square

The Lions part: St George & the Dragon – Red Cross Garden & Southwark Cathedral

St George's Day 2009

Rather more was happening across the river in Southwark, where The Lions part, a group of performers associated with the Globe Theatre on Bankside, were celebrating the day with a series of performances of ‘The Ballad of St George & the Dragon’.

I went to watch their short musical variation on the traditional story of St George in Red Cross Garden, which along with the adjoining hall and cottages was established by the social reformer Octavia Hill in 1897-90. I arrived a little late and the performance had already begun, but fortunately after a short interval they gave a second performance.

Many of the audience were children from the nearby cathedral school, and they clearly enjoyed it.

After the performance I walked with the players as they made their way through Borough Market to Southwark Cathedral to give another performance in the churchyard there.

The Lions part: St George & the Dragon

The George Inn, Borough High St, Southwark

I left the performers at Borough Market and made my way to the George Inn on Borough High St, a Grade I listed galleried coaching inn owned by the National Trust. It was rebuilt in 1677 following a great fire which destroyed much of Southwark with three fronts around a courtyard, though only one has survived. It was formerly known as the George and Dragon.

Again I arrived late, as there had been a procession of people in costume earlier, but there were still a few people there I could photograph.

The George Inn, Southwark

England Supporters, Trafalgar Square

I went back over the river to Trafalgar Square where I now found around 25 football supporters, many in England shirts having a noisy time on the plinth of Nelson’s column.

They seemed to be enjoying themselves and were happy to be photographed. One of the street performers with a regular pitch on the North Terrace had joined them, and the Heritage Wardens seemed to be emulating Nelson and viewing the various breaches of the bylaws with a blind eye.

England Supporters,Trafalgar Square

St George & the Dragon, Trafalgar Square

Apparently the National Gallery had been celebrating the day by inviting the the Suffolk Howlers to perform their traditional ‘St George & The Dragon’ in front of Tintoretto Saint George and the Dragon in the gallery.

After finishing there they had come out from the gallery and were going to give a performance in Trafalgar Square, despite the competition from those celebrating around Nelson.

As I wrote, their version “had a little more complex plot than the version I’d seen earlier in Southwark, including Beelzebub, a doctor and a Turkish knight, with additional contributions from a couple of bystanders, one who had been imbibing from a bottle labelled Lucozade that appeared to have rather more intoxicating properties than usual, and the other the displaced street performer. While he largely draped himself over the “Please do not feed the pigeons banner’, Lucozade man took a far more active role in the proceedings, giving first aid to the injured St George and executing some surprisingly nimble dance steps and generally adding a chaotic improvisation to the performance. He really deserved the applause when he took a bow with the rest of the cast at the end of the play.”

St George & the Dragon

Purfleet & West Thurrock – 2003

Saturday, April 22nd, 2023

Purfleet & West Thurrock: 20 years ago, on 22nd April 2003 I was still recovering from a heart attack and a little minor surgery. Delays and cancellations in the NHS are not new, and I’d spent several weeks in hospital waiting for the op, with three or four cancellations as emergencies bumped me off the list at short notice – one time I was even on a trolley on may way to theatre. Back then the major shortage, and one that seldom made the news, was of doctors and it still is, with the government still committed to doing little or nothing about it, even refusing to discuss the junior doctors claims.

Purfleet & West Thurrock

My actual operation, when finally it happened, went well, but 24 hours later I was an emergency too, collapsing the the ward toilet as my blood pressure dropped spectacularly thanks to a large dose of a exotic drug through a cannula incorrectly inserted by a junior doctor (the nurses were extremely scornful) and I was still far too weak when they released me home to join the million or more (including my son and wife) the protesting against the Iraq war the following day. I think I was more upset about that than my heart attack.

Purfleet & West Thurrock

My GP signed me off work for a few weeks (though most of my work was freelance and from home, and I was able to continue this) and prescribed aspirin and exercise along with a few other drugs to deal with my blood pressure, which I’ve been taking daily ever since, along with insulin for my diabetes, also diagnosed when I went into hospital. And thanks to the NHS, all this has cost me absolutely nothing. And after I was signed off as fit for work in March, though I was still very weak, I managed to go and photograph a couple of protests.

Purfleet & West Thurrock

Walking was still for the first month or two just a little taxing, but after a couple of weeks I was fine on my Brompton, where I could take it easy later I went on some longish rides. And as it was a folding bike I could put it on trains and the underground to take me away for more distant starting points. And in April 2003 I went on rides from Dartford, Rainham and, on 22nd April 2003, to Purfleet, where I cycled along beside the Thames to West Thurrock and back.

Purfleet & West Thurrock

When I posted pictures of this and other rides on My London Diary, I noted “I didn’t get around to adding these other pictures from April 2003 until very much later, and haven’t got around to giving them captions.” And I wrote nothing about the ride at the time. All were taken on a Nikon D100 with a Nikon 24-85mm lens.

I travelled up to London on a Travelcard which covered a journey to any station in Zones 1-6, which meant the closest I could get to Purfleet was actually the station before, Rainham. Then it wasn’t possible to follow the riverside path from Rainham to Purfleet, which then ended at Coldharbour, so I had to cycle along the road to Purfleet through Wennington. The map now shows a riverside cycle path.

This part of the ride had little interest, other than passing some of the works for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, where I took a few pictures before going down Tank Hill Rd to reach the riverside close to the Purfleet Armada Beacon.

Navigation from there to West Thurrock (and on to Grays and the edge of Tilbury Docks on other occasions) was simply a matter of following the riverside path. But it was then an extremely interesting path, past various industrial sites and under the Dartford Bridge (and less noticeably over the Dartford Tunnel.

This is a wide and interesting stretch of the river, also crossed by a 400kV high voltage power line from Swanscombe, with the two 623ft pylons on each side being the tallest in Britain. The distance between the two towers is apparently 4,501 feet, around 0.85 miles or 1.37 km.

Pilgrims en route to Canterbury crossed the river from close by St Clement’s Church, taking to boat across to Swanscombe where the path up from the river is still the Pilgrims Road. But there was no boat available to me, so I turned inland into West Thurrock.

St Clement’s Church was Grade I listed in 1960 and parts at least are 13th century. It was used by a a youth unemployment scheme after regular services closed in 1977 and the interior was gutted, and after the project closed it was badly vandalised.

Dominating the church is the Procter & Gamble detergent factory begun here in 1940 and in 1987 when they were celebrating the company’s 150 years in business they took over the upkeep of the church which took 3 years to restore. The church, which was the location of the funeral in ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ is now open to the public once a month from April to September.

I can’t recall my route back along various roads to Rainham station, but there are a few pictures I took, mainly of the A13 and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link on My London Diary.

Greedy Property Developers Reward Themselves

Friday, April 21st, 2023

Greedy Property Developers Reward Themselves: Eight years ago on Tuesday 12 April 2015 I photographed housing activists protesting outside the expensive dinner at a Mayfair hotel for the 2015 Property Awards. The protesters held their own alternative awards ceremony for housing protesters as a part of the event.

Among those in my pictures is Aysen from the Aylesbury Estate. The Fight4Aylesbury exhibition in her flat on the estate continues today, Friday 21st April 2023, and on Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd. Parts of some of my pictures from this event were used in collages in that show.

Property Awards at Mayfair Hotel – Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane

Greedy Property Developers Reward Themselves

Property developers have powered the incredible rise in London Housing prices by building luxury flats for mainly overseas investors, many of which remain unoccupied to be sold later at even higher prices to other investors, and also by working with London councils to redevelop social housing largely for private sale.

Greedy Property Developers Reward Themselves

Together with the actions of successive governments – Tory and Labour – they had created what by 2015 was clearly the worst shortage of affordable housing in history, with a record number of evictions and the doubling of rough sleeping in London. Over 50,000 families have had to move out of London while many more properties in the capital remain empty.

Greedy Property Developers Reward Themselves

As I wrote: “Housing in London has ceased to be something to meet human need, and instead is servicing greed and selfishness.” And the expensive dinner taking place that evening in the luxury Mayfair hotel was to give awards to the property developers for their greed. Among those taking part in the protest outside were people from estates which are being redeveloped, including Southwark Council’s Aylesbury estate and Sweets Way in north London who were facing eviction because of the policy of social cleansing driven by councils and developers.

People arriving at the dinner were met by a noisy crowd calling for a fair housing policy outside the ‘red carpet’ entrance to the hotel on Park Lane and had to walk past the protesters to enter. Police tried to keep the entrance clear and some hotel staff directed the guests to other entrances to the hotel, where the protesters also followed.

The protesters held an alternative awards ceremony in front of the hotel entrance, awarding large cardboard cups for the Young Protester of the Year, Placard Making, Demonstration of the Year and Occupation of the Year.

Protesters also briefly occupied occupied a neighbouring branch of estate agents Foxton, who have played a leading role in the gentrification of London. Together with other estate agents they have also been an important influence on the housing policies of both Tory and Labour.

Foxtons is notorious among those who rent property for driving up rents – and in 2022 the London Renters Union reported that their annual revenue had increased by £5m as rents in London went up by an average of 20.5% in 3 months, with one Foxtons tenant reporting a rise of £12,000 per year!

Shortly before I left it became clear that most of those coming to the dinner were being directed to a rear service entrance to the hotel and the protesters moved around the block to hold a rally there. The gate was rapidly closed and there were some minor scuffles as police attempted to move the protesters away. I heard later that there had been two arrests after I left.

Many more pictures at Property Awards at Mayfair Hotel.