Reclaim the Streets – 1996

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Protesters including groups of drummers meet at Broadgate

I read a reminder a couple of days ago that this was the 24th anniversary of the 1996 Reclaim the Streets protest in West London, which began at Broadgate, then took the Central Line to Shepherd’s Bush, where line of police held up the protesters and the partying began while we waited for everyone to arrive.

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Police manhandle a protester at Shepherds Bush

It wasn’t too long before some of the protesters had outflanked the police and the rest surged through to take over the A41M spur which leads from Shepherds Bush to Westway and to party across both carriageways.

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Let London Breathe

There was a stage with music and dancing, and some people turned up with carpets and old sofas and made up living rooms on the tarmac.

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A woman looks at the notice ‘Street Festival – Temporary Road Closure

It was difficult to know exactly what was happening, particularly at Shepherds Bush, but also once we were partying on the motorway, and harder still to know how to photograph the event. Looking back I don’t think I did a very good job of it, though there are some pictures I quite like. But though I think they convey something of the spirit of the event, perhaps they don’t tell the story as well as I would like. There is also a certain sameness which results from them all being taken on 28mm or 35mm lenses, probably on a Minolta CLE or Leica M2.

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Partying on the A41M

You can read several stories with people’s own recollections of the day online which provide some of the background to these pictures on the Past Tense radical histories blog.

After I’d been photographing the partying on the motorway for some time I decided that nothing new seemed to be happening and it was time to go home and have a meal. I saw some others climbing over a low wall and followed them, making my way to Latimer Road tube.

RTS Party on A41M Motorway 96-725-11-positive
A living room with sofa and carpet on the A41M

The pictures were of course taken on film, and I seem to have only worked in black and white. I probably developed the films I had taken a few days later, and will have then printed perhaps half a dozen and probably a few weeks later taken them in to Photofusion’s picture library. Over the years a handful may have been printed in magazines and books, and I think I probably shared a few on various web sites, but many are now being seen for the first time outside the small group of friends with whom I met to share and criticise work. The images were digitised using the Nikon ES-2 adapter and a Nikon 60mm f2.8 macro lens on a Nikon D810.

You can see more of the pictures I took that day in my Flickr album Reclaim the Streets: London 13 July 1996.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


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