March 17th was a good day for me, although the weather wasn’t good, and I started taking pictures at Paddington Green in light rain with a heavy grey sky, rather darker than it appears in the image above. It had perhaps brightened a little as the Free Syria march to the embassy finally started, and I took this picture shortly before I left just after they went under the Marylebone flyover which you can see in this image. The building in the background is Paddington Green Police station, where suspected terrorists, now particularly Muslim fundamentalists, are held for questioning in a specially designed custody suite. Perhaps it was in this picture by accident, or just because I wanted to fill in a little of the rather blank sky, but it also matches the black white and green of the other main elements of the image, though lacking on its exterior any red stars. Later in the day I rejoined them at the rally outside the embassy, and took more pictures.
But March 17th is of course St Patrick’s Day, though the main organised London celebrations now take place on the nearest Sunday, and I think have become steadily less interesting. So from the Syrian march I rushed to get the Bakerloo line to Willesden Green, because in Brent they keep to the traditional day.
Brent has a tradition of celebrating the festivals of many of its ethnic populations, although this is now under threat from the government’s cuts in local authority spending, and a year earlier it seemed likely we were watching their last St Pat’s Day parade. But somehow it managed to continue. though perhaps on a slightly reduced scale than in some previous years. The Brent St Patrick’s Day still has very much the feel of a community event, both in terms of the Irish community in Brent (and in particular around Kilburn) and also with the wider community joining in.
I’d photographed the young Irish dancers before the parade started, and several times on the route of the parade, and this was one of the last pictures I took of them, going in close with the 16-35mm at 16mm and getting rather different reactions from the three closer girls. The one on the right was continuing to dance, and after I took the picture al lof them were laughing – even the one who has shyly covered her face. It is the different reactions, show in in gestures and expressions that appealed to me, and the Irishness of it all.
Sometimes being a photographer is hard, and although I would have liked to stay and enjoy a pint or two of the black stuff and the atmosphere, I rushed off to Belgrave Square, where the Syrian protests were continuing.
There were two protests separated by a few yards and rather more police. The larger was by the Free Syrians, calling for Asad to go – and one man was carrying a gallows with an effigy of him hanging from it. The crowd was noisy and thickly packed, making it hard to take pictures, and there was a real feeling of a popular movement for freedom.
The pro-Asad protest had a very different feel. Very much more of a PR campaign than a political protest, and plenty of space. Although there was no doubting the sincerity of the Iranians taking part and the strength of their feelings it felt more like people who had done very well out of his regime wanting to keep their comfortable superior position. With all the portraits of Asad it seemed very much a personality cult, and although they made for some interesting pictures, they made me feel uneasy. This picture is all about eyes, and there are too many of them.
A few days later it was Budget Day, and various protesters took advantage of the media interest in the event to protest in Westminster. After a protest outside Downing St many went down for a Budget Media Village Protest on the patch of grass opposite the House of Lords where TV stations set up their temporary outside broadcast studios to interview – often live on TV – politicians about the budget.
Since most of these interviews are entirely predictable, turgid and a complete turn-off for at least 90% of their audience, you might think the TV news crews would welcome almost anything else happening. But they didn’t like the protests and seemed determined to avoid giving them any publicity – for them they were just not news. It isn’t a point of view I share.
This picture was one of several I took both with the 16-35mm (at 18mm in this) and also with the 10.5mm working with several shouting heads, the placards and the Victoria Tower of the Palace of Westminster. Although not as recognisable as ‘Big Ben’ it is actually the tallest of Parliament’s 3 towers, 98.5 metres, 2.2 metres taller than the Clock Tower.
Another gesture, this fist of the speaker close to the front of my zoom at 16mm on the D700 in a protest on Kensington High St opposite the Israeli embassy on Palestine Land Day in a show of solidarity with the Global March to Jerusalem against the destruction of Palestinian life and culture there by Israeli expansion.
From Kensington I went on to Bedford Square for a protest against the Harassment At Abortion Clinics by the group ’40 Days for Life’, which had been holding a 40 day picket outside the central London Clinic of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) praying and handing leaflets to women entering and leaving the clinic. The protest was timed to coincide with a an evening prayer vigil by around a hundred Catholic supporters of the anti-abortion campaign led by Bishop Alan Hopes, who kept himself well hidden in the crowd as he led the service, with a considerably larger crowd calling for an end to harassment.
There were a few protesters separate from the main group, and the man above was one of these. He told me that he was a ‘Pro-Love’ protester, and wanted to see people showing more love for each other – and for the harassment of women going to clinics to stop. This picture is a little unusual for me in that it was taken with a ‘standard’ focal length, using the D300 with the 18-105mm at 34mm, 51mm equivalent.
I’m not quite sure why I chose this last picture as one of my March favourites. I think because the expressions somehow sum up the mood of the people outside the US embassy at the Protest for Trayvon Martin, a a US teenager shot on his way back home from buying sweets at his local shop simply because he was black and wearing a hoodie. Anger, frustration, sorrow, shock, disbelief; black and white united in condemnation of racist violence. And determined that something must be done.