Poor Doors 4

The series of protests outside one of London’s more prestigious (or at least more expensive) new developments is still continuing – after writing this I’ll be getting on the train to go to the twelth weekly event.  Other committments have prevented me from covering it every week, but I’ve managed to get to most of them, and it has been interesting to see how the events have developed.

August 20th was the fourth week (and the third that I’d attended – you can see the first and third weeks on My London Diary) and as my headline Class War steps up ‘Poor Doors’ protest suggests, the protests were developing.

It was just as well that there were some incidents, as otherwise I was having trouble with trying to come up with something fresh each week, as the basic set-up was the same on each occasion. Protesters, banners, stickers, leafleting, the building security…  It really was getting hard to produce new images.

The 8mm fisheye gives an overall view with the three banners in front of the ‘rich door’

At least the banners had changed a little. Class War, the loose group that is behind these protests, has a good line in banners, intended to offend. As I wrote in My London Diary:

Class War draws attention to real and important issues – the gentrification of this and other areas of London and the financially based social cleansing that is resulting. They do so in a manner that is confrontational and theatrical, but amusing and not always entirely literal. Among the banners at today’s protest was that of the ‘Women’s Death Brigade’ with its message ‘Smiters of the High & Mighty’ and ‘F**K Capitalism! F**k Patriarchy!’

Almost everyone would agree that London has a housing crisis. And that little is actually being done about it. Most of the new developments – such as this block, ‘One Commercial St’ (confusingly its actual address is in Whitechapel High St) are actually making the situation for ordinary Londoners worse. As I also write in my piece on the protest ‘Tower Hamlets has a huge list of people wanting housing. The whole idea of building large blocks as investment properties for rich overseas buyers is simply obscene.’

Tower Hamlets council is at least I think doing its best to house its people, unlike neighbouring Newham, a monolithically Labour council. But council powers are very limited and no match for the developers who make huge profits from blocks such as these. The best they can manage are a few crumbs from the table – including the flats here behind the ‘poor door’ in a dingy alley along the side of the building.

You can read more about what actually happened on the evening, and more on the background in My London Diary. When I wrote it, I believed that there was no internal connection in the building between the parts containing the ‘rich’ and ‘poor’ residents, but that appears to be untrue, though I’m sure the door between the two parts is normally kept firmly locked.

But although there were some incidents to photograph, and I think I took some decent pictures of them, it also left me thinking about how much the still photographs leave out, and how easy it is to miss the critical moment.

In photographing this and other protests, I normally try to avoid taking pictures of people who are not really involved in the event, except in the background. Most of those actually going in and out of the ‘rich door’ are tourists staying there on holiday lets, who know nothing about the building and are not profiting from it, and unless they choose to become involved – perhaps by stopping to argue with the protesters – have little to do with the story.

I’m not sure why I took a picture of the woman in high heels and a striped top carrying her white bag towards the ‘rich door’, perhaps just to show that people were still going in despite the protest. But I missed the moment just after this when she turned rapidly and snatched the leaflets from the hand of the woman at the left holding one of the banners, throwing them into the air, and by the time I had reacted she had turned back towards the door and the flyers were actually flying. Had I been taking a movie it would have been an interesting incident. You can tell how rapidly it happened as the papers are still in the air in the second image and the others in the picture have not reacted.

Finally, when someone came forward to hold her end of the banner, the protester moved to pick up the leaflets, as another person – a man in a grey suit – stepped carefully over the leaflets to enter the rich door.


My London Diary : Buildings of London : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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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