Poor Doors Again

Musical Poor Doors October 18, 2014

Last year I photographed a whole series of protest outside one of London’s prestige blocks, One Commercial St. Organised by Class War, these started small, with less than a dozen protesters at the end of July, but built up week by week to around a hundred, with a couple of larger events in October and November.

Wet night at Poor Doors October 29, 2014

I didn’t quite go to every one of the protests, missing I think two of the weekly Wednesday evenings when there were events elsewhere I felt it more important to cover at the same hour. But I was pleased when it seemed in November that the new owner of the block had agreed to talks and it seemed wanted to resolve the issue. Not just because it seemed to be a victory for the protest against social segregation, but also because travelling across London for the hour’s protest every Wednesday was having too much of an imposition on my life and work.

Travelling there for the 6.00 pm start to the protests by bus in the rush hour was slow. Tube would have been faster, but whenever possible I like to use the bus, and it cuts my expenses as I travel free on it, but have to pay on the tube. It isn’t that expensive, but this was a long project for which I expected little financial return. At first, getting back by bus was fast, but for later events traffic in the city was completely disrupted by evening road works, and on one occasion when I was in a hurry I got off the bus and walked and ran the last couple of miles.

And while in July the protests were taking place in daylight, by October and November it was dark throughout. We had a lot of wet weather too, which didn’t make life as a photographer easier.

Poor Doors Guy Fawkes burn Boris November 5, 2014.

But perhaps the hardest thing, especially for the regular weekly protests, was going there and striving to produce something different every week. It was helped at times by the protesters, who also felt a need to do something new. Class War does like to have a little fun at its protests. So there was a special celebration on November 5th, complete with a guy, Boris Johnson, who mysteriously burst into flames and burnt for a surprising length of time, and at the final protest in the series what was billed as an attempt to get into the Guinness World Book of Records with large numbers of their notorious posters of leading politicians, and when, along with Lisa Mackenzie from Class War, I got a tour of the two areas inside the building.

Class War Women in Red November 12, 2014

The initial meeting between the protesters and the owner was encouraging, and he seemed keen to resolve the issue, and there were apparently discussions with those living in both the expensive and ‘affordable’ sections of the property about how a resolution could be achieved. It didn’t seem to me to be an insoluble problem – as I had found when taken for a tour by one of the residents, there was no problem in accessing the ‘poor’ side of the building from the ‘rich’ area by a separate lift from the ground floor.

‘Bye Bye Redrow’ Poor Doors Street Party November 19, 2014

It would perhaps have required a little interior redesign to allow all residents to enter the building the same way and then have the separation between the two groups inside the building, but I think it would have been possible.

But a few days ago, the protesters met with the owner again, and were told there were to be no changes to the arrangements for a separate ‘poor door’ in the dingy side alley. It looks almost certain that the protests will soon begin again, though it isn’t clear what form they will take. Perhaps I will find myself being busy on Wednesday evenings again, but I rather hope it will be something a little different.


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

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4 Responses to “Poor Doors Again”

  1. ChrisL says:

    Noted on the “Today” programme R4 this am, the audio report not as illuminating as the picture story, but it made national radio.

  2. Yes, I listened to this with interest. I photographed the reporter interviewing Ian Bone last Thursday outside the ‘rich’ door, but that wasn’t used, just a very short clip of Martin Wright speaking. They also used a rather nice interview with one of the residents from the ‘poor’ side, who I think is one of the four who were protesting with Class War, and I think probably the guy I took a picture of while he was talking to a videographer – but not the BBC. Interesting too that the person the reporter found from the rich side was a student, apparently from overseas – quite a lot of expensive flats in London are said to be bought by wealthy parents from the far East for their sons and daughters coming to study here.

    Rather a shame that after a good start the report then went on to talking about faith schools rather than sticking with housing though.

  3. ChrisL says:

    Yes I was driving at the time so not fully concentrating on the radio and when my attention came back to it I thought we had moved on to a new item altogether. It did get rather involved in the cost of lift maintenance which was I thought a red herring thrown into the discussion.

  4. They have separate lifts at One Commercial St. Didn’t much like the ‘rich’ one as it is all mirrors. Second picture down on this page

    But if they are going to keep both working the maintenance costs should be the same (though I think it takes a lot longer for repairs on the poor side). The big cost difference is 24 hour staffed concierge desk and security in the rich area. But it wouldn’t increase cost of this to allow all residents to enter the same door.

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