Travelcard Day

The following Saturday I could well have used that bicycle again, but decided to take it a little easier and stick to a Travelcard. The Brompton is a fine machine for getting around London, but has one vital flaw – it is a magnet for thieves, with a relatively high value and so easy to pop into a car boot or van. And – as videos on YouTube show – there is no bike lock made that can delay a well equipped thief for longer than 30 seconds. I do have a sturdy lock, and occasionally use it in out of the way places, but in London it’s best to keep a Brompton with you wherever you go. It just isn’t possible to photograph protests and keep your eye on it at the same time, though I have very occasionally done so when I know there will be few problems.

I’ve several times been interviewed by journalists who have asked to name my most important photographic accessory and my answers have varied according to mood and the kind of photographs we are talking about. A good pair of shoes is one of my favourites, but the thing that really made much of my photograph of London possible was the Travelcard, introduced when Ken Livingstone was in charge of the Greater London Council before Mrs Thatcher put London Government back thrity years in a fit of pique by abolishing the GLC and selling off its building. Before the Travelcard travelling around London was a ticketing nightmare, and could become ridiculously expensive. Of course it is still expensive compared to public transport in most cities, but sometimes you can make enough journeys to make the Travelcard good value, and this day was one of them.

There were two protests starting at 11.00am in Trafalgar Square, so that was where my day started – after just a short journey on the Bakerloo from my London Terminus. Both were rather smaller than I – and the organisers – had hoped, though perhaps expecting teenagers to get to something starting that early on a Saturday was a little optimistic. Probably the numbers on both picket up after I had taken my pictures and left, but I wanted to be elsewhere.

Teen Voice says votes at 16
End dog and cat meat trade

Next the Travelcard took me on the Northern Line to Kings Cross, where I had a short walk to The Guardian in Kings Place, for another protest starting at 11 o’clock – though it was nearer noon when I arrived. This was a livelier affair with more scope for photography, particularly as the show of solidarity with President Maduro and the working class Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela, had attracted a counter-protest by more middle-class  Venezuelans violently opposed to his socialist reforms which have decreased poverty, provided free health care and education, devolved power into the hands of local collectives and built homes for the working class.

The protest was taking place outside The Guardian as those protesting accuse it of failing to report the truth about what is happening in Venezuela, which appears to be a fairly typical US-backed right wing coup attempt backed by wealthy Venezuelans including the newspaper owners there, who fail, like The Guardian, to report the many deaths in attacks on hospitals, schools and socialist cities. The counter protesters called Maduro a murderer and there were some heated exchanges of views.

End media lies against Venezuela

It was back to Kings Cross and the Piccadilly line to Holborn to change to the Central to Stratford for me.  There Focus E15 were protesting in the wide open public space in front of Stratford Station, launching and handing out the free copies of their latest publication, ‘The Newham Nag’, based on and visually similar to  Newham Council’s fortnightly information sheet,  delivered at council tax payers expense to every address in Newham.

A protester dressed as a cockroach to highlight the poor conditions in which Newham houses some people

Though the look was the same, the content was rather different, revealing Newham’s financial ineptitude in taking out risky LOBO loans which they say means that 80% of council tax goes direct to the banks as interest payments, and that the council has the largest number of homeless of any borough in the country and is failing in its duty to provide housing for its residents.

Focus E15 are not popular with Newham Council for pointing out such failures and for their attacks on the competence of Newham’s long-term Mayor whose major skill seems to be in manipulating the party processes to keep in power. Police and council officials have often harassed their weekly street stalls in the town centre, once going so far as to carry out an actual arrest of a table (which they later had to return) and this occasion was no different. Police first tried to get them to move, and then two Newham Council staff handed out a fixed penalty notice of £100 for alleged obstruction of the highway in the wide public open space in front of the station.

Focus E15 launch The Newham Nag

I left Stratford on the Central Line, which took me straight through to Bond St for the next protest which was outside the US Embassy. This year’s March Against Monsanto in London wasn’t a march but a static protest with a number of speeches.

Again it wasn’t too exciting a protest to photograph, though I did my best, and there were a few posters, including one set from a woman (made by her daughter) who had come along to protest in favour of GMOs, and calling for any opposition to be based on scientific evidence. It’s not a simple issue, and is clouded by the fact that much of the research is paid for by companies such as Monsanto, while other researchers certainly have a bias against them; it is difficult if not impossible to separate the science from the politics on either side of the issue. What is certainly true is that some of the products can be used in a way that is destructive of biodiversity and destroys the livelihoods of many while making nice profits for the bio-tech companies – and that governments around the world have been lobbied and bribed to prevent proper controls of their activities.

The whole area is one where we need to be far more cautious and call for much greater and more objective testing before introducing new technologies. And also one where there need to be proper legal safeguards that prevent some of the attempts of wealthy companies to bully poor farmers around the world.

From the Embassy it was back to Bond St and the Jubilee back to Waterloo for my train home. I think I’d got pretty good value from my Travelcard.


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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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