Darkest London

Class War had come to support the protesters

Another protest about London Councils and housing took place in Deptford, one of the literally and metaphorically darkest areas of the capital on that Tuesday evening. Lewisham Council had turned the Old Tidemill Garden, a community garden, into a fortress, surrounded by fences and ringed by security guards 24 hours a day, at considerable cost to the local council tax payers.

After discussions with the council had failed to acheive any meaningful communication, local residents had occupied the garden around the end of August, but two months later were very forcefully evicted at the end of October in a scandalous and illegal action by a large force of bailiffs, while police stood back and watched.

The campaigners set up a camp on an area of open ground just to the east of the garden and in front of Reginald House, council flats that are also to be demolished under the council’s plans, along with a disused school. Campaigners have put forward alternative proposals which would allow the same number of new homes – though with more social housing – on the site but retain the garden and allow all current residents to remain in the area, but the council and developers Peabody have refused to give them any serious consideration.

The area around the camp where people met was in darkness, and most of the pictures I took there at slow shutter speeds were spoilt by subject movement, a few by camera shake. Closer to the road and the roundabout there was a little more light and my efforts were more succesful.

The march set off down a dimly lit road past the heavily guarded garden, and few of the pictures I took at the start were usable. When it turned onto Deptford High St things became much easier, but after a short walk up there it turned off into another dimily lit road and path, on its way to the New Cross Assembly Meeting where the recently elected Mayor was expected to answer questions from the public.

The side street outside the building where this was to be held was also dark,  and working at high ISO and slow shutter speeds was rather hit and miss. I took a few pictures using my LED light, but this only usefully illuminates a fairly small distance from it and doesn’t give a wide enough spread of light for my wider images.

I took a few pictures using flash,  but was unhappy with the results. With so low ambient light it is hard to get any satisfactory balance between people and things close to the flash and the background, and I abandoned the effort. The flash didn’t seem to be working properly in any case – probably some incorrect setting on camera or flash. The Nikon system is great when it works, but there are quite a few silly little things that can prevent it working properly.  A few of the better pictures were made with the help of headlights from cars, stopped briefly by protesters on the road.

Lit by car headlights

We waited and waited for the Mayor, but he didn’t arrive, though a couple of police did. Messages came through that he had been held up, and after it began to seem unlikely he was coming I and some of the other protesters left. It was cold and I’d been standing around too long and was very pleased to be able to sit on a warm bus to take me to the station for a train on my way home.

Later I heard that the Mayor had finally arrived, and there had been a rather unsatisfactory meeting, with most of the protesters being refused entry and few questions being answered. Later, when the Mayor left, their had been some noisy scenes and at least one arrest. I was sorry to have missed the action, but also felt some relief as I was faily sure I wouldn’t have managed any good pictures.

More text and pictures:
Save Old Tidemill Garden & Reginald House


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