Wembley 1979

May 11th, 2018

Facebook friends will know already that most days at the moment I am posting a picture or sometimes a couple of them that I took in London in years past, currently from 1979, which are on my growing London Photographs site, along with my comments, sometimes about the pictures but also about other things that come into my mind.  I don’t intend to publish all of them here – as I tried to with the pictures of Hull throughout 2017 – but will try an put some of those that include more general comments about photography on here as well.

Back in March 1979 I took a trip to Wembley, and walked around a bit, stopping off on my way home in Harlesden around Willesden Junction. Part of the reason was to look at the buildings on the British Empire Exhibition site, close to the stadium, some of which were threatened with demolition.  And here are a couple of posts about them:

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Palaces of Industry, British Empire Exhibition site, Wembley, Brent, 1979
19g-52: building, concrete, reinforced, derelict

I had come to Wembley to photograph these derelict buildings which were built in 1922 and 1923 for the British Empire Exhibition of 1924 -25, probably because some of them were about to be demolished shortly I’m not quite sure exactly which buildings I photographed, and although some were demolished in 1980, the last only went in 2013.

Although they had been built for the temporary exhibition, their reinforced concrete made them difficult to demolish, and they had only remained there so long because it would have been expensive to get rid of them. I think this is one of the buildings that was still standing and being renovated when I returned three years later and took some more pictures on Engineers Way.

The Empire exhibition was important in accelerating the development of the surrounding areas of north-west London, much of which soon became covered with suburban housing in the years up to the second war.

The area is I think totally unrecognisable now, with about the only remaining building being the 1934 Empire Pool (now Wembley Arena), which I think I photographed a few years later.


Palaces of Industry, British Empire Exhibition site, Wembley, Brent, 1979
19g-64: building, concrete, reinforced, derelict,

A second picture of the derelict concrete buildings, apparently left standing after the exhibition as it was too expensive to demolish them.

I think I probably took rather more than the handful of pictures in the area during this visit than have survived, and suspect that one of the films that I took may have been ruined by a camera or cassette fault or in processing. Although it is possible to lose digital images though card or hard disk problems – and to delete them by human error, digital is in many ways more reliable than film, not least because you can see some or your mistakes on the back of the camera.

In the 70s and 80s I was always short of cash, and loaded almost all the film I used into cassettes from bulk 100 ft lengths. I used a ‘daylight loader’ which mean that a short length at the end of each film was exposed in attaching it to the cassette spool, though later I learnt to do this part of the procedure in total darkness to avoid this. Re-using cassettes led to occasional problems with light leaks. Sometimes I used plastic bodied cassettes made for reloading – and these had caps which were quite easy to twist off – sometimes too easy. The metal bodies used by Ilford and most other films had ends which popped off when you squeezed the cassettes and could be re-used but could get too easy to remove with repeated use. (Kodak’s were crimped on and needed a can opener to remove and were not re-usable.)

All normal cassettes used felt light-traps on the opening where film emerged and films might be ruined by scratches if grit was caught in these from loading the camera in a dusty place, and we had to try hard to keep them clean when reloading them. Those fabric light traps were not intended for repeated use and this sometimes led to leaks. Leica used to have their own metal re-usable cassette which worked without a light trap, the with a slot opening up inside the camera, but it was hardly practical.

Processing too had its traps. Developers not stored in air-tight containers could react with oxygen in the air and become less active or even entirely useless (though normally they went brown to show this.) Some were meant to be re-used, and careful counting of the number of films developed was necessary to avoid them becoming too weak. As mentioned in a previous post I had to abandon some developers as simply too unpredictable.

One of my late friends, a professional photographer who did a number of jobs for a leading oil company magazine, was flown out by helicopter by them to photograph their North Sea Oil rigs. It was an extremely long and tiring day, and on reaching home she loaded the films into a multiple tank to develop them. After she poured the first chemical into the tank she realised she had poured in the fixer rather than developer. (Fixer is the chemical used to dissolve the undeveloped silver halides from films after development as most photographers will know.) The films were ruined, and she had to go in the next day and confess to her client. Fortunately for her, she had worked for them on many previous assignments and they appreciated her work, and they arranged another helicopter to take her out and make the pictures again. That time she made sure she got the processing right.

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Another picture from that walk around Wembley (though I’m again not sure exactly where it was taken) has I think two clear processing faults, visible even in this small reproduction. I could of course have removed them digitally. Fortunately I think this was the only frame on that roll affected.

You can see thumbnails of my selected images from 1979 here.

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There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : 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.

To order prints or reproduce images

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Framework History

May 10th, 2018

One of the many things I talked about with the late Terry King the last time I met him, not long before his untimely death, was the possibility of an exhibition to celebrate the activities of Framework, a West London based photographers group which existed from 1986-92.

I was reminded of this recently by a mention of Framework in the London Independent Photographers magazine by Peter Jennings (not currently on line.) Peter, who took part in a couple of Framework shows, gets most of the details wrong. The group wasn’t run by me, and the only meetings at my house were specifically to plan exhibitions and not the main meetings, which were in the first years at community associations in East Twickenham and Kew, but latterly at the Watermans Arts Centre in Brentford.

Apart from the special meetings to plan particular shows, sometimes in my house, sometimes at Terry King’s in St Margarets, Framework held regular monthly meetings at which the photographers were expected to arrive with their most recent work for criticism – and to take part in criticising work by the others. These were small meetings, usually around half a dozen of us, and with no holds barred, Quite a few people came once but couldn’t stand the criticism, but the central core of those who attended grew from it. Of course not all the criticism made sense, but it was what people thought, and sometimes things did get pretty heated.

The LIP satellite groups were my attempt later to get something similar going inside LIP, though I don’t think any have quite lived up to their predecessor. For a while the Twickenham group which met at Jim Barron’s home came close – and most of those taking part were former Framework members.

Not that Framework had a membership or a constitution. You just came along and did it. We collected a sub from those taking part in exhibitions when we needed money (and it was the cause of some bitterness when one member refused to come up with the cash, leaving me out of pocket, but otherwise worked well.) Terry King did most of the organising of the meetings, inviting a number of photographers to come along and talk to us at various times as well as to take part in our critiques.

The group had its origins in the Richmond &Twickenham Photographic Society, where I met Terry and others including Randall Webb. The RTPS had regular large meetings with speakers, club competitions and the like, but had also spawned a number of small groups which members could attend. When someone decided to form a group which took a wider view of photography than the club world, I suspect for political reasons they didn’t want to give it a name which reflected this, and as there were at the time already five groups, they gave it the name ‘Group Six‘.


Poster, logo and photograph © 1984, Derek Ridgers

When I first went along, perhaps around 1975, Group Six was run by Vincent Oliver, who was I think the first person to get a photograph accepted in the Royal Academy Summer Show and much later ran the Photo-i web site, but it was soon taken over by Terry King. As well as meeting for a monthly discussion, often with guests (one such was Martin Parr) who would critique our work, we also organised monthly outings to take photographs. These took me to some remote rural creeks in Kent which Terry favoured, and also to Avebury and Southwark and a couple of longer visits to Portland and the Welsh Valleys. I got hauled before the RTPS committee, who had no sense of humour, for articles I wrote about some of these for Amateur Photographer.

We decided to hold shows of work by Group Six members, the first of which was in 1982 at the Orleans House Gallery in Twickenham. We went on to produce further shows at the Quay Arts Centre in Newport on the Isle of Wight and a second show at the Orleans Gallery. We were preparing for a further show at the Orleans Gallery, when the RTPS committee put their foot down and decided that they would take this over for a general RTPS show.

We set up separately from the RTPS as Group Six Photographers, organising our own large show at the Hexagon in Reading – by six photographer; later in 1985 we had another show at the Poole Arts Centre, and at both I showed work from my ‘Homage to Atget‘ (now on-line as part of Paris Revisited and in the Blurb book In Search of Atget.)

Although I had more or less left the RTPS, others in the group, including Terry King were still active members, and were getting hassled by the committee over our continuing use of the name ‘Group Six’. Although I thought we had earned the right to continue to call ourselves by that name, having established a reputation for it quite separate from the RTPS, I came up with the name ‘Framework‘.

Framework organised quite a few shows in the next six years, though I’m not sure I can remember them all. The first was at Parkshot in Richmond (where the RTPS had also moved to hold their meetings) and was followed by another at the Hexagon, where I showed 28 prints from my ‘German Indications‘, along with the half dozen or so texts which accompany them (now online mainly in black and white and also rather better as a Blurb book.) Next was another at the Orleans House Gallery, there were one or two small shows at the college where I was working and then a series of at least five shows at the Watermans Arts Centre.

One of the advantages of leaving the RTPS is that we were able to invite other photographers to join Framework, and those who came and attended the meetings and showed work included Carol Hudson, Peter Jennings, Jim Barron, Townly Cooke, Tony Mayne, Virginia Khuri, Yoke Matze, Robert Claxton, David Malarkey and others whose names will be familiar to at least some LIP members. We also had guests who showed work with us, including several of those who Terry persuaded to come and talk to us, such as Jo Spence. Unfortunately I don’t think a full record of the shows and certainly not of the meetings exists, and though I started to put together a web site with the information I had to hand in 1997, I never completed it – though the unfinished work is still on-line.

Framework basically worked by having a whip-round when we needed money – and I think we had a notional fee for coming to the meetings, though were seldom good at collecting it. But one thing we did buy was a large and expensive portfolio case to take work to galleries. And it was this portfolio, with work from Framework people, that was taken to the Mermaid Theatre to get the venue for LIP’s first exhibition.

LIP never quite replaced Framework, which closed down a few years after LIP was formed. LIP was a larger group but lacked the independence that had been an essential part of Framework – which for example never used external selectors for its shows, but battled it out amongst ourselves. And though LIP enabled the Photographers’ Gallery to stop running its ‘Young Photographers’ group, which I wasn’t the oldest still taking an active part in, which had become something of a trial for its education officer who frankly wasn’t up to the job, LIP never really received the support from the gallery that it had apparently been promised.

But I think also, the key people in Framework had moved on the time we decided to quit. Terry was increasingly involved internationally in the alternative processes world, and into the RPS Historical Group which he ran for some years, Derek Ridgers was enjoying great success working for the NME and other publications who flew him across the world to photograph music icons, and I was involved in London Documentary Photographers and their shows, though I still took part in LIP events and shows for more than 10 years – including around five years as editor of the LIP magazine, then called LIPService, until pressure of work writing about photography and taking pictures made it impossible. Others remained more firmly in LIP, some until the present day.

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There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : 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.

To order prints or reproduce images

________________________________________________________

Success from City Office protest

May 9th, 2018

Most of the protests by cleaners and other low-paid workers I’ve photographed have eventually led to success, though sometimes it has been a long and difficult struggle. One is now coming to an end after I first photographed them around 8 years ago, and I think it was then in its second year. Fortunately most are resolved rather faster.

Cleaners, like those at the City offices of Lee Hecht Harrison are almost always not employed by the people whose offices they clean or by the owners of the building, but by cleaning contractors who put in bids for the work. And since the lowest bid wins the contract, the company that pays its cleaners least, overworks them most and awards them the worst conditions of service – and sometimes on zero hours contracts – will be the winner. The cleaners of course lose.

I arrived late at the protest outside Lee Hecht Harrison as I’d been photographing another protest, part of the long-drawn out campaign by workers at Picturehouse cinemas to get the London Living Wage. That campaign by the union BECTU which is now a part of the larger union Prospect. Although the Picturehouse strikers have held a number of protests at half a dozen cinemas around London, the support they get from their union seems rather low key – and at Hackney there was a union official who appeared to be dampening down the protest, worried about the trade union laws (and I think confusing a protest with a picket, on which there are strict limitations.) But the UVW (who have supported various Picturehouse protests) are considerably less constrained, which makes their protests rather more effective.

There was a very different atmosphere on the crowded pavement on Gracechurch St, and it was far easier to take good pictures of the protest by the United Voices of the World which the cleaners belong to. The main problem was the crowding, not helped by their being a bus stop and shelter where the protest was taking place, as well as a constant stream of workers on their way home making their way through the protesters.

There was quite a lot of light in parts of the area, but mainly coming from the windows of the building in front of which the protest was taking place, with the faces of the protesters often in deep shadow. So while I didn’t use flash, I did quite often need to use the LED light to fill in these shadows.

I left the protest as it was coming to an end after an hour when the four cleaners went in to start their shift. As usual they are not employed by Lee Hecht Harrison but by a cleaning contractor, who had refused to talk with the UVW about the claim for a living wage, and had threatened the cleaners with the sack if they took strike action.

The noisy and very public protest obviously made LHH think about the problem, and I suspect they put considerable pressure on the cleaning contractor to come to a settlement with the UVW. The next protest planned outside the offices was cancelled at short notice when a satisfactory settlement was reached.

Companies like LHH – and Picturehouse – are making huge profits. Paying workers a living wage would hardly be noticeable on their balance sheets, and it is hard to know why they don’t do so without having to be pressured into it by union action. Plenty of companies have realised that it is only fair that those who work there get a living wage and some have done so without any prompting. The London Living Wage has been backed by all three London Mayors, though it would be good to see the current mayor, Labour’s Sadiq Khan, being considerably more proactive in the matter.

City cleaners strike at LHH for Living Wage
Star Wars Strike Picket Picturehouse

Lambeth Shame

May 5th, 2018


Jeremy Corbyn on the banner really looks three-dimensional in this picture

Last Thursday’s local election results in Lambeth make rather sorry reading for democracy. It seems you can fool most of the people most of the time, and a 55% vote for Labour means that they now have 57 of the 63 councillors. There is a little good news in that 5 of the remaining 6 are Greens, including Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley, and it’s heartening that the Conservatives lost 2 of their three seats, though sad that both went to Labour.

One of the new Green councillors, Pete Elliott, elected for Gipsy Hill was pictured at the count in a ‘Save Cressingham Gardens’ t-shirt, and I think Gypsy Hill is the ward which includes another loved and under threat estate, Central Hill. One result that particularly saddened me was for Coldharbour ward – the heart of Brixton – where Rachel Heywood, the only Labour councillor who stood up for the future of the Brixton Arches (and for other things) was kicked out by Labour and stood as an Independent, failed to get elected. It would have been good also to see the Green candidates for this ward who were also active in trying to save these and other community assets elected, but Labour had a convincing victory, apparently helped by a rather doubtful endorsement alleged to have been extracted under threat from a black community leader.

There really is no good argument against electing local councils by a proportional representation which would give councils that far more truly represented the views of the population. Labour would still control Lambeth, but there would be a far more significant opposition on the council, which has for some time effectively been a one-party state.


An anarchist approach to playing the ukulele as Andrew Cooper speaks

Lambeth hasn’t really been a Labour council, but a Progress council, run by members of the right-wing Labour group. Its policies are not those which were in the Labour Party manifesto at the last election, but closer to those of Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher. Members of Progress have actively campaigned against the current Labour Leader and are the source of most of the smears against him which have dominated the news since he became leader. Unfortunately the Labour right-wing still hold key positions in the party machinery which have meant that complaints over the behaviour of Progress members have no been investigated, while similar actions sabotaging the party from the left would have led to speedy expulsions.

The protest in December pointed out the huge cuts the Labour party have made in services for the disabled, mentally ill, youth and community and social services generally, as well as the closing down of traders in the railway arches at the centre of Brixton and the process of social cleansing in demolishing council estates and rebuilding them with developers largely as private housing at market prices and rents, forcing former tenants and lease-holders out of the area.


Lambeth work with Savills to turn council estates into private property

The event was also a vigil in memory of Ann Plant, one of the leading campaigners to save Cressingham Gardens, Ann Plant who died of cancer in December 2016, spending her final months still fighting to prevent the demolition of her home and her community by the council.

Photographically I had no problems in recording the event, with some fine banners and placards by Class War, Andrew Cooper and others livening up the images. But this must be one of the coldest street corners in London and there was a truly biting wind. Even with an extra layer of thermal underwear covering me from ankle to neck and a windproof hood over my Thermolactyl beanie I was shivering, and the two layers of gloves – silk underneath and wool on top – were not enough to keep my hands warm. Silk gloves are thin and great for operating cameras, but soon tear but are still useful if it isn’t too cold, and the wool add a little insulation while still allowing normal operation of mechanical camera controls. Thicker gloves would keep my hands warm, and I wear them for some things, but those I have don’t allow me to properly control a camera.

More pictures at Stand Up to Lambeth protest and vigil
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There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : 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.

To order prints or reproduce images

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Against Slavery

May 4th, 2018

We are of course all against slavery, but the protest following the posting of videos of slave auctions of African migrants in Libya was predominantly by Black British citizens, and although others shared their outrage it was understandably closer to them.  Many are here because slavery took their ancestors out of Africa to work on plantations in the Caribbean and elsewhere.

It was the wealth of slave plantations owned by white Britons, mainly those who owned large areas of their own country too, that enabled the building of squares like Belgrave Square where the protest met. Along of course with the mines they also owned in Africa and elsewhere, and are still exploiting, long after the end of the British Empire. Most of the leading mining companies are still London listed companies.

While we often celebrate – and rightly – the efforts of British people to bring an end to the slave trade its important to remember it was British slave traders and slave plantation owners that they were fighting against to get English law changed. And while the British navy was important in stopping slave traders, it did so to protect the commercial interests of those British-owned plantations which would otherwise have been undercut by foreigners still using slaves.

And while slavery went on the sugar plantations and elsewhere in the British Empire, this was by no means an an end to exploitation.  Nor of course to the continuing preaching of racist attitudes throughout the British population, with an often unstated but pervasive and unquestioned assumption of the superiority of the white race, and above all the English.  It was certainly an attitude that underlay the education I received and still obtains in much of our society with the ideas that we took civilisation to the ‘backward nations’ of Africa, India and even China.  Though my having one year with a Marxist history teacher helped a bit.

In reality, although they were some things we gave these countries, it was often at the expense of destroying civilisations and always of forcing them into subservience to the enrichment of Britain – and the other colonial nations.  And even though many of us in the mass of ‘ordinary people’ were oppressed by the same masters through evicitions from our common lands and the harsh conditions of factory employment that created – again with the aid of slave monies – the industrial revolution and an underclass working class, we too benefited from the exploitation of the empire and our colonies.

It was a large protest and ended in a small space outside the Libyan embassy, and it was difficult to get into a place with a clear view of what was happening during the ceremony in memory of the many Africans who have fought for their people against enslavement and colonialism.  But I’m pleased that I was able to record it – even if there were moments that I missed, limited through working in something of a crowd in a very small space.

Although I’m used to working in crowds, it was an event I found quite stressful, and had to leave not just because I wanted to go to another event, but because I began to feel a danger of fainting. I needed to get out and do something to raise my blood sugar levels, sit down and have something suitable to eat. Although people were friendly it was still something of a struggle to make my way through the densely packed crowd and find somewhere I could sit and rest a little.

Pictures and more about the event: National Anti-Slavery March

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There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : 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.

To order prints or reproduce images

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Nobel Prize goes unnoticed

May 3rd, 2018

You might think that an organisation which is at least partly British being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize would be news in the UK. If it had been for Chemistry or Medicine or Literature it would certainly have made the headlines on the BBC and at least in the more serious of our newspapers. But I can’t recall hearing anything about the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. Nor for that matter about the achievement which gained it for ICAN, the United Nations global nuclear ban treaty, already signed by 122 nations.


Bruce Kent presents a rather large Nobel Prize to ICAN

ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, has been as effectively blanked by UK media as if it was covered by a government ‘D notice’. First introduced in 1912, D-Notices were official requests to news editors not to publish or broadcast items on specified subjects for reasons of national security. They still exist, though in the 1990s they became DA-Notices and are now DSMA-notices (Defence and Security Media Advisory Notices) and come under five headings. It’s just possible that this Nobel Prize might be covered by an advisory note under DSMA-Notice 02: Nuclear and Non-Nuclear Weapon Systems and Equipment but rather more likely that it simply reflects an establishment prejudice against the UK organisations involved. And in any case, D-Notices are only advisory, and when it suits them newspapers and even the BBC have ignored them.

For some of our newspapers and their billionaire owners anyone not entirely gung-ho about nuking Russia even if it might mean the end of the world as we know it is some kind of commie sandal-wearing jesus-loving hippie freak. And probably gay to boot.


And hands out smaller chocolate ones to the rest of those present

Among those UK organisations which are a part of ICA are CND, which has campaigend since the 1950s for the UK to unilaterally give up its nuclear capability, Medact, a UK charity of health professionals working on issues related to economic justice, ecological health, human rights, and peace, and WILPF, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

Fifty years ago, when CND was something of a mass movement, the UK government attempted to counter its arguments for unilateral nuclear disarmament by saying that of course they were against nuclear weapons too, but that they wanted not a unilateral disarmament that would leave Britain at the mercy of the remaining nuclear powers, but a multilateral treaty involving the world giving up nuclear weapons. But now the UN has come up with this, our government – and the other nuclear powers – will have nothing to do with it. Not only have the UK refused to sign it, they refused to take any part in the negotiations that led to it.

Given the lack of acclaim for the award in the media, CND and the others decided to hold their own mini-awards ceremony on the steps of the Defence Minsitry, along with a die-in, and called on the UK to abandon Trident and sign the nuclear disarmament treaty.

As the die-in approached, I decided to change from the 28-200mm to the 16mm fisheye so that when people started to get down on the ground I had two wide-angle options, with the 18-35mm on the other camera. I didn’t want to actually get in the area with those taking part, because I find it extremely annoying when other photographers do this, standing up in the middle of everyone who is on the floor and getting in everyone else’s pictures, but decided I could run up the side of the steps at the edge of those in the die-in.  Mostly too I would be behind a pillar and largely hidden from those photographers who had stayed at the bottom of the steps.

I was fortunate that one of the protesters there had wrapped herself in a peace flag, as you can see from the picture at the top of this post. Unusually for me this is an uncorrected fisheye image. I think because the steps themselves are not particularly curved the curvature of the elements around the edges of the picture is less disturbing. In any case, when you work with the camera not level, converting to cylindrical perspective gives steeply converging (or diverging) verticals which often is not a good to see. If the effect is only slight then that too can be corrected, but then you start to crop the picture, losing some of its wide impact.

When I’d taken a few pictures there, I came down to get a view across in a diagonal, which helped to give an impression of a fairly large number of people. From the bottom of the steps the numbers looked rather thinner, and I changed back to the longer lens to concentrate on details rather than the whole scene.

ICAN Nobel Peace Prize Die-In

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There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : 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.

To order prints or reproduce images

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Cressingham Gardens

April 28th, 2018


Cressingham residents and supporters outside Lambeth Town Hall

Cressingham  Gardens is a small council estate a short walk south from the centre of Brixton, between the road to Tulse Hill and Brockwell Park. It dates from the era when councils were proud to provide housing for their residents at the highest possible standard, and Lambeth had one of the better architects of the era,  Edward Hollamby as chief architect. Perhaps surprisingly, at the time Lambeth was under Conservative control, with a rather uninspiring young John Major as deputy chair of the housing committee.

It was an impressive and innovative development, achieving a relatively high density with low rise buildings and still appearing spacious, and built at relatively low cost.  Like most estates it has had a few problems and suffered from poor maintenance, but it has always been popular and largely crime-free.  It isn’t in bad condition but needs some refurbishment, at an estimated cost of around £25-30,000 per dwelling, and Lambeth Council – now of  course a Labour council – says this is unaffordable. Instead it wants to knock the lot down and have the entire site redeveloped and has signed a £6.7m contract with developers Mott MacDonald over a scheme that will possibly produce 16 new ‘affordable’ homes. The residents put forward an alternative ‘people’s plan’, “a sympathetic resident-led upgrade of the estate, as well as offering up to 37 extra homes for council rent, which entails no unnecessary demolition.”

Labour policy nationally is now that all such schemes should be subject to a ballot by residents which has been supported by London’s Mayor, but Lambeth Labour is saying that this is unnecessary for this scheme as they have already consulted with residents.  The residents are still calling for a ballot, and early in December they marched from the estate to Lambeth Town Hall to demand this.

They held a rally outside the Town Hall, with speakers and performances but it seems that Lambeth Council is still not listening, and is determined to push ahead with this scheme despite the personal hardship and the break up of the community it will entail.

Possibly the forthcoming local council elections will make some changes to the council and to others in London where communities like this are under threat from councils scheming to hand over publicly owned assets to private developers.  Already campaigns by local residents have led to Haringey Council having to abandon its huge scheme involving properties worth over £2 billion, and things are looking hopeful that changes may occur elsewhere.

There was a clear message to Lambeth from the protest, and it is one which comes from the heart of what local democracy should be. Unless it reflects the interests of the local people it is clearly failing.

More pictures of the estate and of the protest:

Cressingham residents say Ballot Us!
Cressingham Gardens

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There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : 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.

To order prints or reproduce images

________________________________________________________

Grenfell Tour

April 27th, 2018

While the largest organised events taking place over the Grenfell fire disaster continue to be the monthly silent walks, many feel that these are letting those responsible off the hook. Although various political groups take part in the silent walks, some feel that the deliberate attempt to keep these non-political is counter-productive.

Of course there are more political events taking place, and several political groups are also highly involved in the work with the community, among those volunteering to offer support, as well as campaigning. People sometimes shout at those who take part in protests, telling them they should be doing something, not protesting but almost always many of those protesting are also people who are involved in positive actions in the community, while those shouting at them are far less likely to be doing anything but shout abuse.

The RCG (Revolutionary Communist Group) is a relatively small group which has some members in the area and which has taken part in various political actions in the area and has run a weekly street stall to try and raise awareness of some of the issues. I think some of those involved either as members or friends of the RCG have also been volunteers working in the area.

The RCG has a long history of raising issues about housing in London, over benefit sanctions and other issues which affect those getting by on low incomes in the capital, as well as campaigning against racism and imperialism, and bringing out one of the more sensible and thoughtful of left-wing newspapers. They seem to me, as an outsider, as being rather less doctrinaire than most left groups, and one that is happy to work with others without trying to take them over.

That doesn’t mean I always agree with all they say or do. I wasn’t sure that a tour of the area visiting the home addresses of the few councillors from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea who lived in the area was really a good idea, particularly when the main culprit was known to have moved out of his address several months earlier, and the property was now let to someone with no connection to the guilty council.

But councillors are of course responsible for their actions as we all are, and a brief protest by a relatively small group outside their homes was not going to present any risk to them or their families, while it might do a little to increase the pressure on the authorities – including the RBKC council – to listen to the community and take the actions they should be taking but seem rather reluctant to do.

The man bearing much of the responsibility for the disaster had moved out of his home just a few hundred yards from Grenfell Tower almost immediately after the news of his involvement broke, apparently staying with wealthy family and friends elsewhere in London. ‘Wanted’ posters showing his face were almost the only sight of him in the area since, though he had apparently managed to get to the council offices a couple of miles away without being seen.

His house was put into the hands of a letting agent and was now lived in by someone with no connection to the councillor (except for paying an high London rent to the agents which they presumably largely passed on to him.) The tenant came out to explain to the protesters, asking them to go away and I felt rather sorry for him and his family being disturbed.

At the second house the protest stopped outside, the Tory councillor had been taking his dog for a walk and arrived back to see the protest. I felt some admiration for him as he came out to argue with the protesters and try to defend himself against some of their claims, though rather less for his defence of the council, who appear clearly to have failed their residents, in making their housing unsafe by cost-cutting modifications and by refusing to take seriously their complaints and in what appears to have been a virtually complete failure to respond properly to the disaster.

He did tell the protesters that he personally had gone to Grenfell in the early hours of the morning to do what he could to help, and there were some hints in what he said that he agreed with some of their complaints against the council.

It was a long walk to where the next councillor lived – most councillors live in the leafier and more expensive areas of the borough, and this was an outlying part of it. The house appeared empty and the protest made a lot of noise in the street outside, bringing out another local resident to complain noisily about being disturbed. He seemed intent on making an ass of himself and it was noticeable that none of the neighbours came out in his support. Of course his presence prolonged the protest there and greatly increased the noise.

The protesters turned around to walk back towards Grenfell Tower and I left them to walk the short distance to Holland Park Avenue to catch a bus. I felt I’d taken enough pictures, and the batteries in my LED light unit had long ago run down enough to make it of little use.

The light has a decent light output when they are fully charged, though only really useful within perhaps 2-3 metres of the camera, but this does seem to drop off pretty rapidly, though the unit continues to give some light for an hour or two. Where possible I had been using available light – often at ISO 12,800 – but some areas were just too dark for this, particularly when people were moving and so a higher shutter speed – perhaps 1/100th – was needed.

More pictures: Protesters visit Grenfell councillors
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My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : 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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Slavery in Libya

April 26th, 2018

It comes as a shock to learn that slave auctions still take place, and that Black Africans are still being bought and sold. One of so many things we like to think of as no longer taking place in the modern world, but which are still going on.

Slavery was found inconsistent with common law here in the UK in 1772 and trading in slaves made illegal in the British Empire in 1807, though another act was needed to officially abolish slavery throughout the British Empire in 1833, and it continued in some parts for another few years. The world’s first international human rights society, the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, was formed here in 1839 (and continues now as Anti-Slavery International. But slavery has continued around the world, and even in the UK the National Crime Agency says there may be “tens of thousands” of victims of modern slavery and trafficking now.

Slavery has a long history in Libya into modern times, but has changed following the overthrow of Gaddafi by NATO-led forces, since when the country has been in disorder. Both Black Libyans and migrants on their way to Europe through Libya have been targeted, including those taken back to Libya while making the Mediterranean crossing and put into camps. Captured by people smugglers or militias they are often tortured to try and extract money from their families, and may be sold as slaves.

Reports about the slave auctions had leaked out and led to complaints by some African governments, but it was the leaking of videos of the auctions that led to large-scale protests in France and to hundreds of people at this protest outside the Libyan embassy in London.

The narrow pavement of Knightsbridge outside the Libyan Embassy soon became very full, spilling out onto the road, which was almost blocked by the time I left. Many of those at the protest were Black, and some carried flags of African nations.

Although there have been reports about the terrible conditions in the Libyan camps and the slave auctions for some months, little has appeared in the Western press, and many see the Western intervention to remove Gaddafi as part of a wider continuing neo-colonialist attempt to control Africa’s natural resources. They complain the west and those it has put into power in Libya are engaged in a process of de-Africanisation and elimination of Black Libyans and that the slave auctions are a logical extension.

Although I was able to photograph those at the centre of the protest, the crowding made it difficult to move around as the numbers at the event grew, and many of my pictures show the same small number of people, particularly those who had brought national flags and who spoke at the event.

More at: End Slave Auctions in Libya
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There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : 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.

To order prints or reproduce images

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London University Workers Protest

April 25th, 2018

Workers at the University of London protest outside Senate House while University of London Chancellor Princess Anne was visiting on Foundation Day, calling for all workers in the university to be directly employed by the university. People attending the event had to walk past a noisy crowd, though Princess Anne was sneaked in through another entrance.

They call on the university to play fair by the workers whose services are vital in keeping the university working rather than abandon them to the poor conditions and bad management of companies who get contracts as the lowest bidders. They underpay and overwork staff, often fail to supply proper equipment and materials to do the job, and bullying the staff who are generally employed on the statutory minimum legal conditions, far inferior to those offered by any responsible employer, often on zero hours contracts. Staff doing similar jobs directly employed by the university get much better treatment with proper contracts and far superior conditions of service.

The university sets the contracts and could insist on proper conditions and pay, but generally seems to disclaim any responsibility for these staff, though as a result of the continued campaign has stated it is considering direct employment for some of these workers. But both London university and Cordant who employ the security staff refuse to recognise the IWGB or have proper talks with them.

Security workers belonging to the IWGB (Independent Workers Union of Great Britain) were on the latest of a series of one-day strikes, and at the end of the working day their picket was joined by supporters for a noisy protest. People attending the event had to walk past some noisy protesters on their way in, though there was no attempt to stop them.

The pavement outside the main gates to Senate House is poorly lit and except for a small area close to the gates I needed to add some light for most pictures. Because there was quite a lot of movement I used flash rather than the LED light source.

There were some large differences in colour temperature between the street lighting, the floodlighting on Senate House, the temporary lighting around the security entrance and my flash, with the occasional flashing blue from a police car adding to the palette.

For some pictures I’ve used Lightroom to selectively change the colour of parts of the images, making local adjustments to temperature and tone, though others I’ve left as they were made. The picture of IWGB President Henry Chango Lopez speaking in front of a floodlit Senate House above needs correction to give a more natural skin tone. Deep yellow sodium street lights and police blue lights are too monochromatic to allow correction.

IWGB protest London Uni outsourcing
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There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : 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.

To order prints or reproduce images

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