Posts Tagged ‘Elephant & Castle’

The Elephant, Sewol and Brexiteers

Wednesday, April 13th, 2022

The Elephant, Sewol and Brexiteers
Saturday 13th April 2019 in London, three years ago seems very distant to me now.


Love the Elephant, Elephant & Castle, London

The Elephant, Sewol and Brexiteers

The main event I covered on the day was at the Elephant & Castle shopping centre in south London, where local people and supporters were calling on Southwark Council and developers Delancey to improve the plans for the redevelopment of the area.

The Elephant, Sewol and Brexiteers

The campaigners main banner had the message ‘LOVE THE ELEPHANT – HATE GENTRIFICATION’ and this is an area that epitomises the changes that have been taking place in many of London’s poorer areas for many years now. Traditionally working class South London, this area has been at the centre of major demolitions of large council estates and their replacement largely by expensive high rise blocks at market rents with a nominal amount of so-called ‘affordable’ and miniscule amounts of truly social housing.

The Elephant, Sewol and Brexiteers

Immediately to the east of the shopping centre had been the award-winning Heygate Estate, completed in 1974, once popular for its light and spacious flats, but long subjected to a process of managed decline by Southwark Council who even employed PR consultants to emphasise a negative view of the estate, together putting together what the estate’s architect Tim Tinker described in 2013 as a “farrago of half-truths and lies put together by people who should have known better.” The council deliberately used parts of it in the latter years to house people with mental health and other problems, and as temporary accommodation. I photographed the estate on several occasions, most recently on a tour by residents opposed to the redevelopment of both the Heygate and the neighbouring Aylesbury Esate in 2012, Walking the Rip-Off.

The Heygate estate had a mixture of properties with large blocks of flats on its edges and contained 1,214 homes, all initially social housing, though many were later purchased by residents who became leaseholders. It’s replacement, Elephant Park is far less well planned but according to Wikipedia will “provide 2,704 new homes, of which 82 will be social rented. The demolition cost approximately £15 million, with an additional £44m spent on emptying the estate and a further £21.5 million spent on progressing its redevelopment.” The council sold the estate to the developers at a huge loss for £50m.

Many of the flats on Elephant Park were sold overseas as investment properties, the continuing increases in London property prices making these a very attractive holding. The new estate will also provide housing for those on high salaries in London, with a railway station and two underground lines providing excellent transport links for professionals working elsewhere in the city. Those who previously lived and owned properties on the Heygate have had to move much further from the centre of the city, some many miles away.

The Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre, was opened in 1965 on the site of the 1898 Elephant & Castle Estate which had been badly damaged by wartime bombing, and was the first purpose-built shopping centre in the UK and certainly one of the first in Europe. Many of its 115 shops were then owned by local traders.

A market trader speaks about the poor deal they are getting

The rally and procession by Southwark Notes, Latin Elephant and Up the Elephant at the Elephant & Castle called on Southwark Council and the developers Delancey to develop the Elephant for the existing population and users, rather than as social cleansing to attract new, wealthier residents and shoppers. They would like to see a development that retains the existing character of the area which has become very much a centre for South London’s Latin community many of whom live in the surrounding area. It became the most diverse and cosmopolitan shopping centre in London, with also other amenities such as a bowling alley and bingo hall, serving the population of the area.

Security officers order the campaigners out of the market area

They say the development should include more social housing and call for fairer treatment of the market traders, who should be provided with ‘like for like’ new spaces at affordable rents and be given adequate financial compensation for the disruption in business the development will cause.

A long series of protests in which locals were joined by students from the London College of Communication whose new building forms a part of the redevelopment did lead to some minor improvements to the scheme by the developers, but the shopping centre closed in September 2020 and demolition went ahead and was complete around a year later. The new development will include high-rent shops, almost certainly mainly parts of major chains, expensive restaurants and bars and plenty of luxury flats, along with a small amount of “affordable” housing.


Sewol Ferry Disaster 5 years on – Trafalgar Square

The Elephant, Sewol and Brexiteers

The good transport links that make the Elephant so attractive to developers also took me rapidly into the centre of London as the procession of protest there came to and end, although events there were continuing all afternoon – only four stops taking 6 minutes on the Bakerloo Line to Charing Cross.

I’ve photographed the small monthly vigils by campaigners in remembrance of the victims and in support of their families of the 304 people who died in the Sewol Ferry Disaster of 16 April 2014 on a number of occasions, though its always difficult to find anything new to say, either in words or pictures.

But this was a special event, the fifth anniversary of the disaster, and the 60th 60th monthly vigil. Campaigners continue to call for a full inquiry, the recovery of all bodies of victims, punishment for those responsible and new laws to prevent another similar disaster. They tie cards on lines with the class and name of the 250 high school children who were drowned after being told to ‘stay put below deck’.


Brexiteers march at Westminster – Westminster Bridge

The Elephant, Sewol and Brexiteers

Brexiteers were continuing to march weekly around London holding Union Jacks, St George’s flags and placards and many wearing yellow high-viz jackets because although there had been a small majority in favour of leaving Europe in the 2016 referendum, Parliament had not found a way to get a majority to pass the legislation needed. It was this indecision that led to a resounding victory for Boris Johnson in the 2019 election in December, though unfortunately his ‘oven-ready’ agreement has turned out to be extremely half-baked and most of the things dismissed by Brexiteers as scaremongering have turned out to be true, while the promises made by the Leave campaign have so far largely failed to materialise and most seem unlikely ever to do so.

Johnson’s deal – important parts of which he seems not to have understood, particularly over the Irish border arrangements has left us in the worst of all possible worlds, though it has made some of his wealthy friends – including some cabinet members – considerably wealthier and protected them from the threat of European legislation that would have outlawed some of their tax avoidance. Back in 2019 I commented “We were sold the impossible, and things were made worse by a government that thought it could play poker when what was needed was a serious attempt at finding a solution to the problems that both the UK and Europe face.”

The protesters were also protesting with flags and banners supporting members of the armed forces against their trial for killings in Northern Ireland and for the Islamophobic campaign ‘Our Boys’ which seeks to have a drunk driver of Hindu origin who killed three young men prosecuted as a terrorist.


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Guantanamo, Privatisation, the Elephant, Social Cleansing & a Book Launch

Saturday, February 5th, 2022

Guantanamo, Privatisation, the Elephant, Social Cleansing & a Book Launch.
Thursday 5th February 2015 was an extremely varied and rewarding day for me.


Close Guantanamo – 8 Years of protest

The day started rather quietly with the London Guantánamo Campaign and their monthly lunch-time protest at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square which had been taking place every month for 8 years, calling for the closure of the prison and release of those still held, including Londoner Shaker Aamer. I’ve not photographed them every one of those almost a hundred months, but most times when I have been working in London on the day they were protesting.

Close Guantanamo – 8 Years of protest


From Grosvenor Square I went to Trafalgar Square, joining protesters outside the National Gallery where management had told 400 of its 600 staff they were no longer to be employed by the gallery but by a private company. Staff there were incensed when on a five day strike one of their PCS union reps, Candy Udwin, was suspended.

Nobody answered the door.


The National Gallery was then the only major museum or gallery in London not paying its lowest paid staff the London Living Wage. The privatisation further threatened the pay and conditions of loyal and knowledgeable staff already living on poverty pay. These staff are responsible for the security of the paintings and the public, provide information about the collection, organise school bookings and look after the millions of visitors each year.

Eventually the petition was handed to the Head of Security


Staff who were then on a five-day strike had come with supporters to present a 40,000 signature petition to management against the privatisation and call for the reinstatement of their union rep. First they tried the management door, but no one came to open it, so some entered the Sainsbury Wing of the gallery to try to deliver it. Security asked them to leave, and promised that the Head of Security would take the petition would personally hand it to management who were refusing to come down to meet the strikers.

Jeremy Corbyn joins the march and Candy Udwin speaks

After consultation with the members the petition was handed over and the strikers and supporters marched down Whitehall to the Dept of Culture, Media and Sport where the minister concerned had agreed to receive a copy of the petition. A rally took place outside, with speakers including Jeremy Corbyn, while the petition was being handed in.

No Privatisation At National Gallery


Around the Elephant

I took the tube to the ELephant and Castle on my way to visit the continuing occupation against Southwark Council’s demolition of the Aylesbury Estate and had time to walk a little around the area before and afterwards.

Around the Elephant


Aylesbury Estate Occupation

Protesters against the demolition of council estates and its replacement by private developments with little or no social housing across London had marched to the Aylesbury Estate and occupied an empty block, part of Chartridge in Westmoreland Road at the end of the previous Saturday’s March for Homes.

Entering the occupied building required a rather tricky climb to the first floor, and both my age and my heavy camera bag argued against it, although I was told I was welcome. Instead I went with a group of supporters who were distributing flyers for a public meeting to flats across the estate. They split into pairs and I went with two who were going to the top floor of the longest single block on the whole estate, Wendover, where one of them lived.

There are I think 471 flats in the block and from the top floor there are extensive views to the east, marred by the fact that the windows on the corridor seem not to have been cleaned since the flats were built. But there was one broken window that gave me a clear view.

Aylesbury Estate Occupation


Getting By – Lisa’s Book Launch

Ken Loach, Jasmine Stone and Lisa McKenzie


My final event of the day was the book launch for Lisa McKenzie’s ‘Getting By’, the result of her years of study from the inside of the working class district of Nottingham where she lived and worked for 22 years, enabling her to view the area from the inside and to gather, appreciate and understand the feelings and motivations of those who live there in a way impossible for others who have researched this and similar areas.

St Ann’s in that time was undergoing a huge slum clearance project, but though providing more modern homes relieved some of the worst problems of damp, dangerous and over-crowded housing, it left many of the social problems and provided new challenges for those who lived there.

It was a great evening, attended by many of those I’ve photographed over the years at various housing campaigns.

Getting By – Lisa’s Book Launch


More on all these on My London Diary:
Getting By – Lisa’s Book Launch
Aylesbury Estate Occupation
Around the Elephant
No Privatisation At National Gallery
Close Guantanamo – 8 Years of protest


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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall. Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


Global Climate Strike – 2019

Monday, September 20th, 2021

Two years ago, Friday 20 September 2019 saw Earth Day Global Climate Strike protests around the world inspired by Greta Thunberg. Many thousands came to the events in Central London, packing out quite a length of Millbank in the morning, but there were others around Westminster who didn’t quite get down to the rally, as well as local events in other parts of London.

The school kids get it, but even two years later it is quite clear that our government really doesn’t, though is happy to pay lip-service. The world is going to change and unless we act urgently it will change very much for the worse so far as human life is concerned.

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report released in August 2021 makes the severity of our position clear, and floods and fires this year in countries across the world have underlined the need for urgent action to change our way of life.

Yet a few days ago, the government yet again confirmed its support for airport expansion and another runway at Heathrow, and is still backing oil exploration in our coastal waters, as well as a new coal mine, still subsidising gas-fired power stations and encouraging wood-burning which is causing large-scale environmental devastation in forests as well as churning out carbon dioxide and still failing to put the investment needed into green policies and green jobs.

It’s hard to believe the stupidity of our government, something only increased by reshuffles, particular when they promote people who have obviously failed. But most governments around the world are driven by short-term political considerations and by the interests of the rich and powerful, and this latter is perhaps nowhere more paramount than in the UK, where as well as the interests of huge companies and their bosses we also have the interests of the establishment and Crown and the City of London.

Brixton

The late Duke of Westminster who died in 2016 once told a reporter from the Financial Times who asked what advice he would give to a young entrepreneur who wanted to succeed. His reply “Make sure they have an ancestor who was a very close friend of William the Conqueror” is usually reported as being a joke, but certainly contains a great deal of truth. Britain is still very much owned and run for and by those who profited from that occupation, enacting laws which stole the land from the people. 955 years later we are still occupied.

After managing to extract myself from the crowded rally I went to pay brief visits to Climate Strike events elsewhere. The Elephant & Castle was a quick trip on the underground, and I photographed a march starting from there before jumping back on the tube to Brixton.

Children from Brixton primary schools were at a lunchtime rally in Windrush Square, and when that finished some were intending to travel into central London to join the main protest. I rushed away as the rally ended to get back too, and found a largish group of secondary school students joining activists who were already sitting down to block Whitehall. When they got up and began to march away, police stopped them – and after a while they came back and blocked Whitehall again. Eventually they got up and marched back towards Parliament Square.

Protests were still continuing with much of Westminster at a standstill when I left for an unrelated protest in Carnaby Street (yes it’s still there, though it really belongs to the Sixties) by pro-Palestine activists in front of the Puma store there. The say Puma whitewashes Israel’s war crimes by sponsoring the apartheid Israel Football Association which includes clubs from illegal settlements built on stolen Palestinian land, a war crime under international law.

Carnaby St Puma Boycott
Global Climate Strike Protest continues
Elephant & Brixton Global Climate Strike
Global Climate Strike Rally


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.


Death at the Elephant

Friday, May 21st, 2021

Cyclists die-in where a cycle bypass would have prevented a cyclist death

When I was growing up in a working-class area of Greater London there were few private cars around. Only one of my friends was from a family that owned a car, and they could only afford it because both of his parents worked. Working mothers were much looked down on in the area at a time when most married women were housewives, and many employers still expected or even required women to stop work when they got married. There were men in middle-class occupations, but even few of them had cars, walking to local companies or to the station for the train to London. Otherwise people walked to work or took a bus or rode a bike.

My father at the time was self-employed, a man who did odd jobs; a little building work, plastering, plumbing, carpentry, roofing, glazing, electrical wiring, painting, decorating as well as gardening and bee-keeping. He worked for people in our area who mainly were as poor as we were; every penny counted – and there were seldom any spare to count at the end of the week. He rode around on an ancient bike, often with a bucket on the handlebars for his tools, and when he needed a ladder or more equipment or materials, left his bike at home and pulled everything on a hand cart.

For us kids, a bike was a great liberation. We played games on them, sometimes rather dangerously, and rode for miles often along busy main roads. But there was less traffic then and it moved much slower. I got my first two-wheeler – old but newly painted – for my sixth birthday, learnt to ride it that day and was then off, at first along our street and its side avenues, but soon much further afield, either with friends or by myself. By the time I was at grammar school I was riding miles out from London as well as cycling to school.

But things changed. It became the aspiration of many if not all working men to own a car – and more and more married women worked to make it possible. Car makers produced more and more cars aimed at a wider market, something that perhaps began in this country with the 1948 Morris Minor and Ford Popular, introduced in 1953, but accelerated in the late 1950s, when Harold MacMillan told us “most of our people have never had it so good.” Though in 1957 it still had to make its way down to areas like that I lived in.

Riding a bike began to be associated with poverty and cycle clips became an icon of failure. England developed a strong anti-cycling culture, with cyclists becoming an object of derision and hate. They cluttered up the road, preventing the free movement of motor cars. It’s an attitude still prevalent among car owners, and one pandered to by our road designers who until recently largely discounted cyclists in designing roads to enable drivers to drive faster. Pedestrians too were something of a nuisance, to be caged off whenever possible and forced to move away from crossing near corners to motorists could negotiate the rounded profiles at greater speed.

We have seen some changes in recent years. The 2005 bombings made many more consider cycling in cities, and increasing concern about healthy exercise has also led to more recreational cycling – if often by people carrying bikes by car to safer places to cycle. And we now have a few segregated cycle routes in London and elsewhere.But London as a whole is still often a very dangerous place for cyclists (and pedestrians.) One reason is the poor design of many large vehicles with very limited visibility for the drivers. Another is road design inherited from years of ignoring the needs of cyclists and the continuing failure to put enough money into developing roads and paths that are safe for cyclists.

The problems are in part political, with a lack of national leadership and many local politicians remain rabidly anti-cyclist and respond to powerful lobbies from some drivers and in particular taxi drivers organisations. In London it was made worse by the local government reorganisations of the 1960s and the abolition of the Greater London Council in the 1980s. Traffic – including the problems faced by cyclists – is one area that clearly needs to be dealt with for London as a whole and not left to the whim of local boroughs as is currently the case. Some have an almost complete disregard for the safety of cyclists.

Stop Killing Cyclists has organised a number of bike die-ins taking place shortly after cyclists have been killed at the sites where they died. The protest these pictures come from was at the Elephant and Castle in Southwark on Wednesday 21 May 2014, following the death of 47 year-old Abdelkhars Lahyani on May 13, killed by a HGV (heavy goods vehicle) whose driver was arrested on suspicion of causing death by careless driving.

The traffic system here was completely redesigned a few years earlier at a cost of £3 million, but without making proper provision for cyclists. Southwark Council’s transport plan argues against segregation of cyclists and says that including them in traffic is useful to slow traffic flows. While it may do so, it is at the expense of regarding them as expendable.

The protesters marked out a bike ‘bypass lane’ which if implemented would have taken Lahyani away from the dangerous area where he was killed. Many accidents at junctions are caused by drivers turning left and driving over cyclists they have failed to see on their left side, either in a blind spot because of bad vehicle design or simply because they have failed to check their route before turning.

More at Cyclists protest Death at the Elephant on My London Diary


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.


One Year Ago – Sep 20th 2019

Sunday, September 20th, 2020

Friday 20 Sep 2019 was a busy day for me, and certainly one without any social distancing. It was the day of the Earth Day Global Climate Strike inspired by Greta Thunberg, and schoolchildren, teachers, parents and supporters from all over London were taking part in several events across the capital, as well as in other towns and cities across the world.

A large rally filled much of Millbank, from outside the Houses of Parliament down almost to Horseferry Road where there were speakers and performers on a lorry, with loudspeakers at intervals along the road to relay the sounds. The crowd was so dense near the bus that I gave up trying to get through and went along sidestreets to make my way to the front.

I made my way out slowly back through the crowd taking pictures, and found that more people were still streaming into Parliament Square as I walked into Westminster station to take the tube to the Elephant.

There was a poster display and short rally outside the University of the Arts there as people gathered to march to join workers at Southwark Council who were also protesting.

Instead I took the tube to Brixton, where teachers had brought children from local schools for a lunchtime rally before going to join the protest in Westminster. I left to avoid the crowd as the rally came to an end and went back to Parliament Square, where as well as the climate protest there were also a group of Kurds protesting about the Turkish invasion of Rojava.

Campaigners, mainly school students, were now also sitting down and blocking Whitehall and police were beginning to make arrests. Eventually the school students decided to march, and turned into Whitehall Court, where police blocked them and they sat down again.

It’s a road the has very little traffic, and I couldn’t understand why police continued to harass them and try to get them to move, as a protest there would inconvenience very few if any. But eventually the students got fed up with the police threats and got up to march again, only to sit back down and block Whitehall again.

Eventually they decided to get up and march back to Parliament Square to join the other protesters there, but I left them to go to Carnaby St, still a Mecca for tourists sixty years on from the so-called ‘Swinging Sixties’. It’s now a rather dull shopping experience with relatively high prices for the same kind of stuff as almost every high street worldwide, including Puma sports shoes.

This afternoon it was a little livelier and noisier than usual, with the Inminds Islamic human rights group which generally includes both Palestinian and Jewish campaigners outside their store after 215 Palestinian sports clubs have asked Puma to respect human rights and end its sponsorship of the Israel Football Association which includes clubs from illegal settlements built on stolen Palestinian land. Inminds provide some loud and enchanting Palestinian music to enjoy as well as the speeches at their peaceful and well-organised protests, many of which I’ve photographed along with many others in London over human rights issues in this country and others around the world.

At a previous protest outside this store, protesters were physically attacked by a small group of Zionists, but this time I saw just one man who came and screamed abuse for a minute or two, while many other people stopped to talk, read the banners and take leaflets, shocked by the facts they displayed. There is little coverage in the mass media but the campaigners say the Israeli government on average imprisons two Palestinian children every day, kills one every 60 hours and destroys one Palestinian home every nine hours.

COVID-19 has dominated our news for months, and recently the media are full of reports of our governments failures to set up effective testing and tracing and possible new restrictions on us. But the issues these protests a year ago remain vital. And unless we take urgent action to cut our impact on the environment through climate change and environmental damage the consequences for human life will be disatrous, threatening us all. This year the Fridays For Future global climate action day is September 25.

You can see more pictures from the various protests on the day last year on My London Diary:
Carnaby St Puma Boycott
Global Climate Strike Protest continues
Elephant & Brixton Global Climate Strike
Global Climate Strike Rally


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.


Elephant & Brixton Global Climate Strike

Saturday, February 22nd, 2020

Groups were meeting around London on Earth Day to take part in the Global Climate Strike, and I went to two of them which I could travel to reasonably quickly by tube.

People were gathering outside the London College of Communication, part of the University of the Arts London, where a group had obviously been busy making Climate Strike posters.

A group left to march to Southwark Council offices on Tooley St to join up with workers there and were then planning to go on to join protesters in Westminster. I left the marchers as they went past the tube station to make my way to a rally in Windrush Square, Brixton.

Teachers had brought pupils and parents to a rally in Windrush Square and I arrived in time for the last quarter hour of so, including a short address by one of the local MPs as well as by some of the children and others.

I left as the rally ended and the organisers began to get everyone ready to take the tube to Westminster and join the protests there, making my own way to central London ahead of them.

More pictures at Elephant & Brixton Global Climate Strike.


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.

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, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Up the Elephant

Sunday, July 28th, 2019

A quick trip on the Bakerloo line took me from elephants in Cavendish Square to the Elephant, where Southwark Notes, Latin Elephant and Up the Elephant were holding their Love the Elephant Street Celebration.

For generations the Elephant & Castle has been a lively South London hub, its nature changing over the years. The country’s first shopping mall was built here in 1955 on the site of a bomb-damaged estate, and while showing its age is still more interesting than most, and one that both reflects and caters for the local community, increasingly Latin-American, as well as largely older bingo-playing local residents.

Shopping malls are generally pretty soulless places, and on going inside you transition from whichever town or city you were into some strange limbo of franchises and chains. The few with a little more character are some of the older ones, usually incorporating market traders and other small local businesses, while the more recent examples have little to offer except the same as every other more recent mall.

Virtually the only reason I ever enter them is to search for the public toilets most offer, which usually involves a long trek following often confusing signage designed to take you past every retail outlet en-route.

Not of course that the Elephant shopping centre is perfect, far from it. It is certainly showing its age and needs improvement, and it has been deliberately run down by its owners to promote the redevelopment.

But campaigners say it should be redeveloped with the local community in mind while the developers Delancey working with Southwark Council and the London College of Communications, seem largely concerned with maximising their profits from the scheme.

Years of campaigning by local community groups has resulted in some minor improvements to the proposals – including more social housing, though it remains to be seen if this will actually happen.

Although the plans were finally approved last December, the campaing goes on, to keep the shopping centre alive until it is demolished and to get fairer treatment of the existing traders. Some have been promised space in the new development, but sometimes only a small fraction of their current area, and the campaign want all to be made offers on a ‘like for like’ basis, with an increase in the relocation fund.

More at Love the Elephant.


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, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

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.