Posts Tagged ‘fence’

Flowers to Yarls Wood – 2017

Thursday, November 18th, 2021

Four years ago on Saturday 18th November saw Movement for Justice’s 12th protest outside the immigration detention prison up a hill around 6 miles north of Bedford, calling for this and the other immigration detention centres to be shut down. On this occasion many took flowers to pin to the upper section of the fence where they could be seen by the women inside.

The whole system of immigration detention seems to have been designed as a deterrent to asylum seekers coming to the UK, though unsuccesful in doing so. People who had fled their countries because they were in fear of their lives and had often been subject to violent attacks and rapes were thrown into jail while there cases were being considered. Often their imprisonment made it very much harder for them to provide the evidence demanded by the Home Office of the danger they had been in and their suffering, and official reports and journalistic investigations, some by reporters who had taken jobs at the centres, both revealed the callous and often illegal treatment they received from the staff in these privately run centres, including sexual assaults and violence.

Mabel Gawanas who was held inside for a day under 3 years speaks to her friends still inside

The accomodation provided is poor and the food is of poor quality and often fails to meet the relgious ordietary needs of the detainees, and there have been numerous reported cases where necessary medical treatment has been either refused or excessively delayed. But the major problem is that immigration detention is of indeterminate length, with some detainees serving perhaps a few weeks and others up to three years. Unlike in a normal jail there is no known length to the time people serve and no way that they know when they may be released or deported. And there is no process for them to appeal their detention. The government like to pretend it isn’t a prison, and there are some differences in the routines, but those held inside cannot leave and are often restricted in their movements inside the buildings.

The windows only open a few inches

There are currently in 2021 seven ‘Immigration Removal Centres’ in the UK as well as a number of short-term holding facililites. All but one of the seven are run by private companies, Serco, Mitie, G4S, a Capita subsidiary and Geo, and they are run to make profits. The less they spend on food, staffing and facilities the more the companies make – and the more those detained suffer. In 2015 the Chief Inspector of Prisons labelled it ‘a place of national concern’.

Yarl’s Wood is in an isolated location, hidden away from roads on a former wartime airfield. As I found cycling from Bedford Station it is on the top of a hill and rather windswept. From where the protesters coaches and cars can park it takes aroud a mile walking along public footpaths to get to the field next to the prison where the protests take place. The prison is surrounded by a 20 ft high metal fence, the lower half with metal panels and the upper half with a thick wire grid material that allows the upper storeys of the building to be seen from the top of a rise in the field.

It’s difficult to take pictures through this screen, but not impossible. I’d taken with me a Nikon 70-300mm lens and was working with the D810 in DX mode which converts that into a 105-450mm equivalent and still provides a 16Mp file. Focussing was tricky as the autofocus was very good at focussing on the wire, leaving the building behind well out of focus, and although it would sometimes focus on a window frame, it was far easier to use manual focus.

I also took some pictures on a 28-200mm (equivalent to 42-300mm) which was better when I wanted to include any foreground detail, but the windows became rather small. Even at 450mm any one of the pair of windows only filled around a sixth of the frame, and some of the images have been cropped.

For photographing the protesters as well as that highly versatile 28-200mm used both as a X lens on the D810 body and a full-frame lens on the D750, I also had a 28-35mm lens for use on the D750.

Many of the exposures I made where not quite sharp. It was November and the light dropped off fairly dramatically towards the end of the protest and by 3pm I was having to work at 1/250s at the full aperture of F5.6, not really fast enough a shutter speed for a 450mm lens. So camera shake added to my focus problems. At 3.30pm the protest seemed to be nearing its end, I was getting too cold and decided it was time to get on my bike and return to Bedford Station. Fortunately except for a short steep slope it was more or less downhill all the way.

In August 2020 the Home Office announced it was ‘re-purposing’ Yarl’s Wood, which became a short-term holding facility for men arriving in the UK by boat. But by November 2020 it had also been brought back into its previous use with around ten women then being indefinitely detained there.

Shut Down Yarl’s Wood 12


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Marylebone Doors

Friday, August 7th, 2020
Duchess St, Marylebone, Westminster, 1987 87-3j-65-positive_2400
Duchess St, Marylebone, Westminster, 1987

This gem of a building is just around a corner from the BBC on a few yards down Duchess St, on the opposite side of Portland Place was built to the plans of Robert Adam in 1769-71 as the stable-coach house to Chandos House, Queen Anne Street, and was altered – according to its Grade II listing text “quite sympathetically” around 1924 by Arthur Bolton. The text states it is now part of the British Medical Association.

The lean of the lamp post emphasises the rectangular formality and symmetry of the building as does the man walking past. I’m not sure if I would have preferred not to have a taxi speeding into the picture. The 35mm shift lens enabled me to keep the verticals upright and get the whole building in frame from the opposite side of a fairly narrow street.

Mansfield St, Marylebone, Westminster, 1987 87-3j-56-positive_2400
Mansfield St, Marylebone, Westminster, 1987

Just around the corner from the previous picture is this magnificent fence with its baskets of flowers. I felt the out of focus bush made a suitable contrast between natural vegetation and its representation.

I think this is the garden screen mentioned in the listing text and probably like the house behind dates from 1914.

Hinde St,  Marylebone, Westminster, 1987 87-3j-22-positive_2400
Hinde St, Marylebone, Westminster, 1987

Doorways are one of the most important architectural features of buildings, and this one very clearly gives an impression of the luxury of the flats inside Hinde House.

Hinde St,  Marylebone, Westminster, 1987 87-3j-21-positive_2400
Hinde St, Marylebone, Westminster, 1987

A similar doorway next door (London streets sometime number in odd ways) is a little plainer, perhaps suggesting that inside are flats for less important people. Though it is certainly not a ‘poor door’ leading to any social housing in the block.

The Royal Society of Medicine, Henrietta Place, Marylebone, Westminster, 1987 87-3i-52-positive_2400
The Royal Society of Medicine, Henrietta Place, Marylebone, Westminster, 1987

My theme of doors continues with the grand entrance for The Royal Society of Medicine in Henrietta Place.

Marylebone Lane, Marylebone, Westminster, 1987 87-3i-42-positive_2400

And another door is a prominent feature in this building with its series of semi-circles on Marylebone Lane. It’s a building with the window at the centre of the picture set a little lower, so it seems to be winking at us.

Again a taxi has crept in. There are far too many of them, often simply cruising around empty in the centre of London, a significant cause of both pollution and congestion. They are slowly changing from diesel to electric which will help with the pollution, but wont ease the congestion. Ridiculously they are exempted from the congestion charge while minicabs have to pay it. We don’t need ‘ply for hire’ when cabs can be summoned by smartphone and its time for change.

Rimmel, Wigmore St, Marylebone,, Westminster, 1987 87-3i-25-positive_2400
Rimmel, Wigmore St, Marylebone, Westminster, 1987

There are a few more pictures of doors in the area in this section of my 1987 London Photos, but this at Bessborough House on the corner of Cavendish Square is perhaps the most impressive. According to the Grade II listing the house dates from 1770s with c.1800 and early C20 alterations. About this entrance it states “Blind return to Wigmore Street has neo-Adam style pilaster treatment to ground floor with shallow relief modelled “graces” between pairs of pilasters under entablature – all in stucco.”

When I took this picture it had the circular message at left that it was the premises of Rimmel, the cosmetics house founded in 1834 by French-born perfume chemist Eugène Rimmel and often known as Rimmel London. He put on sale a product for darkening eyelashes using the newly invented petroleum jelly and black pigment, marketed under the name mascara which was hugely successful both in the UK and internationally – and mascara is still called ‘Rimmel’ in a number of languages.

More pictures on page 3 of 1987 London Photos.


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.