Posts Tagged ‘flowers’

Shops, Warner, Marx, English & A Lighthouse – 1989

Monday, July 22nd, 2024

Shops, Warner, Marx, English & A Lighthouse from my walk on Sunday 24th September 1989.

Shop Window, High St, Walthamstow, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9c-36
Shop Window, High St, Walthamstow, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9c-36

I wasn’t quite sure what I thought about this window display with at right a dress with pictures with rear views of three mice as PRODUCER, DIRECTOR and EDITOR sitting in their directors chairs holding megaphone, script and clapper-board for TAKE 1.

To the left is a mannequin in some kind of underwear and holding another item of lingerie, with other items draped over what looks like a deckchair without its canvase. Behind the two is the larger face of a woman photographed in similar underwear.

I’m not sure how I would describe the faces and hair styles of the two mannequins; perhaps “imperious”?

La Three Shoes, High St, Walthamstow, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9c-23
La Three Shoes, High St, Walthamstow, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9c-23

I’m unsure if ‘finial’ is the correct architectural term for these decorative features at the division between the shop fronts on the substantial block on the north side of the High Street between Pretoria Avenue and Carisbrooke Rd, I think at 19-35.

This block was developed by The Warner Estate Co. Ltd, registered in 1891 and responsible for much of the development of the area between the 1880s and the First World War, and it probably dates from the early 1890s.

Quite what the significance of the dragon, the flower and the grotesque devilish face are I leave to you. But I took four photographs of this, and another between 27 and 29 in the row.

Clock, Apollo, 4, St James's St, Walthamstow, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9c-25
Clock, Apollo, 4, St James St, Walthamstow, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9c-25

I tuned south down St James’s Street where on the right are two more blocks of Warner properties with more of the dragons and flowers but without the grinning gargoyles between the shops. Between the first and second floor buildings are mouldings with winged cherubs holding an ornate a bowl of fruit, surrounded by swirls of oak leaves. There is a flower at each bottom corner and in the centre, below the bowl what could be a mushroom or toadstool.

Shops, 2-10, St James's St, Walthamstow, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9c-11
Shops, 2-10, St James St, Walthamstow, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9c-11

Apollo Dry Cleaners are still I think in the shop at 4 St James St and you can see them in this picture of the row of shops. The clock which was above the Opticians at Number 6 has now gone, although I think two strips of wood which held it are still in place.

These shops – and those on the High Street in the top picture are not even locally listed but they are in the Walthamstow St James Conservation area, with these Warner properties on St James St marked for possible future local listing. There are also desciptions of these and the High Street properties.

Alfred English, Funeral Directors, St James's St, Walthamstow, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9c-14
Alfred English, Funeral Directors, St James St, Walthamstow, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9c-14

Funeral Directors Alfred English are still at 70 St James St, but the extension at he side of their large detached house is no longer a shop window and the large sign on the wall to its left and reflected in the window has also gone.

Alfred English have been funeral directors in Walthamstow since 1896, for many years as a family owned firm. It has become a part of Dignity Group which includes 795 Funeral Directors across the UK.

Marx House, 86, Markhouse Rd,  Walthamstow, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9c-15
Marx House, 86, Markhouse Rd, Walthamstow, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9c-15

I was rather disappointed to find that Marx House had no connection with Karl, but was named after Marx Gross its first occupier. But while that may be so, I think it may also have a connection with the street name, Markhouse Rd, which apparently derives from an early Marck Manor House. Mearc apparently meant boundary and the estate was on both sides of the boundary between Leyton and Walthamstow.

This was on Markhouse Common which was enclosed in the 1850s and development of this area then started with railways serving the area around. Until 2002 there was a pub at the junction of Markhouse Lane and Queen’s Road, which over the years had various names including the Commongate Hotel, JD’s, Couples and the Sportsman, but is now a hotel with its old name.

The Lighthouse Methodist Church, 120, Markhouse Rd, Walthamstow, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9e-62
The Lighthouse Methodist Church, 120, Markhouse Rd, Walthamstow, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9e-62

This local landmark was built in 1893 and was for many years a popular church in the area. Bullard King & Company, Limited had been founded in 1850 by Daniel King and Samuel Bullard with a fleet of sailing ships trading between London and Natal as The White Cross Line, and they moved to steam vessels in 1879, adding services to carry labourers from India to South Africa.

In 1889 Captain King donated the site on Markhouse Road and paid for the building, begun in 1892, making clear what he wanted to architect J. Williams Dunford. Apparently originally the church had a revolving light shining during services.

The light perhaps helped to attract worshippers and in 1903 it had congregations of over 1,500. The building was Grade II listed in 2007, and the listing text contains an unusually lengthy description including the following: “The lighthouse turret is distinctive, particularly given the church’s inland location, and is an uncommon feature of the design. Despite the obvious link between Christian imagery of Jesus as the Light of the World and the function of a lighthouse, there are no known examples of church designs which use a lighthouse architectural feature.

The building is still in use as The Lighthouse Methodist Church though I imagine congregations are now considerably smaller.

More from this walk in Walthamstow later.

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Chelsea Flower Show – 2005

Tuesday, May 28th, 2024

Chelsea Flower Show: I have never had any desire to go to the Chelsea Flower Show and still have never been, but in 2005 I was persuaded by friends to go with them to photograph people on the streets taking flowers home at the end of the show. I’d previously largely and deliberately avoided this and other events that were part of London’s Social Season and I’ve not been since.

Chelsea Flower Show

I hadn’t known that this happened, but here is what I wrote back in 2005 (with the usual minor corrections):

Chelsea Flower Show is the biggest event of the gardening season, and the crowds are huge. This year an extra day was added to cut down on the jams, though i don’t know how effective it was. Unless you are a gardening photographer, the most interesting part of the whole event is the end, when many of the plants on show are sold off and proudly carried home by their purchasers. As you can see from the pictures, they carry them along the streets to the bus stop or car park or coach, providing a rather unusual spectacle.”

Looking through the work now, here are some of the pictures that caught my eye.

Chelsea Flower Show

Chelsea Flower Show

Chelsea Flower Show

I put rather a lot of pictures on-line and you can see many more here on My London Diary.

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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
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People’s Assembly, Class War, Anonymous, ENA & Dykes

Thursday, June 22nd, 2023

People’s Assembly, Class War, Anonymous, ENA & Dykes: Saturday 22nd Jone 2013, ten years ago today, was a rather odd day for me. It began with an event I didn’t go to and instead photographed groups outside, was followed by an meeting to which I had been invited by the extreme right English National Alliance who needed a police escort to lay flowers at the Cenotaph and ended with a Dyke March.

People’s Assembly – Methodist Central Hall, Westminster

People's Assembly, Class War, Anonymous, ENA & Dykes

I had decided not to attend the People’s Assembly being held in Methodist Central Hall. It was a large event but was being managed so that any criticisms of the Labour Party and trade unions were banned from the main event, with people including Ken Loach being relegated to a hall down the road.

People's Assembly, Class War, Anonymous, ENA & Dykes

Others had expressed the opinion that this event was intended to “disperse some of the head of steam that had built up among the rank and file” for more direct action against the government. It reminded me of events following the huge ‘Stop the War’ protest in Feb 2003, at which Tony Benn and others had called for decisive action, but Stop the War had failed to do more than call instead for just another protest a while after Blair had declared war. It was hardly surprising that this was much smaller than the previous event and had absolutely no effect.

People's Assembly, Class War, Anonymous, ENA & Dykes

I commented in 2013:

It was a feeling reinforced by the statement ‘We will work together with leading experts and campaigners both here and abroad, and friendly think tanks, to develop rapidly key policies and an alternative programme for a new anti-austerity government‘, which seemed to make it clear that after the assembly it was the long grass for any ideas, and an end to any action.

My London Diary
People's Assembly, Class War, Anonymous, ENA & Dykes

And there seems to have been nothing that has happened as a result of this event; for a few years Corbyn gave the Labour Party some hope, but he was stopped from winning a general election by the right in the party. Nothing in Labour policies now suggests they would offer any real alternative should the Tories lose the next election. Or that they can win if the Conservatives don’t defeat themselves.

More at People’s Assembly.

Outside The People’s Assembly – Class War

One of several groups protesting outside was Class War. Ian Bone had called for “a f**king big mob outside” (my asterisks) the People’s Assembly, but as I wrote, only around enough for a football team turned up for their alternative event, though there were several other groups around also opposed to the “pointless jamboree” taking place inside the hall.

So although there were a series of speeches by Bone and others, all amusing and in parts thought-provoking and certainly more interesting than most inside the hall, these were largely made to a mainly empty street.

Action Not Talk?

Outside The People’s Assembly – Anonymous Occupy the Grass

A small group of ‘Anonymous’ and Occupy London supporters handed out leaflets, offered free hugs, and had a picnic outside the People’s Assembly Against Austerity.

Police kept a close eye on them but didn’t interfere with them.

Anonymous Occupy the Grass

ENA Meet Left Opposition – Westminster

The English National Alliance is one of a number of small ‘patriotic’ groups on the extreme right who I’ve photographed over the years, with some members who have also been involved in other similar groups. Their leader is a former BNP member who was expelled from the EDL in 2011 apparently for extremist statements.

Although I’ve made no secret of my disagreements with their views, I’ve always tried to present them clearly and accurately as a journalist, as with other groups I’ve photographed. I’ve felt it was my job, and one that informs the wider public who I think can be trusted to see them for what they are.

Many in these groups complain about the unfair press they receive, and they had a particular gripe that some pictures of people at protests who were just waving being captioned as making Nazi salutes. It certainly has happened, but as they agreed there are also some people at protests by extreme-right groups who will make Nazi salutes.

The ENA had decided to march to the Cenotaph to lay flowers on the way to taking a statement of their views in to Downing Street and I had been invited to join them at the pub where they were meeting for the march. I was surprised how few of them had come, as was the event organiser, and there were a number of phone calls made to try to get more to turn up, but eventually they decided to march.

I was surprised when the small march and its police escort turned down in front of the hall where the People’s Assembly was taking place and small groups of left-wingers were still protesting outside. I’m not sure whether the marchers or police had decided to take this route, but the response was entirely predictable.

Some of the marchers shouted “No Surrender” and they were almost immediately surrounded by people shouting back at them “Fascist scum!”, “Racists!” and there were some minor scuffles. Police managed to push a way through for them and made one arrest before the ENA march, now accompanied by a few counter-protesters was able to continue towards the Cenotaph and Downing St.

By now it was time for me to be at another event, and said goodbye to the ENA and left, with a copy of the long statement they were about to take in addressed to David Cameron from the “Patriots of England who are supporters of every street activist and political party in the United Kingdom.”

Well, no. The last half mile had been clear about that. But you can read my précis of their statement with a number of quotes along with more about the march on My London Diary at ENA Meet Left Opposition.

Dykes March – Berkeley Square to Soho

The Dyke March the previous year in London had been the first such event for many years, and this year’s event was on a rather smaller scale, but there were still around 300 who turned out to march.

The event began with a rally with speakers who included Roz Kaveney, (above), writer, critic, poet and deputy editor of the trans digital magazine META who read one of her poems and long-standing LGBT activist and historian Sue Sanders who tested the crowd on their knowledge of lesbian icons including suffragette composer Dame Ethyl Smyth. I think I recognised more of them than most of the crowd.

The route the march took was based in part on that taken – though in the opposite direction and ending in Hyde park by the 1908 Votes For Women March.

The march was to end with a rally in Soho Square, but I left it to go home from Piccadilly Circus.

Many more pictures at Dykes March.

Grenfell and the Tory/DUP Alliance

Saturday, June 17th, 2023

Grenfell and the Tory/DUP Alliance. Two things at the top of the news on Saturday 17th June 2017, the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower three days earlier and the agreement still being negotiated for the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party to go into coalition with the Conservative Party after the 2017 General Election had resulted in a hung Parliament.


Grenfell and the Tory/DUP Alliance

I’d woken on the 14th June 2017 to the terrible news of the fire at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, hearing with shock, anger and grief the terrible stories of those trapped and burnt to death in the upper floors of the building. Anger because from the outset it was clear that cuts in the London Fire Brigade made under Boris Johnson and the decisions made by governments , Greater London and the local council had made this and other buildings a fire trap.

Grenfell and the Tory/DUP Alliance

I live a little over an hour’s journey from Grenfell, and knew that the area would already be swamped by the media so made the decision to keep away in the days that followed, though I spent some time in research on the web into the causes, particularly reading earlier blogs from some local residents which confirmed my immediate anger.

Grenfell and the Tory/DUP Alliance

On 17th September I visited the area which I knew slightly before, waling with many others, some carrying flowers on our way to pay respect to the dead, to say a few prayers and to cry a few tears. I wasn’t going as a photographer but as a fellow human being, but I was carrying my camera bag as I was on my way to photograph other events, and I did take just a few pictures.

Grenfell and the Tory/DUP Alliance

And I wrote that evening (I’ve corrected a couple of typos):

We don’t need an inquiry to tell us what happened – the various defects that came together are only too obvious, as a number of fire safety experts are concerned. Someone authorised the use of cheap cladding that contained flammable foam, someone let that cladding be applied without fire breaks to save money, Someone approved those unsafe gas lines, someone employed a consultant so the building didn’t get proper fire inspections and so on. Over the years people at Kensington & Chelsea Council (and the TMO they set up) turned an inherently safe building into a firetrap waiting to happen, because to them it was a place where people they didn’t see as people, just numbers who were a burden on the housing department.

Of course it wasn’t just the RBK&C. There were the various government ministers and others responsible for setting standards that let inherently unsafe materials pass – which when tested after Grenfell have given a 100% failure rate. The ministers who dismantled and privatised safety inspections, relaxed and got rid of safety regulations, failed to implement the lessons learnt from earlier fires and so on, most but not all of them under the previous Tory government. And all those pressure groups and ‘think tanks’ pushing the ideas of deregulation, of removing what they called ‘red tape’, the protections that would have saved the lives of those who died.

The victims of Grenfell – certainly a case of mass corporate manslaughter if not murder – deserve justice. They died because they were poor and in council housing and those in authority and the greedy super-rich didn’t think they deserved proper care and decent standards. They deserve justice – and that means fines and imprisonment for those responsible as well as changes in the way that we run things.

Grenfell – My London Diary

Six years on, with a huge and ponderous inquiry having made a fortune for the many lawyers, we have still to see justice. Just another example of our legal and judicial systems swinging into action to push Grenfell into the long grass and to protect the rich and guilty.

Class War protest Grenfell Murders – Downing St

Later that day I was with Class War at Downing Street where they had come to call for revenge over the Grenfell fire and action by the people rather than waiting for a whitewashing public inquiry to report.

Class War say Grenfell is an open declaration of class war by the wealthy elite against the working class, and they have a personal interest in the matter. Grenfell was where Ian Bone first lived when he moved to London and it was there that the first issues of the Class War magazine were written. He and others in the group still knew people who lived there.

This was only a small protest, with people taking it in turns to stand in front of the gates to Downing St holding their banner with a quotation from the US activist, labour organiser, radical socialist and anarchist Lucy Parsons (ca 1853-1942), who fought against racism and for the rights of workers and for freedom of speech from her early years until her death, “We must devastate the avenues where the wealthy live.

The poster held up by Ian Bone stated “GRENFELL – WE AIN’T GONNA WAIT TWO YEARS FOR A PUBLIC INQUIRY TO COME UP WITH ANSWERS – WE’RE GONNA GET SOME NOW”. Most of the answers were published a month later in a lengthy report by Architects for Social Housing, but Class War seriously under-estimated the obfuscating power of the establishment. Its now SIX years with no justice.

We need fast-track inquiries with minimal legal involvement, perhaps only allowing those who are a part of the inquiry team rather than any representing parties under investigation.

No Tory DUP Coalition of Chaos – Downing St

The 2017 General election had been a close-run thing, and only a concerted effort by Labour officials and right wing MPs had prevented a Labour victory, though the huge extent of their machinations against Corbyn only emerged much later in an unpublished but widely available internal report. But as the results came in you could hear the relief of some leading Labour MPs when their candidates lost in some clearly winnable marginal constituencies.

The result was a hung Parliament with no party having an overall majority. Over the previous parliaments the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party had generally operated an informal agreement to vote with the Tories, but now they were able to demand concessions to enter into a formal coalition. Negotiations had begun which were finally agreed on 26 June 2017.

Protesters pointed out the DUP was a party intrinsically linked with Protestant terrorist groups and dominated by a homophobic church which represents a tiny minority of the Northern Irish population.

Speakers included Northern Irish women campaigning for abortion and other women’s rights enjoyed by women in the UK. DPAC spoke about the Tory assault on the disabled, and there were various others.

Among those who spoke were three Labour MPs, Marsha De Cordova who gained Battersea from the Conservatives, Rupa Huq who greatly increased her tiny majority and Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner.

There were also those present who had come to protest about the complicity of Theresa May and unseated Tory MP Gavin Barwell in the Grenfell outrage; Barwell had ignored a fire report made in 2013. Political artist Kaya Mar came with a painting of Theresa May playing the violin with one red-heeled shoe on a coffin labelled Grenfell.

The Tory-DUP agreement has had serious long-term consequences, in particular over Brexit, where it prevented a sensible agreement being reached. Johnson went ahead ignoring the problems and we are still suffering from this. Neither his or May’s agreement were supported by the DUP, but the coalition agreement had greatly increased the importance of their party’s views.

More at No Tory DUP Coalition of Chaos.

Bike Theft, Tributes, Housing Benefit, Fascists & UAF

Saturday, April 1st, 2023
Bike Theft, Tributes, Housing Benefit, Fascists & UAF

Saturday 1st April 2017 turned out to be a busy day in London, though the buses in my picture on Westminster Bridge were not then going anywhere – and the driver of the No 12 at the front of this row was taking a rest from his seat. Various protests and the police had brought traffic to a stop. As in many other months you can see more of my pictures taken as I travelled around in a London Images section.

Motorcycle Theft Protest Ride – Westminster

Bike Theft, Tributes, Housing Benefit, Fascists & UAF

I’d vaguely wondered about paying another visit to the Ace Café on the North Circular Road at Stonebridge, but not riding a bike I would have felt something of an outsider, and the journey back to central London by the Bakerloo line wold have taken me around 40 minutes and I would have missed other things that were happening.

Organised gangs are still making rich pickings around the whole of London – and one of my neighbour’s had his bike targeted a few months ago, but the two men cutting through a substantial lock were spotted from the house opposite, and ran away when they were challenged halfway through.

Bike Theft, Tributes, Housing Benefit, Fascists & UAF

In 2017 there were reported thefts in London of 8,131 motorbikes, 4,121 moped and 3,218 scooters, a total of almost 15,500 thefts. That amounts to one for every 7.5 powered bikes registered in the city. Motorcyclists came with a petition to the Mayor of London and the Home Secretary to give the police greater resources to tackle this crime, and for them to give it higher priority, for more ground anchors in bike parking bays and for tougher sentencing of offenders.

Motorcycle Theft Protest Ride

Flowers for London Victims – Westminster

Bike Theft, Tributes, Housing Benefit, Fascists & UAF

Ten Days after the Westminster terror attack by a deranged driver, people were still stopping to look and and photograph the flowers for the victims, around the lamp standards on Waterloo Bridge, along the whole of the front of Parliament Square and in front of New Scotland Yard in its new building on the Victoria Embankment, where an eternal flame also remembers all police who have died while doing their duty.

There was a long strip of tributes along the front of Parliament Square opposite were PC Keith Palmer was killed to him and the others who died.

More pictures Flowers for London Victims.

Youth protest over housing benefits loss – Parliament Square

A grass roots group of young people, ‘#1821Resist’, were in Parliament Square to protest against the scrapping of housing benefit for young people which coming into force on this day.

They say that under Tory rule since 2010 homelessness has doubled and that this change will continue to leave vulnerable people without homes, making it almost impossible for them to get into work or education.

Youth protest over housing benefits loss

Iraqis protest US killing in Mosul – Downing St

Iraqis, mainly women dressed in black, were protesting opposite Downing St against the killing of civilians by US and Iraqi forces during the assault on Mosul. Attacks on the city, then held by the Islamic State (ISIL) begun in October 2016 and continuing until ISIL were defeated there in July 2017. According to Wikipedia (and the BBC) “The battle was the world’s single largest military operation since the 2003 invasion of Iraq and was considered the toughest urban battle since World War II.”

The women said that hundreds have been killed by US air strikes after being told to stay in Mosul; people were stopped from leaving were then bombed. The protest was organised by a group of Iraqi women, one of whom told me a nine-year old relative in Mosul had died earlier today. The photographs they held up showed some of the results of the US bombing.

Iraqis protest US killing in Mosul

Britain First & EDL exploit London attack – Westminster

Extremist right-wing groups including Britain First and the EDL (English Defence League) were quick to exploit the London terror attack to fuel their anti-Muslim and anti-migrant racist propaganda, both organising marches. Police had imposed restrictions on both marches confining them to particular short routes to rally points on the Emabankment. London Antifascists and Unite Against Fascism (UAF) who had come to opposed them were only allowed to hold a static protest.

I was able to photograph Britain First at their designated meeting point in the taxi area outside Charing Cross station where their leader Paul Golding arrived with a van full of flags and handed them out, while his deputy Jayda Fransen was busy talking to the media.

The EDL were supposed to be meeting in Trafalgar Square, but were actually gathering in their usual pub, Lord Moon of the Mall, close to the top of Whitehall. Police were busily and rather forcefully keeping back a crowd of antifascists against the shops on the opposite side of the road, injuring a few of them in the crush. Police behind them were shouting at them to go forward, but police in front were preventing them from doing so.

I photographed the EDL on the pavement in front of the Lord Moon of the Mall over the shoulders of a line of police protecting them, but left as police pushed them back inside the pub and returned to Britain First at Charing Cross station where they were getting ready to march.

There were few people on the street as they marched down to the Embankment for a rally, but a couple of women shouted at them calling them racists. Police stopped the marchers from moving towards them, but they had to refuse a Britain First fake-news team who tried to stop them for an interview.

I listened to the rally for a few minutes then tried to go back up Northumberland Avenue to photograph the EDL march, but it was hard to see for police surrounding it. The police quickly went to grab one woman who started to shout at this march.

But the police relaxed their cordon when the marchers reached their rally pen on the Embankment and I was able to walk past them and began to take pictures.

But after a couple of minutes one of the stewards saw me and objected to me being their and called on the police to remove me, after which I had to photograph over the shoulders of the police. One of the officers came to tell me off for having been in with the marchers, but I simply told her I had every right to be there. Shortly after I decided to leave as I had taken enough pictures, and I decided to go to photograph the counter-protesters.

More at Britain First & EDL exploit London attack.

UAF protest extreme right marches

Police had decided that the UAF could only hold a static protest on the Embankment rather than their intended and already advertised march to there from South Africa House in Trafalgar Square, despite ‘facilitating’ the two extreme-right marches. The UAF had turned up at South Africa House on the morning and police had slowly with unnecessary force pushed them down the march route as I’d witnessed earlier in the day.

From the EDL rally I could see and just hear the Unite Against Fascism rally taking place perhaps a hundred yards away down the Embankment, shouting ‘Fascist Scum off our streets’ and other slogans. From the speeches I had heard at the two right-wing rallies both groups were clearly racist and Islamophobic and among the marchers I recognised many faces from clearly fascist organisations I had photographed in the past.

I could see and hear that there were speeches at the UAF rally but not make out what was being said from the distance and over the noise. I tried to walk down towards the UAF but police would not let me take the short direct route despite my showing my press card.

I had to walk back and out onto Whitehall and then around to get to be back of the UAF rally, and by the time I got there many of the counter-protesters had left for home and the speeches had ended, though there were still rather more around than at the two right-wing rallies combined.

UAF protest extreme right marches

Druid Order – Spring Equinox at Tower Hill

Monday, March 20th, 2023

Spring begins today, Monday, 20 March 2023, officially at 21:24 UTC, though our weather may not reflect this. Thanks to global warming the weather here is increasingly unpredictable and while most of us are protected from its extremes, plants and wild life seem to be getting more and more confused.

Druids celebrate the occasion at noon, with The Druid Order doing so on Tower Hill, processing there this year from The Ship in Hart Street in white robes with their banners and performing a ritual celebration.

Druid Order - Spring Equinox

The Ancient Druids were a Celtic upper class we know relatively about as they kept no written records of their religious activities but there are some descriptions by Caesar and other Roman and Greek authors of their importance and their pagan practices, although some aspects of these may have been based on hearsay and propaganda.

Druid Order - Spring Equinox

Druidry was apparently an entirely oral tradition, with druids spending years of study and learning texts and rituals by heart; some of these may have been passed down through the years in folklore, particularly in Ireland, but much or all of this may well be later romantic invention.

Druid Order - Spring Equinox

According to Wikipedia Caesar “wrote that they were one of the two most important social groups in the region (alongside the equites, or nobles) and were responsible for organizing worship and sacrifices, divination, and judicial procedure in Gallic, British, and Irish societies.”

Most of the ancient sources state that one aspect of their religious practices was human sacrifice, possibly of criminals “but when criminals were in short supply, innocents would be acceptable.”

One form that is said to have been used for this sacrifice was the “wicker man” where the victim was encased in a large wooden human effigy and was then burnt alive. But they are also said to have practised divination by stabbing a victim in the chest and observing the flow of blood and the convulsive movement of the limbs as the victim died.

Modern-day druid ceremonies are considerably tamer, with druids appearing as peaceful lovers of nature, which of course had much more obvious importance in ancient times – though we are now realising fairly desperately that our modern neglect or indifference to it is having disastrous consequences on biodiversity and future food supplies.

Some trees, in particular oak and hawthorn seem to have played a large role in the worship of ancient druids, and there are many groves of trees around the country believed by some to (sorry) have druidic roots. Certainly some of these ancient groves, whatever their origins seem to have a spiritual nature.

The Romans also wrote about the druids as philosophers, and Wikipedia has an quote from Caesar on this where he writes that they believed the human soul was indestructible, passing at death from one body to another. He also commented on their interest in astronomical matters – perhaps most obviously expressed at Stonehenge and other ancient monuments, as well as “on the extent and geographical distribution of the earth, on the different branches of natural philosophy, and on many problems connected with religion.

I’ve photographed the Druid Order ceremonies in several years on both the Spring Equinox at Tower Hill and the Autumn Equinox on Primrose Hill, a more dramatic setting. The pictures here come from 2008, but I’ve taken very similar ones in other years. Although inspired by earlier activities and mentioning some of those involved during their rituals, the actual form of their celebration is not ancient, but a little over a hundred years old.

More pictures from 2008: Druid Order – Spring Equinox.

Brexit Day – 31 January 2020

Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

The UK finally left the on 31st January 2020. The wrong decision taken for the wrong reasons and one which we will continue to suffer from for many more years.

But having thrown out the baby the government are still busily throwing out the bath water. Three years on their are just some small signs that our government is beginning to realise this and finally get down to some serious dialogue with the EU over at least some of the problems it has caused rather than make threats and silly demands. Though any progress is still likely to be blocked by the Tory far right, at least until the next General Election.

But on that day, three years ago, there were groups in Westminster both celebrating and regretting Brexit, and I spent some time photographing both of them.

Brexiteers celebrate leaving the EU – Parliament Square

Brexit Day - 31 January 2020

I arrived in Parliament Square long before the more official celebrations were due to begin, but it was already beginning to fill up with Brexiteers, many with Union Flags, celebrating.

Brexit Day - 31 January 2020

Some had placards and posters repeating the idle hopes on which much of the Leave campaign had encouraged – and lied about. By now perhaps some at least will be realising that much of what they had been promised was illusory. It’s really hard to find anything positive that has come out of Brexit which has left a huge trail of broken promises.

Brexit Day - 31 January 2020

Of course the people who made most of these never believed them. They supported leaving because it would enrich them greatly and never mind the nation. Some made huge profits, others were more concerned about protecting their obscene wealth from an EU that was beginning to tighten restrictions on offshore funds and other scams.

Brexit Day - 31 January 2020

But the in main, most just came with union flags and posters about being ‘free’, ironic when we now have a government that has done more to restrict our freedoms than any other in our history, and is still hell-bent on removing much of the protections on our liberty which came from not just the EU, but also from the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights which our government in 1948 played a central role in establishing.

The UK parliaments The Human Rights Act 1998 incorporated the rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into domestic British law. In its new bill, the UK will join with Russia and Greece (when under military dictatorship), as the only countries to have abandoned the ECHR.

There were just a few of the more lunatic fringe present and I largely managed to avoid them. I left a couple of hours before the square really became crowded – the official celebrations were timed for much later in the day.

Brexiteers celebrate leaving the EU

British National (Overseas) Passport Holders – Old Palace Yard

There were more union flags a few yards away in Old Palace Yard, but this turned out not to have any direct connection with Brexit. Holders of British National (Overseas) Passports from Hong Kong were calling for the UK government to identify BNO holders as British Nationals and grant their children British Nationality.

BNO passports were a device invented in the talks between China and the UK over the future of Hong Kong, and give no right of abode in the UK and the special status is not passed onto children. Only those who could provide evidence of not being of Chinese origin qualified for them. These were sham passports, a compromise driven by both British institutional racism refusing to give full British citizenship to the Chinese and Chinese nationalism wanting to keep Chinese as citizens of China.

Further repression in Hong Kong led exactly a year later to the UK Government setting up an immigration route on 31 January 2021, providing British National (Overseas) passport holders from Hong Kong and their eligible dependants with the opportunity to come to the UK to live, study and work, on a pathway to citizenship. The government stated that this reflected the UK’s historic and moral commitment to those people of Hong Kong who chose to retain their ties to the UK by taking these passports.

British National (Overseas) Passports

Extremist Brexiteers Behaving Badly – Whitehall

Supporters of staying in the European Union had come to Downing Street for procession to the European Commission at Europe House in Smith Square to say goodbye. Extreme right wing Brexiteers came there to abuse and attack them, with police trying hard to keep the two groups apart.

A few tried to talk reasonably with the EU supporters, but most were there just to shout insults and gloat that we were leaving, calling them traitors and telling them they were not British, bad losers and more.

Police eventually moved them away to the centre of Whitehall facing the pro-EU group. There, surrounded by photographers they tried to set fire to EU flags. This proved difficult as the flags were nylon which doesn’t burn well and had to be assisted, mainly by a flammable aerosol spray.

Extremist Brexiteers Behaving Badly

À bientôt EU, see you soon

Finally the procession of EU supporters set off on their march from Downing Street to the European Commission at Europe House in Smith Square.

They went to “bid a fond farewell to our much loved friends in the EU, hoping that we will be united again one day soon“. As the organisers wrote, for many this “may be a sad day but let’s celebrate the 47 years we were in the EU and all we contributed and the positive influence it has on our country.”

The march had been organised to take place much earlier in the day than the official Brexit celebrations in an attempt to avoid any confrontation, but as well as the few extremists who came along to cause trouble at Downing Street there there were continued jeers from Brexiteers as they made their way down Whitehall and through Parliament Square.

At Europe House staff came out to greet them and were handed flowers as they bid goodbye, celebrating 47 years of cooperation and hoping that we will be reunited with Europe before too long. As they said outside Europe House, they are no longer remainers but rejoiners.

I finished my report: “I went home. I’d had enough of Brexit. We will have to live with its consequences for some years and I’m not looking forward to it. Times are likely to be tough for the poor, the disabled, the sick and for workers generally, including most of those who voted for it and were celebrating in Parliament Square. The wealthy will of course gain – not least by avoiding the clamp down on tax evasion which the EU is now beginning.”

À bientôt EU, see you soon

Hiroshima Day – 6th August

Saturday, August 6th, 2022

Hiroshima Day – 6th August

Hiroshima Day - 6th August
Rev Nagase, Japanese monk from the Battersea Peace Pagoda, 2011

While I was still teaching full-time I was usually away from London in August, often in Paris or on holiday with friends in different parts of England. But since 2004 I’ve usually been in London on August 6th and attended and photographed the annual Hiroshima Day Ceremony organised by London CND close to the Hiroshima Cherry Tree in Tavistock Square. The first year for which I used a digital camera was 2004, when the event was compèred by local MP Jeremy Corbyn and among those attending were Michael Foot and Tony Benn. There was a significant non-attender too, Mordechai Vanunu had been invited to come from Jerusalem where he is under house arrest for having made public Israel’s nuclear weapons, but was prevented from coming by the Israeli government.

Hiroshima Day - 6th August
Tony Benn, 2011

Back then I think the processing of digital files left something considerable to be desired, and the images on-line are rather dull, though I think could now be greatly improved if I found time to reprocess the raw files.

Hiroshima Day - 6th August
Bruce Kent, 2009

By the time photographed the ceremony in 2009, the pictures looked much better. Jeremy Corbyn was again introducing the speakers, who included CND stalwart Bruce Kent.

Bruce Kent spoke again in 2011, as did Tony Benn, but the star of the event was Hetty Bower who had begun her campaign against war in 1914 when she was a young schoolgirl, almost nine. Her’s was a remarkably powerful performance from a 105 year old who 97 years later was still taking part in every major UK anti-war march.

Nobo Ono, 2013

Hetty Bower was there again in 2013 and made a short speech. Other speakers included Bruce Kent, Peter Tatchell, Jeremy Corbyn, Walter Wolfgang, amd Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett as well as several peace activists, among them Val Brown from the London Guantanamo Campaign who talked about their work and the regular protests at the US Embassy, and Nobo Ono who spoke about the nuclear disaster at Fukushima and the weekly protests organised by Japanese Against Nuclear UK.

In 2014 my train to London was held up and I arrived after the event began, when a speaker was reminding everyone of the long life as a peace activist of Hetty Bower, and a several of those present were wearing t-shirts with her picture.

As usual, towards the end of the event there was a period of silence in memory of the dead and wreaths and flowers were laid at the Hioroshima Cherry Tree, planted in the garden here by the then Mayor of Camden in 1967.

In 2015, because of the Labour leadership contest, the event which usually attracts only a small handful of press was attended by several TV crews and a large number of photographers, many of whom more or less ignored anything but Jeremy Corbyn, seen in my picture standing for a few moments in thought after laying a sunflower at the foot of the tree.

Cllr Nadia Shah, Mayor of Camden lays a wreath, at left Anthony Flaum who had sung earlier, 2016

It was back to the usual lack of media interest in 2016, but the event was well attended with a number of familiar faces among the speakers, performers and the audience. Walter Wolfgang and Kate Hudson of CND, Mohammed Kozbar from Finsbury Park Mosque and Shahrar Ali from the Green Party were among those who spoke, and there were fine and very different perfomances from opera singer Anthony Flaum, radical folk singer Jim Radford and rap artist Potent Whisper, as well as the Raised Voices choir who as usual both performed on their own and led those at the event in singing some well-known peace songs.

Among the more memorable speakers in 2017 was writer A L Kennedy – but as usual all were worth listening to.

You can also see pictures and read the accounts from 2018, 2019 and 2021 on My London Diary.

I hope be again in Tavistock Square for today’s London CND Hiroshima commemoration – Saturday 6th August 2022 – starting at noon.

London Crowns 100th May Queen

Thursday, May 12th, 2022

London Crowns 100th May Queen – Hayes, Kent.

On Saturday 12 May 2012 I went by invitation from the family of the 100th May Queen to photograph her crowning on Hayes Common. Earlier I had photographed and written about the festival and other May Queen Festivals. Below is the text from my report on the event in My London Diary, with just a few minor corrections along with a few of the pictures. You can find more pictures on the web site.

London Crowns 100th May Queen

The Merrie England and London May Queen Festival was started by Joseph Deedy, usually described as a ‘Dulwich schoolmaster’ in 1913, and moved to its current location on Hayes Common soon after. Surprisingly it continued throughout both world wars, although in a somewhat truncated version, with no procession around the village. It was also felt that holding the ceremony in the open air would present too tempting a target for the enemy, and so it was moved from the common to the parish church. But continue it did, and every year since 1913, one girl has been crowned as the London May Queen, making this year’s Festival and Queen the 100th.

London Crowns 100th May Queen

Whitelands College in London started its May Queen festival rather earlier in 1881 at the prompting of John Ruskin, and this still continues at the college (now part of the University of Roehampton) although since the college now admits men, some years they have a May King in place of a queen. Talking to one of the organisers of the event yesterday I learnt that Deedy had worked at Whitelands – contrary to the published information on him, including that I retold in my own book and PDF on the festival. [You can read a little more about this book on >Re:PHOTO which also has has an e-pub link.) Copies of this and my other Blurb books are usually available to UK addresses more cheaply direct from me.

The London May Queen sits in her carriage

The ceremonies take place in a large roped off arena on Hayes Common, with the May Queens and their groups from various places on the fringes of south east London taking their places around it in alphabetical order. Each group has its own colour for the dresses and its own flower, and girls who may join as young as three make their way up through the various roles in the group until, if they remain long enough, they become the May Queen of their local realm. After this they can move on to join the London May Queen group, and again take the various roles by seniority until finally – usually when they are around 16 – they become London May Queen. As well as taking part in May Queen activities, May Queens and their groups also appear at various charity events in their local areas.

London Crowns 100th May Queen
Beckenham May Queen and retinue

I arrived just as the procession around Hayes was starting, with the uncrowned queen in a lightweight carriage pulled by Sea Cadets with the Prince of Merrie England walking beside her and preceded by a bagpiper. Behind her were the members of London May Queen, including the Joy Bells celebrating Music, Company, Life, Beauty, Flowers as well as the Fairy Queen, Bo-Peep, Robin Hood and several others.

London Crowns 100th May Queen
Bromley Common Queen and retinue

Behind them came the May Queen realms in alphabetical order – Beckenham, Beddington, Bletchingly, Bromley Common, Caterham, Chislehurst, Coney Hall, Downe, Eden Park, Elmers End, Green St Green, Hayes, Hayes Common, Hayes Village, Orpington, Petts Wood, Shortlands, Wallington, Warlingham and West Wickham. In the heyday of the event in the 1920s and 30s there were as many as 100 groups, and the event made the national newspapers and the cinema newsreels.

Little Sanctum - London Crowns 100th May Queen
At Hayes Parish Church for Little Sanctum

At the parish church, the London May Queen group made their way into the churchyard for a short service written by Deedy which he called ‘Little Sanctum’, before joining back on the end of the procession around the village and back to the common.

London Crowns 100th May Queen

There the 100th May Queen was crowned and the further pageant witten by Deedy performed, ending with the May Queen being led around the arena by BoPeep and scattering flowers towards the seated May Queen realms.

Many of the younger girls were quite tired by the walk around the village and were busy eating ice cream and sandwiches, which revived them considerably, and after the Chislehurst May Queen group had given a demonstration of ribbon dancing, all of the Merrie England children – including a few young boys who mainly take part as pages – came and took part in a lively circle dance around the large maypole.

All that was left was for the May Queen to draw the tickets for the raffle which helps to cover the expenses.

London Crowns 100th May Queen

You can read more about this and other May Queen ceremonies in London both in reports of the various events on My London Diary and from my book mentioned above. I had hoped that this would be followed by a major exhibition and a more scholarly work illustrated by my pictures but as yet this has not been possible.

Anti-Putin protests over Ukraine and Syria 2014

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2022

Anti-Putin protests over Ukraine and Syria 2014. On 22 Feb 2014 the small regular protest opposite the Russian Embassy in Kensington was joined by several hundred Ukrainians supporting the Maidan coup in their country and calling for an end to Russian interference in the Ukraine.

Ukrainian Orthodox priests lead a service of mourning for those killed in the Maidan revolution

President Yanukovych was removed from his post by a vote in the Ukraine parliament on the 22 Feb, although he called the vote illegal as it did not follow the procedures of the Ukrainian Constitution. He fled as the new government raised criminal proceedings against him.

Syrians were also protesting against Putin opposite the Russian Embassy

There were Antimaidan protests in Ukraine, particularly in the southern and eastern areas, and there was considerable public support in the Crimea for the invasion by Russian troops which began on 26th February. There appears to have been considerable public support in the Crimea for the Russian action and a referendum, declared illegal by the EU and USA, on Crimea joining the Russian Federation had an official turnout of 83% and resulted in a 96% vote in favour.

Ukrainians march from a nearby cultural centre to the Russian embassy

On 22 Feb 2014, deputies at the Congress of the Southern and Eastern regions declared, accordint to Wikipedia, they were “ready to take responsibility for protecting constitutional order in their territory” and they rejected the authority of the Ukraine government. Demonstrations and clashes followed with opinion polls showing most people rejecting both the regional and national governments as illegitimate but fairly equally divided as to which they supported and separatist militia took control of large areas.

The Minsk summit in February 2015 brought a ceasefire between the Ukraine government and the militias but has failed to unite the country. When I drafted this post a few days ago Russian forces were massed on the borders of Ukraine and it seemed inevitable some would soon cross the border to come to the aid of their comrades in the breakaway areas as they now appear to be doing.

Fortunately I don’t suffer the same hawkish advisers as NATO – or at least like to add a pinch of salt as they more or less monopolise the BBC airwaves. This isn’t a second Cuba missile crisis (and I remember that vividly) but may possibly bring some resolution to an unsatisfactory situation in the area which the West has failed to properly grapple with since Minsk. At least I hope so. Nobody – not even the Russians – wants another war, and it would be disasatrous for the Ukraine.

Russia has interpreted (probably correctly) the large flow of arms and training by the west into the country as a build up for a Ukrainian government attack to retake Eastern Ukraine – where apparently over 600,000 people are of Russian heritage and still have Russian passports. It still it seems most likely to me that the Russian action will be confined to establishing clear borders for the breakway republics rather than a full-scale invasion of the country, and the end result will be a smaller but more united Ukraine in the remaining areas.

If Russia remains inside the new republics it has recognised, the Ukraine that remains, like the protesters in 2014, will be a strongly Orthodox country. After the protest opposite the Russian embassy they left and marched to the statue of St Volodymyr, ruler of Ukraine 980-1015, erected by Ukrainians on the corner of Holland Park in 1988 to celebrate the establishment of Christianity in Ukraine by St Volodymyr in 988.

The statue was surrounded by flowers, photographs and tributes with hundreds of burning candles to the many pro-opposition protesters who have been killed in Kiev and elsewhere in the Ukraine. Two Ukrainian Orthodox priests presided at a service to remember all those who have died to establish a free and independent Ukraine.

More about the 2014 protests in London on My London Diary:
Ukrainians Protest, Celebrate and Mourn
Syrian Peace Protest at Russian Embassy