Posts Tagged ‘Focus E15’

Young Mums Party in Protest

Sunday, January 17th, 2021

One of the more encouraging series of protests it has been my privilege to photograph over recent years has been that begun by young single mothers who when threatened with eviction from their hostel in Stratford with Newham Council intending to disperse them into private rented accomodation often hundreds of miles away from their friends and families stood up and fought for their rights.

The mothers and their supporters met on a street corner close to East Thames Housing

The campaign by the mums from Focus E15 gained a great deal of publicity and support for their cause, and some of them became rather unlikely celebrities, speaking at conferences and other events and appearing in theatre performances. And they were largely successful both in getting the council to rehouse them locally, and also in bringing some of the worst aspects of housing policies, both national and by local authorities to the attention of a wider public. They even got me on stage in 2017.

And made their way into the foyer of East Thames Housing

Their campaign widened to a more general campaign over housing problems, particularly in the London Borough of Newham, but also becoming involved in other campaigns across London and elsewhere. Newham is a borough with huge housing problems, but also one that the local Labour Party has managed to make much worse, with policies that have deliberately left good quality council housing empty for years despite one of the longest housing waiting lists in the country.

They pose for a photograph for the local newspaper

Part of the problem with Newham lies in the creation of a directly elected mayor in 2002, the first such mayor in England. This put more power into the hands of the mayor, Robin Wales, and a small cabal of right-wing Labour members, who pursued policies to increase the economic prosperity of the area with little regard for the poorer members of the community, encouraging businesses and bringing wealthier people into the area into new private developments. Focus E15 accused Robin Wales of being a kind of reverse Robin Hood, robbing the poor to give to the rich through his policies which they labelled as ‘social cleansing’.

And then occupy the East Thames show flat for a party

Focus E15 confronted Wales on a number of occasions, and he reacted angrily at times – and later was forced to apologise. Earlier he had been involved in another fight against local residents when he wanted to replace Queen’s Market with a new development including a 31 storey tower; it was seen as so bad that even then London Mayor Boris Johnson stopped it going ahead. And under Wales, the council made some disastrous investments which have lumbered the council with huge interest payments. Newham is essentially a one-party state, but by 2016 many in the local Labour party had become disillusioned with him and wanted change. Wales managed to rig a vote to prevent other candidates standing for Mayor in 2018, but this was overturned after an outcry in the party, and in 2018 Rokhsana Fiaz was elected as mayor. Wales went off to work for the influential right-wing free-market think tank Policy Exchange.

the air is filled with hearts, stars and other shapes

I’m proud to have done a little to promote the campaigns of Focus E15 through photographing some of their events – though I”ve been unable to do so over the past year. They continued to hold a regular weekly outdoor street stall on Stratford Broadway and socially distanced protests through 2020 and hope to do so this year, despite the increased restrictions. You can read about them on their web site, where they make clear that despite the new mayor in Newham little has changed:

The struggle must go on and Focus E15 campaign enters 2021 determined to continue to build a housing movement, challenge the Labour council, give solidarity to all those fighting for housing justice, and…. Educate! Agitate! Organise! so that we expose this ruthless capitalist system and begin to work in unity together for a better future for everyone.

Focus E15 web site
An East Thames officer comes to discuss their sitation with them

The pictures here are from a protest seven years ago today, on Fri 17 Jan 2014, and I hope illustrate something of why I found them so interesting to photograph. They went into the offices of the housing association that ran the Focus E15 hostel and held a party inside the show flat there. They had good reasons to be angry and protest, and were fearless and imaginative in how made their views clear – and provided great opportunites for photography. Many protests are rather dour occasions which are hard to make interesting though our pictures, but their protests were always lively and never run-of-the-mill.

He gets some tough questioning – and states that although it’s up to the council to rehouse them, East Thames will not evict them.

At the protest they did get an assurance that they would not be evicited, though it was clear than there was a lack of trust from the mothers in this statement. I left them still partying to file my story, and after a while they also left and went to protest at the nearby council housing offices.

More at Focus E5 Mothers Party Against Eviction.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.


‘Free the Table’ and more

Saturday, December 12th, 2020

Five years ago on Saturday 12th December I had another busy day travelling to events around London. I began at Stratford on the east of London, the opposite side of London to where I live, but now a relatively easy journey since the opening of the Jubilee line there at the end of 1999.

For the previous couple of years I’d been following the progress and protests of Focus E15, formed when Newham Council planned to close down a hostel for young mothers in Stratford and scatter them to private rented accommodation often hundreds of miles away. They stood their ground and got more local rehousing, but, appalled by the activities of the council and its Mayor Robin Wales, continued to take action over the failure of Newham Council to sensibly address the acute housing problem in the borough, which has around 5,000 people living in temporary accommodation and while 400 homes in the Carpenters Estate close to the centre of Stratford have been empty for up to ten years. They accuse the council of ‘social cleansing’, attempting to force those needing housing out of London.

Apart from various actions, including preventing evictions and embarrassing the Mayor by confronting him at public events Focus E15 had held a weekly Saturday street stall on the wide pavement at Stratford Broadway, handing out leaflets and advice to the public on housing issues.

Although their weekly protest was legal, it clearly annoyed the council, and on Saturday 5th December Newham Law Enforcement officer John Oddie arrived, assisted by several police officers and confronted the campaigners and told them they were not allowed to protest there, and that unless they immediately packed up their stall, sound system, banners and other gear it would be seized. The group made clear that they would not move and following some argument, police seized a table and threw it in the back of their van.

It soon became clear that this action by police and the council officer had been illegal, and the council asked the protesters to come and collect the table. They replied asking the council to return it to them at the following week’s protest, and advertised this widely as a ‘Free the Focus E15 Table’ event, making considerable humorous mileage out of the council and police gaffe. The council didn’t turn up with the table, but there a number of other tables there, celebrating ‘Tablegate’ and although the local newspaper seemed to be boycotting the event (could they possibly attract considerable revenue from publishing official council notices) a BBC local news crew came along to film a few interviews.

Free the Focus E15 Table


I couldn’t stay until the end but caught the tube back to central London where the Campaign against Climate Change were protesting against the inadequacy of the COP21 Paris deal, which sets the target temperature rise too high, has no way to enforce the measures needed and will allow the giant corporations to continue to prevent governments from carrying out effective green measures.

After a short rally in Old Palace Yard the protesters unrolled a 300m length of bright red fabric, carrying it above their heads across Westminster Bridge. It was a tricky to photograph but visually effective reminder of the need of governments to take urgent action to keep fossil fuels – including shale oil, with fracking now shown to be as dirty as coal – in the ground, or at least only to be extracted as chemical feedstock rather than fuel, and an increased urgency in the transition to renewable energy.


As I was photographing on Westminster Bridge, I was surprised to see a group of several hundred Santas on BMX bikes riding across on the opposite carriageway and rushed across to take a few pictures. I later found that this was an annual BMX Charity ride – which I went to photograph in 2019.

Later in the day I went to Trafalgar Square where a completely unconnected Santa-themed event was taking place, with Santas arriving at the end of the annual Santacon, a largely alcohol fuelled festive costume ramble through London.

Pictures from both Santa events are in Santas in London.


In late afternoon, solidarity campaigners and Syrian activists met for a vigil opposite Downing St vigil demanded justice for refugees, opening of EU borders to those fleeing war and terrorism and a much more generous response from the UK government.

It was a candlelit vigil, but a gusty wind blew out the flames as soon as they were lit until someone went to buy plastic cups to act as windshields though these rather hid the actual flames.

The response of the British government to the refugee crisis, particularly from Syria, but also from elsewhere around the world is seen by many to be abysmal. Even after considerable pushing from the British people which forced David Cameron to increase numbers, the UK was only promising to take 20,000 in the next five years, while Canada will take more – 25,000 – in a single year.



Christmas Solidarity Vigil for Refugees
Santas in London
Climate Activists Red Line protest
Free the Focus E15 Table


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.


November 2014

Wednesday, November 25th, 2020

I had a busy week at the end of November 2014, with protests on Monday, Tuesday, two on Wednesday and three on Friday. Fortunately there was only one event I felt I needed to cover on the Saturday and I took the Sunday off; I think there were some things happening but I needed another day of rest.

2020 is rather different. The only real event in my diary is a visit to the health centre for my regular six-monthly diabetic review, though there are a couple of virtual events. Back in 2014 I got plenty of exercise covering events, but this week I’ll be going out for my now usual 10 mile bike rides most mornings. Otherwise I’ll be stuck in front of a computer writing things like this or digitising, editing and contextualising pictures I made in the 1980s, sometimes a tricky process. Back then we didn’t have metadata or geolocation and I wasn’t always good at record keeping. And when I start falling asleep at the keyboard I’ll probably watch a film.

Roger Waters, Clive Stafford Smith and Caroline Lucas hold a banner

Monday’s protest, on 24th November 2014, We Stand With Shaker, was in Old Palace Yard, Westminster in front of the Houses of Parliament. Present were two of my favourite MPs, Caroline Lucas and John McDonnell, as well as civil rights activist including Peter Tatchell and Clive Stafford Smith, my favourite comedian Jeremy Hardy and of course people from both the We Stand With Shaker campaign and the ‘Free Shaker Aamer Campaign’ whose regular protests I’ve often photographed.

Jeremy Hardy, Peter Tatchell and John McDonnell

Attracting a little more media attention (though not much) was music legend Roger Waters, Pink Floyd’s chief songwriter, who had become involved in the campaign after hearing that Shaker Aamer recited some of his lyrics in his Guatanamo prison cell to help him keep sane in long spells of solitary confinement.


And there was Shaker Aamer. Not the man himself, still held in Guantanamo seven years after being cleared for release, but a giant inflatable figure of him for people to be photographed with holding the message ‘I stand with Shaker.‘ Someone took my picture too, but I don’t think it was ever seen again. You can see more at We Stand With Shaker. Thanks to the long campaign, Shaker Aamer, the last British resident to be held in Guantanamo was finally released on 30 October 2015.


Protesters meet in front of Newham Council’s Housing Office

I caught the train rather earlier than I liked on a cold Tuesday morning to travel across London to Stratford where I met with a small group of protesters from the housing protest group Focus E15 and Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI) to support a young mother and her child. Newham council had a statutory obligation to rehouse Candice and her child, but were trying to do so by sending her over 200 miles from the borough and her community to private rented accommodation in Liverpool.

Candice is allowed into the offices for her interview

The group accompanied her to the Housing Office to support her claim to be rehoused locally. Candice wanted two of them to go in with her as support in her meeting with the officials to discuss her case, but they were refused entry by council staff. Something of a ruckus with security staff on the door eventually led to the two, Jasmine and Sam, being pushed past them along with one other protester, but the rest of the group were kept outside, along with myself and two videographers.

Security stop Jasmine and Sam from going in to advise Candice

It was difficult to take photographs, though I made a few through the windows and doors despite the security staff attempting to block the view of what was happening inside.

Sam and Jasmine argue with a council official to be allowed to support Candice

I was also restricted by wanting to respect the privacy of other clients inside the office. The police arrived and went inside – and I think told the council officials to It wasn’t easy to know what was happening inside, though Sam did occasionally come to a window to try and tell us what was going on.

Sam tries to speak through a window to let those outside know what is happening

The protest continued outside the door, and unfortunately the security staff decided not to admit others who had come for interviews, despite promises by the protesters outside not to impede them or rush in.

Sam and Stan at the door to the meeting – with Jasmine sitting inside

The meeting with a housing officer was taking place inside, and through a window when Sam held the door open I could see Jasmine’s back as she sat giving her support and advice.

The protest continued outside the door, and unfortunately the security staff decided not to admit others who had come for interviews, despite promises by the protesters outside not to impede them or rush in.

Eventually one of the protesters negotiated with security to allow clients to enter by a rear door which they would not protest outside but would direct the clients too. The protesters were rather more concerned than council staff at allowing them access.

There was a bitter wind and it was wet outside, and after the meeting had been going on inside for over an hour I was shivering, despite being warmly dressed. I would have liked to have photographed the group coming out and sharing the news that Candice would be rehoused in the borough at Canning Town but decided I had to leave. By the time I was home and writing up the story I’d got the news on the group’s Facebook page.

More pictures at Focus E15 Support Homeless Mother


My week in November 2014 continues in another post…