Posts Tagged ‘fossil fuels’

COP23 & Calais – 24th October 2017

Sunday, October 24th, 2021

Guardians of the Forest

Four years ago today we were waiting for the start of the COP23 UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, though for various reasons it didn’t get the same publicity as COP26 coming up shortly in Glasgow. There were certainly fewer hopes of anything positive emerging as it was the first such meeting since Donald Trump had stated he was going to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement.

Those talks were unusual in that although held in Germany (who did most of the organising) they were actually the first hosted by a small-island developing state, with Fiji taking the Presidency.

As usual at such events, not a lot was achieved, with the US decision dominating much of the business in various ways. Syria announced that it would sign up to Paris during the event, leaving the US as the only country in the world saying it would not honour the agreement. And the US withdrawal made China a rather more important player.

Britain actually took part in the one major positive outcome, coming together with Canada to launch the ‘Powering Past Coal Alliance’, calling for the phasing out of coal in OEC and EU countries by 2030 and in the rest of the world before 2050. Unfortunately none of the major coal producing countries signed the pledge.

The Guardians of the Forest, indigenous leaders from Latin America, Indonesia and Africa, had stopped off in London on their way to Bonn and held a rally in Parliament Square to commemorate those who have lost their lives defending the forests against mining, the cutting down of forests for palm oil production and other crops and other threats to the forests and those who live in them.

Many companies listed on the London Stock Exchange are among those responsible for damage to the forests and the murder of indigenous people in search of profits, with whole tribes forcibly removed from their homes and their rights to the land they have lived in for many generations ignored.

Increasingly we are becoming aware of the importance of forests as sources of oxygen and in removing carbon dioxide and so combating global heating and the need for proper stewardship of these huge natural resources – rather than their destruction for short-term profit. Indigenous people have maintained them for hundreds or thousands of years in a renewable manner and their knowledge and continuing maintenance has a vital part to play in the fight against climate change.

Safe Passage

Earlier I’d photographed a rally by Safe Passage on the anniversary of the destruction of the Calais Jungle. Although around 750 child refugees had been brought here from France, they urged the government to provide safe and legal routes for the hundreds of refugees still living in Calais, many sleeping rough in terrible conditions.

Lord Alf Dubs

In particular they called on them to fill the remaining 280 places allocated under the Dubs law to children but not yet filled 18 months after Parliament passed the law. Many of those still in France are entitled to come here to be reunited with their family and they called on the Home Office to have an official in France to aid their transfers.

More at:
Guardians of the Forest – COP23
Safe Passage for the Children of Calais

Eight Years Ago… 27 July 2013

Tuesday, July 27th, 2021

Eight years ago on Saturday 27th July 2013 my working day began with the Rev Billy on a small green space on Victoria Street preparing the Stop Shopping Choir and volunteers for a “radicalized midsummer cloud forest dream” performance against the support given to fossil fuels and climate chaos by the banks and the City of London.

I’m not sure what staff and customers at the HSBC close to Victoria station made of the event, which pointed out that in the two previous years the top five UK banks raised £170 billion for fossil fuel companies, with HSBC in the lead. The Golden Toad costumes were for the Central American species forced into extinction by climate change in the 1980’s and recent weather events have now forced even the more sceptic to take the crisis seriously, even if so far to take little actual action.

After the performance in the bank, and as police began to arrive the group made their way to a wide area of pavement outside and staged another performance watched by pedestrians in the busy street close to the station, before leaving to celebrate in a nearby café.

I left to go to Trafalgar Square where as a part of an international day of action the Bradley Manning Support Network held a vigil at St Martin-in-the-Fields. The ‘gay whistleblower’, now Chelsea Manning, was being celebrated in countries across the world for passing documents to WikiLeaks which exposed a great deal of illegal and immoral actions by the US and other governments and had recently been awarded the Sean MacBride Peace Prize and was then on trail in Fort Meade. She was later sentenced to 35 years in a maximum security jail, but this was commuted to around seven years by President Obama and she was released in 2017.

From there I made my way to the US Embassy, then still in Grosvenor Square, for a rally before the start of march organised by BARAC against Global Racism and Injustice in solidarity with families of Trayvon Martin, Stephen Lawrence, Azelle Rodney, Jimmy Mubenga and many others, aimed a highlighting the reality of racism and demanding justice, both in the UK and US.

Although the march had been prompted by the acquittal in Florida of the murderer of Trayvon Martin which had led to a global outcry, the emphasis of the speeches at the Embassy was very much on events here in the UK. In his speech Lee Jasper of BARAC after mentioning the Martin case went on to say:

“We march to support the call from the Lawrence family for a full and independent judicial led public inquiry into the allegations that the Metropolitan Police sought to smear both the family and supporters through a covert police surveillance unit.”

“We march for Jimmy Mubenga, Mark Duggan, Kingsley Burrell, Smiley Culture and Azelle Rodney. We march for justice and equality in the 50th anniversary year of Dr Martin Luther King’s 1968 March on Washington. The truth is that his dream is a threadbare vision here in the UK where racism is on the rise amplified by austerity.”

My London Diary

After an hour or so of speeches the marchers left to march to a further rally at Downing St, but I left them as they went down Oxford St.

Against Global Racism and Injustice
Free Bradley Manning Vigil
Rev Billy at HSBC


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.


Clean Air – 1990 cyclists and 2019 XR East London

Monday, July 12th, 2021

Cyclists protest, Whitehall, Westminster, 1990, 90-11c-14
‘Let London Breathe’ – Cyclists ride down Whitehall to a Trafalgar Square rally – November 1990

Back in 1990, I rode with hundreds of cyclists from the London Cycling Campaign and others protesting about the terrible air quality in London from Battersea Park to a well-attended rally in Trafalgar Square. Following the rally, some MPs raised the issue in Parliament.

XR East London marches for clean air – 12 July 2019

Almost 30 years on there has not been a great deal of progress – and the statistics now show almost 10,000 excess deaths per year in the city due to air pollution, and untold misery from various respiratory conditions, some crippling. In 2019 XR East London met at Bethnal Green on Friday 12 July to march to Hackney behind a banner ‘The Air That We Grieve’, calling for a rapid end to the use of fossil fuels.

Much of the pollution comes from road traffic, and the already announced end to the sale of new trucks, vans and any other combustion-powered vehicle from 2030 onwards will do a little to improve air quality, but existing petrol and diesel vehicles will continue to be used for many years, though we may see more stringent ultra-low emission zones to restrict their use in cities.

But although the switch to electric will cut down pollutants such as nitrogen oxides as well as reducing climate changing carbon dioxide, it will still leave other harmful substances such as particulates from tyres and brakes in the air. And the carbon footprint is only lowered so long as the electricity used to charge those car batteries comes from truly renewable generation.

Cleaner air in cities also needs us to move away from the car to more eco-friendly means of transport – such as public transport and bicycles. Even electric scooters and electric bikes also have a part to play.

Better public transport means more trains, light rail, trams and buses. The simplest and most cost-effective solutions are probably more dedicated bus lanes and bus-only routes, and giving buses greater priority in traffic. Many years ago I cycled in French cities where buses had priority and motorists (and cyclists) had to give way whenever they wanted to pull out from a stop, and changes like this to our Highway Code and traffic rules would make a difference.

In 1990 cyclists were calling for 1000 miles of dedicated cycle routes through London. We do now have some ‘cycle superhighways’ and ‘quietways’, although many of these – we are now supposed to call them ‘cycleways’ – still involve sharing with often dangerous traffic. Progress is still slow, and there is bitter opposition from some interest groups, particularly black cab drivers.

We need too an overhaul of London’s taxi system, with rules still made in the days of horse-drawn Hackney cabs. I’ve often stood at bus stops in the City waiting for my bus, held up by traffic while 20 or 30 or more black cabs drive by, the great majority of them empty. A move away from ‘ply for hire’ to smartphone based systems summoning a cab from a nearby taxi rank would hugely cut both congestion and pollution in the centre of London.

More at XR East London marches for clean air. You can click on the black and white image above to go to the album with more pictures from the 1990 cyclists protest.


As always I was travelling around London on public transport (I sometimes bring up a folding bike on the train) and as the march neared its end I boarded a bus in the opposite direction back to Bethnal Green where I took the tube back to Holborn, then took the short walk to the University of London’s Senate House, where exploited outsourced workers were holding a noisy protest after the newly appointed Vice-Chancellor Wendy Thomson had failed to reply to a request to meet them and discuss their grievances. You can see more about this at IWGB welcome new Vice Chancellor.


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.


Occupy Gandhi – 4 May 2015

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021

All pictures from Occupy Ghandi – Stop Fossil Fuel Criminals, 4 May 2015

Successive UK governments have legislated in various ways to restrict the right to protest, particularly concentrating on the area of Westminster close to the Houses of Parliament, and the current Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill amends the “Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 to expand the “controlled area” around Parliament where certain protest activities are prohibited” as well as creating a new prohibited activity of “obstructing access to the Parliamentary Estate”.

The 2011 Act (which was also amended by the Anti-Social behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014) replaced previous restrictions which had been brought in under SOCPA, the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 which the New Labour government had brought in as an attempt to stop the long-term protest in Parliament Square by Brian Haw who had set up his camp there on 2 June 2001 in protest against the effect of economic sanctions which were resulting in child deaths in Iraq.

Haw’s campaign widened into a more general protest against war and became the Parliament Square Peace Campaign, and he was joined by other long term protesters as well as receiving support from many others which enabled him to remain in the square. Various attempts to remove him legally failed and SOCPA was passed in an attempt to stop his protest. But poor drafting led to the eventual failure to achieve this, though Haw had to apply for permission which was granted subject to strict conditions – which he and his supporters failed to adhere to.

Police carried out a major raid in May 2006, removing most of the placards and other material and Haw was taken to court for breach of SOCPA. But after several hearings he was acquitted as the judge found the conditions lacked clarity and were not workable. He was assaulted on numerous occasions by police and by others believed to be working for the security services and arrested again on the day of the State Opening of Parliament for the Tory-LibDem coalition in 2010. But his protest was continued even after he left for cancer treatment in Berlin on New Years Day 2011, by his colleague Barbara Tucker who had joined him in 2005, and stayed in Parliament Square until 2013, despite being denied the use of tent, blankets and eventually even a chair and umbrella in 2012.

The whole grass area of Parliament Square was fenced off and the protest moved onto the pavement in 2011 after Boris Johnson gained a High Court injunction. Early in 2013 more protesters had arrived to support Tucker who had begun a hunger strike in December 2012. She left the square for urgent medical treatment and the Westminster Council removed the tents which supporters had brought there in March 2013, reopening the square for public use in May.

In October 2014, Occupy Democracy arrived to occupy Parliament Square “for 9 days in October, to broadcast and demand the solutions we already know exist, to inspire people to be the active citizens required to take back democracy from powerful economic interests.” They were met by police and private security ‘Heritage Wardens’ (outsourced by the GLA) and signs put up the previous day stating the grass was ‘closed for repair’, and there was considerable harassment with the police seizing anything they thought might be ‘camping equipment’ the occupied the square. The following day, much larger numbers of protesters turned up, including a number of MPs and some celebrities, and after trying hard to stop them, the police melted away and the camp was set up.

Over the following three days there were a number of arrests and police moved protesters off the main grass areas, but the various workshops and activities continued until the whole square was cleared. There had been a number of battles between police and protesters over large squares of blue plastic tarpaulin they had used to sit on the wet grass and mud, and the Democracy Camp had gained the name ‘Tarpaulin Revolution’ (#tarpaulinrevolution).

On May Day 2015, Occupy Democracy returned for a 10 day ‘Festival of Democracy’ in Parliament Square “building a movement for real democracy: free from corporate control, working for people and planet!” just a few days before the general election. On Monday 4 May there was a rally and meditation by Occupy Democracy at the statue of Gandhi, noted for his direct action civil disobedince, called for fossil fuel exploration and investment to be made a crime, and defied the ban on tarpaulin and tents in Parliament Square.

After short speeches there was a period of meditation, and the protesters wrapped a blue tarpaulin around the statue. Heritage wardens demanded its removal, and seized it when their request was ignored. Other protesters then stood with another blue tarpaulin, holding it around the statue but taking care not to touch it.

At the end of the mediation, Donnachadh McCarthy who had been leading it announced an act of civil disobedience and pulled a folding tent onto the tarpaulin on the pavement in front of him and erected it. Several people then came and sat inside it, and the protest continued. Police came and told them they were committing an offence and might be arrested if they failed to leave. Shortly after 20 police came and surrounded the tent and arrested those who refused to leave.

Occupy Gandhi – stop fossil fuel criminals
Occupy Festival of Democracy

Armenian Genocide, TTIP, Football and Cyclists in Tweed

Sunday, April 18th, 2021

On Saturday 18th April 2015, Armenians marked the 100th anniversary of the start of the Armenian Genocide in Turkey in which 1.5 million were killed between 1915 and 1923. Turkey still refuse to accept the mass killings as genocide and the UK has not recognised the killing of this huge number of Armenians as genocide. The term was first published in 1943 by Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin in his book ‘Axis Rule in Occupied Europe‘. After he had read about the killing of Armenians in Turkey and found that there was no law under which Talat Pasha, the grand vizier of the Ottoman Empire could be charged he invented and defined the term ‘genocide.

I left shortly before their march began to catch up with the Football Action Network who were taking copies of their manifesto to the Labour, Tory and Lib-Dem offices in Westminster. They were moving fast and there was no sign of them at Labour HQ; I ran on to the Tory HQ to find they had left, and finally caught up with them at the Lib Demo offices near Parliament Square. There I found supporters with scarves from Bolton, Luton Town and Dulwich Hamlet from Football Beyond Borders holding a couple of banners and passports with their demands, including a Football Reform Bill, a living wage for all staff, fair ticket prices, safe standing, and reforms to clubs & the Football Association.

The next even came to me, as a group of cyclists on the Tweed Cycle Ride stopped at the traffic lights on the road opposite, and I ran to meet them, then ran along with them through Parliament Square when the lights changed to green. he Tweed Run raises money for the London Cycling Campaign and describes itself as “a jaunty bike ride around London in our sartorial best“. The vintage-themed ride stops for tea and a picnic and ends with “a bit of a jolly knees-up.” Not really my kind of thing.

I caught the tube to Shepherds Bush and a rally on the Green against TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership being secretly negotiated by governments and corporations which poses a threat to democracy and all public services. The huge public outcry across the EU against this and in particular the Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) already incorporated in some other treaties which allows companies to sue countries for ‘discriminatory practices’ including efforts to combat global heating is possibly why these talks were eventually abandoned in 2016, though our EU referendum may also have helped. After speeches the rally split into groups for discussion.

After the rally, white-coated War on Want campaigners moved across the road to a branch of Kentucky Fried Chicken for a performance with buckets and rubber chickens protesting against TTIP which would force us to admit US agricultural products produced by practices considered unsafe here – such as chlorine-dipped chickens, hormone stuffed beef etc. The need for these methods is driven by US intensive farming methods which have lower standards for safety and animal welfare than are acceptable here – and although TTIP ended without a treaty, our post-Brexit trade agreement with the US seems almost certain to include similar hazards.

Next I moved with protesters to the BP garage on the opposite side of Shepherds Bush Green, where activists staged a die-in as TTIP would force countries to use dirty fuels including coal, tar oil and arctic oil and seriously delay cutting carbon emissions and the move to renewable energy.

Finally, a group of protesters walked into the Westfield centre to stage a street theatre performance outside Virgin Media to illustrate the danger that TTIP poses to our NHS, allowing corporations to force the privatisation of all public services. Like other large shopping centres Westfield is a private place where protests and photography are not permitted, but police and security stood back and watched the event, and though security attempted to stop some videographers I kept a lower profile and was not approached.

Virgin Media is actually no longer a part of the Virgin empire, though it still pays Branson to use the name. Virgin Care now runs a large part of the NHS which is rapidly being privatised by the Conservative government. According to The Observer, because of a complex structure of holding companies with links to other parts of the Virgin empire with its roots in the British Virgin Islands, the company is “unlikely to pay any tax in the UK in the foreseeable future.”

Westfield ‘Save our NHS’ protest
BP die-in against Climate Change
KFC protest over TTIP
Stop TTIP rally
Tweed Cycle Ride
Football Action Network Manifesto
Centenary of Armenian Genocide

Climate Change and the Budget

Sunday, March 7th, 2021

Once again the recent budget has failed to show any real commitment to make the changes we need to combat the climate crisis. The chancellor’s speech and the treasury details were strong on rhetoric, telling use that we need to make radical changes and that cutting carbon was a major government priority, but there were few and only minor changes announced that will combat climate change, while more major announcements that will accelerate it.

Perhaps one of the more disappointing areas were the announcements on infrastructure and on road building. The expected UK national infrastructure strategy was not yet available and is now expected “later in the spring” but it is unlikely to change the commitment made already to wrongheaded project of which HS2 is the most glaring. And the promise of the “largest ever investment in England’s motorways and major A roads” goes completely against the need to get more people using sustainable public transport and will certainly lead to increased road traffic.

Another way the budget encourages car use is of course the continued freezing of fuel duty, which has remained at 58p per litre (+VAT) since 2011. Had the increases promised in the June 2010 budget taken place it would now be at 84p. While fuel duty has been frozen, rail fares have continued to rise.

Although there were minor changes intended to encourage the decarbonisation of heating buildings, any long term plans on the scale needed are still lacking. It is an area which could be addressed in that long promised infrastructure strategy, and one that could be an important source of ‘green jobs’ so fingers are firmly crossed – but I fear we will get yet another disappointment.

There are other disappointments in this budget too. The support for measures to combat the increasing risks of flooding seems lukewarm, and the ambitious programme of tree planting seems to be only roughly a fifth of that in earlier promises, and clearly insufficient. The budget also restates a commitment to invest in carbon capture and storage which still seems very unlikely to deliver any real dividends. It is also very unclear if the £900m for research into nuclear fusion, space and electric vehicles will make any positive contribution to combating climate change.

Six years ago, on Saturday 7th March, I was with over 20,000 protesters marching through London to a rally outside Parliament demanding action on climate change with divestment from fossil fuels, an end to fracking and damaging bio-fuel projects and for a 100% renewable energy future which would create a million new jobs.

The case then was clear and the protest made it firmly, but since then governments had spent six years talking about it but doing very little, listening more to the lobbyists from fossil fuel companies rather than the science. Slowly there have been some changes, and more politicians are now saying the right kind of things, but there has been precious little action. It’s probably now too late to avoid some pretty disastrous effects of the inevitable global temperature rise, but we may still be able to mitigate them and avoid the worst possible consequences. But it will need governments to stop fiddling while the planet burns.

More on My London Diary:
Climate Change Rally
Time to Act on Climate Change


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.


1st December 2018

Tuesday, December 1st, 2020

Two years ago, the first day in December had been declared Stop Universal Credit day of action by Unite Community and small groups around the country were holding protests and handing out leaflets in busy town centres about the many failures and great hardship caused by this poorly though out and badly administered benefit. They called for an end to the long wait before claimants receive money, for applications to be allowed at job centres as well as online, for better help when the system fails people, for direct payments to landlords to avoid rent arrears and evictions and an end to benefit sanctions for all claimants.

Universal Credit was intended to simplify the benefits system, but it failed to take into account the huge range and complexity of situations ordinary people face, and assumed that claimants would have the same kind of support that the middle-class and wealthy take for granted from families, friends and resources. And its failures were compounded by making it a vehicle for cutting costs. As I commented in 2018:

“UC has created incredible hardship, pushing many into extreme poverty and destitution, making them reliant on food banks and street food distributions, greatly increasing the number of homeless and rough sleepers. Thanks to Tory policies, more than 120,000-plus homeless children in Britain will spend Christmas in hostels and B&Bs, many without the means or facilities to provide a Christmas meal.

Some have said that UC is a part of a “state euthanasia” system for the poor, with academic estimates that it and other benefit cuts and sanctions since the 2010 elections having caused 110,000 early deaths, including many suicides. A cross party committee has called for its rollout to be halted until improvements are made, but the government has dismissed virtually all criticism of the system, making only insignificant changes.”

http://mylondondiary.co.uk/2018/12/dec.htm#universal

I took a detour on my journey into London to photograph the protest outside Camden Town station, where protesters were also pointing out that Universal Credit “hands more financial power to male claimants making it a misogynist’s dream, forcing women in violent relationships into greater dependency on their violent male partners.”


The major protest taking place in London was a march and rally organised by the Campaign against Climate Change. Together for Climate Justice began with a rally outside the Polish Embassy, in advance of the following week’s UN climate talks in Katowice, Poland.

Despite the impending global disaster, little real action is being taken by countries around the world and we still seem committed to a course leading inevitably to mass extinction. Behind the failure to act is the intensive lobbying of companies exploiting fossil fuels who have spent many billions in sowing doubt about the scientific consensus of global warming, and continue to produce vast quantities of coal and oil and explore for further resources, increasingly in the more ecologically sensitive areas of the Earth.

At the rally a wide range of speakers expressed their concerns that the talks in Poland are being sponsored by leading firms in Poland’s fossil fuel industry. And at the rally opposite Downing St where Frack Free United were to hand in their petition at the end of the march, a speaker from the Global South reminded us of the urgency of the situation; people there are already dying because of climate change.

Before the march we were all taught to say a few slogans in Polish, including ‘Razem dla klimatu‘ (Together for the Climate) which appeared on a number of placards, and the rather less pronounceable Polish for ‘Time to limit to 1.5’, as well as for ‘Climate, jobs, justice!’.


Finally I made my way to Broadcasting House, where The Palestine Solidarity Campaign and others were calling on the BBC to withdraw from the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest hosted by Israel, to avoid being complicit in Israel’s ongoing violations of Palestinian human rights.

Campaigners say the contest ‘artwashes’ Israel’s human rights record, including the killing of at least 205 Palestinians by Israeli forces in the besieged Gaza Strip since protests began at the end of March, and the passing of the Jewish nation state law which formalises an apartheid system in Israeli law.

A small group of Zionists had come to oppose the protest, but made it clear that they did not want me to photograph them. Some lifted the Israeli flags they were holding to hide their faces when I pointed my camera in their direct or turned away.


More at:

BBC Boycott Eurovision Israel 2019
Together for Climate Justice
Stop Universal Credit day of action


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.


Brixton Barclays

Monday, July 8th, 2019

Although my memories of the 1960s are far from clear, I’m fairly sure that the first protest I ever took part in, back when I was a student in Manchester was outside a Barclays Bank branch not far from the university in 1964. Then we were protesting against its support for Apartheid in South Africa, and stood outside handing out leaflets and calling on customers entering or leaving to move their accounts. At the time I think almost all banks were more ethical than Barclays.

A few years later, in 1969, students in the UK began the wider Boycott Barclays campaign, which became widespread and continued until after Barclays eventually sold their South African subsidiary in 1986. By then many people and organisations across society had withdrawn their accounts from Barclays causing them a loss of deposits estimated at around £6 billion a year and the number of new student accounts taken out each year had roughly halved.

It’s hard to understand why Barclays held out so long, allowing political and ideological positions to override a clear financial case for changing their policies, and disappointing that a business which had its roots in Quakerism was seen to become one of the dirtiest of banks. Perhaps as one of the largest transnational businesses in the world it simply decided it was not going to allow itself to be told what to do by protesters. But eventually it had to change.

Barclays is now under attack again for its support of fossil fuels and in particular of fracking, having invested more the $30bn in climate-wrecking fracking schemes, making it by far the worst bank in Europe. To have any chance of avoiding disastrous global warming we need to drastically cut the use of coal, oil, petrol and gas and other carbon-containing materials as fuel. Fracking not only produces dirty fuel, it also leads to extensive pollution of water sources and earthquakes; it has been banned in Germany, France, Ireland and Bulgaria in the EU and in other countries, provinces and states around the world, with further bans seeming likely.

After protesting on the busy main street in front of the Barclays branch for around an hour, the protesters held a short protest inside. They were asked to leave and agreed to do so after a few short speeches which made their position clear.

More at Climate Protest at Barclays Bank


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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.

To order prints or reproduce images


BP out of the BM

Saturday, May 25th, 2019

‘BP or not BP’ is a bunch of activists who stage performances of one sort or another at various cultural institutions and events to protest at the way the arts are being used to promote and sanitise companies guitly of destroying the planet and other crimes, ‘greenwashing’ to hide their mucky stains.

BP are a prime example of such a company, responsible for many murky political dealings in countries around the world in search of oil, Extracting oil has destroyed valuable ecosystems though pollution, with huge oil spills threatening large areas of ocean life. Its oil feeds the plastics and artificial fabrics industries, while the use of oil products in heating, air conditioning and transport etc is the cause of the huge increase in grrenhouse gases which is causing disastrous global warming.

BP gives a relatively small financial contribution to the British Museum, for which it gets a incredible return in good publicity, its logo on posters and on labels in the museum.

The protest took place on the 16th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, conducted as is now clear from documents from many sources largely to ensure access by US companies to Iraqi oil resources rather than anything to do with the WMDs which all knew did not exist. It also took place while the BP-sponsored show I am Ashurbanipal: King of the World, King of Assyria‘ was nearing the end of its run. It’s a show which includes a number of looted objects from the area (which stretched from Egypt to the Persian Gulf), both from historical times when the BM was itself sending archealogists to the area and apparently some more recent acquisitions sold to dealers after Iraq was left in chaos and during the current conflict in Syria, bought with the aid of BP money.

While several hundred protesters gathered at the front of the Great Court, a small performance took place in the Assyrian galleries, and was then repeated in front of the entrance to the Assyrian exhibition. Meanwhile the main protest got under way, amd after an introductory rally people were lead to from a ring all around the Great Court, with posters all round.

The Great Court is a large area around the old former BM Reading Room (where my wife once worked) and is said to be the largest covered public square in Euripe, with an area of 3,692.5 square metres. I think the chain around it holding the banners must have been around 600 feet long, though only relatively small sections were visible from any one point.

This was something of a challenge to still photographers, and I walked around it several times taking pictures. Long banners are always a challenge in terms of the aspect ratio. Even if you frame the people holdina banner from head to toe working in landscape format, this only results in a horizontal field of view of around ten foot. To frame longer banners results in the people and the banner shrinking to a narrower strip across the image.

You can improve matters by photographing the banner from one side, filling the frame height with the nearest person or going in even closer, and this is often my approach. But as the make the viewpoint more oblique, the banner text becomes less and less legible. And legible text is important with banners.

My friend taking video had a simpler task and did it well, filming as he walked around the whole circle. A similar approach using still photography would have resulted in a print with a roughly 100:1 aspect ratio, and while it might have been possible to join up the banner, as you moved from exposure to exposure the backgrounds would change.

I did take a series of pictures from the top of the stairs overlooking the area in front of the Assyrian exhibition, where the banners were brought and people sat on the ground. Possibly taken together they would show the whole string of banners (though I think some were folded before they reached the display), but more than the two on My London Diary make rather tedious viewing.

End BP sponsorship at British Museum

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.

To order prints or reproduce images