Posts Tagged ‘Fuel Poverty Action’

Alevi, Flag Wavers, Fuel Poverty & A Party

Wednesday, February 16th, 2022

Alevi, Flag Wavers, Fuel Poverty & A Party – London on Saturday February 16th 2013


Alevi Protest Discrimination in Turkey & UK

The Alevi are Turkey’s largest religious minority, with between 10 and 20 million of them living in the country and worshipping in their own language. Their religion is Islamic but men and women worship together, and women are not required to cover their hair and poetry, music and dance are central to their worship. It is a distinct form of Muslim religion which is related to Shi’ism, which contrasts with the official Turkish Sunni practice.

It is a religion that cuts across Turkey’s ethnic groups, and although most Alevi are ethnic Turks about a quarter of Turkey’s Kurds are also Alevi. They have been persecuted in Turkey for centuries, often attacked and sometimes killed, and are not allowed to build worship houses. While Christian and Jewish children are exempted from the compulsory Sunny Islam religious classes in Turkish schools, Alevi are not.

Their protest in Trafalgar Square called for democracy in Turkey and an end to discrimination and persecution, and an end to the compulsory religious education. They also called for the UK government to live up to its responsibilities for all immigrant communities whose views they say are ignored here, calling on immigrants to ‘Unite and Fight’ to get political representation that would demand equal treatment over health and education and fighting crime.

Alevi Protest Discrimination in Turkey & UK


Defend the Union Flag

The Defend the Union Flag protest was called by the ‘South-East Alliance’ a small extreme right anti-immigration group of former English Defence League, whose leader Paul Pitt was thrown out of the EDL in 2012 to support Loyalists in Belfast who were protesting against a decision that the Union Flag should only be flown on the City Hall there on 18 designated days.

The protest was supported by other extreme right groups, notably Britain First, whose leader Paul Golding and Northern Ireland organiser Jim Dowson also spoke at the rally.

It was an uncomfortable event to photograph, and I received a number of threats and warnings from some of those taking party who I recognised from earlier protests I’d covered by the BNP, March for the Flag, EDL and Britain First, though many mistake me for another photographer who worked for Searchlight. A few who knew me were more friendly and came to talk with me. Although I’ve always made clear that I have different views, I’ve also tried to report these events objectively as a journalist.

Defend the Union Flag


Fuel Poverty Rally & DAN Roadblock

Back in 2013 we were also being faced with rising fuel bills, and Fuel Poverty Action had organised a national day of action. In London this began with a rally outside the Department of Energy and Climate Change on Whitehall and was then followed by a road block on Whitehall led by the Disabled Peoples Direct Action Network, DAN.

The rally on the pavement was crowded and was supported by Disabled People Against Cuts, Greater London Pensioners’ Association, Redbridge Pensioners’ Forum, Southwark Pensioners’ Action Group, Global Women’s Strike and others.

Cuts and price rises meant then that one in four families now has to choose between heating their homes adequately or eating properly. Many children now go to school hungry and even the wealthiest suburban areas now need to have churches and others setting up food banks for those unable to buy food.

The government had cut services and cut benefits as a part of their austerity programme. Their energy policy is largely dictated by the Big Six energy companies, who continue to increase their profits while the consumers of energy suffer and had largely ignored the pressing need to increase renewable energy and cut power generation for gas and coal that was powering global warming.

When DAN blocked the road, with some in wheelchairs chaining them together, the rally continued and police stood back and watched, diverting traffic away. After around 15 minutes they came to try and persuade them to leave the road. The arguments continued for around another 15 minutes, after which the protesters agreed they would leave in around a further 10 minutes. But I had to leave before they did so as I had a party to go to.

Fuel Poverty Rally & DAN Roadblock


Reclaim Love Valentines Party

The 11th Reclaim Love free Valentine’s Party took place around Eros in Piccadilly Circus, aiming to spread peace and love around the world, and to reclaim love from its commercial exploitation.

I had been held up photographing the DAN roadblock and had missed the major part of the event when several hundred people held hands in a large circle around Eros, chanting together ‘May All The Beings In All The Worlds Be Happy & At Peace’. But it was good to meet up with some friends and take some pictures.

Venus Cumara, the originator of this annual event in 2003 told me this was this was the last she would organise and I made sure to get plenty of pictures of her. We occasionally talked about producing a book on the event together, but it hasn’t happened, though perhaps I might do so on my own one day.

As I wrote back in 2013:

There are really very few such spontaneous events in London like this, and this is unique in central London. I’ve photographed most of these events and I hope that they will continue with others taking over the running in future years.

Reclaim Love Valentines Party

You can read more about all four events and see many more pictures on My London Diary:
Reclaim Love Valentines Party
Fuel Poverty Rally & DAN Roadblock
Defend the Union Flag
Alevi Protest Discrimination in Turkey & UK


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Fuel Poverty, NHS Staffing & Zero Hours – 2013

Friday, November 26th, 2021

Eight years ago there were protests about fuel poverty and NHS staffing which seem still very much in the news today, and zero hours contracts remain a problem, though unscrupulous employers have found another unfair way to screw their workers with ‘fire and rehire’, although legal actions brought by smaller and more active unions have begun to curb some of the more obviously illegal aspects of the gig economy.

Justice Not Jumpers at NPower HQ

But fuel costs are rising fast and putting many energy companies out of business. Not that they were really energy companies, simply middlemen gambling to make a quick profit, buying energy as cheaply as they could and attracting customers to deals which have become uneconomic to honour as fuel prices have risen. The scheme to rescue their customers, passing them on to those companies still in business makes life tougher for those who have to pick them up, and with the latest company to go under – or at least into administration – means that either taxpayers or possibly electricity customers – we await the details – will have to shoulder the bill.

It’s a crisis that has its roots in the privatisation of the industry and the absurd belief in competition that has created an overpopulated market in companies taking a cut out of our bills, with others profiting from persuading people to switch suppliers. Along of course with a government failure to provide proper support for insulation of homes – as Insulate Britain have been gluing themselves to the M25 and elsewhere to highlight, as well as ending the building of onshore wind farms, failing to put investment into other renewable sources such as tidal power and instead backing climate-destroying wood burning and expensive nuclear schemes. The recent half-hearted support for heat pumps is yet another failure by government. We should have schemes that ensures that new build properties are built with either air or ground source heat pumps and high levels of insulation and provides incentives for them to have solar panels.

On Tuesday 26th November I went with fuel poverty activists to march to the offices of NPower, one of the big six energy providers to protest against the profiteering by them that leads to people having to choose between eating and keeping warm, causing unnecessary deaths.

They included people from Fuel Poverty Action, UK Uncut, the Greater London Pensioners’ Association and Disabled People Against Cuts and were protesting against the huge increase in energy costs and against the deception of the energy companies who blame price rises on ‘green taxes’. The protests, in London and at British Gas’s new Oxford HQ, as well as in Lewes and Bristol were supported by other groups including No Dash for Gas, Campaign Against Climate Change, Climate Revolution, Young Friends of the Earth, Frack Off London, Power for the People, Barnet Alliance for Public Services, Lewes Against the Cuts, SOAS Energy & Climate Change Society and Southwest Against Nuclear.

They went to the NPower offices in Threadneedle Street in the centre of the City of London because NPower is the UK’s most complained about energy company with double the customer complaints of its nearest rival EDF and higher price rises in 2013 than any of the other Big Six companies. It had then paid zero corporation tax for the past 3 years despite a 34% profit rise of £413million and in the previous winter its price hikes were estimated to have pushed 300,000 people into fuel poverty.

Fuel poverty leads to premature deaths – and the figure for these announced that day for winter 2012-3 was a shock, with an increase of almost a third on the previous year, to 31,000 people. The protesters emphasized this by carrying a coffin to the offices, with several of the wearing masks with the faces of the prime minister and chancellor, David Cameron and George Osborne, and wearing jumpers with the logos of major energy companies.

Police protected the offices of NPower while the protesters held a peaceful rally outside, where many testimonies were read from people who were having to chose between heating and eating, already cold and dreading the coming winter. In a press statement, Susan Jarrett of UK Uncut said: ‘The fact that people are dying of fuel poverty as Npower and other energy companies rake in the money and avoid tax is a scandal. This Government is not only unnecessarily cutting our services in the name of austerity but are allowing these energy companies to literally get away with murder which is why we are fighting back today.’

This winter fuel costs are higher. Global warming means our weather is far less predictable, and its possible we may have an unusually cold snap. Or we may be lucky and avoid extremes of cold. But if we do get them, then there will be more deaths.

4:1 legal minimum NHS staffing

Back in 2013, the Dept of Health was still in Richmond House on Whitehall, and nurses were there to campaign for a manadatory staffing level of one nurse for every 4 patients in the NHS. They were joined by other groups protesting against closures and privatisation in the NHS. Its probably because of protests like this and many others that the department moved to obscure offices some way down Victoria St – which at least one protest I photographed marched past without noticing and got several hundred yards down the road before they realised they had missed it. Richmond House is now set to hold Parliament while the old building undergoes extensive and very expensive modernisation.

The protest was a response to various disastrous news stories about the problems of the NHS, including the RCN (Royal College of Nursing) revealing the NHS has over 20,000 nursing vacancies and the Department of Health’s decision to downgrade (effectively close) 100 A&E departments. Protesters also urged people to sign a petition calling for the NHS to be exempted from the provisions of the EU-US trade treaty then being negotiated in secret; and post-Breixt the government has made clear they will not protect the NHS in UK-US negotiations.

Cultural Workers against Zero Hours

Finally I went to photograph PCS members from national cultural institutions in London at Tate Modern and on the Millennium Bridge protesting against zero hour contracts which give them no guaranteed weekly hours or income, while stopping them taking on other work. Employers use zero-hour contracts to cut wages, avoid holiday pay, pensions, and ensure the maximum flexibility and profit for themselves. Workers are also unable to take on other part-time work, as they are obliged to be available for work at the whim of the employer.

There have been some minor changes in the law and in 2015 employers were banned from requiring workers to get permission before accepting other work but zero hours contracts continue to be a problem for many workers. Workers on them have no way of knowing their income week to week and although in theory they have the right to refuse any work offered, this still often leads to them being offered fewer hours in future. And while in theory zero hours workers have employment rights, these are often denied – and virtually impossible for individuals to enforce. All workers – particularly those suffering from zero hours contracts – need to join an effective union.


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


Fuel Poverty and Independent Living 2014

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021

Disabled activists were prominent, along with pensioners at the Fuel Poverty Action FPA) protest outside the British Gas AGM taking place at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in Westminster. And when that protest ended they made their way to the Dept of Work & Pensions protest against plans to end the Independent Living Fund.

There were over 10,000 excess deaths in Winter 2013-4 because people could not afford to heat their homes, the situation exacerbated after British Gas raised its prices in November, gas by 10.4 %, electricity by 8.4 %. Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, made £2.5 billion in 2013.

FPA call for an increased investment in renewable energy, which in the long term will result in cheaper energy and will help us tackle climate change. But this isn’t popular with the big six energy companies (and the government which is led by their lobbyists) as it enables greater local generation and control of energy, threatening their monopoly of energy production and profits.

They say “Our energy system & economy are run to make private profit at all costs – our rights to warm home and a safe climate are sidelined. We’re being ripped off and left to freeze. We say: things have to change. We need and affordable. sustainable energy system owned by us, not big business.”

At the protest they launched their ‘Energy Bill of Rights’ with the following statements:

  • We all have the right to affordable energy to meet our basic needs.
  • We all have the right to energy that does not harm us, the environment, or the climate.
  • We all have the right to energy that does not threaten health, safety, water, air, or the local environment of a community.
  • We all have the right to a fair energy pricing that does not penalise those who use less.
  • We all have the right not to be cut off from energy supply.
  • We all have the right not to be forced to have a prepayment meter.
  • We all have the right to energy that is owned by us and run in our interests.
  • We all have the right to properly insulated, well repaired housing that does not waste energy.

They were joined by an actor carrying a skull, one of a group which had entered the Centrica AGM and performed Hamlet’s iconic monologue ‘To Heat or Eat, that is the question’ and repeated this for the protesters.

For a final photo opportunity, the protesters planted 100 small windmills made of British Gas bills in the grass outside the centre.

The Independent Living Fund (ILF) helps over 18,000 disabled people who have high support needs to live an independent life in the community rather than live in residential care. The funding is ring-fenced and is highly cost-effective compared with the costs of residential care, the care package costing on average £300 per person per week.

Despite this and a Court of Appeal ruling that the minister had not specifically considered the duties imposed by the Equality Act, and that the proposals were unlawful, the DWP announced in March 2014 that the scheme will end in June 2015. Responsibility for care will pass to the local authorities, and provision will be subject to the usual constraints and cuts of local authority expenditure.

At the centre of the protest was a small cage, with the message ‘NO ILF – NO LIFE’ across its top, and below the barred window ‘Without Support We Become Prisoners In Our Own Homes – Save the Independent Living Fund’. Squeezed into this was Paula Peters of DPAC, Disabled People Against Cuts, the group who had organised the protest.

Many at the protest were going on to lobby their MPs, and one who had travelled from Newcastle had phoned Mary Glindon, the Labour MP for North Tyneside, who came down the the protest. She tried to deliver a letter from the protesters to the DWP but was at first refused entry by the DWP security, though eventually they allowed her to do so through a side entrance away from the protest.


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 (3)

Friday, November 27th, 2020

Fortunately there was nothing in my diary for the last Thursday in November 2014, as I think it was probably past 2am before I had finished editing and filing my pictures from the two events on Wednesday evening. But on Friday it was another early start for me, though not very early, catching the first train on which I can travel at reduced – but still excessive – rail fares.

I’m fortunate to be reasonably well-off, largely thanks to pension contributions paid during 30 years of full-time employment, though by no means rich. More importantly I live in a house which we finished paying for around 25 years ago, and which, though not grand serves its purpose. It means that we can afford both to eat and to keep warm – though I’m typing this with an extra jumper on in a room that is sometimes cold enough for me to wear a woolly hat.

But for many – and particularly many who are elderly and disabled – the choice between keeping warm and eating is a desperate one, eased only slightly by the annual ‘Winter Fuel Payment’ of £200 per household. As I wrote in 2014, ‘The official statistics show that in the year 2012/2013 over 10,000 people died from fuel poverty, including thousands of people in London, and figures for last winter are likely to be higher.’

The protest by pensioners, Fuel Poverty Action and No Dash for Gas was against Energy UK, the lobbying organisation of the Big Six energy companies who together made profits of £3.7 billion in 2012/3, and they marched from Charing Cross Station to their Regent St offices, stopping on the way for a short action outside the Institute of Directors on Pall Mall.

They then held a 15 minute die-in stopping traffic on the road outside the Energy UK offices before continuing with a rally.


Later in the day I joined the Palestinian Prisoners Campaign for a protest outside the City offices of Hewlett Packard. Saturday was the ‘UK Stop Arming Israel’ day of action, but they came on Friday as the HP offices are closed at the weekend. HP is one of the 20 top US armaments companies and has a $6 billion investment in Israel where they provide the IT backbone for the entire Israeli war machine – from the army, to the navy, to the Ministry of Defense, as well as for the prisons and intelligence services, backing up the repression, imprisonment and torture of Palestinians.

The group protests regularly at companies providing support for the Israeli regime, and includes a number of Palestinian and Jewish protesters and is supported by the Islamic Inminds Human Rights Group which has links with Iran.


Finally I made my way to the Mexican Embassy in Mayfair for a protest over the disappearance and almost certain massacre of 43 Ayotzinapa college students in Iguala on 26 September who appear to have been arrested by police and handed over by the local mayor to the local crime syndicate Guerreros Unidos (“United Warriors”) to be murdered.

It was now quite dark and the street was badly lit – with most of what light there was coming from the windows of the buildings around. Many held posters with pictures of the missing students and asking in Spanish ‘Where are they now?’ but in seems very unlikely that any are still alive. Although the scale of this massacre caught the attention of the Mexican people – and briefly that of the world – unfortunately similar murders are not unusual in Mexico.

Two embassy staff came out to receive a letter to the Mexican government from the protesters and spent some minutes on the steps listening to the speeches.


More about all three events on My London Diary:
Solidarity with Mexican students
Stop Arming Israel protest at HP
No More Deaths from Fuel Poverty


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.