Posts Tagged ‘Hackney’

Strikes for a Living Wage & Grenfell – 2017

Thursday, December 14th, 2023

Strikes for a Living Wage & Grenfell – Thursday 14th December 2017 was six months on from the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, and as on every 14th of the month since there was a silent walk to remember the victims and call for justice. But earlier in the evening I photographed two groups of workers striking for a living wage.

Star Wars Strike Picket Picturehouse – Hackney

Strikes for a Living Wage & Grenfell - 2017

On the day that the ‘Star Wars’ film, ‘Last of the Jedi’ opened at Picturehouse Hackney, workers at the chain held a strike calling for them to be paid the London Living Wage. Workers and supporters demonstrated in solidarity on the pavement outside the cinema as it opened.

Strikes for a Living Wage & Grenfell - 2017

Picturehouse is a part of the multinational company Cineworld and has refused to recognise the trade union which the workers belong to, BECTU, instead claiming they are represented by a company run staff forum. As well as a fight for pay this is also for union recognition.

Strikes for a Living Wage & Grenfell - 2017

Members voted to dissolve the staff forum in 2019 and is no longer a recognised trade union. Although there have been some pay increases some workers around the start of this year were still only paid £9.80 an hour, over £2 short of the London Living Wage.

Star Wars Strike Picket Picturehouse

City cleaners strike at LHH for Living Wage – Gracechurch St, City

Strikes for a Living Wage & Grenfell - 2017

United Voices of the World union and supporters protested noisily outside the offices of Lee Hecht Harrison (LHH), a large company in the heart of London’s financial district with a £2 million profit and a 32% increase in revenue this year.

The cleaners of their offices are not employed by LHH and the cleaning was outsourced to City Central Cleaning & Support Services Limited who had rejected their demand for a living wage and unlawfully threatened them with dismissal if they strike.

The cleaners were being paid the national minimum wage of £7.50 an hour, far less than the London Living wage of £10.20 per hour independently assessed as the minimum needed to live on in London.

After an hour of noisy protest by supporters outside the offices the cleaners were cheered as they went in to start their cleaning shift.

Following this protest, in late January 2018 LHH announced they would be re-tendering their cleaning contract to guarantee that within the month the cleaning staff are paid the London Living Wage of £10.20 per hour. It was the first victory of the year for the UVW.

City cleaners strike at LHH for Living Wage

Grenfell Silent Walk – North Kensington

I was late arriving at Notting Hill Methodist and the silent march was starting early, with people already in line behind the banner on the road at the side of the church. It marked 6 months since the terrible fire, and six months in which nothing had been done to prosecute those who were clearly responsible for the conditions that led to the 72 deaths. Six years on nothing has changed.

At the front were grieving relatives, some who had escaped from the flames and local clergy, and police and march stewards were ensuring that photographers and others kept a respectful distance.

When the march moved off it was led by a line of stewards. Many of the relatives held white roses and photographs of some of those who died and behind them were others carrying large green heart-shapes for Grenfell with single word messages such as ‘JUST US’ , ‘GRENFELL’ and ‘JUSTICE’.

Many taking part walked with green battery-powered candles and further back in the march there were many placards demanding the truth about Grenfell. One banner read ‘Fight For Justice’ and the community will not get it unless they keep on fighting. They have kept on fighting, but it seems less and less likely that the long-running inquiry will deliver any real justice.

Further back on the march were some more angry posters, including one which read ‘You can run BUT you can’t hide – Kensington & Chelsea Council ARE COMPLICIT IN MURDER’.

By Ladbroke Grove station firefighters were lined up as a guard of honour for the marchers, many of whom stopped to thank them for their bravery and persistence which saved many lives, some embracing them. I stayed on Ladbroke Grove to photograph as the rest of the march went past.

The march seemed much more moving than the service I’d watched on livestream earlier in the day. I was actually here with the several thousand on the march, and close to where the totally avoidable tragedy took place. There are many more pictures from the march on My London Diary at Grenfell Silent Walk – 6 months on.

Dalston, Shacklewell and Stoke Newington – 1989

Saturday, November 25th, 2023

This post is the second and final part on my walk in Hackney which began with Dalston Doorcases to Marie Lloyd.

German Hospital, Chapel, Ritson Rd, Dalston, Hackney, 1989 89-7k-32
German Hospital, Chapel, Ritson Rd, Dalston, Hackney, 1989 89-7k-32

Founded in 1845 with German staff to provide medical services to German-speaking immigrants who had settled in parts of North London. English staff took over when the German staff were interned in 1940. It became a part of the NHS in 1948, and only closed in 1987. The Grade II listed buildings survive and were converted into affordable flats.

Man on van, Ridley Rd, Dalston, Hackney, 1989 89-7k-33
Man on van, Ridley Rd, Dalston, Hackney, 1989 89-7k-33

I wandered up into Ridley Road where business was beginning to slack off in the market for the day. This man having a cigarette sitting on the bonnet of a van saw my camera and asked me why I was taking photographs. We had a short talk and he insisted I take his photograph, so here he is.

Public Washing Baths, Shacklewell Lane, Shacklewell, Hackney, 1989 89-7k-34
Public Washing Baths, Shacklewell Lane, Shacklewell, Hackney, 1989 89-7k-34

I continued north to Shacklewell Lane and took this picture of the Public Washing Baths, built by the Metropolitan Borough of Hackney in 1931 when many houses in the area were without bathrooms. Many poorer families and single people lived in one or two rooms sometimes without any running water or gas supply in their rooms and shared lavatories and kitchens with other tenants of the buildings.

This bath house provided 24 baths for men, 16 for women and they will have been well used in the early years before slum clearance provided better housing for many in the area. They were damaged by bombing in 1940 and reopened in 1942 and only closed some time in the 1960s. It is now occupied by the Bath House Children’s Community Centre who bought it from Hackney Council in 2002. This is now part of the St Mark’s Conservation Area, designated in 2008.

Works, 124-128 Shacklewell Lane, Hackney Downs, Hackney, 1989 89-7k-36
Works, 124-128 Shacklewell Lane, Hackney Downs, Hackney, 1989 89-7k-36

Built in 1932 as the Albert Works for the printers Henry Hildesley by architects Hobden & Porri, it later became the Rona Fashions House of George Gowns Ltd, but by 1989 their name had been removed from the facade leaving the marks you can see on the horizontals of the building. I think it was then still in use for the rag trade but my picture has the end of the names ‘RONA ROON… and Bab… hidden by the trees of Shacklewell Green.

Robert William Hobden who died in 1921 and Arthur George Porri (1877-1962) whose practice was based in Finsbury Square were responsible for many commercial and public buildings across London in first third of the twentieth century but seem suprisingly little known – perhaps a good subject for some academic research.

Henry Hildesley the printers are best known for the many posters they produced, including some for London Transport and HMSO, with many produced to help the war effort in the 1940s. The building, now called Cotton Lofts is in the Shacklewell Green conservation area designated in 2018 and is now flats.

Houses, Perch St, Hackney Downs, Hackney, 1989 89-7k-22
Houses, Perch St, Hackney Downs, Hackney, 1989 89-7k-22

I can no longer remember the route I took to make the three final images in this post, but they were all made on 27th July 1989.

This terrace was built in 1882 and the conservation area statement calls it and other similar buildings in nearby streets “attractive and architecturally interesting”.

Former synagogue, Montague Road Beth Hamedrash, 62a Montague Rd, Dalston, Hackney, 1989 89-7i-16
Former synagogue, Montague Road Beth Hamedrash, 62a Montague Rd, Dalston, Hackney, 1989 89-7i-16

Founded in 1910, this Strictly Orthodox Ashkenazi synagogue owned by the Federation of Synagogues was closed and the membership merged with the West Hackney Synagogue in 1981. Used for some years by Roots Pool Community Association and Dalston Community Centre it was eventually converted into flats as Montague Court.

Shops, Cazenove Rd, Stoke Newington, Hackney, 1989 89-7k-26
Shops, Cazenove Rd, Stoke Newington, Hackney, 1989 89-7k-26

Possibly I may have taken a bus to pay a visit to Abney Park Cemetery, close to where this final image was made though if so I took no pictures on this occasion, or perhaps just to make this picture.

Shops were added in the front gardens of these houses built in 1878, and that now housing the artist’s house Madame Lillie was initially a carpentry workshop owned by the Wright family. In 1917, when Mrs Wright was a widow, her daughter Lillie opened a corsetry shop, which continued in business until she retired in 1970. In 1973 she sold the shop and house to her young artist nephew Paul David Wright. He converted the premises into studios for artists and a gallery space.

You can read the first part of this walk at Dalston Doorcases to Marie Lloyd.

Dalston Doorcases to Marie Lloyd

Tuesday, November 21st, 2023

Dalston Doorcases to Marie Lloyd – On Thursday 27th July 1989 I took the North London Line to Dalston Kingsland and crossed the road into Ridley Market and walked along Colvestone Crescent and on to Montague Rd. I can’t now remember what had brought me to North London for this brief interruption to my series of walks south of the river.

Doorway, Montague Rd, Dalston, Hackney, 1989 89-7k-61
Doorway, Montague Rd, Dalston, Hackney, 1989 89-7k-61

Here there are four houses on both sides of the street with similar doorways to the pair in my photograph with these odd decorative figures supporting the lintel. Those further down the street have simpler largely geometrical designs.

I was unsure what to call these muscular male figures, hand on hips staring down at the ground with what appear to be victory wreaths of laurel leaves around their heads and a pair of rather fishy looking tails. A long and detailed study published by the Hackney Society, The Victorian Villas of Hackney by Michael Hunter tells me they are mermen, and provides other examples of ‘bizarre doorcases’ in the Victorian villas of the 1850s and 1860s in Dalston. These date from 1861-6.

Shopfront, Cecilia Road, Dalston, Hackney, 1989 89-7k-63
Shopfront, Cecilia Road, Dalston, Hackney, 1989 89-7k-63

There are several houses close to Dalston Lane at the south end of Cecilia Road that have converted shopfronts with consoles matching that at the top right of this shop and this was one of these.

Although the advertising for the News of the World and Silk Cut suggests this was once a newsagent and tobacconist, it looks as if it was by 1989 a junk shop.

Eagle Shipping Services, 168, Dalston Lane, Dalston, Hackney, 1989 89-7k-65
Eagle Shipping Services, 168, Dalston Lane, Dalston, Hackney, 1989 89-7k-65

This building on the corner of Stanford Mews is still there and has kept its decorative iron balcony railing though not the Eagle Shipping Services advertising and graphics. Its upper floor is now simply painted white while the ground floor has been converted into a ‘rustic health food cafe & shop‘, Healthy Stuff.

Jas. Elves, marble mason, Carrara House, 164, Dalston Lane, Dalston, Hackney, 1989 89-7k-66
Jas. Elves, marble mason, Carrara House, 164, Dalston Lane, Dalston, Hackney, 1989 89-7k-66

James Elves was a marble mason and called his premises at 164 Dalston Lane Carrara House, after the area in Italy famous for its marble. Born in Shoreditch he lived and worked here with his family from around 1900 at least until 1930.

The house is still there and also its porch, but the tiles – presumably marble – of the front path have been replaced with duller slabs.

Houses, 112-4, Greenwood Rd, Dalston, Hackney, 1989 89-7k-53
Houses, 112-4, Greenwood Rd, Dalston, Hackney, 1989 89-7k-53

A few yards south of Dalston Lane, these houses in Greenwood Road were looking a little the worse for wear in 1989 but are considerably smarter now. With three stories and a basement these houses are now largely converted into four flats.

Doorways, 96-98, Graham Rd, Dalston, Hackney, 1989 89-7k-42
Doorways, 96-98, Graham Rd, Dalston, Hackney, 1989 89-7k-42

I continued south to Graham Road where I found more of Hackney’s remarkable doorcases. The left hand door is 98B as I think there will he a separate door in the area below to the basement flat.

Michael Hunter has a picture of a similar pair a few doors down where he states that the Roman standards are based on pattern books of classical architecture, “but the extraordinary swags of solidified shells over the doors of… Graham Road defy analysis.

The unfortunate door at right has since been replaced, but with another design that while preferable is still not in keeping with the building.

Doorways, 96-98, Graham Rd, Dalston, Hackney, 1989 89-7k-45
Doorways, 96-98, Graham Rd, Dalston, Hackney, 1989 89-7k-45

A closer view of one of the swags showing more clearly the shells and at the centre a lion’s head.

Marie Lloyd, plaque, 55, Graham Rd, Dalston, Hackney, 1989 89-7k-46
Marie Lloyd, plaque, 55, Graham Rd, Dalston, Hackney, 1989 89-7k-46

Finally for today, a rather simpler doorway in Graham Road with the GLC plaque recording that Marie Lloyd, Music Hall Artiste lived here. The dates are those of her life, 1870-1922.

Born in Hoxton in 1870 as Matilda Wood, she made her first appearances on stage when she was 14, taking the stage name Marie Lloyd the following year. So many of the old music hall songs we now know were made famous by here, not least for her remarkable use of nuance and double-entendre as well as displaying her undergarments in a way that respectable Victorians found deplorable but music hall audiences loved.

She moved into this house after her marriage in 1887 – but the marriage was not happy for long. After a disastrous bust-up she moved out from Graham Road in 1894.

As she sang ‘A little of what you fancy, does you good‘ but in her life she certainly became ‘one of the Ruins That Cromwell Knocked About a Bit‘ and at her funeral, thousands took the advice of ‘My Old Man‘ and followed the van to her burial from Woodstock Road in Golders Green to Hampstead Cemetery. Train journeys recently have often left me wondering ‘Oh Mr. Porter, what shall I do?

More from his walk shortly.

Gun & Knife Crime, Equiano & St John’s – 2007

Saturday, October 14th, 2023

Gun & Knife Crime, Equiano & St John’s: I went to two events in North London on Sunday 14th October 2007, a local march against gun and knife crime and then a Black History Month event in Abney Park Cemetery. And on my way home I stopped to take a few pictures of the church opposite Waterloo Station.

Communities Against Gun and Knife Crime, Hackney

In the 2000’s a stretch of road between Upper Clapton and Lower Clapton attracted the title ‘Murder Mile’ in the press after eight people were shot dead on the street or in the streets just off the main road over a period of two years. Of course there are some other cities around the world – including in the USA – where that number of deaths in a week or even a day would not be unusual. But London is generally a very safe city and Clapton is one of a number of areas which has more than its share of gun and knife crime.

Gun & Knife Crime, Equiano & St John's:

This is an area with a number of night clubs and where drug dealing is common and a large proportion of the shootings and deaths are related to these, often involving people from outside the area.

Gun & Knife Crime, Equiano & St John's:

But young people who live in and around the area are also caught up in gun and knife crime and one death is one too many, particularly when it involves your friends or family. Like many areas of London it houses a wide social mix, and these crimes particularly involve the poorer members of the community, many of whom are black.

Gun & Knife Crime, Equiano & St John's:

The march organised by Communities Against Gun And Knife Crime appeared to have no support from either of the two London Boroughs concerned – Hackney and Haringey – or from the Met police, who did escort it. The only other organisation which I could see was supporting it was Hackney Respect, a local group of the left-wing Respect party.

Gun & Knife Crime, Equiano & St John's:

The march began at Clapton Pond with a prayer by a Black Church Sister, and then moved slowly north up the Lower Clapton Road and across the Lea Bridge Roundabout and up the Upper Clapton Road. I had to leave before the end for my second event.

The march was smaller than I had expected with fewer than a hundred people taking part, and although it atrracted waves and shouts of support from people as it passed, few if any of them came to join it. As I commented, “marches like this are surely useful in raising community awareness, and it is hard to see why there was so little support from either the public, local authorities or other local groups – including the other political parties, churches and other community groups.” Apart from myself there was a photographer from a local paper reporting on the event, but no other media interest. I don’t think any of the pictures or my report which I filed to an agency were ever used.

Here is my final comment from my 2007 article:

The real challenge in cutting youth crime – and gun and knife crime is mainly youth crime – is getting people, and especially young people – real jobs that offer training and possibilities for advancement. At the moment there are too few jobs for young people, and many pay below a living wage, especially a living wage for London. While crime offers the only way to money, prestige and apparent success, many will take that route.

Communities Against Gun and Knife Crime

Equiano Society – His Daughter’s Grave – Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington

I joined a Black History Month walk led by Arthur Torrington OBE, the secretary of the Equiano Society which ended around the grave of Joanna Vassa, the daughter of Olaudah Equiano.

As the web site Olaudah Equiano, or, Gustavus Vassa, the African shows he was a truly remarkable man. Probably born around 1745 in what is now Nigeria he was kidnapped and sold into slavery as a child and taken to Barbados. In 1745 he became slave to a captain in the Royal Navy who renamed him Gustavus Vassa, and taught him to be a seaman and also sent him to school in London to learn to read and write. Later was bought by a Quaker merchant in Philadelphia who set him to work on one of his trading ships. Equiano was also able to engage in some trading for himself, and in four years made the £40 that his master had paid for him and was able to buy his freedom.

After various adventures in 1743 he came to London and became involved in the fight against slavery, although at first he was engaged in projects to set up black colonies in Central America and Sierra Leone, becoming for the latter the first black civil servant – but after he pointed out corruption among some officials he was quickly sacked.

He then wrote the book which made him famous, ‘The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or, Gustavus Vassa, the African‘ which was an autobiography, a description of the horrors of slavery and a polemic calling for its abolition. It was a success when published in 1789 and he earned a considerable income from it. In 1792 he married an English woman, Susanna Cullen, at Soham in Cambridgeshire and they had two daughters, one of whom after his death in 1797 inherited his estate of £950 (equivalent to around £100,000 now.)

Joanna Vassa later married the Congregational minister, Henry Bromley, and in 2005 their joint grave (also of Henry’s second wife) was discovered in Abney Park Cemetery, fallen down and covered by moss and undergrowth. Much of the inscription was worn away, but the names remained and the stone was restored and re-erected.

Equiano’s daughter

St John’s, Waterloo – A Waterloo Church

St John’s Church, now opposite Waterloo Station was one of a number of churches built in the years of national triumph following the defeat of Napoleon in 1815 with money granted by acts of Parliament to the Church Building Commission in 1818 and 1824 totalling £1.5 million. A total of 612 new churches were built by the Church Commissioners, mainly in the new and expanding industrial towns and cities, but initially “particularly in the Metropolis and its Vicinity“.

London south of the river was expanding rapidly, with new industries and a great deal of housing. The church was designed by Francis Octavius Bedford and built in 1822-1824 in a Greek Revival style – as were his other churches for the commissioners in Camberwell, West Norwood and Trinity Church Square, Southwark.

The site chosen, close to the foot of Waterloo Bridge was a difficult one, being a pond and a swamp, and John Rennie the Younger was consulted for advice about the foundations. This has proved sound as the building, despite being badly bombed in 1940 and standing in ruins until 1950 and the construction of the Jubilee Line underneath is still sound. It was restored and rededicated in 1951 as a part of the Festival of Britain, and again controversially in recent years which removed some of the later features.

I think I probably had just missed a train home from Waterloo Station opposite, a later development which opened as Waterloo Bridge Station in 1848, and had some time to wait for the next. Soon I was on a train home.

St John’s Waterloo

Hackney Million Mothers March against Violence

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2023

Hackney Million Mothers March against Violence: London is a relatively safe city compared with most large cities around the world. It’s murder rate of 1.38 per 100,000 population compares favourably with most others, and it is nowhere close to those in the top 50 -which all have rates over 28 times as high.

Hackney Million Mothers March

It is also considerably lower than any large city in the United States – which occupy eight places in the worst 50 cities for murders – with New Orleans at 70.56 near the top – only lower than some Mexican cities.

Hackney Million Mothers March

I’ve walked the streets of London carrying expensive cameras since the 1970s and fortunately have yet to be mugged or attacked. I have had my pocket picked a couple of times, seen drug dealers at work and refused offers from them and women offering me a good time, been threatened and assaulted by right-wing thugs and policemen (part of the job if you photograph protests) but generally London is a safe city.

Hackney Million Mothers March

It annoys me when some Americans keep asking about ‘no go’ areas in London (or other UK cities.) There are none. London is a city you can generally safely go anywhere in the public realm, though of course if you ask for trouble you can find it.

Hackney Million Mothers March

London isn’t crime-free. And there are some people who are more at risk than others. Women walking alone at night in lonely places do sometimes get attacked by male sex offenders. Many are sexually assaulted and a few are horribly killed. Some of these murders make the national headlines, such as that of Sarah Everard, killed by a police officer. But rather more women are killed in their homes, most often by men they know – a problem of male violence rather than London streets.

In one recent year there were over 18,000 reports of sexual assaults in London. But sexual assaults often go unreported, and it is difficult to know how many of these were on our streets. And although it is a disgracefully high figure it actually shows London as below the rate for the country as a whole.

Most at risk of being murdered on London’s streets are teenage males. Most are stabbed in crimes relating to gangs and drugs. There were 12,786 knife offences in London in the year ending March 2023, a little down on the figures for 2017-2020. The figures include those carrying a knife, owning a banned knife, trying to buy a knife if you are under 18, and/or threatening, injuring or fatally wounding someone with a knife. 63 of these offences killed someone in London.

Of course one murder is one too many, and all result in the waste of a life and a great deal of grief for the families and friends of those killed. There have been various local initiatives and groups set up to try to cut down the deaths, and some have at least some small effect but generally the numbers keep rising – though Covid saw a fall. Various newspaper articles and TV investigations have covered aspects of the subject, such as this in a series from Channel 4 News.

I’ve photographed a number of the protests and marches, often organised by bereaved families and its not possible to be unmoved, though sometimes I’ve felt that the solutions some of those speaking suggest would have little or no effect.

Knives are important in all of our lives, and in the average kitchen you can find quite a set of knives which could easily be used to kill. We need to change society more generally and importantly the way we raise, teach and occupy young children, giving them a better purpose in life and a sense of their own worth and abilities.

All the pictures here come from the Hackney Million Mothers March on Sunday 23rd August 2009, taking place as a part of an international peace parade to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Mothers Against Violence, mothers from bereaved families who are having a real impact in reducing gun, gang and knife crime, and to pledge action in Hackney over the issue.

The march was organised by Songololo Feet, Friend’s Charity, Hackney Council for Voluntary Service (HCVS), International Action against Small Arms (IANSA), St. John’s Church and The Crib, a local community group which “delivers creative and inspiring projects for young people in Hackney”.

More pictures at Hackney Million Mothers March. You can also read about a related event I photographed the day before this on 22nd August 2009 at LIVE & FAME Against Knife Crime.

LD50, Picturehouse, Guinness, Khojaly & Dubs Now

Saturday, February 25th, 2023

Saturday 25th February saw me travelling around London to photograph unrelated protests in Dalston, Leicester Square, Brixton and Westminster.

Shut race-hate LD50 gallery – Dalston

LD50, Picturehouse, Guinness, Khojaly & Dubs Now

People protested outside the small LD50 gallery in Dalston just off the Kingsland Road which they say has promoted fascists, neo-Nazis, misogynists, racists and Islamophobes in one of London’s more diverse areas.

LD50, Picturehouse, Guinness, Khojaly & Dubs Now

The gallery gets its name from the does of any substance which kills 50% of those taking it, and the protesters said it “has been responsible for one of the most extensive neo-Nazi cultural programmes to appear in London in the last decade.”

LD50, Picturehouse, Guinness, Khojaly & Dubs Now

One man, “dc miller“, came to argue that it was a matter of free speech and the right to freely discuss ideas, even repulsive ones, should be defended. He got considerable verbal abuse from the protesters and eventually police came and advised him firmly to leave, and later wrote a number of articles about the gallery and the protest.

LD50, Picturehouse, Guinness, Khojaly & Dubs Now

The protest didn’t immediately close down LD50 despite the claims of the protesters and a couple of months later it put on a show of defiance called ‘Corporeality’, though it is now permanently closed.

Perhaps an article in the Baffler by Megan Nolan, Useful Idiots of the Art World best expresses the position in this quote:

LD50 is a real place, in a real neighborhood, filled with people who are directly threatened by the vile speech of the very real racists who were invited into it. Repeatedly, the defense mounted by the gallery has been that it was attempting to have an open discussion about reactionary ideologies. The implication is that LD50 were engaging in some sort of completely neutral anthropological consideration of current events, rather than extending a fawning welcome to alt-right lynchpins.

More pictures at Shut race-hate LD50 gallery

Picturehouse recognition & living wage – Leicester Square

I rushed down to Leicester Square where workers from four Picturehouse cinemas at Brixton, Hackney, Wood Green and Picturehouse Central were holding a rally outside the Empire Cinema in Leicester Square to campaign for recognition of their union BECTU and to be paid the London Living Wage.

The Empire was recenetly acquired by Cineworld the owners of Picturehouse who have refused to recognise trade unions, but instead set up a company run staff forum.

They are not paying staff in London a living wage and offer poor conditions of service despite making large profits from cinema-goers paying £13 or more to see a film in central London. I’d arrived late and had to leave before the speeches to get the tube to Brixton.

More pictures Picturehouse recognition & living wage

Stop Unfair Eviction by Guinness – Brixton

The Guinness Trust was set up in 1890 by Sir Edward Cecil Guinness, then head of the family brewing business, to provide better housing for working class Londoners. One of the estates they built was the Loughborough Park Estate in Brixton.

Betiel Mahari had lived on that estate and moved into a new Guinness Trust flat, but the rent on this was more than doubled, increasing from £109 to £256 a week, although some of her neighbours are paying around a weekly rent of £100 less.

Beti has problems paying the new rent and because she works on a zero hours contract here housing benefit claim is constantly being reassessed leading to delays and errors in payment, leaving her in arrears. Guinness are not taking her to court to evict her and her two young sons. Supporters of the ‘Save Beti Campaign’ including Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! and Architects for Social Housing were campaigning outside Brixton Station collecting signatures for a petition to oppose the eviction of Beti and other tenants threatened by estate demolition.

I had time in Brixton to take a little walk around, particularly going to look at the railway arches where many long-standing local businesses are being evicted, though some are still trading.

More at Stop Unfair Eviction by Guinness.

25th anniversary of Khojaly Massacre – Westminster,

Back in Westminster the Justice for Khojaly Campaign were marching, calling for justice 25 years after the Khojaly Massacre in Azerbaijan where on the night of 25-26 February 1992, Armenian forces brutally killed 613 civilians, including 106 women and 83 children.

The call for an official apology from the Armenian govenment with full reparations and those responsible for this war crime to be brought to justice. The massacre was the larges in the war that folloed the secession of the majority Armenian population of the Nagorno-Karabakh region to form the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic which ended in 1994 with an uneasy truce.

More at 25th anniversary of Khojaly Massacre.

Dubs Now – let the children in – Downing St

My final event of the day was at Downing Street, where Help4Refugee Children was calling on the Government to honour its promise to let unaccompanied Syrian children into the UK after it reneged on its pledge earlier this month.

Theresa May’s high heels tread on a child

When Parliament had passed the Dubs amendment it had been very clear that this should happen and the government’s shameful and heartless decision overturned this, leaving many vulnerable young children forced to continue living in intolerable conditions. Many local councils say that they had made offers to take the children but these have been ignored by government.

Dubs Now – let the children in.

Before the Olympics – 2007

Saturday, February 11th, 2023

Five years and a few months before the London 2012 Olympic Games took place much of the site was still open although businesses had been moved out and some of the buildings were becoming derelict. I’d had an invitation to a party at a site there the previous evening but hadn’t been able to attend, but on Sunday 11th February 2007 I took my Brompton on the trains to Stratford Station for a tour of the area. It began as a rather gloomy day but the weather at least brightened up later.

Carpenters Rd from Wharton Road

I did return to parts of the area in later months as the close down was taking effect – and even led a two-day workshop at the View Tube in April 2010. And in June I was there to photograph workmen putting up the blue fence to keep us out of the whole Olympic area until well after the games were gone.

Before the Olympics - 2007
Footbridge to railway works over Waterworks River, Stratford Marsh.

Here’s what I wrote on back in 2007 about my ride around the area, much of which I spent pushing and carrying my Brompton bike along footpaths. But it did make it possible for me to cover rather more ground than would have been possible on foot. I’ve corrected the capitalisation etc. There are several pages of pictures with the original on My London Diary, just a few of which are shown here.

Before the Olympics - 2007
Marshgate Lane and Bow Back Rivers

2012 Olympic Site – Stratford, Sunday 11 Feb, 2007

Before the Olympics - 2007
Tate Moss, home to four artists and a venue for gigs of various kinds, now lost for the Olympics

Sunday I went to the Olympic site again, keen to photograph before the area becomes ‘fortress Olympics’ and is destroyed. Many of the businesses have now moved out and some of the small industrial estates are looking pretty empty. Tate Moss, who occupied a site by the City Mill River had staged their final event the night before, but the partying didn’t keep going long enough for me to look in and the place was deserted.

Marshgate Lane under the Northern Outfall Sewer is blocked with old tyres

Some of the riverside paths were open again after the test borings that have been going on, although several were fenced off over a year ago. The gate to the path by the waterworks river from the Greenway wasn’t locked, so I took a walk up this, but I knew that it was no longer possible to get out onto Marshgate Lane so had to retrace my steps.

The Marshgate Centre and Banner Chemicals from the Greenway

The route back up to the Greenway from Marshgate Lane was almost completely obstructed by heaps of old car tires, and I had to carry my Brompton for a few yards and climb up onto a grass bank where the steps were completely blocked. Parts of the road were no longer open to cars too.

City Mill River

From there I moved on to Hackney Wick and Waterden road, and I finished the day as the light was getting low on Hackney Marshes, one of the areas in which locally important sporting facilities will be lost at least for a few years, perhaps for good.

Original text on the February 2007 page (you will need to scroll down.)

Banner Chemicals

My article back then ended with the paragraph above, but my ride didn’t – I had to get back home. It had previously taken me to a number of places just outside the condemned area, including some that were to be demolished for Crossrail, and it didn’t actually end on the Hackney Marshes, as the pictures on My London Diary demonstrate.

Kings Yard

I decided to ride back to Stratford to get the train home, and that ride took me back past Clays Lane, where the estate was to be demolished for the athletes’ village and I stopped several more times on my way to take more pictures in the gloom. Even when I arrived at Stratford around sunset there was still enough light for a few final images.

Clays Lane

You can see many more pictures from the entire ride on My London Diary

Extinction Rebellion Hackney Street Party 2019

Thursday, February 9th, 2023

Extinction Rebellion Hackney Street Party
Kingsland High St, Dalston, London. Sat 9 Feb 2019

Extinction Rebellion, XR, was founded in May 2018 by a small group who met in Stroud, including Gail Bradbook, Simon Bramwell and Roger Hallam along with others from the direct action network Rising Up. I’d photographed some of these people before at protests against Heathrow expansion and over air pollution on the streets of London.

Extinction Rebellion Hackney Street Party

Roger Hallam in particular had played a leading role in the ‘Stop Killing Londoners’ protests which perhaps had some influence on getting Sadiq Khan to take some action on this with the setting up of low emission zones, whose planned extension to the whole of Greater London is now exciting considerable controversy. I’d also photographed him at his campaign to get King’s College to divest from fossil fuel companies and supporting the campaign for better pay and conditions for low paid workers at the LSE

Police arrest Roger Hallam at the LSE
Police arrest Roger Hallam for decorating the LSE, April 2017

Since helping to form XR, Hallam has gone on to take part in other high profile protests and spent time in prison over breaching bail conditions by holding a toy drone without batteries close to the airport. The whole plan to fly drones in the Heathrow exclusion area had been a publicity stunt, never a serious attempt to disrupt or endanger flights, but gained a huge amount of media publicity, which perhaps helped to increase public awareness of the contribution to climate change and pollution of air transport.

Extinction Rebellion Hackney Street Party

XR continues to attract wide support for its non-violent protests highlighting both the devastating effects of global heating and the continuing failure of governments including our own to take action on the scale needed to combat it. It’s large public protests began with a mass reading of its ‘Declaration of Rebellion‘ in Parliament Square in October 2018 with Greta Thunberg as one of the speakers and continued with mass protests in London and elsewhere, becoming a global movement.

Its announcement at the start of 2023 that it was taking a rest caused some consternation among its supporters, but XR soon made clear that this was for a ‘100 days’ campaign to prepare for ‘The Big One’ on 21 April 2023, when they intend that 100,000 people will gather outside the Houses of Parliament “To demand a fair society and a citizen-led end to the fossil fuel era.”

The street party in Hackney on Saturday 9th February 2019 was rather smaller, with perhaps a thousand taking part. Unlike in some later protests the police decided to facilitate the event rather than try to block or disperse it, closing the road and setting up diversions for traffic as people blocked the usually busy A10 for two hours with speeches, music and spoken word performances, t-shirt printing, face painting and free food, with dancing to a samba band.

At the end of the two hour party after a brief march up and down a short section of the road, the protesters moved off the street to continue their protest party in Gillett Square, and shortly after this I went home.

Police after all do facilitate other large events which block our streets, in particular sporting events such as the London Marathon, some cycling events, the Chinese New Year, Notting Hill Carnival and more. But later XR protests have been more widespread and longer lasting and clearly the police’s political masters have put considerable pressure on the police to take a more draconian approach – and at times to go beyond the law to do so.

The response of the government has been to produce new laws. The Public Order Bill currently going through parliament gives much more extreme powers to police and courts, including Serious Disruption Prevention Orders which will restrict the movement of people, who they can meet and even their use of the internet, an expansion of stop and search powers, enabling them to search without any suspicion, various new protest-related offences, some vaguely defined allowing almost anything to be an offence and even police powers to shut down protests before they begin.

Free food at the party

The Public Order Bill re-introduces most of the amendments that were rejected by the House of Lords in January 2022 and so did not form part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022.

The march ended in Gillett Square, freeing the road for traffic

Many more pictures at Extinction Rebellion Hackney Street Party on My London Diary.

Asylum Protest and Bow Walk – 2008

Sunday, January 8th, 2023

I went up to London on Tuesday 8 January, 2008 for two reasons. To photograph the monthly protest outside one of our asylum reporting centres and to collect three pictures that had been in a group exhibition. I took advantage of this to have a walk around Bow starting at Limehouse DLR station and after collecting the four pictures continuing to Canary Wharf to catch the Jubilee Line back to Waterloo.

Defend Asylum Seekers: Monthly London Protest – Communications House, Old Street

Asylum Protest and Bow Walk - 2008

Communications House on the south-west corner of the Old Street roundabout a few yards from Old Street station has now been demolished and replaced by newer offices, and asylum seekers now have to report at either Lunar House in Croydon or Eaton House out to the west on Hounslow Heath.

Asylum Protest and Bow Walk - 2008

So asylum seekers no longer have to enter the dingy entrance down a side street, Mallow St but many have longer and less convenient journeys to make their regular visits. They still know when they enter that these may be their last steps as free persons on British soil, and they may emerge in the back of a van on their way to a detention centre to wait for a flight back to possible imprisonment and torture in their country of origin.

Asylum Protest and Bow Walk - 2008

Few of those who walked past the protest knew what went on in the rather anonymous building on their lunch break knew what went on inside, and those who bothered to listen or take leaflets from the protesters, were surprised when they were told, with many stopping to add their names to the petition. The monthly protests here were organised by London Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (FRFI) but others including some asylum seekers came to speak.

Asylum Protest and Bow Walk - 2008

I commented back then: “It is hard to take the claims that this is a Christian country seriously when you look at the way we treat those who are seeking asylum here, or indeed other migrants who are here. With the recent news frenzies about Tony Blair becoming a Catholic my thoughts were that he should be spending some awfully long and difficult sessions in the confessional, and his policies towards the asylum seekers would be one of many difficult items. And surely that father in the manse that Mr Brown likes to parade should be screaming “Gordon, Read your effing Bible!”

Neither the Church of England nor the Roman Catholic authorities have taken the kind of firm and clear public stand they should to oppose the UK’s increasingly racist policies over immigration. There have been statements by the leaders of the churches and others but these are soon lost in the media. But there has been a lack of the concerted action and a failure to arouse popular opinion to bring about an end to the ‘more racist than thou‘ race between the parties to appeal to the right – and our right-wing billionaire press. Fewer people than in past years populate the pews, but if mobilised they could still be an important body, forcing governments to provide safe routes and fair treatment rather than trying to simply send back people to where they had fled persecution and fly asylum seekers to Rwanda.

Defend Asylum Seekers

Bow and Roof Unit

Rood Unit is a working space for photographers and was then based in a former furniture (or soap or perhaps both) factory in Bow, later moving to a floor above the Four Corners photography gallery in Roman Road. I had been invited to take part in a show they were presenting, Roof Unit Foundations, at [space] in Hackney and had shown four colour pictures from around River Lea in the 1980s.

This was one of them – and the others as well as a review of the show are in a post on this blog at the time, ROOF UNIT at [ space ]. And you can see these and many other of my pictures of the Lea Valley and the Lea Navigation in my River Lea web site, as well as in my book ‘Before the Olympics‘.

I took the DLR to Limehouse and made my way rather indirectly to their studio in Pixley Street on the corner with Copenhagen Place. The old factory is still there, though Roof Unit have moved out. I spent a short time talking with some of the photographers and was taken up onto their roof terrace where I took some more pictures, all using my Nikon D200.

I couldn’t resist adding the factory chimney to those at Canary Wharf as another tower, and the long arm of a crane made a little of a border across most of the top of the image. But I took quite a few more pictures – a few of which are in the post on My London Diary.

Fortunately my exhibition prints were quite small, 30x20cm, and unframed on dibond aluminium, so it wasn’t hard to carry them, though I didn’t stop to take many more pictures before the short bus ride to Canary Wharf. By now the light was beginning to fade, but I took a short walk around – and a few more pictures – before getting the underground back to Waterloo.

Bow and Roof Unit

Clean Air and Fair Pay – 2019

Tuesday, July 12th, 2022

Clean Air and Fair Pay – 2019. Two protests on Friday 12th July 2019 over different issues in different parts of London meant I had to leave the first before the rally at the end of the march.

XR East London marches for clean air – Bethnal Green

Clean Air and Fair Pay - 2019

The march from Paradise Gardens at the centre of Bethnal Green to Hackney Town Hall was the initial event in a weekend of play, protest and education which Extinction Rebellion East London had organised under the title ‘East London Uprising’.

Clean Air and Fair Pay - 2019

Paradise Gardens was an obvious and appropriate if ironic meeting point for this march calling for the urgent action on the environment we need if the planet is to remain habitable. Although this has been protected commonland since 1678, this public green space is a thin and rather neglected strip between the busy Cambridge Heath Road and Paradise Row, a narrower street lined mainly by Grade II listed houses. It used to be simply a part of Bethnal Green Gardens which are on the east side of the main road but got its current name from Paradise Row – and the northern part of the gardens across the traffic-clogged road became Museum Gardens.

Clean Air and Fair Pay - 2019

Until shortly before this protest this small area of park had been closed as it was being used by contractors for nearby construction work, with the proviso that they restore it after their work was finished. This appeared to largely have been done, and had not affected the main attraction of the area, the dozen or so large trees along both edges.

When I arrived, people were still getting ready for the march, though most were simply standing around and waiting, some were getting their faces painted while the marching band were practising playing together, and the march stewards were getting their instructions. But finally people lined up behind the main banner with its message ‘THE AIR THAT WE GRIEVE’ and moved onto the fume-laden Cambridge Heath Road.

Air pollution is a huge problem in London, with many areas well above the EU’s legal limits for various pollutants much or all of the time. Traffic is a major source both of gases such as nitrogen oxides and also particulates, and moving towards electric vehicles, though an improvement will not solve the problem as much of the most dangerous particulates come from tyres and brakes. We need to cut traffic, by reducing the need for movement, shifting hugely to public transport and moving to using bicycles, electric bicycles and scooters particularly for shorter journeys.

Air pollution is said to be responsible for almost 10,000 premature deaths in London each year, and a much larger number suffer from serious lung and other conditions from it, greatly reducing their quality of life and creating a heavy burden and costs for our healthcare system. But encouraging people to adopt healthier means of transport needs much more spending on making these safer and more convenient.

The march up one of the area’s busier roads was largely uneventful, though it will have delayed many on their journeys through the area, but it will also have made many people in the area more aware of the problems. Those who drive in London are used to delays, with an overcrowded system in which any minor problem can cause lengthy delays – and as a bus passenger it isn’t unusual I often find myself getting off and walking when I’m in a hurry.

I left the march shortly after it moved across the border from Tower Hamlets into Hackney and was going up Mare Street towards the Town Hall. I was sorry to have to miss the childrens’ assembly which was to take place there at the end of the march, but wanted to be sure to be in time for the protest at Senate House in the centre of London.

More pictures: XR East London marches for clean air

IWGB welcome new Vice Chancellor – Senate House, University of London

Most of the workers carrying out essential but low paid jobs at the University of London are not employed by the university but by contractors who provide their services to the university. This outsourcing results in the workers being poorly paid, often bullied and employed with only the minimum legal conditions of employment.

For years they have been protesting to be employed directly by the university and so get the same pay and working conditions as other staff in similar jobs that are on the payroll. In particular they want the same sick pay, holiday pay and pensions, and of course the London Living Wage.

Their campaigns have met with some progress – and three years on many have been brought in house, but the university dragged its feet for many years, spending large amounts on extra outsourced security staff and refusing to talk with the unions representing the low paid workers. Although trade union legislation means that as employers have to recognise unions, neither the contractors who employed these workers nor the university in whose premises they worked were willing to recognise or negotiate with their unions.

Progress has only been made by direct actions such as this by the grass-roots trade union IWGB, and by strikes by the workers. They had tried to meet with the new Vice-Chancellor Wendy Thomson but their request had simply been ignored.

After a rally at the main gates and a protest outside Student Central (the former University of London Union, closed down by the University because it supported the workers) the protesters returned to Senate House. A small group pushed down some flimsy barriers with the extra security unable to stop them and the rest surged in after them to dance noisily in protest in the yard in front of the locked entrance to Senate House.

More at IWGB welcome new Vice Chancellor