Posts Tagged ‘Islington’

Holloway, Nabja, Vegans, Refugees & Topshop – 2016

Tuesday, May 14th, 2024

Holloway, Nabja, Vegans, Refugees & Topshop – I celebrated 14th May 2016 with a busy day of protests around London.

Reclaim Holloway

Holloway, Nabja, Vegans, Refugees & Topshop
Jeremy Corbyn

Islington Hands Off Our Public Services, Islington Kill the Housing Bill and the Reclaim Justice Network marched from rally on Holloway Road demanding that when Holloway prison is closed the site remains in public hands, and that the government replace the prison with council housing and the vital community services needed to prevent people being caught up in a damaging criminal justice system.

Holloway, Nabja, Vegans, Refugees & Topshop

The prison is in Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency and the then Labour leader turned up on his bike to speak before the march to give his support.

Holloway, Nabja, Vegans, Refugees & Topshop

There was a long rally outside the prison with speeches by local councillors, trade unionists and campaigning groups.

Holloway, Nabja, Vegans, Refugees & Topshop

Islington Council wanted to see the site used for social housing and in 2022 gave planning permission for a development by Peabody, who bought the site in 2019 with help from the GLA, and London Square for 985 new homes. 60% of these will be affordable, including 415 for social rent, together with a 1.4-acre public park, a Women’s Building, and new commercial spaces.

Reclaim Holloway

68th Anniversary Nabka Day – Oxford St

Holloway, Nabja, Vegans, Refugees & Topshop

A rolling protest outside shops which support the Israeli state made its way along Oxford St from Marks and Spencers, with speakers detailing the continuing oppression of the Palestinian people, and opposing attempts to criminalise and censor the anti-Zionist boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

It came on the day before Nabka Day, the anniversary of the ‘day of the catastrophe’ which commemorates when around 80% of Palestinians were forced to leave their homes between December 1947 and January 1949, and later prevented by Israeli law from returning to their homes, or claiming their property.

The protesters included both Palestinians and Jews opposed to the continuing oppression of the Palestinians by the Israeli government. They were met by a small group of people holding Israeli flags who stood in their way and shouted insults, accusing them of anti-Semitism.

The organisers were clear that the protest was not anti-Semitic but against Zionism and some actions of the Israeli government. Both police and protesters tried hard to avoid confrontation with those who had clearly come to disrupt and provoke.

Many UK businesses play an important part in supporting the Israeli government by selling Israeli goods and those produced in the occupied territories and in other ways, and their were brief speeches as the protest halted outside some of them detailing some of these links.

More on My London Diary at 68th Anniversary Nabka Day.

This Saturday, 18th May 2024, you can join the march in London, starting at the BBC on the 76th anniversary of the Nabka calling for an end to the current genocide in Gaza.

Vegan Earthlings Masked Video Protest – Trafalgar Square

Vegans in white masks from London Vegan Actions were standing in a large circle on the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square, some holding laptops or tables showing a film about the mistreatment of animals in food production, bullfighting, etc. Although bright sun made the laptop screens almost impossible to see and the sound outdoors was largely inaudible the large circle of people standing in white masks did attract attention.

More pictures Vegan Earthlings masked video protest.

Refugees Welcome say protesters – Trafalgar Square

Also protesting in front of the National Gallery were a small group holding posters calling for human rights, fair treatment and support for refugees. Some held a banner with the message ‘free movement for People Not Weapons‘.

More pictures Refugees Welcome say protesters.

Topshop protest after cleaners sacked – Oxford St

After Topshop suspended two cleaners who were members of the United Voices of the World trade union for protesting for a living wage and sacked one of them protests were taking place outside their stores around the country.

The UVW were supported by others at the London protest which began outside Topshop on Oxford Street by others including trade unionists from the CAIWU and Ian Hodson, General Secretary of the BWAFU as well as then Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Class War.

A large crowd of police and extra illegal security guards wearing no ID blocked the entrance to the shop stopping both protesters and customers from entering. The several hundred protesters held up placards and banners and protested noisily but made no serious attempt to go in to the store.

A man wears a mask of Topshop owner Phillip Green

Some protesters, led by the Class War ‘Womens Death Brigade’ moved onto the road, blocking it for some minutes before the whole group of protesters marched to block the Oxford Circus junction for some minutes until a large group of police arrived and fairly gently persuade them to move.

They stopped outside John Lewis, another major store in a long-running dispute with the union as it allowed its cleaning contractor to pay its cleaners low wages, with poor conditions of service and poor management, disclaiming any responsibility for workers who keep its stores running.

The protest there was again noisy and there were some heated verbal exchanges between protesters and police, but I saw no arrests. After a few minutes the protesters marched off to continue their protest outside another Oxford Street Topshop branch close to Marble Arch.

More at Topshop protest after cleaners sacked.

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Housing For Need Not Greed

Thursday, July 13th, 2023

Housing For Need Not Greed: Mostly my posts here look at old work, either from a few years ago or my work on London back in the 1980s and 90s. But I’m still goining out at taking pctures if not quite as often as I once did. So this post is about one of the two events I photographed last weekend.

Housing For Need Not Greed - Aysen Dennis - Fight4Aylesbur
Aysen Dennis – Fight4Aylesbury

Last Saturday, 8th July 2023 was National Housing Action Day, and a march from the Elephant to the Aylesbury Estate was one of 16 across the country on National Housing Day. Others were taking place in Lambeth, Islington, Kensington, Cardiff, Glasgow, Abbey Wood, Wandsworth, Harlow, Merton, Ealing, Cornwall, Folkestone, Devon, Birmingham, and Hastings.

Housing For Need Not Greed -Tanya Murat - Southwark Defend Council Housing
Tanya Murat – Southwark Defend Council Housing

The Southwark protest demanded Southwark Council stop demolishing council homes and refurbish and repopulate estates to house people and end the huge carbon footprint of demolish and rebuild. They demanded housing for need not corporate greed, refurbishment not demolition, filling of empty homes and an end to the leasehold system.

Housing For Need Not Greed
Marchers at the Elephant on their way to the Aylesbury Estate

Demolition and rebuilding of housing produces huge amounts of CO2, and whenever possible should be avoided now we are aware of the real dangers of global warming. Instead existing buildings should be insulated, retrofitted and refurbished and properly maintained.

Housing For Need Not Greed

Southwark Council’s estates have for well over 20 years been deliberately run down and demonised with some being demolished and replaced. Around 1000 council homes on the Aylesbury Estate have already been demolished buy around 1,700 are still occupied but currently scheduled for demolition.

Marchers on Walworth Road on their way to the Aylesbury Estate.

These homes were well built for the time to higher standards than their replacement and could easily and relatively cheaply be brought up to modern levels of services and insulation with at least another 50 years of life. The estate was carefully designed with open spaces, natural daylight and a range of properties, many with some private outdoor space. The planned replacements are at higher density, less spacious and unlikely to last as long – and only include a small proportion at social rents. Current tenants are more secure and the properties are far more affordable.

People on the street watch and video the march

Many of those whose homes have already been demolished here and on the neighbouring Heygate estate have been forced to move outside the area, some far from London as they can no longer afford to live here.

Bubbles and Marchers on Walworth Road on their way to the Aylesbury Estate.

Although the developers have profited greatly from their work with Southwark Council here and in other estates, and some officers and councillors involved have personally landed well-paying corporate jobs and enjoyed lavish corporate hospitality, the schemes have largely been financial disasters for the council and council tax payers.

Fight4Aylesbury was formed in 199 as Aylesbury Tenants and Residents First, and has been fighting Southwark Council’s plans to demolish the estate since then. While these schemes – part of New Labour’s regeneration initiative – have always been destructive of local communities and disastrous for many of those whose homes have been demolished, we now see that they are also environmentally unsupportable.

You can watch a video on YouTube of Aysen Dennis, Fight4Aylesbury and Tanya Murat, Southwark Defend Council Housing talking about the protest, and FIght4Aylesbury recently released a newsletter, The Future of the Aylesbury with more details on the estate and their proposals. A few more of my pictures from the event are in the album Housing For Need Not Greed – National Action Day, London, UK and are available for editorial use on Alamy.

Hate Crime & Brexit

Sunday, July 2nd, 2023

Hate Crime & Brexit: I tend to think of Brexit as a hate crime, inflicted on the British nation by millionaires out to make a quick buck (or rather a few million) like Mogg, but this title refers to two quite different protests on Saturday 2nd July 2016, both Brexit related.

Love Islington – NO to Hate Crime – Highbury Fields

Hate Crime & Brexit

This protest in Islington was called by Islington Labour Party in reaction to the increase in hate crime against racial, faith and other minorities following the Brexit vote.

Hate Crime & Brexit

Speakers at the event included local MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornberry, London Assembly members Jennette Arnold and Caroline Russell, faith leaders, including a gay Catholic priest, a leader of the Somali community, Richard Reiser of DPAC, the leader of Islington council and councillors.

Hate Crime & Brexit

They came to declare that Islington was proud to be a diverse, tolerant and cohesive community with good relations between all who live there, regardless of race, faith, sexual orientation, disability and transgender identity, and to urge everyone to stand up against hate crimes and report any incidents to the police.

Hate Crime & Brexit

For once one of my pictures was picked up by some of the national press, not to talk about the event or the problem of hate crimes and the role of the Brexit referendum in encouraging some very nasty characters out from under their stones, but to make snooty remarks about the jacket which Jeremy Corbyn was wearing. The obviously saw it as another Michael Foot donkey jacket moment.

Foot of course did not wear a donkey jacket at the Cenotaph in November 1981. He wore a short, blue-green Jaeger overcoat bought by his wife at Harrods so he would look smart, and on which the Queen Mother complimented him on. But the press was out to get him and the lie, invented by a right-wing Labour MP, stuck.

I had taken the pictures of Corbyn while wearing a jacket very similar to his, appropriate for the weather that rather cool July morning. Mine certainly didn’t come from a charity shop, and I’ve no idea whether his did but if so he was fortunate to find it and made a very sensible decision to purchase it.

Pictures of the other speakers and more at Love Islington – NO to Hate Crime.

March & Rally For Europe against Brexit

More than 50,000 people marched through London to a rally in Parliament Square to show their love for the EU and in protest against the lies and deception from both sides of the EU referendum campaign.

Many feel that the result did not truly reflect the will of the people and that the majority was too small to be a mandate for such a drastic change.

David Cameron had been so convinced that the result would be to remain in Europe that he had failed to act rationally. It was a decision that has dramatically changed our nation and one that in any sensible system should have required a truly decisive majority, rather than just creeping past halfway at 51.8%.

I was raised in a church where all decisions were made by consensus, with discussions continuing until all were willing to agree, often requiring considerable concessions on all sides. It was sometimes a rather slow process.

Since I’ve belonged to other organisations where constitutional changes required a two-thirds majority. Perhaps this is a little too high, but the Brexit vote was hardly a mandate with only 37.4% of those registered to vote backing it.

We’ve now begun to see what Brexit means in practice, with many of the problems dismissed as false by Brexit campaigners becoming evident, while few if any of the advantages they trumpeted have appeared. Last month an opinion poll showed that 55% now think Brexit a mistake while only 32% think it was a good decision, and their number continues to fall. But there doesn’t seem any easy way out of this mess, though perhaps a new government that understands how to negotiate would one day help ease some of the worst effects.

The march was a huge one. I had arrived at Hyde Park Corner just as it was starting and it was over 90 minutes later that I left the end of the march as its end was getting close to Green Park station less than half a mile away. I took the Jubilee Line the single stop from there to Westminster and only arrived in time for the last few minutes of the rally which had begun and only heard the two final speakers, David Lammy MP and Bob Geldorf speaking to a packed Parliament Square. Marchers were still arriving there after the rally had finished but I went home.

Mand more pictures on My London Diary:
March For Europe against Brexit
Rally For Europe against Brexit

Albion Yard and Balfe Street, 1989

Sunday, April 9th, 2023

Albion Yard and Balfe Street: My walk around King’s Cross on Saturday 8th April 1989 continues. The previous post was Along the Cally & York Way. I was taking part in a walk led by the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society, GLIAS.

York Way area Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4e-34
Albion Yard, York Way, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4e-34

I cannot now remember if we took an alley from York Way to enter Albion Yard or if we turned east along Railway Street, from where there was another entrance. But I think this building was on our route into Albion Yard, and is now still present either in Albion Yard or the connected Ironworks Yard.

Neither of these yards is named on the old larre-scale OS maps, and only Albion Yard appears on my old street atlas. A few yards away from the Balfe Street entrance on the corner with Caledonian Road The Albion pub opened in 1845 when Balfe Street was called Albion St but the yard was simply labelled on the 1877 map as ‘Blue Manufactury.’ The Albion building is still there though by the time of this walk known as Malt & Hops. For some years it was the Ruby Lounge wine bar, then a Be At One cocktail bar and is now home to the Institute of Physics.

Albion Yard, Balfe St, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4e-35
Albion Yard, Balfe St, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4e-35

The name ‘Albion’ is the oldest known name for the mainland of Britain, in use at least since it was recorded by Greek geographers around 6,000 years ago to distinguished it from Ireland. They are thought to have got the name from the Celts and it was Romanised as Albion.

Some believe it came from a word meaning white and relate it to the ‘White Cliffs of Dover’ but it seems more likely to have a different origin simply meaning ‘land’ or ‘world’, and possibly the same root that also led to Alps and Albania.

Albion Yard, Balfe St, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4e-36
Albion Yard, Balfe St, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4e-36

Albion largely survives in modern English simply in the name ‘Alba’ used by Scottish separatists and in Celtic languages for Scotland.

But Albion is the England of myths, with the fantasies of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s 12th-century Historia Regum Britanniae being repeated as fact in histories in the five centuries that followed. But most important for its continued popularity was the work of visionary poet and printmaker William Blake and his ‘Jerusalem‘, subtitled ‘The Emanation of the Giant Albion‘ published in just as six copies before his death in 1827. Later many have come to regard him as the greatest artist Britain has ever produced.

Albion Yard, Balfe St, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4e-21
Albion Yard, Balfe St, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4e-21

Albion Yard had entrances from York Way, Caledonia St, Balfe St and Railway St and was the interior of this block of four streets. The entrances and a few of the buildings that were present in 1989 still exist though in rather different state, but the character of the area, now labelled ‘Regent Quarter’ is very different.

Albion Yard, Balfe St, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4e-22
Albion Yard, Balfe St, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4e-22

An property group’s site provides the following description:

“Regents Quarter is a development of almost six acres of land next to Kings Cross Station that and has been transformed into a living working community. Victorian workshops have been converted into loft style apartments, sitting comfortably alongside ultra modern business and residential spaces…

This sought after gated development boasts a lovely entrance hall further benefitting from a 24 hour concierge/security service.”

Albion Yard, Balfe St, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4e-24
Albion Yard, Balfe St, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4e-24

Some of the properties were still in use as small workshops but others are clearly derelict. I was intrigued by the heads of mannequins visible in the first floor with a door on which the name MODRENO had been hand-painted. This photograph had a sign painted on the wall ‘NO PARKING MODRENO LOADING BAY – SIGNED LECKY’S DUMMY MODELS’. You can find out much more on Modreno at Foxxhunting – Modreno.

Albion Yard, Balfe St, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4e-12
Leaving Albion Yard to Balfe St, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4e-12

You can view a very detailed presentation of the proposed redevelopment of the whole area, which includes a plans and a number of photographs of the current Albion Yard, part of what will be called Jahn Court. You can recognise this and other buildings in my pictures in the photographs there.

Entrance to Albion Yard, Balfe St, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4e-14
Entrance to Albion Yard, Balfe St, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4e-14

The mid 19th century house at left and the adjoining arch with its inscription ‘WORKS & MILLS’ and the date 1846 is Grade II listed. Balfe St was formerly Albion St, and was renamed after the composer of the opera The Bohemian Girl, William Balfe in 1938.

My King’s Cross walk with GLIAS will continue in a later post

The first post on this walk was Kings Cross, St George’s Gardens & More.

Along the Cally & York Way

Saturday, April 8th, 2023

My walk around King’s Cross on Saturday 8th April 1989 continues. The previous post was King’s Cross Road – 1989

Alley, 7 Caledonian Rd, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4d-13
Alley, 7 Caledonian Rd, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4d-13

Although I had begun this walk on my own, at some point I had joined up with others for a walk around the area organised by GLIAS, the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society, of which I had long been a member, and some of the others taking part in the walk can be seen in this and some later pictures.

This alley is now an entrance to the Regent Quarter, an estate which “is currently arranged in two blocks and comprises approximately 260,730 sq ft of mixed-use real estate, across 12 office buildings and 20 retail and leisure units” which was purchased by Hong Kong based Endurance Land in 2018 who aim to revitalise the 3.5 acre site.

The name Regent Quarter applies to a larger area, mainly within Islington but also including the ‘Lighthouse’ block in Camden which largely grew up around the railway. Back in 1989 around a third of the buildings in the area were vacant, some derelict and the rest largely in poor condition, partly because of the blighting effect of uncertainly over future major developments in the area, much of which was then expected to be demolished for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and in which I became interested through the Kings Cross Railway Lands Group in the late 1980s.

Old Forge, Business Centre, Caledonian Rd, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4d-15
Old Forge, Business Centre, Caledonian Rd, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4d-15

This is now a part of the Regent Quarter and I think these particular buildings in the block west of the Caledonian Road reached from the alley above through the opening at the centre of this picture are still present around this internal courtyard. But I can find no mention now of the Old Forge Business Centre name still in the area.

Old Forge, Business Centre, Caledonian Rd, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4e-61
Old Forge, Business Centre, Caledonian Rd, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4e-61

Another picture of the internal courtyard of what was the the Old Forge Business Centre.

Caledonian Rd, Keystone Crescent, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4e-65
Caledonian Rd, Keystone Crescent, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4e-65

We returned to the Caledonian Road and I took this photograph across the road of one end of Keystone Crescent, but our walk conitnued north up the Caledonian Road, though I did photograph Keystone Crescent on other walks in the area.

Lanitis Fabrics, Caledonia St, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4e-66
Lanitis Fabrics, Caledonia St, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4e-66

The group turned west down Caledonia Street stopping to admire the 1906 built frontage of the former Kings Cross Laundry, with the large intertwined KCL insignia. More recent signs included those for Lanitis Fabrics Ltd, and Stella Models, with signs calling for Machinists, Overlockers, Pressers, Finishers and Cutters, though I think the business had closed and the building was vacant. The building is still there, much cleaned up.

York Way, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4e-51
York Way, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4e-51

Caledonia Street took us to York Way. I’m not sure but I think this may be one of the few listed buildings in the area at 34B, where the Grade II listing text mentions “The highly unusual roof structure is a notable survival.”

If so, the frontage on York Way is rather more impressive than this side of the building, with a nicely symmetrical frontage around an arched carriage entrance, a warehouse for the adjoining black lead works designed by Thomas Marsh Nelson and William Harvey in 1873.

I think this building was where I showed work and gave a presentation as a part of the The London International Documentary Festival in 2010, I think the first time the festival had included still photography.

Taxi depot, York Way, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4e-53
Taxi depot, York Way, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4e-53

I think the sign at the upper centre of the image once read COACHWORK DEPT with the later addition of MOTOCOL LTD. The sloping ramp to these first floor works was built for horses and this could possibly have been a converted stables.

Now it was a busy depot for London ‘black cab’ taxis, with the driver of one at right using an air line on a tyre and small group talking by a diesel pump.

Grange Motors, York Way, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4e-55
Grange Motors, York Way, Pentonville, Islington, 1989 89-4e-55

A second picture shows others on the walk going to look more closely at Crash Repair Specialists Grange Motors, while more taxi drivers are now by the pumps. The alley along the side of Grange Motors led to an enclosed yard surrounded by derelict buildings, but I’ve not digitised the couple of pictures I made there. It was a dead end and we had to come back out onto York Way.

To be continued…

The first post on this walk was Kings Cross, St George’s Gardens & More

King’s Cross Road – 1989

Monday, April 3rd, 2023

My walk around King’s Cross on Saturday 8th April 1989 continues in this post. The previous part was Winged Lions, A School, Thameslink, Wine, Buses

Kings Cross Road, Lorenzo St, King's Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4d-32
Kings Cross Road, Lorenzo St, King’s Cross, Islington, 1989 89-4d-32

140-142 King’s Cross Road on the corner with Lorenzo Street had a distinct style to it, with the two oval windows and some interesting brickwork. British History Online states “This five-storey office block is largely of 1991 but incorporates the front and side elevations of a tenement building of 1888” and the view from where I made this picture is still much as it was before the rebuilding.

The two terracotta panels facing Lorenze Street are still there and together give the date of AD 1888. The BHO article suggests the architect was probably W. Youlle who was the architect for a similar building on Pentonville Road. The ground floor was occupied by shops – bricked up and fly-posted in my picture – with rooms and a toilet on each of the upper floors.

Almost legible in my picture is a line of text above what had been a shopfront on Lorenzo Street which appears to read ‘B R E E D O M E T E R S’ though some letters are unclear and part obscured by the no-entry sign. Perhaps someone will be able to clear up this mystery.

Leeke St, King's Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4d-33
Leeke St, King’s Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4d-33

The buildings at 5-11 Leeke St have become the offices for the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, established by Paul Hamlyn in 1987; after his death in 2001 this became one of the largest independent grant-making foundations in the UK. At left is a doorway with the date 1890 and an arm in armour holding the butt of a broken spear, the Irish Foster family crest for the Foster Parcel Express Co. The conservation area document describes it as “a microscope emblem”.

Kings Cross Road, King's Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4d-35
Kings Cross Road, King’s Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4d-35

These buildings are still there but their uses have changed and the café is now a property management company. The fine block at 150-158 was being refurbished in 1989 and is now home to an advertising agency.

Again British History Online is informative and suggests it was a speculative development. Built in 1902–3 with what it describes as a ” mildly ambitious” facade, it says that 154 and 156 had goods hoists and winches, though there is no sign of them in my picture.

Kings Cross Road, King's Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4d-36
Kings Cross Road, King’s Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4d-36

Again the BHO article linked above tells us that this was built as an office, workshops and stabling in 1899–1900 and was from many years occupied by J J Connelly who probably built it. The wide doorway at left was for horses with a ramp leading up to stables on the upper floor. It was apparently still being refurbished when I made this picture as offices for Community Service Volunteers. The structure is still there but looks rather different as the striped window shades have been removed and the frontage painted a uniform white.

The taller building at right was the Mary Curzon Hostel for Women, built in memory of his wife for Lord Curzon in 1912-3 to provide inexpensive hostel accomodation for working women. Again there is a fuller description in the BHO article. When it was taken over by the LCC in 1955 it was renamed the Susan Lawrence Hostel.

Dodds the Printers, Kings Cross Road, King's Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4d-24
Dodds the Printers, King’s Cross Road, King’s Cross, Camden, 1989 89-4d-24

Dodds the Printers had these shopfronts at 193-5 on King’s Cross Road for many years and their signage shown looked like something from a different age in 1989. From around 2013 the shopfronts have been put to other uses but the printers still appear to be in business at the rear of the premises down St Chad’s Place, the alley through the doorway in this picture. I’d taken a few photographs in this alley in 1986, which show the signs for Dodds on the back of their property.

Kings X Radio Cars, Kings Cross Road, Kin Pentonville Rd, King's Cross, Islington, Camden, 1989 89-4d-11
Kings X Radio Cars, Pentonville Rd, King’s Cross, Islington, 1989 89-4d-11

I turned left onto Pentonville Road, and took a picture of these shops on the north side of the road, all of which are now a Pizza Restaurant, though not the same Italian snack bar as in my picture.

There is still a clock high more or less in the same position though that blank wall has now got four windows. The rectangular clock permanently at three minutes past four which had I think once advertised a businness here has been replaced by a slightly bulky circular one which appears to change with the hours.

I walked a few yards west and tuned right up Caledonian Rd where the next post on this walk will begin. The first post on this walk was Kings Cross, St George’s Gardens & More.

Kings Cross, St George’s Gardens & More

Monday, March 27th, 2023

The day after my short trip to Canning Town the weather was again looking good and so on Saturday 8th April 1989 I was out again walking and taking pictures. This time my starting point was King’s Cross St Pancras Underground Station (not then International.)

Kings Cross, Lighthouse, Pentonville Rd, Gray's Inn Rd, Islington, Camden, 1989 89-4c-41
Kings Cross, Lighthouse, Pentonville Rd, Gray’s Inn Rd, Islington, Camden, 1989 89-4c-41

Immediately on coming out of the station I crossed the Euston Road and took a photograph looking across the busy junction between Pentonville Road and Grays Inn Road. Later this was to be transformed into the death trap for cyclists it now is, after the road engineers were told to ignore cyclists in planning the junction, and I’ve photographed a number of protests there. In the past ten years at least three cyclists have been killed and 15 seriously injured here.

Back in 1989 before the redesign it was almost certainly safer, as traffic here was usually moving rather more slowly – and in my picture I think is at a complete standstill.

The building at the centre of the image is the famous “lighthouse” whose presence has invited a litany of stories, almost all empty fabrication and speculation. But it seems that it was built between 1875 and 1885 to promote Netten’s Oyster Bar then doing a roaring fast food service at street level. Later the block became home to one of London’s best known jazz record stores, Mole Jazz, which opened at 374 Gray’s Inn Road in July 1978 – and I became one of its early customers, though I had given up buying records long before it closed in 2004.

The lighthouse seems in decent condition in my picture, but more recently deteriorated and became covered in graffiti. The building has recently been refurbished as the Lighthouse King’s Cross office space, with a top floor bar and roof terrace around the lighthouse itself.

Kings Cross Station, Euston Ed, Camden, 1989 89-4c-42
Kings Cross Station, Euston Ed, Camden, 1989 89-4c-42

I turned around and took another picture, looking back at Kings Cross Station across Euston Road. The view here remained much the same until around 2021 when the more recent buildings in front of the 1851-2 station building, designed by Lewis Cubitt, the younger brother of both Thomas Cubitt responsible for much of London’s nineteenth century housing and William Cubitt, another important developer, who gave his name to Cubitt Town on the Isle of Dogs and later served two consecutive terms as Lord Mayor of London.

The station building is Grade I listed, and the recent changes have I think greatly improved it.

St George's Gardens, Sidmouth St, Camden, 1989 89-4c-32
St George’s Gardens, Sidmouth St, Camden, 1989 89-4c-32

There are many parts of London which it is hard to assign a name to, and the one I was walking around on this Saturday was one of them. My street atlas calls it ‘St Pancras’, I think it is part of Camden’s King’s Cross Ward, and when I’ve often walked across it from Tavistock Square I’ve always thought of it as Bloomsbury. Wikipedia has a rather lengthy discussion which says in part “Bloomsbury no longer has official boundaries and is subject to varying informal definitions, based for convenience“.

St George’s Gardens began in 1713-4 as a joint burial ground for St George-the-Martyr, Holborn (in Queen’s Square, now known as St George’s Holborn) and St George’s Bloomsbury and still has a line of stones marking the division of the area between the two churches, both of which had run out of space for burial in their churchyards. It was one of the earliest London burial sites situated away from the churches it served.

St George's Gardens, Sidmouth St, Camden, 1989 89-4c-34
St George’s Gardens, Sidmouth St, Camden, 1989 89-4c-34

But people kept on dying, and where buried here, mainly in unmarked graves. By 1885 there was no more room, and it was closed for burials. As a consecrated burial ground it could not be built on and burial grounds such as this were fast becoming the only open spaces in central London. “Campaigners including Miranda Hill and the Kyrle Society and Octavia Hill fought to create ‘outdoor sitting rooms’ to ‘bring beauty home to the poor’. St George’s Gardens were opened in 1884.”

St George's Gardens, Sidmouth St, Camden, 1989 89-4c-33
St George’s Gardens, Sidmouth St, Camden, 1989 89-4c-33

I made ten pictures here, of which three are online. The Friends of St George’s Gardens say that by 1997 the gardens were very run down, though I don’t think this is apparent in my pictures which show neatly cut grass and generally well-tended areas. The Friends were formed in 1994 when they say there had been a “prolonged period of neglect” and the gardens have been restored since then, with a lottery grant in 2001 and other and continuing work by the Friends.

Houses, Frederick St, Camden, 1989 89-4c-12
Houses, Frederick St, Camden, 1989 89-4c-12

Frederick Street was one of those developed by Thomas Cubitt and Numbers 48-52 date from 1815-1821, a few years earlier than some of the other Grade II listed houses on the street. Before making this picture I’d also photographed (not online) on of his terraces in Ampton Street, parallel and a few yards to the south. Both run east from Greys Inn Road, where in later years I often visited the NUJ offices on the corner with Acton Street.

Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital Swinton St, Camden, 1989 89-4c-16
Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital Swinton St, Camden, 1989

Walking north up Greys Inn Road past the NUJ offices (now at ground floor Bread&Roses @ The Chapel Bar) the next corner a few yards on is Swinton Street, and a few yards down there is this five floor frontage of the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital towering above the fairly narrow street.

This hospital remained in use until March 2020, when it was closed a few months earlier than planned due to Covid-19. Until then it was still offering inpatients ear, nose and throat (ENT) and oral surgery, sleep diagnostics and allergy day case services.

The hospital had been set up in 1874 as the Central London Throat and Ear Hospital by two doctors who had previously worked at the first specialist throat hospital in the country, the Hospital for Diseases of the Throat in Golden Square.

The hospital’s original building was begun on the Grays Inn Road in 1875, and various other buildings and wards were later added, with the hospital eventually covering a large site between here and Wicklow St. This rather odd building on Swinton Street was the Nurses’ Home, built in the 1930s.

More about my walk in later posts.

No To Job Coaches in GP Surgeries – 2016

Saturday, March 4th, 2023

No To Job Coaches in GP Surgeries

On Friday 4th March 2016, campaigners from the Mental Health Resistance Network and DPAC protested outside City Road Surgery where Remploy/Maximus job coaches will “create jobs by prescription.” They say disabled people will be bullied into unsuitable work and lose benefits through sanctions if they refuse – and protest ‘No Job Coaches in GP Surgeries‘.

No To Job Coaches in GP Surgeries

Particularly since the Tories came into power in 2010, disabled people have been systematically attacked with cuts in benefits and unfair tests of fitness for work which have led to many suicides.

No To Job Coaches in GP Surgeries

What should be a supportive system of Job Centres encouraging and helping people find work has increasingly become a vindictive system reducing the benefits to many for often ridiculous, trivial and arbitrary reasons and attempting to force people into unsuitable jobs. Benefit sanctions can leave people without the necessary means to stay alive for months or even years at a time.

In January 2022, people on Universal Credit, either unemployed or on low paid jobs were told they had only four weeks before they had to look for jobs outside the sectors they had previously worked in, and if job centre staff feel they had not tried hard enough or had turned down jobs, however unsuitable, they would have their benefits cut.

And a few days ago, the government announced an incentive scheme awarding £250 monthly prizes to the staff whose Job Centre forces the most claimants into work and forcing claimants who have been on the benefit for thirteen weeks a to attend a job centre every weekday for a fortnight for “intensive support”.

The government clearly believe that the only incentive is cash, while most of us want jobs that we feel are worth doing and have some interest as well as pay enough to live on. Even Job Centre staff are poorly paid and their union dismissed the prize scheme, calling instead for their poverty pay to be increased. But these staff are generally not evil people, and being made by the government to bully people rather than help them must be painful for many of them as well as their clients.

The protest was a creative and colourful piece of street theatre, if sometimes chaotic, with a man dressed as a doctor wearing an Iain Duncan Smith mask and a name label ‘Dr Iain Duncan Smith, Dept of Eugenics‘ handing out prescription forms for a ‘Mr A Scrounger, 17 Lazy House, Sink Estate, Tory Britain‘.

The forms prescribed ‘Endless Job Coaching in Surgery, Major benefits reduction and PRN (‘pro re nata’ – as needed) Regular Sanctions‘ on the basis ‘Continue until complete cure or death‘ from ‘Dr A Lackey, DWP Surgery, c/o Nudge Unit, Tory Headquarters‘.

Then Maximus ‘Job Coaches’ pounced on the patients to issue G4S or Ingeus Deloitte Ltd ‘work cures’ and red ‘Sanctioned’ notices. Perhaps appropriately one of those job coaches was in costume as a squirrel and had a placard reading ‘Nuts to IDS – Squirrels Fight Back’.

There were also some serious speeches, including from a local GP, Roy Bard of MHRN, Paula Peters of DPAC, and Petros Elia, General Secretary of the United Voices of the World trade union who had come with a banner, drummers and plastic horns to add some noise to the protest.

At the end of the protest DPAC led a march down City Road, with police vainly trying to move them onto the pavement.

The march stopped at the busy Old Street roundabout where they held a noisy protest letting all around know why they were protesting for around 20 minutes blocking all traffic while police tried to move them away. Eventually after police began seriously to threaten arrests they decided it was time to end the protest and slowly moved off the street.

Much more on My London Diary at No Job Coaches in GP Surgeries. You can also see some pictures I took later that day at the launch of the re-born International Times at London is on Fire – IT is back.

Saving the Whittington

Monday, February 27th, 2023

Saving the Whittington

Saving the Whittington
A huge campaign in 2010 led to Andy Burnham, then Health Secretary stopping the Whittington hospital board’s plans to close its maternity and A&E Departments. A major event in this campaign was the march I photographed on Saturday 27 February 2010 from Highbury Corner to a rally at the hospital at Archway.

Later in 2013 when the board announced plans for more cuts another successful campaign stopped these, and in 2016 there was yet another campaign over redevelopment plans in concert with a private contractor.

Many people tell me that protest never works and that campaigners are simply wasting their time, but in 2022 the hospital announced a £100 million refurbishment of Whittington Hospital’s maternity and neonatal facilities, which still deliver over 3,600 babies a year, and the A&E department is still open for business 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

I counted almost 2000 people walking past me a short distance from the start on the two mile march to the hospital, and more arrived for the rally, swelling the numbers to around 3-5,000. Or as the BBC at the time called it, in their usual way of minimising protests, ‘hundreds’ of protesters. But at least, unlike most protests, they did report on it.

Among the marchers and speakers where almost every local politician, including David Lammy, MP for Tottenham and then Minister for Higher Education and Intellectual Property in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, who pledged his support for the hospital and all its services, revealing that he had been born there. Frank Dobson MP who was Secretary of State for Health from 1997 to 1999 also gave a powerful speech in support, as did Lynne Featherstone, Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood Green. MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornberry were also at the event, as well as Terry Stacy, the leader of Islington Council.

The proposals for the cuts and downgarding of A&E had come from a rationalisation programme initiated by Lord Darzi, a surgeon and national adviser in surgery to the Department of Health and a Labour Peer from 2007 until he resigned the whip in 2019. His report suggested moving much care from hospitals to GP-led polyclinics and to greater centralisation of trauma, stork and heart attack services to centralised specialist services.

Frank Dobson

Polyclinics remain rare, but although the greater specialisation of acute services made clinical (and financial) sense it failed to take into account the problems of London’s congested streets which would have led to long delays in treatment for many patients. Those inevitable delays would have meant deaths. And the selection of Whittington for closure neglected its good road and public transport connections which make it an ideal location for emergency cases as well as other patients and visitors.

Why Whittington was chosen as suitable for closure probably came down to two factors. One was certainly the age of the buildings, but perhaps more important was that the same factors of location and transport links made it an exceptionally valuable site for property developers. Had the cuts gone ahead in 2010, the rest of the hospital would probably by now also had been closed, with the site developed, including some of those old buildings converted into luxury flats.

Many more pictures from the march and rally at Save the Whittington on My London Diary.

Cuba, Guantanamo and Iran

Saturday, January 7th, 2023

On Saturday 7th January 2012 I photographed three events in London. Two were associated with Cuba, one celebrating the Cuban revolution and the second calling for the closure of US Guantanamo Bay torture camp there. The third was a protest in solidarity with the mothers of political prisoners and those murdered by the Islamic Republic of Iran since 1979. Now there will be many more of these human rights abuses as Iran clamps down on the current ‘Women, Life, Freedom’ protests there.

53 Years Of Cuban Revolution – Angel, Islington

Cuba, Guantanamo and Iran

Although Cuba celebrates 26 July 1953 as the ‘Día de la Revolución’ (Day of the Revolution), this was the start of the movement with an unsuccessful armed attack on the Cuban military’s Moncada Barracks which resulted in the leaders being captured and jailed. It was not until 31 December 1958 that the rebels finally ousted Batista and Fidel Castro came to power, leading the country as prime minister from 1959 to 1976 and president from 1976 to 2008.

53 years and one week later a street rally at the Angel Islington organised for Rock around the Blockade by Fight Racism Fight Imperialism celebrated the Cuban revolution’s building of a socialist country despite the blockade by its powerful neighbour USA, and demanded justice for the Cuban Five.

Cuba, Guantanamo and Iran

The Cuban 5 were arrested in 1998 in Miami for spying on groups of Cuban refugees who were planning illegal acts against Cuba. Their treatment in US courts has been criticised as unfair by the UN Commission on Human Rights and by Amnesty International, who also condemned their treatment in jail as “unnecessarily punitive.”

Among many internationally calling for their release were Eight Nobel prize winners from around the world including Nadine Gordimer, Desmond Tutu, Wole Soyinka and Gunter Grass. A panel of US judges had overturned their convictions in 2005, but this was overruled by the full court and the US Supreme Court declined to review their case. One of the Cuban 5 was released in 2011 having served 13 years in prison, but at the time of this rally four remained in jail. The others were later released in December 2014 in a prisoner swap for a US spy captured in Cuba.

Cuba, Guantanamo and Iran

The rally stressed the remarkable changes the revolution had made in Cuba which in 1958 was a poor and corruptly governed country, its natural resources exploited by foreign companies, its people largely living in poverty with low educational standards and life expectancy. Now it has probably the best health service in the world, low infant mortality and a life expectancy better than many parts of the UK. Free education is provided for all, and soon most will follow it to graduate level.

Cuba has also been generous in providing free medical training for students from many African and South American countries, and also has sent many doctors and nurses to work in them, making a major contribution to controlling AIDS in Africa. Although there some criticise it for a lack of freedom, it has shown that there is a real alternative to capitalism, and that has provided a healthy and dignified life for its people, improving their condition over more than 50 years. And it has done all this despite US blockade and sanctions and continuing US support for counter-revolutionary groups – including the failed Bay of Pigs military invasion in 1961.

Speakers also condemned the continuing US occupation of the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, there since 1903 when the US was given a permanent lease on 45 square miles of Cuba. The lease clearly limits US activities there to those to fit the needs of a coaling and naval station and prohibits the setting up of any commercial or other enterprise in the area. The setting up of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp would appear to be a breach of these terms. The Cuban government claim that the lease was “imposed on Cuba by force” and is “illegal under international law” and have refused to accept US payments for it since 1960.

53 Years Of Cuban Revolution

Shut Guantánamo – End 10 Years of Shame – Trafalgar Square

A rally marking the 10th anniversary of the setting up of the illegal US prison camp at in the US military base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba on 11 January 2002 called for its closure and in particular the release of the two remaining prisoners with UK links held there.

Although President Obama came into office pledging to close the camp down and end the discredited military trials there, he has failed to do so, authorising the continued regime of arbitrary detention without charge or trial. 171 prisoners were still detained there at the start of January 2012.

Louise Christian

Several hundred came to the protest and listed to speeches by Lib Dem Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP, solicitor Louise Christian, Lindsey German of Stop the War, Kate Hudson of CND, journalist Victoria Brittain and others, including student representatives, trade unionists and other activists.

A group of activists wore orange jumpsuits and black hoods as used at Guantanamo, and some were also in chains. They marched in line holding up the prison numbers of the 177 prisoners still in Guantanamo, and their numbers were called and their names read out. Among those taking part and wearing ‘V’ for Vendetta Guy Fawkes masks were ‘Anonymous’ protesters who had come from the Occupy London protest camp at St Paul’s Cathedral.

Ahmed Belbacha, an Algerian national who had a residence permit and lived in Bournemouth from 1999 to 2001 while claiming asyluk was cleared for release in 2007 and 2009. In 2009 he was sentenced in absentia in Algeria to 20 years for membership of a foreign terrorist group abroad – though no evidence was given at his trial. It appears that the US intervened on his behalf in Algeria and he was finally released and returned to his family in 2014.

Shaker Aamer was similarly cleared for release in 2007 and 2009, but was thought to still be detained as his revelations of torture over his ten years of imprisonment by the US authorities (and on one occasion in the presence of a British intelligence agent) would be embarrassing to the US and UK governments. I was pleased to be able to photograph him at a rally at the US Embassy in London in January 2016 after his release at the end of October 2015.

Shut Guantánamo: End 10 Years of Shame.

London Mourning Mothers of Iran – Trafalgar Square

Also in Trafalgar Square were The London Mourning Mothers of Iran who had been coming there every first Saturday of the month to show solidarity with the mothers of political prisoners and those murdered by the Islamic Republic of Iran since 1979.

The Mothers of Laleh Park (formerly known as the Mourning Mothers of Iran), women whose children or husbands were killed or imprisoned after the 2009 Iranian election, come regularly to Laleh Park in central Tehran and other locations on Saturdays and stand together to bring attention to these injustices.

Iranian security agents often come and attack the mothers. On January 9, 2010 over 30 of them were attacked and arrested and held in jail for several days, and leading members have received long prison sentences. The call for the release of political prisoners, the abolition of the death sentence and the trial of those who have ordered the killings of the last 30 years.

London Mourning Mothers of Iran.