Posts Tagged ‘London’

Circling The City Quiz 2019

Sunday, May 19th, 2024

Circling The City Quiz: I don’t often now go out camera in hand with no specific aim in mind but Sunday 19th May 2019 was a day without any photographic plan. I was keeping my wife company on a sponsored walk and making sure she didn’t use her powerfully inverse sense of direction to get lost.

Circling The City Quiz

Circling The City Quiz

The walk was organised by Christian Aid and came at the end of the annual Christian Aid week which always takes place in the second week of May (this years it was 12-18 May.) There are events organised by churches across the country as well as some door-to-door collections (the largest in the UK, though these are becoming increasingly difficult), as well as regional events like this walk. You can add your donation at this link.

Circling The City Quiz

Circling The City Quiz

Christian Aid was founded at the end of the war in 1945 to give aid to the millions of refugees and displaced people in Europe, but now works with grass roots groups of all faiths (and none) in 24 countries across the world. This year its appeal was focused on Burundi where over 70% of the people face hunger and poverty every single day.

Whatever one feels about the faith that motivates its work, I think it is one of the better large NGOs in various ways. As well as working with local grass roots partners in the countries where it gives support, its activities in fund-raising in the UK are also very important in educating many across the country in development issues and the problems faced by ordinary people across the world.

We were given a very clear map and guide to take us around a series of churches in the city – mainly of course rebuilt by Christopher Wren and his co-workers after the 1666 fire, most of which were open for the event and some were offering refreshments. So our progress was slow and a few were closed by the time we arrived, but I was able to take some photographs inside 8 or 9 of the the dozen on the route we followed, including a couple I don’t recall having been inside before.

Here I’ll mainly post some of the pictures I took on the streets as we made our way around the city, along with a few from the churches.

I’ve deliberately not captioned them so those who know London can have a little fun in trying to work out where they were made. If you can get more than ten out of the fourteen you know London pretty well, and anyone who gets all 14 deserves (and probably already has) a London Green Guide badge. Unfortunately I can’t award these and you will need to take a course to get one.

You can check most of your answers in the post on My London Diary at City Churches Christian Aid Walk.


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Nakba, NHS, Guantánamo, Sri Lanka – 2013

Saturday, May 18th, 2024

Nakba, NHS, Guantánamo, Sri Lanka: On Saturday 18th May 2013 I began work outside Parliament at a protest against Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, then went across the Thames to the Festival Hall for the start of a march to defend the NHS before going the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square for a ‘murder scene’ in solidarity with hunger strikers at Guantánamo. There I also photographed a woman protesting for the release of her husband arrested 9 years ago by US forces in Iraq. Finally I met a march by several thousands of Tamils calling for and end to the continuing genocide in Sri Lanka. You will find much more detail (and many more pictures) on each of these protests at links below to My London Diary.


End Israeli Ethnic Cleansing – Old Palace Yard, Westminster

Nakba, NHS, Guantánamo, Sri Lanka

65 years after 700,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes as refugees in the ‘Nakba’ (catastrophe) when Israel was created, Palestinians call for an end to the continuing ethnic cleansing and a boycott and sanctions until Israel complies with international law.

Nakba, NHS, Guantánamo, Sri Lanka

Several hundred people came to the protest, including a group of extreme orthodox Neturei Karta Jews who see themselves as guardians of the true Jewish faith, and reject Zionism, as well as many of Jewish or Palestinian origin. As well as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign the protest was also supported by many other groups – a long list on My London Diary – and speeches were continuing when I left for another event.

Nakba, NHS, Guantánamo, Sri Lanka

More about the Nakba and the protest at End Israeli Ethnic Cleansing.


London Marches to Defend NHS – South Bank to Whitehall

Nakba, NHS, Guantánamo, Sri Lanka

Thousands had gathered by the Festival Hall to march against cuts, closures and privatisation of the NHS, including many groups opposed to hospital closures around London, trade unionists and others concerned the the government is ending the NHS.

An unprecedented coalition of Londoners, including medical staff, trade unions, health campaigners, patients and others have been alarmed at what they see as an attack by the government on the principles that underlie our National Health Service and the threats of closure of Accident and Emergency facilities, maternity units and hospital wards which seem certain to lead to our health system being unable to cope with demand – and many lives put at risk.

You can read more about the crisis in the NHS in 2013 in the post on My London Diary, but of course this has continued and is still making the news. Despite their protestations it seems clear that the Tories are trying hard to run down the NHS so that the population lose its trust and love for our universal free public – and would allow them to eventually replace it with US-style insurance based healthcare which would greatly increase costs and generate huge profits for private health companies.

I went with the march across Waterloo Bridge and down Strand to Charing Cross, leaving it as it was waiting to enter Whitehall for a rally there.

More information and pictures at London Marches to Defend NHS.


Guantánamo Murder Scene – US Embassy, Grosvenor Square

London Guantánamo Campaign staged a ‘murder scene’ at the US Embassy on the 101st day of the Guantánamo Hunger Strike in which over 100 of the 166 still held there are taking part, with many including Shaker Aamer now being forcibly fed.

As I arrived there were 8 black-hooded ‘prisoners’ in orange suits lying on the pavement, the number of prisoners who have died there in suspicious circumstances who had previously taken part in sustained hunger strikes. At least seven of them had the cause of death reported as ‘suicide’.

Other protesters drew lines around the bodies on the ground and surrounded the area with ‘Crime Scene – Do Not Enter‘ incident tape. The bodies then stood up and there was a short enactment of forced feeding by a man wearing an Obama mask.

Others held placards and posters, some including quotations from Thomas Jefferson and other historic and prominent Americans, and there were speeches about the events in Guantanamo, where British resident Shaker Aamer was still held despite having been cleared for release. You can read more, including a statement by one of the organisers, on My London Diary.

As I left some of the poems written in Guantánamo by Shaker Aamer were being read.

More at Guantánamo Murder Scene.


More US Embassy Protests – US Embassy, Grosvenor Square

Also protesting outside the embassy as she has for a number of weekends was Narmeen Saleh Al Rubaye, born in the US and currently living in Birmingham, whose husband Shawki Ahmed Omar, an American citizen, was arrested in Iraq by American forces in 2004 and turned over to Iraqi custody in 2011. He was tortured by the Americans when held by them, and his now being tortured by the Iraqis. He is also on hunger strike. His young daughter Zeinab came and spoke briefly to the Guantanamo protesters, telling them that she wanted her daddy to be released.

Later she was joined by a small group of Muslim men and boys who stood with her.

It was a busy day for protests at at the US Embassy were a small group of supporters of Syrian President Assad, including some from the minor Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) who had come to protest against western intervention in Syria.

More about these protests at More US Embassy Protests.


Tamils protest Sri Lankan Genocide – Hyde Park to Waterloo Place

Finally I rushed away to join thousands of British Tamils and dignitaries and politicians from India, Sri Lanka and the UK who were marching through London on the 4th anniversary of the Mullivaikkal Massacre. Many were dressed in black in memory of the continuing genocide in Sri Lanka and some wore the tiger emblem and called for a Tamil homeland – Tamil Eelam.

Tamils are disgusted at the lack of response by the UK, the Commonwealth and the world to the organised genocide that took place and is still continuing in Sri Lanka, of which the massacre at Mullivaikkal four years ago was a climax. I noted on My London Diary that I could see no other non-Tamil photographers covering the event.

On My London Diary you can read a statement by the British Tamil Forum who had organised the march. I left as the rally in Waterloo Place was about to start, partly because I was tired but also because I thought few of the speeches would be in English.

Tamils protest Sri Lankan Genocide.


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Pratts Bottom Village Fete – 2008

Friday, May 17th, 2024

Pratts Bottom Village Fete – Saturday 17th May, 2008. I have to admit that until shortly before I went there I’d never heard of Pratt’s Bottom, one of those many amusing British place names. Locals seem now to prefer it without the apostrophe, (and Fete without its circumflex) although Wikipedia largely sticks to its use.

Pratts Bottom Village Fete

This ancient Kent village was once home to members of the Pratt family who owned large areas of Kent as well as bits of Wales, Sussex and London. Wikipedia tells me that Sir John Pratt was Lord Chief Justice of England from 1718 to 1725. One of his sons was raised to the peerage in 1765 and sensibly took the name of Baron Camden rather than Pratt (and later added Viscount Bayham and Earl Camden to his titles.)

Pratts Bottom Village Fete

The name change was fortunate for residents of that area of North London we know as Camden Town, who otherwise might be living in Pratt Town in the London Borough of Pratt. Though South Londoners might find that amusingly apt.

Pratts Bottom Village Fete

The Bottom in the name is simply indicating that this was a valley. The community web site says that until the 1830s it was on the toll road from London to Hastings and was the haunt of smugglers and highwaymen including Dick Turpin, a man who certainly got around to pubs as well as York.

Pratts Bottom Village Fete

Now it seems pretty remote, and its hard to see why it was hijacked into the London Borough of Bromley in 1965, particularly when highly built-up areas such as Staines and Stanwell in the west were evicted – and are still outside Transport for London’s Zone 6.

I’d previously photographed a number of the May Queen festivals in London, particularly those at Orpington, just a couple of miles to the north-west, where the organisers there had told me that I should visit the Pratts Bottom Village Fete – and so I decided to go there in 2008, a week after I had photographed the 96th London May Queen being crowned at Hayes.

Here’s what I wrote about my visit to Pratt’s Bottom in 2008:

I’d never been to Pratts Bottom before despite the enticing name, so the traditional English Village Fete seemed worth attending, particularly since it includes a procession with several May Queens, including those from Orpington, Green St Green and Petts Wood, along with Pratts Bottom’s own May Queen.

Pratts Bottom, despite being in the London borough of Bromley seems very much out in the country, beyond the leafy suburbs. Unfortunately, thanks to a confusion over times (and only an hourly train service) I arrived just as the procession reached the village green. And unfortunately for all of us it was raining.

As well as the May queens, and a childrens’ fancy dress contest, there were a full range of stalls along the village green and some other activities in the village hall, not to mention the Bulls Head, where I was not surprised to find the Morris men.

I waited to see the Morris dancing, then rushed off down the hill to catch a train home. A fine but steady rain was still falling, and the heavy damp air was filled with the heady scent of hawthorn and cow parsley. It seems odd that this area is included in London while highly built-up areas such as Spelthorne are excluded.

Many more pictures at Pratts Bottom Village Fete.


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Canary Wharf, East India, Silvertown, Beckton & Woolwich

Thursday, May 16th, 2024

Canary Wharf, East India, Silvertown, Beckton & Woolwich: I was back in London’s docklands on 16th May 2004, a week after I had led a small workshop there, this time on my own, and rather than walking I had gone with my Brompton folding bike.

Canary Wharf, East India, Silvertown, Beckton & Woolwich

The Brompton is an ideal way to cover larger distances when taking photographs. It can be folded to go on public transport and is very easy to get on and off and park in little or no space. It folds and unfolds in seconds. It’s a lively ride with a short wheelbase and good for riding in traffic, though for longer rides I prefer my road bike.

Canary Wharf, East India, Silvertown, Beckton & Woolwich

The Brompton has some minor problems. They are not cheap – which delayed me buying one for years. It’s not built for off-road use and mine has mudguards that can clog and stop the wheel turning on muddy ground. And now I’m a bit older it is just a little heavy to carry for any distance in stations. But my main problem is that it is a thief magnet, dangerous to leave anywhere for any length of time even if you have a good lock. No bike lock can defy the well-equipped thief for more than around half a minute and it slips easily into a car boot and fetches a good price.

Canary Wharf, East India, Silvertown, Beckton & Woolwich


I’d hoped to get the Jubilee Line to Canning Town, but trains were only running as far as North Greenwich, so instead I got off at Canary Wharf before the train went under the Thames again. It was no problem as I had the bike.

Canary Wharf, East India, Silvertown, Beckton & Woolwich

I took a few pictures around Canary Wharf, then rode off to the east past Blackwall Basin and on to the East India Docks probably the most boring of all the redeveloped docks.

From there I went up on the Lower Lea Crossing, taking pictures of Pura Foods to the north and the view south across Trinity Buoy Wharf and the Thames towards the Millenium Dome.

I photographed the Dome again from Silvertown Way, as well as the works taking place for the DLR extension to London City Airport.

A big advantage of being on a bike is that you can wander around, and I went down to the Royal Victoria Dock, then back to Silvertown Way and Lyle Park, then back to Victoria Dock again.

I couldn’t resist going onto the high level bridge across the dock, though the lift wasn’t working and I was cursing the weight of the bike and cameras by the time I reached the top of the stairs.

Eventually after making rather a large number of pictures I forced myself to come down and continued my ride along the North Woolwich Road to the futuristic Barrier Point, its west front like some space city.

In Thames Barrier Park I went down to the riverside to photograph the barrier before continuing on to Silvertown, stopping a few times for more pictures. Near North Woolwich I sloweed to photograph two boys on a scooter being towed by a woman on a bicycle. I stopped take more pictures but later I met them in North Woolwich and they told me she had soon given up.

I took some more pictures in North Woolwich and then rode on to Beckton Retail Park, then turned around and went down Woolwich Manor Way across the Royal Albert and King George Docks.

Back in 2004 flights from London City Airport were fairly infrequent and I had quite a long rest waiting to photograph a plane going overhead.

I rode on to North Woolwich ferry pier where I had a wait for the ferry and took some more pictures. In 2004 I wrote that the Woolwich Ferry is “London’s best-value river trip. I wonder how much longer this free ferry will operate?” It was upgraded in 2018 with new, modern, low-emission boats which proved rather a disaster. Services had been severely reduced, working with only one of the two new boats.

But Transport for London a week ago in May 2024 restored the two-boat service and expanded operating hours. They say the service will continue as long as there is demand. A short ride took me to Woolwich Arsenal Station where I folded the Brompton for the journey home.


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Conscientious Objectors, Olympics, Cleaners, Iraq & An Opening – 2008

Wednesday, May 15th, 2024

Conscientious Objectors, Olympics, Cleaners, Iraq & An Opening – Back in 2008 I had rather more stamina than now and my day on Thursday 15 May 2008 included three protests and a walk around the outskirts of the closed Olympic site, ending with attending an exhibition opening in Brixton.


International Conscientious Objector’s Day – Tavistock Square

Conscientious Objectors, Olympics, Cleaners, Iraq & An Opening

I’ve just checked on a web site which events are marked on 15th May, and although it lists nine, including National Nylon Stocking Day, it fails to mention the most important of all, that this is Nabka Day remembering the Palestinian Catastrophe, the violent ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their land, belongings and homes following the establishment of Israel in 1948.

Long commemorated by supporters of Palestian rights, the commemoration of the 75th anniversary in 2023 was recognised by a UN General Assembly resolution. Today many are marking this around the world with events in many UK workplaces and Saturday 18th May there is a national march in London for Nabka 76 calling for and ent to the genocide in Gaza and for the UK to stop arming Israel.

Conscientious Objectors, Olympics, Cleaners, Iraq & An Opening

Less well known (and also not mentioned on that web site), May 15th is International Conscientious Objector’s Day, first observed in 1982 as a European day and in 1985 adopted by War Resisters’ International. In London today (15 May 2024) there will be a ceremony in Tavistock Square as there was in 2008, though starting an hour later at 1pm.

In 1987 the United Nations Commission on Human Rights recognised “the right of everyone to have conscientious objection to military service as a legitimate exercise of the right of freedom, thought, and religion“. However in many countries around the world this right is still denied.

Conscientious Objectors, Olympics, Cleaners, Iraq & An Opening

Tavistock Square has a number of memorials including at the centre of the garden a statue of Mahatma Ghandi given to the city of London in 1967 by the Indian High Commissioner, and a cherry tree planted by the then mayor of Camden Millie Miller in 1967 to commemorate the victims of the Hiroshima bombing, as well as a memorial to the holocaust. On the railings of the square is a memorial plaque to those killed in the bus destroyed in the square by the London suicide bombing of 7 July, 2005.

At the north end of the garden, close to the cherry tree, is a large grey rough-hewn boulder of Cumbrian slate was unveiled in 1994 as a memorial to conscientious objectors by composer Sir Michael Tippett, himself a conscientious objector, and people gathered on the grass in front of this.

Conscientious Objectors, Olympics, Cleaners, Iraq & An Opening

After speeches and songs Bill Hetherington of the Peace Pledge Union read out the names and gave brief details of individual COs, past and present, from over 80 countries around the world, as a small representation of those who, as the words engraved on the memorial read, “…have established and are maintaining the right to refuse to kill.

As the names were read, those taking part brought up white carnations – a symbol of the peace movement – and laid them on the stone. Each had on it a label with the country and name of a CO. The inscription on the stone continues: “Their foresight and courage give us hope.”

On My London Diary at International Conscientious Objectors’ Day you can read more about the speakers and the event.


Stratford – Bow: Olympic Site

I had time before the next protest to go to Stratford and make my way around the southern edge of the Olympic site, now surrounded by a tall blue fence.

I went as far as the Lea Navigation where I photographed the notice closing the entrance to the Bow Back River channels which run through the site to navigation.

From the Greenway I could see huge piles of earth which are having to be processed because of their contamination from years of industrial production on the site. The site area was more or less unrecognisable although the City Mill River still flowed through it. It was a dismal day, with light rain or drizzle and everything looked bleak.

More pictures Stratford – Bow: Olympic Site.


Justice for cleaners demonstrate at AON

Justice for Cleaners brought together London’s largely migrant cleaners in a campaign for a living wage, sick pay, holidays, trade union rights and respect and was backed by major unions including Unite (and the TGWU which had then recently merged with Amicus to form Unite.)

On May 15th 2008 they had planned a protest outside the RBS offices in Bishopsgate, where cleaners were employed by Pall Mall, but negotiations had led to some success and the demonstration had been switched to AON in Devonshire Square, EC2, a short walk away.

AON, based in Chicago, is one of the world’s leading companies in insurance, with a first quarter net income for 2008 recently announced as $218 million. The cleaners at its City of London offices take home less than it takes to live on in London.

Their offices are on private property where I’d previously been prevented from taking pictures by security officers, and the protest took place in front of the gates on the street.

Noisy public protests such as these are effective because they draw attention to the shameful way these workers are treated even though they work to clean the offices of prestigious companies – which is why the Tories brought in highly restrictive laws in an attempt to stop them.

Watching them through the gates were a number of security men as well as City of London police. Workers in Devonshire Square were walking post the protesters and those inside the offices will have been able to hear the protest which took place with a lot of whistle blowing, shouting and a powerful megaphone used to express the cleaners’ demands.

Although Unite were supporting the cleaners here, migrant workers in London soon largely lost confidence in them and other major unions, who they felt were at times making deals with management that were not truly reflecting their interests, particularly in some workplaces where they seemed to be more interested in preserving wage differentials than getting good deals for the poorest workers. The cleaners – and many other low paid workers – are now largely represented by grass roots unions such as United Voices of the World.

Justice for cleaners demonstrate at AON


Iraqi Democrats Against the Occupation – US Embassy

Stop the War Coalition and Iraqi Democrats Against the Occupation protested at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square calling for an end of actions against the Iraqi people and the withdrawal of US forces.

They handed in a letter condemning the continuing US occupation which had caused an “unimaginable level of death and destruction to the people and country in the past five years” and noting the similarity between US actions and the Israeli repression of Palestinians, with the building of concrete walls to divide Baghdad into what Pentagon sources have described as “30 killing zones“.

Iraqi Democrats Against the Occupation


Photofusion opening – Changing Spaces

On my way home I took a few pictures of Brown Hart Gardens in Mayfair before going to Brixton to view the opening of the ‘Changing Places‘ show.

This picture wasn’t posed – I just walked up to look at the photograph by Simon Rowe and saw the young woman standing there with her head at a very similar angle. You can see a few more picture from the opening on My London Diary.


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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 https://www.ahmm.co.uk/projects/masterplanning/holloway/ 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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British Gas & Independent Living – 2014

Sunday, May 12th, 2024

British Gas & Independent Living: Two protests on Monday 12th May 2014 in Westminster. the first about fuel poverty and climate change and the second over plans to end the Independent Living Fund which enabled many disabled people to continue to work and have an independent life.


Bin British Gas – QEII Centre, Westminster

British Gas & Independent Living

British Gas were holding their AGM in the QEII centre and a protest outside demanded they stop profiteering from high energy prices and end support for fracking.

British Gas & Independent Living

The protest was called by Fuel Poverty Action who say there were over 10,000 extra deaths last winter because people were unable to heat their homes, while Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, made £2.5 billion in 2013. While they raised gas prices by 10.4% and electricity by 8.4%.

British Gas & Independent Living

They also called for government and energy companies to end support for fracking which as well as threatening water supplies in the UK would also lead to more climate-wrecking carbon dioxide emissions.

British Gas & Independent Living

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

At the protest were representatives from fuel poverty, pensioner, climate, housing groups and renewable energy co-operatives. After a number of speeches including from Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, Paula Peters of Disabled People Against Cuts, people came together too tear up British Gas energy bills.

A giant bill was torn up and Lambeth pensioner, Ellen Lebethe, brought out a poster-size Fuel Poverty Action ‘Energy Bill of Rights.’

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

Inside the Centrica AGM, a member of Reclaim Shakespeare Company had stood up holding a can of beans and a skull to read a version of Hamlet’s iconic monologue, entitled “To Heat or Eat, that is the question”, and this was read out at the protest. Shortly after the actor came out from the building to tell us about what had happened inside.

The protest ended with people planting 100 small windmills made from folded British Gas bills in the grass outside the QEII centre.

More pictures at Bin British Gas.


Save Independent Living Fund – Dept of Work & Pensions

The Independent Living Fund (ILF) was set up in 1988 under the Thatcher government to provided financial support to some of the most severely disabled people in the UK. Its main use was to enable them to have carers and personal assistants so they could live in their communities and for many to continue in useful employment.

The ILF was administered by a separately funded body and was highly cost-effective, providing support at much lower costs than residential care as well as enabling those receiving support to live independent lives Around 18,000 people were being assisted by the fund in 2014.

When the government announced it was scrapping the scheme in England in 2010 it was met with protests by disabled people and in 2013 was taken to court. The government won the case that its decision was lawful, but lost in the Court of Appeal.

A revised proposal was then made by the government to announce once again in March 2014 that ILF would close. A fresh legal challenge failed in December 2014 and the scheme ended in June 2015, with responsibility for supporting disabled people being passed to local authorities who were given funding roughly 12% less than the ILF – and which was not ring-fenced.

Police tried to persuade the protesters to keep to a small area well to one side of the Dept of Work & Pensions but they refused and protested in a larger space in front of the two main doors, which were both locked for the event.

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

A number of people told their ‘ILF stories‘ of how the fund had helped them and how they feared its closure would seriously limit their lives. DPAC tried to deliver a letter to Minister for the Disabled Mike Penning but were refused entry to the building and no one from the department was prepared to come and receive it.

One of the protesters who had travelled from Newcastle phoned her MP from here wheelchair outside the DWP, and Mary Glindon, the Labour MP for North Tyneside came down to support the protest. She failed to get DWP security to let the protesters deliver their letter but offered to deliver it for them. She was let in through a side entrance to do so then came out and spoke briefly giving her support to the protest.

More at Save Independent Living Fund.


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Police, Public Sector & Peace Campaign – 2012

Friday, May 10th, 2024

Police, Public Sector & Peace Campaign – Thursday 10th May 2012 saw two rather different marches by workers taking place in London, with a large protest by police and a day of public sector strikes with trade unionists marching to a rally. I also visited the Parliament Square Peace Campaign.


Police March Against Cuts and Winsor

Police, Public Sector & Peace Campaign

An estimated 20,000 police from all 43 forces in England & Wales marched through central London in protest at 20% cuts in police budget and proposed restructuring following the Winsor review. Other groups including Occupy and Right To Protest and others joined in call for justice in the policing of protest.

Police, Public Sector & Peace Campaign

Police are not allowed to strike or belong to a proper trade union but can join the Police Federation, a staff association that can represent and support their interests. Although it cannot call for strike action it can organise demonstrations such as this one, attended by off-duty police and some family members.

Police, Public Sector & Peace Campaign

It was an impressively large march, but rather dull as it marched past the Home Office, the Houses of Parliament and Downing St, most wearing black caps. The Police Federation had provided 16,000 black caps to represent the number of warranted officers expected to be lost over the next four years due to the cut in the police budget of 20-30%.

Police, Public Sector & Peace Campaign

My pictures concentrate too much on the relatively few officers from some areas who had come with placards. Most simply marched and mainly in silence. A few carried carried small posters with the names of officers who had been unable to attend due to being at work – and there were some police who were policing the police protest, on rather better behaviour than at some other protests.

Some people also came to protest against the police, with the Space Hijackers setting up a ‘professional protest stall‘ at the side of the march offering advice on making placards and chanting. Most of the police marchers were amused by their chants such as ‘One Solution – Institution’ and some of the mock placards, although there were a few jeers.

Those Police policing the protest were less amused, and threatened the Space Hijackers with arrest unless they removed one of their placards with the well-known acronym ACAB. They also stood in front to try and hide them and other protesters including those with a ‘Defend the Right to Protest’ who were shouting slogans against police violence and over deaths in custody for which there is seldom if any justice.

Some from Occupy London had come with plastic police helmets to join in the march, saying they were not against the police but called for a force that worked for the 99% rather than the 1%, or as one long-winded placard put it, “A fully, Publicly funded, democratically accountable Police force who’s aims and objectives enshrine the right to peaceful Protest in some sort of People’s Charter!”

Others taking part on the march included Ian Puddick who got intimidated, attacked and prosecuted by City of London Terrorism Police and Counter Terrorism Directorate in an operation costing millions carried out on behalf of a giant US security corporation after he discovered his wife had been having an affair with one of her bosses. He marched with a sign ‘Police Corruption‘ and unfortunately there is still a great deal of that as well as racism in forces around the country.

More on My London Diary at Police March Against Cuts and Winsor.


Public Sector Pensions Strike and March

Unite, PCS and UCU were holding a one day strike against public sector cuts in pensions, jobs and services. Many had been up in the early hours picketing at their workplaces long before I arrived in London, but there were still pickets in place when I visited Tate Britain and walked past the House of Commons on my way to a rally outside St Thomas’ Hospital on the opposite bank of the Thames.

I arrived late for the rally there and people were just getting ready to march to a larger rally at Methodist Central Hall.

Workers are incensed by increases in their pension contributions and plans to increase them further. They are also worried by the increasing state retirement age which also applies to their pensions. Now in 2024 it is 66 and will increase to 67 between 2026 and 2028. A further rise to 68 is planned and the date for that is likely to be brought forward – as the rise to 67 was.

As they marched, people were chanting “Sixty-eight – is TOO Late“. Pensioners also feel they are being cheated by the government’s decision to index them to the CPI inflation rather than the higher RPI inflation figures, which will mean them receiving some 15-20% less. Over 94% of Unite’s NHS members voted to reject the government’s proposals and take strike action today along with members from the Ministry of Defence and government departments as well as others from the PCS and UCU.

I left the marchers as they went into the rally at Central Hall and returned to photograph the police march and visit the peace camp in Parliament Square.

More pictures at Public Sector Pensions Strike and March.


4000 Days in Parliament Square

I went to talk with Barbara Tucker who was continuing the Parliament Square Peace Campaign begun by Brian Haw on the 2nd June 2001. The protest, continued by her and other supporters was about to reach a total of 4000 days of 24 hour protest in the square, with others in the group maintaining the presence on those various occasions when Brian or Barbara was arrested and held overnight.

They had then continued for almost 11 years despite constant harassment years by police, who have been pressured by politicians – as well as passing two Acts of Parliament intended to end the protest.

As I wrote in 2012:

A few hours before I arrived, police had come and spent 90 minutes “searching” the few square meters of their display in the early morning, and three days later, at 2.30am on Sunday 13 May, police and Westminster Council came and took away the two blankets that Barbara Tucker, no longer allowed to have any “structure designed solely or mainly to sleep in” by law was using to survive in the open. This was apparently one of two visits over the weekend by police and council in which they illegally removed property from the site.

4000 Days in Parliament Square.

Despite an increase in harassment as a great attempt was made to clean up the capital for the Olympics, the peace protest continued in the square for another year, with Barbara Tucker starting a hunger strike in January 2013. Eventually she became too ill to continue and the protest came to an end in May 2013.


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Canary Wharf Workshop 2004

Thursday, May 9th, 2024

Canary Wharf Workshop – On Sunday May 9th 2004 I led a small workshop group of photographers on a walk which started at Canary Wharf and then went to Canning Town and the River Thames. Although photography is theoretically banned on the Canary Wharf estate we had no problems with security, probably because we kept to obviously public areas and I had asked those taking part not to use tripods.

Canary Wharf Workshop

I was never a fan of the redevelopment of London’s docklands under Michael Heseltine and the London Docklands Development Corporation set up in 1981. Of course development was needed after the docks became redundant, but we should have seen a development that was made for the interests of the population of London, not simply for the mates of the Tory Party.

Canary Wharf Workshop

The area needed some kind of overall planning authority, but one that worked with the local authorities in the area rather than against them, ignoring their priorities.

Canary Wharf Workshop

Of course there were gains from the work of the LDDC, perhaps the main ones being the Docklands Light Railway and the Jubilee Line Extension to Stratford. Certainly by the time it was wound up in 1990 it had changed the whole area significantly. But many of those changes had sacrificed local needs to business profits.

Canary Wharf Workshop

The piece that I wrote about the day reflected my political views about what had taken place. A year or so later London won the bidding for the Olympics, leading to yet more development in the area by an authority that disregarded local needs and led to inappropriate development, still proceeding, in East London. I’ll reproduce what I wrote in 2004 here, with minor corrections, particularly to capitalisation and spelling.

May 9th 2004 found me taking a group of photographers for a walk around some parts of London’s docklands. We started at the centre of this ‘crime of the century’. I still don’t quite understand why a Conservative government felt so at odds with the City of London that it decided to set up offshore competition in the Enterprise Zone.

The feeding frenzy that ensued, trousering public property and tax breaks into the private pocket at an unprecedented rate was inevitable.

The long-term consequence has been a distorted development with few real buildings of distinction but some expensively finished tat, and a lack of overall planning. I’m not sure that London would benefit from gaining the Olympics for which it is currently bidding, but if it fails, probably part of the reason will be the Docklands debacle.

We started below the obscene gesture towards the old city, at least clear about its symbolism, then took the DLR down to Crossharbour with its silly bridge, walking back to the Wharf and taking the Jubilee to Canning Town.

Then back alongside the Lee (still waiting for that riverside walkway) to East India dock basin and along by the Thames, where a galleon appeared in front of the dome.

The River Lee is here better known in its tidal section as Bow Creek, and we are still waiting for parts of that riverside walk to be opened if they ever will be. There was a competition for a new bridge across Bow Creek with a wining design named, but money disappeared and it was never built. But a few years ago we did get a different new bridge higher up by Canning Town station and the development of the industrial site of Pura Foods as London City Island.

A few more of my pictures from the walk on My London Diary


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VE Day 60 Years On – 2005

Tuesday, May 7th, 2024

VE Day 60 Years On: I was born a few days after VE day, the end of the Second World War in Europe which took place on Wednesday 8th May 1945. In 2005 celebrations of the event in the UK took place over the weekend of 7-8th May. Here is the piece I wrote in 2005 for My London Diary (with the usual minor corrections) and some of the pictures I took on those days.


VE Day Commemorated – Ilford

VE Day 60 Years On

60 Years ago, my view of the world was dark, wet and warm and I was almost certainly unaware of what was happening outside, and I think my mother’s part in the VE day celebrations will have been fairly muted and sedentary, though I’m sure both she and my father (the First War had taken him to Germany, but this one only got his as far as Potters Bar on his bike to inspect the bees) shared the feelings of the nation.

VE Day 60 Years On

I wanted to avoid the large stage-managed media events. Couldn’t stand the thought of Vera Lynn and Cliff Richard, or the Prince Of Wales. So I went to Ilford to see how the people in Redbridge were commemorating the occasion.

VE Day 60 Years On

A couple of small groups playing mainly forties jazz tunes, some dancing, kids and oldies having fun, balloons, uniformed ‘statues’, free tea, a few veterans and a small but informative museum display made a pleasant afternoon in the high street.
more pictures from Ilford

VE Day Parade Bromley

VE Day 60 Years On

Sunday afternoon I attended a more formal event in Bromley, which seems to have more uniformed organisations than any other London Borough, and the forces were out in force. Marching behind the bagpipes came the veterans, most looking surprisingly well despite their age, and with medals to show for their service around the world. One showed me his Russian medal for service in the Baltic, others had been in the Far East as well as Africa and Europe.

The parade to Norman Park was joined by more veterans and supporters in buses, as well as a number of vintage vehicles, civil and military. At the park, the Mayor, the Bishop and a team of other clergy joined up for a drumhead service in a large tented area, holding well over a thousand people.

A few of the veterans felt this was one church parade too many and like me made for the beer tent. Perhaps like me they had also called in to the Area Of Remembrance on the way. There was an impressive dignity about the veterans and the event seemed a moving tribute to them and their comrades who died.

More pictures from Bromley


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