Posts Tagged ‘Mayfair’

UK Uncut At Starbucks – 2012

Friday, December 8th, 2023

UK Uncut At Starbucks – On Saturday 8th December 2012 UK Uncut protested at over 45 Starbucks coffee shops across the UK against their failure to pay their proper share of tax.

They were also in protest against the government’s continuing refusal to close loopholes and cut down on tax avoidance and the harsh impact of government cuts on women.

UK Uncut At Starbucks

UK Uncut briefly transformed the branches of Starbucks into women’s refuges, crèches and homeless shelters, which elsewhere in many places are having to close because of the cuts which would not be necessary if companies like Starbucks paid tax properly on their UK earnings.

UK Uncut At Starbucks

I photographed the protests at three Starbucks branches, beginning in the West End at Conduit Street. Here a quarter of an hour before the protest was due to start there were already police, press and a few demonstrators outside.

UK Uncut At Starbucks

A Starbucks employee was standing by the door and refusing entry to those he thought likely to be protesters, but I was not stopped and joined the queue. There were others in front of me who I thought were probabably UK Uncut supporters as well as some already seated and drinking coffee.

The queue moved slowly towards the counter and by noon when the protest was about to start I was in danger of being served, but was saved from bad coffee as one of the protesters got up and started the protest.

She read a lengthy document about Starbucks’ failure to pay tax, and how the amounts that companies including them were avoiding paying were around five times the total of the cuts in services so far made by the coalition government. Then she announced that they were setting up a crèche inside this branch to compensate for all those and other family services that the government had closed.

Starbucks staff locked the door and the protest continued with more speeches and chanting calling for Starbucks to pay up. It was a family-friendly protest with some babies and young children in families taking part and there was only any argument when staff stopped a couple of the protesters from putting their banner up in the window.

Around ten minutes later a police officer arrived and wrongly accused the protesters of behaving in an intimidatory manner towards the staff and customers. They had behaved politely and there was clearly no intimidation, and they had not even been asked to leave by the store manager.

Despite this, the police told them this very well ordered protest was a disorderly protest and that they would be arrested unless they left, though he failed to say under what law.

Customers who were not protesting – though some had been interested by the protest and asking to know more about Starbucks failure to pay taxes, along with some of the protesters and some of the press, myself included, then left the store, walking through a large and noisy protest by those who had not managed to gain entry earlier.

The protest inside continued, and in the next five minutes or so that I was outside there appeared to be no arrests. But I decided then to take the short walk to the Vigo Street Starbucks to see what was happening there.

The Vigo Street protest had also begun at noon and although I was unable to go inside I was able to photograph the ‘Women’s refuge’ that had been set up through the large glass windows, as well as the large crowd protesting outside. A few minutes later, having been inside for over half an hour the protesters inside walk out to take part in the rally outside.

Here we were told some of the tricks that Starbucks uses to avoid tax. One is to use a Starbucks company in a tax haven to lend them money at 4% above the LIBOR rate to fund their UK operations. This excess interest reduces the profit of the UK company but transfers large amounts to them in the tax haven. They also buy their coffee beans at inflated prices from a subsidiary in Switzerland which reduces the tax they pay from 24% to 5%, and pay 6% of their sales as a royalty to their Dutch company which has a secret low rate tax deal with the government there.

Tricks like these used for corporate tax avoidance are caluclated to cost the UK £70 billion in lost tax revenue – far more than the £15 billion of benefit cuts.

Later in the day I went to the Euston Road branch of Starbucks where the Labour Representation Committee together with UK Uncut briefly occupied the store.

The LRC at the 2010 Labour conference had put forward a motion calling on the party to mount a campaign to highlight tax avoidance which had been passed overwhelmingly but so far the party had failed to take action. It now seems unlikely that should we get a Starmer government any real moves will be made in this area.

The LRC had called for the action to take place at 2pm, but when they had failed to show up fifteen minutes later the UK Uncut supporters went in and began to occupy. Some people from the LRC arrived shortly after but by then Starbucks staff had locked the doors and they were unable to enter.

Police arrived and came and talked politely with staff and protesters who agreed they would leave and continue the protest outside when they were requested to do so – which shortly after they did.

More had now turned up for the protest which continued for around half an hour outside the store.

More on My London Diary:
UK Uncut Visits Starbucks
Starbucks Euston Road – LRC


‘Toxic Tour’ Shames Mining Companies – 2017

Tuesday, November 28th, 2023

‘Toxic Tour’ Shames Mining Companies – On Tuesday 2th November 2017, the London Mining Network, War on Want and The Gaia Foundation and community leaders from Uganda, the Philippines and Colombia visited a series of mining companies and financiers of mining.

'Toxic Tour' Shames Mining Companies

Although we no longer have an Empire, London remains the heart of the neo-colonial mining industry across the world, with many mining companies listed here. It also plays a key role in the financing of mining companies working across the world. In part this is a hangover from our colonial heritage but is now mainly because of the ease of laundering dirty money through hedge funds and other businesses via the City of London.

'Toxic Tour' Shames Mining Companies

The protest was timed to coincide with the London Mines and Money Conference, where around 2,000 mining company representatives, investors and financiers were celebrating their destructive and exploitative activities around the world.

'Toxic Tour' Shames Mining Companies

The ‘Toxic Tour’ began in Stratton Street, close to Green Park station in Mayfair outside the offices of Harwood Capital LLP who own 9% of Bluebird Merchant Ventures who have plans for a huge open-pit Batangas Gold Project on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. We heard from Clemente Bautista Jr, national coordinator of Kalikasan People’s Network, how this would be an environmental disaster, with wastes from the mine destroying much marine life in the Verde Island Passage which has the highest concentration of shorefish in the world.

'Toxic Tour' Shames Mining Companies

A short distance further into Mayfair the protest stopped outside the London offices of Vedanta, where Miriam Rose of Foil Vedanta spoke on Vedanta’s terrible record of environmental destruction, pollution and death in India and Africa, and of their illegal attempts to get mining permission. In Zambia, where their copper mine polluted the country’s major river, Foil Vedanta had exposed their illegal avoidance of tax.

A few yards away we halted outside the offices of Glencore UK, the world’s largest mining company by revenue. Adam Lee of the IndustriALL Global Union which with its affiliates represents over 50 million workers around the world told us of trade union told us how this Anglo–Swiss multinational which is listed on the London stock exchange exploits its workers. Security stopped the protesters when they tried to enter the the foyer of the offices.

Paulson Europe LLP in Jermyn St was the next stop, as they are a major investor in AngloGold Ashanti. Colombian activist Camila Méndez talked there about the huge environmental damage caused by their La Colosa gold mine in Cajamarca.

Protesters were stopped in the doorway as they tried to walk into the foyer of Rio Tinto Zinc on the corner of St James’s Square. After a couple of short speeches while they blocked the doorway there was a longer talk on the pavement outside. A long-term researcher into their activities told the group that he was more hopeful about the future activities of RTZ than other mining companies as they seemed to be attempting to develop in less environmentally damaging ways. He said this was because they had been one of the first mining companies to attract major protests.

Finally the protest moved out of Mayfair to Carlton House Terrace on the north side of The Mall and the offices of Anglo American plc, where security locked the doors as we approached for a protest in the street outside. I think this was the final stop on the tour, although there were many more companies it could have visited, particularly around the City, but it was getting dark and time for me to go home.

More pictures at ‘Toxic Tour’ shames mining companies.


Reparations, North Woolwich & LouLou’s

Tuesday, August 1st, 2023

Reparations, North Woolwich & LouLou’s: Thursday 1st August 2019 was a long and busy day for me with an Afrikan Emancipation Day protest, finishing a walk in North Woolwich I’d begun six months earlier and photographing an evening protest outside the exclusive Mayfair club LouLou’s.


Afrikans demand reparations – Brixton, London.

Afrikans demand Reparations, North Woolwich & LouLou's

People of African origin met in Windrush Square in the morning to demand an end of the Maangamizi, the continuing genocide and ecocide of African peoples and Africa on Afrikan Emancipation Day.

Afrikans demand Reparations, North Woolwich & LouLou's

After speeches & libations they marched from Brixton to Westminster with a petition calling for an end to acts of violence by Britain, the misuse of taxes and the stolen legacy plundered from Afrika under the British Empire and European Imperialism and demanding reparations.

Afrikans demand Reparations, North Woolwich & LouLou's

The protest was supported by Extinction Rebellion XR Connecting Communities who marched in an Ubuntu Non-Afrikan Allies bloc.

Afrikans demand Reparations, North Woolwich & LouLou's

I left the march as it went past Brixton Police Station on its way to protest outside the Houses of Parliament so I could have some lunch before going to take pictures elsewhere.

Many more pictures on My London Diary at Afrikans demand reparations.


DLR – Bank to North Woolwich

DLR HQ at Poplar

I’d taken the tube back into central London to have a quick lunch before taking the DLR from Bank to London City to King George V Dock station for the final section of the walk I had begun in February but had run out of time to finish because I’d had to take a roundabout route to get there as the direct DLR services were suspended following an accident.

Bow Creek

This time the trains were running properly. They start from Bank and so come into the station empty and I was able to chose my seat and for once I found myself sitting next to a clean window on my way to North Woolwich and took a number of pictures.

Tate & Lyle

Later on my way back to Canary Wharf from King George V I was less lucky and the windows were rather grimy, but I still made a few images.

More at DLR – Bank to London City Airport.


North Woolwich, Royal Docks & the Thames

The footpath goes across these gates of the entrance lock to Albert Dock Basin

I took a few pictures as I walked from the elevated King George V station at North Woolwich to the King George V Dock entrance and joined the path by the river.

The lock here is huge, 243.8m long and 30.48m wide. I’d first photographed the area back in the 1980s as a part of a wider project on the Docklands following their closure, both in colour but mainly in black and white – in the album 1984 London Photographs. Although the docks themselves remain, much around them has changed, although there are still some derelict areas.

The riverside path here is part of the Capital Ring, and continues north and over lock at the Albert Dock entrance to the curiously desolate Armada Green Recreation Area.

Here the path ends, with beyond it the former site of the Beckton Gas Works, used as a location for at least 17 films and TV series since its closure, though best known as a stand-in for Vietnam in the 1987 Full Metal Jacket. Past that is the Beckton Sewage Treatment Works, set up in 1864 as part of Joseph Bazalgette’s scheme to treat London’s sewage and still receiving it from all of London north of the Thames.

I had to turn inland, through more recent development and the refurbished Gallions Hotel around Alber Dock Basin. I went briefly under the new bridge to see again the East London University student residences, then went back and across it, taking more pictures from the bridge and the road on my way back to King George V station.

Many more pictures at North Woolwich Royal Docks & Thames.


LouLou’s stop exploiting your workers – Mayfair

Finally I joined the IWGB Cleaners and Facilities Branch outside the exclusive Mayfair private club LouLou’s where they were picketing and protesting for kitchen porters to be paid a living wage, be treated with dignity, respect and given decent terms and conditions including proper sick pay, holidays and pension contributions. Recently outsourced to ACT, porters want to be returned to direct employment.

Among those supporting them were Class War, and in the picture above Ian Bone confronts a police office asking why they protect and support the rich. Needless to say the officer had no answer to the question. In general the protesters were reasonably behaved and acting within the law, but police and security hired by the club worked together to try and prevent their protest being effective.

There were angry scenes as staff escorted wealthy clients of the £1800 a year club past the picket, particularly when some roughly pushed the protesters. Police repeatedly warned the protesters but not the security men or customers who had assaulted them. The security also tried to prevent the picket from handing their flier to the customers.

As at previous protests outside of the club, none of the security staff were wearing the visible SIA door supervisor licences required under the Private Security Industry Act 2001, but the police refused to take any action over this.

More pictures at LouLou’s stop exploiting your workers.


Police Protect The Rich

Tuesday, July 11th, 2023

Police Protect The Rich: Our police are often said to protect the interests of the rich and powerful in our society, and their behaviour outside the exclusive Mayfair private club LouLou’s against members and supporters of the IWGB Cleaners and Facilities Branch on Thursday 11th July 2019 certainly seemed to demonstrate this.

Police Protect The Rich

Of course in part this reflects our laws, made by the overwhelmingly rich and powerful who sit in our parliament and generally serving their interests. There are laws that protect the rights of trade unions and our civil rights including the right to protest, but increasingly over the years under both Labour and Tory governments have brought in more and more restrictions on these.

Police Protect The Rich

But although the police have a duty to enforce the law, they often seem to fail to do so evenhandedly. Outside Lou-Lou’s they turned a blind eye to the security staff failing to wear their licences (if they had them) and to their assaults on the protesters.

Police Protect The Rich

Police had also closed the whole street running along the front of the club which boasts of being one of London’s most exclusive clubs, owned by Robin Birley, a friend of Boris Johnson and a major financial supporter of the Conservative Party. According to The ObserverIt’s the place to be for royals, billionaires, A-list celebrities and socialites—when they can get their name of the list.” And the names they listed as frequent visitors were “Harry Styles, Lupita Nyong’o, Leonardo DiCaprio.”

Police Protect The Rich

The police themselves also seemed to be using unnecessary force and trying to impose unnecessary restrictions on the protesters, and this led to some angry scenes with two protesters being arrested. None of the heavy-handed security staff were warned or arrested and when IWGB officers complained to police about them, they were themselves threatened with arrest.

I was not stopped from taking photographs or touched by the security staff, but whenever I went near simply moved directly in front of me to try to prevent me photographing the wealthy clients going in to the £1800 a year club. This only encouraged me to take more pictures, by stepping further back and working more rapidly.

The Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB) Cleaners and Facilities Branch were protesting on behalf of their members at the club, kitchen porters who were demanding to be paid a real living wage, treated with dignity, respect and given decent terms and conditions including proper sick pay, holidays and pension contributions.

Police knocked one protester to the ground – possibly accidentally

Until recently the kitchen porters were directly employed by the club, but they were recently outsourced to ACT which has worsened their conditions and they want to be returned to direct employment.

The protest was still continuing when I left as the light was beginning to fall.

IWGB demand living wage at LouLou’s


Housing Crimes Exposed

Wednesday, June 14th, 2023

Housing Crimes Exposed: On the 14th June every year now our thoughts turn to Grenfell and the terrible fire there in 201. I wrote about this here a year ago in Remember Grenfell – Demand Justice.

We still haven’t seen justice, and the delays in investigation caused by the inquiry increasingly make it seem that once again our legal and judicial system have successfully kicked justice into the long grass. There are people who should have been in jail and organisations which should have been facing huge fines within a few months of the tragic but predicted event. The fire wasn’t an accident but the result of crimes.


Advance to Mayfair – London Real Estate Forum – Berkeley Square, Mayfair

There are other crimes around housing in the UK, and in particular around social housing, and people were protesting about these before Grenfell. On Thursday 16th June 2016 I photographed one of these protests, and two days later a second also in Mayfair, an appropriate location as these are crimes of the rich against the poor, coming from the Thatcher crusade to enrich the rich at the expense of the poor, rewarding the wealthy and retreating from the welfare state which had supported the poor.

Housing Crimes Exposed

Housing was one of the main areas of policy, along with privatisation which sold off key services and industries to private investors – and for which we are now seeing the results in high energy prices, sewage in rivers, high cost transport and huge subsidies to shareholders, with much of the costs of our NHS now going to supporting healthcare companies and their owners.

In housing Thatcher decided we should be a nation of home owners. Until then many of the working class had either been council tenants or were aspiring to be so while living in often poor and cramped accommodation provided by private landlords. Thatcher changed that, partly be selling off council properties to tenants at knock-down prices, but also by making it difficult or impossible for local authorities to build new council properties or properly maintain existing ones. It was a very popular policy with those who got their properties on the cheap, though many found they couldn’t afford to keep them and before long they were bough up as ‘buy to let’ properties by those rich enough to get mortgages and bank loans.

Housing Crimes Exposed

Under New Labour, the Labour Party took up many of the worst of Thatcher’s policies, and the ‘regeneration’ schemes Labour councils came up increasingly amounted in a huge loss of social housing, replacing huge estates with largely homes for private sale with some as largely unaffordable “affordable housing” and shared ownership. More and more of the housing associations, many of which had taken over social housing estates from hard-pressed local councils began to look more and more like commercial property owners.

In 2021 government funding to housing associations to build affordable housing was reduced by 60% and funding for new social rented housing was stopped altogether. Since then they have built many houses for sale and rent at market levels, partly to provide cash for some social housing.

London’s councils, largely Labour run, have been among the worst offenders. As I wrote in 2016:

Under the guise of New Labour regeneration, Southwark spent large amounts of council money in demonising the Heygate Estate, employing PR consultants to invent surveys, deliberately moving in problem tenants, running the estate down both physically and through the media to justify its demolition. A highly awarded scheme with its trees coming to maturity, and popular with many residents despite the lack of necessary maintenance was emptied over a period of years and finally destroyed. It took years to get some residents to move, as few were offered suitable alternative accommodation and the compensation on offer to leaseholders was derisory.

But this scheme turned into “something of a financial disaster for Southwark council (though doubtless not for some councillors) and certainly for the people of Southwark, as the Heygate, built with around 1700 social housing units has been replaced by Elephant Park, with less than a hundred, along with a large number of high price apartments which very few locals can afford.”

Undeterred, Southwark proceeded to apply similar methods to other estates, notably the neighbouring Aylesbury Estate, “converting public assets into private profit, with yet more Southwark residents being forced to move out to cheaper areas on the outskirts of London or beyond, in what housing activists describe as social cleansing, driving ordinary Londoners out of the capital.

Similar polices were being applied under Mayor Robin Wales in Newham. They began emptying out the Carpenters Estate, a well-liked and successful estate close to the great transport links of Stratford station, in 2004. Many of the homes on the estate have been empty since then despite huge housing problems in the borough. A scheme to sell the estate for a new campus for UCL was defeated by protests both by local residents, led by Focus E15 and by students and staff at UCL.

Focus E15, a group of young mothers faced with eviction from their Stratford hostel when Newham announced they would no longer pay the housing association which ran it, engaged in a successful campaign against the council’s plans to relocate them separately to private rented accommodation in distant parts of the country, and brought housing problems in Newham and elsewhere onto the national agenda.

Focus E15 were among other groups, including Class War, the Revolutionary Communist Group and protesters from the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark who came to Berkeley Square to protest outside the London Real Estate Forum. Many Labour councils – including Southwark and Newham – were at the event, conspiring with estate agents and property developers to sell public land and transform estates which now house those on low incomes into homes for the wealthy. Councils now “appear to regard the estates they own as liabilities rather than seeing them as providing vital homes meeting the needs of the people who elect them. “

A few of those entering or leaving the event stopped to engage with the protesters, mostly trying to justify their activities. One man photographed the protest and engaged in homophobic abuse, but police who had been trying to move the protesters refused to take action.

You can read about the protest on My London Diary at Advance to Mayfair.


Municipal Journal Awards – Hilton Hotel, Mayfair

Two days later on Thursday 16th June 2016 I joined many of the same protesters and others outside the Hilton Hotel with Architects 4 Social Housing protesting noisily outside the Municipal Journal Local Authority Awards at the Hilton Hotel castigating the nomination of Southwark and Newham for awards.

They complained that Southwark was nominated for ‘Best London Council’ despite having demolished 7,639 units of social housing, sold off public land to developers, and evicted people unlawfully and accused Newham of social cleansing, rehousing people in distant parts of the country while council properties remain empty, and of causing mental health problems through evictions, homelessness and failure to maintain properties.

These were awards not for housing the workers in their areas, many of whom are on pay close or at the minimum legal levels. Not even for key workers such as teachers and nurses, few of whom can now afford properties in the areas close to where they work, but to attract high paid workers and provide profits for overseas investors, many of whom leave the properties empty all or most of the year, watching their profits grow as London’s high property prices increase.

They are awards too for contributing to the huge profits for the developers who are now building a new London, providing poorly built properties, often to lower standards of space than those they replace, and with design lives sometimes expiring much earlier. And because we have not seen the changes in building regulations and safety standards that Grenfell exposed as necessary, some at least may be the Grenfells of the future.

More about the protest and many more pictures at Municipal Journal Awards.


April 28th 2015 IWMD

Friday, April 28th, 2023

April 28th 2015 IWMD; April 28th every year is International Workers Memorial Day, and last year here on >Re:PHOTO I wrote about this, beginning with a quote from the TUC web site:

Every year more people are killed at work than in wars. Most don’t die of mystery ailments, or in tragic “accidents”. They die because an employer decided their safety just wasn’t that important a priority. International Workers’ Memorial Day (IWMD) 28 April commemorates those workers.

TUC – International Workers’ Memorial Day

I wrote more about it and illustrated the post with pictures taken mainly at previous years on Tower Hill. You can still read it at International Workers’ Memorial Day (IWMD).

This year there are events planned in Stratford, Barking and Walthamstow marking the event, as well as others around the country, and many workplaces will be holding a minute’s silence at 12 noon.


On Tuesday 28th April 2015 two of the three events I covered were related to IWMD, but I also went to Holloway Prison with protesters demanding the release of an immigration detainee being held there.


Qatar Slave Labour deaths – World Cup 2022 – Qatari Embassy, Mayfair

April 28th 2015 IWMD

My working day began with trade unionists outside the Qatari embassy in Mayfair, where they attempted to deliver a letter on International Workers Memorial Day protesting the slaughter of migrant slave labour workers on World Cup building sites. At current death rates, over 4,000 migrant workers will die by 2022.

April 28th 2015 IWMD

According to a Guardian report, on average one Nepalase worker there dies very two days, and including the deaths of Indian, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi workers the death rate is most likely more than one every day. At least 964 workers from Nepal, India and Bangladesh died working in Qatar in 2012 and 2013.

April 28th 2015 IWMD

Work had still to begin on eleven of the 12 stadiums needed for the 2022 World Cup and there are likely to be many more dying due to the appalling exploitation and abuse of these migrant workers.

April 28th 2015 IWMD

The International Labour Organization had urged Qatar to “ensure without delay, access to justice for migrant workers, so that they can effectively assert their rights […] strengthening the complaints system and the labour inspection system”.

According to Amnesty many of the migrant workers have there passports confiscated when they arrive for work in Qatar and are forced to work long hours for very low pay day after day with no rest and are often physically and sexually abused.

Police moved the protesters away from the embassy to the other side of the road but allowed a small deputation to approch the doorway with a letter. A police officer went inside the embassy to ask if someone would come to the door to accept this from Gail Cartmail, Assistant General Secretary of Unite the Union. After a lengthy wait, a man came to the door and refused, and the protesters then left it on the doorstep.

In 2021 The Guardian revealed that “More than 6,500 migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have died in Qatar since it won the right to host the World Cup 10 years ago“. A few days football came at a very bloody price.

Qatar Slave Labour deaths – World Cup 2022


Holloway protest for Yarl’s Wood protester Anna – Holloway Prison

From Mayfair I travelled to a very different area of London for a protest outside Holloway Prison, a Victorian prison in one of the poorer areas of North London which had housed only women prisoners since 1902 and was closed a year after this protest.

Anna, a detainee in Yarls Wood immigration detention prison, had been one of a group of women defending another detainee, a torture victim, who was about to be deported. Thirty guards rushed into the room and brutally assaulted them all, taking them to solitary confinement in the ‘Kingfisher’ isolation unit at Yarl’s Wood. Both Anna and another woman, Lillija, were threatened with prison, but only Anna was transferred to Holloway prison and was being held there although she was had not been charged with any offence.

Both women had been involved in a Channel 4 News exposure of the abuses of women by guards in Yarls Wood which had led to one guard being suspended.

Many of those at the emergency protest organised by Movement for Justice demanding Anna’s release had served time in Yarls Wood or other immigration prisons.

When a group of three prison employees came out to argue with the protesters that their protest simply upset women being held inside the jail they told them from their first hand experience how greatly they had welcomed knowing that there were people outside the prison who were aware of them and wanting to help.

Free Yarl’s Wood Anna from Holloway


Hotel Workers Rise Up on Workers Memorial Day

Finally I came back to central London and the Hilton London Metropole hotel on the Edgware Road in Bayswater and in another protest for International Workers’ Memorial Day against the exploitation of workers, mainly migrants organised by the Unite Hotel Workers branch. Workers at luxury hotels in portering and household services are employed by agencies on minimum wage, zero hours contracts and denied basic rights.

Several workers including former room attendant Barbara Pokryszka spoke at the protest, complaining of heavy workloads and abusive treatment by management, who fail to treat them as human beings, saying “We Are Not Machines”. As in other areas of work outsourcing to contractors who pay minimum wage and impose abysmal conditions is at the root of the abuse.

Luxury hotels have a world-wide reputation to maintain and this would be damaged if they were found to be treating staff on their payroll in such a disgusting way. A night’s stay for two in a room costs over £200 and housekeeping worker would usually have to clean between 12 and 20 rooms in an 8 hour shift. The worker’s pay for cleaning – before deductions would be around £85 while the hotel guests would be paying over £3000 for their stay. Hotels could surely pay more to their essential workers.

Hotel Workers – Workers Memorial Day


Greedy Property Developers Reward Themselves

Friday, April 21st, 2023

Greedy Property Developers Reward Themselves: Eight years ago on Tuesday 12 April 2015 I photographed housing activists protesting outside the expensive dinner at a Mayfair hotel for the 2015 Property Awards. The protesters held their own alternative awards ceremony for housing protesters as a part of the event.

Among those in my pictures is Aysen from the Aylesbury Estate. The Fight4Aylesbury exhibition in her flat on the estate continues today, Friday 21st April 2023, and on Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd. Parts of some of my pictures from this event were used in collages in that show.


Property Awards at Mayfair Hotel – Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane

Greedy Property Developers Reward Themselves

Property developers have powered the incredible rise in London Housing prices by building luxury flats for mainly overseas investors, many of which remain unoccupied to be sold later at even higher prices to other investors, and also by working with London councils to redevelop social housing largely for private sale.

Greedy Property Developers Reward Themselves

Together with the actions of successive governments – Tory and Labour – they had created what by 2015 was clearly the worst shortage of affordable housing in history, with a record number of evictions and the doubling of rough sleeping in London. Over 50,000 families have had to move out of London while many more properties in the capital remain empty.

Greedy Property Developers Reward Themselves

As I wrote: “Housing in London has ceased to be something to meet human need, and instead is servicing greed and selfishness.” And the expensive dinner taking place that evening in the luxury Mayfair hotel was to give awards to the property developers for their greed. Among those taking part in the protest outside were people from estates which are being redeveloped, including Southwark Council’s Aylesbury estate and Sweets Way in north London who were facing eviction because of the policy of social cleansing driven by councils and developers.

People arriving at the dinner were met by a noisy crowd calling for a fair housing policy outside the ‘red carpet’ entrance to the hotel on Park Lane and had to walk past the protesters to enter. Police tried to keep the entrance clear and some hotel staff directed the guests to other entrances to the hotel, where the protesters also followed.

The protesters held an alternative awards ceremony in front of the hotel entrance, awarding large cardboard cups for the Young Protester of the Year, Placard Making, Demonstration of the Year and Occupation of the Year.

Protesters also briefly occupied occupied a neighbouring branch of estate agents Foxton, who have played a leading role in the gentrification of London. Together with other estate agents they have also been an important influence on the housing policies of both Tory and Labour.

Foxtons is notorious among those who rent property for driving up rents – and in 2022 the London Renters Union reported that their annual revenue had increased by £5m as rents in London went up by an average of 20.5% in 3 months, with one Foxtons tenant reporting a rise of £12,000 per year!

Shortly before I left it became clear that most of those coming to the dinner were being directed to a rear service entrance to the hotel and the protesters moved around the block to hold a rally there. The gate was rapidly closed and there were some minor scuffles as police attempted to move the protesters away. I heard later that there had been two arrests after I left.

Many more pictures at Property Awards at Mayfair Hotel.


Egypt’s Arab Spring – 2011

Sunday, February 5th, 2023

Saturday 5th February 2011
US Embassy Rally For Egypt – Grosvenor Square
Egyptian Embassy Demonstration – South St
Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain at Egyptian Embassy – South St

Egypt's Arab Spring - 2011
Tariq Ali speaking at the rally at the US Embassy

Egypt’s history is long and complex, going back to the back to the 6th–4th millennia BCE when it was one of the cradles of Western civilisation. Wikipedia has a lengthy article which even so skims over the many details, and certainly I won’t go into much here.

Egypt's Arab Spring - 2011

For many years Egypt was a part of the Ottoman Empire, but after the building of the Suez Canal in 1869 France and Britain played a more important role in its history and in 1882 the UK invaded the country which became occupied and it became a de facto British protectorate, breaking away completely to become a UK protectorate during the First World War after the UK military deposed the ruling Khedive, replacing him with his pro-British brother Hussein Kamel, who declared himself Sultan of Egypt.

Egypt's Arab Spring - 2011

Elections at the end of the war led to a majority for the Egyptian nationalist movement, so the British exiled their leaders to Malta in 1919, starting the first modern Egyptian revolution. The UK caved in and granted Egypt independence, though largely nominally as the country remained under British military occupation until 1936 when the UK withdrew its troops except those around the Suez Canal.

During World War Two, Egypt tried to remain neutral despite considerable UK pressure and the presence of large numbers of British troops, who in 1942 surrounded the palace in Cairo and forced King Farouk to change his government.

Egypt's Arab Spring - 2011

In 1951, Egypt demanded all remaining British troops who were then around the Suez Canal to leave the country, but the UK refused. British soldiers killed 43 Egyptian police officers in an police station at Ismalia and extensive riots followed. On 22-23 July 1952 military officers launched a coup d’état against King Farouk and took power; in June 1953 they declared Egypt a republic, with Gamal Abdel Nasser becoming Prime Minister, becoming President in 1956.

After Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal that year the UK and France together with Israel launched a disastrous attack – the Suez Crisis. The UK and France were humiliated after they were forced to withdraw by pressure from the UN, USA and Russia. The event is widely seen as marking the end of Great Britain’s role as one of the world’s major powers. Perhaps why we cling on to a hopelessly ineffectual “nuclear deterrent”.

Egypt's Arab Spring - 2011
At the Egyptian Embassy

After Nasser’s death in 1970, Anwar Sadat took over as president until 1981, when he was assassinated by an Islamic extremist. Sadat expelled the Soviet advisers and attempted to modernise Egypt, encouraging foreign investment but his policies mainly benefited wealthier Egyptians.

Hosni Mubarak became president in 1981 following a referendum in which he was the only candidate. Under him draconian laws against freedom of expression and association were enacted, and political activities largely outlawed. In 2005 he enacted reforms which allowed for multi-candidate elections of the presidency but with severe restrictions on who could stand – and the candidate who got most votes after Mubarak was imprisoned after the vote.

Human rights organisations in 2006-7 had detailed serious violations, including outine torture, arbitrary detentions and trials before military and state security courts, and naming Egypt as an international centre for torture in the US led ‘War on Terror’. In 2007 the constitution was altered, giving the president dictatorial powers, prohibiting religious political parties and authorising extreme powers of arrest and surveillance by the police, with a new anti-terrorism law.

When the Arab Spring began in Tunisa in December 2010, it was hardly a surprise that it spread to Egypt along with other countries including Libya, Yemen, Syria and Bahrain. It began on 25 January 2011 with massive demonstrations, marches, occupations of public squares, acts of non-violent civil disobedience and strikes, with millions of protesters demanding the resignation of Mubarak.

Wikipedia lists the following causes:

  • Police brutality
  • State-of-emergency laws
  • Electoral fraud
  • Political censorship
  • Corruption
  • Unemployment
  • Food price rises
  • Low wages
  • Demographic structural factors
  • Other regional protests
  • Authoritarianism
  • Political repression.

Tahrir Square became the centre of the revolution, with over 50,000 protesters occupying it on 25 January, and later growing to perhaps 300,000. The revolt continued there for 18 days until finally the military who had held the real power in Egypt at least since 1952 removed Mubarek from office on 11 February 2011.

In London on Saturday 5th February 2011 I photographed three protests related to the Egyptian Revolution. The first was a protest at the US Embassy where speakers from Stop the War, the British Muslim Initiative and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and others castigated the USA for its support of the Mubarak government over the years and called for his immediate departure.

From there I went with the protesters to join others at the Egyptian Embassy in Mayfair, to join the Egyptians who had been protesting there all week.

While I was photographing at the Embassy I heard the noise of another protest a hundred yards or so down the street, where supporters of Hizb ut-Tahrir had turned up in force. As usual most were dressed in black, but there was a group of men dressed in orange Guantanamo jump suits and wearing the masks of the corrupt rulers of Arab states.

Their rally was not in support of the current protests in Tahrir Square and elsewhere, but for a different Arab revolution, calling on the Egyptian army to remove Mubarek but in its place not to establish democracy and freedom, but to set up a Caliphate, theocratic rule rather like that in Iran.

You can read more about the London protests in the three links below to My London Diary where there are many more pictures. Sadly although Mubarek was removed, events in Egypt have not led to the increased freedoms the 2011 revolution was demanding. You can read more about the Arab Winter and the Egyptian Crisis that followed in various articles on Wikipedia and elsewhere online.

Hizb ut-Tahrir at Egyptian Embassy
Egyptian Embassy Demonstration
US Embassy Rally For Egypt


XR Carmen’s Carbon Procession

Saturday, July 2nd, 2022

Carmen leads the XR Carbon Procession at Hyde Park Corner

Extinction Rebellion had obviously put in a lot of thought and effort into their Carmen’s Carbon Procession on July 2nd, 2019, and there were quite a few photographers and videographers who came to photograph it. Doubtless all of us filed our pictures with the agencies or publications, but I don’t know how many got published. Probably the only pictures used came from later in the day when they ended the event with a protest in Trafalgar Square close to where a large audience had gathered to watch the opera.

Protests in the UK seldom get reported, unless they result in considerable disruption, violence or involve celebrities behaving badly. So far as most editors are concerned they are not ‘news’. Of course much of the press and media is owned by a small group of billionaires whose interests those editors have to bear in mind even where there is not explicit direction. But more generally they operate under a general restraint of upholding the status quo and from their personal position as part of the well paid middle class – something which has been very apparent in the coverage of the recent RMT strikes.

But overall Extinction Rebellion have done much to bring the climate crisis into a wider public consciousness, and I applaude them for this even if I agree with some of their left and anarchist critics. And perhaps an opera-based protest exemplifies the middle-class nature of the organisation. But mobilising such a large middle-class movement is certainly an acheivement, and many of their harshest critics are those who have failed to mobilise more than a tiny fraction of the working class. Though nothing at the moment suggests that XR’s efforts will result in any of the decisive action needed to be anything but too little too late.

Relatively few people actually see protests on the streets, and most who do are too intent on getting on with their life, shopping or hurrying to meetings or to catch trains to take much notice. Much of XR Carmen’s Carbon Procession in any case took part on fairly empty back streets and it was more an event staged for the media than a protest.

The protest took place on the day that BP, a company which began life in 1909 as the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, Ltd, a part of our imperial exploitation of Iran’s vast oil reserves was greenwashing its polluting and climate-damaging activities through sponsorship of a Royal Opera House performance of Carmen to be relayed to 13 BP giant screens in major cities across the UK.

An opera singer performs a little from Carmen

It toured the offices of oil companies belonging to the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) urging them to abandon the pretence they can combat global warming without a huge cut in oil production and delivering copies of the Extinction Rebellion Handbook ‘This is Not A Drill’.

As well as Carmen in costume, there was a fine opera singer and a group of musicians, XR drummers to draw attention to the event and a team who marked out the company offices as crime scenes.

The procession found a floral arch in Grosvenor Square

The event met on Ebury Bridge before marking to perform in front of the nearby offices of Italian petroleum company ENI, on an otherwise rather empty street in Pimlico. They then moved on for another performance on a busy lunchtime street corner in Eccleston Square and then the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) close to Victoria Station. By then they needed a rest in Hyde Park before going through Mayfair to the offices of Saudi Aramco at 10 Portman Square.

And an illegally parked symbol of the kind of extreme wasteful consumption that has got the planet in such a mess

It had taken them around three and a half hours to get there, and I decided I’d taken enough pictures and was getting tired. But probably the parts of the event more likely to be featured as news in the UK were to come. Their next planned performance was outside BP in St James’s Square, from where they were going on to protest close to the giant screen in Trafalgar Square, hoping to make clear to the audience there that the Royal Opera House should end their greenwashing sponsorship by BP.

Security at Saudi Aramco take a copy of the XR Handbook ‘This is not a Drill’

More at XR Carmen’s Carbon Procession


May Day – International Workers Day

Sunday, May 1st, 2022

May Day – International Workers Day – May 1st was chosen as the date for International Workers’ Day in 1889 by the Second International socialists and communists, and adopted by anarchists, labor activists, and leftists in general around the world, to commemorate the 1886 Chicago Haymarket affair and the struggle for an eight-hour working day. It continues to be celebrated in many countries around the world.

May Day - International Workers Day
Space Hijackers Anarchist Cricket, Parliament Square, London, May 1, 2005

Although I tested negative for Covid on Wednesday I’m still short of breath and short of energy, with still a little of a cough and have been strongly advised to take things easy for the next week or two. So I’m not sure if I’ll be out celebrating May Day today, much as I yearn to be.

May Day - International Workers Day
Justice for Cleaners, Westminster Cathedral, London, May 1, 2006

Before 2000 I was usually unable to celebrate May Day properly as May 1st was usually a normal working day and I went out around 8am and arrived home from work around 5.30pm, usually with more to do at home after an evening meal. Not much time to celebrate International Workers Day!

May Day - International Workers Day
Space Hijackers Police Victory Party – Bank, May 1, 2006

Of course, May Day sometimes fell at the weekend, so I would have been free to take part in events that were taking place, but even in 1999 when it was a Saturday I think I had other things on.

May Day - International Workers Day
Space Hijackers Mayfair Mayfayre – May 1st 2008

There were of course May Day related events that I went to most years, but usually these were on the Saturday or Sunday before the early May bank holiday Monday which was introduced by a Labour government in 1978, when they lacked the nerve to make May Day itself a public holiday. We still have that bank holiday despite plans made by Conservative governments under both John Major and David Cameron to replace it by a Trafalgar Day holiday in late October.

May Day - International Workers Day
Rave Against The Machine – Leake St, Waterloo, London. Saturday 1 May 2010

By 2003 I was getting rather blasé about the London May Day march, writing “May Day Has perhaps settled into a rather predictable event now. The socialist left – and what is left seems to be a few unions and a number of ethnic communist party groups – march from Clerkenwell to Trafalgar square, while anti-capitalist protesters do not a lot around town“, but that didn’t stop me going again to photograph it that year or in 2004, 2005, 2006, and every year until 2019. Covid put an end to the sequence in 2020, but I came out of seclusion for May Day 2021, though perhaps I’ll miss it again today.

May Day - International Workers Day
Anti-Capitalists block Tower Bridge – Tower Bridge, London. Fri 1 May 2015

And I will miss it. Miss the sense of solidarity on the streets. And most of my life I’ve been feeling a loss of what might have been had we ever had a socialist government since my first few years growing up in a welfare state. Tory governments largely did what was expected of them but the various Labour administrations largely failed the people. Perhaps the final straw came in 2017, when people inside Labour actively worked against a Labour election victory.

May Day - International Workers Day
Anti-Capitalist May Day Street Party Starts – One Commercial St, Aldgate, London. Sun 1 May 2016

The pictures here come from some of the other May Day events I’ve photographed in the last 20 years or so. You can find other May Day pictures on My London Diary simply by choosing a year at the top of the page and then the month of May at the left of the year page.

May Day - International Workers Day
May Day F**k Parade – London. Mon 1 May 2017