Posts Tagged ‘money laundering’

‘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.


Vedanta Foiled

Sunday, October 1st, 2023

Vedanta Foiled: Vedanta Resources Limited is a mining company with headquarters in London though founded in India in 1976 and is largely owned by the family of its founder Anil Agarwal. Mining is essentially a dirty business, but Vedanta has earned a reputation for being one of the very worst in terms of environmental damage, unsafe operations, human rights and dodgy tax practices.

Vedanta Foiled

I first became aware of the company in 2010 when human rights and activist groups, including Survival International, Amnesty International organised a protest in London outside its AGM against its plans to destroy a mountain sacred to the Dongria Kondh people in the Niyamgiri hills in Odisha, India for its deposits of the aluminium ore bauxite. Even the UK government criticised the company, which refused to cooperate with an OECD investigation.

Vedanta Foiled

Their refinery in Odissa has also been found to produce high levels of air and water pollution, as have other factories owned by Vedanta subsidiaries elsewhere, including in Zambia.

Vedanta Foiled

In 2018 Vedanta announced it was de-listing from the London Stock Exchange after pressure from politicians and activists following the Thoothukudi massacre in Tamil Nadu in May in which 13 protesters were killed and dozens injured, and the success of grassroots activism which has shut down Vedanta’s operations in Goa, Tuticorin and Niyamgiri.

Vedanta Foiled

Much of that pressure came from the activities of Foil Vedanta whose annual protests outside the Vedanta AGM I photographed for some years. As well as noisy protests outside the meeting some of these campaigners had bought shares so they had a right to attend the AGMs and ask questions about the companies activities. While their questions were seldom addressed seriously they did greatly embarrass the company and caused som independent shareholders to disinvest.

But Foil Vedanta also did more, and a few days before the final AGM had released a comprehensive report ‘Vedanta’s Billions: Regulatory failure, environment and human rights’ detailing the company’s crimes in all of its operations, and of the City of London’s total failure to regulate Vedanta, or any other criminal mining company and revealing the vast scale of tax evasion and money laundering.

Four years earlier Foil Vedanta had issued another report on the company’s subsidiary mining copper in Zambia, exposing how it had evaded taxes there as well as pollution and environmental problems that other investigations had already reported.

They also supported Zambian communities consistently polluted by Konkola Copper Mines in bringing a case against the company to court in the UK. Vedanta appealed to the Supreme Court against the case being heard in the UK arguing it did not have a duty of care towards persons affected by the operations of a subsidiary company.

Surendra Das of Foil Vedanta commented “Vedanta’s remorseless pollution of the River Kafue since 2005 continues the colonial legacy of environmental racism which made the Zambian Copperbelt a global pollution hotspot. While the financial and material gains from copper have been allowed to flow seamlessly out of the country, justice risks being restricted by economic and institutional barriers of territoriality. We very much hope that the court will enable the fight for justice to continue.

The Supreme court’s lengthy judgement confirmed that at a duty of care can exist between a parent company and third parties affected by the operations of its subsidiaries.

After the de-listing Vedanta is now a private company so this was the last Vedanta AGM, but protests by Foil Vedanta and the London Mining Network have continued in London against the company which still receives important backing from the City of London, as do other mining companies which are still plundering the world – if not as openly and crookedly as Vedanta.

More at Vedanta’s Final AGM.


DPAC Trash The Tories – Maidenhead

Friday, June 3rd, 2022

DPAC Trash The Tories – Maidenhead
Back when the Tories got back into power with the support of the Lib Dems in the UK 2010 General Election they decided to launch a policy of austerity, making deep cuts in the services and benefits that enabled the less wealthy in the country to get by and lead decent lives.

DPAC Trash The Tories - Maidenhead
Paula Peters of DPAC argues with police as they block a road junction

The cuts they proceeded to make had relatively little effect on those in the better-paid jobs many of whom didn’t need or had opted out of public services such as the NHS and state education and didn’t live in public housing or working class areas. But in any case the Tories made sure these people were protected with increasing real salaries as inequality increased. The Office of National Statistics reported in 2020 “The gap between the richest in society and the rest of the population has widened over the 10-year period; the income share of the richest 1% increased from 7% to 8.2% between FYE 2011 and FYE 2020.”

DPAC Trash The Tories - Maidenhead
Theresa May – Weak And Wobbly

In particular, the government continued to bail out the bankers, despite it being the bankers who had precipitated the 2008 financial crisis – and in the longer term had been responsible for creating instability by creating and exploiting huge loopholes in the world financial system established after the war. It was of course British banks and the City of London which played the leading role in this, making London the money-laundering capital of the world with former colonies at the centre of offshoring and enabling after the break-up of the Soviet Union Russians to legalise their illegal plunder and become oligarchs, with a huge influence in the Conservative Party.

DPAC Trash The Tories - Maidenhead

But the Tories came in determined to cut benefits and in particular looked at the amounts going to support disabled people and enable them to live in the community. They thought wrongly that disabled people would be an easy target because of their various disabilities. They were wrong on two counts. Firstly because many disabled people had experience of having to fight for their rights and secondly because they greatly underestimated the wide support for them among the general population. Tories may not have a heart (and certainly many Tories have demonstrated this in recent years) but the general public do.

DPAC Trash The Tories - Maidenhead

At the centre of the protests by disabled people is DPAC, Disabled People Against Cuts, formed by disabled people after the mass protests against cuts in Birmingham in October 2010 had been led by disabled people. On its web site it proclaims “DPAC is for everyone who believes that disabled people should have full human rights and equality. It is for everyone that refuses to accept that any country can destroy the lives of people just because they are or become disabled or have chronic health issues. It is for everyone against government austerity measures which target the poor while leaving the wealthy unscathed. It is for everyone who refuses to stay silent about the injustices delivered by wealthy politicians on ordinary people and their lives.”

DPAC Trash The Tories - Maidenhead

On Saturday 3rd June 2017, five days before the General Election called by Theresa May, I joined DPAC for a protest in her constituency of Maidenhead. Her government was the first in the world the UN had found guilty of grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s human rights. Tory cuts since 2010 had 9 times the impact on disabled people as on any other group, 19 times more for those with the highest support needs. DPAC call the policies heartless and say they are starving, isolating and ultimately killing the disabled who the Tories regard them as unproductive members of society. Though it was the cuts, particularly the axing of the Independent Living Fund, ILF, which had stopped many making a real contribution.

DPAC Trash The Tories - Maidenhead

It was a fairly small group that arrived at Maidenhead station for the protest. Travel by rail is often very difficult for disabled people. Few stations have step-free access and there are often large gaps between train and platform. Rail companies do make an effort to provide support but this needs to be booked in advance and is sometimes unreliable. And rail fares are an expensive luxury for people on benefits – who may also need a taxi to get to the station.

DPAC Trash The Tories - Maidenhead

They paraded a straw effigy of ‘Theresa May – Weak and Wobbly‘ and a hatchet with the message ‘Cuts Kill‘ to the High St for a rally, with speeches, loud chanting and handing out fliers calling on Maidenhead voters to vote for anyone but Theresa May before returning to the station.

DPAC Trash The Tories - Maidenhead

Most other photographers thought the protest was ended and some had rushed to get the train back to London, and the police had largely gone away, but I knew DPAC from previous events and stayed with them, taking photographs as they moved to block one of the busiest road junctions in the town for around 15 minutes as police tried to persuade them to move.

DPAC Trash The Tories - Maidenhead

Eventually they did get off the road, just in time for me to catch a bus to start my journey home. I was sorry to have to rush away, but the next bus wasn’t for a couple of hours. I changed buses in Windsor and got off in Staines, walked along the road and put my hand in my pocket for my phone and it wasn’t there. At home I went to ‘Google Find My Device‘ and saw on the map it was still travelling on the bus all the way to Slough, where fortunately the driver found it and handed it in to the office and I was able to cycle there and collect it the following Monday.

More on the protest at DPAC Trash The Tories in Maidenhead.


Funeral For Legal Aid And A Pig

Sunday, May 22nd, 2022

Funeral For Legal Aid And A Pig

I don’t think the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association organise many protests, but they did a good job on Wednesday 22nd May 2013, with a mock funeral and rally at Parliament against government proposals for justice on the cheap, restricting legal aid and ending the right of clients to chose their solicitor with work going to the cheapest bid.

Funeral For Legal Aid And A Pig

The introduction of price-competitive tendering (PCT) would have the effect of bankrupting smaller law firms, while opening up provision of legal aid to large non-legal companies, including Eddie Stobart and Tesco. It would also prevent those eligible for legal aid from being able to choose appropriate specialists in the legal area involved in their cases.

Funeral For Legal Aid And A Pig

It was a protest that brought together a wide range of organisations an interests, with many speakers from the legal professions, from political parties and some who had been involved in cases of injustice including Gerry Conlan from the Guildford 4, a member of the family of Jean Charles De Menzes, Susan Matthews, mother of Alfie Meadows and Breda Power, the daughter of Billy Power, one of the Birmingham 6. Solicitors who spoke included Clive Stafford Smith, the founder of Reprieve, and Blur drummer Dave Rowntree, and notable among the QCs, Helena Kennedy.

Clive Stafford Smith

Some, including those from Women Against Rape, Winvisble, Women of Colour in The Global Womens Strike and other groups had come because the proposed changes would have drastic effects on women involved in domestic violence and rape cases, and immigrants fighting for asylum.

Gerry Conlan – the Guildford 4 only got justice when they could get the right lawyers on legal aid

The event had begun with a funeral procession led by a marching jazz band with robed and wigged figures carrying the coffin of Legal Aid, followed by a woman dressed as the Scales of Justice. After the speeches there was a summary by leading barrister John Cooper QC and then the whole assembly delivered its verdict on the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Grayling, ‘guilty as charged’.

Jeremy Corbyn, MP

Not for nothing did Grayling become widely known as ‘Failing Grayling‘ for his was a consistent record of incompetency and blunders in various ministerial roles in both Coalition and Tory governments conveniently summarised in the i‘s article 10 disasters that have happened under his watch.

As well as the cuts to legal aid which led to many victims of domestic violence in the courts and family courts facing their abusers without a lawyer, Grayling’s attempt to end legal aid to those in prison was ruled unlawful in 2017. His introduction of high fees for employment tribunals in discrimination cases was ruled unlawful by the Supreme Court – and the government had to refund £27 million. He made an agreement with Saudi Arabia for training in their jails which had to be dropped when other ministers pointed out their abysmal human rights record. Then there was the prison book ban, again found unlawful. And his 2014 overhauling and privatisation of Probation services was a disaster that forced its later reversal.

Emily Thornberry, MP

Grayling then moved to Transport, worsening the Southern Rail fiasco, costing us £2bn over Virgin East Coast, contributing to chaos over rail timetabling and awwarding a firm with no ferries a no-deal Brexit contract. And although the i article stopped at 10, Grayling didn’t.

More pictures at Lawyers Funeral for Legal Aid


Daddy’s Pig heads for the Trough – Downing St to Bank

The legal aid protest at Parliament meant I had missed the start of the three mile marathon by artist taxi-driver Mark McGowan on his knees pushing his Daddy’s Pig, accompanied by another protester pushing a fire engine, from Downing St to the Bank of England.

I met them outside the Royal Courts of Justice, where the two had taken a rest before starting off on the second half of their gruelling journey, accompanied by a group of supporters, some of whom were carrying pigs.

While the country suffers from the effects of the various cuts, bankers, private equity companies, oligarchs and other friends of the Tories were having a feeding frenzy, snouts in the trough as the government privatised much of the NHS and other services and the City of London entrenched its position as the money laundering capital of the world.

More pictures at Daddy’s Pig heads for the Trough.


Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell

Thursday, April 14th, 2022

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell.
Protests in London on 14th April 2018 calling for Land Justice, against Turkey’s support of Assad in Syria and ten months after the Grenfell fire.


The Landlords’ Game – Mayfair, Belgravia & Brompton

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell

I photographed a tour of London’s wealthiest areas led by the Land Justice Network which reminded us that land ownership in Britain is one of the most unequal in the world, both in rural areas and in cities.

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell

This unequal ownership of land is the basis of our class system and the aggregation of wealth and inequality that have led to our present crisis levels of homelessness and degradation. Largely beginning with the Norman conquest, the battles over land have continued over the centuries, with the enclosure of common land and the current redevelopment of public land, particularly council estates, as private housing for the wealthy.

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell

The tour began in Mayfair, where the land is largely owned by the Duke of Westminster, along with much more of the London borough, although the family’s Grosvenor Group Limited has diversified and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grosvenor_Group according to Wikipedia also owns properties in other parts of Britain and Ireland, Canada, the United States, Australia, the Asia Pacific region and parts of Europe.

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell
British Virgin Islands is an offshore tax haven where 23,000 properties in England and Wales are registered as a tax scam

From a rally at its meeting point in Brown Hart Gardens where there were songs and speeches by the Land Justice Network, the Landworkers Alliance, the tour including activists from Class War and the Revolutionary Communist Group marched to Grosvenor Square where we listed to a surprisingly lucid account of the anti-Vietnam war protest there on 27th October 1968. I think I was there too, but other than a vague recollection of wildly charging police horses and panic can remember little – and in those days I didn’t even have a camera that worked.

We moved off, stopping briefly at a house known to have been left empty for around 15 years, one of many such empty properties in a city with a huge housing shortage to call for councils to be able to levy truly punitive council tax or requisition long-term empty properties.

A short distance along the road we stopped at ‘Grouse House’ owned by Odey Asset Management whose owner Crispin Odey formed ‘You Forgot the Birds’ to oppose RSPB who want to stop the killing of birds for what is wrongly called sport.

There was a speech by Private Eye journalist Richard Brooks who with his colleague Christian Eriksson set about untangling the great offshore corporate web that covers the country – and you can download his report Tax Havens – Selling England By The Offshore Pound from the Private Eye web site.

Kat from the RCG (Revolutionary Communist Group) also spoke, reminding us that the CIty of London is a huge3 tax haven and the money laundering capital of the world.

The tour continue to Park Lane, where there was a short protest outside estate agent Foxtons which sells and rents some of the most expensive property in London, and Class War were prominent in pointing out that both the Tory government and the Labour local authorities have relied on estate agents to direct their housing strategies.

The tour stopped again on Park Lane outside the Grosvenor House Hotel, the venue for the notorious annual Property Developers Awards before crossing into Hyde Park, open to the public since 1637, but where we were reminded of the battles to make many other parks public, and how now many have only been saved by the growth of groups of volunteer ‘Friends’. We also heard a plea for more free public toilets. Many were closed in the 1980s because of a ‘gay scare’ and others such as those at Hyde Park Corner now charge for use – 50p a visit here.

Across Knightsbridge we walked along one of the most expensive streets in Britain, Grosvenor Crescent to a statue of the first Marquess of Westminster on the corner of Belgrave Square, which has a plaque stating the family came here with William the Conqueror. He divided out the conquered land and many great estates date from then, though the Grosvenor Estate holdings in London came to them when 3rd Baronet Sir Thomas Grosvenor married Mary Davies, the heiress to the 500 acre Manor of Ebury in 1677. He was 21 at the time, but she was only 12. The estate, then largely swamps later became Mayfair, Park Lane and Belgravia.

A left the tour here for a few minutes to photograph the Hizb Ut-Tahrir protest outside the Turkish Embassy, but rejoined it later at the final rally in Cadogan Square, part of the 93 acres of the Cadogan Estate which includes the wealthiest parts of Kensington & Chelsea. Much of the money which enabled Sir Hans Sloane to buy the Manor of Chelsea came from African slave labour on sugar estates in Jamaica. His daughter Elizabeth Sloane married Charles Cadogan in 1712.


Hizb Ut-Tahrir protest against Turkey – Turkish Embassy, Belgrave Square

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell

Hizb Ut-Tahrir Britain, Sunni Muslims who call for the restoration of the Muslim caliphate which whose armies conquered much of the Middle East in 632-661CE, were protesting against Turkish complicity in handing Syria back to Assad in accordance with colonial interests and calling for Muslims to support the brave people of Palestine who “are raising their voices to speak out and protest against the illegal occupation, as they are mercilessly killed by the Zionist regime.”

Women were strictly segregated from men at the protest and some stewards were unhappy for me to photograph them.

Their criticism of Turkey goes back to the 1922 abolition of the Ottoman state and the Turkish recognition of the Zionist occupation of Palestine in 1949, and they accuse President Erdogan of strengthening Turkish military and economic ties with Israel. They claim the Turkish state is a secular state “whose role is to protect the colonialist’s interests in our lands, defending and strengthening our enemies who murder us in Syria and Palestine” and call on “Muslims to join us to STAND, STRUGGLE AND SACRIFICE FOR PALESTINE.”


Grenfell – 10 months on – Kensington Town Hall

Land Justice, Hizb Ut-Tahrir & Grenfell

A large crowd was assembling at Kensington Town Hall for the monthly silent walk marking 10 months since the disaster. They hold Kensington and Chelsea Council responsible for the tragedy and for failing to deal effectively with is aftermath, with many survivors still not properly rehoused.

Five years later a public inquiry is still proceeding at a snail’s pace, and there have been no prosecutions of those responsible for approving and installing the highly dangerous cladding on the tower block, for cutting costs, for failing to install the cladding properly, for governments cutting out essential safety regulations which their friends in the building industry thought were ‘red tape’ hampering profits and it looks unlikely if there will ever be justice. Instead we have seen politicians trying to blame the residents for not leaving the building and almost entirely unjustified criticism of the fire service.

There were some speeches, poetry and music before the silent march began, and then a very noisy protest by bikers from the Ace Cafe including Muslim bikers Deen Riders and others taking part in a United Ride 4 Grenfell, from the Ace Cafe on the North Circular Rd, riding to Parliament and then coming to Kensington Town Hall.

The long silent walk towards Grenfell Tower began immediately after the bikers left, and I followed it for a short distance before turning away and leaving to make my way home.


More at:
Grenfell silent walk – 10 months on
Bikers for Grenfell
Hizb Ut-Tahrir protest against Turkey
The Landlords’ Game


Class War, Murdoch and Cross Bones

Monday, March 28th, 2022

Class War, Murdoch and Cross Bones – three rather different events around London on Saturday 28th March.

Jon Bigger Class War South Croydon – Purley, London

Class War, Murdoch and Cross Bones
Jon Bigger

Class War had decided to stand candidates in the 2015 General Election, and among those who volunteered to stand was Jon Bigger, now Dr John Bigger and the publisher of The Journal of Anarchy “a repository of work from published articles to blog posts, videos and podcasts.”

Class War, Murdoch and Cross Bones

Croydon South was probably not the most fertile ground for anarchism which was perhaps largely why it was chosen as one of the handful of seats for the party to fight. On the southern fringe of London it remains spiritually in deepest true-blue Surrey, one of the Conservatives’ safest seats in London. Though there was also a particular distaste for the Tory candidate Chris Philp who had called for benefit claimants to be forced to undertake unpaid community work, as well as calling for Purley to get a grammar school.

It wasn’t a very successful visit as although we went to what was considered to be the centre of Purley there were very few people about, and Bigger’s campaign speech was delivered to the small group of Class War supporters and one rather confused elderly gentleman at the Conservative Party Office. We found only a few more outside a nearby supermarket, where most customers seemed to be in two much of a hurry to get back into large cars to hear anything political.

As I wrote:

“Probably all of Purley was by this time slaughtered at home in front of the TV as the sun was definitely over the yard arm. Wherever they were it wasn’t where we were on Brighton Road, except for a few desperate souls at the bus stops on each side of the road trying to escape. But Class War made the best of it, handing out their election flyer to the police posse still devotedly following their progress (though mainly sitting in their van enjoying the overtime), the occasional local youth and elderly demented.” Perhaps some of them were among the 65 who voted for Jonathan Bigger, but somehow 31,448 came out of the woods to vote for the Tory.

Jon Bigger Class War South Croydon


Murdoch on Trial – Guilty as charged – News International, London Bridge

I arrived rather late back from Purley for the People’s Trial of Rupert Murdoch being conducted by activists on the sixth day of Occupy Rupert Murdoch week outside the News International building at London Bridge, just in time to hear the last witnesses before the jury gave its guilty verdict and Judge Donnachadh McCarthy pronounced the sentence.

But though the sentence was to remove his power base and treat him with love there seemed little chance of it being carried out for real, and his organisation continues to spread its disinformation and messages of hate.

Max Keiser then spoke about the economic fraud and the basis of our economic system, with London at its centre, the world’s largest tax haven. The system, which allows the rich to borrow on the basis that they have borrowed before is rather like the Emperor’s New Clothes, and it began to fail in 2008. Whether the StartCOIN scratch cards he handed out with free money on them (“The currency of the revolution”) will prove more stable I can’t say as I lost mine.

I was told that more would happen later, but I was getting tired and decided to leave, missing the rush to occupy News International at around 7pm. As I wrote, “The rush past security proved successful and the occupiers managed to stay in the building for around 20 hours, although there was surprisingly little coverage in even the non-Murdoch news media. Those 5 billionaires obviously stick together and the BBC always seeks to marginalise any UK protest. Probably there was some important news about a minor celebrity hiccoughing.”

Murdoch on Trial – Guilty as charged


Cross Bones Open Day – Cross Bones Graveyard, Redcross Way

Two well-dressed men with Southwark poet and playwright John Constable in the Crossbones Graveyard

I’d seen one of the men on the left of the picture earlier opposite News International and talked briefly with him and he had told me he was waiting for a friend to go to the Open Day at the Cross Bones Graveyard and I decide to call in their on my way home. Here’s what I wrote in 2015, along with some pictures.

I’d been to the graveyard before, the first time years ago when I’d wandered in and the whole site was in a complete mess, with loads of rubbish and rubble. I’d read about its use for hundreds of years as a place where outcasts, particularly the ‘Winchester Geese’, prostitutes who were licenced to carry out their trade on the south bank on the Thames, in Bankside surrounding Winchester Palace, formalised by the Lord Bishop of Winchester in 1142, and providing a considerable income for the clergy through taxes and fines for several hundreds of years thereafter.

These ‘single women’ and their children, along with paupers and miscreants were buried in this patch of ground until some time before it was formally closed in 1853 as too overcrowded to continue. Plans to build over it were stopped in the 1880s by the e Disused Burial Grounds Act 1884, and it remained largely unused and forgotten until disturbed by the Jubilee Line extension in 1990, when the Museum of London made some excavations. Their survey of the site suggested that up to 15,000 had been buried there, half of them children.

I’d walked past it earlier and assumed like some other areas of waste ground that it was a bombsite, but then became aware that ribbons and other tokens were being tied to the railings. Later I read about the site in various places.

Apart from the mysterious phantom gardener, the other figure responsible for increasing interest in Crossbones was local writer John Constable who revived the story of Cross Bones through his cycle of poems and mystery plays, ‘The Southwark Mysteries’. Various events began to be organised around Crossbones, and although I never got to them, the ribbons on the fences multiplied.

My London Diary

I was pleased to be able to give the appeal for the creation of a new public garden by the Bankside Open Spaces Trust a little publicity.

Cross Bones Open Day


Robert Frank’s London

Friday, November 29th, 2019

I’ve long been an admirer of Robert Frank’s pictures taken in London, and you can see a fine selection of these in the feature Extraordinary Black And White Photographs Of London In The Early 1950s.

There are at least two videos paging through the book London Wales on You Tube, and I recommend that by Алексей Гуменюк only because I think he is a better page-turner, though his commentary and the sound track perhaps add a certain charm – but you can turn the sound off if it annoys you. Of course if you have read my earlier thoughts on the book or otherwise bought it you can turn the pages yourself. It’s better.

Frank’s London is a city (and City) long lost, with men in bowler hats and men carrying sacks of coal, both enshrouded by the pea-soupers which the coal produced (and in the second part of the book, he goes to photograph the men who mined it.)

Thankfully those days of almost solid air in London are long gone, though I can just remember them. But appearances are deceptive and London’s air is still toxic, leading to huge amounts of miserable illness and an estimated almost 10,000 early deaths each year, with levels of pollutants typically well above the EU legal limits in many streets and schoolyards.

The City too has changed, though still equally toxic. We no longer have an Empire – it had already begun to disappear when Frank coughed his way through those streets, but neo-colonialism has replaced colonialism, and many of the world’s most toxic companies – for example in mining – are still London based, and the City is the money laundering capital of the world.