Posts Tagged ‘My London Diary’

Our Flag & Olympic Site 2007

Friday, November 17th, 2023

Our Flag & Olympic Site – On Saturday 17th November 2007 I had a more varied day than usual, beginning with a march my football supporters, then a walk around the outside of the then fenced off Olympic site followed by an Olympic-related symposium. I can’t remember anything about the symposium, though I think it was almost certainly critical of what was being done to London, its future being sacrificed to a highly commercial sports festival.

March For Our Flag – Westminster

Our Flag & Olympic Site 2007

A few months earlier in February 2007 I’d photographed and written about a ‘March for Our Flag’ organised by football supporters, particularly Tottenham fans. The main group backing that – and the repeat march this month through Westminster – was the United British Alliance. There was a suggestion that, although a patriotic event, it was at least trying to detach itself from the racism of the far right.

The UBA web site described itself as “a multi-ethnic, multi-faith organisation with a passionate interest in reclaiming our once proud nation from the grip of international terror and political correctness gone-mad,with a view to re-installing some pride in our communities and way of life.”

Our Flag & Olympic Site 2007

As I commented in November 2007:

Although individuals may well be sincere in these attempts, it isn’t so easy to shake off this impression. Some of the links on the [UBA] web site are to people and groups who I would consider as having extreme views, and the discussion you can find on football forums and elsewhere seems clearly Islamophobic.

Our Flag & Olympic Site 2007

Although there were even fewer supporters this time – well under 200 – there did seem to be a slightly calmer attitude and a slightly wider range of people attending, although still only one or two black faces.

Our Flag & Olympic Site 2007

Curiously enough, on the UBA web site galleries, all the marchers have their faces – or at least their eyes – blacked out. The only people not given this treatment are the police escorting the event.

Our Flag & Olympic Site 2007

As I’ve often said, the only way to protect our freedom is by being free. That includes standing up for what you believe – and being seen to do so. So I’m totally opposed to this kind of censorship of the news. Freedom of expression is a part of the British heritage of which I’m proud. As too are Morris Dancing, Association and Rugby football along with the many other things, including the way we have successfully integrated elements from other cultures and religions into our way of life over the years – and continue to do so.

My London Diary

My pictures from the 17th November do show one or two families and their children took part and I can see just one darker face among the young men. In view of recent events and the behavior of Suella Braverman my final two sentences are very appropriate and very relevant: “We all need far more positive messages and actions from our politicians to lead us all – including Britain’s muslims to a new and united vision of our society. Islamophobia needs combating, not encouraging.”

More pictures on My London Diary

Stratford – Olympic Edge

I walked out of Stratford Station and across the footbridge leading to the Carpenters Estate and on to Bridgewater Road, a dead end with a bridge across the tidal Waterworks River.

The road to Hackney Wick is firmly closed and so too was the Greenway just a few yards from the entrance on Stratford High Street.

You could walk down it just a few yards, and I took another picture looking back along the Waterworks River towards Bridgewater Road where I had been standing earlier.

I took a few pictures around the edge of the area, then walked back along the High Street towards the centre of Stratford.

The Log Cabin pub had been here at 335-337 High Street, Stratford as a coaching inn since at least the mid-18th century, though it was known as The Yorkshire Gray before being renamed around 1997 when the hiddeous green excresenes were added. The building was Grade II listed in 2003, almost certainly saving it from demolition and is thought to date from around 1740, and though parts were rebuilt in the late nineteenth century much of the interior had survived more or less intact. It closed in 2001 and is now a hotel.

My final picture was at The Working Mens Hall and Club Rooms on Romford Road, founded in 1865 and rebuilt in 1905, with the motto Labor Omnia Vincit (Work Conquers All). Perhaps it was here that the symposium was held, and I have a very vague recollection of a talk by Iain Sinclair, although that could have been on quite a different occasion.

A few more pictures here.

March for Peace and Liberty – 2005

Sunday, September 24th, 2023

March for Peace and Liberty – 2005 Eighteen years ago on Saturday 24th September around 50,000 of us were marching through London for peace and calling for the withdrawal of forces from Iraq.

March for Peace and Liberty

The protest, called by Stop the War Coalition, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) coincided with an even larger protest in Washington close to the White House.

March for Peace and Liberty

Organisers of the Washington protest claimed that around 300,000 took part, while US police said the half that number was “as good a guess as any.” Police estimates of the London march were, as usual more political than based on any reality, and their figure of 10,000 was laughably low.

March for Peace and Liberty

I had developed my own simple methods to assess numbers. For smaller protests I’d simply stop at a suitable point and count those passing. When numbers got a little larger I’d count in groups of roughly ten, larger still groups of hundreds. Though sometimes that hundred might only have been 80 or sometimes 125 the overall figure was probably within around ten percent of the actual total.

March for Peace and Liberty

But with really large protests such as this, well over the police figure of 10,000, any form of counting is too time-consuming and tedious. I’d often still try to get a rough figure by counting for a minute where I was taking photographs a few times as the protest went part, and then make a rough estimate using the time the whole protest took to pass me. Typically the answer this gave me was around half the number claimed by the march organisers and anything around four to ten times the figure release by the police and often quoted by news media.

It’s a little difficult to find the text I wrote about the protest on My London Diary in 2005 as there are no headings in the text column on the September page, with headings and images in a separate unlinked column to the right – later I improved the site design to unite text and pictures and provided a list of links to stories which remains at the top of the monthly pages. Back in 2005 you simply had to scroll down a long page, and while the headings and text were simple to find, many viewers never managed to find the of text, which ends with a little art criticism. So here it is, with a few minor corrections:

What a fine mess you’ve got us into” is probably the conclusion of most of the British people about Blair’s decision to join in with Bush’s Iraq invasion in 2003. Quite how many of them turned up on the 24th to march for a British pull-out is a matter of contention. Both police and organisers estimates – ten and a hundred thousand respectively – seem to me extremely unlikely.

So I was there with probably between twenty-five and fifty thousand people, walking across Parliament Square in front of the Houses of Parliament, despite it being a Saturday afternoon, with no business taking place inside, the ban on the use of amplification within a kilometre of parliament was still in force, so the event was a little quieter than usual. Some did choose to defy the ban and the police appeared not to notice.

Gate Gourmet supply in-flight meals for British Airways. It used to be a part of the company, but was separated out, then sold to American management. Rather like what is starting to happen in our National Health Service, and of course British Airways was also originally owned by the nation.

The company takes advantage of a largely Asian labour force living around the edge of the airport, paying them relatively low wages. The new management decided to cut labour costs even more by bringing in casual labour to do much of the work (while apparently employing more managers!) and when the employees held a meeting to protest, they were sacked.

Pressure from both BA and the union (TGWU) led to the company offering to take back some of the sacked workers, but not all, and the strike continues. Some of the strikers came to take part in the rally, to publicise their case as well as call for a withdrawal from Iraq.

Most of the usual people were there at the march, and I took their pictures again – and some are on the site. When the march started I hung around in Parliament Square to watch it go past before walking rather faster than the marchers up Whitehall.

By the time I’d reached Trafalgar Square and waited again for the end of the march to pass, my knee [I’d injured it earlier in the month] was beginning to ache and I didn’t feel up to walking to Hyde Park. I sat down and ate my sandwiches contemplating the new sculpture on the ‘fourth plinth’, ‘Alison Lapper Pregnant’ by Marc Quinn. This 15ft white marble shows Lapper, an artist born without arms, sitting naked and eight months pregnant, and will stay on the plinth until April 2007.

It is a striking piece of work and was obviously attracting a great deal of attention from the tourists in the square. I took my time sitting and looking at it while I was eating, and then walking round it from all sides (slightly impeded by the preparations for a juvenile TV show to be broadcast from the square the following day.) Lapper herself works with photographs of her body, and this statue is perhaps too like her black and white photographs, with a rather unpleasant surface, sometimes more soap than marble. I found myself thinking thank goodness for the pigeons who were perching on it and doubtless adding their contributions to it.

Its position up there on a plinth is not ideal. This is work that would be best seen from roughly the same level as its base. The other plinths in the square are occupied by men on horses, which raise their figures more suitably above the plinths. Perhaps when it leaves the square a more suitable display place can be found, but its present placing is a great for catalysing debate about disability. Of course another disabled figure dominates the square; Nelson has his back to her and does not need to call upon his blind eye not to see her.

Many more pictures on My London Diary

A Visit To Hull – 2018

Wednesday, July 26th, 2023

A Visit To Hull: On Thursday 26th July 2018 I took the train to Hull with my wife. She had been born there and I had visited the city many times over the years, at first staying at her family home and since that was sold around 2000 at first with a friend and more recently in hotels.

A Visit To Hull
From the train – somewhere in Lincolnshire

Hull was the place where I really cut my photographic teeth, producing my first extended photographic project which was exhibited at the Ferens Art Gallery there in 1983. You can see many of the pictures from the project on my web site Still Occupied… a View of Hull which I produced to celebrate Hull’s 2017 year as UK City of Culture, as well as in my earlier book of the same name, still available on Blurb where there is an extensive preview.

A Visit To Hull
Hull from our hotel window

Rather more of my pictures are also in a couple of albums on Flickr, one of black and white and a second of colour images and there is also some more recent work, including from the 2018 visit on My London Diary.

A Visit To Hull
Heaven & Hell Club (closed down) Anne St

After booking in to our city centre hotel we had time for a walk before dinner around the city centre and into the Old Town.

A Visit To Hull

Hull claims to have England’s smallest window – the crack between the two stones was a lookout for coaches, and of course the Land of Green Ginger, where there is also the Second Star on the Right and Straight on ’til morning.

Hull used to mean fish, but the Cod Wars put paid to that, though there are still some reminders of the past, and still former docks in the city, though this one is now a marina. And out to the east are more modern docks, with Hull remaining a major port though now much eclipsed by Immingham and Grimsby.

Fruitful Harvest III was moored in the marina, but was built for fishing from Peterhead and later moved to Buckie. By 2018 the ship was registered in Grimsby but no longer registered for fishing, now a just a pleasure craft.

Hull has changed radically since I first visited in 1965, and this area, now called Humber Quays, was then a derelict dockland area and lorry park. Now it has modern office blocks and a memorial to the many emigrants who landed in Hull from Europe and were then mostly entrained to Liverpool to continue their journey to the USA.

Across the mouth of the River Hull is Hull’s biggest tourist attraction, the Deep, opened in 2022. It was built on Sammy’s Point which in my pictures from the 1980s was a storage area for navigation buoys, but had much earlier been a shipbuilding site. In the foreground is a recent footpath bridging across a dry dock, now full of water, still in use until fairly recently.

Our walk had been vaguely following the Larkin Trail, based around the life and work of Hull’s most famous poet – though born in Coventry he became Librarian at the University of Hull in 1955 and remained in the city until his death in 1985, writing most of his best-known poems there. After dinner in a city pub we took a bus to rejoin the trail at Pearson Park when he lived in a flat from 1956-74 – the blue plaque is just visible in the picture.

From the park we walked back into the city centre towards our hotel as light was beginning to fall along Beverley Road, passing several closed pubs, including The Rose and the Bull Hotels.

You can see more pictures from this walk and from the next few days before we left for a a short stay at one of Hull’s seaside resorts, Hornsea, in the Hull Supplement to July 2018’s My London Diary.

Naked Cyclists Ride Against Oil

Friday, June 9th, 2023

Naked Cyclists Ride Against Oil: I thought people might like some more naked cyclists so here are some pictures from the 2012 ride, eleven years ago today on 9th June 2012. Men were in a fairly large majority in the thousand or so riders taking part and photographically they represent rather more of a challenge, at least to make pictures that editors think suitable for family viewing. So I’ve chosen pictures of men, though there is a woman in one of them.

Naked Cyclists Ride Against Oil

The only country from where I’ve had any negative feedback about my pictures of naked cyclists is the USA, where I’ve had emails from teachers and librarians requesting that I remove these pictures from My London Diary as they say they make the site unsuitable for young people.

Naked Cyclists Ride Against Oil

I find this difficult to understand but reply politely refusing to do so. Their complaints seem to come from some kind of warped religious objection and I like to remind them “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” and to somehow find that image offensive seems to me to be blasphemy.

Naked Cyclists Ride Against Oil

Perhaps the most striking thing about the ride is not the nudity in itself but the variety of the human form it illustrates compared to the photographs of naked or near-naked people we usually find in newspapers or on our screens.

Naked Cyclists Ride Against Oil

I tried hard to find pictures that reflected the purpose of the ride, a protest against dependence on oil and other forms of non-renewable energy and a culture based on cars and to “expose the unique dangers faced by cyclists and pedestrians” in modern cities. Some of the riders did so with a considerable sense of humour.

Naked Cyclists Ride Against Oil

And some good drawing skills.

Careful timing and cropping sometimes makes the pictures more acceptable to a wider range of publications. And a bus with the message ‘Get Your Socks Off’ seemed rather appropriate though few in the frame were wearing them.

Another bus had three men in dark glasses who unlike all those watching the event from the pavements seemed to view it rather sternly. This is an event that causes a tremendous amount of hilarity on the streets as it goes past, but they are clearly not amused.

And finally, close to the former City Hall I photographed The Vitruvian Man.

There is a description of the ride and many more photographs – including some that would apparently shock some people at Naked Cyclists Ride Against Oil.

Christian Aid Circle The City 2009

Wednesday, May 17th, 2023

Christian Aid Circle The City: This week every year is Christian Aid Week, when thousands of people engage in various activities to raise money for the work of this charity in the majority world. These include people trudging the streets of towns and cities delivering and then collecting gift envelopes, tea parties, sponsored walks and many other activities which to raise money.

Christian Aid is a charity embodying Christian principles but its support goes to people and grass roots organisations in many countries in the global south, many not Christian. It states it “exists to create a world where everyone can live a full life, free from poverty” and in 2021-2 helped 1.4 million people through its programmes. It provides humanitarian aid in emergencies but also runs many projects, particularly with women and promoting women’s rights and supporting the poorest and marginalised people.

Their web site lists the 25 countries in which they are currently active, working with local people and partner organisations – Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dominican Republisk, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Iraq, Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, Kenya, Lebanon, Malawi, Myanmar (Burma), Nicaragua, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Syria, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Although I think they are a very worthwhile charity I’ve long supported others which work in similar ways but my wife is a local Christian Aid organiser and I’ve supported her in this work – including this year helping with a sponsored walk around the churches in our own area.

For a number of years she took part in an annual sponsored walk around the City of London, Christian Aid’s ‘Circle the City‘ a fund-raising sponsored stroll from church to church to church in the city. And often I went with her to keep her company and make sure she didn’t get lost. Of course I took a camera with me and took a few pictures, mainly of the many Wren churches we visited on the route. But in 2009 I decided to photograph it a little more seriously.

The pictures here are all from the walk on Sunday 17 May, 2009, and this is the post I made on My London Diary about it.

Sunday afternoon I followed a woman with a red balloon on a six mile (10 km) trail around the city, or rather two cities of London and Southwark, which led us to around 30 different ritual locations. We gained access to many of these and in several were offered drinks and food.

It was Christian Aid’s ‘Circle the City’ a fund-raising sponsored stroll from church to church to church… the woman was rather well known to me and all I got to drink was tea, coffee and lemon squash, though the asparagus quiche at All Hallows by the Tower was delicious.

In the course of our walk we got to see – if only rather briefly – the interiors of some of Wren’s finest, and one or two by other architects. And the event at the end of Christian Aid Week had raised a considerable amount for the projects that Christian Aid supports in the majority world.

More pictures from the walk and captions on My London Diary at Circle the City: Christian Aid.

If you don’t get a collector calling this week you can still make a donation to this worthwhile charity online at the Christian Aid web site. And of course donations are welcome at other times too, so if you are reading this later you can still support their work.

May Day in London 2013

Monday, May 1st, 2023

May Day in London

For once this year May Day falls on a Bank Holiday – as it should every year, but in 1978 James Callaghan’s Labour government bottled it when establishing the Early May Bank Holiday. So it only falls on May 1st once every six or seven years – as it last did in 2017.

May Day in London

So in other years many of us have to work on May Day, although since I gave up regular full-time work as a teacher I’ve been able to attend the London May Day March every year except when prevented by illness or lockdown.

May Day in London

Most years here on >Re:PHOTO I’ve written something about the early origins of May Day and how in 1889 it was adopted as the date for International Workers’ Day by the Second International socialists and communists, and then adopted by anarchists, labour activists, and leftists in general around the world to commemorate the 1886 Chicago Haymarket affair and the struggle for an eight-hour working day.

May Day in London

London has a May Day Organising Committee which arranges the event, which is supported by “GLATUC, LESE, UNite London & Eastern Region, CWU London Region, PCS London & South East Region, ASLEF, RMT, MU London, BECTU, FBU London & Southern Regions, GMB London & Southern Regions, Unison Greater London Region, POA, NEU London, NPC, GLPA & other Pensioners bodies and organisations representing Turkish, Kurdish, Chilean, Colombian, Peruvian, Bolivian, Portuguese, West Indian, Indian, Sri Lankan, Cypriot, Tamil, Iraqi, Iranian, Irish and Nigerian migrant workers & communities plus many other trade unions & Community organisations.”

As the list shows, it has a very international nature – as too does London, and visually tends to be dominated by large and organised groups from some of London’s minority communities, particularly Turkish and Kurdish groups. But it’s an event supported by most of the left if a few anarchists sometimes come to the start at Clerkenwell Green to hand out leaflets but head for the pub as soon as the march itself starts.

Here are some pictures from ten years ago, Wednesday 1st May 2013. There are more on My London Diary, which also has some of the history of the event at London May Day March. I also posted a few pictures of the area to the north before the march as I arrived early, at Finsbury (though some are in Clerkenwell) as well as a piece about the TUC May Day Rally at the end of the march.

The Source of the Thames

Tuesday, April 4th, 2023

The Source of the Thames
Thames Head – where the river is first visible

The Source of the Thames: Ten years ago today we were engaged on a very different walk to those I’ve been writing about in recent posts on my wanderings in London in 1989. Together with my wife and elder son we were about to complete our walk along the length of the Thames Path which had begun a couple of years earlier.

The Source of the Thames

Of course I’d walked along by parts of the Thames in and around London, out to Windsor and towards Reading and to the east all the way to rather remoter regions on the estuary beyond the end of the route over the years in piecemeal fashion, but around 2010 we’d bought a guide to the Thames Path and began walking and marking off sections in an organised way.

The Source of the Thames

The National Trails site says the path is 185.2miles (298 km) from its source in the Cotswolds to Woolwich. The path was first proposed in 1947 but it was only 49 years later that it was officially opened in 1996, though I’d walked a few sections and made some minor suggestions after the Ramblers released a draft for consultation a few years earlier.

Ashton Keynes

Some physical improvements needed to be put in place, with several footbridges needed to cross the river where ferries had long ceased operation, and there were also many negotiations with riverine land owners, angling groups and local authorities to allow access. Not all these were successful, and there are still lengths of the route which are less than optimal in the upper reaches of the river.

Neigh Bridge Country Park

According again to the site, the trail is “Easy to reach by public transport”, but that is only partly true. Even below Oxford there are some sections a mile or two from the nearest station or bus stop which adds significantly at one or both ends of a day’s walk, and once you get much past Oxford things become more difficult or impossible, certainly for those of us coming from the London area.

Old Mill Farm

The last reliable and reasonably frequent bus route from Oxford back in 2013 took us to Hinton Waldrist, a small village a mile or two from the path, and our day walks had ended there. For the final section my son had booked us into two nights accommodation on route between there and the source, at Buscot and Cricklade and we returned home at the end of our third day of walking from Kemble Station, a mile and a half from the source.

We had decided to make the walk in the week after Easter Sunday, which in 2013 was on March 31st and had begun on the Tuesday. On Thursday 4th April 2013 we left our hotel in Cricklade by 9am and after a short look around the town began the final day of our 3 day walk.

It was a cold day and there was still ice on some of the puddles. Our route guide – David Sharp’s ‘The Thames Path’ – told us we had 19.7km to walk to the source, but we had to do a little further as there was a diversion: “The Thames has changed course and is now flowing over the Trail, just inside Gloucestershire” a notice with a helpful map told us – and another 2.5km to the station. The guide was otherwise excellent, but would have been rather easier to follow had we been walking down-river as it suggested and described rather than in the opposite direction.

On My London Diary I described our route and day in some detail so I won’t repeat that here, and there are over 80 pictures from the day in the account. Perhaps some of them are a little misleading as I used a fisheye lens and made the river look as if it turns considerably more than its already rather twisty route. The were some long and rather boring sections too on which I took no pictures.

There was no river on the final section

Scenically this is one of the less interesting of the Thames Path sections, but it was important to complete the walk, even if the final section was completely dry. It was bitterly cold and would have been more enjoyable in warmer weather even though we were well wrapped up – and needed to take a short rest in a pub in Ashton Keynes in the middle of the day to warm up before continuing.

The dry spring – though Spring had been wet

The source was something of an anti-climax. What is supposedly a spring with a stone marking it erected there by the Thames Conservators. I don’t know when water was last seen there, and others I know who have walked the river have all found it dry. The best I could find for some distance down the hill was a blue pipe on the grass – but there was nothing flowing from that either. There were some deep puddles in the mud by a gate some way down, and a larger one in the grass just above Thames Head, but it was only below the Fosse Way (A433) at Thames Head that a small stream became visible.


We walked to Kemble station to find we had just missed a train and it was 50 minutes to wait for the next. There was what looked like a cosy waiting room but it was locked. It was far too cold to stand and wait on the windswept platform so despite our aching legs we went for a walk around Kemble before catching the first of three trains for our journey home.

More about the three days of our walk on My London Diary:

Thames Path: Cricklade to the Source
Thames Path: Buscot to Cricklade
Thames Path: Shifford to Buscot

Anonymous Oppose Scientology, Chinese New Year

Friday, February 10th, 2023

On Sunday 10th of February 2008 I photographed protests against the Church of Scientology before going into Chinatown for the Chinese New Year celebrations.

‘Anonymous’ Protest – Church of Scientology – Blackfriars & Tottenham Court Road

Anonymous Oppose Scientology, Chinese New Year

This was the first time I’d come across protesters wearing the ‘Anonymous’ masks that became a common feature at protests in the following years. This grinning Guy Fawkes mask was designed by illustrator David Lloyd for the 1980s graphic novel by Alan Moore and 2005 film ‘V for Vendetta.’

Anonymous Oppose Scientology, Chinese New Year
Placards refer to the high costs and unfair attacks on opponents

When hacktivists set up Project Chanology to campaign against Scientology at the start of 2008, they realised that like all other critics of the movement they would face vicious and intensive personal attacks from the group and needed to protect their identities both on-line and in person.

Anonymous Oppose Scientology, Chinese New Year
Some wore photocopy masks of Scientology’s founder L Ron Hubbard

So those behind Project Chanology decided to call themselves ‘Anonymous’ and hide themselves behind these masks when protesting. The London protest was one of over 50 protests in cities around the world at this time in which many of those taking part wore them.

Anonymous Oppose Scientology, Chinese New Year

As I wrote at the time “I’m just amazed that Scientology is still around, despite having been comprehensively exposed so many times over the years. You can find out more about it on Wikipedia.” reveals much of the uglier side of the cult

Wikipedia records that “The Church of Scientology has been described by government inquiries, international parliamentary bodies, scholars, law lords, and numerous superior court judgments as both a dangerous cult and a manipulative profit-making business.”

To my surprise round 4-500 had come for a peaceful protest on the walkway facing the Church of Scientology building in Queen Victoria Street at Blackfriars. After the protest there many of them went on to a second demonstration opposite the Dianetics & Scientology Life Improvement Centre in Tottenham Court Road, where those passing by are often lured into the building to take tests and pressured to join the cult, which demands large financial contributions from members.

More pictures at ‘Anonymous’ Protest – Church of Scientology on My London Diary.

Chinese New Year Celebrations, Soho

Things were festive in Chinatown which was packed with visitors celebrating the Chinese New Year.

Though many of those who work in the area it was a very busy day, selling Chinese decorations, toys and food.

Performers were going around the area as Chinese lions, leaping up to grab salad vegetables hung at shop doorways and bringing good luck to the businesses in exchange for cash.

Gerrard Street at the centre of Chinatown was thronging with crowds, though my ultrawide lens meant I could still work even though it was difficult to get a clear view. But soon I just had to leave for some quieter back streets for a while.

There was a money god, but he was only handing out entry forms for a competition to win a return ticket to Hong Kong

martial arts demonstrations…

and a dancing dragon carried by children from Surrey. But I soon tired of the noise and the crowds and as I commented “there are 51 other weekends of the year when its probably more interesting to come and see Chinatown how it really is.” And I went home. I think this was the last year I photographed the festival.

More pictures at Chinese New Year Celebrations, Soho on My London Diary, where you can also find images of the festival from 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 using the search box at the top of the page.

Cyclists’ Die-In And A Visit To The Oral Squat

Tuesday, November 8th, 2022

On Wednesday 8th November 2017 I spent the evening in Islington.

Vigil for Islington cyclist killed by HGV – Islington Town Hall, Wed 8 Nov 2017

On May 2nd 2017, City trader Jerome Roussel was cycling to work along Pentonville Road when he collided with a heavy goods vehicle which had stopped in the cycle lane. He was seriously injured and died in hospital on June 25th, seven weeks later.

Police say that the cyclist had told them he had put his head down and had failed to see that the lorry had pulled in ahead of him and he crashed into the back of it.

Cycling around parts of London there are many streets with ‘cycle lanes’ marked at the edges of the roads but often obstructed by parked vehicles. The driver in this case had only just pulled into it, intending to turn into a side street, but for many others the cycle lane is a convenient parking place, perhaps for a few minutes while they visit a shop, or for much longer.

These roads have cycle lanes because there is enough faster moving traffic on them to make them dangerous for cyclists. But cars and lorries parked on them mean that cyclists have to move out into this traffic. We need a law which makes it an offence to park on cycles lanes – and for it to be enforced.

Islington Labour – For the few who drive

Better still we need far more physically separated cycle lanes, though where these exist there are also sometimes cars parked on them, rendering them unusable, and sometimes road surfaces so poorly maintained that they are uncomfortable to ride on and even at times dangerous. Even small potholes that a car would cruise over can send the unwary cyclist flying.

As I wrote back in 2017, “Islington has not built a single protected cycle route in over 20 years and Transport Minister Jessye Norman has so far failed to sign the the commencement order to allow TfL to fine HGVs and traffic that drive into mandatory cycle lanes, such as the one on Pentonville Road where Jerome Roussel was killed. Islington, responsible for 95% of the roads in its area has reserves of £277 million (and growing) and campaigners say it should spend some of this on making its streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians.”

I don’t cycle in Islington, but although the council on its web site states it is “on a mission to improve cycling in Islington” I get the impression that relatively little has changed since Roussel’s death on a cycle lane in 2017. At the 2022 elections the London Cycling Campaign was calling on Islington Council to provide protected cycle routes on all busy roads by 2026, for low traffic neighbourhoods to cover the borough by 2024, to provide sustainable freight hubs, to set more ambitious targets for sustainable transport and provide secure cycle parking.

Cyclists gathered on the pavement outside Islington Town Hall and listened to a number of speeches before police stopped traffic and the campaigners held a 5 minute silent die-in on the road in memory of Jerome Roussel, after which there were more speeches and a final address by Donnachadh McCarthy.

More at Vigil for Islington cyclist killed by HGV.

ORAL squat empty NatWest Bank – Upper St, Islington, Wed 8 Nov 2017

As I walked back from Islington Town Hall to the Underground station with another photographer we met activists who knew us outside the squatted former NatWest Bank on Upper St and stopped to talk.

Inside things are a little messy, but there is no real damage

This had been squatted around a week earlier by the Order of Rampaging Anarchist Lunatics (ORAL) and they were using it as a centre to provide tea, coffee, clothing and shelter for the street homeless of the area.

The building was well lit and warm – the squatters are paying for electricity

We were invited inside for a tour of the squat and to take photographs. The squatters were expecting to be evicted in the near future, and actually were a few days later, after which they published a ‘final communique’ on their Facebook page. You can read this in full on My London Diary, but here is the first paragraph:

Several years ago, what began as a ridiculous idea to form a satirical nation of squatters evolved into one of the most infamous land pirate crews known around the world. Originally coined the Autonomous National of Anarchist Libertarians [ANAL] we’ve penetrated deep into London, forming a property portfolio that undoubtedly far exceeds any other crew; Having taken roughly 60 buildings in zone 1 over a period of around 4 years. Most notably Admiralty Arch.

My London Diary

Their communique goes on to say that they felt their activities had acheived nothing and that they would be forming a new group focused on “setting the example of how to evolve society & humanity” though “construction & creation” and would shortly be opening “a new community hub”.

My assessment was rather more positive, in that they and other activists had drawn attention to the scandal of so many empty properties while we have a housing crisis. Thanks to the Tory programme of austerity we had seen a huge increase in the number of homeless people and there should be legal ways to bring these properties into use. The current situation remains shameful in what is still one of the world’s wealthiest countries.

ORAL Squat empty NatWest Bank.

Class War Occupy Rich Door – Aldgate

Saturday, September 24th, 2022

Class War Occupy Rich Door - Aldgate

Wednesday 24th September 2014 saw one of the more interesting protests in the long-running series by Class War at the tower block of One Commercial Street which has a plush foyer with a 24hr concierge for the residents of the expensive private flats in the block on Aldgate High St, but social housing tenants in the same block are denied entry here and have to use a small door into an empty passage from an alley at the side of the building.

Class War Occupy Rich Door - Aldgate
The building manager opens the door to let a resident leave

Developers of new housing in London are generally required to provide a small proportion of social housing in their schemes, though they often find legal ways to reduce or even eliminate this, either by building separate social housing blocks or paying others to do so, or simply by pleading (often misleadingly) they cannot make high enough profits.

Class War Occupy Rich Door - Aldgate
and finds the door is held open

Boris Johnson when London Mayor said he would discourage the use of separate entrances for social housing tenants and Sadiq Khan made clear that there should be a “tenure blind” approach with affordable homes and private homes having entrances that were not distinguishable by quality, type, or location with the goal of “social equality and dignity“.

He makes the mistake of walking away

But despite these words, new developments continue to feature separate doors in what activists describe as “social apartheid”. And in July 2014, Class War began a series of weekly pickets outside the ‘Rich Door’ in a campaign to publicise and hopefully end the practice.

and Class War walk in with a banner

Over the following months I followed their campaign, photographing around 30 of their protests, missing only two when I was out of London. As well as putting pictures on My London Diary and elsewhere on the web I also in 2015 published a ‘zine’ ‘Class War – Rich Door, Poor Door‘ (ISBN 978-1-909363-14-4) packed with pictures from the pickets(still available.)

Jane Nicholl enters with the Class War Women’s Death Brigade Banner rolled up

The protests certainly added to the debate about the practice and exposed some of the lies of the developers, but I think there are still separate and very different doors for rich and poor at this and many other of London’s new developments. The protests may also have speeded the decision of the developer Redrow to sell the building to new owners Hondo Enterprises. There were also some minor victories, with the alley getting cleaned up and new lighting installed.

Ian Bone holds up a framed notice from the reception desk as he speaks

Since then the building, which in 2014 was nominated for the ‘Carbuncle Cup’, has changed its name to ‘The Relay Building’ and there has been considerable remodelling of the ‘rich door’ which now has the separate name of the Crawford Building. The flats served by the ‘poor door’ are called the Houblon Appartments. Despite claims by Redrow that the two groups of flats were internally quite separate I was taken from the rich part and out of the poor door by one of the residents who told me she often took her dog out for a walk that way.

Residents walk in to the flats past the protesters

There were no police in evidence as Class War arrived on 24th September and began their picket. When the building manager opened the door to let a resident out protesters held the door open and the manager was unable to close it. He made the mistake of walking away, and several people then walked in with a Class War banner. Others from Class War followed them and made themselves at home in the large foyer.

Ian Bone stands next to the desk with its vase of flowers

Ian Bone picked up Redrow’s Gold Award certificate from the concierge desk and began talking about it and the separate doors to the building, and about the notice describing the concierge service, comparing this foyer to the bare entrance to the social housing flats, and others too spoke.

I turned after hearing a crash and saw the flowers had gone

Ian was waving his walking stick around as I took pictures and I was turned away from him when I heard a crash, and I’d sensed a movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned around and saw that the vase of flowers which had been at the corner of the desk was no longer there. I couldn’t be sure whether Ian had knocked them off deliberately or by accident, though I thought the latter unlikely.

Two officers came, and one went to talk to the building manager

Eventually the police arrived and walked in talking with the protesters and the building manager and asking the protesters to leave. I went out when the building manager requested the protesters to go outside and joined the others who had stayed protesting and watching from outside. More police came and eventually those inside came out and the protest continued there, with several more speeches including a former local resident who was complaining he could no longer live in the area as it had become too expensive.

Class War come out of the Rich Door

After continuing their protest outside for a while, Class War decided it was time to leave and rolled up their banners and began to move away. A woman police officer then stood in Ian Bone’s way and stopped him leaving. More officers came to surround him and he was led away to a waiting police van which then drove away.

A police officer stops Ian Bone as he was leaving

The following week Class War were back again at the Rich Door and I learnt that Ian Bone had been told by police that his breaking the vase had been recorded on CCTV and had then agreed to pay £70 in compensation. No charges had been brought, probably because Redrow wanted to avoid publicity. But Class War had brought with them two very tacky looking vases with flowers to try to give to the building manager.

Ian Bone is briefly searched before being put in the van and driven away

More at Class War Occupy Rich Door