Posts Tagged ‘Olympic site’

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

Wednesday, May 15th, 2024

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


International Conscientious Objector’s Day – Tavistock Square

Conscientious Objectors, Olympics, Cleaners, Iraq & An Opening

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

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

Conscientious Objectors, Olympics, Cleaners, Iraq & An Opening

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

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

Conscientious Objectors, Olympics, Cleaners, Iraq & An Opening

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

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

Conscientious Objectors, Olympics, Cleaners, Iraq & An Opening

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

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

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


Stratford – Bow: Olympic Site

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

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

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

More pictures Stratford – Bow: Olympic Site.


Justice for cleaners demonstrate at AON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Justice for cleaners demonstrate at AON


Iraqi Democrats Against the Occupation – US Embassy

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

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

Iraqi Democrats Against the Occupation


Photofusion opening – Changing Spaces

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

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


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Walking the Olympic Area – 2012

Sunday, April 21st, 2024

Walking the Olympic Area – Unless my memory has failed me (which it often does these days) the two day course I ran on Saturday 21st April 2012 and Sunday 22nd was my last formal teaching session. I think I have turned down a few requests to run workshops since as they are rather tiring.

Walking the Olympic Area - 2012

I can’t remember exactly how the course came about, but the venue was the View Tube, now run by Poplar HARCA for the local community, which had opened on the Greenway overlooking the London Olympic site in 2010, as a cafe and education centre. A set of bright yellow boxes it then had an upper floor viewing area overlooking the building site.

Walking the Olympic Area - 2012

I’d been photographing the area on and off since 1982 – and you can see many of the pictures I took on a web site, The Lea Valley. I think the course will have begun with me showing some of those pictures and talking about them before taking the participants out for some fairly short walks around Stratford and Stratford Marsh, or at least those areas still open to the public. The pictures here are all from the two days of the course.

Walking the Olympic Area - 2012

Travelling across London to the area I had to give myself plenty of time in case there were any travel delays, so I arrived well before the course was due to start on both days and was able to walk around and make a few pictures then.

Walking the Olympic Area - 2012

While leading the students around the area I was mainly involved with facilitating them making images, but did manage to make a few for myself, and I think I also stayed on a little after the day finished for some more.

On the Saturday we went along the southern edge of the site and into Stratford Westfield and up to the John Lewis viewing area before returning for a lunch break for the students when I made some panoramas close to the View Tube while eating my sandwiches. Parts of the area were quite crowded with others who had come to view the site. Fortunately there were considerably fewer on the workshop than in this picture.

After lunch I took everyone along the Greenway, into Fish Island, across Old Ford lock, down the towpath to Bow Flyover and then to Pudding Mill Lane station.

We met again on Sunday morning at Pudding Mill Lane station. Again I’d arrived early and had already made some pictures before the walk began up the Greenway to Hackney Wick, through Fish Island to White Posts Lane before returning over Old Ford Lock to the View Tube.

I had requested those taking part to work with digital images – and I think almost all had done so. Lunchtime gave them a chance to review the pictures they had made and we then were able to see and discuss the work, though unfortunately we could only see the pictures rather dimly as the teaching area, although it had a nice large touch screen, had no blinds on its windows.

You can see more of the pictures I made on the two days on My London Diary, including some of the panoramic images. All my pictures were taken on a Nikon D700 camera, I think all with the laser-sharp Nikon 16-35 f4.0 lens. The panoramas were made with the same lens, taking a series of 5-10 exposures and digitally stitching these together using PTGui software, probably the most powerful and flexible photo stitching application available. Photoshop now does a decent job with simple panoramas but has fewer options.

Panoramic images don’t display well on this blog, so apart from the one at the top of the post showing the View Tube you will need to go to My London Diary to see more. Most of those I took showing the actual Olympic site on these two days are panoramic.
Olympic Course Day 1
Olympic Course Day 2


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Palestine, Pancakes, Post, Olympics & Zombies 2009

Saturday, February 24th, 2024

Palestine, Pancakes, Post, Olympics & Zombies – Tuesday 24th February 2009 was a long and varied day for me and included some serious issues that are still at the forefront of current news as well as some lighter moments – and I ended the day enjoying a little unusual corporate hospitality with some free drinks for London bloggers.


Al-Haq Sue UK Government – Royal Courts of Justice

Palestine, Pancakes, Post, Olympics & Zombies

First came Palestine, with Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq filing a claim for judicial review before the High Court of England and Wales challenging the government’s failure to fulfil its obligations with respect to Israel’s illegal activities in Palestine.

They were calling on our government – then New Labour under Gordon Brown – to publicly denounce Israel’s actions in Gaza and the continuing construction of the separation wall, to suspend arms related exports and all government, military, financial and ministerial assistance to Israel and to end UK companies exporting arms and military technology.

They also asked them to insist the EU suspends preferential trading with Israel until that country complies with its human rights obligations, and for the government to give the police any evidence of war crimes committed by any Israelis who intend to come to the UK.

Palestine, Pancakes, Post, Olympics & Zombies

Of course the court refused Al-Haq’s case, declining to deal with the UK government’s compliance with its international legal obligations and stating that their claim would risk the UK’s diplomatic “engagement with peace efforts in the Middle East“, something which seemed at the time to be absolutely zero if not negative. They also refused Al-Haq any right to bring the claim because it was not a UK-based organisation and “no one in the United Kingdom has sought judicial review of United Kingdom foreign policy regarding Israel’s actions in Gaza“.

Al-Haq Sue UK Government


Worshipful Company of Poulters Pancake Race – Guildhall Yard

Palestine, Pancakes, Post, Olympics & Zombies

It was Shrove Tuesday and I couldn’t resist the Pancake Race organised by the Worshipful Company of Poulters, and held – with the permission of the Chief Commoner, in the Guildhall Yard.

Palestine, Pancakes, Post, Olympics & Zombies

As I said, “It’s a shame that the Pancake Race is unlikely to feature in the London 2012 Olympics, because it’s perhaps the one sport in which Britain still leads the world, and we seem to have plenty of talent in training.

Poulters Pancake Race


Keep the Post Public – Parliament Square

Postal workers came out from a rally in Methodist Central Hall against government plans to privatise Royal Mail. The government argued they needed to do this to protect pensions and modernise the service.

Postal deliveries had been deliberately made uneconomic by earlier measures which have allowed private companies to cream off the easily delivered profitable parts of the service, while leaving the Royal Mail to continue the expensive universal delivery service – including the delivery of its competitors post at low regulated prices to more difficult destinations.

The government picked up the responsibility for the pensions when the post was privatised and the privatised post office has been allowed to fail on its delivery obligations. We now get deliveries on perhaps 3 or 4 days a week rather than 6, few first class letters arrive on time, and the collection times for most pillar boxes are now much earlier in the day – now 9am rather than 4pm at our local box. While privatisation was supposed to result in more investment it largely seems to have resulted in large dividends and higher pay to managers and the Post Office is in a worse state than ever.

Keep the Post Public


London 2012 Olympic Site – Stratford

I had time for a brief visit to the publicly accessible areas in and around the Olympic site where a great deal of work was now taking place with the main stadium beginning to emerge.

There were some reports at the time that the landmark building Warton House, once owned by the Yardley company with its lavender mosaic on Stratford High Street was to be demolished, but fortunately these turned out to be exaggerated, with only a small part at the rear of the building being lost. But all the buildings on the main part of the site had gone. Some others south of the mainline railway were also being demolished for Crossrail.

Olympic Site Report
London Olympic site pans


March of the Corporate Undead – Oxford St

I made my way back to Oxford Circus for the ‘March of the Corporate Undead’, a Zombie Shopping Spree complete with coffins, a dead ‘banker’, posters, various members of the undead and a rather good band.

Police watched in a suitably deadpan manner (I did see one or two occasionally smile) as the group assembled and applied large amounts of white makeup before making its way along the pavement of Oxford Street, to the astonishment (and often delight) of late shoppers and workers rushing home.

We stopped off at Stratford Place, opposite Bond Street Station to toss some fried bankers brains in the frying pans and then there was a pancake race, holding up a Rolls Royce that was prevented by the police from driving through while we were there.

The parade continued, stopping for a minute or two under the bright lights of Selfridges before continuing to Tyburn, or at least Marble Arch, with more zombies joining all the time.

Hanging the already dead banker seemed a great idea, but getting a rope up over the arch was tricky. Eventually a severed hand gave sufficient weight to enable a rope to be thrown over the ornamental iron-work and the banker was soon hoisted up to dangle over the continuing revels below.

March of the Corporate Undead

This was an anticapitalist event and in particular aimed against bankers and the huge amounts of cash given to them to in the aftermath of the 2007-8 financial crisis which was seen as rewarding the very people who had caused the mess the system was in. The mass of the population was having to suffer cuts in services under a severe austerity programme while bankers were still pigs in clover. The UK has become a very unequal society over the years since 1979 when Thatcher became Prime Minister. The the top 10% got 21% of the UK income, by 2010 it was around 32%.

I left to go to a meeting of London bloggers – and enjoy a few free drinks thanks to Bacardi. The blue and green Breezers seem to me just right for zombies, though I’m afraid after tasting one I went for the beer instead. But I think the zombies on Oxford Street were more alive than those in the corporate world.


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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.


2012 Olympics – Lund Point Holdup By BBC

Wednesday, June 21st, 2023

2012 Olympics – Lund Point Holdup By BBC: Eleven years ago on Saturday 21st July much of the nation was eagerly awaiting the start of the 2021 London Olympics. I wasn’t, though I was at least starting to think it wouldn’t be long before it was all over, but we still had it all to put up with. All the pictures in this post were taken at events around the area that day.

2012 Olympics - Lund Point Holdup By BBC
Waiting for the Olympic flame – Stratford High St

Many still regard it as having been a great national event, bringing people together, but I still find it hard to have many positive thoughts. Like another major event, most of the promises we were made about its legacy have turned out to be false. Many were clearly lies from the start, and a huge attempt was clearly made to mislead the public, with our newspapers and broadcast media playing a major and continuing role.

2012 Olympics - Lund Point Holdup By BBC

On the streets of east London there were many critics and sceptics from the start, many like me who were surprised and alarmed when the bid was won in 2005. Most of their worse fears have since come to pass and the local area has seen little gain.

2012 Olympics - Lund Point Holdup By BBC

Newham remains an area with huge housing problems, and it was some of those that took me there on Saturday 21st July 2012, specifically over the council’s terrible treatment of the Carpenters Estate, a once popular council estate adjoining Stratford Station.

2012 Olympics - Lund Point Holdup By BBC

It’s location made it a valuable prey for developers and Newham’s elected Labour Mayor, Sir Robin Wales had clearly thought the site was being wasted on its social housing tenants and had begun running it down and ‘decanting’ residents back in 2004. But schemes to sell it off, including one as a new campus for University College London (UCL) were eventually stopped by protests from residents, UCL students and staff and Stratford’s dynamic housing activists, Focus E15.

Good solid 1960s housing on a pedestrianised street . A popular estate on which many bought houses

Focus E15 had begun when Newham Council decided to shut down a hostel in central Stratford for single mothers and their children, offering only to move them out of Stratford to distant towns and cities across the UK into poor quality private rented accomodation with no security of tenure and higher rents, some hundreds of miles away from family, friends, nurseries and other support they had in Newham. Robin Wales infamously told them “if you can’t afford to live in Newham, then you can’t afford to live in Newham”.

A woman still living on the Carpenters estate

The Focus E15 mothers stood together and fought – and largely won, getting rehoused in the local area. But they decided to continue their fight for others in housing need, particularly in Newham. There story became national news and they continue with weekly stalls on Newham Broadway and a shop not far away.

Lund Point – advertising added for Olympics without consultation

Carpenters Estate residents were shocked when the council in 2011, upset that residents wanted to remain on the estate, decided to fix the elections to the Carpenters Tenant Management Organisation (TMO) by barring freeholders on the estate from standing and simply losing five of the six nominations from leaseholders. Security staff prevented freeholders who had received invitations to the meeting from attending, effectively allowing Newham council to take over the TMO and end any real participation by residents over the esatate’s future.

BBC employed security – the sign says Residents Only

Residents formed Carpenters Against Regeneration Plans (CARP) to challenge the decisions made by the TMO and to get it to fulfil its duties to all residents of the estate, and to fight for the future of the residents and for a sustainable community. In particular freeholders were appalled at the low valuations put on their properties by the TMO commissioned valuation service, with compensation for compulsory purchase often appearing to be only around half of market values for similar propeties in the area.

This Barber – the last man standing on Stratford High St

CARP had arranged a number of tours around the estate, and I met with them at Sratford Station, having on my way taken a few pictures of the Olympic Torch Relay which had passed along Stratford High Street earlier in the day, though only watched there by a small handful of people. There were more on a footbridge built for the Olympics across this busy main road, which would have been a small but useful Olympic legacy, but was to be demolished shortly after.

Police had come to back up BBC security and refuse us entrance

Our tour from the station led by Tawanda Nyabango who lived for many years in one of the tower blocks and several other residents including CARP vice-chairman Joe Alexander talked to us on a lengthy tour of the estate and the nearby Waterworks River, one of several waterways through the Olympic site.

After we were allowed in BBC security try to stop us leaving the lift

We then tried to visit two more residents living in flats in one of the three tower blocks on the estate, Lund Point. The BBC were setting up in the top five floors of the block for their Olympic coverage, and we were prevented from entering the block by BBC security staff who then brought in police to support them.

But finally we made it to a flat on the 20th floor

We argued that we had an invitation from the residents, but were still refused entry, until after and hour and a half waiting finally the police officers present received orders that they had no right to refuse our entry and we were finally allowed in.

The Olympic site from Lund Point

I was able then both to meet the residents and photograph the Olympic site from their windows. The residents of the block have complained strongly about the way the BBC have taken over parts of their building and apparently our holdup was simply one of many incidents. I took rather more pictures including some panoramic views – at Olympic Views though my time here was very limited.

I had intended to finish my day after the Carpenters Estate tour with a visit to the Open Day taking place at Cody Dock on Bow Creek, and I hurried there from Stratford. But because of the holdup at Lund Point, the events there had ended by the time I arrived, and I took a few pictures and left for home.

At Cody Dock

Robin Wales is no longer Mayor, eventually being forced out despite his attempts to manipulate votes to remain in office. Under the replacement Labour Mayor there are new plans for the Carpenters Estate though Focus E15 are still campaigning for the repair, refurbishment and repopulation of the estate with long-term council tenants.

Much more about all these events on My London Diary:

Olympic Flame at Stratford 6 Days Early
Newham’s Shame – Carpenters Estate
Police Deny Olympic Residents Access
Olympic Views
Cody Dock Open Day

I originally posted this on 21st June when it should have been posted on 21st July.


Olympic Park, Barts and Food Poverty – 2014

Sunday, April 16th, 2023

Olympic Park, Barts and Food Poverty. On Wednesday 16 April 2014 there were two events in the evening I wanted to photograph, the first in Whitechapel and another in Westminster. It was a fine Spring day and I decided to go out much earlier and take a long walk around the former Olympic site, much of which had just been opened to the public ten days earlier.


Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park Panoramics – Stratford

Olympic Park, Barts and Food Poverty - 2014

My walk got of to a poor start, as I followed the large signs in Stratford Station to the park and found myself hopelessly lost.

Olympic Park, Barts and Food Poverty - 2014

I retraced my steps and went through where I thought I had probably missed a turning and walked though Stratford Westfield past many shops I would never feel any desire to enter.

Emerging on the other side I could still find no way into the Park, keeping coming up to areas still blocked by fencing.

Olympic Park, Barts and Food Poverty - 2014

Google Maps wasn’t much help. Streetview, claimed to work on some streets in the area, “but actually carries out what seems a fairly random translocation to some varied London locations. All of them seemed more interesting than the actual topography I had found myself facing on the ground.”

Olympic Park, Barts and Food Poverty - 2014

Eventually I managed to access the park, though it didn’t seem much like a park to me. As I wrote back then, “It gives the impression that as little has been spent and done as possible post the Olympics and it largely remains a series of routes to the Olympic stadium, ready for the mass tramping feet of West Ham fans, though some might favour more direct routes. It is a complete contrast to what might be expected of a new park for – and there is a good example of one just a couple of miles away in Thames Barrier Park.”

It has improved a little in the nine years since this visit, but still in many areas seems more desert than park, and my conclusion that it was “a rather bleak area, enlivened occasionally by the odd art work” still seems apt for much of the area.

Of course I was comparing it to the same area before the Olympics, which I had often wandered and enjoyed, and had been a more exciting and much wilder area. Of course a part of its attraction had been its relative isolation and the new park will attract hugely greater numbers to its various attractions. The local schools were on holiday and there were areas in which children were playing which for various reasons don’t feature in my pictures.

Many more at QE Olympic Park Panoramics


Barts cuts Health Advocacy & Interpreting – Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel

From Stratford Marsh and Pudding Mill Lane Station it was a short journey to Whitechapel, with just a short walk in the middle from Bow Church DLR to Bow Road on the District Line.

The Royal London Hospital at Whitechapel is run by the Barts Health trust, who were proposing to make drastic cuts in advocacy and interpreting services.

The hospital is in the centre of a multiethnic community of great deprivation and need, a community desperate for an increase in these services,with an ageing population many of whom speak and understand little English but are now in much greater need of health care.

I was there to photograph the handing over of a petition by GPs and other health professionals as well as members of various parts of the BME community, including Somalis, Bangladeshis and Chinese. The Mayor of Tower Hamlets backed the campaign and had sent apologies and a representative to express his support, and a Labour councillor gave support from the Labour group.

The removal of the services at GP surgeries and community and hospital services would mean the loss of around 11 full-time Bengali/Sylheti Health Advocates and the languages affected would include Somali, Punjabi, Urdu, Hindi, Tamil and French.

Bart’s Health Trust has huge financial problems because of the huge PFI debt incurred in the building of the sorely needed new hospital in front of which we were meeting, with continuing huge payments that mean that they have been unable to fully use the new building and have cut other vital services. PFI was always a mistake and the civil servants who negotiated the terms were no match for the skilled and highly paid operators for the developers who ended up with terms that were hugely favourable to them – and which changes in the financial conditions since then have made even more so.

The hospital tried to restrict the publicity for the event, although they had agreed to accept the petition, they wanted to do so in private. Hospital security staff tried to stop most of those present from witnessing the handover, and to prevent photography, but without success.

Barts cuts Health Advocacy & Interpreting


End Hunger Fast Vigil against Food Poverty – Old Palace Yard


Over 600 leaders from all major Christian denominations, including 47 bishops had earlier in the day called for urgent government action on food poverty, and earlier in the month thousands had taken part in a 24 hour day of fasting, praying and reflecting on the hunger in the one of the world’s richest countries came to the vigil.

On 16th April, ‘End Hunger Fast’ campaigners held a vigil outside Parliament, lighting candles and breaking bread together.

Earlier in the day figures from the Trussell Trust and independent food banks had been released showing that one million food parcels were handed out over the previoUs year as the safety net for the poor and vulnerable in Britain was crumbling.

There were a number of speeches before a sharing of bread in a minute of silence before eating to reflect on the problem faced by those who cannot afford food. CanDles were then lit (with some difficulty because a a stiff breeze) for another period of silent contemplation before the final address by End Hunger Fast media spokesperson Keith Hebden. He was then going without food for 40 days and 40 nights to draw attention to food poverty, and stressed the importance of getting politicians to take action on the issue.

End Hunger Fast Vigil against Food Poverty


Before the Olympics – 2007

Saturday, February 11th, 2023

Five years and a few months before the London 2012 Olympic Games took place much of the site was still open although businesses had been moved out and some of the buildings were becoming derelict. I’d had an invitation to a party at a site there the previous evening but hadn’t been able to attend, but on Sunday 11th February 2007 I took my Brompton on the trains to Stratford Station for a tour of the area. It began as a rather gloomy day but the weather at least brightened up later.

Carpenters Rd from Wharton Road

I did return to parts of the area in later months as the close down was taking effect – and even led a two-day workshop at the View Tube in April 2010. And in June I was there to photograph workmen putting up the blue fence to keep us out of the whole Olympic area until well after the games were gone.

Before the Olympics - 2007
Footbridge to railway works over Waterworks River, Stratford Marsh.

Here’s what I wrote on back in 2007 about my ride around the area, much of which I spent pushing and carrying my Brompton bike along footpaths. But it did make it possible for me to cover rather more ground than would have been possible on foot. I’ve corrected the capitalisation etc. There are several pages of pictures with the original on My London Diary, just a few of which are shown here.

Before the Olympics - 2007
Marshgate Lane and Bow Back Rivers

2012 Olympic Site – Stratford, Sunday 11 Feb, 2007

Before the Olympics - 2007
Tate Moss, home to four artists and a venue for gigs of various kinds, now lost for the Olympics

Sunday I went to the Olympic site again, keen to photograph before the area becomes ‘fortress Olympics’ and is destroyed. Many of the businesses have now moved out and some of the small industrial estates are looking pretty empty. Tate Moss, who occupied a site by the City Mill River had staged their final event the night before, but the partying didn’t keep going long enough for me to look in and the place was deserted.

Marshgate Lane under the Northern Outfall Sewer is blocked with old tyres

Some of the riverside paths were open again after the test borings that have been going on, although several were fenced off over a year ago. The gate to the path by the waterworks river from the Greenway wasn’t locked, so I took a walk up this, but I knew that it was no longer possible to get out onto Marshgate Lane so had to retrace my steps.

The Marshgate Centre and Banner Chemicals from the Greenway

The route back up to the Greenway from Marshgate Lane was almost completely obstructed by heaps of old car tires, and I had to carry my Brompton for a few yards and climb up onto a grass bank where the steps were completely blocked. Parts of the road were no longer open to cars too.

City Mill River

From there I moved on to Hackney Wick and Waterden road, and I finished the day as the light was getting low on Hackney Marshes, one of the areas in which locally important sporting facilities will be lost at least for a few years, perhaps for good.

Original text on the February 2007 page (you will need to scroll down.)


Banner Chemicals

My article back then ended with the paragraph above, but my ride didn’t – I had to get back home. It had previously taken me to a number of places just outside the condemned area, including some that were to be demolished for Crossrail, and it didn’t actually end on the Hackney Marshes, as the pictures on My London Diary demonstrate.

Kings Yard

I decided to ride back to Stratford to get the train home, and that ride took me back past Clays Lane, where the estate was to be demolished for the athletes’ village and I stopped several more times on my way to take more pictures in the gloom. Even when I arrived at Stratford around sunset there was still enough light for a few final images.

Clays Lane

You can see many more pictures from the entire ride on My London Diary


An East London Ride – 2010

Friday, February 3rd, 2023

Salmon Lane Locki, Regents Canal

It’s perhaps misleading to call this a ride, since I spent most of the day on Wednesday 3rd February 2010 actually off my bike, parking it neatly to take photographs. Although a bicycle has been my main personal transport now for over 70 years (when I’m not using public transport or walking) I’m not really a cyclist. Or at least just a pragmatic cyclist, using a bike just to get from A to B (and on this day to C,D and most of the letters of the alphabet.)

An East London Ride - 2010
Memorial to firewatchers of Stepney Gas Works

And just very occasionally for a bit of exercise. I have used exercise bikes and always thought why bother when you could use the real thing, though I suppose when its pouring with rain or below zero there might be some point in them. And though one wouldn’t help me to take photographs I would be less likely to be killed by careless or dangerous drivers.

An East London Ride - 2010
Bromley-by-Bow gasholders, Twelvetrees Bridge

Back at the end of 2002 I bought myself a Brompton folding bike, and a year or three later when I was undergoing a Q & A interview for an amateur photography magazine it became my answer to ‘What is your most useful photographic accessory’. It had replaced the answer to a similar question from another such magazine which was ‘a good pair of shoes’.

Eternal flame, West Ham Memorial Gardens

Once you have practised a few times the Brompton folds (and unfolds) in a few seconds into a fairly compact package, which has the advantage you can take it at any time onto our trains and underground system. It’s too heavy for me to comfortably carry any distance, but I added the tiny wheels which mean you can pull it rather like a suitcase, only actually lifting it when necessary. And I bought the bag which fits on in front of the handlebars which was about the right size for my camera gear and essentials like a bottle of water or a flask of coffee and sandwiches.

The end of the ‘Fatwalk’

I can’t know remember exactly how I got to the start of my ride, though I think I probably rode from Waterloo to Fenchurch Street for a train to Limehouse station, crossing the Thames on Southwark Bridge. But from there on the pictures make my route fairly clear.

Bow Creek and Bow Locks

I cycled roughly along the Regents Canal up to the former Stepney Gas Works site north of Ben Johnson Road. There had been a fight to save more elements of the former gas works including gas holders which were some of the oldest surviving in the world; although some were said by English Heritage to be of national importance an attempt to get one of them listed failed. Eventually the area was redeveloped by Bellway Homes with only token ‘public art’ residues of the works.

From there I headed east to the bridge at Twelvetrees Crescent across Bow Creek and the Lea Navigation to visit another gas works site, the West Ham Memorial Gardens where war memorials, a permanent flame and a statue of Sir Corbett Woodhall are in a small wooded area close to the remarkable group of gas holders for the former Bromley-by-Bow Gas Works.

Three Mills

From there I went down to the recently opened path beside Bow Creek, part of a planned riverside walk which had been landed with the ridiculous name of The Fatwalk. As I commented then, most of the walk, meant to lead from Three Mills all the way to the Thames was still closed (and is still closed 13 years later) and by the time they were open the “nincompoop who thought that ‘The Fatwalk’ was a good name for this route will probably have retired or died or moved to another job for which he (or she) is equally incapable and common sense will prevail as we walk or cycle along the Bow Creek Trail.”

New Lock, Prescott Channel

The walk still only goes as far south as Cody Dock, now a thriving community resource and hub with events and exhibitions and worth a visit, but in 2010 still undeveloped. The silly name has gone and this path is now also a part of London’s sculpture trail, The Line, making its way from the Greenwich Peninsula to Stratford.

Three Mills Wall River

At the end of the Fatwalk, I had to turn around and go back to the Twelvetrees Crescent bridge, where I once again photographed the locks from the Lea Navigation to Bow Creek. Now there are new steps leading down from this bridge to the towpath, but then I had to go across and join the fast-moving traffic on the Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach to make my way to Three Mills.

Stratford High St

Three Mills is home to one of Newhams only four Grade I listed buildings and the House Mill, a tide mill, was built in 1776, though there had been tide mills here at least since the Domesday book.

Olympic stadium

The film studios here were converted from a gin factory where Chaim Weizmann developed a new biochemical process to produce acetone needed for explosive production in the First World War – which led to the Balfour Declaration and later to Weizmann becoming the first president of Israel.

Bridge over City Mill River

Past the studios I visited the new lock on the Prescott Channel, opened in 2009. Supposedly this was to be used by barges to carry away waste and bring in material for the development of the Olympic site instead of lorries, but was in practice only used for photo-opportunities. The Prescott Channel was built in the 1930s, part of a large flood relief programme, that was also largely to provide jobs at the height of the depression.

I get interviewed for a student film

Finally I cycled up to the Olympic site, a building site with little or no public access, but parts of the ‘Greenway’ – the path on the Northern Sewage Outfall – were still open and gave extensive views. The reason I was in London on this particular day, when the weather wasn’t at its best was to be interviewed and filmed by a group of students at the View tube on the Greenway. I can’t remember ever seeing the video. After the interview I made my way to Stratford to fold the Brompton and start my journey home on the Jubilee Line.

Bow Creek – right click to open at a viewable size in a new tab

As well as taking single images I also produced a number of panoramas, taking a series of pictures from the same position to be stitched together. These include some 360 degree views, produced by software from 6 or 8 individual images. The pictures were taken on a Nikon D700 and are each 12Mp, but the combined files are huge. It isn’t easy to display these on the web, and they fit even less well on this blog. I’ll post one here on a rather smaller scale and invite you to double click on it to see it larger, though still much reduced. You can find more online here.

Olympic Site Revisited
Three Mills
Bow and The Fatwalk


Before the Olympics – A walk in 2005

Monday, January 23rd, 2023

I published this post seventeen years ago on My London Diary, following an organised walk around the Olympic Site by locals while London was making its unfortunately successful bid to host the 2012 games. I’ve corrected the capitalisation but otherwise it remains as written. Going around the area some ten years after the games there is nothing I would want to change in the piece, though the legacy has turned out even worse than we feared back then, with so many broken promises.


Olympic site? – Stratford and Temple Mills, 23 Jan, 2005

Before the Olympics
Carpenters Road lock, Old River Lea, London

I first got to know the lower Lea (or Lee) valley around twenty-five years ago, when many of the traditional industries, many based around the Lea Navigation, had or were just ending. Parts of it were almost a dark continent, with the Bow Back Rivers machete country. Secateurs became an essential photo accessory, and together with a heavy duty tripod swung with abandon hacked a path alongside streams overgrown with bramble, nettles and bushes.

Before the Olympics
Channelsea River, allotments and path near Eastway Cycle Circuit

Since then, things have changed, with proper paths, nature trails, signposts and more, although it remains an area of relative peace and quiet. All this could soon change. You can hardly move in or around London without the almost continuous reminder of the 2012 Olympic bid. Large sums are being spent to convince us it is a good thing, despite concurrent claims that over 70% of Londoners already support it.

Before the Olympics
Bully Point Nature Reserve, Stratford

For this particular area of London it will mean dramatic changes, and whatever the good intentions of the developers (and I’ve read them) these will probably be environmentally disastrous. Development on this scale almost always is. Even the proponents acknowledge short-term problems, while local environmentalists point out the massaging and misrepresentation in parts of their planning, as well as the failure to ensure a proper post-games future for the area. While some of the proposals make sense for the area, the short-term priorities of the games will result in many that do not.

Before the Olympics
Off-road tracks at Eastway Cycle Circuit, Temple Mills

I’m not against the Olympics as such; in some ways they could be a good thing for the country, although the whole movement has been allowed to get seriously out of hand. I’m cynical enough to know that much of the enthusiasm for London 2012 comes from companies who are already making serious money from the promotion and will make even more should they happen, and realistic enough to know that any local opposition to them can only enforce very minor changes to their impact. Such local views are likely to carry far more weight on developments in the area should the London bid fail.

Allotments on ridge between Old River Lea and Channelsea River, Stratford.

Sunday I cycled from Stratford to Temple Mills to join a walk around the northern part of the site, organised by No To London 2012, a coalition of East London community groups and social justice campaigners. A group of just over twenty of us spent an enjoyable couple of hours looking at the area and the impact the Olympic developments would have. it was an opportunity that IOC delegates are not likely to have, with their view of these particular areas expected to be with a pair of binoculars from a distant tower block.

Clays Lane estate, Stratford

We stood first of all on a part of Hackney Marshes, watching the local footballers play on an area marked for a vast coach park, wondering how long it would take for it to be returned to recreational use, before making our way south across the A12 to the Eastway Cycle Circuit, now a well-used recreational area which will also be dramatically changed, becoming in the long term part of a larger Velopark, and on to the recently established Bully Point Nature Reserve at the southwest of the site between the Channelsea River and the River Lea, a viewpoint over the major land-forming currently taking place as a part of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link works and the future development of Stratford City.

Wick Field on edge of Hackney Marsh

Returning to Eastway, we climbed over a barrier onto Arena Field. Until a few years back this was a cricket ground, but travellers occupied it and the pavilion was burnt down. It was then used as a landfill site, raising the overall ground level around twenty feet. On the other side of Eastway we walked through Wick Field, site of massive tree-planting by Hackney. The new path we walked through, designed and made by one of those on the walk, was pleasant if muddy.

Canary Wharf towers from Eastway Cycle Circuit

At the end of the walk I went back to the bench in Wick Field, in the centre of a fine row of plane trees running parallel to the Lea Navigation and sat down to eat my lunch. In front of me a grassy fire-break path stretched into the distance, marred only slightly by dimly seen lorries at its end on the elevated roadway. As I sat there, the unmistakable low-slung red-brown shape of a fox strode slowly across the path a hundred yards away.

London 2012 Olympic advertising at Stratford Station

I made my way back to Stratford by Leyton, returning to look at some of my memories – St Josephs Cemetery and the nearby crossroads on Langthorne Road, the stump of Claremont Road and then a few pictures around the centre of Stratford itself.


You can see more pictures from the walk and my cycle rides from and to Stratford Station before and after the walk http://mylondondiary.co.uk/2005/01/jan3.htm with the original posting. All pictures were made with a Nikon D70, with some of the panoramas stitched together from several images.

You can see these and more pictures from the area on my Lea Valley web site, Some are also in my book Before The Olympics, first published in 2010, ISBN: 978-1-909363-00-7 still available from Blurb both as an expensive paperback or as a PDF.


Olympic Area & Budget Cuts – 2012

Monday, December 5th, 2022

December 5th 2012 was a fine winter’s day and I took advantage of the weather to try and walk around the area which had been fenced off for the London Olympics for around 5 years. In the evening I joined a protest in Westminster against the continuing cuts being aimed at the poorest and most vulnerable by George Osborne and the Conservative-led government.


Olympic Area Slightly Open – Stratford Marsh. Wed 5 Dec 2012

It was around April 2007 that an 11 mile long blue fence went up around the whole of the London Olympic site at Stratford, barring access to the whole site except for those working on it. Parts were replaced in 2012 with a 5,000 volt 4m tall electrified perimeter fence in 2012 for the games itself.

St Thomas’ Creek still blocked to boats

Even the public footpath along the Northern Sewage Outfall, the Greenway, had been closed in May 2012, but after I heard this had reopened on December 1st I had been wanting to visit the area again to walk along it.

Crossrail works

The View Tube, a cafe and viewing area set up on the Greenway had also reopened, under new management, and it was only signs for this that kept me going past a maze of fencing and hostile signage. The Greenway was still closed between Stratford High Street and the main railway lines because of ongoing work for Crossrail, and roads north of the railway were still fenced off.

Wire fences and yellow fences have replaced the blue

Despite it being a fine afternoon for a walk I was the only customer to enter the View Tube while I was there and the Greenway, normally a useful through route for cyclists and pedestrians, was still deserted.

I could see no signs of work going on to bring the area back into use. Ten years later the area is still largely a desert and most of the promises about the ‘Olympic Legacy’ have been reneged on. This is still an Olympic waste; though the developers have done well out of it, the people haven’t.

I walked along the Greenway, finding there was no access from it to any part of the area, with those electric wire fences still in place, and made my way along the Lea Navigation to Hackney Wick, making a number of pictures on my way.

Many more pictures including panoramas at Olympic Area Slightly Open


Osborne’s Budget Cuts – Strand to Westminster, Wed 5 Dec 2012

I around 200 people outside Kings College at Aldwych who were meeting to march to join the rally at Downing St where Stop the War and CND were protesting against Osborne’s attacks on the vulnerable, continued in his autumn statement.

The march had been called by the UCU London Region, and was joined by students, trade unionists, socialists and others, and went down the Strand and into Whitehall shouting slogans against public service cuts, the rich, David Cameron and George Osborne in particular to join a similar number already protesting at Downing St.

Speakers at the rally pointed out the huge cost of military expenditure which was being poured into futile projects – and the pockets of the arms manufacturers:

The Afghanistan war — which everyone knows is futile and lost — is costing around £6 billion a year. The yearly maintenance costs for Trident are £2.2 billion a year. The cost of renewing the Trident system — which this government is committed to do — would cost up to £130 billion. Two aircraft carriers are being built at a cost of £7 billion. Then there’s the £15 billion to be spent buying 150 F-35 jets from the US, each of which will cost £85 million plus an extra £16 million for the engine.”

John McDonnell MP

By now it was freezing, and when the speeches began the speakers were asked to cut their contributions short because of the extreme cold. Among those who spoke were John McDonnell MP, Kate Hudson of CND, author Owen Jones, Andy Greene of DPAC and Green Party leader Natalie Bennett.

Kate Hudson CND

We heard from a nurse about the campaign to keep Lewisham hospital open, where a few days earlier 15,000 had marched and formed a human chain around the hospital. The hospital is successful and well run, but huge PFI debts from another hospital in the area threaten its future.

Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett

A NUT member talked about the problems the cuts were making in education and campaigners had come from Connaught School in Waltham Forest where they are striking against the decision by school governors to pursue academy status despite the opposition of the teachers, parents, the local MP and councillors.

A speaker from UK Uncut urged people to join the protests against Starbucks the following Saturday and many of those who spoke called for trade unions to take action against the cuts, calling on union leaders to stop simply speaking against them and start organising strike action.

More at Osborne’s Budget Cuts.