Posts Tagged ‘procession’

The Sultan’s Elephant, Buddha’s Birthday & May Queens

Friday, May 6th, 2022

The Sultan’s Elephant, Buddha’s Birthday & May Queens – Satiurday May 6th was another varied day for me.


The Sultan’s Elephant – Westminster

Just why does it take so many people to drive an elephant when one elephant can do it on its own?” was the question that came to me while watching the Sultan’s Elephant making its ponderous way around central London. The 12 metre high mechanical elephant, along with the Little Princess was constructed by French company Royal De Luxe and appeared to have around 20 drivers as well as a cast of under-employed actors.

And, as I commented, “it did occur to me to ask why the Arts Council was spending so much of our money on guys who wanted to play with big toys.” Rather than art it seemed to me to be “more or less a larger version of model railways to me, or perhaps even more a simplistic version of a computer game fantasy made manifiest” and little about art. “More Disneyland.”


Buddha’s 2550th Birthday – Leicester Square

A quarter of a mile to the north, celebrations were taking place in Chinatown of Buddha’s 2,550th birthday, organised by London Fo Guang Temple, one of two UK branches of the Taiwanese Fo Guang Shan Order who have a temple in Margaret St in a rather nice Grade II listed former Parish School and Church House designed by William Butterfield and built in 1868-70.

The festival was continuing over two days, but I only stayed for around an hour, photographing a colourful procession which included two lions and the Mayor of Westminster.


Chislehurst May Queen Ceremonies – Chislehurst

Chislehurst is around ten miles from the centre of London, in Kent until brought into Greater London on the edge of the London Borough of Bromley in 1965. Fortunately trains from Charing Cross go there in around half an hour, which makes it a popular commuter town, and took me there, where I had been invited by the organisers of the Chislehurst May Queen to photograph their May Queen Ceremonies.

Traditionally May had been a time when the New Year and Spring was celebrated, when young men and women danced together and often rather more, and a queen of the may was chosen to lead the event. Oliver Cromwell banned the celebrations as sinful pagan events, and although they came back after the restoration the events slowly died out or became more formal.

As I noted: “There was a revival of interest in old customs in the Victorian era, with various ‘Merrie England’ events being organised. Some schools had maypoles and learnt the dances and many Sunday Schools had their may queens who often took a leading part in Whit Walks.

I became interested in these continuing events in 2005, going to photograph the Merrie England and London May Queen Festival at Hayes, Kent (also in LB Bromley.) It was the start of a project that led to my self-published book London’s May Queens (ISBN: 978-1-909363-06-9) and almost to a major museum exhibition, plans for which fell through at the last hurdle.


London's May Queens

Book Preview

The book preview contains an essay on the history of London’s May Queens and a number of photographs from various May Queen events. Although print copies of the book are expensive you can purchase a reasonably priced PDF version.


But putting the pictures from this first event I photographed in 2005 on-line attracted a great deal of interest, particularly among the families involved, and led to me being invited to other events such as this at Chislehurst, who were particularly keen that I should photograph their proper maypole dancing.

Last year’s Queen crowns the new May Queen

As I explain on My London Diary, “Any girl five or over who lives or has grandparents who live in Chislehurst can join the retinue. They then work their way up the ranks, with the oldest girl of the year of joining having the choice of being Queen or Prince. Several months of twice-weekly rehearsals are required, and as well as the festival they also perform at other events.” From the various ‘realms’ such as Chislehurst, the girls then move on to become a part of the London May Queen group. The Chislehurst group is now open to both boys and girls.

Chislehurst first took part in the London May Queen festival in 1923, ten years after it was founded by Dulwich schoolmaster Joseph Deedy in 2013 – there is more of the history in my book. Their festival involved other groups in the area and seemed very much a community festival. It ended with a tea for the May Queen group in the Methodist church hall, and I waited for the May Queen to cut the cake with the help of her ‘Prince’ before leaving to catch the train back home.

I’m pleased to see that the Chislehust May Queen Society is still continuing – and has a Facebook group and a web site. They will be crowning their 99th May Queen tomorrow, as usual on the first Saturday of May.


More on all these events on the May 2006 page of My London Diary.


FlickrFacebookMy London DiaryHull PhotosLea ValleyParis

London’s Industrial HeritageLondon Photos

All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall. Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


St George’s Day 2016

Saturday, April 23rd, 2022

April 23rd 303 was not a good day for George from Cappadocia. Diocletian, then the senior Roman Emperor had previously purged the Roman Army of Christians but had not really otherwise bothered too much about them, but he was persuaded by fellow emperor Galerius to take a harder line, and after consulting the oracle of Apollo began a general persecution across the empire on February 23, 303, which continued for the next 10 years or so.

For some reason George had escaped the previous army purge was was still serving as a member of Emperor Diocletian’s personal bodyguards. Tradition has it that he refused to recant his faith and was sentenced to death, being beheaded at Nicomedia on 23rd April. Rather different versions of his life (and death) grew up in the Greek and Latin churches. But certainly many Christians were killed by the Romans and George certainly represents one of many brave men who died rather than recant, most probably in the earlier years of Diocletian’s reign.

St George, Emperor Diocletian, the priestess or haruspex and the emperor’s daughter

Legends built up around him, few of which like that of the dragon (an 11th century addition) will have been true. It’s unlikely that he was subjected to more than twenty separate tortures over the course of seven years or that his martyrdom led to “40,900 pagans were converted to Christianity, including the empress Alexandra.” You can read more about him on Wikipedia.

His martydom began to be celebrated in Lydda in Palestine where he was thought to have died, and pilgrims came there and later to Cappadocia where he is thought to have come from. He was made a saint by Pope Gelasius I in 494, who said his was one of those “whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose actions are known only to God“.

St George fights the dragon on the Passmore Edwards Public Library, long closed

His fame spread across Christendom, though it was only in the ninth century that the first church was dedicated to him in England – and not until 1152 that he displaced Edward the Confessor as the patron saint of England, although he had become a part of some English battle cries in the Hundred Years War (1337-1453) and among the Crusaders, when many went from England to fight against the Muslims in Palestine between 1095 and 1291.

St Georges Day was made a major feast here in 1415 and 1421, a holiday where church attendance was compulsory and other festivities took place. Later its celebration declined, particularly after the union with Scotland, and had more or less died out by the 20th century.

In recent years there has been something of a revival, spurred on in part by the increasing festivals of other communities, sometimes supported by local councils. There has been an increasing emphasis too on our national teams, particularly the English Football and Rugby teams, with minor fixtures being promoted through the mass media in a way that in earlier years was reserved for the major sporting events – the Grand National, the FA Cup FInal and the Boat Race.

London’s dragons are mainly Chinese

The St George’s Flag had become something seldom seen outside football matches, except in the hands of small racist right-wing groups who called themselves patriots. Unfortunately recent years have seen a growth in these, and some have organised celebrations of St George’s Day, but there has also been a growth in less political events, with even English Heritage encouraging celebrations. Radio 3 has celebrated it, and both Conservatives and the Labour Party have campaigned for it – with Labour calling for it to become a public in both 2017 and 2019 manifestos.

The pictures here are from 23rd April 2016, I started the day photographing a couple of protests over the sale of illegal ‘blood diamonds’ from Sierra Leone at Selfridges in Oxford Street and Tiffany in Sloane Square before going on take pictures about St George’s Day, beginning around lunchtime in Trafalgar Square, where despite the support of mayor Boris Johnson little was happening. I went to the Roman Catholic St George’s Cathedral in Southwark, calling in briefly at the peace garden in the Imperial War Museum across the road as I waited for people to arrive for the St George in Southwark Procession.

This, led by led by St George, a Roman Emperor, the Mayor of Southwark and others and with a dragon at its rear made its way from the St George’s RC Cathedral to the Church of England St George the Martyr in Borough High Street.

I’d not been inside this before and went in with those taking part for a short address before we came out and the procession formed up. It wound its way through the back streets of Southwark and I was pleased as we went past the Priory on Webber Street to be able to tell the mayor something about Bert Hardy who had recently got a blue plaque there. I’d only met Hardy a couple of times, but one of my friends had worked at Grove Hardy as a printer.

The procession ended with a play in the yard beside St George the Martyr, but I left before it finished. Earlier I’d agreed to meet a couple of photographer friends at the start of the procession, but I think they had got lost on the way there, but I’d now arranged to find them on London Bridge. There seemed to be little going on at the George Inn on Borough High St, but at the King’s Head we walked into the bar and were seated by the window when St George walked in with a few mates. It obviously wasn’t the first pub they had visited. After he had got a pint I went and asked if I could take a few pictures, and he began posing, though moving rather too much in the low light.

After I had taken his picture a rather friendly dragon came up to the bar, followed by a second St George, and I photographed the two St Georges together. And as we left the bar, there in the street was the second of them with his dragon friend – and I took a few more frames.

More on most of these events and the other two protests I photographed that day:
St George in Southwark Procession
Peace Garden at War Museum
St Georges Day in London
Sierra Leone Blood Diamonds at Tiffany
Sierra Leone Blood Diamonds at Selfridges


FlickrFacebookMy London DiaryHull PhotosLea ValleyParis

London’s Industrial HeritageLondon Photos

All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall. Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


Good Friday 2010 in London

Saturday, April 2nd, 2022

Good Friday 2010 in London – This year Easter Day is celebrated on April 17th by Western Christianity, though as usual a week later by Eastern churches. But it is a ‘moveable feast’ and is on the first Sunday after the first ‘ecclesiastical full moon’ (don’t ask) on or following 21st March, which means it will always be somewhere between March 22nd and April 25th. In 2010, Easter Day was April 4th, so April 2nd 2010 was Good Friday. I photographed two public events for it in London.

Good Friday 2010 in London
Jesus’s body taken down from the cross in Trafalgar Square

Crucifixion on Victoria St, Westminster

Good Friday 2010 in London

I photographed ‘The Crucifixion on Victoria Street’ on Good Friday for a number of years, though decided to stop doing so more recently, largely because of how I felt the behaviour of other photographers. When I first photographed the event there were relatively few of us taking pictures and we did so with some discretion, respecting the religious nature of the event. But over the years the number of photographers has increased greatly and it became more of a media circus, with a few really interfering with the proper nature of the event.

The event brings together clergy and congregations from a number of churches on and around Victoria Street, which includes the Westminster Abbey, the Roman Catholic Westminster Cathredral and Methodist Central Hall as well as other churches, church schools and projects in the area. They process along Victoria Street behind a man carrying a large wooden cross – in 2010 carried by men from the Passage, a project for homeless people close the the Cathedral – and stop for short services in front of the three main churches.

The main service was outside the entrance to Westminster Cathedral where there were hymns, bible readings, a meditation, prayers and a reflection on peace to honour the innocent victims of our times by The Most Reverend Vincent Nicholls, the third Archbishop of Westminster I’ve photographed on these steps.

I left the procession as it made its way towards Westminster Abbey where there was to be a final service.

Crucifixion on Victoria St


The Passion of Jesus, Trafalgar Square

This was the first Passion Play to be performed in the square since 1965, and was a highly professional performance by a group based on the Wintershall estate near Godalming that have been putting on similar but larger and longer ‘Life of Christ’ plays there for a number of years.

Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss

The play related key events leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, folowing the stories in the four gospels with both narration and the voices of the main characters coming to the crowd over loudspeakers around the square. It was a colourful and at times exciting rendition of what was for some of us a familiar story, but for some present was novel.

Photographing the live performance had to be from the sidelines, but I was able to do so fairly well, though mainly from longer distances than I like to work from. It was an interesting presentation of a difficult story to stage.

The pictures on My London Diary show the story in sequence and I think capture all the key moments.

The Passion of Jesus


FlickrFacebookMy London DiaryHull PhotosLea ValleyParis

London’s Industrial HeritageLondon Photos

All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall. Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


Brent St Patrick’s Day Parade

Thursday, March 17th, 2022

Brent St Patrick’s Day Parade

Brent is the London Borough with the largest Irish population and there are also significant numbers in the neighbouring boroughs of Camden and Islington and Hammersmith & Fulham, with Kilburn and Willesden Green being the in particular having large populations of Irish descent,

Brent St Patrick's Day Parade
St Patrick, Willeden Green, 2007

So it was hardly surprising that Willesden Green for some years had its own St Patrick’s Day procession, held on the day itself, March 17th, as well as the London celebration begun in 2002 when Ken Livingstone was Mayor on the nearest Sunday. Labour Brent also celebrated days for some of its other communities until recently cuts in funding from a Tory dominated central government made this no longer possible.

Willeden Green, 2007

The parade in Brent was on a smaller and friendlier scale than the London parade, and far more a community festival on the street, with others as well as the Irish joining in and having a good time.

St Patrick, Willesden Green, 2008

The multi-cultural nature of Brent was clear in that the parade began outside an Islamic Cultural Centre and those taking part included many local school-children from a whole mix of heritages. Brent as well as St Patrick’s Day also then celebrated Diwali, Eid, Christmas, Chanukah and Navrati, and Holocaust Memorial Day, along with a black history programme, its own ‘Respect’ festival and a world food and music festival.

Willesden Green, 2008

St Patrick blesses the photographer, Willesden Green, 2009

But it was very clearly an Irish event, with Irish people from all across London coming to watch and take part, both in the parade and in the various pubs and bars along the route.

Willesden Green, 2009

Some of the floats in the parade were also in the main London St Patrick’s Day parade, but the atmosphere here was much more relaxed. Here are a few pictures that I made from 2009-2013.

Willesden Green, 2009
Willesden Green, 2010
Willesden Green, 2010
Willesden Green, 2010
Willesden Green, 2010
Willesden Green, 2011
Willesden Green, 2012
Two St Patricks, Willesden Green, 2012
Willesden Green, 2012
Willesden Green, 2013

In 2013, the event was much smaller as council funding had been cut, thanks to Tory austerity policies. And because St Patricks Day that year was on the Sunday, the celebration in Brent was held a day earlier so not to clash with the London parade.

I think this was the last St Patrick’s Day Parade in Brent – certainly it was the last I photographed. You can see many other pictures from Brent St Patrick’s Day Parade on My London Diary

Brent St Patrick’s Day Parade 2007 (scroll down the page)
Brent St Patrick’s Day Parade 2008
Brent St Patrick’s Day Parade 2009
Brent St Patrick’s Day Parade 2010
Brent St Patrick’s Day Parade 2011
Brent St Patrick’s Day Parade 2012
Brent St Patrick’s Day Parade 2013


FlickrFacebookMy London DiaryHull PhotosLea ValleyParis

London’s Industrial HeritageLondon Photos

All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall. Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.


11 October 2008

Monday, October 11th, 2021

It was the start of the final 100 days of the Bush adminstration and the ‘Hands off Iraqi Oil’ coalition whose members included Corporate Watch, Iraq Occupation Focus, Jubilee Iraq, PLATFORM, Voices UK, and War on Want and was supported by the Stop the War Coalition and others had come to Shell’s UK headquarters at Waterloo to protest against plans by Britain and the USA for Iraq to hand over most of the country’s oil reserves to foreign companies, particularly Shell and BP.

Iraq had nationalised its oil by 1972, and it provided 95% of its government income. Many had seen the invasion of Iraq by the US and UK (along with Australia and Poland) as largely driven by the desire to gain control of Iraq’s huge oil reserves and the US had engaged consultants to help it write a new oil law which it got the Iraqi cabinet to approive in 2007 which would give foreign oil companies – including Shell and BP, long-term contracts within a safe legal framework. But large-scale popular opposition meant the Iraqi parliament failed to approve the new law. But in June 2008, the Iraqi Oil Ministry went ahead with short-term no-bid contracts to the major foreign oil companies – including Exxon Mobil, BP, Shell, Total and Chevron and later these and other contracts were made more favourable to the oil companies.

After the protest at Shell’s offices the protesters marched to protest outside the BP HQ in St James’s Square and then to the US Embassy, and I left to cover the London Freedom not fear 2008 event outside New Scotland Yard. Similar protests were taking place in over 20 countries to demonstrate against excessive surveillance by governments and businesses, organised by a broad movement of campaigners and organizations.

The London event highlighted the restrictions of the right to demonstrate under the Labour government’s The Serious Organized Crime and Police Act 2005, (SOCPA),, the intimidatory use of photography by police Forward Intelligence squads (FIT), the proposed introduction of ID cards, the increasing centralisation of personal data held by government, including the DNA database held by police, the incredible growth in surveillance cameras, ‘terrorist’ legislation and other measures which have affected our individual freedom and human rights.

For something completely different I walked a quarter of a mile down Victoria Street to Westminster Cathedral where people were assembling for the Rosary Crusade of Reparation, one of the larger walks of public witness by Catholics in London.

This tradition began in Austria in 1947 with the roasary campaign begun by a priest praying for his country to be freed from the communist occupiers. The first annual parade with the statue of Our Lady of Fatima took place in 1948 in Vienna on the feast of the Name of Mary, Sept 12, which had been established by Pope Innocent XI in 1683 when Turkish invaders surrounding Vienna were defeated by Christian armies who had prayed to the Blessed Virgin.

As the procession to a service at Brompton Oratory began I walked back up Victoria St to Parliament Square, where a number of other small protests were in evidence. All over the centre of London there were people giving out leaflets about the growing problems faced by Tamils in Sri Lanka, where they allege a program of ethnic cleansing is being carried out by the government. International media are banned from the Tamil areas of the country and NGOs have been ordered out of some areas, so there are few reports of the war. Worse was to come and in 2009 in the final stages of the war conservative estimates are that 70,000 civilians were killed in the the Mullivaikkal massacre.

Others in the square were protesting against the UK’s scandalous treatment of asylum seekers and calling for the asylum detention centres to be closed down.

Brian Haw was still there, and I wrote:

Facing Parliament, Brian Haw‘s peace protest continues – he has been there for almost 2700 days – over 7 years – and it will soon be his 60th birthday. Brian says that now the police seem to have largely abandoned attempts to get rid of him legally there have been a number of odd attacks against him and others in the square – which the police have ignored. I took some time talking to a man who smelt of alcohol, was talking nonsense and acting unpredictably – and who then went and started to insult Brian. One of the other demonstrators stood between him and Brian who was filming him. I put down my bag as I took photographs in case I needed to step in and help, but fortunately he eventually moved away.

There were others protesting in Parliament Square, including one man who asked me to take his picture. He told me his name was Danny and that he had been there on hunger strike for two weeks, protesting over his failure to get his case investigated. He claimed to have been abused by police and social services following an incident in which as a seven year old child in Llanelli he was implicated in the death of a baby brother. I was unable to find any more information about his case.

Finally I saw a group of people walking past holding leafelts with the the word CHANGE on them and rushed after them to find they were Obama supporters hoping to persuade Americans they met to register and vote in the election. It was time for me to go home.

Parliament Square
Rosary Crusade of Reparation
Freedom not Fear 2008
Bush & Cheney’s Iraq Oil Grab


FlickrFacebookMy London DiaryHull PhotosLea ValleyParis

London’s Industrial HeritageLondon Photos

All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall. Contact me to buy prints or licence to reproduce.



Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Wednesday, July 21st, 2021

Most years around this time I would be enjoying an afternoon in Clerkenwell, with the area thronged with Italians and people of Italian descent enjoying their major London festival, the procession of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in the area around St Peter’s Italian Church. These pictures are from Sunday 21 July 2013, eight years ago.

When Queen Victoria gave the procession special permission to take place in 1883, it was the first Roman Catholic event on English streets for 349 years and was doubtless rather a contentious event. The Popery Act of 1698 had made discrimination against Catholics official, and when the Papists Act of 1778 relaxed some of these restrictions it led to a week of intense riots in London, with the Catholic Chapels at foreign embassies being burnt down and attacks on Newgate Prison and the Bank of England before the army was sent in to stop the destruction. After that things got rather quieter, though we still celebrate with what was very much an anti-Catholic bonfire on November 5th each year.

The celebrations now are very much both a religious and cultural event, and along with the procession from the church there is also an Italian festival or Sagra in the street below the church, with traditional Italian food, music, dancing and wine.

I’m not sure if the wine improves my photography, but it’s hard to resist and I usually meet up with a few of my photographer friends and it is as much a social as a photographic occasion. But I always try to photograph the religious procession, and in particular the release of doves which has become the highlight of the event. In 2013 six doves were released by six of the first communicants in a slightly uncoordinated manner, and – as the top picture shows – didn’t really fly in a way that made a good picture, at least not for me. It’s always a rather unpredictable event.

The rest of the procession follows in a more predictable fashion, though it has changed a little over the 20 or so years I’ve photographed it. But as often with processions most of the more interesting photographs come before the actual event, and while I stay taking photographs until the end of the procession has moved off down the road, my photographer friends are probably back down in the Sagra, while most of the crowd is up on the street applauding the walking groups and floats.

The route has changed since I first began to photograph the event, perhaps to make things a little easier for those carrying the heavy statues, though I think some of the floats had problems in the narrow streets to the south of the church in Hatton Garden. It now sticks to the main roads, in a triangle down Clerkenwell Road, up Rosebery Ave and back down Farringdon Rd. At its rear are the clergy and a large group of parishoners, but most of those watching are long back down drinking and eating before the procession finished.

I didn’t feel my photographs from 2013 were as good as on some other years, but they do tell the story of the event. You can see more of them at Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Links to the festival in some other recent years on My London Diary: 2008, 2009, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Cake, Yacht and Dodo

Thursday, July 15th, 2021

The cake came outside the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) where PCS members who work as cleaners and catering workers were beginning the first ever indefinite strike at a government ministry, demanding they be paid the London Living Wage, and get decent conditions of employment.

It was the third anniversary of the founding of the BEIS, and also the third anniversary of the campaign to get the workers there decent pay and to be employed directly by the BEIS, rather than outsourcing companies ISS and Aramark whose only concern is cutting costs to the bone by exploiting the workers so they can undercut competitors for the contracts and make profits at the workers’ expense.

A crowd of around a hundred supporters was there to cheer the strikers when they came out of the BEIS to begin their strike and there were speeches from trade unionists including PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka, RMT General Secretary Mick Cash, and UCU’s Jo Grady as well as then Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP and some of the BEIS workers. I did manage to get a piece of the cake before I had to leave for the Royal Courts of Justice.

Extinction Rebellion had brought the yacht to to court to begin their ‘Summer Uprising’, another series of protests in five major cities against the criminal inaction by the government on climate and ecological collapse. The yacht was named Polly Higgins after the Scottish barrister who fought for years for an Ecocide Law and had died of cancer 3 months earlier, only 50.

When I arrived some kind of new age ceremony was taking place with people bringing water from across the country to pour into a large bowl and a Druid celebrant in long white robes. It’s one of the kind of things that makes it hard for many to take XR seriously as a movement.

But of course it is serious and the crisis that we face is existential. An ecocide law would be a powerful way to restrain some of the worst excesses of companies that are driving us to extinction. There were some good speeches at the event, with some very clear thinking, but also a few which made me cringe a little.

Eventually it was time to march, with the pink Dodo and the yacht, making our way across the river towards Waterloo where XR was to set up a camp on Waterloo Millenium Green.

There really is a climate and ecological emergency, with too many species going the way of the dodo, and we do need governments to tell the truth and make real and difficult actions to halt what seems an inevitable slide into irreversible heating which will make the world uninhabitable for many species, probably including our own. It’s time to end the kind of lip-service which has our government setting targets long into the future while ramping up disastrous policies like Heathrow expansion, road-building and coal mines.

The yacht went with them at the back of the procession, which halted for some time to block Waterloo Bridge, remembering the many arrests there in the previous XR protests, before continuing. It was then stopped by police on Waterloo Rd, causing far more rush hour traffic chaos than necessary by completely blocking the Waterloo roundabout. Eventually they were allowed to continue and occupy the green space they were heading for, but by that time I had left and walked into Waterloo station to catch my train home.

XR Summer Uprising procession
XR call for Ecocide Law
BEIS workers begin indefinite strike


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


St George

Friday, April 23rd, 2021

The details of the life and death of St George (as you can read in Wikipedia) are recorded in accounts dating back to around 1600 years ago, though details vary and the Pope in 494 CE who officially made him a saint called him one of those “whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose actions are known only to God.

According to the early texts, George was born in Cappadocia, now a part of Turkey, where his father came from, but his mother was a Palestinian Christian. Cappadocians were generally historically regarded as Syrians, though St George’s family are usually said to be of Greek descent. St George became, like his father, a Roman soldier, becoming a member of the elite Praetorian Guard, and was beheaded in the eastern capital of the Roman Empire on 23 April 303CE, 1718 years ago, during Emperor Diocletian’s purge of Christians who refused to recant the faith.

His behaviour and suffering apparently convinced one prominent Roman woman, Empress Alexandra of Rome, possibly the Emperor’s wife – to become a Christian – and to share his fate. The purge failed to have its intended result, and around 21 years after George’s execution, Christianity became the preferred religion in the Roman Empire under Emperor Constantine.

George’s body was buried in Lydda in Palestine and Christians there soon became to regard him as a martyr. Some legends say that his martyrdom resulted in the conversion of not just the Emperors’s wife but 40,900 other pagans.

The dragon came along considerably later, only appearing in legends around 700 years after his death, apparently terrorising the city of Silene in Libya, which there is no evidence that St George ever visited. The dragon in my picture above, from a St George’s Day procession in Southwark, seems to have come from Chinatown. But dragons can fly.

The traditional patron saint of England was the last king of Wessex, Edward the Confessor who died in 1066, and it was only in 1552 that as a part of the English Reformation that St George officially became the only saint recognised in England, although along with various other countries English armies adopted him during the crusades and in our battles with the French in the Hundred Years War from 1337-1453. Surprisingly we didn’t drop St George although we lost rather badly.

St George’s Day remains an official feast celebrated by the Church of England, usually, though not always, on April 23, as Easter sometimes interferes. Rather more is made of it by some other countries and churches.

The St George’s cross, widely used by football supporters and right-wing extremists in England, comes from the 10th century in the city of Genoa in Italy, becoming used in England in 1348 when Edward III founded the Order of the Garter and made St George its patron saint. It has never been officially adopted as the national flag, though now widely used as such. It is of course a component of many other flags, including the UK’s national flag.

Over the years I’ve photographed many different celebrations of St George’s Day in and around London, and the pictures come from a few of these in 2005, 2009, 2011 and 2016.

2005 St George’s Day
2009 St George & the Dragon
2009 England Supporters,Trafalgar Square
2009 The George Inn, Southwark
2009 The Lions part: St George & the Dragon
2009 St George’s Day – Trafalgar Square
2011 St George’s Day in London
2016 St George in Southwark Procession
2916 St Georges Day in London


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Arbaeen – 7 Feb 2010

Sunday, February 7th, 2021

One side of my work on London that has perhaps been overlooked, certainly in my posts on this site, is the coverage of religious festivals. Of course not all are public events and most of my work has been on the streets, but there are many processions and similar events that I’ve been able to photograph, mainly by Christians, Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims.

Some of these have been taking place in London for many years – such as the annual procession from the Italian Church in Clerkenwell which dates back to the Victoria era, while others have only come here as London has become more multicultural with the arrival here of many from our former colonies. But we have also seen a revival of some older traditions in more recent years, for example with more Christian processions of faith on Good Fridays, as well as the importation of Christian events from other countries and such as the annual blessing of the River Thames.

One of the larger and more colourful of these annual festivals is the Arbaeen procession of mourning by Shia Muslims organised in London by the Hussaini Islamic Trust UK since 1982, the largest and oldest such event in Europe.

It commemorates the sacrifice made by the grandson of Mohammed, Imam Husain, killed with his family and companions at Kerbala in 680AD and takes place on the Sunday following the end of 40 days of mourning the martyrdom of Husain.

I’ve photographed this event on several occasions, and in 2010 I wrote:

Imam Husain is seen by Shia Muslims as making a great stand against the oppression of a tyrant and representing the forces of good against evil. Husain and his small group of supporters were hugely outnumbered but chose to fight to the death for their beleifs rather than to compromise. Their stand is a symbol of freedom and dignity, and an aspiration to people and nations to strive for freedom, justice and equality.

London Arbaeen Procession

You can see and read more about the procession, with its impressive silver and gold replicas of the shrines of Karbala, Zuljana, the horse of Imam Husain, its flags and banners, the re-enactment of the events by children, the prayers and recitations,

and the beating of breasts on My London Diary: London Arbaeen Procession.

You can also find pictures of the Arbaeen processions in March 2007, March 2008, February 2009, Jan 2011 and Jan 2012 on My London Diary.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Notting Hill Colour – 1993

Saturday, October 17th, 2020
Notting Hill Carnival, London, 1993 93c8-nh-007-positive_2400

Although almost all the pictures I took at Notting Hill Carnival in 1993 were in black and white, I did make a few colour images, and here are a small selection.

Notting Hill Carnival, London, 1993 93c8-nh-008-positive_2400

Almost all of them were of the procession, and I think taken in a fairly short period of time, mainly on Ladbroke Grove.

Notting Hill Carnival, London, 1993 93c8-nh-019-positive_2400

I tried to cut my equipment to a minimum for carnival, partly to make it easier to move through the crowds, but also because I was just a little worried about taking what looked like camera bags full of expensive equipment to the event. And I wanted to be able to dance as I took pictures.

Notting Hill Carnival, London, 1993 93c8-nh-022-positive_2400

Instead of a normal camera bag, I took a small khaki canvas ex-army shoulder bag which I still use today when I want to travel light, issued in 1942 possibly for a gas mask, large enough to take a camera, one or two spare lenses, a decent supply of film, notebook, water bottle and a few oddments, which back in those days would usually include a Mars Bar for when my energy lagged, and sometimes a sandwich or two.

Notting Hill Carnival, London, 1993 93c8-nh-027-positive_2400

Probably when I saw some particularly attractive and colourful costumes and had finished a black and white film I picked a colour one to reload the camera – probably my Minolta CLE, a rather superior second version of the Leica CL which for some obscure reason Leitz decided not to put their name on, ending their collaboration with Minolta. I then took pictures quickly to finish the film so I could get back to my real work using black and white. I think that happened a couple of times on Children’s Day, but on the Monday I concentrated on more serious black and white work.

Notting Hill Carnival, London, 1993 93c8-nh-034-positive_2400

In crowds I always made sure to put the shoulder strap over my head and on one shoulder and hold the bag on my stomach so as not to get caught up behind me. I always kept the camera on a strap around my neck too. But generally the crowds were good-natured and in high spirits and I had no trouble taking pictures.

Notting Hill Carnival, London, 1993 93c8-nh-031-positive_2400

Just once, in the centre of a heaving crowd of dancers in front of a sound system I suddenly realised that someone had put their hand into my left trouser pocket. I grabbed it and held it there protesting, and slowly pulled it out to reveal it holding a wallet. But it wasn’t mine (I’d left that at home) and of course it had no money in it. I’m not sure why he was planting it on me, but pushed it back into the hand I was still firmly holding and told the guy to eff off and he ran off pushing through the crowd. It didn’t seem the place to investigate further.

More pictures on page 6 of my Notting Hill Carnival – the 1990s on Flickr.


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.