Posts Tagged ‘Santacon’

More Santas

Tuesday, December 15th, 2020

I think this may be my final post this year about Santacon, the “non-profit, non-political, non-religious and non-sensical Christmas parade” which I first photographed in London in 2006, though I think it had been taking place here for some years.

The first Santacon was in Copenhagen in 1974, begun by a street theatre group as a protest against the commercialisation of Christmas, when the Santas went into department stores and handed out presents from the shelves to customers – and were arrested.

A Santa on the plinth of Nelson’s column bats back brussel sprouts thrown by elves.

It became popular in the USA following a 1994 article about the Cophenhagen event which appeared in the magazine Mother Jones leading to a repeat performance in in San Francisco in 1995.

From there Santacon spread to other cities in the US and then to over 40 other countries as a fun day out wearing Santa costumes and roaming the city drinking on the street with friends. The largest Santacon, in New York, by 2012 had an estimated 30,000 people taking part, and it was condemned by most of the media, with the New York Times criticising it (quoted on Wikipedia) for “sexism, drunkenness, xenophobia, homophobia and enough incidents of public vomiting and urination to fill an infinite dunk tank” and saying it contributed nothing to the areas where it takes place. The organisers pointed out that in 2013 it raised $60,000 for New York charities and donated around 3 tons of canned food to a New York food bank.

Since then the city authorities in New York and also in London have clamped down on Santacon in various ways, and what was a largely autonomous and unplanned event has been forced to organise and toe various lines.

The London 2018 Santacon had raised over £15,000 for the charity Christmas for Kids. But there was no official event in London in 2019 bacause the organisers were unable to attract sufficient volunteers to organise the 2019 event and satisfy the requirements for them to police it. They issued a statement on their Facebook page dissociating themselves from those who they encouraged to organise their own celebrations to avoid possible prosecution.

Nothing official will be announced from Santacon London this year, if you see an event called Santacon it’s not us and remember Santacon is meant to be free (with the exception of charity donations) and never includes a Santa costume. Santa makes their own (or put their elves to work).

Santacon London FB page

Despite the lack of any official event, several thousand Santas still took part in 2019, most ending up – as in previous years – in Trafalgar Square, though I had other things to photograph. And although Covid restrictions will certainly mean there is no official event this year, I suspect quite a few Santas may have made their way to Trafalgar Square last Saturday.

More from 15 December 2012 on My London Diary: Santacon Comes to Town


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.


‘Free the Table’ and more

Saturday, December 12th, 2020

Five years ago on Saturday 12th December I had another busy day travelling to events around London. I began at Stratford on the east of London, the opposite side of London to where I live, but now a relatively easy journey since the opening of the Jubilee line there at the end of 1999.

For the previous couple of years I’d been following the progress and protests of Focus E15, formed when Newham Council planned to close down a hostel for young mothers in Stratford and scatter them to private rented accommodation often hundreds of miles away. They stood their ground and got more local rehousing, but, appalled by the activities of the council and its Mayor Robin Wales, continued to take action over the failure of Newham Council to sensibly address the acute housing problem in the borough, which has around 5,000 people living in temporary accommodation and while 400 homes in the Carpenters Estate close to the centre of Stratford have been empty for up to ten years. They accuse the council of ‘social cleansing’, attempting to force those needing housing out of London.

Apart from various actions, including preventing evictions and embarrassing the Mayor by confronting him at public events Focus E15 had held a weekly Saturday street stall on the wide pavement at Stratford Broadway, handing out leaflets and advice to the public on housing issues.

Although their weekly protest was legal, it clearly annoyed the council, and on Saturday 5th December Newham Law Enforcement officer John Oddie arrived, assisted by several police officers and confronted the campaigners and told them they were not allowed to protest there, and that unless they immediately packed up their stall, sound system, banners and other gear it would be seized. The group made clear that they would not move and following some argument, police seized a table and threw it in the back of their van.

It soon became clear that this action by police and the council officer had been illegal, and the council asked the protesters to come and collect the table. They replied asking the council to return it to them at the following week’s protest, and advertised this widely as a ‘Free the Focus E15 Table’ event, making considerable humorous mileage out of the council and police gaffe. The council didn’t turn up with the table, but there a number of other tables there, celebrating ‘Tablegate’ and although the local newspaper seemed to be boycotting the event (could they possibly attract considerable revenue from publishing official council notices) a BBC local news crew came along to film a few interviews.

Free the Focus E15 Table


I couldn’t stay until the end but caught the tube back to central London where the Campaign against Climate Change were protesting against the inadequacy of the COP21 Paris deal, which sets the target temperature rise too high, has no way to enforce the measures needed and will allow the giant corporations to continue to prevent governments from carrying out effective green measures.

After a short rally in Old Palace Yard the protesters unrolled a 300m length of bright red fabric, carrying it above their heads across Westminster Bridge. It was a tricky to photograph but visually effective reminder of the need of governments to take urgent action to keep fossil fuels – including shale oil, with fracking now shown to be as dirty as coal – in the ground, or at least only to be extracted as chemical feedstock rather than fuel, and an increased urgency in the transition to renewable energy.


As I was photographing on Westminster Bridge, I was surprised to see a group of several hundred Santas on BMX bikes riding across on the opposite carriageway and rushed across to take a few pictures. I later found that this was an annual BMX Charity ride – which I went to photograph in 2019.

Later in the day I went to Trafalgar Square where a completely unconnected Santa-themed event was taking place, with Santas arriving at the end of the annual Santacon, a largely alcohol fuelled festive costume ramble through London.

Pictures from both Santa events are in Santas in London.


In late afternoon, solidarity campaigners and Syrian activists met for a vigil opposite Downing St vigil demanded justice for refugees, opening of EU borders to those fleeing war and terrorism and a much more generous response from the UK government.

It was a candlelit vigil, but a gusty wind blew out the flames as soon as they were lit until someone went to buy plastic cups to act as windshields though these rather hid the actual flames.

The response of the British government to the refugee crisis, particularly from Syria, but also from elsewhere around the world is seen by many to be abysmal. Even after considerable pushing from the British people which forced David Cameron to increase numbers, the UK was only promising to take 20,000 in the next five years, while Canada will take more – 25,000 – in a single year.



Christmas Solidarity Vigil for Refugees
Santas in London
Climate Activists Red Line protest
Free the Focus E15 Table


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.


Human Rights Day

Thursday, December 10th, 2020

Today, 10th December is UN Human Rights Day. I think the 10th December 2016 may have set a personal record in that I covered seven events, although one was only a fleeting meeting with a Rhino as I passed through Parliament Square. But five were human rights protests.

My work began in Old Palace Yard, in front of the House of Lords and around the rather ugly statue of George V. On 10th December 1948 the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and since then the day has been celebrated in countries around the world as Human Rights Day.

The UK was one of the countries that played a large part in both the establishment of the UN, whose first General Assembly was held in the early months of 1946 just a few hundred yards away in Methodist Central Hall, and in the UDHR, which “proclaims the inalienable rights which everyone is entitled to as a human being”.

But our current government finds some of its provisions inconvenient and one of the driving forces of Brexit is that it will provide the opportunity to weaken compliance with the UDHR, threatening our human rights including workers rights to paid holidays, maternity leave and fair treatment at work, disability rights and the right to freedom from discrimination.

Supporters of the UK remaining in Europe were protesting in silent chains in towns and cities across the country and several hundred had come to do so in the centre of London. I didn’t find it easy to produce interesting pictures of what was a rather static event.
Silent Chain for Europe


As I walked across the front of Parliament towards Westminster tube station I came across two people in rather impressive rhinoceros costumes who were being photographed in front of the House of Commons, and paused briefly to take a couple of pictures.

What rather surprised me was the almost total lack of interest in them shown by the many tourists walking past. After all it isn’t every day you pass two rhinos on the street.
Save the Rhino


People from various campaigns had come to Broadcasting House to protest and hand in a letter about the BBC’s failure to report on political prisoners held unjustly in jails around the world. They accuse the BBC of an institutional policy of ignoring such cases, including a hundred Irish Republican prisoners, former Black Panther Mumia Abu Jamal held on Death Row in the USA for over 30 years, many Palestinians held in Israeli jails, the victims of Erdogan’s purge in Turkey, the many hanged in Iran and other cases of illegal imprisonment around the world.
BBC censors prison struggles


From the BBC I made my way north to Mornington Crescent, where I met one of the four groups of Santacon; the north London group had met up in Camden and were coming down into Central London and soon stopped in a small park.

I found it a little disappointing – as I wrote then,

“this year the event did seem rather more organised and tame, lacking some of the anarchic charm and chaos that brought much of London’s traffic to a halt in previous years – or perhaps I just took these pictures earlier in the day before the Christmas spirits, wine and beer had really kicked in. “

London Santacon 2016

I think police had leaned rather heavily on the organisers and insisted that they move off the streets into areas such as this for much of the event. I didn’t stay with the Santas long because there were other Human Rights Day events to photograph.


I took the tube back to Westminster where I found Balochs protesting opposite Downing St, calling on Theresa May to speak up for the Baloch people and their freedom against the Pakistan regime which they claim has a policy of genocide against the Baloch people and has killed thousands of Baloch activists and abducted more than 25,000 of them.

They say those abducted are tortured and then killed, with their bodies being dumped in deserted areas. Balochistan was an autonomous kingdom on the border of Pakistan and Iran, and was merged with Pakistan in 1948, the year after Pakistan was created. Since then there have been various Baloch separatist movements which have been brutally repressed by both Pakistan and Iran.
Balochs UN Human Rights Day protest.


I’d come to Whitehall to report on the Guantanamo Justice Campaign protest on UN Human Rights Day opposite Downing St calling for an end to torture, the closure of Guantanamo and an end to British complicity in torture.

It wasn’t a well attended protest probably because there had been relatively little publicity, but also reflecting the problem of keeping up interest in long running issues such as this which no longer attract much if any attention from our news media. They will argue that it is no longer news, but that is only because they choose not to cover it, instead filling pages and programmes with empty speculation and inconsequential affairs of insignificant so-called celebrities rather than matters of importance.
Human Rights Day call close Guantanamo


Another issue which has slipped almost completely off the news agenda is the plight of the Yazidi women and girls targeted and captured by ISIS (Da’esh) in Iraq. According to UN reports, more than 5000 Yazidis had been murdered and 5-7,000 abducted. Over 3,400 are believed to be still held, the women subjected to physical and sexual violence, including systematic rape and sex slavery.

The visit to the UK by UN goodwill ambassador Nadia Murad Basee Taha for 16 days of action prompted little or no news coverage.
Save Yazidi women and girls


More about all these events and more pictures on My London Diary.

Save Yazidi women and girls
Human Rights Day call close Guantanamo
Balochs UN Human Rights Day protest
London Santacon 2016
BBC censors prison struggles
Save the Rhino
Silent Chain for Europe


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.


Santa time

Sunday, December 6th, 2020

I’m still rather in denial over Christmas, kind of hoping it will go away. Not that I don’t enjoy most of the things we won’t be doing this year, meeting up with friends, visiting distant family and so on, but somehow I never manage to get myself organised over things like Christmas Cards and presents until the last minute.

This year I did try, and a few weeks ago pored over the many Christmas catalogues that I’d been sent, and then went on line to make some orders – only to find that everything I had chosen was already sold out. It rubbed salt into the wound to then get e-mails from a couple of the companies promoting items that I’d already tried to order without success.

Christmas decorations outside houses began going up early this year – already some were twinkling away in mid-November. Linda brought home a tree a week ago, and I should have photographed her coming home with the pot at its base wedged tightly in her cycle pannier, but couldn’t summon up the energy. I did help her in the difficult task of extracting it from the pannier, and for the moment it is sitting outside in our back garden. We always buy growing trees, and usually they last a couple of Christmases before getting too large to bring inside. We have two specimens now at over 50ft in our smallish back garden, and I’ve had to cut down a couple more over the years when it was beginning to get too crowded.

Although I’ve never myself dressed up as Santa (though I have the beard if I let it grow a bit) in past years I’ve often enjoyed photographing Santacon in London around this time of years. It began as a gloriously anarchic event with hundreds or thousands of Father and Mother Christmases, elves and reindeer spilling rather drunkenly across the city streets, but then the police stepped in as it was disrupting the spending festival on one of the busiest shopping days before Christmas.

These pictures of Santacon come from Dec 6th 2014 and I probably went as far as wearing a Santa hat to join in the festivities for an hour or so before retiring to a small pub a little off their route where a couple of friends were waiting for a rather quieter celebration.

Here’s my text from My London Diary where there are more pictures from Santacon:

Thousands in Santa suits and other Xmas deviations, police trying hard to keep smiling, cans of beer, doubtfully soft drinks, just a few Brussel sprouts in the air, crowded bars, sprawling mass of mainly young people having fun on the streets of London. Santacon

http://mylondondiary.co.uk/2014/12/dec.htm#santas

Of course this – and the extreme shopping were not the only things happening in London that day. After photographing the Santas at one of their three starting points I then joined the South London March for Free Education against tuition fees which was also starting just a few yards away on Clapham Common.

After marching with them through Clapham on their way to Brixton I took the tube to Westminster where there was a rather more Christmassy event taking place, a Fossil Free Nativity Play by Christian Climate Action, before leaving to join the North London Santas on the Euston Road.

More at:
Santacon North London
Fossil Free Nativity – Churches Divest!
South London March for Free Education
Santacon Start in Clapham


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.