Posts Tagged ‘Santas’

Santas Protest For Justice – 2004

Monday, December 18th, 2023

Santas Protest For Justice: On Saturday 18th December 2004 I photographed a Christmas-themed protest with most of those taking part wearing Santa outfits.

Fathers4Justice Santas Protest, West End

Santas Protest For Justice

Fathers4Justice had been in the news in recent months in 2004 with a number of high-profile protests including a couple of men dressed as Batman and Robin who got into the grounds of Buckingham Palace in September 2004. Robin was stopped by police, but Batman managed to shin up a drainpipe and sit on the roof for several hours.

Santas Protest For Justice

Their protest didn’t get the results they desired, but did lead to a tightening of the law regarding trespass on royal property and other protected sites in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA) 2005 and 16 royal, governmental and parliamentary sites were designated in 2007. Robin was charged for carrying a bladed weapon as he was found to have a bladed weapon – a Stanley Knife – in his pocket.

Santas Protest For Justice

Family courts have a difficult job, and have to deal with some very bitter disputes after relationships have broken up. They do so behind closed doors to protect the children involved, and often the decisions they come to are hard to understand and impossible for some of those concerned to accept. At times they don’t appear to have the wisdom of Solomon!

Santas Protest For Justice

Since 2004 there have been some changes in the family court system, with the Family Procedure Rules 2010 allowing accredited media representatives to attend – with some exceptions and subject to strict rules on what they can report. And in 2023 a pilot scheme was begun in court in Cardiff, Leeds and Carlisle allowing journalists and legal bloggers to report from Family Courts subject to rules of anonymity.

Fathers4Justice were campaigning for access rights for parents and grandparents to see children after the breakup of relationships. As I wrote in 2004 “although courts may grant this at the moment, where they feel it is in the best interests of the child, there is seldom any enforcement of such decisions. so currently access depends entirely on the cooperation of whichever parent was granted custody.”

Fathers4Justice (and they also include mothers, though fewer than fathers as courts largely award custody to the mothers) want access rights to be enforced and argue that there should be a permanent relationship between children and both parents.

Many of the Santas carried placards with the message “PUT THE FATHER BACK INTO XMAS” and some carried photographs of the children they were being prevented from seeing. There was also a picture of David Blunkett in a Santa Hat, as the protest came four days after the then Home Secretary was forced to resign following revelations over his affair with Kimberly Quinn, then the publisher of The Spectator. He was forced to resign after having speeded up the visa application by her nanny. Their affair had ended but Blunkett had gone to court to demand access to her two-year-old child, claiming he was the father. He also claimed to be the father of a second child she was then expecting, but later DNA tests showed this was not the case.

Fathers4 Justice met in Green Park close to the Underground station and I was able to talk with them and take photographs before the march set off along Piccadilly. Along with the Santas there were also some elves and a Spiderman. I took some more pictures and left them at Piccadilly Circus.

Scroll down the December 2004 page on My London Diary for pictures and text.

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All photographs on this page are copyright © Peter Marshall.
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A Table, COP21, Refugees and Santas – 2015

Tuesday, December 12th, 2023

A Table, COP21, Refugees and Santas On Saturday 12 December 2015 I started at the ‘Free the Focus E15 Table’ protest in Stratford, came to Westminster where climate activists were protesting on the final day of the COP21 Paris talks, then to a solidarity vigil for refugees at Downing Street. Since Christmas was approaching there were also santas on the streets, including some on BMX bikes taking part in a charity ride as well as others taking part in the annual Santacon.

Free the Focus E15 Table – Stratford

A Table, COP21, Refugees and Santas - 2015

Focus E15 had since they began over two years earlier been a major irritant for Newham Council, drawing attention to 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.

A Table, COP21, Refugees and Santas - 2015

At the same time 400 council homes in the Carpenters Estate close to the centre of Stratford have remained empty, some for over ten years as the Labour council under Mayor Robin Wales have been trying to sell it off.

A Table, COP21, Refugees and Santas - 2015

Focus E15 have opposed, at first on their own behalf and later for others in their ‘Housing For All’ campaigns the council policy they label ‘social cleansing’, which attempts to force those needing housing out of London and into private rented property in towns and cities across the country- Hastings, Birmingham, Manchester etc – and even in Wales.

A Table, COP21, Refugees and Santas - 2015

As well as organising protests, opposing evictions, demanding the borough meet its statutory obligations to house homeless individuals by going with them to the housing office they had for over two years held a weekly street stall every Saturday on a wide area of pavement on Stratford Broadway, speaking, providing advice and handing out leaflets.

On the previous Saturday in a clearly planned operation, Newham’s Law Enforcement officer John Oddie assisted by several police officers, 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. Council and police cited legal powers that were clearly inapplicable to this situation and this was clearly an illegal act.

When Focus E15 stood their ground, police took the table they were using and threw it into the back of their van and drove away with it. It was probably on the advice of their lawyers that a couple of days later the council wrote a letter to the protesters asking them to reclaim the table; Focus E15 asked them to return it to them on Stratford Broadway this Saturday – but it didn’t arrive.

But there were plenty of tables there when I arrived with several groups coming to show solidarity and defend the right to protest including Welwyn Garden City, South Essex Heckler, Basildon and Southend Housing Action, Clapton Ultras, East London Radical Assembly, Anarchist Federation, Carpenters Estate, Aylesbury Estate Southwark, Squatters & Homeless Autonomy and more. Some came with tables and Focus E15 had also brought a replacement.

The protest was lively with speeches, singing and dancing, and although the local paper, too much in the council’s pocket, was ignoring ‘Tablegate’ a BBC local crew did come and film a few interviews. Police and Newham Council seemed to have learnt from the previous week’s farce and kept away.

Free the Focus E15 Table

Climate Activists Red Line protest – Westminster Bridge

Campaign against Climate Change protested by carrying a ‘red line’ across Westminster Bridge against the inadequate response to global temperature rise reached at COP21 which was on its final day.

Many climate activists were still in Paris, so the protest was rather smaller than usual. They met for a sort rally opposite Parliament in Old Palace Yard before marching behind the Campaign against Climate Change banner and a trumpeter on to the pavement across Westminster Bridge.

There they unrolled a 300m red length of cloth, carrying it above their heads across the bridge as a ‘red line’. For many countries, a maximum global temperature rise of more than 1.5°C will mean disaster, and the Paris talks have not committed to this nor have they set up any real mechanism for holding countries to the more limited commitments they have made.

The world needs a far more urgent change to renewable energy, with fossil fuels being left in the ground – or only extracted for use a chemical feedstock. But huge vested interests in the fossil fuel lobby are still dominating the thinking of most governments – and the annual COP meetings.

The protest called for the UK government to reverse the anti-Green measures introduced since the 2015 election, and to get behind green jobs, energy use reduction measures and renewable energy and t abandon its plans for carbon burning technologies and fracking in particular. Vital for the future of the world, these changes would also aid the UK economy.

More at Climate Activists Red Line protest.

Christmas Solidarity Vigil for Refugees – Downing St

As darkness fell refugees, solidarity campaigners and Syrian activists came to a Downing St vigil demanding justice for refugees, opening of EU borders to those fleeing war and terrorism and a much more generous response from the UK government.

A strong and gusty wind made it hard to keep candles alight and they had to be pushed through the bottom of plastic cups to provide windshields to stay alight.

As well as Syrians, there were other refugees from around the world, as well as some of the many British who are disgusted at the miserable response of the Tory government. Despite much lobbying which forced David Cameron to increase the UK response, the UK still only agreeing to take 20,000 refugees in the next five years, while Canada will take more – 25,000 – in a single year.

Christmas Solidarity Vigil for Refugees

Santas in London

While I was photographing the climate ‘red line’ on Westminster Bridge a large group of Santas rode past on BMX bicycles on a charity ride and I rushed across in time to photograph a few of them. These BMXLife ‘Santa Cruises’, in 2023 in their 9th year, have now raised over £135,000 for Children’s Heart charity ECHO. The 2023 ride starts from Leake Street at 11am on 16th December.

After the Refugee Vigil I walked up to Trafalgar Square where santas were beginning to arrive at the end of a long day walking around London in the annual Santacon, an alcohol-fuelled annual fun event which describes itself as “a non-profit, non-corporate, non-commercial and non-sensical parade of festive cheer.” This year’s event was last Saturday, 9th December.

More pictures at Santas in London.

UN Human Rights Day 2016

Sunday, December 10th, 2023

UN Human Rights Day – On 10 December 1948 the 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and December 10th is now celebrated around the world as Human Rights Day.

The theme for the day in 2016 was ‘Stand up for someone’s rights today’ and there were a number of protests in London which did just that. This year will mark the 75th anniversary of the declaration and it seems unlikely that the UK government will be doing much celebration as it begins to try to push through a law to prevent asylum seekers from asserting their human rights.

Silent Chain for Europe – Old Palace Yard, Westminster

UN Human Rights Day

Campaigners linked arms in silent chains in protest opposite parliament and elsewhere in other towns and cities.

UN Human Rights Day

They say Brexit threatens our human rights including workers rights to paid holidays, maternity leave and fair treatment at work, the right of free movement around Europe, to live in the EU and for EU citizens to live here, disability rights and the right to freedom from discrimination.

More pictures at Silent Chain for Europe.

BBC censors prison struggles – Broadcasting House

UN Human Rights Day

A Human Rights day protest outside the BBC highlighted the failure of the organisation to report on people wrongly held in prison in some countries around the world.

UN Human Rights Day

They say the BBC as an institution largely or totally ignores wrongful imprisonment in Northern Ireland, including the frame-up of the Craigavon 2 and the continuing internment of Tony Taylor for legal political activities.

The Craigavon 2, John Paul Wootton and Brendan McConville, have been in prison since March 2009 and were convicted for the killing of police officer Stephen Carroll by a Diplock court without a jury on the basis of evidence which has been described as ludicrous. An appeal was dismissed in 2014 and at the start of 2023 Northern Ireland’s The Sunday Life newspaper revealed that MI5 had set up and operated what purported to be a human rights organisation but was actually working to subvert the campaign for their release.

Other cases the say the BBC consistently fails to report include the imprisonment of Mumia Abu Jamal on Death Row in the USA, Palestinians held in Israeli jails and victims of Erdogan’s purge in Turkey.

BBC censors prison struggles

Balochs UN Human Rights Day protest – Downing St

People from Balochistan in West Pakistan called 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.

When Pakistan was set up in 1947, the kingdom of Balochistan became a part of it with some autonomy but a year later was merged with Pakistan. Since then various political and military separatists have emerged in the area which also includes part of neighbouring Iran.

Balochs UN Human Rights Day protest

Human Rights Day call close Guantanamo – Downing St

Also at Downing Street the Guantanamo Justice Campaign held a rally calling for an end to torture, the closure of Guantanamo and an end to British complicity in torture.

Speakers at the rally included Lewes Amnesty Group Chair Sara Birch, Journalist and writer Victoria Brittain and Stop the War convenor Lindsey German. Mizan the Poet gave an impressive performance of his poem ‘1984’ against the government’s anti-Muslim ‘Prevent’ counter extremism strategy.

More pictures at Human Rights Day call close Guantanamo

Save Yazidi women and girls – Westminster

A small group of women protesters from WAVE (Women’s Action against Violent Extremism) held placards in Parliament Square before coming to protest at Downing St calling for help for the Yazidi women who were targeted and captured by ISIS (Da’esh) in Iraq.

ISIS regard the Yazidi as devil worshippers and subjected their women to physical and sexual violence, including systematic rape and sex slavery. The UN in 2014 reported that more than 5000 Yazidis had been murdered and 5-7,000 abducted. Over 3,400 are believed to be still held.

Although in 2014 the UK government in 2014 provided some emergency aid to those who escaped to a refugee camp, few if any have been given asylum here. The Independent reported in 2018 that “some Yazidis in the UK are having their asylum denied.” When SNP Brendan O’Hara asked a question in Parliament in 2022 on how many Yazidi refugees have been resettled in the UK since 2014 he was simply told that the Home Office keeps no records of the religious or ethnic background of refugees. Others put the figure at close to zero.

Save Yazidi women and girls

Not everything I photographed in London on 10th December was related to Human Rights Day. I also found a couple of rhinos and many more Santas. You can see them on My London Diary.
Save the Rhino
London Santacon 201

Santas, Education, Nativity 2014

Wednesday, December 6th, 2023

Santas, Education, Nativity – London was getting into the Christmas spirit on Saturday 6th December 2014, with boozy hordes of Santas on the streets and a Fossil Free Nativity Play in Westminster. But a national day of education activism against tuition fees had also been called and I photographed a march in south London.

South London March for Free Education – Clapham

Santas, Education, Nativity

There was a disappointing turnout for the march against tuition fees which gathered outside Lambeth College facing Clapham Common.

Santas, Education, Nativity

It perhaps wasn’t a good day to have called for a protest, as many students will already have left London to go home for the Christmas break, and others will have been busy with other things including Christmas shopping. And I’m sure there will have been rather more running around the capital in Santa costumes for Santacon.

Santas, Education, Nativity

The marchers included people from the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, Lambeth Left Unity and South London Defend Education. This was one of a number of events taking place that day across the country including others around London.

Santas, Education, Nativity

I walked a short distance with the march taking a few photographs before leaving them to take the tube to Westminster. They were marching to a rally in Brixton where they expected rather more to attend.

A few more pictures at South London March for Free Education.

Fossil Free Nativity – Churches Divest! – Broad Sanctuary

Christian Climate Action and Occupy organised an entertaining performance of a Fossil Free Nativity Play between Westminster Abbey and Methodist Central Hall, part of a continuing campaign to get churches to disinvest from fossil fuel companies.

Among the members of the cast were Wesley Ingram who wrote the play and performed as the Angel Gabriel, and George Barda of Occupy who played Joseph with his child as the baby Jesus.

Few of the actors had seen the script before the performance and the costumes and props were interesting rather than authentic – perhaps the best being the headgear for the Roman soldiers.

Their was some lively music from violin and trumpet and at the end of the performance everyone posed behind the banners calling for the churches to divest from fossil fuels. But there was no sign of the clergy from either Westminster Abbey and Methodist Central Hall,

More at Fossil Free Nativity – Churches Divest!.


Around a thousand young people in Santa suits, along with the odd elf, reindeer and other Christmas-themed costumes were milling around the edge of Clapham Common for the start of day-long alcohol-fuelled crawl through London (with a little help from public transport.)

Similar groups were starting from meeting points in East and North London and they hoped to meet up later in the day at Marble Arch or Hyde Park, though I think for many the festivities would end in Trafalgar Square.

Later in the day I met up with rather more of the Santas coming from North London close to Great Portland Street station, by which time they were rather merrier. I also met a couple of photographer friends who had also come to take pictures. Most of the Santas were keen to be photographed and quite a few also got me to take pictures on their phones, though I found that rather beyond me. I hope a few worked.

I went with them along to Baker Street taking pictures and later in the day wrote:

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.

It was getting dark and although I could still work it meant using flash and I didn’t feel the results were as good. I left them there to make my way to join my two friends who by then were sitting in one of the nicest pubs in the area and was delighted to find a pint waiting for me on the table.

Many more pictures at
Santacon Start in Clapham
Santacon North London

Slavery, Meditation, Stolen Goods & Santas

Thursday, December 8th, 2022

Saturday 8th December 2018 was another busy day for me in London.

Protest Slavery in Libya – Saturday 8th December 2018

Slavery, Meditation, Stolen Goods & Santas

Campaigners held a short rally outside Europe House in Smith Square protesting over the lack of action by the EU over African migrants and refugees being sold or held against their will in Libya by terrorists and jihadists which the EU funds.

Slavery, Meditation, Stolen Goods & Santas

They then marched to protest at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, saying the UK had failed to do anything to help because the victims were African, then stopped briefly at Downing St on their way to the Libyan Embassy.

Slavery, Meditation, Stolen Goods & Santas

I left them as the went past Trafalgar Square for my next event.
Protest Slavery in Libya

Dharma meditation for climate – Trafalgar Square, Saturday 8th December 2018

In Trafalgar Square members of the Dharma Action Network were meditating and handing out flyers calling for people and governments to take effective actions to combat climate change. They urged people to move their money out of banks which invest in fossil fuels, get informed by reading the IPCC report on global warming and join them and other groups including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace or take action with Extinction Rebellion.

Dharma meditation for climate

British Museum Stolen Goods Tour – British Museum, Saturday 8th December 2018

News in the past weeks that the Horniman Museum is returning the Benin Bronzes and other items in its collection to Nigeria is a sign of the changing attitudes to museums holding on to looted objects. The museum handed over total of 72 bronzes and other objects to Nigeria. But the British Museum is full of thousands of questionably acquired objects, including over 900 from Benin.

BP or Not BP, a group opposed to the polluting oil company ‘greenwashing’ its dirty fossil fuel business by sponsoring artistic activities including major exhibitions in the British Museum had organised a tour of some of the more important stolen cultural artifacts in their collection, beginning with the Gweagal shield, stolen by Captain Cook when his men had first landed in Australia.

When they landed they were greeted by the indigenous inhabitants carrying spears and wooden shields; the sailors opened fire with muskets, with one musket ball going through the shield and wounding Cooman. The people dropped their weapons and fled, carrying the wounded man.

This shield is now on display in the British Museum and spears and other items are also in their collection, with some in other museums. This was the second time I had photographed Indigenous Australian campaigner Rodney Kelly, a 6th generation direct descendant of Cooman, standing in front of the glass-fronted cabinet containing the shield and talking about its history. His talks with the museum authorities have so far failed to get the property returned.

There was a packed audience listening to Kelly playing his didgeridoo and then telling the story of the shield and telling of the failure of the British Museum authorities to take seriously the oral tradition of his people as it could not be confirmed by written records. The Museum has gone to desperate lengths, including getting their own experts to cast doubt on the stories which the museum had previously featured about these objects.

From there we moved on, guided by BP or not BP campaigners some dressed as ‘burglars’ in striped black and white tops and carrying a sack for swag.

Another in a smart suit with a BP logo explained why BP gave the museum a relatively small amount in sponsorship which gave them huge rewards in making them seem a responsible company despite their reprehensible activities in countries around the world, despoiling resources, polluting the environment and severely aggravating global warming by encouraging fossil fuel use.

Outside the entrance to the BP-sponsored Assyrian show an Iraqi woman talked about BP’s role in her country and the looting which followed the invasion of Iraq including some of cultural artifacts which formed a part of this show.

By a large stone figure from Easter Island a speaker from Pacific Island arts group the Interisland Collective talked about the treatment by museums of Maori and Pacific Islands cultural items and read a statement from the Rapa Nui Pioneers on Easter Island calling for the return of this stolen Moai Head.

The final location for the tour was in the large room containing the Parthenon (Elgin) Marbles, where BP or not NBP’s Danny Chivers revealed his partly Greek ancestry and talked about his visit to the Parthenon and the museum there which has been built to exhibit its missing sculptures.

It seems inevitable that eventually the British Museum and other museums will have to return these objects, and to replace at least some of them by facsimiles would enable the museum to continue its educational function while restoring vital cultural objects to their proper homes.

More at British Museum Stolen Goods Tour.

London flooded with Santas – Covent Garden, Saturday 8th December 2018

Christmas was coming and so was Santacon, a huge annual charity event and excuse for a highly alcohol-fuelled stagger and dance through the streets of central London dresses as santas, elves and reindeer.

The event had started at various locations and large crowds were now converging on Trafalgar Square spreading glad tidings as darkness fell, some following hand-pulled sound systems and dancing on the streets, though many groups were diverted into pubs and food shops on the way.

I had fun dancing along with some of them and taking photographs close to the British Museum and then going through Covent Garden, but by the time I reached Trafalgar Square decided I’d photographed my fill of santas and took a bus to Waterloo.

More santas at London flooded with Santas.

Hampton Hill Christmas Lights 2011

Friday, November 25th, 2022

Today’s date reminds me that Christmas is still a month away. Personally I’d like to see a moratorium on any mentions of the forthcoming annual festival banned before December 1st and after January 6th with stiff fines for those who breach the rules. Thirty-seven days is more than a tenth of the year and surely that’s enough?

But perhaps we – and especially photographers – need something to cheer us up ofter the imposed blackout each year at the end of October when the clocks are returned to our archaic Greenwich Mean Time (and usually I forget to change the hour on at least one of my cameras for a week or two.) And at least the event at Hampton Hill was only a month early.

I doubt if there would be a great deal of support for my idea of a time system which came to me in a dream as I was in bed at around 2pm (or was it 3pm) when our clocks were changing, of avoiding the two sudden jumps in time each year by making incremental changes to keep sunrise always at 7am, although it would now be possible when so many timekeeping devices take their time from a distant time-server rather than being altered by pushing around the hands of a clock. But it would be rather better to do as we did for some years to keep to British Summer Time all year, as we did from 1968-71, and perhaps appropriate as our global temperature rises.

I’ve never much liked taking photographs in the dark, and many flash photographs are horrible, with overlit forergrounds and pitch-black backgrounds. Fortunately digital cameras now enable us to get away from this, at least to some extent, by working at much higher ISOs, which enable us to make photographs more readily in low light. Flash systems have also improved tremendously, an Nikon’s iTTL was, at least in 2011, the best of all, though their camera systems were designed to frustrate its best use. I got better at fooling it in later years. And just introduced were cheap handheld LED lighting systems, powerful enough to illuminate subjects a couple of metres away, though not much further. I used both flash and an LED light on different pictures at Hampton Hill as well as making use of available light where I could.

So here is the whole of my introductory text from My London Diary (with a few minor corrections) for the event. You can find more pictures with the original article online along with some picture captions.

Hampton Hill Christmas Lights – Hampton Hill, Middlesex.
Friday 25th November 2011

Crowds filled the High St in Hampton Hill for the 43rd annual Christmas parade last night, along with music, Morris Dancing and many stalls on the street and in the URC church hall making this a real community event

Although Christmas is still a month away, the people of Hampton Hill, just to the west of Bushey Park in the London Borough of Richmond, were out on the streets celebrating last night. Many of the shops along the street were open late, with some holding special events and handing out balloons and sweets.

Santa was kept busy in his grotto seeing groups of children, and quite a few other Santas were out on the street, with a group in the parade accompanying the mayor. Morris Dancers performed in the middle of the road, closed to traffic, and tried to teach some brave young ladies one of their dances. The several pubs along the street were all kept busy, and it was also crowded at times inside the church hall, with several rooms full of stalls, as well as a continuing series of events inside the church itself.

The highlight of the evening was of course the parade, which included some children on ponies and people leading Christmas-decorated dogs behind Santa in a large sled, and a large engine. But it was the energetic kids from local schools and youth groups that really brought the event to life.

Unlike some other Christmas ‘lighting up’ events, Hampton’s seems very much to be one that involves large sections of the local community, which is perhaps why it is still very much alive after 43 years.

More at Hampton Hill Christmas Lights.

Fathers 4 Justice

Saturday, December 18th, 2021

Fathers 4 Justice was a group begun in 2001 by marketing consultant Matt O’Connor to “champion the causes of equal parenting, family law reform, and equal contact for divorced parents with children.” The pictures here come from their protest in London’s West End on 18th December 2004

Between 2002 and 2008 members carried out a number of high-profile stunts which hit national headlines to promote their cause, the first of which saw a small group led by O’Connor storming the Lord Chancellor’s Office dressed as Father Christmas in December 2002. They went on to climb cranes and buildings including Tower Bridge and Buckingham Palace dressed as superheroes, to carry out a ‘citizens arrest’ on the Minister for Children, throw bags of purple flour at Tony Blair in the House of Commons during Prime Ministers Questions and more.

Although protests continued after 2008, there was a split in the group with O’Connor officially closing the group and others setting up New Fathers For Justice. And although both groups continued to carry out publicity stunts, these have gained less and less publicity.

The activities of these groups perhaps have had some effect, with increasing attention being turned on the activities of our secretive Family Courts, and some small and continuing moves toward transparency.

However the 2014 Children and Families Bill which it was hoped would improve the situation was watered down by a Lord’s amendment removing a legal presumption of automatic shared contact still failed to prevent obstructive parents who had been granted custody of childen preventing children from any meaningful relationship with absent parents.

Although they were called Fathers 4 Justice, there are also mothers who were separated unjustly from contact with their children. But overwhelming custody of children in the Family Courts goes to the mothers, some of whom make it impossible for fathers to have the access to their children which the court has specified, but fails to enforce.

The protest on 18th December 2004 involved several hundred men, women and children dressed in santa gear (and a couple of individualists, including a young spiderman), a band, and a large and unwieldy balloon and hundreds of smaller ones parading peacefully around the West End. Their placards read ‘Put the Father Back Into Xmas’.

In 2005 I photographed two further protests by the group. In October Wakey Wakey Mr Blair, a ‘pyjama protest’ with those taking part asked to wear their jim jams, slippers and dressing gown, bring their hot water bottles, teddy bears and even their beds calling for overnight stays for children with their dads after separation and then in December 2005 24 Days of Christmas Chaos, when again Santas came to London to protest, this time at the Church of England Offices, Department of Education & Skills and Downing St on their way to the Royal Courts of Justice.

A Table, Climate Red Lines, Refugees & Santas

Sunday, December 12th, 2021

Free the Focus E15 Table

Housing activists Focus E15 had been an irritant to Newham Council and its mayor Robin Wales ever since the group of young mothers fought the threat to close their hostel and scatter them across the country away from family and friends. Their high profile campaign with direct actions gained national coverage and admiration and after their succesful fight they continued as a ‘Housing For All’ campaign giving support to others with housing problems, particularly in their London borough of Newham.

Every Saturday the group hold a street stall on Stratford Broadway on a wide area of pavement outside Wilko every Saturday for over 2 years offering advice to those with housing problems and drawing attention to the failure of Newham Council to sensibly address the acute housing problem in the borough.

In 2015 there were around 5,000 people living in temporary accommodation despite 400 homes in good condition empty on the Carpenters Estate close to the centre of Stratford which the council began clearing around ten years previously in the hope of selling the site for development. They continue to oppose the council policy of attempting to force those needing housing out of London and into private rented property in towns and cities across the country- Hastings, Birmingham, Manchester etc – and even in Wales, socially cleansing the borough which now has large new developments of expensive high rise flats.

A week earlier, Newham Council’s Law Enforcement officer came with police to continue their harassment of the street stall, telling them they were not allowed to protest and threatening to seize their stall, sound system, banners and other gear. Focus E15 resisted but police seized the table and threw it into the back of their van. A few days later, the council having realised the seizure was illegal wrote to the campaign asking them to reclaim their table. Focus E15 asked for it to be delivered back to where it had been taken, and had already organised this ‘Free The Table’ rally with people coming to defend the right to protest. That table didn’t arrive but others had come with them for a ‘tablegate’ protest.

Free the Focus E15 Table

Climate Activists Red Line protest

Back in Westminster, the Campaign Against Climate Change was protesting against the inadequacy of the COP21 Paris deal, which sets the target temperature rise too high and has no way to enforce the measures needed by carrying a ‘red line’ banner across Westminster Bridge.

The protest with a 300 metre length of red cloth and the short rally beforehand emphasized that “the world needs 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. While a few years ago that might have seemed expensive and not feasible, the economics of energy generation have changed rapidly with green energy rapidly becoming the cheaper source. But huge vested interests still lie behind the dirty fuel lobby.”

Climate Activists Red Line protest

Christmas Solidarity Vigil for Refugees

As darkness fell, refugees, solidarity campaigners and Syrian activists at a 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. Six years later many of us remain ashamed and disgusted at the miserable response of the Tory government to refugees from Syria and more recently from Afghanistan. The UK has been so much less generous than many other countries and is increasingly adopting a more hostile attitude to asylum seekers, particularly now those attempting to cross the English Channel.

A strong wind made it difficult to keep the candles for this vigil alight, and though eventually this was solved by using plastic cups as wind shields it made the candles less photogenic.

Christmas Solidarity Vigil for Refugees

Santas in London

While I was photographing the climate protest on Westminster Bridge, a large group of Santas on BMX bikes rode across and I rushed to photograph them. Later I found this was an annual BMX Life Christmas ‘Santa Cruise’ in aid of ECHO, a small charity helping kids with heart conditions.

Later as I walked through Trafalgar Square on my way to catch a bus I came across more Santas, coming to the end of the their ‘Santacon’ which I described a few posts back as a “day-long alcohol-fuelled crawl through London”. I’d been too busy to bother with going to photograph the event earlier in the day, but spent a few minutes taking pictures before seeing my bus approach and running to the stop.

Santas in London

Christmas Is Coming – 2014

Monday, December 6th, 2021

Three of the four posts I made on December 6th 2014 had a Christmas theme, with two of them around the then annual Santacon event in London. In 2014, around a thousand Santas were gathering on Clapham Common and more at two other locations in East and North London, along with the odd elf, reindeer to start to a day-long alcohol-fuelled crawl through London, eventually meeting up somehere in the centre of the city in the early evening.

I followed them for a short distance, but I’d actually come to Clapham for an entirely different event, the South London March for Free Education, part of a national day of education activism against tuition fees, where students and supporters including Lambeth Left Unity and South London Defend Education were meeting to march to a rally in Brixton.

It was a rather smaller march than anticipated – perhaps many students were in Santa costumes on another event, or busy with Christmas shopping but I marched around a mile with them taking pictures before getting the tube into Central London.

The Fossil Free Nativity – Churches Divest! in the area between Westminster Abbey and Methodist Central Hall was organised and performed by Christian Climate Action and Occupy London, and was an entertaining if rather amateur performance starring Westley Ingram who wrote the play and performed as the Angel Gabriel, and George Barda of Occupy who played Joseph with his child as the baby Jesus. It was part of a continuing campaign to get churches to disinvest from fossil fuel companies.

From Westminster I set off in a bus towards north London in search of Santas, jumping off when I saw a red cloud of them in the distance. Or rather ringing the bell and fortunately it was not far from a stop where the driver would open a door. I don’t at all mind wearing a mask for Covid, but still feel something of a loss of freedom over the loss of open-door hop-on, hop-off buses.

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!

I’d met a couple of photographer friends also out photographing the Santas and they packed up and left as the light fell, while I continued working with flash for another quarter of hour or so, until a phone call alerted me to a pint awaiting me in a local pub. I’d been photographing people drinking for hours but all that had passed my lips to that point was water, and I was ready to break that particular fast with a little Christmas celebration.

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

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.