Posts Tagged ‘social cleansing’

Vedanta, Tampons, Roma, Monsanto & Mental Health

Saturday, May 21st, 2022

Vedanta, Tampons, Roma, Monsanto & Mental Health – there was a varied array of protests in London on Saturday 21st May 2016, and I was kept busy photographing them. Fortunately most were within walking distance of each other in central London, but I ended the day with a rally and march in Stratford.


Foil Vedanta at Jaipur Literary Festival – Royal Festival Hall, Southbank

I rushed from Waterloo station to the nearby Royal Festival Hall where I found campaigners from Foil Vedanta protesting against Vedanta’s sponsorship of the Jaipur Literature Festival. They say Vedanta, the most hated company on Earth, causing pollution, illness, displacement, poverty and deaths by its mining operations, sometimes criminal, in India, Zambia, South Africa and Australia, is attempting to whitewash its image by sponsorship of the festival.

They briefly interrupted a presentation in the main space of the Clore Ballroom to make their case. Earlier Foil Vedanta and Round Table India had sent an open letter to authors who had agreed to appear, signed by around 50 mainly Indian writers, poets, academics and activists, informing them of Vedanta’s criminal operations, and calling on them to withdraw, and some had done so, with others expected to criticize Vedanta in their presentations.

After the interruption the campaigners withdrew to the rear of the area where they continued to hand out leaflets and brief journalists, watched closely by security who insisted they keep the entrance clear but did not otherwise intervene.

More at Foil Vedanta at Jaipur Literary Festival.


Tampon tax now Osbourne! – Parliament Square

Campaigners met in Parliament Square and then marched to present a letter to Downing St calling on the government to fulfil their pledge to axe the tax on tampons. A massive campaign and lobby resulted in the removal of regulations preventing the removal of tax but it is still being levied.

Prominent in the protest were those from the 50:50 Parliament campaign for equal representation of women and men in Parliament who say that if there were more women in Parliament there would not be taxes like this – and much less of the public-school bickering that often dominates the House of Commons.

More at Tampon tax now Osbourne!


‘Dosta, Grinta, Enough!’ Parliament Square

As the Tampon Tax campaigners left on their march to Downing St, four horse drawn vehicles arrived for the protest by Roma, Gypsies and Travellers against the hardening attacks against their way of life.

Heritage wardens and police told them it was was against bylaws to bring horses on to the square and after a short rally on the grass they led protesters in repeated circuits of the roadway around the square before leaving as the main rally on the corner of the square started.

Changes in the laws have allowed local authorities to stop providing traveller sites, and laws against fly-grazing have made finding places to stay and moving around the country much harder. Alterations in local planning guidance have meant that local planning laws have been used in a discriminatory fashion to prevent them using land even when they own it – as at Dale Farm. The ‘Dosta, Grinta, Enough!’ protest called attention to these attacks by the government on their ethnicity and demanded an end to 500 years of persecution.

More at ‘Dosta, Grinta, Enough!’


March Against Monsanto Rally – Downing St

It was a day of several hundred world-wide protests against Monsanto, but there had been little publicity for the London protest and attendance for disappointing, and although there were good speeches these were to a small group of dedicated activists.

Among the listeners were a couple of bees and this cow

Monsanto dominates the worlds markets for seeds and agrochemicals at the expense of small scale farmers and communities around the world and is forcing harmful pesticides and genetically modified seeds on farmers in their corporate control of the world’s food system. The company has sued thousands of small farmers in the US and elsewhere to protect its patents which cover a wide range of crops and other products.

More at March Against Monsanto Rally.


Housing is a Mental Health Issue – Stratford

From Westminster the Jubilee Line takes a little over 20 minutes to get to Stratford Station, outside which I met Focus E15 housing campaigners who were holding a rally and march. It was Mental Health Awareness Week and they were protesting against Newham council’s policy of social cleansing, highlighting the mental health issues that arise from housing problems.

There is a huge boom in building around Stratford given great impetus by the 2012 Olympics, but as speakers made clear when the march paused in front of some of the the high-rise housing, this is being built largely for the rich – while those unable to afford sky-high market rents are being forced out. They say Newham is causing mental health problems for vulnerable people through evictions and placements with insecure tenancies away from families, friends and support systems in cities and towns across the UK.

Good homes on the Carpenters Estate have been kept empty by Newham for over 10 years

The new tall blocks also produce a hostile micro-climate at ground level, and when the march approached one of the most recent, gusts of wind tore one of the banners in two. The march ended on the pavement outside Wilco’s in Stratford Broadway, where Focus E15 hold their regular Saturday morning street stall.

More at Housing is a Mental Health Issue.


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Focus E15 Mums at City Hall 2014

Monday, February 21st, 2022

Focus E15 Mums at City Hall 2014. Focus E15 mothers and children, threatened with eviction from the Mother and Baby Unit at the Focus E15 hostel in Stratford came on a decorated bus to City Hall, holding a party outside and trying to hand in a petition and card to then city Mayor Boris Johnson.

I’d met the Focus E15 Mums the previous month when they partied inside the Stratford offices of East Thames Housing Association who run the hostel, but the eviction notices had come in October 2013 because Newham Council had decided to cut the funding for the hostel.

Newham was then at the centre of a post-Olympic housing boom, with both private developers and East Thames building large blocks of flats around the area. But the great majority of these are for sale or rent at market prices, and many were being bought not to live in but by overseas investors keen to cash in on the steeply rising prices of housing in London. Even housing associations build mainly for those on good salaries who can afford shared ownership schemes, with minimal homes at council-level rents.

Newham Council Mayor Robin Wales told the mothers there were no properties available in the area at council rents. He made it clear than if you are poor, Newham doesn’t want you, and they were offered rented accommodation far outside of London, in Birmingham, Manchester, Hastings and even Wales – “expensive, sometimes poor quality, insecure one year private rents” – with the threat that anyone who turned down the offers would be regarded as having made themselves intentionally homeless and get no help from the council.

The mothers in the hostel decided to stand together and fight the council, demanding they be placed within suitable socially rented accommodation in Newham. Among other areas they point out that there is good quality council-owned housing on the Carpenters Estate, a short walk from their hostel, which Newham council have left empty, in some cases for ten years, as they try to sell off the area for development – despite having the highest waiting list for social housing in London.

As I wrote in 2014, London Mayor Boris Johnson Boris Johnson “has made it clear that he is opposed to the gentrification of London, stating: ‘The last thing we want to have in our city is a situation such as Paris where the less well-off are pushed out to the suburbs’ and promising ‘I’ll emphatically resist any attempt to recreate a London where the rich and poor cannot live together…’ But these turned out to be typically Johnsonian empty words and during his time as London Mayor he did nothing to help those in housing need and stop those cleared from council estates having to move miles further out.

The card Boris Johnson wouldn’t accept

On the day of the protest the mothers tried to deliver a card to him, but his office simply refused to take it. The assistant director of the affordable homes programme in London, Jamie Ratcliff did come down to meet them and took their petition, but had little to say to them, giving them his card and telling them to email him.

Mothers go in to deliver the card but no-one would accept it

More on the event on My London Diary at Focus E15 Mums at City Hall.

The Focus E15 Campaign eventually got all or most of the mothers and children rehoused locally, and they continue to compaign in Newham for Fair Housing For All, holding a street stall despite harassment from council and police every Saturday on Stratford Broadway, helping homeless families get proper treatment from the council, protesting for those in terrible conditions in temporary accomodation and stopping evictions, and taking part in protests and campaigns for social housing in London and elsewhere.


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Guantanamo, Privatisation, the Elephant, Social Cleansing & a Book Launch

Saturday, February 5th, 2022

Guantanamo, Privatisation, the Elephant, Social Cleansing & a Book Launch.
Thursday 5th February 2015 was an extremely varied and rewarding day for me.


Close Guantanamo – 8 Years of protest

The day started rather quietly with the London Guantánamo Campaign and their monthly lunch-time protest at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square which had been taking place every month for 8 years, calling for the closure of the prison and release of those still held, including Londoner Shaker Aamer. I’ve not photographed them every one of those almost a hundred months, but most times when I have been working in London on the day they were protesting.

Close Guantanamo – 8 Years of protest


From Grosvenor Square I went to Trafalgar Square, joining protesters outside the National Gallery where management had told 400 of its 600 staff they were no longer to be employed by the gallery but by a private company. Staff there were incensed when on a five day strike one of their PCS union reps, Candy Udwin, was suspended.

Nobody answered the door.


The National Gallery was then the only major museum or gallery in London not paying its lowest paid staff the London Living Wage. The privatisation further threatened the pay and conditions of loyal and knowledgeable staff already living on poverty pay. These staff are responsible for the security of the paintings and the public, provide information about the collection, organise school bookings and look after the millions of visitors each year.

Eventually the petition was handed to the Head of Security


Staff who were then on a five-day strike had come with supporters to present a 40,000 signature petition to management against the privatisation and call for the reinstatement of their union rep. First they tried the management door, but no one came to open it, so some entered the Sainsbury Wing of the gallery to try to deliver it. Security asked them to leave, and promised that the Head of Security would take the petition would personally hand it to management who were refusing to come down to meet the strikers.

Jeremy Corbyn joins the march and Candy Udwin speaks

After consultation with the members the petition was handed over and the strikers and supporters marched down Whitehall to the Dept of Culture, Media and Sport where the minister concerned had agreed to receive a copy of the petition. A rally took place outside, with speakers including Jeremy Corbyn, while the petition was being handed in.

No Privatisation At National Gallery


Around the Elephant

I took the tube to the ELephant and Castle on my way to visit the continuing occupation against Southwark Council’s demolition of the Aylesbury Estate and had time to walk a little around the area before and afterwards.

Around the Elephant


Aylesbury Estate Occupation

Protesters against the demolition of council estates and its replacement by private developments with little or no social housing across London had marched to the Aylesbury Estate and occupied an empty block, part of Chartridge in Westmoreland Road at the end of the previous Saturday’s March for Homes.

Entering the occupied building required a rather tricky climb to the first floor, and both my age and my heavy camera bag argued against it, although I was told I was welcome. Instead I went with a group of supporters who were distributing flyers for a public meeting to flats across the estate. They split into pairs and I went with two who were going to the top floor of the longest single block on the whole estate, Wendover, where one of them lived.

There are I think 471 flats in the block and from the top floor there are extensive views to the east, marred by the fact that the windows on the corridor seem not to have been cleaned since the flats were built. But there was one broken window that gave me a clear view.

Aylesbury Estate Occupation


Getting By – Lisa’s Book Launch

Ken Loach, Jasmine Stone and Lisa McKenzie


My final event of the day was the book launch for Lisa McKenzie’s ‘Getting By’, the result of her years of study from the inside of the working class district of Nottingham where she lived and worked for 22 years, enabling her to view the area from the inside and to gather, appreciate and understand the feelings and motivations of those who live there in a way impossible for others who have researched this and similar areas.

St Ann’s in that time was undergoing a huge slum clearance project, but though providing more modern homes relieved some of the worst problems of damp, dangerous and over-crowded housing, it left many of the social problems and provided new challenges for those who lived there.

It was a great evening, attended by many of those I’ve photographed over the years at various housing campaigns.

Getting By – Lisa’s Book Launch


More on all these on My London Diary:
Getting By – Lisa’s Book Launch
Aylesbury Estate Occupation
Around the Elephant
No Privatisation At National Gallery
Close Guantanamo – 8 Years of protest


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2015 March for Homes – Shoreditch to City Hall

Monday, January 31st, 2022

2015 March for Homes – Shoreditch to City Hall. A year before the march Against the Housing and Planning Bill featured in yesterday’s post there was another march about housing at the end of January, the March For Homes.

Outside Shoreditch Church

The event called by Defend Council Housing, South London People’s Assembly and Unite Housing Workers Branch involved two separate marches, one coming from Shoreditch in north-east London and the other from the Elephant & Castle in south London converging on London’s City Hall close to Tower Bridge for a final rally.

Max Levitas, a 100 year old communist veteran of Cable St

I couldn’t be in two places at once and chose to go to Shoreditch, partly because I knew people from several groups I had photographed at a number of housing struggles would be marching from there. The event was certainly enlivened by the arrival of activists who had marched from Bethnal Green, including supporters of Class War, Focus E15 and other groups.

Many couldn’t get into the churchyard

The Shoreditch Rally was held in a crowded area in Shoreditch churchyard at the front of St. Leonard’s, Shoreditch, the ancient parish church of Shoreditch, and I took the opportunity to go inside and have a look at the church before the rally. The list of speakers there showed the wide range of community support for fairer housing policies, including more social housing desperately needed in London and included Jasmine Stone of Focus E15, Lindsey Garratt from New Era, Paul Turp, vicar of St Leonards, Nick from Action East End, Paul Heron of the Haldane Society of Socialist Laywyers, Max Levitas, a 100 year old communist veteran of Cable St, a speaker from the ‘Fred and John Towers’ in Leytonstone and Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman.

Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman

Tower Hamlets benefits from having been formed from some of the London Metropolitan Boroughs with the best records of social housing – such as Poplar, where in the 1920s councillors went to jail to retain more money for one of London’s poorest areas. Unfortunately Rahman, the borough’s first directly elected mayor was removed from office in April 2015 after he was found personally guilty of electoral fraud in his 2014 re-election. Many of the other charges made against him in the media were dismissed by police after investigation.

It was raining slightly as over a thousand marchers set off for City Hall behind the March For Homes banner.

As the march came to the junction with Aldgate High St, Class War split off for a short protest at One Commercial St, where they had held a lengthy series of weekly ‘Poor Doors’ protests against separate entrances for residents owning or leasing at market rates and the smaller section of social housing tenants who had to enter through a door down a side alley. Class War had suspended their 20 weeks of protest for talks with a new owner of the building a month or so earlier, but these had broken down without a satisfactory resolution and the protests there restarted the following week.

As the march approached the Tower of London it was met and joined by Russell Brand riding a bicycle,

and on Tower Bridge, Class War came up to lead the march.

I rushed ahead to meet the South London march as it turned into Tooley Street for the last few yards of its march.

The rally in front of City Hall was large, cold and wet. By now the rain was making it difficult to take photographs, with drops falling on the front of my lenses as I tried to take pictures, and my lenses beginning to steam up inside. But I persisted and did the best I could, though the rain-bedraggled speakers in particular were not looking their best.

The rally was still continuing when some of the activists, including Class War and the street band Rhythms of Revolution decided they needed to do something a little more than standing in the rain listening to speeches. They moved onto Tooley Street and blocked the road. More police arrived and blocked the road even more effectively as the activists moved eastwards to protest at One Tower Bridge, a new development mainly for the over-rich next to Tower Bridge and then left for a long walk to the occupied Aylesbury Estate. But I decided it was time to go home.

More on My London Diary:
March for Homes: After the Rally
March for Homes: City Hall Rally
March for Homes: Poor Doors
March for Homes: Shoreditch to City Hall
March for Homes: Shoreditch Rally


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Focus E15 Mothers Party Against Eviction 2014

Monday, January 17th, 2022

Focus E15 Mothers and children party in the show flat – 17th January 2014

Focus E15 Mothers Party Against Eviction 2014
Housing remains one of London’s larger problems, with sky-high house prices and market rents. At the start of 2022 the average flat rent in London is over £360 per week – around £19,000 per year, while the average property price according to Zoopla is £681,427.

Housing has always been a problem in London, but in the 1950s, 60s and 70s things were beginning to improve, largely due to both Labour and Conservative councils building council houses and flats. By the 1960s over 500,000 new flats were added in London and nationally around a third of UK households lived in social housing.

The government’s minimum wage for 2022 will be £9.50 per hour from April – an on that rate you would need to work for around 38 hours a week just to pay for a flat – and of course would have no chance of ever buying a flat or house. Things have got considerably worse since 2010, and in boroughs like Newham average rents now are 65% of average wages.

The building programme slowed down in the 1970s as governments made it more difficult for councils to build, but the real watershed came with Margaret Thatcher’s 1980 Housing Act which gave council tenants the right to buy their properties at between 33-50% of market value – and stopped councils from using the proceeds to built more properties.

Further housing acts under Thatcher led to the transfer of much social housing to housing associations, which were allowed to access private finance while councils were very much restricted in their borrowing. Housing associations continue to build some new properties, but the numbers are small in relation to demand, and much lower than those built by councils in the 1950s-70s. Official figures for 2019 show only 37,825 new homes built for letting at below market rents while over 1.1 million households are on housing waiting lists – around 30 times as many.

So it is not surprising that councils such as Newham have a huge housing problem, and the council says it has the highest levels of overcrowded housing in the country, one of the highest proportion of people living in insecure private rented homes and in houses of multiple occupation and the largest number of homeless people – including those in temporary accommodation.

Newham was one of the first councils to get an elected Mayor in 2002, and Robin Wales held that post until 2018 when he was deselected as candidate. Many blame him for the particular failures over housing in the borough and point to properties on the Carpenters Estate in particular, some of which have been deliberately left empty for around 15 years.

The first group to organise and call out the council on their failures over housing were young single mothers who were threatened with eviction after Newham Council removed funding from East Thames Housing Association’s Focus E15 Foyer in Stratford. Newham Council had tried to get them to move well away from London, in Hastings, Birmingham and elsewhere, away from friends, families, colleges, nurseries and support networks. These offers were for private rented accommodation, with little or no security of tenure and would leave them at the mercy of often unscrupulous or uncaring landlords.

For once the group stood together and determined – helped by friends – to fight the council, not just for their own cases, but also for others whom Newham is failing to provide accommodation. Though they attracted national publicity and won their fight to stay in the London they continue to hold a weekly protest and advice stall in central Stratford every Saturday – I visited it again in late 2021. Their fight exposed the failures of Robin Wales and was certainly one of the factors in his losing support in the borough.

You can read more about the protes when a group of the mothers with their children went into the East Thames offices and held a party in their show flat on on My London Diary in Focus E5 Mothers Party Against Eviction. The East Thames staff who came to talk with them were generally sympathetic and attempted to reassure them but told them it was the responsibility of the council and not the housing association to rehouse them.


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Fire Risk Tower Blocks

Thursday, August 12th, 2021

Newham 12 August 2017

Ferrier Point, Canning Town

In the now over four years since the disastrous Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 there has been little change and no reckoning, with a tediously slow inquiry taking place that began by shifting blame unfairly onto the firefighters but is at last making clear some of the deliberate failures by local government, manufacturers and installers of the fatal cladding and others with a complete disregard for the safety of those living in the tower.

Cladding was not of course the only issue, and there were many other failings that led to the terrible loss of life. Most basic was the attitude of governments of both parties towards health and safety issues, describing essential safety regulations as “red tape” and dismantling what were essential checks to increase the profitability of builders and developers and reduce the liabilities of building owners. It was a system that needed reforming and strengthening, perhaps learning from practice in other countries to provide effective control and not abandoning to commercial whim.

Most of what has emerged in the inquiry only reinforces what was already made clear from informed reports – such as that by Architects for Social Housing – within weeks of the fire, adding truly shameful detail to the broader outline. It surely should have come out in courts within months of the fire and some of those responsible might well be behind bars and companies charged with massive fines, and the main point of the inquiry seems to be to prevent the course of justice.

A resident of Tanner Point speaking

Local authorities and building owners have been forced to inspect their high-rise properties, and the government has provided at lest some of the money it promised to replace unsafe cladding in the public sector. But little has been done for those living in private blocks who are still living in fear and now pay increased charges for extra fire safety provisions. A parliamentary briefing paper estimates the total cost of replacement of unsafe cladding at around £15m, and so far government has come up with a third of that. Government policy has changed from the initial promise to fund “remediation of historical safety defects, to a suggestion that leaseholders should be protected from unaffordable costs” and even the provision for a low interest scheme to ensure they would not pay more than £50 a month has failed to materialise despite the promise in the current Building Safety Bill.

In August 2017, a number of tower blocks in the London borough of Newham were found to have unsafe cladding. Housing activists Focus E15 Mothers led a demonstration putting pressure on the council to act urgently to make the blocks safe. The council came to a decision the following month to remove the cladding though work to do so only began in April 2018.

The march began at Ferrier Point in Canning Town, with other groups including East End Sisters Uncut, Movement for Justice, the Socialist Party, the Revolutionary Communist Party, One Housing campaigners and Whitechapel Anarchists joining Focus E15 and some tower block residents.

From there they marched to Tanner Point in Plaistow North for a longer rally outside, including some speeches from tower residents. Then came another long march to Stratford and the Carpenters Estate.

The Carpenters Estate was a popular estate, close to Stratford station and the town centre, and was viewed by the council as a prime opportunity for highly profitable redevelopment schemes, wanting to demolish the estate which is well-planned and in good condition. Focus E15 led opposition that in 2013 ended plans for UCL to set up a new campus here and have constantly urged the council to bring back people to the estate where despite a critical housing shortage in the borough, 400 good homes had been kept empty for over 10 years. The march ended with a ‘hands around the Carpenters Estate’ solidarity event against decanting, demolition and social cleansing.

More pictures at Fire Risk Tower Blocks.


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Tories Out! July 1st 2017

Thursday, July 1st, 2021

It was the so-called Democratic Unionist Party, the DUP, a deeply bigoted party with links to Loyalist terrorists, that saved Theresa May’s bacon after the 2017 election, bribed to give their support after an election result which showed a rejection of the toxic austerity policies of the Coalition and Tory governments.

And in response, Boris Johnson agreed a Brexit deal which put a border in the Irish Sea which the DUP are now up in arms about. Probably the EU will agree to some relaxation of the rules – and exporters will eventually get used to making the changes in the ‘paperwork’ (surely mainly now digital) which will be required and the Tory government may eventually realise that they need to respect and implement treaties that they sign up to. But it seems inevitable that the sea border will remain, and probably eventually lead on to a united Ireland.

A Grenfell resident holds up some of the flammable cladding

Grenfell had also recently underlined the toxic effects of Tory failure and privatisation of building regulations and inspection and a total lack of concern for the lives of ordinary people.

A huge number of groups came together for the Tories Out march, organised by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, with around 20,000 gathering outside the BBC (who if they deigned to mention the event in any of their extremely lengthy news broadcasts will probably have called it ‘several hundreds’) to march to a Parliament Square rally calling on the Tory Government to go, saying they had proved themselves unfit to govern, and demanding a decent health service, education system, housing, jobs and living standards for all.

Had the DUP not sold themselves to the Tories, another election seemed inevitable, and perhaps having seen the closeness of the result, at least some of those Labour MPs an officials who had been actively campaigning against their leader might have decided to change sides, backing Labour and the popular policies which had led the Party to its highest vote share since 2001 (40%) and got behind a leader they had previously discarded as ‘unelectable’ to get back into power.

There was certainly huge support for Corbyn on the march, much expressed through that rather inane singing (which I suspect he finds embarrassing.) But there were a significant number who also showed their anger at the housing policies of London Labour boroughs who are demolishing council estates and colluding with huge property developers to replace them with expensive and largely private housing.

Lisa from Class War greets Victor from the United Voices of the World

One of those groups was Class War, and later at the rally, unfortunately after I had left, Lisa Mckenzie confronted both Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite the Union and Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, asking the simple question ‘When are you going to stop Labour councils socially cleansing people out of London?’. Both men simply ignored her and walked away, though Corbyn did look a little shame-faced. His eccentric brother, Piers Corbyn, has long campaigned on the issue, and I suspect Jeremy, like others on the Labour left, would like a change in policy.

More on My London Diary: Tories Out March.

Property Vultures Self Awards

Wednesday, April 21st, 2021

Outside the Housing Awards event at Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane

We suffer from a housing benefits system that actually benefits landlords rather than tenants and a housing policy that is led by the advice of estate agents and developers.

Combined with governments dedicated to austerity and cuts this has led to a record level of evictions, doubling of rough sleeping in London and the worst shortage of truly affordable housing in history, while property developers cash in by building luxury flats for largely overseas investors who have made profits from rapidly rising market prices for flats which are often left empty for all or most of the year.

Protesters pay a brief visit to Foxtons on Park Lane

The attack on social housing was largely begun by Margaret Thatcher, who forced councils to sell off housing stock under her ‘right to buy’ scheme, and stopped councils from using the funds to replace them. Many or most of these properties were later sold to private landlords and became ‘buy to let’ properties at high market rents.

Housing Action Trusts, set up under the 1988 Housing Act took many council estates out of council control, eventually handing them on to housing associations, many of which have become hard to distinguish from commercial landlords.

New Labour ratcheted up the crisis with their emphasis on estate regeneration – whether the tenants wanted it or not. Though possibly begun with good intentions it became a tool used by many councils to demolish social housing and replace it by mixed developments in cooperation with private developers or housing associations which often contain only small amounts of genuinely social housing at ‘council rents’ (though with much less security of tenure) along with various shared ownership and so-called ‘affordable’ rent schemes and a large proportion of properties at market prices.

Often the original tenants and leaseholders of such regenerated estates have been ‘socially cleansed’, forced to move out of the area to lower cost fringe areas. Over 50,000 families have been forced to move out of London, where many more properties remain empty, thanks to housing policies that serve greed rather than need.

Protesters held their own award ceremony outside the hotel

I’m not a fan of awards ceremonies, industry events to pat each other on the back and make effusive speeches. Too often the awards go to the wrong people, but in the case of property developers there are perhaps only wrong people involved. But the protesters held their own, with large cardboard cups going for the Placard Making Award, Demonstration of the Year, Occupation of the Year and Young Protester Personalities of the Year.

Those who turned up to protest outside the plush hotel where the awards event was taking place included many who have been affected by the greed of developers and are fighting against the demolition of their estate or their eviction so that property owners can replace them by wealthier occupiers at market rents.

More pictures on My London Diary: Property Awards at Mayfair Hotel

Gentrification is Class War: 4 Feb 2018

Thursday, February 4th, 2021

Back when I began taking pictures of London in the 1970s London still had many largely working class areas, many the kind of places where some photographer friends would raise an eyebrow when I said I had been taking pictures there, or even send me dire warnings about the dangers of walking the streets there with a camera around my neck.

They were areas where people in the basic jobs that keep the city running could afford to live – both those whose families had moved to these areas several generations back and those including migrants and refugees who had come more recently. Some were certainly beginning to see a new more affluent population moving in, and many of my pictures featured skips in front of housing that was being renovated, both by developers who were buying up many older properties and young professional couples who were often ‘knocking through’, and pub conversations began to be riddled with terms such as ‘RSJ’.

Since then more and more areas across London have been subject to ‘gentrification’, their character being changed and new businesses coming in to cater for the new wealthier population, while increasingly the low-income inhabitants are forced out to cheaper areas further from central London as house prices and flat rents soar – and as council estates are demolished and replaced by higher density largely private flats at high market rents.

This process of ‘social cleansing’ has been taking place across London, and has been accelerated by many Labour councils since Tony Blair began New Labour’s regeneration programme with a press photo-opportunity on the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark in his first speech as Prime Minister in 1977.

Many of the shops that I photographed back in the 70s and 80s, small local shops – corner stores, cobblers, hairdressers, greengrocers, butchers, etc – and other small local businesses have now disappeared, their premises now often estate agents, and cafés have changed their nature from ‘greasy spoons’ where you could get a filling cheap lunch to serving coffee and cakes, vegetarian food or rather more expensive restaurants catering for the new and wealthier clientèle. Of course tastes generally have changed and so have shopping habits, and some of the new is certainly welcome. But so much of those shops and pubs that were a part of these neighbourhoods have been lost.

Brixton perhaps stood out against gentrification longer than most – with the reputation it had from the disturbances in 1981, 1985 and 1995 deterring many newcomers. All took place following heavy-handed police action; Operation Swamp 81, when over 900 people were stopped and searched in 5 days, with 82 arrested, the shooting of Cherry Groce in 1985, and the death in police custody of Wayne Douglas in 1995. But many young people were attracted to the area by the vibrant atmosphere and Caribbean culture, by music venues, the Roxy, markets, food and pubs, and with its good transport links and closeness to central London it has attracted many young professionals in more recent years.

Railway lines run through the centre of Brixton, and the arches underneath them have been an important part of its life, providing low cost premises for businesses and, particularly in Atlantic Road and Brixton Market Road, for shops. They provided what has been called “the heart of Brixton”. But as I wrote in my text for Save Brixton Arches: 3rd Anniversary Action on Sunday 4th February 2018:

Network Rail have colluded with Lambeth Council to get rid of something that gave Brixton its unique character and replace it by trendier shops catering for the new wealthy young population – part of Lambeth Labour’s programme of social cleansing which includes demolishing council estates and replacing them with high cost private accommodation (with a token amount of so-called affordable properties.) The Council ignored the public outcry and large demonstrations to keep the arches.

The plans were accompanied by a great deal of lies and mismanagement by Network Rail and work was supposed to be completed by 2016 but is only scheduled to start tomorrow, and the Save Brixton Arches campaign are calling for it to be abandoned as the plans for the work fail to include proper fire safety precautions and will severely restrict access by emergency services to local businesses and the railway and station.

Save Brixton Arches: 3rd Anniversary Action

Despite the campaign both by the traders and many of the local population the refurbishment of the arches went ahead, though over a year later many had not been re-let. Allies and Morrison, the architecture and urban planning practice which recommended the scheme in 2013 has been involved in many contentious ‘regeneration’ schemes with developers and councils across London which opponents describe as social cleansing. Local Labour MP Helen Hayes was a senior partner in this firm until she left shortly before being elected in 2015, although she has denied any involvement in this particular scheme.

More at Save Brixton Arches: 3rd Anniversary Action.


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.


Peace, Slavery & Social Cleansing

Wednesday, December 9th, 2020

Three years ago December 9th was a Saturday and people were out on the streets in at least three protests which I photographed.

My day’s work began at the Ministry of Defence, where peace campaigners celebrated the award of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize to ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, with a die-in on the steps.

ICAN was awarded the prize for its role in pushing for a United Nations global nuclear ban treaty which was approved by 122 nations at the UN General Assembly in 2017. In October 2020 Honduras became the 50th country to ratify it and will come into force on 22 January 2021. The UK government refused to take and part in the negotiations and has refused to sign the treaty and the award of the Nobel prize hardly got a mention in the UK media.

None of the main nuclear powers has signed the accord, and the protesters including members of ICAN UK, CND, Medact and WILPF, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, urged the UK to sign up and scrap Trident replacement. Bruce Kent made a presentation of a large cardboard Nobel Prize to ICAN UK, and handed out small ‘Nobels’ (gold-covered chocolate coins) to all who come up for them. After a few speeches there was then a die-in on the steps of the ministry.


A large crowd had gathered in Belgrave Square for the National Anti-Slavery March, organised by African Lives Matter after the news that African migants detained in Libya were being sold as slaves by Arab slave traders.

They marched to Knightsbridge and then along to Hyde Park Corner, going around the roundabout and then back along the other carriageway of Knightsbridge to the Libyan Embassy where there was a lengthy rally, including an African priest leading a libation ceremony in memory of the many Africans who have fought for their people against enslavement and colonialism; people in the crowd shouted out names for him to honour with pouring water onto the ground.

As well as demanding the closure of the Libyan detention centres, action by African governments to rescue people detained in the camps and condemnation of the slave trade and murders of migrants by all African leaders and the UN, calling on Libya to make and enforce laws that prevent these crimes against humanity, many also demanded reparations for the historic slave trade and the continuing despoliation of African resources by imperialist nations including the UK.


I had to leave before the rally ended as I was beginning to shake and feel unwell, weak and dizzy, the signs of an diabetic hypo, and I walked a short distance away to sit down eating one of the snacks I carry to give a rapid boost of my blood sugar. Soon I was feeling well enough to eat my lunch and take the tube to my final event of the day, a vigil outside Lambeth Town Hall in Brixton against the heartless policies of Lambeth Council.

Lambeth are one of the London Labour councils who are pursuing a policy of social cleansing under the guise of regeneration, realising the asset value of council estates by demolition and rebuilding with only small provision of social housing, resulting in many local council tenants and leaseholders being forced to move out of the area.

Lambeth have also made drastic cuts, shutting down community centres, cutting services for the disabled, those with mental health problems, young people and social services generally; although the Council claim these actions have been forced on them by Tory government cuts, the protester point out that Councillors’ expenses and allowances keep on growing and they have spent over £150m on a new Town Hall.

The vigil included a tribute to Cressingham Gardens resident and leading campaigner Ann Plant who died of cancer in December 2016, spending her final months continuing the fight to prevent the demolition of her home and her community by the council.

More from all 3 events on My London Diary:

Stand Up to Lambeth protest and vigil
National Anti-Slavery March
ICAN Nobel Peace Prize Die-In


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.