Posts Tagged ‘social segregation’

Cinelli, Poppies and Music at Class War Poor Doors – 2014

Sunday, September 17th, 2023

Cinelli, Poppies and Music at Class War Poor Doors. I only photographed one event on Wednesday 17th September 2014, one of the long series of weekly protests by Class War over separate entrances for rich and poor occupants of the large block of flats at One Commercial St on Whitechapel High Street.

Music at Class War Poor Doors – Aldgate

Cinelli, Poppies and Music at Class War Poor Doors

One Commercial St is a 21 storey largely residential block occupying an extensive corner site on Whitechapel High St and Commercial St which includes 207 flats above lower floors of offices, shops and an entrance to Aldgate East Underground Station.

Cinelli, Poppies and Music at Class War Poor Doors

The building, opened in 2014, received strong criticism in architectural circles, and Wikipedia quotes Building Design as commenting on what was developer Redrow’s “first flagship development” with “First flagship development? Please God let it also be their last. No one who can liken this incoherent hulk of ill-fitting glass sheets to a blade of light deserves to build again in such a sensitive location” and it was nominated for the Carbuncle Cup for “the ugliest building in the United Kingdom completed in the last 12 months“.

Cinelli, Poppies and Music at Class War Poor Doors

But it became controversial for other reasons too. To meet planning regulations the block contains some flats at affordable rents. While those in the main part of the building enter through an impressive foyer with a concierge desk and seating from the High Street adjoining Aldgate East Station, tenants of the affordable section had to go down what was then a dirty and dingy alley at the side of building, Tyne Street, to a door with a card-entry reader leading to a long empty corridor. On 17th September the card reader had been broken for 3 weeks, leaving the building insecure and the building management had failed to repair it.

Cinelli, Poppies and Music at Class War Poor Doors

This difference in treatment for rich and poor was highlighted in an article in The Guardian which commented on the growing trend for London’s new housing developments to include separate entrances like this for the less wealthy, known as “poor doors” and which gave One Commercial Street among the examples.

Many people expressed their distaste at this social segregation, and in New York Mayor Bill De Blasio announced he planned to take action to prevent new developments having such separate doors for low-income residents after a single such block was built there. But it was becoming common in London.

Anarchist group Class War decided it was time to take some action, and from July 2014 organised a weekly series of evening protests outside One Commercial Street, continuing (with a few breaks) until the following May. I photographed all but a couple of these, and later published a zine with some of the pictures I made. This is still available, but carriage costs make buying single copies expensive, however there is a good preview online.

Others joined with Class War on various occasions, and on Wednesday 17th September 2014 Reggae band Different Moods from Tottenham came to perform their ‘Poor Doors’ song specially written for the protests.

The protests by Class War did raise the profile of the problem, and resulted in some minor changes – including better lighting and cleaning for the side alley. They probably also embarrassed the owners enough to make them sell the building, though the new owners proved no better and the social segregation remains. And it’s perhaps why the building was later renamed and is now the Relay Building.

Music at Class War Poor Doors

Sea of Poppies – Tower of London

On my way to Aldgate I stopped at the Tower of London and made a photograph of the Sea of Poppies, work of art remembering the ‘Great War’, the ceramic poppies, one for each of the British forces killed in the war. I commented that for me “it seems decorative but shallow” and “lacks any real sense of the numbers involved and is far less graphic than the war cemeteries with their seemingly endless rows of crosses.

A little more at Sea of Poppies.

Vintage Cinelli in poor state

Earlier in the day I’d taken a picture showing the terrible state of my old bicycle, no longer ride able. It’s still in my shed, as several attempts to find a replacement chainwheel have failed. You can read more of the story about it at Vintage Cinelli in poor state. Perhaps I should try searching again.

Isle of Dogs and Class War

Saturday, September 3rd, 2022

Isle of Dogs and Class War: The weather was fine on Wednesday September 3rd 2014, with some nice clouds which made it a good day for some more panoramic photographs, and I went up earlier in the day to continue my pictures around the Isle of Dogs before covering an evening protest by Class War in Aldgate.

Isle of Dogs – Island Gardens to South Quay

Back in the 1980s I set out to photographed extensively in London’s docklands, part of a wider project on the de-industrialisation of the city, partly a response to changes in technology and globalisation, but greatly accelerated by the Thatcher government which saw great opportunities for their supporters profiting by a switch from manufacturing to service industries.

The government policies perhaps made some sense at the time – and certainly made some large profits for the friends and supporters of the Tories, but in many ways we are paying for them now, particularly for their ‘selling off the family silver’ by privatising utilities and other publicly owned activities.

In the docks the main changes were due to containerisation and other efficient ways of handling cargo. Much larger vessels came into service and the long journey up the River Thames to London’s Docks was difficult or impossible, as well as adding significantly to turn-around times. Only Tilbury, miles closer to the sea remained viable.

The changes to Docklands could have been managed for the benefit of the existing populations to the area, with development being carefully planned and managed locally. Instead we got the London Docklands Development Corporation which overrode local interests to benefit those of corporations but did produced a more rapid development than would otherwise have taken place. But it was a huge give-away to private developers, resulting in dramatic changes, and one that the area will continue to suffer from for generations.

Many of my pictures from the 1980s in colour as well as black and white are now available on Flickr in a number of albums and there are also a number of books available on Blurb (in print and as PDF) with the Isle of Dogs being included in City to Blackwall ISBN: 978-1-909363-09-0 which has a working preview.

My walk in 2014 began at Island Gardens DLR station, where I had finished a previous walk, and I continued along the riverside path to the Blackwall Entrance, across to Poplar Dock and Blackwall Basin, down Prestons Rd and Manchester Road to East Ferry Road, and then up and around a little on my way to South Quay Station.

In 2014 I was mainly making digital panoramic photographs, with a horizontal angle of view of around 145 degrees – much greater than can be achieved with a normal rectilinear perspective. These pictures use a projection which keeps vertical edges straight and also gives a straight horizon line (so long as the camera is kept level) but other lines and objects away from the centre of the image curve. Similar projections were used by artists such as Canaletto. These images here have a aspect ratio of 1.9 to 1.

There are two posts on My London Diary with many more panoramas and a few ‘normal’ views from this walk:
Isle of Dogs
Isle of Dogs Panoramas

Class War ‘Poor Doors’ picket Week 6 – Aldgate

I got back a few minutes early to where Class War were to stage their sixth weekly protest against the separate doors for the wealthy residents and social housing tenants in the block ‘One Commerical St’. The entrance for the rich is on Whitechapel High St next to Aldgate East station while the poor door is down an alley on the west side of the building.

Unlike in previous weeks there were police already there and waiting for the protesters, a sign that the police were taking a firmer stance against the protests here. Almost certainly they were responding to pressure from the owners of the building, and their activities against the protesters were to heighten further in later weeks.

When the protesters arrived, officers immediately came and talked to them, making it clear that they were not to block the doorway for people entering or leaving the building.

More police arrived, outnumbering the small group of little more than a dozen protesters who had come to hand out leaflets to people on the street outside. Many passing expressed surprise that this kind of segregation of rich and poor was allowed to happen in London and showed support for the protest.

It was perhaps the smallest of the series of thirty or so ‘Poor Doors’ protests outside this building. There were quite a few arguments with police officers but no arrests on this occasion.

More pictures at Class War ‘Poor Doors’ picket Week 6.