Posts Tagged ‘Stratford’

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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More Bow – a Grave, Halls, Co-op, Canal & Pub

Monday, March 14th, 2022

More Bow – a Grave, Halls, Co-op, Canal & Pub continues my walk on Monday 1st August 1988 – the previous post was Bow, Kingsly Hall, a Nursery, Grime, Quakers & more.

Bear Family, Memorial, Tower Hamlets Cemetery, Mile End, Bow, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-8b-54-Edit_2400
Bear Family, Memorial, Tower Hamlets Cemetery, Mile End, Bow, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-8b-54

The family vault of the Bear Family is marked by one of the more impressive monuments of Tower Hamlets Cemetery, with a long list of names, ages ad date of death which is headed by George Huxley Bear, who died in 1855 aged 4 years and six months. Several of the other entries are also for children, though their father lived to the age of 76. Child mortality was very much a feature of Victorian life.

I made two other pictures of this memorial, with its stems of wheat at the bottom and the consoling text from John XII, v 24 “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” As with all the other pictures you can click on this one to get a larger version and then browse back and forward to see them.

Bromley Public Hall, Bow Rd, Bow, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-8b-41-Edit_2400
Bromley Public Hall, Bow Rd, Bow, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-8b-41

Until last year this was the Tower Hamlets Register Office. The Grade II listed building dates from 1880 and was built as the vestry hall for St Leonard’s parish and extended in 1904. At least one web site confuses this with the much older and very different Bromley Hall, on the Blackwall Tunnel Approach road, though to be the oldest brick building in London, built around 1490 but extensively remodelled with a Georgian frontage around 1700.

Former Co-op store, Bow Rd, Bow, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-8b-42-Edit_2400
Former Co-op store, Bow Rd, Bow, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-8b-42

Stratford Co-operative & Industrial Society built this splendid store on Bow Road in 1919, proudly listing the names of its leading members under the bee hive signifying co-operation.

In my youth every high street (and some rather lower) had its own Co-operative store, benefiting from the huge buying power of the Cooperative Wholesale Society. We bought most of the few new clothes we could afford there as well as shoes and other items, and it was the Co-op who delivered our milk seven days a week. My mother’s Co-op number is still etched in my memory, essential when making any purchase, and leading to a ‘divi’ at the end of the year which saw us through Christmas.

In 1988 this was the PLH Kakkad Supermarket and although it sold a wide range of goods its frontage was devoted to Rothmans, “The best tobacco money can buy“. More recently it became a Costcutter and then a Nisa local since around 2008.

Lea Navigation, St Thomas Creek, Bow Back Rivers, Stratford, Newham, 1988 88-8b-46-Edit_2400
Lea Navigation, St Thomas Creek, Bow Back Rivers, Stratford, Newham, 1988

I walked further east and crossed the busy Bow roundabout to take this picture looking across the Lea Navigation and up St Thomas Creek, one of the Bow Back Rivers. Stratford High Street at right is now lined with tall flats, and Global Caravans with one stacked on top of a couple of containers is long gone, along with almost all of the rest of the industrial buildings. A few of those nearest on the left before Cooks Road remained but in derelict condition in 2021.

Bow Theatre, Bow Rd, Bow, Tower Hamlets, 1988  88-8b-32-Edit_2400
Bow Theatre, Bow Rd, Bow, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-8b-32

Walking back west up Bow Road took me to Bow Theatre on the west corner of Fairfield Road. This Grade II listed building was a new Poplar Town Hall built in 1937-8 and was said to be the first modernist town hall, designed by Ewart Culpin and his son Clifford. The frieze by David Evans depicts the various trades of the builders of the town hall and is said to include a welder, a labourer, a mason, a carpenter and an architect. Unfortunately it is hard to decide the occupations of some of those in my picture, partly as they are not critically sharp.

After Poplar became a part of Tower Hamlets, this was no longer a town hall, but remained in use for some years as council offices and also as a theatre. The council sold it in the 1990s and it is now Bow Business Centre.

Caledonian, pub, Fairfield Rd, Blondin St, Bow, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-8b-34-Edit_2400
Caledonian Arms, pub, Fairfield Rd, Blondin St, Bow, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-8b-34

The Caledonian Arms on the corner of Blondin St is still standing but no longer a pub, having closed around 2000 and extensively converted to office and residential use in 2010. The building possibly dates from 1851 though it may have replaced a former building later that century. For years a Watney’s pub it later became owned by Shepherd Neame.

The cafe on the opposite corner has gone completely, its site part of a car park for new buildings down Blondin St. The name suggests that the street was built at the time of the famous tightrope crossing of the Niagra by ‘The Great Blondin‘ in 1859.

Douro St, Bow, Tower Hamlets, 1988  88-8b-35-Edit_2400
Douro St, Bow, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-8b-35

This was a short street with small houses shown in the picture with front doors opening directly onto the street and a car breakers behind the fence at left.

The cobbles and the small houses are still there, but the car breakers have been replaced by a large block of flats, Altius Apartments, at 714 Wick Lane, with 4 floors and a roof garden, at a taller 9 floor tower at the east end. The guide price for one of those small houses in the ‘Bow Quarter’ is given as £800,000 and the estate agents rather creatively describe Douro St as ‘tree-lined’.

Tredegar Rd, Bow, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-8b-36-Edit_2400
Tredegar Rd, Bow, Tower Hamlets, 1988 88-8b-36-Edit_2400

Tredegar Rd is just to the north of Douro St, on the other side of the flats. I think this is at its junction with Wick Lane and I think absolutely nothing of what was in my picture remains, with even the road layout having altered at least slightly.

What was H Bates & Son Scrap dealers is now occupied by a block of around 12 floors, offices at ground level and flats above, but the ‘Bow Quarter’ area is so different that this could well be another nearby corner – also covered with new housing. But my next pictures show I turned south down Wick Lane to the rear of the former Bryant & May match factory, where the next instalment of this walk will begin.


Click on any image to see a larger version in my album 1988 London Photos, from where you can browse other images. You can view most of the sites today on Google Streetview.


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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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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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Stratford, Woolwich & Chelsea

Monday, January 10th, 2022

Stratford, Woolwich & Chelsea
Perhaps the only thing these three parts of London really have in common was that I photographed in them in the last few days of July 1988. The first two were on a family visit to the railway museum then at North Woolwich station, largely for the benefit on my two sons, then aged 12 and 9, and both with a real interest in railways and had decide on this as a birthday outing for the elder. I think we probably had a few of their friends with us, some in the second picture below.

Stratford Station, Stratford, Newham, 1988 88-7m-34-positive_2400
Stratford Station, Stratford, Newham, 1988 88-7m-34

North London Line, Stratford Station, Stratford, Newham, 1988 88-7m-35-positive_2400
North London Line, Stratford Station, Stratford, Newham, 1988 88-7m-35

And once we were in North Woolwich it would have been a shame to miss the free ride across the River Thames on the Woolwich Ferry. One of their favourite books when younger had been Alfie and the Ferryboat, by Charles Keeping, published in 1968 Keeping, born close the the Thames in Lambeth tells the story of a small boy from Woolwich crossing the river on the ferryboat to ‘the other side of the world’ in search of his old sailor friend Bunty and his dog.

Woolwich Ferry, North Woolwich, Newham, 1988 88-7m-24-positive_2400
Woolwich Ferry, North Woolwich, Newham, 1988 88-7m-24

Keeping was a superb and innovative illustrator and the book is perhaps his best work. Copies of it are now hard to find and rather expensive.

Woolwich, Greenwich, 1988 88-7m-12-positive_2400
Woolwich, Greenwich, 1988 88-7m-12

The ferry that Alfie took was one of the same that we took, which were introduced in 1963 – the John Burns, Ernest Bevin and James Newman, double-ended ships with powerful diesel engines which were replaced in 2018 after 55 years on the run.

I only made twelve black and white pictures on this trip, along with three in colour, probably too occupied with herding 12 year-old boys than photography, and getting them all back to a birthday tea on the other side of London.

Moorings, River Thames,Cheyne Walk, Worlds End, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-7m-14-positive_2400
Moorings, River Thames, Cheyne Walk, Worlds End, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-7m-14

Days are long in July, and four days later I began taking pictures on Battersea Brdige and then a short walk in Chelsea.

Crosby Hall, Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-7n-02-positive_2400
Crosby Hall, Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-7n-02

Probably I had looked at pictures I had taken earlier in the year and decided there were some I would like to retake, or perhaps found some things I had missed. I spent a lot of time on researching the areas I was photographing, which was much harder before the days of the world wide web – and many of the books I had to rely on were years out of date, often pre-war or even older.

Sir Hans Sloane, memorial, Chelsea Old Church, Cheyne Walk , Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-7n-62-positive_2400
Sir Hans Sloane, memorial, Chelsea Old Church, Cheyne Walk , Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-7n-62

I think I may not have got a picture – or not one I liked of this memorial to Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753), an Anglo-Irish doctor and collector who travelled widely to France and the Caribbean, where he supposedly invented drinking chocolate as well as giving a harrowing account of the sadistic punishments inflicted on slaves and married the wealthy widow of one of the larger slave owners.

Her money from slavery and his income from a doctor and investments in property and slave trading companies enabled him to build up a collection of 71,000 items which he left to the British Nation. These provided the foundation of the British Museum, the British Library and the Natural History Museum.

Christchurch St, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-7n-55-positive_2400
Christchurch St, Chelsea, Kensington & Chelsea, 1988 88-7n-55

But after taking around thirty pictures the next (not on-line) shows a view from the back of two women on a station escalator, with the next frame on the Commercial Road in Limehouse. I think I will have taken the Underground from Sloane Square to Tower Hill and walked to Tower Gateway for the DLR which had opened in 1987 to Limehouse. But pictures from my longer walk from there will be in a further post.


Click on any of the pictures to see a larger version in my album 1988 London Photos, from where you can browse the rest of the album.


An Olympic Bike Ride

Tuesday, January 4th, 2022

Businesses later demolished at the heart of the site for London’s 2012 Olympics

An Olympic Bike Ride: At the end of 2002 I finally bought a Brompton, a rather expensive folding bicycle which then cost me around £600. Perhaps not a lot for a new bike then and certainly not now, but rather more than the £13-7s6d or so the other bike I was still riding had cost in 1958.

Clays Lane Housing Co-operative – demolished for the Olympics

I’d been thinking about it for years, and it would certainly have been very useful for the work that I’d been doing around outer London in the previous decade, but I’ve only used it infrequently for my photography.

Eastway Cycle Circuit – lost to the Olympics

Though it’s a great way to get to places, taking it by train or underground and riding from a convenient station, Bromptons are a powerful magnet for bike thieves, so easy to put in a car boot or van, and selling at a relatively high price. It isn’t safe to lock them anywhere in public view when even the best cycle lock can only detain the well-equipped thief for around 30 seconds.

Bully Fen Wood – Community Woodland lost to the Olympics

So rather than using it for my general photography – mainly of protests and other events – I’ve used it for cycle rides on which I’ve taken photographs, both around where I live – it’s easier to jump on and off than my full-size bike – and in and around London.

Factory on Waterden Road – demolished for the Olympics

Thursday 4th January 2007 was a nice winter’s day, not too cold and blue skies with just a few clouds, and I went with the Brompton to Waterloo and then on the Jubilee Line to Stratford. Preparations had begun for the 2012 London Olympics and I wanted to see and photograph what I could of the changes that were taking place.

The footbridge has been kept in the new Olympic Park

My account of the day on My London Diary begins with my tongue-in-cheek suggestion that it would have been much preferable on environmental ground to shut down Heathrow and use that as the Olympic site, but goes on to describe a conversation I had with one of the residents at Clays Lane, then about to be demolished (spelling etc corrected.)

‘he talked of living in a fascist state, with lack of consultation and individual powerlessness, and of the games as having always had a militaristic overtone. hardly surprising there is little support for the games here, as initial promises that people from the Clays Lane Housing Co-operative would be rehoused in conditions “as good as, if not better than” their present estate were soon changed to “at least as good as in so far as is reasonably practicable.”‘

My London Diary

Work on the site seen from the Greenway

From Clays Lane I moved to the Eastway Cycle Track, already closed and fenced off – I decided against going through a gap in the fence to ride around it. The Community Woodland at Bully Fen Wood was also already closed. and I cycled on around the roads at the north of the site to Hackney Wick.

Pudding Mill River and Marshgate Lane – all now gone

Along Waterden Road I photographed some of the other industrial sites that were to be lost to the games, then turned along Carpenters Road and into Marshgate Lane, all soon to be fenced off and everthing on them destroyed. After taking pictures around Marshgate Lane I went back and into Hackney Wick, photographing the Kings Yard workshops on Carpenters Road soon to be demolished on my way.

Kings Yard – demolished for the Olympics

Hackney Wick to the west of the Lea Navigation is largely outside the Olympic compulsory purchase area, but some large areas of industry were scheduled for demolition and I took more pictures. I found the towpath here beside the navigation still open and rode down it to Stratford High Street, where more industry to the north of the road is also going.

Canary Wharf from Stratford Marsh

I spent some time going up the roads and paths here going from the High Street into Stratford Marsh which were still open, then went east along the top of the outfall sewer past areas also covered by the Olympic CPO.

St Thomas Creek, Bow Back Rivers – factories at left and right to be demolished

There was still a little light and I came down from the ‘Greenway’ and cycled down to Bow Creek from West Ham, going down the path on the west side of the creek to the Lower Lea Crossing. I wanted a picture showing the Pura Foods site then being demolished, but also made a number of other twilight pictures from this elevated viewpoint, and also some from the Silvertown Way viaduct as I made my way to Canning Town Station for the train home.

Pura Foods being demolished for London City Island development

Many more pictures from this ride on My London Diary, starting a little way down the January 2007 page.


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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


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Thunderbird, Olympic Park & Transphobia at the Mail

Tuesday, October 19th, 2021

On Friday 19th October 2018 ‘Commander Neil Godwin Tracy’ of International Rescue came from Tracy Island carrying his ship Thunderbird 2 to the Dept for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in London to offer his organisation’s assistance to produce policies which which recognise the desperate need to cut carbon emissions to avoid disastrous global warming and climate change by banning all fracking.

Campaigners say BEIS has spent more time on changing its name than developing sensible policies, and the ministry refused his generous offer of health, and security removed the International Rescue poster he tried to past to the front wall. Police requested he remove a second poster with the message ‘Fracking Awful Business’.

I had another event to cover later in the day and took the opportunity of the several hours between the two to pay a visit to the Olympic Park in Stratford, walking from the station through Stratford Westfield, a vast shopping centre I described as a 21st century version of Hell to do so.

I came out at the back of John Lewis and walked along the road towards the park, over the railway which takes Eurostar speeding through Stratford International station. There are more local trains that stop but I’ve yet to feel a need to go to either Ebbsfleet or Ashford (Kent) a place that has always seemed to me only to exist to confuse those who really want to go to Ashford, Middlesex, now called by the railway Ashford (Surrey).

The part of the park called the Waterglades was actually looking rather good, with the trees beginning to change colour, and I took rather a lot of pictures.

The lake was looking a very bright green. Soon I found I was at a dead end and needed to retrace my steps to cross the River Lea and make my way towards my destination through some of the more arid and desolate areas of the park.

There is a useful bridge now across the Lea Navigation to Hackney Wick where I had time to wander round and photograph some of the graffiti as I made my way to Fish Island and then on over the East Cross Route to catch a bus on Old Ford Road to Bethnal Green tube station.

Sister Not Cister UK had organised a protest outside the Daily Mail building in Kensington after articles demonising trans people, particularly trans women, in The Metro which they publish, and their printing an advertisement campaign for the hate group, “Fair Play for Women”.

The protesters, including many trans people, say that these attacks on the trans community will hurt the most marginalised – trans women, working class trans people and trans people of colour – who are also the most likely to be in need of the services that such hateful campaigners seek to deny them. More were arriving to join the protest when I decided I needed to leave for home.

Mail group end your transphobic hate
Olympic Park walk
BEIS refuse International Rescue help


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Housing in Crisis – Newham 2015

Sunday, September 19th, 2021

Six years ago I posted about a march through Stratford on Saturday 19th September against social cleansing in Newham, where the council has been rehousing people in private rented properties outside the borough, sometimes as far away as Wales or Liverpool. The directly elected Mayor of this almost monolithically Labour borough until 2018, Robin Wales, made clear his views that if people couldn’t afford to live in London they shouldn’t expect to live there, and council policies appear to reflect this. But Newham – and London generally – needs large numbers of relatively low paid workers – and Covid has helped us appreciate their contribution. Many, even those in jobs well above the London Living Wage, can’t afford market rents and certainly not to buy homes.

Local people, many of whom have lived in the area for years and have developed connections in the area – friends, families, schools etc – who for any reason become homeless want to be rehoused close to these people and services and demand that local resources be used to house local people.

Newham currently in 2021 has 27,000 people on its housing waiting list and 7,000 children in temporary accommodation. Until very recently the few social homes that were available were allocated using a system that gave priority to those in work and the new system will instead focus on health, need and overcrowding.

But the real problem that there is simply not enough social housing remains, and this is more the fault of national government policies over the years, under both Tory and New Labour. The most obvious and and damaging was of course Thatcher’s ‘right to buy’ which has drastically reduced to number of social housing homes, and in particular removed many of the more desirable properties, but councils have also been largely prevented by successive governments from building new and much needed social housing, as well as being starved of the cash needed to properly maintain existing properties and estates.

Many existing council estates were transferred to housing associations, which increasingly seem to be catering for those able to afford the very high ‘market’ rents in London. Councils too, thanks to New Labour housing policies have been demolishing council estates and developing the sites together with private developers to produce mainly homes for sale at high market prices, with often a great reduction in the number of social housing homes available.

Newham has seen a huge amount of building housing in recent years, both on the former Olympic site and elsewhere, with more tower blocks every time I visit the area, but almost all are high rent properties suited to young professionals, mainly working outside the borough, residencies for wealthier students, or expenive investment properties – usually bought with no intention of being lived in but simply to benefit from the increases in London property prices.

In 2013, Newham announced it was going to close a hostel for young single mothers who would then be dispersed in rented flats across England. The women decided to fight and the Focus E15 campaign began. Backed by members of the Revolutionary Communist Group and others who supported them in direct actions that often gained media coverage their fight succeeded and they became well-known nationally and developed into a much wider campaign for proper housing, particularly supporting others in the area with housing problems. As well as holding a street stall in the centre of Stratford every Saturday they accompanied people to the housing offices, gathered to prevent evictions and more.

The march in 2015, two years after the start of their campaign attracted the support of over 40 other organisations, mainly small local groups from around London and the South-East also fighting housing problems. Fortunately not all of them had speakers at the rally before the march but there were quite a few before it moved off from Stratford Park to march around the Town Centre.

As the ‘Housing for All’ march passed Foxton’s estate agency in the centre of Stratford, Class War rushed inside with their ‘New Homes for the Rich’ banner and staged a brief occupation while most of the marchers supported them from outside. They caused no damage and left after a few minutes for the march to continue.

There was another brief halt outside LB Newham’s Housing Office at Bridge House, which was closed. The marchers held banners and posed for photographs and Focus E15 spoke briefly about how their interventions here have prevented homless people from being sent to unsuitable private rented accomodation hundreds of miles away, getting them re-housed in London.

The march ended in the square on the Carpenters Estate in front of the block of four flats which Focus E15 occupied for four weeks as a protest a year earlier. This had made the national news and had ended with the council promising to bring some homes back into occupation – though a year later only 28 of around the 400 empty homes had been re-let. There were a few more speeches and then a party began.


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.


Low Pay, Lousy Conditions. 3rd Aug 2013

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021

IWGB are harassed by Westfield security after their protest in John Lewis

The two events I covered on Saturday 3rd August 2013 both concerned the fight to get decent wages and conditions for low paid workers in London, something which has largely been left to the left wing and grass roots unions to fight for rather than the big trade unions or the Labour Party.

Outside Sports Direct in Oxford St

The two major ways that low paid workers are cruelly exploited in modern Britain are through zero-hours contracts and outsourcing, and these were at the heart of the two protests.

Security stop protesters from going down the escalator in Sports Direct

The first, at Sports Direct in Oxford St called on the company to abandon the use of zero-hour contracts which deprive all their 20,000 part-time workforce (over 85% of staff) sick pay, holiday pay and other employment rights.

The protest continues inside Sports Direct

Zero hours contracts, as I explained on My London Diary “are a peculiar legal casuistry that in essence denies the whole concept of a contract as normally understood, agreements without substance which gravely disadvantage workers … Although they give no guarantee of any income, they oblige the workers to be available for work at the employer’s whim, making it impossible for them to take on other work.”

IWGB get out flags, placards and banners on the top floor of John Lewis

All the advantages are for the employer who has a contract which imposes great constraints on workers while denying them the employment rights which are a part of normal employment and leaving them open to the whims of managers as to whether they work or not. A limited reform in 2015 prohibited terms in them which prevented people working for other employers, but if that leads to them being unable to work when the employer demands them to, they may still find their hours very much reduced in future or their contracts terminated.

And begin their protest in John Lewis in Stratford Westfield

The protest was a noisy one and after around 50 minutes handing out leaflets and speaking to shoppers on the street outside, they surged into the small street level area of the shop, where they made no attempt to push post security men who stopped them at the entry to the escalator leading down to the main store. They continued the protest inside the store being careful not to cause any damage. After around five minutes one of the police officers who were watching came to talk to one of the leading protesters and was told they would leave shortly, and after a few more minutes they did, ending the protest on the pavement a few minutes later.

They take the escalator to continue the protest on the floor below

I made my way to Stratford to join the IWGB union who were making a surprise visit to protest inside the John Lewis store in Stratford Westfield. The cleaners there are outsourced to sub-contractor ICM of the Compass Group, who had recently announced pre-tax profits for the year of £575 million. They pay the cleaners £6.72 per hour, considerably less than the London Living Wage of £8.55 an hour set by the GLA and backed by the London Mayor.

Everyone in John Lewis could hear the protest and stopped to look and listen

Outsourcing enables John Lewis to distance itself from the low pay and poor conditions of service of these workers who share the workplace with the much-lauded John Lewis ‘partners’, who as well as higher pay and better benefits, also get a share in the company’s profits, enabling John Lewis to claim it is a ‘different sort of company’ with a strong ethical basis, but still leave its cleaners – a vital part of its workforce – on poverty wages.

I met the cleaners outside Westfield and walked with them through the shopping centre to John Lewis at its far end, trying with them to look inconspicuous. In the store we went up to the cafe area on the top floor where they got out banners, placards and a large megaphone from their bags and then proceeded to walk around in a noisy protest.

They then took the escalator to the floor below and walked around that making the case for a fair deal for the cleaners to management and customers. Among those protesting (centre, above) was a man who had been a ‘partner’ in the Westfield store and was dismissed after he gave an interview to The Guardian supporting the cleaners’ case for equal treatment, and he was greeted by many of his former colleagues on the shop floor.

I get told I can’t take photographs

After protesting on each floor of the store, there were a numbber of final speeches, including one by the dismissed ‘partner’, on the ground floor before the group left, going out into the Westfield Centre in front of John Lewis. Here they were met by the centre manager and security staff who tried to stop the protest, with some pushing them (and me) around. Here I was told I was not allowed to take pictures, but took little notice. Very slowly we all made our way out of the centre by the nearest exit, still followed by Westfield security, and were met by two police officers who were told the protest was finishing.

Many more pictures at:

Cleaners in John Lewis Westfield
End Zero Hours Contracts – Sports Direct


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.