Posts Tagged ‘Tony Benn’

Hiroshima Day – 6th August

Saturday, August 6th, 2022

Hiroshima Day – 6th August

Hiroshima Day - 6th August
Rev Nagase, Japanese monk from the Battersea Peace Pagoda, 2011

While I was still teaching full-time I was usually away from London in August, often in Paris or on holiday with friends in different parts of England. But since 2004 I’ve usually been in London on August 6th and attended and photographed the annual Hiroshima Day Ceremony organised by London CND close to the Hiroshima Cherry Tree in Tavistock Square. The first year for which I used a digital camera was 2004, when the event was compèred by local MP Jeremy Corbyn and among those attending were Michael Foot and Tony Benn. There was a significant non-attender too, Mordechai Vanunu had been invited to come from Jerusalem where he is under house arrest for having made public Israel’s nuclear weapons, but was prevented from coming by the Israeli government.

Hiroshima Day - 6th August
Tony Benn, 2011

Back then I think the processing of digital files left something considerable to be desired, and the images on-line are rather dull, though I think could now be greatly improved if I found time to reprocess the raw files.

Hiroshima Day - 6th August
Bruce Kent, 2009

By the time photographed the ceremony in 2009, the pictures looked much better. Jeremy Corbyn was again introducing the speakers, who included CND stalwart Bruce Kent.

Bruce Kent spoke again in 2011, as did Tony Benn, but the star of the event was Hetty Bower who had begun her campaign against war in 1914 when she was a young schoolgirl, almost nine. Her’s was a remarkably powerful performance from a 105 year old who 97 years later was still taking part in every major UK anti-war march.

Nobo Ono, 2013

Hetty Bower was there again in 2013 and made a short speech. Other speakers included Bruce Kent, Peter Tatchell, Jeremy Corbyn, Walter Wolfgang, amd Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett as well as several peace activists, among them Val Brown from the London Guantanamo Campaign who talked about their work and the regular protests at the US Embassy, and Nobo Ono who spoke about the nuclear disaster at Fukushima and the weekly protests organised by Japanese Against Nuclear UK.

In 2014 my train to London was held up and I arrived after the event began, when a speaker was reminding everyone of the long life as a peace activist of Hetty Bower, and a several of those present were wearing t-shirts with her picture.

As usual, towards the end of the event there was a period of silence in memory of the dead and wreaths and flowers were laid at the Hioroshima Cherry Tree, planted in the garden here by the then Mayor of Camden in 1967.

In 2015, because of the Labour leadership contest, the event which usually attracts only a small handful of press was attended by several TV crews and a large number of photographers, many of whom more or less ignored anything but Jeremy Corbyn, seen in my picture standing for a few moments in thought after laying a sunflower at the foot of the tree.

Cllr Nadia Shah, Mayor of Camden lays a wreath, at left Anthony Flaum who had sung earlier, 2016

It was back to the usual lack of media interest in 2016, but the event was well attended with a number of familiar faces among the speakers, performers and the audience. Walter Wolfgang and Kate Hudson of CND, Mohammed Kozbar from Finsbury Park Mosque and Shahrar Ali from the Green Party were among those who spoke, and there were fine and very different perfomances from opera singer Anthony Flaum, radical folk singer Jim Radford and rap artist Potent Whisper, as well as the Raised Voices choir who as usual both performed on their own and led those at the event in singing some well-known peace songs.

Among the more memorable speakers in 2017 was writer A L Kennedy – but as usual all were worth listening to.

You can also see pictures and read the accounts from 2018, 2019 and 2021 on My London Diary.

I hope be again in Tavistock Square for today’s London CND Hiroshima commemoration – Saturday 6th August 2022 – starting at noon.


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Stop Trident, Troops out of Iraq – 2007

Thursday, February 24th, 2022

Stop Trident, Troops out of Iraq – 2007. On Saturday 24th February 15 years ago I spent a long afternoon photographing around 50,000 protesters marching through London calling for an end to Britain’s nuclear weapons and for our troops to be withdrawn from Iraq.

The march was organised by Stop The War, the Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament and the British Muslim Initiative, and on My London Diary – back then still only in lower case – I made clear my support for the marchers:

i’ve for many years been opposed to the so-called independent british nuclear weapons. even at the height of the cold war they were never credible as an independent deterrent. if they have ever had any justification it was that they made the usa feel less guilty, although american guilt at its huge nuclear arsenal and at being the only country ever to have used nuclear weapons has always been an incredibly stunted growth.

i was also firmly against the invasion of iraq. it was always clear to those who didn’t want to be deluded that the so-called ‘intelligence’ on weapons of mass destruction was laughable. blair was either a liar or a fool as he misled a minority of the british people and a majority of their mps. or most probably both. (saddam may also have been deluded and certainly was an evil dictator, but we had long failed those who tried to oppose him.) the invasion was criminal, but the lack of planning for the occupation that inevitably followed even more so.

My London Diary – Feb 2007

My account also points out the ridiculously low estimate of the numbers taking part given by the police of 4,000 – though I think they were eventually forced to increase this somewhat – and gives my own method of assessing numbers on such large demonstrations as this. The marchers took 90 minutes to pass me as I photographed them in Park Lane. My usual rule of thumb was to double the police estimate, but on this occasion they surpassed themselves, being an order of magnitude out.

There certainly is always a policy by our establishment, backed up by the BBC and the press, except on rare occasions to minimise dissent, particularly left-wing dissent, in this country while often exaggerating any protests against left-wing governments abroad. It’s a bias which has been very obvious in the coverage of events in Latin-American countries such as Venezuela.

Tony Benn

The BBC and some of our newspapers have some excellent reporters and correspondents, and it is more in the selection of what they are asked to report on and the editing of their reports and the context in which they are placed that the bias occurs. Some things are just not ‘news’, while others, often trivial or flippant, get major attention.

Fortunately there are other sources with different biases, including the almost invisibly small left-wing press in the UK (the two daily papers – the Communist Morning Star and Workers Revolutionary Party’s The News Line together have a circulation probably well under 10,000), but more importantly large news organisations such as the Russian-funded RT International and the Qatari Al Jazeera English – the latter particularly interesting about current events in the Ukraine.

Every journalist has a point of view and while we may strive to be factual I don’t think there is such a thing as objectivity. Our reporting is always subjective, based on what we feel and what we think is of importance. Every photograph I take involves choice – and the rejection of other things I don’t photograph – even at times things I think would make eye-catching images but would misrepresent people or the event. Further choices come in the selection of which images to send to an agency, and also which I choose to put on My London Diary.

On this occasion I chose rather too many to put on-line, with 17 pages of pictures, though this reflects the typical internet speeds of 15 years ago, when pages with more than ten small images were too slow to load even though I compressed the images as lower quality jpegs than I would now. But the number of pictures also reflected my intention to tell the story of the event as fully as possible rather than creating a single image for the event that might appeal to a picture editor.

Julie Felix

Looking at the report now I feel there are rather too many images particularly of some of the well-known faces I photographed at the rally. Perhaps also I made too many of the marchers, some of which might be of far more interest to the people shown in them than the general public. But if people make an effort to make an interesting placard or banner I think it deserves a little recognition.

You can read more of my report of the event and see another 160 or so pictures on My London Diary, beginning on the February 2007 page, though you will need to scroll a long way down the page to reach this march and rally.


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BBC Ban Gaza Appeal 2009

Monday, January 24th, 2022

BBC Ban Gaza Appeal 2009

Tony Benn speaking

Listening to the controversy in the last few days over the BBC licence fee, frozen for the next two years by Nadine Dorries, who has also threatened that the fee will be abolished after the corporation’s current royal charter expires in 2927, my mind went back to January 24th 2009, when I photographed a protest which began at the BBC against their biased reporting of the Israeli attack on Gaza, and calling for an end to the blockade and of arms sales to Israel, for a free Palestine and for Israli war criminals to be brought to justice.

Tony Benn leads a delegation into the BBC to deliver a letter

Earlier that morning, for the first time ever, the BBC bosses had refused to run the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for humanitarian relief for Gaza. I’d listened with incredulity to their explanation that they had done so to uphold their reputation for impartiality – as if their were sides to be taken on delivering much needed humanitarian support.

Listening to the Radio 4 Today programme as I ate my breakfast I rose to applaud Tony Benn who in a live interview condemned the BBC for their ban and proceeded to make the DEC appeal on the programme for them. Quite clearly the Today presenters and editors were also appalled by the one-sided stance taken by their bosses, and though they felt unable to defy the management had created the opportunity for Benn to do so.

I was pleased later that morning to be able to congratulate Benn in person for his action, and to hear him speaking about the ban both before going in to deliver a letter of protest to the BBC and a few minutes later at a rally a short distance down the road. Unfortunately police prevented me from going in with him to the BBC to photograph him handing over the letter, but I was able to photograph him outside with others including Jeremy Corbyn, MP, Lindsey German and George Galloway, MP.

A huge crowd at the rally before the march

I don’t remember any report of the protest appearing on the BBC, who generally fail to report protests in London unless they involve violence, criminal damage or major celebrities, though it probably got a small mention. The Press Association also got things a little wrong, reporting the smaller press conference with its roughly 400 attendees while not noticing the 10,000 protesters a hundred yards or so down the road.

People often blame journalists for the failure to report protests and similar events, but this is seldom the case. Journalists report but editors fail to publish. This is even more true when it comes to protests in London about events in overseas countries, which some editors have been known to dismiss as “tribal matters”.

I was pleased at the rally to hear a message from the then General Secretary of my Union, the NUJ, condemning the BBC ban – along with many others. The problem with the press in the UK is not down to journalists, but to the ownership of the mass media, with 90% of the UK-wide print media is owned and controlled by just three companies, Reach plc (formerly Trinity Mirror), Murdoch’s News UK and DMG Media, publishers of the Daily Mail. Six billionaires own or have a majority shareholding in most of our national newspapers.

The BBC should be both independent and impartial, and the licence fee was seen as a way of giving it an income independent of government control. But in recent years this has seemed to be less and less effective. It operates under an agreement with the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, and is overseen by the BBC Board, with day-to-day operations being overseen by an executive committee of senior BBC managers.

Appointments to the Board (and its predecessor the BBC Trust, earlier the Board of Governors) and some BBC jobs have often been politically motivated. Its current chair is a former banker who was an adviser to Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London. We need a new model which guarantees independence from government while continuing to finance the BBC as a public service broadcaster.

The BBC in deciding on what is and what isn’t news has generally a conservative approach, not in a party sense, but in supporting the status quo and establishment views. It also generally follows the lines established by the billionaire-owned print media. It should be something that challenges their assumptions and reports fairly and independently, but while it retains an excellent reputation around the world for its World Service, confidence in its national news services has dropped considerably.

Now many feel that to get the kind of impartiality it should be delivering you have to treat it as just one source of broadcast news – along with ITV news, Sky and other questionable sources such at the Russian-owned RT and Qatari-owned Al Jazeera.

You will have to look hard to find much real investigative reporting now in the British media, either broadcast or print, though occasional examples appear. But the only place it appears with any consistency is now Private Eye, which publishes a great deal of serious reporting along with its often rather schoolboy humour.

More on the protest at the BBC and the march to Trafalgar Square on My London Diary. I didn’t stay for the final rally as I had already heard many of those speaking earlier.
Gaza: Protest March from the BBC.


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No More Hiroshimas

Thursday, August 6th, 2020
A prayer by Japanese monk Rev Nagase, from the Battersea Peace Pagoda, 2011

Most years if I am in London at the start of August I attend the London CND Hiroshima Day commemoration in Tavistock Square. This year, the 75th anniversary, I will be at the online event.

The US bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a war crime on a massive scale and lacked any real military justification. So far, despite a huge number of atomic weapons being manufactured and many billions spent on them and their delivery systems none have been used, though we now know that it was only the refusal of one Russian soldier to obey orders that saved us from nuclear annihilation.

The theory of nuclear deterrence never made sense, and over the years more countries have created their own nuclear weapons, mainly as a status symbol. US, UK, Russia, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea currently have them. South Africa is the only country which has given them up (several soviet republics handed them back to Russia when the USSR broke up) but around 190 countries including South Africa have now signed up the the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, confirming they will not develop them.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons opened for signature at United Nations headquarters in New York on 20 September 2017 having been passed with 122 countries in favour – but none of the nuclear states or other NATO members voted and the Netherlands was the sole vote against. So far only 40 states have ratified the treaty.

The London 75th Anniversary event is one of many around the world you can join in or view online. I’ve posted a few of my pictures from earlier years here, but there are many more on My London Diary – for 2004, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Jeremy Corbyn introduces the Mayor of Camden, Cllr Faruque Ansari, 2009
Hetty Bower, 105, holds up a Peace Card given her by a primary school class, 2011
Tony Benn speaks, 2011
CND Chair Kate Hudson, 2014
Flowers are laid at the Hiroshima Cherry Tree in Tavistock Square, 2015

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.


More from May Days: 2014

Saturday, May 9th, 2020

Two names dominated the 2014 May Day march and rally in London: Bob Crow and Tony Benn. I’d photographed both at the event in previous years, though Benn, often the main speaker, had been too ill to speak in 2013. He died on 14th March, aged 88.

Bob Crow’s death, three days before Benn, from a heart attack was more of a shock, as he was only 52 and seemed at the height of his powers, certainly one of the most effective and most loved union leaders around, respected too by most of the bosses he negotiated with. His union, the RMT (National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers) turned out in force to remember him and Benn.

On My London Diary I wrote:

“As I walked towards it, from several hundred yards away it was clear that this year’s march was going to be larger than usual. Although I arrived before the time for meeting and over an hour before the march was due to start I could already see a forest of flags and banners. In previous years the march has been dominated by those communities in London from countries where May Day is celebrated on a huge scale, particularly London’s Turkish and Kurdish peoples. While UK unions such as the RMT had been present, their numbers have been rather smaller. But today the RMT was out in force to honour its leader, Bob Crow, who died on March 11th. There were RMT banners from around the country and I lost count of how many, and hundreds if not thousands of flags and placards.”

May Day March for Bob Crow & Tony Benn

All the usual groups were there too, making this the largest May Day March in London at least since I had been attending them.

Len McCluskey, Frances O’Grady and Jeremy Corbyn were among those holding the main banner as it arrived in Trafalgar Square, and I photographed them and others speaking at the event.

Despite the rain, a large crowd remained in the square to listen to the speeches.

Many more pictures on My London Diary:
May Day Rally
May Day March for Bob Crow & Tony Benn


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.

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More from May Days: 2009

Monday, May 4th, 2020

Another year, another May Day. 2009 was just a little different with more happening at Clerkenwell Green than usual, though some things remained the same. Although in my very early years Stalin was known through our press as ‘Uncle Joe’ and it was certainly the case that it was the Russian Army that played the major role in the defeat of Hitler, it does seem to me somehow obscene to be continuing a cult of his personality with what we now know about him.

As always the Turkish and Kurdish community were out in force – here the KGÖ (Komünist Gençlik Örgütü), the youth wing of the Marxist Leninist Communist Party (Turkey) MLKP.

Unusually there was a maypole, brought and erected by Chris Knight and others from G20 Meltdown, and a few people tried to dance around it.

There were the usual collection of trade union banners, with pride of place going to a couple carried by Ford workers following the Visteon dispute, as well as various other left-wing groups from the UK and abroad.

As in previous years the rally at Trafalgar Square failed to acknowledge the predominant presence of various minority communities on the march and was dominated by speakers from the large unions and Labour party. The star of the event was undoubtedly Tony Benn. At his left a Tamil holds a placard with a picture of Velupillai Prabhakaran, the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) who was killed in an ambush by Sri Lankan government forces only a few days later on May 18.

Earlier there had been heated arguments on the march against the participation by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), a Sinhalese communist and Marxist–Leninist party which is a part of the government oppressing and fighting the Tamils.

More at May Day March & Rally


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.