Posts Tagged ‘town hall’

Barnet Bans Photography

Thursday, May 13th, 2021

Barnet Council tried to stop me photographing the petition handover

I photographed several protests on Wednesday 13th May 2015 before making my way to Barnet Town Hall where campaigners from Sweets Way and West Hendon estates had come to question councillors at a Town Hall meeting and hand over petitions with over 200,000 signatures to council leader Richard Cornelius.

Local residents protest through an open window at the Town Hall

They held a loud protest outside the hall before a small group went inside to hand over the petition, and security on the door let me go in with them when I showed my press card, and I began to take pictures, along with another photographer. But the council press officer intervened, looked at my press card and firmly told me “No Photographs” and called on security to escort me and the other press photographer out of the building.

And people come over to block my view of the protest

I protested but went with the security team who led me towards the door. They couldn’t take me out as the large crowd outside was trying hard to push its way inside to attend the meeting. From the lobby I could see that some were trying to climb in through a window with council staff blocking them and I took a few pictures – through a glass partition – until another council employee moved to block my view, holding up a coat in front of my lens.

After being thrown out I photographed it from the outside

I wasn’t too upset, as in both cases I had managed to take pictures before I was stopped, but did feel that the council were acting in an unreasonable manner in trying to stop reporting of events in which there was a clear public interest about a public authority taking place in a public building. The security men who were following the order to escort me out were behaving reasonably and I think were unhappy at being asked to take me outside – which eventually they did. They and the police on duty had earlier let me inside when I showed my press card.

A councillor coming to the meeting tells me I can’t take his picture

Then I was able to photograph the crowd outside trying to make their way in. Eventually things calmed down after some of them were told they would be admitted, but I was firmly told I could not come in as I had taken photographs earlier. I was actually pleased to leave as I was getting tired and hungry after a rather long day.

Local government here in the UK has become far less transparent, with decisions being taken by small cabals under ‘cabinet’ systems which even leave many councillors unaware of what is going on. Local newspapers have largely disappeared, their place taken by ‘local editions’ of nation-wide organisations which have few if any local staff – and who seldom attend or report on council meetings, relying instead on PR handouts.

Some wore masks showing Barnet Council Leader Cllr Richard Cornelius

Local authorities have a long history of corruption, with various projects and deals which benefit the particular business interests of councillors and officers rather than simply the people they are supposed to serve. Of course what is good for the town should also be good for businesses in the town, and many councillors have been local businessmen – though of course council decisions should not give special favours to their businesses, as so often happened.

The petitions: 64,848 signatures for Sweets Way, 132,939 for West Hendon

But decisions like those to demolish the West Hendon estate involve major property developers and seem to be being taken not about the local residents whose homes are being demolished but about huge profits for developers and some financial advantage for the councils, often with significant personal inducements for those councillors and officers concerned with making the decisions. The West Hendon council estate is being demolished because it is on an attractive site overlooking the Welsh Harp reservoir and new flats will be highly marketable – council and developers see social housing there as a wasted business opportunity.

My treatment at Barnet was in itself of no real importance, but a symptom of the lack of transparency and a culture of secrecy that now pervades local government. If we are to have confidence in our councils we need a much greater openness.

Sweets Way & West Hendon at Barnet Council

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.

Staines 1987

Saturday, March 6th, 2021

My photographic projects in London relied on being able to get a train from Staines, and although the service was generally rather better back in the 1980s than now, there were still times when I turned up at the station only to find there were no trains running. It was probably on one of these days when I’d arrived at the station with my camera bag on my shoulder that I decided instead of going back home to take a walk around the town instead. There is nothing spectacular about these images, but I think they are an interesting record of a time and place and one that in many respects has changed since I took them in October 1987.

Clarence St, Church St, Staines, Middx, 1987, Spelthorne 87-10i-51-positive_2400
Clarence St, Church St, Staines, Middx, 1987, Spelthorne

This corner has changed relatively little, but Johnson and Clark, the Staines department store said to have been the inspiration for a sitcom closed long ago, and its main building on the other side of the road not in this picture long demolished. It was a business which always seemed stuck in a 1950s time warp. The shop with a closing down sale at right had been Staines first supermarket, a small Tesco , but possibly it was a successor selling up; it is now a Wetherspoons, and the last pub I visited before the lockdown in December.

Market Square, Staines, Middx, 1987, Spelthorne 87-10i-41-positive_2400
Market Square, Staines, Middx, 1987, Spelthorne

The Blue Anchor was in business here, possibly from the 15th century, and the brick facade dates from 1721. Some of its windows are real but others only painted, presumably because of the window tax which first came into force in 1696 and was only repealed in 1851, and its hard to see the difference in this picture. One of the major inns in the old town, it closed as a pub around 2006, and has since been a series of restaurants, currently Turkish and of course only able to serve takeaway meals.

Staines Town Hall was built in 1880, financed by public subscription and the building became redundant when Spelthorne Council built new offices around a mile away – and at roughly the same time was Grade II listed. For some years it was used only for occasional concerts (and is the courtroom in the 1982 film Gandhi) but the council spent £1 million to convert it into a much-needed arts centre in Staines which opened in 1994. But this lost money and was closed in 1999 being at the wrong end of the borough to get support from the Tory council. It reopened as a wine bar from 2004-12, then was left empty (apart from a brief squat) before being sold off to a developer for £1.6 million with planning permission granted in 2018 for conversion to flats despite there being no parking space and inadequate disabled access. Many Staines residents regard it as a scandalous loss of what should have been seen as a major public asset for the town desperately short of cultural facilities.

Cock Tavern, Church St, Bridge St, Staines, Middx, 1987, Spelthorne 87-10i-31-positive_2400
Cock Inn, Church St, Bridge St, Staines, Middx, 1987

The Cock Inn, built in 1832 on a site that had been a pub for several hundred years, closed in 2009 and is now offices. Behind it was Ashby’s Brewery, where a modern building for Courage can be seen peeping over and to the left, but it served Brandon’s Fine Ales, brewed in Putney. Some of the older Ashby buildings still stand, converted to residential and office uses and the Quaker Ashby family was one of the most important in the growth of Staines.

A second Staines brewery, on Kingston Rd, set up by the Harris family was taken over by Ashby’s in 1903 and closed in 1914. Later it briefly became Staines Library and then an adult education centre for Surrey County Council but was closed 15 years ago and has been empty and unused since. Squatters occupied it in 2015 attempting to open up the buildings for community use but were evicted after a couple of months.

Clarence St, Staines, Middx, 1987, Spelthorne 87-10i-26-positive_2400
Clarence St, Staines, Middx, 1987

Clarence Street was built as the approach road to the new Staines Bridge designed by John and George Rennie and opened by King William IV and Queen Adelaide in 1832, a short distance upstream of previous bridges thought to have crossed the river since Roman times close to the Market Square. It was the fourth bridge to be built since the Civil War and is still in use, widened considerably in 1958, but still a bottleneck. The building on the corner of Bridge St was in the 1970s Staines Library.

High St, Staines, Middx, 1987, Spelthorne 87-10i-03-positive_2400
High St, Staines, Middx, 1987

Staines High St is still lined by a few buildings of some architectural interest from the Victorian era, along with some rather less exciting 20th century additions, but the big difference is that it is now pedestrianised.

High St, Staines, Middx, 1987, Spelthorne 87-10h-11-positive_2400
High St, Staines, Middx, 1987

Another view of the north side of the High St, this time looking east towards the ‘Iron Bridge’ which carries the Windsor Line across the road. Almost all of the buildings here have now been demolished, with a large hotel replacing most of them.

London Rd, Staines, Middx, 1987, Spelthorne 87-10h-36-positive_2400
London Rd, Staines, Middx, 1987

The main road through Staines, on the line of the Roman Road to the Southwest which became the A30, becomes London Road to the east of the Iron Bridge seen at the left of this picture. Fortunately the opening of the second section of the Staines bypass in the 1960s takes much of the traffic away from the town which had been a notorious bottleneck. Only the shop and pub barely visible here at the side of the bridge remain (though probably not for long), with both the 1950s shops, the 1930s Post Office and the rest all long demolished and now part of a new partly high-rise largely residential development currently nearing completion – and including a new Co-op store.

London Rd, Staines, Middx, 1987, Spelthorne 87-10h-35-positive_2400
London Rd, Staines, Middx, 1987

A little further along on London Road and some pleasant 1920s style parades of shops on the north side (with some of a similar age on the south side, which would have been in shadow – so I will have decided to photograph them another day in different lighting.)

London Rd, Staines, Middx, 1987, Spelthorne 87-10f-33-positive_2400
London Rd, Staines, Middx, 1987

Surprisingly the Three Tuns and the two shops to the left are still there today, though sadly closed at the moment. As with all pubs we wonder if it will one day reopen, though we hope so, though it isn’t one I frequent. It was listed on this site in 1798 and possibly dates from rather earlier. The large office block is long gone, and development is promised on the site, though when I last looked it was still just earth and rubble.

There are a few more pictures of Staines on page 7 of my album 1987 London Photos, including just a few of the common land and other open spaces around the area on the edge of London – but just inside the M25 which is perhaps its real boundary.

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.

Levitation, Police Robbery and Catalonia

Wednesday, October 21st, 2020

Three years ago on October 21st I spent an interesting Saturday travelling around London and photographing several quite different events – unlike last Saturday when all I did was sit at a computer and work on old pictures and take a short walk along a familiar stretch of the River Thames close to my home, taking care to avoid getting close to the other strollers.

The Catalan protest at Piccadilly Circus was colourful, with many of the several hundred present fyling or wearing flags and calling for independence. And many of the placards were in English, unlike some other protests about overseas events. While Spain seems to have managed so far to have stopped the indepenence movement by forceful policing and political trials in the longer term I think there has to be movement towards a more federal approach with much greater autonomy for the region. We are begining to see a similar trend here in the UK, where our government appears to be failing to honour the 1707 Acts of Union between England and Scotland as well as creating increasing division between Wales, Northern Ireland and Westminster, with the likely no-deal (or very limited deal) over Brexit seeming certain to lead to to a break-up of at least parts of the union.

Conveniently the Catalan march took me to Parliament Square where I could take the Circle line to Kensington and join a small group of Class War in their attempt to levitate the offices of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, responsible for the disastrous fire at Grenfell Tower.

It was also a celebation of the 50th anniversary of the Yippee levitation of the Pentagon during anti-Vietnam War protests, and Class War’s Ian Bone and shaman Jimmy Kunt (aka Adam Clifford) stood on the steps of the town hall and called “Out, demons, out! Out, demons, out!” to the demons of councillors Nicholas Paget-Brown, Rock Feilding-Mellen & Elizabeth Campbell in their attempted to levitate the town hall to a height of over 70 metres. Unfortunately I failed to capture a photograph of the building in mid-air.

As I reported in My London Diary:

Inspired by their success at the town hall, Class War’s Levitation Brigade then moved on to Northcliffe House, the home of the Daily Mail.

Security staff there reacted angrily to Class War calling out the demon of Paul Dacre and their attempt to raise the building by over 70 metres, perhaps fearing it might damage the Rolls-Royce parked outside, but the levitation ceremony went ahead despite considerable interference.

Class War levitate the Daily Mail

Several security staff objected to the protesters and told me that I couldn’t take pictures, although there is strong evidence that this was not the case, though I did have to move back several times when one attempted to grab my lens. But most of the time at least I was on the public highway and knew I had the right to photograph as I liked and told him so. But it was perhaps this harassment that again made me miss the moment of actual levitation – or perhaps not.

It was a rather longer journey to Kentish Town by Underground, but only around half an hour (Circle to Embankment and then the Northern line) and I arrived in good time for the protest outside Kentish Town Police Station. Police, urged on by Camden Council had been removing and stealing tents from homeless people on the nearby streets ‘in the interest of public safety‘.

A small group of protesters met outside the police station carrying tents before five of them went inside to hand themselves in for being in possession of these now illegal items, calling on the police to arrest them. The police were rather suprised and kept them waiting for an hour or so, before telling them after I had left that carrying a tent was not a crime.

Later both police and Camden Council denied they were harassing the homeless – in direct contradiction to the evidence from the street that they had done so. Perhaps this small protest meant that at least in Camden this cruel policy used in some other boroughs in London and elsewhere will no longer apply.

More at:
Stop Robbing the Homeless
Class War levitate the Daily Mail
Class War levitate Kensington Town Hall
March in Solidarity with Catalonia

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.

Requiem For A Bee

Sunday, March 15th, 2020

Getting to Clissold Park in Stoke Newington isn’t the most convenient of London journeys, at least not if you are in a hurry. And having been at Euston to photograph the HS2 protest it took me a while to arrive there – the Underground to Manor Park, a bus ride and then a run (or rather a mixture of walking and running we used to call ‘Scout’s pace’) across the park.

But events were running late, and I was pleased and surprised to find that the funeral procession to Stoke Newington Town Hall that should have left just over 15 minutes earlier was only just forming up. And I had another 5 minutes to recover my breath before it finally moved off.

The bee in question was apparently the Red Girdled Mining Bee, previously found in Abney Park Cemetery was now extinct there due to loss of habitat with increasing development in Hackney. It was a local example of species extinction that is occurring on a huge scale world-wide as a result of human activities destroying ecosystems and increasingly from the changes in weather and climate from global heating due to rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Although I could see the idea of concentrating on a small local example, I did rather wonder how clearly and powerfully it would communicate with the many citizens of Stoke Newington going about their daily business who saw the procession, though other aspects were clearer from many of the placards and banners. But Extinction Rebellion does sometimes seem to be a very much a highly successful movement of the educated middle class making relatively little connection with the bulk of the population.

After the funeral orations at the Town Hall, the procession and the coffin moved on down Stoke Newington Church St and up Stoke Newington High St to the wonderful Egyptian-style listed 1840s cemetery gates. It was a shame that the protest did not take greater advantage of the location and pose with their various banners and flags.

Rather it slid uneasily into the kind of new-age reflection and meditation that while it may appeal to some gets very much up my nose. As I commented on My London Diary, “Had I been protesting rather than photographing the event I would have left for a pint. ” I hung on hoping that something more interesting might happen, but it didn’t. While this aspect of XR may go down well with some I think it probably causes many to avoid it. But perhaps it’s just me.

More at Requiem for a Bee.

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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