Posts Tagged ‘Westminster Bridge’

‘Free the Table’ and more

Saturday, December 12th, 2020

Five years ago on Saturday 12th December I had another busy day travelling to events around London. I began at Stratford on the east of London, the opposite side of London to where I live, but now a relatively easy journey since the opening of the Jubilee line there at the end of 1999.

For the previous couple of years I’d been following the progress and protests of Focus E15, formed when Newham Council planned to close down a hostel for young mothers in Stratford and scatter them to private rented accommodation often hundreds of miles away. They stood their ground and got more local rehousing, but, appalled by the activities of the council and its Mayor Robin Wales, continued to take action over the failure of Newham Council to sensibly address the acute housing problem in the borough, which has around 5,000 people living in temporary accommodation and while 400 homes in the Carpenters Estate close to the centre of Stratford have been empty for up to ten years. They accuse the council of ‘social cleansing’, attempting to force those needing housing out of London.

Apart from various actions, including preventing evictions and embarrassing the Mayor by confronting him at public events Focus E15 had held a weekly Saturday street stall on the wide pavement at Stratford Broadway, handing out leaflets and advice to the public on housing issues.

Although their weekly protest was legal, it clearly annoyed the council, and on Saturday 5th December Newham Law Enforcement officer John Oddie arrived, assisted by several police officers and confronted the campaigners and told them they were not allowed to protest there, and that unless they immediately packed up their stall, sound system, banners and other gear it would be seized. The group made clear that they would not move and following some argument, police seized a table and threw it in the back of their van.

It soon became clear that this action by police and the council officer had been illegal, and the council asked the protesters to come and collect the table. They replied asking the council to return it to them at the following week’s protest, and advertised this widely as a ‘Free the Focus E15 Table’ event, making considerable humorous mileage out of the council and police gaffe. The council didn’t turn up with the table, but there a number of other tables there, celebrating ‘Tablegate’ and although the local newspaper seemed to be boycotting the event (could they possibly attract considerable revenue from publishing official council notices) a BBC local news crew came along to film a few interviews.

Free the Focus E15 Table


I couldn’t stay until the end but caught the tube back to central London where the Campaign against Climate Change were protesting against the inadequacy of the COP21 Paris deal, which sets the target temperature rise too high, has no way to enforce the measures needed and will allow the giant corporations to continue to prevent governments from carrying out effective green measures.

After a short rally in Old Palace Yard the protesters unrolled a 300m length of bright red fabric, carrying it above their heads across Westminster Bridge. It was a tricky to photograph but visually effective reminder of the need of governments 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.


As I was photographing on Westminster Bridge, I was surprised to see a group of several hundred Santas on BMX bikes riding across on the opposite carriageway and rushed across to take a few pictures. I later found that this was an annual BMX Charity ride – which I went to photograph in 2019.

Later in the day I went to Trafalgar Square where a completely unconnected Santa-themed event was taking place, with Santas arriving at the end of the annual Santacon, a largely alcohol fuelled festive costume ramble through London.

Pictures from both Santa events are in Santas in London.


In late afternoon, solidarity campaigners and Syrian activists met for a vigil opposite 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.

It was a candlelit vigil, but a gusty wind blew out the flames as soon as they were lit until someone went to buy plastic cups to act as windshields though these rather hid the actual flames.

The response of the British government to the refugee crisis, particularly from Syria, but also from elsewhere around the world is seen by many to be abysmal. Even after considerable pushing from the British people which forced David Cameron to increase numbers, the UK was only promising to take 20,000 in the next five years, while Canada will take more – 25,000 – in a single year.



Christmas Solidarity Vigil for Refugees
Santas in London
Climate Activists Red Line protest
Free the Focus E15 Table


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.


XR October 2019

Thursday, October 8th, 2020

A year ago in October I was having a busy few days covering Extinction Rebellion’s International Rebellion in London. The event had started early on the 7th October when XR supporters occupied eleven locations at government ministries, outside Downing St, on The Mall, and blocking both Westminster and Lambeth bridges, bringing traffic in that area of central London to a halt. Outside the actual areas blocked, traffic was also largely gridlocked over a much wider area.

For the next couple of days the only ways to get around in the area was by tube and on foot. Police were initially overwhelmed by the sheer number of campaigners and the area covered by the protests, and added to the chaos by themselves closing off some routes to traffic and pedestrians.

The protests of course got considerable coverage in the press and broadcasting media, mainly around the disruption the protest was causing with rather less attention to the reasons why XR felt their actions were necessary to try and get our government to take the actions we need to avoid disaster and possible extinction of human life.

Probably few who only followed the media reports would have become aware of XR’s three demands, that the government tell the truth about the climate and ecological emergency, act to halt biodiversity loss, reduced emissions to net zero and create and set up a Citizens Assembly to ensure that proper action is taken. Our democracy is failing because politicians serve the sectional interests of the powerful few rather than the needs of us all.

I didn’t quite manage to get to all eleven of the occupied sites on Monday, though I did visist and photograph most of them. The highlight of the day for me was the wedding in the centre of Westminster Bridge between two campaigners, Tamsin and Melissa. I’d first photographed Tamsin when Climate Rush re-enacted the 1908 Suffragette storming of Parliament on its 100th anniversary and had got to know her better during later protests including those against the third runway at Heathrow, but hadn’t seen her for five years.

A year ago today, October 8th, was the second day of XR’s protests. By now the police were beginning to take back parts of the area, having made many arrests overnight.

I think many of the protesters were shocked as I was at the deliberate violence and destruction of property when occupied areas were trashed by police, and for some it perhaps made them question the XR policy of non-violence. Standing and shouting ‘Shame on You’ as police assaulted protesters and trashed tents and food stalls turned out not to be very effective.

The day turned out to be a long one for me, as after spending my time with XR I made my way to Camden for a protest by Architects for Social Housing (ASH) outside the champagne reception at the Royal Institute of British Architects awards ceremony for the Stirling Prize. Architects, like our politicians, are largely the servants of the rich and the awards reflect this. ASH were particularly angered by the new Neave Brown Award, supposedly honouring the recently deceased champion and architect of council housing at the Dunboyne Road Estate (formerly known as Fleet Road) and Alexandra Road Estate both in Camden, being awarded to a scheme for a commercial company owned by Norwich Council which demolished council housing to build properties which will not be offering secure council tenancies, with nothing to stop the company raising the service charges or converting the few social rent homes in it to so-called ‘affordable’ rents in the future.

The images here are a small and fairly random selection from the many that I took, and you can see more of them and read more about the protests on My London Diary:

Extinction Rebellion continues
XR Rebels marry on Westminster Bridge
Extinction Rebellion occupy Westminster

Stirling Prize for Architecture


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.


XR Wedding

Sunday, March 22nd, 2020

I’m not a wedding photographer. I have been asked to photograph weddings on quite a few occasions, but with a handful of exceptions for family and friends I’ve always refused – it just isn’t something I have any interest in and I’m fortunate to be able to afford to refuse work I don’t want to do. There are others who enjoy it and find it fulfilling – and who need the money.

I think until this event my full tally was five – two sons and three old friends for whom I did it as a wedding present. And at this wedding on Westminster Bridge, although I was taking pictures I wasn’t ‘the wedding photographer’, it was a part of Extinction Rebellion’s protest.

Though I had known one of the couple for some years. I think I first photographed Tamsin back in 2008 when she was leading the attempt by Climate Rush to storm the Houses of Parliament, and got to know her better at a series of protests over the next year or two, mainly against Heathrow expansion.

I hadn’t known when it was announced by XR that there would be a wedding that she was to be one of the couple getting married. The start of the event was somewhat delayed as her partner was held up at a protest outside the Dept of Business etc (BEIS) in Victoria St, and Tamsin had to go and find her, but eventually all the vital parties were present and the ceremony began.

It proceeded much like any other wedding, except there seemed to be considerably more kissing, but all the normal bits were there, including the exchange of rings.

I was some distance away and to one side, and at some parts of the ceremony the participants had their backs to me and it certainly wasn’t possible to move to get a better view. But for some of the time I was in a perfect position as this picture of Tamsin slipping the ring onto Mellissa’s finger I could not have been better placed. This is a relatively small detail from a frame (below) taken with the angle of view roughly equivalent to using 200mm lens, though I was actually working at 31mm (62 mm equivalent) using the 14-150 zoom on the Olympus OMD EM5-II.

It was a dull afternoon, but I was still working at 1/100s f8 at ISO400. I suspect the image stabilisation of the Olympus body helped to keep the picture sharp, at at lowish ISOs the quality of the Micro Four Third’s image is great. I think in low light, at ISO3200 and above, there is a noticeable advantage for full-frame, but when you can use slower speeds it is hard to tell the difference.

More pictures at XR Rebels marry on Westminster Bridge.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

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.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.