Class War in Whitehall

Whitehall, London. Sat 20 Jun 2015
A woman talks to Adam Clifford of Class War holding a baby and a banner outside the gates of Downing St
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Class War protested in Whitehall with banners, a smoke flare and dancing to a sound system before moving to the gates of Downing St. Three banners were displayed, a flare or two was thrown over the gates and and there was more dancing.
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Class War at the Savoy

Strand, London. Sat 20 Jun 2015

Class War insist on the right to protest outside the Savoy
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After a rest in the pub, most of the Class War group decided to walk down to Westminster to carry out some further protests their. As they crossed over to the Strand, they decided to hurry to get ahead of their police escort and protest outside the Savoy Hotel.

When they arrived they found that police were already standing there, probably because the 'End Austerity' march had passed there not long ago. But they unrolled their banners again and briefly blocked the entrance with 'New Homes for the Rich' and 'Lucy Parsons' banners. After minor scuffles and arguments with police they marched on.
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Class War at End Austerity Now

Queen Victoria St, London. Sat 20 Jun 2015

Class War held their banner on a footway overlooking the march
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Class War stood on the wall of a high path next the to the route of the End Austerity March displaying their banners and were cheered by many passing. One banner was based on an old poster which Lisa McKenzie was recently arrested for displaying.

Class War called for an end of A to B marches to rallies and called for direct action, and diverted several hundred from the march towards the Elephant to support the squatted pub which Foxtons want to open as an estate agents. Unfortunately I only heard about this group too late to follow them.

As well as the 'political leaders' banner, an earlier version of which police seized a couple of months ago at 'Poor Doors', they had also brought the also contentious 'We have found new homes for the rich', with its rows of grave crosses extending into the distance, which Police are still pressing charges against Lisa McKenzie for displaying as a poster and banner. They also had the Lucy Parsons banner, but police have so far failed to react to her injunction "We must devastate the avenues where the wealthy live." Lisa was there with the others, along with Adam Clifford who stood for Class War in the Westminster contituency, today wearing a top with fake exposed breasts and holding a fairly lifelike looking baby.

The Class War display provoked some different mainly positive reactions from the passing crowds of marchers, with many raising fists and shouting in solidarity, clapping and otherwise showing approval, with just a few shaking their heads or trying hard to ignore it. This was made more difficult on occasions as several flares were set off, sending blue smoke over the march.

The People's Assembly End Austerity march in London was massive, with people marching against cuts in welfare, education and public services, privatisation of the NHS, hospital closures and many other issues, and I watched and photographed much of it as it took well over an hour to pass the Class War protest, walking quite slowly but filling the street fairly densely from one side to the other.

At one point around 30 police gathered behind Class War watching them and it looked as if they were about to take action, but then there was a discussion between several senior officers on the scene, after which most of the police rapidly walked away.

As the end of the march passed them, Class War joined in but only for a couple of hundred yards before turning of the route and going in search of a pub, followed as they made their way towards St Pauls by a number of police who waited outside the Olde London for the next hour or so as Class War relaxed and then planned further action.
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End Austerity Now at Bank

Bank, London. Sat 20 Jun 2015

People wait at bank for the start of the march to Parliament
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Thousands gathered in the middle of the day at Bank in the City of London for the start of a massive march to Parliament Square to protest against austerity - nasty, destructive cuts to the NHS, the welfare state, education and public services.
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'3 Cosas' at Royal College of Music

Kensington, London. Fri 19 Jun 2015

Protesters made very loud and rather discordant music outside to put pressure on the RCM

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The IWGB union today protested noisly at the Royal College of Music after it failed to meet their demands to improve their conditions of service for outsourced workers. Their '3 Cosas' campaign is for reasonable sick pay, holidays and pensions.

Last autumn the union's actions gained the London living wage for the outsourced workers, but they only get statutory sick pay if they are off work, which means if they are ill they have to come into work to be able to pay the rent. They want a similar sick pay scheme to the directly employed workers at the college, which is considerably more generous.

They also want a similar contractual leave entitlement rather than the statutory minimum. Currently all full-time workers are entitled to 28 days paid holidays, which for them include the bank holidays. They are also restricted as to when they may take the remaining days, making it difficult for those who have families in distant countries to visit them.

The IWGB is also pressing for the outsourced workers to have a reasonable pension scheme comparable to workers employed by the college.

The noisy protest outside the main door of the college lasted around an hour, with protesters using megaphones, blowing plastic horns and whistles and banging drums as well as shouting. In between the periods of loud noise, there were short speeches making clear to those outside and inside the building exactly why the union was holding the protest.

Durning the protest a steady stream of students and staff entered and left the building, some carrying large musical intstruments. The protesters offered them leaflets and made sure the entrance was not blocked. At the end they made the usual promise to return for another protest unless the college met their claims.
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Climate Coalition Rally

Millbank, London. Wed 17 Jun 2015
Painted faces in the crowd at the rally on Millbank
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At a large open air rally after the mass Climate lobby religous leaders and others from a few of the over 100 organisations involved called on the government to end dirty energy and invest in a green future as our only hope of survival.

Although many of those who had attended the mass lobby began their journeys home, enough stayed for the rally which filled a stretch of Millbank, with others standing or sitting on the grasss in the adjoining Victoria Gardens. You could hear the speeches well there, though most would have not had much of a view of the giant screen on which the speakers and some short films were shown.

Although there were some good contributions, I found the rally a little of a disappointment. I rather like Arthur Smith, who chaired the event, but it wasn't one of his better performances, but there were some rather vacuous 'celebrity' appearances I could have done without.

Among the more interesting speakers were three representing Christianity, Judaism and Islam, Rt Revd Jonathan Clark, Bishop of Croydon, Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg and one of the founders of Muslim Climate Action. Actress Doon Mackichan read an appropriate poem, Nancy Lindisfarne from Grandparents for Climate Action and Liz Crew, a farmer from Moorland in the Somerset Levels, hit by flooding in 2014 also made interesting contributions, and Asad Rehman of Friends of the Earth made a powerful closing speech, perhaps the only time there was a real attempt to tackle the political issues that are central to any effective action on climate.
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Climate Coalition Mass Lobby on Climate Change

Westminster & Lambeth, London. Wed 17 Jun 2015

Labour's Rupa Huq, MP for Ealing Central and Acton in the centre of a large group from her constituency
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Thousands came from across the UK to lobby MPs on the urgency of fighting climate change and to speak up for things they love under threat from global warming, hoping to persuade the government to take a global lead at the Paris talks in December.

People attending the protest were organised into constituency groups which met up at points in Victoria Gardens, across Lambeth Bridge and on along the Albert Embankment, though some arranged to meet MPs inside the Houses of Parliament or elsewhere. A bicycle rickshaw taxi service was arranged to take MPs from Old Palace Yard to their constituents, though many preferred to walk.

I was told that over 250 MPs came to meet voters and discuss the issues with them, but as the lobby was spread out over several hours and a wide area I was only able to photograph a small sample. My own MP was too busy that afternoon, but did hold a meeting with a small group at the constituency office several weeks later.

Most of the MPs that I heard talking seemed to be aware of the need to take action over climate change, though I heard rather too many making excuses for not being able to take the kind of urgent action that is now imperative. A few too seemed to have a patronising attitude that would certainly have lost them my vote (as too does my own MP - but I didn't vote for him.)

The only real argument I saw as I walked around came from a group who having dealt with the climate issues got on to housing, with the MP defending the indefensible actions of the Labour local authority in emptying out their council estates and handing them over to be developed for private sale.
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Support Saudi blogger Raif Badawi

Downing St, London. Wed 17 Jun 2015

Women hold posters of Raif Badawi and his lawyer his lawyer Waleed Abulkhair, also in jail
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A coalition of human rights organisations, including Index on Censorship, English Pen and the Peter Tatchell Foundation rallied to urge Saudi Arabia to free jailed blogger Raif Badawi, handing in a letter to David Cameron. The protest was part of an international day of action in support of Badawi and his lawyer Waleed Abulkhair, also in jail.

Free speech activist and liberal blogger Raif Badawi was first arrested on 17 June 2012 and is still in prison, In May 2014 he was convicted for insulting Islam and founding a liberal website and fined 1 million riyals (£175,000) and a ten-year prison sentence. The Jeddah court also sentenced Badawi to 1,000 lashes, which he is thought unlikely to survive.

Badawi was flogged 50 times on 9 January 2015, after morning prayers and was scheduled to be given another 50 lashes every Friday until the total was reached. Further floggings have been postponed as he was found not to have recovered sufficiently. No explanation has been given for the postponement of further floggings.

Despite huge international outcry against the sentence and barbaric punishment, the Saudi Supreme Court has upheld the sentence. But so far the flogging has not recommenced.
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New MPs Stand with Shaker

Parliament Square, London. Wed 17 Jun 2015

The giant inflatable Shaker Aamer for the 'Stand with Shaker' campaign lies down in Parliament Square

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Two of the new intake of MPs, Twickenham Conservative Tania Mathias and Labour MP for Norwich South Clive Lewis, came to 'Stand with Shaker' at today's vigil to show their support for the release of the Londoner still held in Guantanamo after more than 13 years.

The Free Shaker Aamer campaign as usual lined the roadway for their weekly lunchtime vigil to remind Parliament that Shaker is still held there, despite being cleared for release in 2007. He is understood still to be kept in Guantanamo because he could give evidence that would embarass both US and UK security services about torture at Bagram and inside Guantanamo.
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Magna Carta justice for Shaker Aamer

Downing St, London. Mon 15 Jun 2015

Joy Hurcombe and Kate Hudson at the rally
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On the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, campaigners called for the release of Shaker Aamer, 'denied right and justice', cleared for release in 2007, now in his 14th year of unlawful imprisonment in Guantanamo, in solitary confinement, tortured and abused, never charged or tried.

Among the speakers at the vigil were Joy Hurcombe of the Free Shaker Aamer campaign, Kate Hudson of CND, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Yvonne Ridley and John McDonnell MP.
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Close Yarls Wood, End Detention!

Parliament Square, London. Mon 15 Jun 2015


A police officer comes to tell the protesters they are not allowed to use a megaphone
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The All African Women's Group led a rally in the International week against detention centres, calling for the closure of all immigration detention centres and then marched to Downing St with a report on rape and sexual abuse in Yarl's Wood. It was part of international protests to close detention centres taking place in eleven cities in the UK, USA, Belgium, Greece and Spain.

The protest attracted a large crowd of protesters and it was difficult to fit them all on the paved area of Parliament Square where protests are permitted. One of the first speakers was whistleblower Noel Finn, a former mental health nurse at Yarl's Wood who revealed publicly details of the abuse of women there after his complaints through the proper channels at the detention prison were not acted on.

A number of the members of the All African Women's Group who spoke had at one time been held in Yarls Wood and were able to speak from their experiences there, as did some other former residents. Several MPs came to give their support, including Diane Abbott, who was the subject of some heckling over the Labour government's policies on immigration and detention of immigrants, to which she replied robustly; Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell who have consistently supported the protests against detention got a much warmer welcome. Newly elected Labour and Co-operative MP for Edmonton Kate Osamor also came and spoke briefly.

Other speakers included Antonia Bright from Movement for Justice which has organised a whole series of protests outside the immigration prisons at Harmondsworth, Yarl's Wood and elsewhere, Peter Tatchell and Selma James.

After the rally had been going for almost three-quarters of an hour, a police officer came to inform the organisers that it was against the law to use a megaphone in Parliament Square without authorisation from the Greater London Authority or Westminster Council. The protesters told him the rally would not continue much longer and that several of the remaining speakers were members of parliament, and he left and the rally continued.

Around twenty minutes later the rally finished, and the protesters tried to line up for a group photograph, though this was difficult on the narrow pavement, before marching to Downing St to deliver a dossier on rape and sexual abuse in Yarl's Wood to David Cameron.

Apparently you need to give a week's notice to hand in a letter, and there was some discussion with the police on the gates. Eventually the officer there agreed to take the dossier and ensure that it was delivered to No 10, and after a short speech and more loud chanting the protest dispersed.
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Cleaners International Justice Day

Whitehall, London. Mon 15 Jun 2015

Protesters pull on yellow rubber gloves for the protest
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PCS members in yellow gloves called for a living wage for all workers in HMRC buildings at a protest at HM Revenue and Customs in Whitehall, one of protests in over 50 countries on the 25th International Justice Day for Cleaners and Security Guards.
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Voice for Justice UK Magna Carta Protest

Old Palace Yard, London. Mon 15 June 2015
Alan Craig, former leader of the Christian Peoples Alliance and UKIP candidate in Brent North
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Voice for Justice's Magna Carta Day rally at Parliament called for a genuine freedom, equality and diversity in opposition to increasing human rights legislation which right-wing Christians feel maginalise and prevent them expressing their faith.

Voice for Justice ask how real are the liberties that Magna Carta sets out today:

"Freedom of speech … only where it supports the new dogma
  Freedom of conscience … only so long as it doesn’t infringe countervailing   values
  Freedom of belief … only in private and behind closed doors"

They claim that the "truth is that Christians are being increasingly marginalized and gagged! Faith is being redefined." And they ask "Where will it all end?"

I arrived as Linda Stalley, co-leader at the Maranatha Community was speaking on the Judeo-Christian basis of Magna Carta, but after her came two speeches which apalled me, and appeared to have no connection with my idea of freedom, reminding of various short-lived ultra-right political groups such as the Freedom Party, formed in 2000 by ex-BNP members.

One of the speakers was Alan Craig, former leader of the Christian Peoples Alliance and UKIP candidate in Brent North (in the interests of balance I should add he was also involved in the campaign to save Queens Road Market and against the DSEI arms fair in East London.) In 2011 he became notorious byreferring to 'gay-rights storm troopers' and in 2013 became the spokesperson for the group 'Gay Marriage No Thanks'. One of the men in the crowd I photographed was wearing a badge of the anti-gay 'Section 28 Children's Protection Christian Democrats'.

The next speaker was Paul Tully, general secretary of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. It seemed that this was a rally that was protesting the freedom to be a bigot rather than any real idea of religious or other freedom.
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Truth & Justice Magna Carta Day Protest

Royal Courts of Justice, London. Mon 15 Jun 2015


Campaigners spent the day outside the courts
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A Campaign for Truth & Justice protest at the Royal Courts of Justice accused the judiciary of unlawful convictions, false imprisonment, denial of access to court & perverting the course of justice over child abuse, forced adoption and paedophilia.

It's hard to establish any real facts about the Campaign for Truth & Justice, which was set up by Caul Grant at some time after his son Prince Anthony Grant died of dehydration in Kings College Hospital on September 3rd, 1994, allegedy through neglect by the hospital. Grant claims that his attempts to find out the truth behind this tragic death were prevented by the covering up of the hospital, the solicitors handling his case under legal aid, and others.

In his campaign to find the truth Grant has engaged in a number of protest actions which have led to his arrest and to his claims that the judicial system in corrupt and that "I have had every single one of my human rights, guaranteed by the rule of law, violated without remedy and the violations continue without any let up." He further states the he has been "unlawfully convicted and imprisoned for a period totalling 9 ½ years without right of access to court by way of appeal or habeas corpus" and that he is thus "not obliged to nor legally bound by any laws within the United Kingdom."

Others involved in the campaign include a number of people who feel - and probably with justification - that they have been badly treated by the family courts, where gagging orders prevent them from talking about their cases or seeking any redress. The campaign also includes some who were victims of child abuse where there have clearly been abusers protected at the highest levels of government, details of which have in some cases been made public in recent years, though much more is expected to emerge. There seems no doubt that there was (and perhaps still is) something pretty rotten at the heart of our establishment.

Most of those involved are sincere and concerned, but it is a strange mixture. One man, wearing a badge of the UFO religion the Ashtar Command told me that we would all be getting a fortune by a date in July, on the basis that our birth certificates were contracts that leads to a bond. I couldn't quite understand where the million or two pounds was going to come from, but I'm waiting for it.
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Staines celebrates Magna Carta

Staines, Middx. Sat 13 Jun 2015

Diabolus in Musica from the West Midlands at the Lammas
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Staines, where the barons met before forcing King John to seal Magna Carta, celebrated the 800th anniversary with a small flotilla of boats, including a three of those that went to Dunkirk in 1940 to take part in the evacuation, making its way along the Thames and a medieval-themed fair on the Lammas, close to where the barons camped.

The fair, called the Barons Gathering, included displays by 'knights' on horsback with sword fighting and jousting, while medieval musicians entertained. The flotilla came up to the Lammas before turning and going back.

The Lammas park is on the Wraysbury Rd, on the way to the ancient yew at Ankerwyke, a tree thought to be 2,500 years old and a well-known meeting place in the middle ages, which is thought by many to be the most likely place where the Magna Carta was sealed, with the Barons coming from Runnymede to meet the King coming from Wraysbury.

They had gone to Runnymede from their camp at Staines, possibly even on the Lammas fields, but almost certainly not too far away from the neighbouring St Mary's Church where during their time there, Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury and one of the main people behind the charter made two new Welsh bishops, of St. David’s and Bangor.

It somehow didn't seem a very local event, with minimal participation by local groups other than a few boat owners, and the various 'medieval' elements were bought in performers from various groups around the country including the Knights Of Nottingham and musicians from the West Midlands. A few local groups did have stalls at the event.
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Police threaten Runnymede Magna Carta festival

Runnymede Eco-Village, Surrey. Fri 12 Jun 2015

Tea and cakes inside the Long House at the Runnymede Eco-Village
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Police surrounded the Runnymede Eco Village as the Magna Carta weekend Festival For Democracy was to start and prevented some people entering, issuing some with exclusion notices covering a wide area.

The police action appeared to be an entirely politically motivated action against the community and its many friends to prevent their long-planned celebrations of Magna Carta, a charter supposed to represent freedom under the law but here at its very source 800 years ago it was being suppressed in an unfair and arbitrary manner by the forces of the Law.

You can read more about the plans which began when the eco-village was first set up exactly three years earlier, and had sat in a circle next to the Magna Carta Memorial and begun plans for a celebration this weekend, as well as about the various attempts in the past few months when attempts were made to evict them, and of the events on the day on >Re:Photo in Celebrating Magna Carta, and I'll try not to repeat myself too much here.

I arrived before the police and was warmly welcomed by the community at the eco-village, and was able to wander freely around the large site taking photographs. Later, together with two other photographers and a videographer and assistant we Met by Phoenix and Vinny and after tea and cakes were taken on a conducted tour by Vinny, who showed us a few of the more remarkable homes constructed by residents on the site and talked about the peaceful and cooperative enviornment they had, with decisions and order by consensus, before leaving us to wander freely again.

Most of the homes scattered around the trees had open doors, and during the whole visit I only came across one that was locked, although were empty with the residents on the festival field or otherwise getting ready for the event. The few we met as we walked around were all welcoming and happy to talk and be photographed, and it seemed a great place to live so long as you were able to put up with a slightly spartan lifestyle. At my age I feel a need for hot and cold running water and a more pampered existence, but at least in summer a more open existence in the woods has its attractions.

Halfway through my visit I came to one of the gates into the area (it was fenced off by its owners not long ago, possibly in preparation for what was now happening) to be surprised by seeing a group of half a dozen police officers standing on the National Trust land outside. Even more surprised when from a distance I watched through the trees as they turned away a small group of walkers on their way to the festival.

Returning to the site's main building, a fairly cosy structure with traditional wattle and daub walls next to the camp fire area surrounded by comfortable seats and with some cover, I saw more police standing just outside the gate there, and heard there were others stopping people on the road at the top of the hill which was the main entrance to the site.

I left around 4.30pm, when Phoenix was still negotiating with the senior police officer at the gate. The eco-village community were planning a legal event on the site which would have caused no distress to local residents with whom they have good relations - and some were visiting the site for the festival, as police were allowing locals including those living on the site to enter. The police surrounding the area apparently came from several different forces, and their orders appear to have been inconsistent. One journalist was told if she left the site she would not be allowed back in, while another was told he would be, but only if he used the same gate.

Police at the entrance told me they were there to protect the eco-camp residents against a planned 'rave' on the football field next to their camp (certainly a cock and bull story, almost certainly emanating from the authorities) and were not intending to prevent the event at the camp - which was clearly what they were actually doing, turning away a number of people who had arrived for it.

Listening in to the conversation between the officer and Phoenix, it later became clear that the officer was lying to him about the police intentions, and reading the Surrey police web site later that evening it became clear that the police action was a deliberate attempt to prevent the planned festival from going ahead. Together with Surrye County Council they had made an order under Section 63 of the The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 which allows police power to restrict access, remove people and issue exclusion orders. It seemed a clear abuse of a law intended for quite different purposes, and I will be surprised if any of those arrested ever reach court.

This is a section specifically aimed at stopping illegal raves and should only be used to prevent ‘amplified music’ being played during the night, and certainly not for the festivals such as this one - hence the need for the authorities to spread rumours of an illegal rave. As well as being turned away, people were being given exclusion orders banning them from coming within five miles of the village, and several arrests were made for breach of this. But the police action seemed a clear abuse of a law intended for quite different purposes, and I will be surprised if any of those arrested ever reach court.

At the time I wrote:

It would indeed seem a travesty if at a time when we are celebrating 800 years of freedom under the law against the arbitrary power of the state achieved at Runnymede, the authorities should abuse the law by using those arbitrary powers to prevent a people’s celebration of freedom.

I didn't return on the following three days, but from reports it would seem that the police action wasn't entirely succesful; although many failed to get through, others were either allowed in by claiming they lived there or were resourceful enough to get over the fence, either before or after being banned from the area. Although the festival was reduced, a number of the planned workshops and performances took place.

In another attempt to prevent the festival taking place, the court appearance for the eviction from the site was set for the Monday of the festival, when a little further down the hill (and a little further from where the charter was probably signed) the Queen was attending the official event.

But only a small group of the residents attended the court to give evidence, which the court failed to listen to, making an order for eviction, apparently on the basis that the right of private property trumps all other rights. But again the state acted clumsily, and a a few days later Mr Justice Knowles in the High Court ordered a stay of execution accepting that many matters raised by the applicants might not of been dealt with adequately by the lower Court. Interestingly their case includes the assertion of rights granted by Magna Carta and its 1217 companion Charter of the Forest as well as the rather more recent European Convention on Human Rights. If succesful it could well be a landmark case
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Day Of Action For Candy Udwin

National Gallery, London, Thu 11 Jun 2015
Candy Udwin reads from the interim tribunal ruling that says her action was that of a normal trade union rep
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A rally in front of the National Gallery on the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square was a part of a day of action on the 35th day of strike against gallery privatisation to support sacked PCS rep Candy Udwin.

As well as Candy, there were also speeches from a succession of people giving their support, including PCS assistant general secretary Chris Baugh, John McDonnell MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, and a number of trade unionists.

During the rally, Candy Udwin read a little from the judges comments in the interim tribunal ruling that concluded that the actions for which she was sacked were normal for any trade unionist and that the gallery's actions had been unreasonable. The next stage is for her appeal to be heard by the gallery, who are standing by their decision to sack her and seem likely to ensure she gets an unfavourable hearing. The action by workers at the gallery has already won the living wage, and morale seemed to be very high, with them greeting the news of further strikes with enthusiasm.
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Dorney Walk

Dorney, Bucks. Mon 8 Jun 2015

Field at Dorney
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A few pictures from another family walk. Dorney is just to the west of Eton, and the walk took us next past Eton's Olympic boating lake and across the Jubilee River, a kind of Thames by-pass built to stop flooding on the millionaires homes at Maidenhead and send the water fast downriver to flood the plebs at Wraysbury and Staines instead. And as we saw in 2014, it proved very effective.

We went as far as a lock on the Thames, then turned back and made our way to the pub for lunch. It was the best part of the walk and I recommend it
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Ukrainian Vyshyvanka Embroidery march

Whitehall, London. Sun 7 Jun 2015

Ukrainian children wearing traditional Vyshyvanka embroidery, banned in pro-Russian areas of Ukraine
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Ukrainians met at Downing St in traditional embroidered Ukrainian shirts (Vyshyvanka), the wearing of which is now a criminal offence in pro-Russian areas. The event was said to be non-political but was aimed at preserving a united Ukraine, with some carrying or wearing Ukrainian flags or carrying flowers in the blue and yellow of the flag.

The wearing of flowers and traditional embroidery is now outlawed in the pro-Russian areas. A few placards called for peace and showed their opposition to Putin. After a meeting opposite Downing St with some singing of the National Anthem and other songs they marched towards Trafalgar Square. There seemed to be little agreement about where they should go, though some thought they might end up at either the Ukrainian Embassy or the statue of St Vladimir the Great, the King who made his country Christian in AD 988 on Holland Park Avenue.
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Sikh freedom rally for Khalistan

Waterloo Place, London. Sun 7 Jun 2015

Sikhs block Pall Mall at the end of the march
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Speakers at a rally at the end of the Sikh Freedom March called for the recognition of the 1984 Sikh genocide, the release of all Sikh political prisoners held in Indian jails, and for a referendum and the formation of a Sikh State, Khalistan.

The marchers spilled over into Pall Mall, and police tried with little success to move them from the roadway and keep traffic moving.
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Sikhs march for justice and freedom

Hyde Park, London. Sun 7 Jun 2015

Some men marched in orange jumpsuits and handcuffs, representing Sikh political prisoners in Indian jails.

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Thousands marched remembering the destruction at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, calling for truth and justice about the 1984 massacre and the continuing oppression of Sikhs, with many missing, abused or killed. The Sikhs called for their own state, an independent Khalistan.

Before the march there were speeches in Hyde Park, ending as usual with five Khalsa (baptised Sikhs) in saffron robes and carrying swords representing the five blessed ones coming up onto the stage.

As the march set off behind the two standard bearers and the Panj Pyare, barefott and with their swords raised, a group of Sikh bikers with their turbans in place of helmets swung into line behind them. The were followed by a larger group in orange overalls and handcuffs, representing the many Sikh political prisoners held in Indian jails.

Several thousand Sikhs, many with banners or placards, marched behind them as they marched down Park Lane and up Piccadilly on their way to a rally at Waterloo Place.
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Swanscombe

Swanscombe, Kent. Sat 6 Jun 2015
River Thames, Grays and Tilbury from Broadness Salt Marshes
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I first visited and photographed on the Swanscombe peninsula in the 1980s as a part of an extensive project on Lower Thameside over several years. Swanscombe and neighbouring Northfleet, Greenhithe and Stone were the centre of the cement industry, with huge quarries being excavated for chalk and large manufacturing plants.

The area was one of those where modern 'Portland' Cement was developed, with large scale manufacturing being developed here from the 1840s on, thank to suitable chalk hills with up to 100ft of useable material. There were also local supplies of the other main material required, clay, as well as larger amounts a little further down river at Cliffe and across the river from Essex. The Swanscombe plant was the largest in Britain from 1840 until 1930, and until the 1970s the area around withlarge plants at Stone, Greenhithe, Swanscombe and Northfleet was the largest cement producing area in Europe, mainly run by Blue Circle. The Swanscombe plant, opened in 1825, finally closed in 1990; those in Northfleet continued for some years but all had closed by 2014.

Manufacture required heating the raw materials at high temperatures, at first to over 600 °C and later to 1450 °C, and coal was brought from Durham and up the Thames. Later coal was replaced by oil, also brought in on the river and the plants changed to using the large rotary kilns that dominate some of the images I made in the 1980s.

By the time I first visited Swanscombe, the area was largely derelict, the local chalk long mainly worked out, or at least worked to the very edge of the main road and the village to the south. Beyond that, there were still huge open quarries - one of which is now occupied by the Bluewater shopping centre. The cement works at Swanscombe had ceased operation (though at Northfleet they were still very much in business) and the jetties were disused. The area was a post-industrial wasteland which was rapidly becoming reclaimed by nature. And one that I found fascinating.

I returned to walk and photograph around the area occasionally since then, mainly just to see how things had changed and to make new photographs. In the early years of this century, the high speed rail link came through the area, diving into tunnel to go under the Thames, and I came to photograph it here as well as to the north of the river. Currently I'm working on a book of the pictures from the 1980s; a few of those from 2000-2001are in my Thamesgate Panoramas.

When in 2012 I heard there was a plan to turn the area into the Paramount London theme park I was keen to come and photograph it again before that happened, but somehow I hadn't done so until today, when the weather seemed so perfect I couldn't put it off any longer.

I took my Brompton on the train to Swanscombe, cycled back to Lovers Lane and went down this to the Ingress Park development, where the footpath was difficult to follow due to building works, so I made my way through the estate to the riverside path, following that along downriver. After photographing around Bell Wharf where I met some boys exploring and people painting graffiti on some of the walls, I detoured inland almost as far as Manor Way, and then returend to the river and the pier, then taking a track to the giant pylon that carries the National Grid across the river, and going along by the Thames to the moorings on Broadness Salt Marshes.

I stopped briefly to chat with some of the people there then made my way to the end of the path on the opposite side of the creek, but it gave out before I reached the lighthouse. I turned back and cycled down to the path that leads across the peninsula, following that around the edge of Botany Marshes, now a nature reserve. The path turns south to run beside the private Botany Way, emerging on to Lower Road close to the A226 main road to Swanscombe and Dartford, Galley Hill Rd, which I walked up with my bike so I could take pictures of the Kent Kraft Industrial Estate in the quarry below, and, a little further on, the High Speed Rail line and its tunnel mouth.

At the top of the Hill in Swanscombe I turned down Pilgrim's Road, a narrow peninsula between two quarries. Unfortunately the view to the west is now restricte by an earth bank, with a fence and warning notices to keep people off. At Manor Way I turned left along it back to the A226, cycling up it because trees and fences make the views very restricted. There was just time for a few more pictures looking south from Galley Hill Road to the east of Swanscombe Church (now flats) before it was time to go and catch the train.

Most of these images are panoramic in scope, with a very high horizontal and vertical field of view - over 140 degrees horizontal. It isn't possible to produce such a wide angle of view and maintain rectilinear perspective - some straight lines in the image have to curve. The effect gets more pronounced away from the horizon, and normally I crop the top and bottom to reduce the effect and give the panoramas a panoramic format. But here you see the whole image, with a roughly 90 degree vertical angle of view. There are a few exceptions, made with a more normal rectilinear lens.
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Barking Creek

Barking Creek, London. Thu 4 Jun 2015

The tide comes in at the Barking Barrage, a half-tide lock officially opened in 1998.
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I'd hoped that by now the path alongside Barking Creek on the west bank down to the flood barrier would be opened up, but I was disappointed, with the gates from behind the Showcase Cinemas just south of A13 still being firmly locked. It's marked on my OS map as a 'traffic-free cycle route', but it turns out to also be cycle and person free.

As on my previous visit, the path by the river north was open,and I walked along it past Cuckold's Haven and then around to the Barking Barrage, a half tide barrier opened in 1998, going across this and returning alongside the east bank of the Creek to the A13, where I took a bus to Beckton and the DLR.

Barking Creek is the mouth of the River Roding, which used to be navigable by barges to Ilford. Now anything larger than a canoe would find it difficult past the railway bridge around a mile upstream from the barrage.
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The Line - Sculpture Trail

Royal Victoria Dock, London. Thu 4 Jun 2015

One of three sculptures on 'The Line' sculpture trail around the Royal Victoria Dock, Martin Creed’s 'Work 700'
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From the protest against G4S at the Excel Centre I walked over the high level bridge and around Victoria Dock to find the three sculptures there which are part of 'The Line' East London Sculpture Trail. I wasn't impressed, there is much more interesting 'sculpture' you can find around the dock. The piece outside the Crystal is rather less impressive than the building, a vaguely miilitaristic distorted giant anvil, banal in the extreme. Further around is a large girder that might have been left over from some building work, its most interesting feature the rust on it.

The only at all impressive piece here is I think 'Vulcan' (1999), a 30ft-high bronze figure by the late Scottish artist Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, and I don't feel that this is one of his most impressive works.
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G4S AGM Torture Protest

Excel Centre, London. Thu 4 Jun 2015

Inminds protesters get out their Boycott Israel Palestinian flags outside the Excel Centre
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G4S's AGM was held on the UN International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression and the protest raised thechild victims of Israel's G4S secured dungeons and torture dens and its human rights abuses in UK detention centres and elsewhere.

Protesters from the StopG4S coalition including the Islamic Human Rights Commission, Innovative Minds, Avaaz, Boycott Israel Network, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, War on Want, Women of Colour, Global Womens Strike, Hackney Refugee and Migrant, SupportGroup and London Palestine Action protested noisly with flags and banners on the paved area in front of the centre, while a number of shareholder protesters had gone in to ask questions in the meeting, and were removed one by one by security.

After last year's events inside the AGM here, security for this year's meeting was tight, with those attending not being allowed to take in phones so that the forcible removal of protesters could not be filmed, and press were very strictly not welcome inside. Several of those who were ejected this year came and spoke about what had happened when they tried to ask questions, and the general feeling inside the AGM, which appeared to be one of some despondency. Probably the 1,792,311 signatures on the Avaaz petition calling on G4S to stop running Israeli prisons was at least part of the reason for this, as well as the regular protests by Inminds outside the Victoria St head offices of the company.

Excel Security made several attempts to get the protesters to move further from the buildings, and when a request was made to reduced the noise as it was affecting students taking an exam inside the centre, after some discussion they did move further away.
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'Mock the Opera protest at Kensington cuts

Notting Hill to Holland Park, London. Tue 2 Jun 2015

Protesters at Holland Park Opera, hugely subsidised by the council for mainly rich opera-lovers, while vital services in Kensington & Chelsea face huge cuts
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Protesters marched from Ladbroke Grove where social services, homelessness prevention schemes, nurseries and urban stables face cuts and closure to Holland Park Opera, which receives huge subsidies from the local council, which has huge reserves and since 2010 has underspent on vital services by £83.7m.

The marchers met outside the Westway Trust whose plans to regenerate the local area they say ignore the needs of the local community and will shut down local businesses and resources for the benefit of foreign investors. A trust that was meant to protect the community interests now appears to be more interested in the millions it can make selling flats that no one in the community can afford.

Nottng Hill is in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, whidch has been called the "richest borough in the Universe" and has reserves of over £280m reserves, but is currently cutting its social services, with homelessness prevention schemes, the local Maxilla nursery and West London stables are under threat.

The protest, organised by local umbrella group Westway23 was supported by the Radical Housing Network, Grenfell Action Group, Westway Stables, Portobello Cafe Society and Unite Community as well as other groups. There was a banner supporting the Maxilla Nursery and a pony from the community riding centre, the West London Stables which has been under the Westway Flyover for almost 20 years, providing affordable and subsidised riding and equine therapy for inner city residents, including disadvantaged and disabled children. There were also some 'hopusing shields' made by a local artist.

After some drumming and brief speeches and chanting ('When the rhythm changes - so does the dance!') outside the Westway Trust offices, the march set off down Ladbrooke Grove and through the centre of Notting Hill, turning briefly along Notting Hilll Gate before going down Campden Hill Rd and into Holland Park.

The reason for the visit was that the same council which is cutting vital services for the vulnerable is giving £5m to Holland Park Opera, underwriting its losses.The protest was promoted with the message 'Take Action. Stop Kensington & Chleseda Council from Squeesing our Services as they splash out on Sopranos.'

Some of those attending the attending the opera took the leaflet and stopped to discuss the situation with the protesters, while others reacted angrily. A speaker from the protesters made it clear that they were not against opera or the people who listen to it, but against the council and its cutting of services, and the protest with its drumming and shouting ended before the opera was scheduled to start to avoid spoiling the event for those who had paid a part of the cost to hear it. But perhaps it isn't a sensible ordering of priorities to subsidise those who were able to stand on the gallery drinking champagne while cutting essential support to the poorest and most vulnerable in the community.
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Virgin Health hide behind NHS Logo

Tavistock Square, London. Tue 2 Jun 2015

'Branson' takes some cash from 'Cameron' at the protest
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A protest at the London HQ of Virgin Care was part of a National day of action against private healthcare companies who are hiding behind the NHS logo, using the NHS Logo when delivering private care.

The protest was organised by The People's NHS, a community-led campaign to help defend the NHS from private companies. Many MPs, including some cabinet ministers profit from private medical companies that are taking over our NHS is a bit-by-bit privatisation, taking on the straightforward parts that are easy to make profits from, and The People's NHS have a web site where anyone can find out if their MP is profiting from NHS privatisation. They also have a petition that says:

We are outraged that politicians with financial interests in the private healthcare sector, totalling millions of pounds, voted on the Health and Social Care Act that has led to a massive expansion in private sector involvement in the NHS and created a profits bonanza for the same companies these MPs and Lords are linked to.

No party stood on a platform of privatising the NHS. It is a scandal that politicians who can personally benefit financially voted for this wave of privatisation, when the general public have had no chance to cast our vote.

We demand that these parliamentarians give the money they have received from their private healthcare interests to NHS charities, and that the Government halts all sell-offs and conducts an urgent review of the Health and Social Care Act.

The petition asks the MPs to "Give the money you took from private healthcare companies to a local NHS charity." A second petition calls on David Cameron to save the NHS from the effects of TTIP by a minor change in the treaty text.
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Stop Closure of Aboriginal Communities

Australia House, Aldwych, London. Mon 1 Jun 2015

A woman at the protest eats a cake decorated with a rice-paper butterfly in the colours of the Aborigine flag
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Protesters condemned the Western Australia state government for cutting off power and water and closing up to 150 remote Aboriginal communities and the Australian government for failing to honour its obligations to its First Peoples.

The protesters were appalled by the dismissal of Aborigine rights by PM Tony Abbott, who in talking about the forced closures referred to their culture and communities as "a lifestyle choice." Placards carried the hashtag #lifestylechoice, along with #sosblakaustralia and #noconsent.

Among the flags flying outside Australia House was the The Australian Aboriginal Flag, one of the official "Flags of Australia" with special legal and political status. It was originally desigend for the land rights movement in 1971 by Aboriginal artist Harold Thomas who descends from the Luritja people of Central Australia and he retains the intellectual property rights to the flag's design.

The black in the flag represents the Aboriginal people of Australia, and the red is for the red ochre earth and the people's spiritual relation to the land, with the yellow being the sun, giver of life and protector. The protesters commented on the hypocrisy of the Autralian government in flying the flag while denying rights to the people whose flag it is. Some of their placards also used the flag, and its colours featured on the delicious cakes which were handed out at the event.
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my london diary index
 

Jun 2015

Class War in Whitehall
Class War at the Savoy
Class War and End Austerity Now
End Austerity Now at Bank
'3 Cosas' at Royal College of Music
Climate Coalition Rally
Climate Coalition Mass Lobby
Support Saudi blogger Raif Badawi
New MPs Stand with Shaker
Magna Carta justice for Shaker Aamer
Close Yarls Wood, End Detention!
Cleaners International Justice Day
Voice for Justice UK Magna Carta Protest
Truth & Justice Magna Carta Day Protest
Staines celebrates Magna Carta
Police threaten Runnymede Magna Carta festival
Day Of Action For Candy Udwin
Dorney Walk
Ukrainian Vyshyvanka Embroidery march
Sikh freedom rally for Khalistan
Sikhs march for justice and freedom
Swanscombe
Barking Creek
The Line - Sculpture Trail
G4S AGM Torture Protest
'Mock the Opera' protest at Kensington cuts
Virgin Health hide behind NHS Logo
Stop Closure of Aboriginal Communities

january
february
march
april
may
june
july
august
september
october
november
december

Stock photography by Peter+Marshall at Alamy

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All pictures Copyright © Peter Marshall 2015, all rights reserved.
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