my london diary index


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Stand Up to Lambeth protest and vigil

Lambeth Town Hall, London. Sat 9 Dec 2017

Class War's banners point out that Labour councils are the biggest social cleansers in London
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People protest at Lambeth Town Hall in honour of all those affected by Lambeth Council's heartless policies.

The vigil also included a tribute to Cressingham Gardens resident and leading campaigner Ann Plant who died of cancer in December 2016, spending her final months still fighting to prevent the demolition of her home and her community by the council, one of a series of council estate demolitions Lambeth plan in a ruthless programme of realising the asset value of their estates despite it resulting in many local residents being forced out of the area.

As well as implementing this programme of social cleansing, the Labour council dominated by supporters of the right-wing New Labour Progress organisation has also shut down community centres, betrayed local businesses, drastically cut services for the disabled, those with mental health problems, young people and social services generally.

The council claim that they have been forced into cuts by Tory national government policies, but Councillors' expenses and allowances keeps on growing and they have spent over £150m on a new Town Hall project, already several times over the original budget and still growing in cost.
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National Anti-Slavery March

Belgrave Square to Libyan Embassy, London, UK

A Black Muslim stands in front of the African Lives Matter banner outside the Libyan embassy
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Thousands marched from Belgrave Square to a protest in front of the Libyan Embassy against the selling of Black Africans by Arab slave traders in Libya.

The march hosted by African Lives Matter demanded closure of the Libyan detention centres, action by African governments to rescue people detained in the camps and condemnation of the slave trade and murders of migrants by all African leaders and the UN, calling on Libya to make and enforce laws that prevent these crimes against humanity.

Many also demanded reparations for the historic slave trade and the continuing despoliation of African resources by imperialist nations including the UK. The rally outside the embassy began with an African ceremony of libation, with water being poured in memory of many who have taken part in the struggle for freedom and human rights for Africans over the years.
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ICAN Nobel Peace Prize Die-In

Ministry of Defence, London. Sat 9 Dec 2017

People lie down on the steps of the Ministry of Defence for a die-in
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Peace campaigners celebrate the award of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize to ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, for its role in pushing for a United Nations global nuclear ban treaty which has been supported by 122 countries with an awards ceremony and die-in outside the Ministry of Defence.

The prize is to be presented in Oslo tomorrow. The UK refused to take part in the treaty negotiations and is refusing to sign the treaty, but the protesters urged it so sign up and to scrap Trident replacement. The event was organised by ICAN UK and two of ICAN's partner organisations in the UK, CND and Medact, and included speakers from these and another ICAN partner, WILPF, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and a mock Nobel Prize was handed over by to ICAN UK by Bruce Kent, who also presented many small chocolate 'Nobels' to those at the event.
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Israeli 'blood diamond' Australia protest

Australia House, London. Fri 8 Dec 2017

Campaigners next to a banner outside Australia House
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Inminds human rights group protest outside the Australian High Commission on the eve of the Kimberley Process Plenary Meeting in Brisbane, Australia, chaired by Australia.

The vigil was to highlight the failure of the Kimberley Process in preventing the trade in blood diamonds that fund human rights violations around the world, in particular those by Israel in Palestine. Inminds say that the definition of blood diamonds should be widened to include cut and polished diamonds that are funding human rights violations around the world, in line with a 2015 draft proposal at the World Diamond Council which was only blocked by a last-minute intervention by the President of the Israeli Diamond Exchange, who stated "it could be disastrous for Israel".

The Israeli diamond industry contributes about $1 billion annually to the Israeli military and security industries, funding activities such as that of the Givati Brigade, responsible during the 2009 attack on Gaza for the massacre of 29 members of the Samouni family. The UN Human Rights Council have found Israel guilty of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity and Inminds say their diamond trade is a trade in blood diamonds.
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Photographers Walk

City of London. Thu 7 Dec 2017

London's rubbish is taken on board just above Cannon St Bridge
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Five of us old friends got together for a pre-Christmas walk, more a social occasion than one to take photographs, meeting up at St Paul's station. We had planned to go on a longer walk elsewhere, but several people were unable to come and we decided to do that some time after Christmas.

This walk was unusual in that we only went into two pubs, one for a quick drink and the second when those of us who completed the walk (we were down to three by then) had a meal together. We started in the Guildhall Art Gallery, going down into its depths where a few years ago the remains of the Roman Coliseum were discovered and are now rather well displayed, before looking at the City of London's art collection on display. It's a rather mixed bunch with some fine works ancient and modern along with some rather tedious municipal records of great occasions that would have looked fine in the Illustrated London News but don't really cut it as vast canvasses on the gallery wall.

Walking on past the Bank of England we walked into Adams Court and walked around in a circle before driven by thirst to the Crosse Keys, where I failed to resist the temptation of a pint of Smokestack Lightnin', a beer from the Dorking Brewery, named after my favourite Howling Wolf track - I still somewhere have the 45rpm record. It was the first time I've come across the idea of a 'smoked' beer, and while interesting I think it would be best drunk around a bonfire.

The first of our crew defected as we went into the pub, not to be seen again, and we said goodbye to the second as we left, with me boldly leading the way down to the river, where we turned upstream along the Thames path. The light was fading a little, but perhaps becoming more interesting, but when we left the river at Queenhithe it was time to make our way back to St Paul's to catch a bus and get a table for our meal together before the city workers crowded in.

All pictures taken with a Fuji X-E1 and 18mm Fuji lens.
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Grenfell protests outside council meeting

Kensington Town Hall, London. Wed 6 Dec 2017

A woman in the crowd listens to speeches at the Justice4Grenfell protest
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Protesters outside the Kensington & Chelsea council meeting at Kensington Town Hall demand answers and action from the council, almost six months after the disastrous fire at Grenfell Tower.

The protest had been approved at a public meeting at the Maxilla Centre and was publicised and supported by the Justice4Grenfell campaign and the RCG who both came with PA systems. Justice 4 Grenfell tried to persuade the RCG to move away, but they refused, though they did turn off their sound system for the J4G main speeches, including those by MPs Kate Osamor and Emma Dent Coad, but restarted when these appeared to have finished. But the J4G rally resumed after a short pause and for a short time both sound systems were in use. A small group supporting the Justice4Grenfell campaign then came to shout at and threaten the RCG and one had to be held back by friends and onlookers after trying to start a fist fight.

Also protesting were Class War, who had brought a number of posters with the picture of the disgraced Councillor Rock Feilding-Mellen, who as deputy council leader and cabinet member responsible for housing had apparently pressed the TMO for the cost reductions which resulted in the use of flammable cladding and other modifications that made Grenfell a huge fire risk, and allegedly instituted a shoddy and ineffectual sytem of fire inspections to reduce the costs of maintenance throughout the properties. Although still a local councillor, Feilding-Mellen fled the area shortly after the Grenfell fire and is said to have made only occasional fleeting appearances since, and Class War's posters showed his face with the single word 'Where?'.

The protest condemned the failure of the council to properly respond to the needs of the those affected by the fire, and in particular that so few have been rehoused, with some whole families still in a small hotel room. They demand that all survivors and those who had to move out because of the fire are rehoused in appropriate housing in the area and that those responsible in Kensington and Chelsea council, the TMO and the cladding company face criminal charges. They also want a real role for the local community in the official inquiry into the fire which they feel has already disrespected local residents and fear will be a cover up.
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Cressingham Gardens residents say Ballot Us!

Brixton, London. Sat 2 Dec 2017

People listen to speeches outside Lambeth Town Hall after the march from Cressingham Gardens
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Residents from Cressingham Gardens in Tulse Hill marched with supporters to a rally at Lambeth Town Hall taking petition calling on Lambeth Council to hold a ballot of residents over their plans to demolish the estate.

Since Labour's last conference, party policy is that no demolition of council estates should take place without consent, but Lambeth Council seem determined to ignore this and go ahead with their plans for a so-called 'regeneration' which would see all 300 homes demolished, without any plans to provide immediate council housing for the roughly 1000 residents who would be made homeless.

Residents in this and other estates across London and elsewhere want councils, particularly Labour councils, to act on behalf of their residents rather than making deals with property developers which largely serve the interests of shareholders and international investors, many of whom are laundering the proceeds of crimes. Around a hundred people marched from the estate to meet others for a rally outside the old Lambeth Town Hall in the centre of Brixton.

Cressingham Gardens

Brixton, London. Sat 2 Dec 2017

Cars only come to the edge of the estate which has large safe pedestrian areas
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Before the protest by residents against the demolition of their estate I deliberately arrived early so I could walk around the estate and take some photographs.

The estate is described as a council garden estate and was designed by Edward Hollamby, the chief architect for Lambeth Council at a time when councils such as this had a mission to provide quality housing for working class Lambeth residents. Its 306 dwellings, a mixture of four, three and two-bedroom houses, and one-bedroom apartments acheive a feeling of spaciousness but have a high residential density of over 250 persons/hectare, and the estate had a number of innovative features. The development was praised by the council, then Conservative, with John Major (later Sir John and Prime Minister) as deputy chair of the Housing Committee as a 'bold and imaginative scheme' and was acheived at a relatively low cost per dwelling - adjusted for inflation to current prices of around £85,000.

It has remained a popular and well ordered estate to the current day, the design encouraging a strong feeling of community and a low crime rate, although as with many buildings of the era it has been poorly maintained and is in need of some remedial work. Bringing it up to contemporary standards and fixing the problems with guttering and drainage would be a relatively cheap operation at around £9.4 million for the whole site - though Lambeth council says this is unaffordable.

But this estate is in a good location on a prime site overlooking Brockwell Park, and a private development here could provide sales of around £400 million at current market prices for the area. Of course the private developer is obliged to promise some affordable or social housing, but most employ accountancy firms after the work has started to reduce that down to negligible levels - at the Heygate estate iun neighbouring Southwark over a thousand council properties were replaced by around 80. And even affordable housing - at up to 80% of market rent - is way out of reach for most current council tenants.

If redevelopment (misleadingly called regeneration) goes ahead, the current residents will lose out considerably. Those who have exercised the right to buy will get compensation that will not enable them to buy any comparable property in the area and probably be forced to move to the outer fringes of London or even further afield, away from their current jobs, schools etc. Council tenants may qualify for re-housing, but many will be have to move to insecure private tenancies and those rehoused by the council will be offered properties far inferior to those they currently live in. The only other estates built to similar standards as Cressingham are also being listed for demolition.

The estate was put forward for listing in 2013, but despite Historic England praising the way the design responds to its setting, with skill and sensitivity, “both in the scale and massing of the built elements, as well as through the integration of these elements with informal open spaces which bring a park-like character into the estate” it was surprisingly turned down. It is one of a number of decisions which clearly reflect the current political nature of the listing process.
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King's College employ your cleaners

King's College, London. Fri 1 Dec 2017

The pavement outside the college was filled with protesters and they mad a lot of noise
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Students and cleaners protest outside King's College after the college and Servest who employ the cleaners failed to make the formal offer they had promised by November 30th on the demand that the cleaners be directly employed by the college with parity of terms and conditions with other King's staff.

Cleaners who are members of Unison have been promised that they will get the new London Living Wage set in November, but complain that promises on workloads and providing proper equipment made after earlier strikes have not been kept. Students and trade unionists from some other London colleges came to show solidarity.
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