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Hull 2017 City of Culture

A 'My London Diary' special supplement



Evening in the City

Hull. Sat 18 Feb 2017
The marina probably looks best at night
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I met up with some of the family again for a late afternoon tea in a bookshop, then as it was beginning to get dark walked on my own a long way round to a chain Italian resuarant where one of my sons had booked a table for all eight of us on the basis it was 'family-friendly'. I suppose it's a public service to take your kids who might scream to a place that's already full of screaming kids.

It wasn't really quite dark enough to appreciate one of Hull's other art works on my way to the restuarant, different coloured lights on the walkways of various blocks of flats. It's a nice idea, brightens up the place a little, but perhaps only crawls onto the bottom rung as art. It does look better when it's really dark and seen from a distance.
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Old Town

Hull. Sat 18 Feb 2017

Hull had a fish trail some years back but I think it just had small brass markers but this is now being replaced
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I had a few things to do and people I hoped to meet, but things didn't really work out, but they kept me moving back and forwards through the Old Town and to the centre of the city.

I met up with family again, went with them to the Maritime Museum and the Streetlife Museum. Followed a little of the Fish Trail with and without them; unfortunately quite a lot of it isn't finished yet. Had a steak bake from Cooplands and a pint in the Lion and Key between times. Photographed part of Hull's largest artwork in Trinity Square...
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A ride on Scale Lane Bridge

Hull. Sat 18 Feb 2017

The bridge swung round and was now heading towards the TIdal Barrier
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I managed to get my coffee at the Ferens in time to head for Scale Lane bridge, which was due to open at 11.00am. A board close to the brdige says that when it was built it was the only swing bridge that people were allowed to ride on whle it was opening, and that had seemed to good a chance to miss.

Unfortunately there are seldom if any ships now large enough to need the bridge to swing - and only a few boats that are small enough to pass underneath without it opening. While 35 years ago the RIver Hull was a busy highway, it now sees hardly any movement.

But once a week on a Saturday, the bridge is operated largely to see that it is still in working order - or perhaps simply as a largely unsung visitor attraction. The time apparently depends on the tide, presumably so that were a ship to want to come through there would be sufficient depth of water, and certainly it was fairly close to high water when I arrived a few minutes before the opening was due.

I was rather sceptical that it would happen, with only a small notice in a window on the bridge announcing the next opening for 'Saturday 11.00'. There was no date and it could have been there for months. But as it due towards the time, another dozen or two people arrived, obviously like me expecting it to happen.

Two men in High-viz with walkie-talkies arrived, one stationing himself at each end of the span. I watched as one closed a pair of grey gates near the end of the approach ramp from close to the Holiday Inn and then walked onto the bridge to close a black pair at the end of the span. Then fairly slowly and very smoothly the bridge began to swing around and in two minutes the end had reached its furthest point, close to the west bank, and immediately began to move back to the starting positions.

It happened quickly and quietly and was perhaps a little disappointing, lacking a sense of spectacle. I'd expected a bell or a trumpet to sound, some whirring and flashing and had hoped (with little expectation) for a ship to appear and make its way up or down river. We all walked quietly away and I felt it was something of an opportunity lost for some suitable artistic performance.

It was probably a mistake to photograph it only as panoramas and I would really have liked a second camera body with a longer lens to take pictures as well. When the brdige was back in place, I walked off and back to meet the family, taking a leisurely stroll through the Old Town and a few more pictures.
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Around the City Centre

Hull. Sat 18 Feb 2017

A monster from 'The War of the Worlds' was striding towards the City Hall
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Saturday was largely a family day for me and I took relatively few pictures. We met at the Ferens Art Gallery, where I enjoyed the special exhibition on Ferens himself rather more than Bacon's Screaming Popes and the other images on display.

Ferens was a remarkable man, apparently giving away 94% of his income as boss of Reckitt's and religiously travelling back from London to Hull to teach his Sunday School class. He had the good sense not just to give the city an art gallery, but also to give the gallery a bequest that enables them even now to buy new art (though some of the more modern work that they have bought recently seems a little trashy.)

But the gallery certainly has a fine collection, better than that of most municipal galleries, and there was a temporary exhibit with a huge number of works by Hull artists for their annual open exhibition, including some very accomplished works as well as others less so. Being Hull, it also has a room full of maritime paintings (a few of which I rather liked) now in the room where I had a show of my work back in 1983, when the top floor of the Ferens was a cafe area.

Installation View: Still Occupied - A view of Hull, 1983 had a total of 146 prints

I'd travelled over from Sheffield with family and a friend (who was also a friend of the Ferens) to see the show on the gallery wall, and although I'd taken a camera with me, ran out of film after I'd taken the first few pictures. As well as this double run of 40 singly framed images, there were some larger frames with groups of two or four small images - a total of I think 68 images. At the extreme right of the image above are the first pair of 38 colour images. These were mainly rather intense close-ups, dark and rather gloomy Cibachromes. I still have most of the original prints from the show, and probably somewhere the slides from which I made the colour prints, though I suspect the prints will have aged better.

The cafe at the Ferens is rather larger now, and on the ground floor, but despite the expensive re-design still seems incredibly inefficient. Back in the old days there was little choice but you didn't have to wait the twenty minutes it now seems to take to get a coffee.
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Hullywood Opening

Hull. Fri 17 Feb 2017
Some had come in costume to the opening of 'Hullywood Heroes'
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Hull International Photography (HIP) in the Princes Dock Shopping Centre was holding the opening of the show 'Hullywood Icons' by lens based artist Quentin Budworth, whose project has inspired many others in Hull to dress up and pose around the area in scenes intended to recreate iconic moments from Hollywood films.

It was certainly evident from the many images in the display outside the gallery that the project had generated a huge response from photographers and subjects in Hull and that they had a great time producing the pictures - and the opening was a great social occasion.
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East Hull & Garden Village

Hull. Fri 17 Feb 2017

The Garden Village Shopping Centre - rather short of shops
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We walked along Witham and then took a bus a mile or two down Holderness Rd, getting off by misunderstanding around three-quarters of a mile before we intended and walking this to get to the small British Oil and Cake Mills 'Garden Village' of 1921, just three streets and a roughly circular open space, the Bowling Circle, a development obviously stimulated by Reckitt's Garden Village a mile or so closer into town.

Another bus took us back to Laburnum Avenue, which we walked up to take a walk around that more expansive development, around 140 acres, two thirds funded by Sir James Reckitt and two-thirds reserved for workers at his nearby factory in Dansom Lane, a short bicycle ride of around half a mile to work. He set up the Garden Village Company as an independent company and bought the Holderness House Estate, north of Holderness House in 1907, and the first houses were occupied the following year, with an extra area being added with houses built by Reckitts in the 1920s. Holderness House was bought by the great Hull benefactor T R Ferens, a Hull MP and a director of Reckitts to prevent development in its grounds and keep the 'rus in urbe' character of the Garden Village.

Again this development has a central open space, The Oval, but also a smaller triangular space, 'The Playground' , with no roads around it. The road layout is much larger and more complex, along with extensive tenfoots, and we found it easy to get lost. Unlike the small BOCM development, it was provided with various facilities, including a club house, a shopping centre, and three almshouses (with a fourth a short distance away on Holderness Rd) and later on the fringe of the estate, a large church.

Visually the estate I think works best in the narrower streets which Pevsner rather sneered at, and the wider open spaces such as the Oval are less convincing. The most interesting building is perhaps the shopping centre, now lacking shops. The estate company, whose profit had been limited to 3%, was ended in 1950, with some houses being bought by tenants and the estate being sold to the Bradford Property Trust; Hull Corporation took over the open spaces. The area was made a 'Conservation Area' in 1970.

Having walked around much of the estate, we made our way back to the Holderness Rd, walking a short distance along that to a bus stop, getting off at Clarence St and walking back to the house we were staying at in The Haven.
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Albert Dock

Hull. Fri 17 Feb 2017

The public footpath along by the Humber is a part of the Trans-Pennine Trail

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The Albert Dock, built in 1869, became Hull's Fish dock in 1975 when St Andrews Dock as closed, but within a few years the fishing industry had left Hull.

The orange vessels now present in the dock are now involved in servicing oil rigs and wind turbine installations, and the dock is also an important training centre for oil rig crew.

The public right of way beside the Humber was kept when the dock was opened and later when dockside sheds were built, and is now a part of the Trans-Pennine Way. There are two routes across the dock entrance, either across the inner dock gate or over a swing bridge at the outer gate. This used to be a large steel bridge which could take large lorries, but is now just a footbridge.

The footpath then goes up steps to the top of one of the lang sheds and continues along its top and across to the next range of sheds, before coming down to ground level. It gives extensive views across Hull, the Albert Dock and the Humber.
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Old Town & City Centre

Hull. Fri 17 Feb 2017

I couldn't not take a picture or two of the 'Blade' in Queen Victoria Square
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From Scale Lane Bridge I walked towards Queen Victoria Square, making a few small detours on my way. I stopped there to make a few pictures of the square with the giant wind turbine blade in it, then headed towards Albert Dock.

Later I came back to have lunch at the Lion and Key in High St and took a few more pictures before visiting the Street Life Museum.
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River Hull

Hull. Fri 17 Feb 2017

This was Hull's original harbour on the River Hull - and was still full of barges and boats 30 years ago
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I took a detour along the bank of the Hull on my way into the city centre in the morning and made a number of panoramic images. After lunch I walked up from the Museums area along High St and Dock Office Row to North Bridge and photographed the former dock entrance and dry docks there, and later, as darkness fell, we went back across the river on the way to Princes Quay and the HIP gallery.
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Night in the Old Town

Hull. Thu 16 Feb 2017
North Bridge. Perhaps a more interesting artwork than that Blade?
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After a rather decent meal and a beer or two at the Minerva we took a wander around the Old Town. As usual we waited an age to cross the A63 Castle St. If only the planners had had the foresight to raise this a few feet further from the Myton Bridge so there could be paths underneath. There were recently plans for a footbridge, but that would still be a barrier - and presumably has been ruled out on cost grounds.

The Market Square (now called Victoria Square as it no longer houses an open market 3 times a week) was covered with squares of orange barriers - perhaps Hull's most prominent art work so far this year, virtually city-wide. It might look good when it is finally finished (and it should be by the time I publish this.) But like Prince Street I think it may be too twee for my taste.

Hepworth's arcade was of course closed, but I still photographed it, and we made our way onward to Queen Victoria Square to see that Blade. It was big. Definitely big. But... well, big. I couldn't help wishing for some graffiti on it.

Getting away past huge areas of those orange barriers wasn't easy, and we had to retrace our steps a few times before we made it to North Bridge, and walked along the path along the east bank of the Hull down to Drypool Bridge, and the gaping empty socket where Clarence Mill should be, only to find that section of the riverside path closed off. We made our way back to the house in Victoria Dock along the streets, with several minutes of waiting at crossings to get across that A63 again.
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Victoria Dock Promenade

Victoria Dock, Hull. Thu 16 Feb 2017

Dramatic light and clouds over the Humber in East Hull
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We had come to Hull, partly to celebrate Linda's birthday, but also for various photography related reasons and were staying in a house built on the former Victoria Dock, which was mainly a dock for timber brought into Hull across the North Sea. All of the dock and the two large timber ponds have now been filled in and much is now housing estates, leaving just the Outer Basin and Half Tide Basin and a slipway with water in them.

A public footpath, latterly in part the Trans-Pennine Trail, used to run along the riverfront from Sammy's Point (where The Deep now is) and past the still working Alexandra and King George V Docks, though when I last walked along it came to a dead end more or less at the city boundary and I had to retrace my steps back past the King George Dock to find an exit to the Hedon Rd. Bad news for walkers, but I'm told the diversion was part of bringing Siemens to Hull, which is generally good news for the city.

The riverside path now stops short, and has been upgraded from a path to a promenade and only around half the previous length, just over a mile. We were lucky to get there in late afternoon when the weather was fairly dramatic. We started by walking down beside the slipway, then went up to the locked gate across the path by Alexandra Dock, then returned, carrying on past the deep and across the footbridge there into the Old Town, where we went to the Minerva to enjoy a drink and an early dinner.

Most of the pictures I took are panoramic, with a horizontal angle of view of around 140 degrees.
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Show Culture some Love

London. Tue 14 Feb 2017
Poet Chip Grim and others with banners placards and posters outside the TUC
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The 'Show Culture Some Love campaign' walking tour of institutions on St Valentine's Day celebrated London's rich cultural heritage, as a part of the 'Heart Unions' week.

The tour by members of unions involved in cultural activities visited a dozen cultural institutions to celebrate them, sometimes with a poem or two by Chip Grim and Tim Wells of 'Poetry on the Picket Line'.

It was was supported by Artists’ Union England, BECTU, Equity, FDA, General Federation of Trade Unions, Musicians’ Union, NUJ, PCS, Prospect, Southern & Eastern Region of the TUC (SERTUC) and the Writers Guild of Great Britain and started at the BBC, going on to the TUC, Equity, the Palace Theatre, Curzon Soho, the National Gallery, English National Opera, Royal Festival Hall, the BFI, National Theatre, ITV, Tate Modern and the Globe Theatre.

I left them at ITV to make my way home.
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Willesden Green Wassail

Willesden Green, London. Sun 12 Feb 2017

Let all of us take off our hats and shout to the old Beer & Burger!
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The 7th Community Wassail in Willesden Green gathered to invoke successful growth and resilience in the neighbourhood, celebrating community initiatives and the shopkeepers who contribute to making the neighbourhood a friendly and happy place.

Based on the traditional wassail in orchards which encouraged apple trees to flourish and bear heavy loads of fruit particularly to make cider, the wassailers toured the area, led by storyteller Rachel Rose Reid and the Cricklewood Community Singers performing a version of the traditional wassail song, with performances by local poets, storytellers and singers at various stops on their way to the crab apple trees behind Willesden Green Library before returning to Tone Coffee Shop for hot drinks and more entertainment.

It was a popular event despite a cold wind, and the performances and wassailing were good, though I could have done with a little of the traditional cider on the way, and was sorry that transport problems meant I had to leave as the rest of the group crowded into (or tried to crowd into) the coffee shop for hot drinks and more entertainment.
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Kensal Rise to Willesden Green

Willesden, London. Sun 12 Feb 2017

Willesden Green, alley off the High Rd
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It was really by accident that I got to take a walk for an hour or more through a part of West London, from Kensal Rise station to Willesden Green station.

The Transport for London web site had told me there were no trains running from Staines to Richmond and that I would have to travel by a Rail Replacement bus to Hounslow to catch a slow train there. But when I arrived and bought my ticket there was a train on the platform about to leave, and I jumped on it.

At Richmond too, there was a train sitting in the station, almost ready to go to take me to Kensal Rise, where I arrived just a little over an hour before TfL had told me was possible. It was a cold day, too cold for standing around on the street, and my first thought was to find a pub or cafe close to where the event I was going to photograph would start. But sitting around on my own could be rather boring, and I decided it would be more interesting and I would keep warm enough if I walked rather than take a bus for the final part of my journey.

Since I hadn't intended to walk, I hadn't brought a map, other than Google Maps on my phone and had done no research. But I knew the most direct route was too short and decided I could wander a little. In the end I wandered rather more than intended, and at one point got just a little confused, turning left when I should have gone right. Things are definitely easier when following a paper map than one on a phone. I walked around 3 miles and still got to my destination with about 20 minutes to spare, and just about kept warm enough.

I took a few more pictures on my way to the bus stop on my way home too, including the one above. And when I got to Richmond found there were no trains, instead a replacement bus to Twickenham for a train for there. Travel is often something of a problem on Sundays.
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ANAL squat in Belgravia

Grosvenor Gardens, London. Sat 11 Feb 2017

Some of the squatters were in the reception area, talking and eating
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Squatting collective the Autonomous Nation of Anarchist Libertarians (ANAL) took over 4 Grosvenor Gardens on Feb 1st after having been evicted from the Belgrave Square house owned by Russian oligarch Andrey Goncharenko which they occupied for a week.

I had hoped to visit them last Saturday along with Class War when there was a programme of workshops and seminars taking place in the seven story building, but unfortunately had to go home to cope with a minor emergency. This week little was happening until later in the day, but I was welcomed by the occupiers who were happy for me to wander around the building and take photographs.

Some of the rooms have been taken over as private spaces by the occupiers, and I respected their privacy, apologising and leaving immediately when I walked in to a couple where people were resting or sleeping. I was able to go from the basement to the topmost floor, but the door leading to the roof was locked, perhaps to stop any possible access from there by bailiffs. Like many other houses and hotels in the area it has a view into the grounds of Buckingham Palace.

The building, which has a blue plaque as the former home of soldier and archaeologist Lieutenant General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt-Rivers, had previously been used for offices, business meetings and conferences, and some traces of the former use remained. Although the occupiers seem to have tried not to cause any real damage, I was told that there had been a few disruptive elements present at the last weekend who had made rather a mess and had been made to leave.

There were slogans, drawings and messages written on the walls (and a blackboard with the message 'No Smack, No Spice') and some areas were untidy, but the interior seemed in fairly good condition as abandoned buildings go, and it was certainly palatial compared to most squats. This is just one of around 1.5 million empty buildings in the UK, many like this deliberately kept empty as investments, their value increasing year on year, enough to house the homeless many times over.

ANAL say that properties like this should be used for short-term accommodation while they remain empty and have opened it as a temporary homeless shelter for rough-sleepers. Although there had been threats of a forced eviction earlier in the week, it appears that there are complications in the ownership of the building that have made this unlikely to happen in the immediate future. They told me they expected to be evicted at the end of the month - and it actually took place around 8am on Feb 27th.

I couldn't stay long but was pleased to have been able to see inside the place and to briefly discuss the issues with some of the occupiers. There clearly does need to be some way to bring empty properties back into use, and councils should have much greater powers than at present to do so. Until that happens, squatting seems to be the only possible solution.
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Invest in Cycling - Stop Killing Cyclists

Westminster, London. Sat 11 Feb 2017

Cyclists die-in in remembrance of the 3 London cyclists and 2 pedestrians killed this week
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Cyclists gathered in Trafalgar Square to march down to the treasury calling for a significant increase in spending on infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians, to reach 10% by 2020.

The protest took place at the end of a week in which 3 cyclists and 2 pedestrians were killed in London and the event remembered cyclists Anita Szucs, Karla Roman, and Ben Wales and the two pedestrians whose names have not yet been released with a die-in and silence.

Currently spending, driven by a powerful motoring and car makers lobby, is almost entirely centred around the needs of car drivers and cutting their journey times through the city. Facilities for cyclists and pedestrians are treated as secondary and are chronically underfunded.

Getting more people to cycle is essential to reducing harmful pollution and increasing the health of the population, as well as cutting down the huge contribution transport makes to climate change.
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Dubs Now - Shame on May

Downing St, London. Sat 11 Feb 2017

Children hold the box containing the emergency petition to keep the rescue of children going
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A crowd of supporters of Citizens UK and Safe Passage joined Lord Alf Dubs at Downing St to take a petition to Theresa May urging her to reverse the decision to stop offering legal sanctuary to unaccompanied refugee children.

When Parliament passed the Dubs amendment the government was given a list of over 800 eligible children (and there were more) but only around 300 have been allowed in and they have announced the scheme is to end.

Speakers from 4 London Labour councils said they had informed the government when the amendment was passed that they could cope with more children but their offers had not been taken up. A speaker from Greenwich COuncil said they had offered places for 23 children and had heard nothing until the morning of this protest when one place had been taken up.

Speakers, including a friend of the late Sir Nicholas Winton who virtually single handedly rescued 669 children during the Kindertransport, expressed shock at the shameful and heartless decision announced by the government and called for them to respect the decision made by Parliament in passing the Dubs amendment. Alf Dubs also spoke and later carried the box containing the petition across Whitehall and took it to DOwning St with a small delegation.
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King's College Divest Oil & Gas Now!

Kings College, Strand, London. Thu 9 Feb 2017

Protesters shout 'Divest Now!' as they walk in front of King's College holding flares
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King's College Climate Emergency Group protest on the Strand calling for Kings to be the first of London's Universities to end all investments in fossil fuels and instead invest in renewable energy as a part of a London-wide divestment campaign.

The campaigners stuck balloons, roses and posters along the front of the college and made dots on the columns in wipeable paint in a protest calling for people to 'join up the dots' and realise we need to act urgently to save the world. They were careful to use materials that were readily removed at the end of the protest so that they caused no damage, but apparently were told by the college to stop wiping off the blobs of paint which came off easily with a damp rag.

Kings College reacted against previous protests by suspending PhD student Roger Hallam for writing “Divest From Oil and Gas Now. Out of Time!” on the frontage in a wipe-clean spray, and threatening others. There were two arrests at a previous protest.

Police took details today of several of those who painted the dots and a college security officer, watched by police, stole the protesters paints but unlike at the previous protest there were no arrests. The college possibly stopped the campaigners removing paint at the end of the protest so that they could claim that this was damage that required special cleaning.
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Court support for Heathrow protesters

Uxbridge Magistrates Court, Uxbridge, Middx. Tue 7 Feb 2017

Sophia goes into the court wearing a #NoNewRunways t-shirt with the message 'Guilty of Protecting the Planet'
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Around 20 supporters held a picnic outside Uxbridge Magistrates' Court where two protesters, Sophia Lysaczanko and Siân Charnley, who pleaded not guilty to the charge of wilful obstruction after taking part in a road block in protest against Heathrow expansion were to be tried.

The protesters say they felt morally driven to take action and do not feel guilty in the face of the bigger crime that they want to prevent: airport expansion is a red line for climate change, increases already illegally high levels of air pollution and destroys local communities. Sophia made her views clear by wearing a t-shirt with the message '#NoNewRunways - 'Guilty of Protecting the Planet' for her trial.

Police came and talked with the protesters and made clear that they were happy with a peaceful protest outside the court, and arranged for a court official to come out and give some advice about going into the court to watch the trial, suggesting that as some people intended to stay outside it would be simpler to leave bags outside - and that posters, flags and banners were not allowed.

The previous day, magistrates had heard the case against Isabelle, who had changed her plea to guilty; she was given an extra 6 months conditional discharge to those who pleaded guilty at the initial trail in December, making a total of 18 months conditional discharge and the same £105 costs, apparently the minimum that courts charge.

I left as people were going in for the trial to cycle home and file the pictures. Later I heard that, as expected, Siân and Sophie were both found guilty. Surprisingly they were given only a 12 month conditional discharge but the costs for each were higher at £320.
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No Muslim Ban, No State Visit

US Embassy, London. Sat 4 Feb 2017

Protesters in front of the embassy shout against Trump's Muslim ban
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Thousands of protesters, many with inventive placards, pack into Grosvenor Square in front of the US embassy and in the gardens to listen to speakers including Brent Labour MP Dawn Butler who resigned as shadow minister for diverse communities to vote against the Brexit Bill and NUT General Secretary Kevin Courtney.

Protesters condemned the actions of President Trump and Theresa May, calling for Trump to end his Muslim ban and for May to withdraw the invitation to a State Visit here.

After the rally they were to march to Downing St and a further rally in Whitehall. Unfortunately I got a phone call from home and had to rush back there to deal with a minor emergency.
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