pride is certainly not what it used to be. it's lost the edge which came from protest and is now simply a parade, recognised by ken and the police.
good time people out for a good time rather than a crusade for a cause, although there were still a few banners on display against remaining areas of discrimination.
this years event also seemed rather small, considerably less than the press
estimates before the event, although quite a few more came to the rally
in trafalgar square. i don't know how long they stayed, as the speeches
were platitudinous beyond belief. ken welcomed us to his square in one of
the better attempts, and generally recieved an enthusiastic response, although
there were quite a few voices of dissent and more who were taking very little
saturday i started at the chalton st festival of cultures, one of the biggest events in camden. perhaps disappointing this year in that there seemed to be less performances, not to mention the twenty minutes or so of hail and cloudburst it kicked off with. it could be a great event in a little known area.
i left early to go and see some of the runners in the sport relief mile, a charity event hatched by the bbc, raising vast amounts of money in the most pointless way thinkable. the mile chosen because 50 years ago roger bannister did it in 4 minutes, although he could certainly have covered the london 'mile' in under 3. a few had lost the plot and dressed in running gear trying hard to emulate him, but most ran out of puff after a few yards and aimed at 40 minutes instead, and at least they seemed to be having some fun.
then on to canary wharf, where the rain had dampened the dancing city event. i took a walk around the wharf, then went into the winter gardens where mirando al cielo were performing on a transparent glass stage. i didn't join the audience in the deckchairs below, but watched from the sides. i'm not a ballet fan, but was strangely and forcefully moved by their performance. i took few pictures, not wanting to break the mood with the noise of the nikon shutter.
sunday i walked into trafalgar square to find it full of young indian girls carrying ornamental jars and dancing with them, rehearsing for the afternoon
i went up to denmark st for a set by 50hz electrifying the first tin pan
alley festival, organised with shelter. great indie rock and supporting
charity without running.
then on to a garden party in st pauls covent garden, which was sprinkled
with celebrities, actors (female) and others i've not heard of and didn't
back in trafalgar square the girls had donned traditional garb and were
now recognisably the saraswati dance academy in a colourful south asian
show. after this we were treated to some water puppetry from the vietnamese
national puppetry theatre (not very photogenic and hard to photograph) so
i went back to catch billy thompson playing grapelli to tim robinson's django
with rhythm support from dukato. finally back in the square i watched the
superb irie! carribean dance fusion from deptford / new cross, london. then
home for a slightly dark and chilly alfresco dinner with family.
tuesday i took the train to grays, essex, unfolded the brompton on the
station platform and made for the thames. fortunately this time there were
none of the bare bums that had slightly inhibited my pictures there in may
2003. after taking a few pictures i set of towards the east.
i went and walked around the jetty, wondering if the ferry would arrive.
it didn't, so i set off on the brompton along the shore, past the world's
end was tilbury fort, then the powerstation and a couple of miles on, through
waste thick with flowering thistles, tortoiseshells, red admirals and cabbage
whites to coalhouse point and fort.
i headed on along the shoreline for the sewage works and mucking flats, but after a mile or so the air became thick with tiny black beetles. they covered my arms and my face, getting in my eyes, almost making me crash. even looking at the map was a problem as it became covered with slowly moving black spots. eventually i gave up, put on my reading glasses to protect my eyes, turned round and headed back to coalhouse fort. cycling with everything more than about 12 inches distant out of focus is tricky, but fortunately no one else had braved the narrow path along the flood wall.
bata shoes, founded in czechoslovakia brought their plans and architects
to east tilbury in 1933, creating a little replica of their moravian home
in zlin, the only wholly constructivist town in the world. now a conservation
area, although some buildings are badly mutilated and much of the factory
looks pretty vacant and near derelict. apparently bata still retain a small
area, but the rest is available for let. most of the inhabitants of the
village are now commuters. it is a curious space-warp to find these blocks
of thirties eastern europe in the essex fields.
tilbury itself is bleaker. like the smoke has just cleared after the second
war, but marshall aid has not yet arrived to get things moving and life
back to normal. streets named after poets are always a bad sign.
saturday saw a repeat of last year's shoe pyramid in trafalgar square, handicap international campaigning against the use of cluster bombs, weapons that largely maim innocent women and children, which governments, including our own, are continuing to insist to use. so our taxes are now still killing and disabling innocent kids in iraq from the invasion last year.
in acton it was carnival day, but i didn't have time to watch. i did manage
to go and see the screen which mohamed (mamily) sheibani has designed to
screen off the waste area at the rear of the oaks shopping centre in churchfield
rd. This was a project carried out by acton action with the help of acton
arts and media, the london arts cafe, the churchfield road community association
and the shopping centre. not a big thing, but the kind of small local project
that makes an impact - we just need a few thousand more like it in london.
the spanish civil war started in 1936, and while governments - including
ours - made the wrong decisions based on incorrect intelligence, as over
iraq the rights and wrongs of the matter were clear to most of those who
took an interest, especially on the left. 2,600 british men had the courage
to go and join the international brigade in the fight against fascism, and
today we were again paying tribute to them. there are still a few living,
and those who turned up were remarkably fit and alert considering their
age. veteran jack jones chaired the event, and ana perez from the madrid
amigos spoke movingly. veteran moe fishman from manhattan, still a peace
activist, brought greetings from the peace movement in america and praise
for the strength of the british people in demonstrating against the invasion
of iraq - a movement now carried from the streets to the ballot box.
the kilburn high road is one of the more interesting high streets of london.
too poor to have been swamped by the chains, it retains its own character
and wide range of shops of various types. perhaps more a place to look and
stroll (as i did) rather than photograph. they were having a festival in
grange park, which included some of the artists who are to create a mural
by the tube station demonstrating their skills and giving the local people
a chance to influence the mural design.
sunday i get up early (for a sunday) and take the train to london bridge,
walk across it and through the city to brick lane. the spitalfields festival.
the stalls there are mainly community groups and individuals, including
the womens environmental network who are plugging their green enviromenstrual
plug which could save millions of blocked drains and trees. the samba band
that publicises the event seems a little quiet but adds some colour.
part of the area is under threat from crossrail, who want to tip spoil when tunnelling, knocking down a few incovenient buildings to do so. areas around the city have always historically been abused, surely its time to stop?
i get off the bus at clerkenwell green and eat some lunch before continuing across the fleet (and the metropolitan line) to st peter's italian church. the annual sagra is already in full swing in warner street, but the church is full too. i watch them bring out statues and prepare them for the procession in honour of our lady of mount carmel. its an event which has a typically italian organisation which i love to watch. the english just can't manage religious processions.
it really is a religious event - intended as "a solemn and public
act of faith" and impressive as such; it draws impressive crowds too.
as the first float, "Peace be with you", passes the church, two
doves are released, from baskets on each side. this year the dove nearest
to me was in no hurry to fly and had to be encouraged to leave. the priests
and congregation join the end of the procession for a walk around the parish.
the statues - our lady of mount carmel in particular are heavy, and they
needed some strong young men, but there seemed few around. i declined an
invitation to take a turn in carrying them along to roseberry ave and back
down the farringdon road.
i wrote at some length about swan upping, one of the few really ancient
english traditions, in july 2001. some
things have changed since then - i was the almost the only photographer
who bothered to turn up three years ago, while today there was a press launch
with a group of snappers and a film crew. i'd decided on balance (partly
my lack of it) i'd prefer to stick to a bicycle, and i think i made the
right decision, although i would have got some different pictures from the
however i'm still not too happy on small boats. after over 40 years i still have a powerfully recurring memory of looking up in panic from the bed of the thames, hazy green light and the canoe i had parted company with above, thinking i wasn't really ready to die, making a frantic effort to reach the surface.
it was a fine day, warm but not too hot, an english summers day. the only problem was a lack of cygnets. i'll look with interest at the overall figures for the week, but the stretch from shepperton to old windsor had few to offer. a brood opposite pharoahs island made a good start, and there was another on chertsey meads, but then nothing until the water board intake just before penton hook. the next was at the memorial gardens in staines, just before the lunchtime stop at the swan (where else.)
upping is a dream for photographers. colour, spectacle, character and easy
access. but it's also a nightmare. in 2001 i shot mainly panoramics on the
hassleblad xpan, the format suiting the event well. colour is great, but
the gamut strained film beyond its limits, and the same was true for the
digital camera i was using today, with bright scarlets beyond adobe rgb.
its also very tricky to get in the right place at the right time, and key
events always pick the moment when you come to the end of a film or need
to change memory cards.
in the last week of july i went up to the scottish borders, staying a week in hawick. some of the pictures from there, melrose, berwick, holy island and selkirk can be seen on line elsewhere.
some of my work gets put into nice organised websites.
this isn't meant to be like that, but you can see some of the rest at
and you can read what I think about photography at