london diary

july 2005


my london diary

one of the insults favoured by the great new york art director alexey brodovitch when criticising work was "so you want to be a wedding photographer!".

well, no, i don't and always turn them down when asked. one i couldn't avoid was that of my own younger son joe to penny.

and we had a nice day, starting at richmond in the registry office, then going on to lunch at penny's mother's house in twickenham and finishing up with a reception in the yacht club on eel pie island.
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limehouse is an area of london, with a varied population and an interesting history. it grew up around the river and seafaring trades, including ship-building, and had many warehouses and similar buildings. as well as the river thames with its national and international connections (the first voluntary passengers to australia are said to have left from dunbar wharf, close to limekiln dock) it gained more traffic through its two canals, the regents canal linking the thames to inland england, including birmingham and the midlands via the grand union canal, and the limehouse cut, taking traffic from the lea navigation to the thames by a safer route avoiding bow creek.

much of the centre of limehouse is occupied by the regents canal dock. in the 1960s a new short length of canal joined the limehouse cut to this, enabling the separate lock from this to the thames to be closed. a year or two later all commercial traffic on the canals ceased, leaving them for pleasure crusing.

a hundred years ago, docklands in general and limehouse in particular was a closed world to those who lived outside the area. lurid and racist stories, particularly those of sax rohmer, painted the area as a den of vice, run by the infamous (and totally fictional) dr fu manchu. the area had become home to a number of chinese and asian sailors and their families, becoming london's first chinatown. even thirty years ago there were still some signs of this, but most of the chinese businesses and people have moved away to other areas, including soho.

thomas burke's tales of limehouse from the same era as rohmer paint a more accurate and sympathetic view of the area and its enclish and chinese population, although his language is fully of its time, with many terms that would now be considered derogatory. but burke had been raised as an orphan in neighboring poplar and his limehouse series reflect a close knowledge of the people and the place. the figure who dominates his stories is not a sinister criminal warlord, but the old chinese sage, quong lee.

more recently, limehouse came under the diggers and cranes of the london docklands development corporation. canary wharf was raised on its eastern edge, and the limehouse link tunnel excavated through its heart. the need to build this route to join docklands with inner london meant that the lddc had to get round a table with the local authority, leading to the first real attempt by them to take social considerations into account in their development plans.
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i had a couple of days away in yorkshire. no doubt some pictures of hornsea and hull will eventually emerge somewhere from this!
coming shortly

back in london, saturday 16 july was a busy day. i started in pimlico, with the 'swfest 05' parade and festival in st georges square. it was a local event, with plenty of local people enjoying themselves.
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getting from there to jubilee gardens for the annual commemoration of the international brigade who fought fascism in spain was made tricky with the obvious bus route being held up by the parade. i got a little exercise jogging there, but it was really too hot.

the weather was indeed rather spanish, hot and breezeless, with a clear blue sky. there was no shade around the memorial to those 2,100 who fought 67 or more years ago for freedom. Many died in spain, and there are now relatively few still living, though some were there, now in their 80s and 90s, and some clearly still going strong.

sam russell spoke movingly of the events in spain and jack jones chaired the meeting. it fell to him to read out the names of the comrades who had died since last year's event. several came in their red berets, and with their badges.

john pilger had been invited to speak about the meaning of the brigaders' heroism today. You can read his account of the event and his speech on truthout.

the commemoration ended with singing "so comrades, come rally
and the last fight let us face
The internationale unites the human race
." unfortunately there still seems to be an ever longer road before that happens.
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fascism is still with us, and showed its face - if largely shamefacedly - in london later that afternoon, when around 50-60 national front supporters gathered to march. it wasn't quite clear what message they wanted to put across, there were few banners and less articulacy in a flood of union jacks.

most of the marchers were men. i talked to quite a few, asking permission to take some of the pictures. no-one refused, some said yes, then turned away or moved behind their flags. at one point i was threatened with violence, but the guy's mates came and pulled him away. one of the women demonstrators had a bunch of flowers. i asked her about them and was told the march would leave these at the book of condolence for the london bombings.

the police let them walk to the corner of victoria street, where they could be seen by the public walking by. many of those passing were clearly hostile to the front, most showing it by their expressions, a few shouting at them.

i took a few more pictures and then left. another photographer there was commisioned to cover the march, but i was free to do something more pleasant on this fine summer's day. i went and sat in the park and ate my sandwiches and had a drink.
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meanwhile, at bernie spain gardens, another of the programme of coin street events celebrating london's diversity was taking place. i arrived just as a procession of turkish singers and musicians was making its way to perform on the south bank walkway there.

later i went to hear one of turkey's leading singers perform on the main stage, and she was followed in the limelight by a belly dancer. i've photographed several belly dancers over the years, and this one had rather less belly than some, but that made the performance none the less compelling. i can't claim to understand the finer points of the genre, but it still has a certain attraction. it isn't just me being mesmerised by the mobility of a female body, although that certainly doesn't detract.
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dragging myself away from turks and turkish london and a rather pleasant turkish beer - on sale here at over 5 times its price in turkey - i walked past the skateboarders and over the bridge towards trafalgar square. supposedly there was to be a march of greek cypriots protesting against the 'foreign' turkish occupation of the north-east third of cyprus, continuing since the 1974 invasion.

the march didn't seem to be happening, but there was a rally in trafalgar square, and i photographed a number of people with photographs of some of the 1476 people - soldiers and civilians - still missing since 1974.

despite these outstanding problems, greek and turkish cypriots live together peacefully in london, particularly along green lanes. the cypriots (especially now cyprus is in the european union) claim to "long for a viable and durable settlement that would enable greek and turkish cypriots to live amicably as they have for centuries in the past".
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sunday 17 july was another busy day in london. the belgians were commerating their soldiers who fought in the second world war with wreath-laying at the cenotaph in whitehall. there were soldiers and veterans in uniform, both from belgium and our own british legion as well as serving troops in the band.
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from whitehall i took a bus to hyde park corner to watch the hare krishna celebrating the festival of the chariots. as always it was colourful and noisy, though perhaps a little less crowded than in previous years. i left as the people clung to the ropes, pulling the chariots out of hyde park and on their way to the celebrations in trafalgar square.
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as the picadilly line was still out of action, and the chariots were holding up buses on park lane, i walked to marble arch where i could pick up the central, changing at bank for old street. a short walk from there brought me to hoxton market, where the hoxton parade was to start.

last year saw the revival of this annual parade after a gap of many years, and it was well-supported by local arts and sporting organisations. however, this year there is a separate parade being organised by the shoreditch trust, funded by money from new labour, and organised by a 'free-lance event management company', and perhaps this has divided the support.

whatever the reason, it was a much smaller event than last year, but those taking part were still clearly having fun.
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the main event for me was however the annual italian parade at st peters church in clerkenwell, the procession in honour of our lady of mount carmel. this is really the only event of this nature in london, attended by italian catholics from most of s e england and further afield, maching behind banners and statues, and including a number of well decorated floats illustrating biblical and other scenes.

at times it is hard for those of us who don't speak italian to know exactly what is going on, as many of those taking part will talk to you in italian, especially if you are not so young. it also attracted almost a full house of my documentary photographer friends from london.

in the streets below the church is a crowded market area with italian food and wines and a little music. this was perhaps a little lacking in atmosphere this year - it needs a little more organised entertainment and dancing.

the procession itself often proceeds with a little italian organisation that can exasperate the police who try to control it, but this year they seemed a little more relaxed than last. i'd been worried that the bombings earlier in the month might lead to more restrictions, but so far this does not seem to have been the case.

when i arrived i went and sat in the chuch for a few minutes, partly because i needed a rest and it was cool in there, but also because this is at heart a religious festival, "a solemn and public act of faith". so i went in and said my prayers, before coming out and having fun with the rest of those taking part.

the climax of the event is the release of doves, i think symbolising the holy spirit going into the world. this year there were two of the white birds. as the baskets containing them were carried out onto the street i nudged my fellow photographers and hurried after them. when the lids were removed, one of the birds flew up into the sky as expected, but the other didn't want to go at all. first he flew down onto the street and simply sat there, in danger of being trampled by the procession, then, when thrown into the air, landed among the watching crowd.
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it was time for a rest, and we went for a beer in a nearby cool cellar. then it was on to a small party to celebrate my friend's daughter's last day in her job at the pizza place.

monday i was on my bike at ten in the morning, looking out for cygnets as i cycled to meet up with the swan uppers at shepperton lock. they had already found there first broods by then, as i could tell from the white feathers in the caps.

i've written before at some length about swan upping so, i won't repeat all that here. there were even more press photographers than last year, and the added impediment of a small tv crew. i'm told i was on the bbc that evening, my back and nikon d70 clearly visible, and they certainly got in my way for several shots.

fortunately the press were on the boat, and that kept them out of the way for long enough for me to work unfettered on several occasions before they were able to disembark. once or twice there were times when those on the boat were in a better position to take pictures, but it doesn't often happen.

of course, i don't mind working with other photographers - we all have a job to do - but at times they can be a nuisance. They, and particularly the video team - did often break what i regard as one of the first rules of the documentary photographer 'thou shalt not get in the way' of the people who are actually doing the job you are taking pictures of.

the way they worked pointed out a real difference to me between press and documentary. they were interested in getting pictures. i need to start by finding out what the event is about.

i also provided a little amusement for the uppers later in the day when i trod on a rotten plank on one of the landing stages. it left me staggering around for several seconds, a hair's breadth from falling in to the river. earlier, one of them had somehow fallen in while releasing one of the swans.
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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

london pictures
londons industrial history

and you can read what I think about photography at


All pictures on this section of the site are © Peter Marshall 2005;
to buy prints or for permission to reproduce pictures or to comment on this site, or for any other questions,

contact me

your comments may be added to the site - or not.
Payment may be waived for acceptable non-profit uses.

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

london pictures
londons industrial history

and you can read what I think about photography at


All pictures on this section of the site are © Peter Marshall 2005;
to but prints or for permission to reproduce pictures or to comment on this site, or for any other questions,

contact me

your comments may be added to the site - or not.
Payment may be waived for acceptable non-profit uses.

Penny & Joe's Wedding

Richmond & Twickenham, Saturday July 2, 2005

Just married.
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Limehouse Workshop

Limehouse, 10 July, 2005

Canary Wharf tower and footbridge over Rotherhithe tunnel

New flats built on top of LImehouse Link tunnel at Regents Canal Dock (Limehouse Dock), with DLR train.
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SWFest 05

Pimlico, London. July 16, 2005
SWFest 05 parade in Pimlico, London, July 16, 2005
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International Brigade Commemoration

Jubilee Gardens, South Bank, London. July 16, 2005

The Internationale unites the human race - sung by a veteran of the Spanish Civil War with a raised fist.
London, July 16, 2005
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National Front demonstrate

Victoria, London. July 16, 2005

Demonstrator hides face behind union flag, Victoria, London, July 16, 2005
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Turkish Festival, Coin St

Bernie Spain Gardens, July 16. 2005
Turkish chorus performing at Coin St Turkish Festival, London, 16 July, 2005

Belly Dancer
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Divided Cyprus

Greek Cypriots protest in Trafalgar Square, London. 16 July 2005
Woman holds picture of disappeared son, Trafalgar Square, London, July 16, 2005
Young London Cypriots in Trafalgar Square
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Belgians commemorate Second World War victims

Cenotaph, Whitehall, London, 17 July, 2005
Woman waits for the ceremony to start in the centre of Whitehall

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Hare Krishna Chariot Festival

Hyde Park, London, July 17, 2005

Pulling the chariots, Hyde Park, July 17, 2005
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Shoreditch Parade

Hoxton, Shoreditch, London. July 17, 2005

The parade makes its way through Hoxton, London. July 17, 2005

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Procession in Honour of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Clerkenwell, July 17, 2005

First communicants wait for the start of the procession, Clerkenwell, London, July 17, 2005
Father Carmelo di Giovanni, a rival photographer!
Two doves are released, but one is reluctant to fly.
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Swan Upping

Shepperton to Old Windsor, Monday July 18, 2005

David Barber (standing) the Queens Swan Master, with uppers and swans, Staines, July 18, 2005
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