london diary

april 2006

 

my london diary

april fools day was a good day to demonstrate against the serious organised crime and police act 2005 exclusion zone, which bans democratic protests within a kilometre of the the houses of parliament unless they have previous permission, as well as greatly restricting what they can do. it's a peculiarly foolish piece of legislation, rushed through to try and tidy up parliament square and protect the government from the embarassment of seeing brian haw and other peace protestors on their patch of grass in parliament square.

even more foolish in that, at least so far, it hasn't worked, although the authorities have appealed against brian's victory in being allowed to remain.

april fools were those who stuck their head in the sand and ignored the calendar change in 1752, which was accompanied by a shift in the new year from march 25 (the feast of the assumption) to jan 1 (the feast of the circumcision, latterly renamed the solemnity of st mary, mother of jesus.) the inland revenue still celebrates the old date (augmented by the 11 lost days of the calendar change and another that got lost in 1900) by starting the new tax year on april 6.

the fools paradise parade started on the victoria embankment next to the london eye, with police taking only a friendly interest, but an argument with security men who told us we were on private property. nice to know that its yet another bit of london that someone has flogged off, but it is public right of way, and we weren't doing anything that could legally be objected to.

the main problem they had seemed to be that people were photographing them, which demonstrated their lack of training in their job, as did their attitude to the members of the public.

eventually the parade made its way along the riverside path and across westminster bridge to parliament square, where there was a bit of a party, with a pinata stuffed with presents being attacked and destroyed by the children.

in parliament square the parade was greeted by brian haw, still continuing his protest despite the socpa. april 1 also marked the start of our very own fbi, the soca, which seems likely to be used against political opposition as well as serious crime.
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sunday's demonstration on the second anniversary of the us attack on fallujah on april 2, 2004 was a larger and more somber occasion.

also organised as an "unauthorised" demonstration in the westminster exclusion zone, and illegal under the socpa, the orgnasers and those taking part risked fines of up to £1000.

at least 572 people, mainly civilians, were killed in this first of two assaults on fallujah, including over 300 women. during the four hours of the demonstration their names were read out. people came to the centre of the circle three at a time and each read a page of the names. as no megaphones are allowed to be used in the restricted they had to shout to make themselves heard.

placards aren't allowed either, so people had posters with names and pictures of the dead and hung these around their necks. there were also some giant puppets representing iraqi people. as well as the reading of the names, there was also a short play, and some readings of testimonies from people who were there.

the proceedings carried on through some heavy downpours, interspersed by bright sun. when i made a count, there were about 300 present, although some came and left throughout the period.

there were only a few police around, largely staying on the perimeter of the area, with a small group a little closer taking notes and a police photographer with a long lens taking pictures. otherwise they seemed to be taking little notice, although i've since seen a report that the man dressed as charlie chaplin and carrying a placard reading "not aloud" (see pictures from the fools paradise parade), had his details taken and was cautioned and told he may be prosecuted. it is also possible that the police may use evidence gathered during the afternoon to issue summonses later.

there were quite a few media photographers present, and at least one tv crew paid a visit, so the event may get rather more publicity than most other demonstrations.

at four o'clock, the police noted that demonstrators left the square,
but they apparently ignored the unauthorised - and thus illegal - march that took place behind a coffin up whitehall to opposite downing street, where a short ceremony with readings took place. i had to leave before it had finished.
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also taking place during the afternoon was a march by 2000 polish catholics to mark the first anniversary of the death of the polish pope john paul ii. the procession was addressed briefly by a priest from the steps in front of the national gallery in trafalgar square before setting off down whitehall on its way to westminster cathedral.

a number of people in the procession carried polish flags or pictures of the late pope, and many had flowers which would be left in his honour at westminster cathedral.

driving rain soon made photographs difficult, though it stopped and the rain came out when we were halfway down whitehall.
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the no borders demonstration outside colnbrook and harmondsworth detention centres - the two are separated only by a narrow road - was at times loud and noisy, so those kept in these secure prisons knew that they were receiving support, even though they were cleared from that side of the building so they could not hear the speeches. some demonstrators who went along a public footpath to a field at the back of the building were forcibly removed and detained for around an hour.

a number of the detainees actually did speak to protestors, using mobile phones which were held to the microphone and relayed over the public address system. they thanked the demonstrators for coming and also told us about the inhumane and arbitrary treatment they were receiving.

many of those held have fled from violence and repression in their own countries, only to arrive here and find that immigration officials refused to listen to or believe the stories they told. some have been held in detention for more than 3 years.

detainees include those who have been living in this country for a number of years, working and paying taxes, setting up lives in this country and contributing to it. then they are taken without prior warning and imprisoned in these units, sometimes more because the immigration service has targets to meet than anything to do with their case.

possibly we need an immigration policy, although i'm not actually convinced. it's an area where i have more faith in those market forces our governments now seem to worship than most. but whether or not we need one, if we have one it should be honest, transparent, just and efficient. at the moment it fails on every count.

many of us are ashamed of the way our government has decided to let families and children in particular exist without proper support. ashamed when we hear stories of families who get a knock on the door at 4am and are taken away in a matter of hours. ashamed that we are sending people back to countries where we know they are almost certain to be imprisoned, tortured and possibly killed.
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vaisakhi (aka baisakhi) is one of the events i really like going to. its a punjabi harvest festival on which sikhs celebrate the founding of the khalsa order in 1699. the khalsa (pure) is a part of the spiritual development of sikhs who are required to wear the symbols of the khalsa (kanga, kesh, kara, kirpan and kacha) and follow the khalsa code of conduct.

vaisahki in southall is colourful and crowded, but also impressive both in the sincere faith of the sikhs and a kind of semi-organised chaos. the streets are full to bursting, often you have little room to breathe, pressed from all sides, but everyone - or almost everyone - remains good-natured. A certain amount of contact, of pushing but seldom really shoving. thousands on the streets with only a handful of police and little effective stewarding.

as well as the colour and the noise there is also the giving. walk along the street and you are offered food and cans or bottles of soft drinks and sweets. i took some pictures of the start of the procession around the town, then had a tasty bean curry before going back to take some more pictures. then i had another plate of curry with some bread, taking pictures is hungry work. and thirsty work too, though every few yards i was having to refuse cans of drink, one is plenty.

its good to photograph an event where everyone is friendly and most want to be photographed (though there are a few shy sikhs.) it's an event that reinforces my respect for sikhs and the values they uphold.
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if you are an asylum seeker in britain you have to sign on regularly at one of the home office locations. when you enter the doors of communications house next to old street station (or any of the other locations) you cannot be sure that you will ever come out. despite the regulations, some asylum seekers have been bundled onto planes and flown back to the country from which they have fled, others have found themselves banged up in detention centres such as harmondsworth for years with no trial or appeal.

on monday 10th, various groups including the all african women's group, african liberation support campaign network, payday men's network and women of colour formed a line along the front of the building over the lunch hour to protest at unfair treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.

it was a part of a global action demanding justice and proper legal rights for asylum seekers and others without proper legal documentation, calling for an end to racist discrimination and inhumane policies.
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i had to leave for a little business elsewhere, then took advantage of the decent weather to take a walk along the thames from vauxhall to battersea on my way home.

what was not long ago a totally industrial reach of the river is now largely lined by expensive riverside blocks of flats. st georges wharf is on the site of the nine elms cold store, and is now largely finished except for a tower whose slim 181 metre cylinder will soar far above the 72 m of the existing flats.

along grosvenor road on the north bank are rivermill house, the panoramic, crown reach, and a survivor from the past, tyburn house, followed by eagle wharf, with eagle house and 138.

one minor gain for the public from this is increased access to the riverside, with new developments having a public footpath on the bank. when soon all you will be able to see is the flats on the other bank, this isn't a great gain.

in pimlico there are often great contrasts between council or peabody estates and millionaire appartments across the road on the river side, and some pricey stuff in some of the squares. a few yards makes a huge difference in price - and the newer buildings have often blocked the views some council tenants used to have of the river.

across the river are views of battersea power station, gutted and largely left to decay by various developers over the years, roofless. despite their efforts it still stand, its brickwork and four tall chimneys dominating the area.

the waterworks building on the north bank is also still there, and next to it around the canal a new grosvenor waterside is nearing completion.

across chelsea bridge, between it and the power station is chelsea bridge wharf, another huge development. its a relief to be able to walk across the new bridge under chelsea bridge into the peace of battersea park with its peace pagoda. next to albert bridge is a small wild area that looks very spring like in some dramatic light under grey clouds.

more new flats and offices past albert bridge, including foster and partners building. it's stunning close to, but seen from across the river is rather disappointing. their albion riverside next door is a futuristic structure, like some vast mothership landed on the riverside, a fungus from which spores are doubtless emerging to colonise the country.
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kingston as the name suggests was once an important place, though now its a car and shopping hell. for long the home of surrey county council, though also now a london borough. i took these pictures during a walk around it with another photographer who lives near there. its one of the few areas of london i've not yet photographed seriously.
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a walk and a bike ride took me through staines and some of the nearby villages, including harmondsworth, on the edge of london airport and threatened to be more or less swallowed up by the building of yet another runway (and doubtless two or three more terminals) in the near future. heathrow was always a mistake and has always been pushed through by deceit, and its likely to happen again. and again.
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another section of the london loop with sam and linda. this one goes through the area i grew up in.

the section starts over kingston bridge and in the rather more posh bushy park, then through surburban streets and along beside the golf course. crane park where i was chased by park-keepers for riding my bike. hounslow heath where we played in trenches, finding bullets, bombs and bits of tanks left by the soldiers. bedfont gunpowder works in the crown and sceptre woods where i made and used my own gunpowder to blow them up a bit more. the sand hills we slid down on old sheets of corrugated iron, gouging lumps out of knees and the mud and streams and industrial waste we played in. there is now a path in places where we used to hack through the jungle, and rather a lot of tidying up in some areas, but still hints of the old wilderness i knew.

at the great south west road we leave the path to walk down along the edge of heathrow to hatton cross. its a desolate place to wait for a bus, despite the crowds making their way from tube to replacement bus services.
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the royal society of st george holds a remembrance ceremony at the cenotaph in whitehall on the saturday nearest to st georges day. i thought it was going to be a relatively small event, but then a militiary band, assorted cadets and the british legion appeared in the distance marching down whitehall. i left during the sermon to cover the armenian protest (below).

the st george people were also involved in the celebrations of st goerge's day taking place in covent garden, along with others including the english folk dance and song society.
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on saturday 22 april, around a thousand armenians living in the uk marched from marble arch to the cenotaph in westminster to draw attention to their demands for the recognition of the turkish genocide of 1915-23 in which around 1.5 million armenians were killed.

The term genocide was coined to describe this atrocity. The 'young turks' wanted a modern muslim nation, and that meant getting rid of ethnic groups that didn't fit. the turks started on the job on 24 april 1915 by arresting 1000 intellectuals and other leaders and executing them. next they conscripted 300,000 male armenians for army service, but but instead of sending them to the trenches, labelled them as traitors, disarmed and killed them.

finally, the remaining armenians - women, children and the elderly - were dealt with my mass killings and enforced marches into the desert where they starved. rape and other atrocities were common. over a few years around 1.5 million were killed, leaving about 50,000.

the turkish government still refuses to acknowldge the genocide, even though it had been detailed in many official reports, such as the 1916 uk parliamentary report by lord bryce and arnold toynbee, and later reports by the un. over recent years, many governments and other organisations around the world have passed resolutions affirming it happened and deploring it. Like the nazi holocaust, it is a fact of 20th century history, and totally reprehensible.

armenians want britain to condem it and to make turkish acceptance a pre-condition of eu membership. the march was one of a number of events this year organised by the sampaign for the recognition of the armenian genocide, crag, together with other community groups. Among those leading the march was bishop nathan (nathan hovhannisian, primate of the armenian church of great britain.
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i've walked round wapping many times - as pictures on this site and on london's industrial heritage testify. but it was a pleasant afternoon to do it in company with other members of london arts cafe. of course it's a shadow of its old self, with only one wharf still working, the rest mainly converted into flats, with a few still waiting for the makeover. london docks are long filled in with houses, although much of the dock walls remain, along with small water areas as a reminder of the past, as well as the larger areas of hermitage basin and shadwell new basin. remaining areas of the riverside now have new flats.

our final destination was a photographic exhibition in the basement of the old hydraulic power station. good to see the building put to use as a cafe and art gallery, although the show was a disappointment. the prospect of whitby opposite was more interesting and a pint or two of adnams most welcome.
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workers memorial day is observed around the world on 28 april to commemorate those people who have been killed at work. most accidents at work result from employers giving profits a higher priority than the safety of their workers; the great majority would not happen if proper precedures were taken to reduce or eliminate hazards at work.

one of the industries with the worst record is the construction industry, and although there is more emphasis on safety than before health and safety regulations came into force, still last year 70 people were killed at work on construction sites.

the purpose of the memorial day is jointly to "remember the dead: fight for the living". the construction safety campaign organised a morning of events starting at canada house to protest at canada's continued promotion of the killer mineral asbestos. i joined them for the main event, a march starting by tate modern, first to the offices of the hse at rose court on southwark bridge road, and then along to the greater london authority offices at tower bridge where there was a short rally.

the march route led past several large construction sites, where speakers urged the workers to join in the demonstration. some joined the marchers in a minutes silence remembering the victims killed at work, removing their hard hats, though most just stopped work to watch, looking down from the tops of buildings.

speakers at the gla scoop included tony o'brien of the csc, and representatives of the union of construction, allied trades and technicians and transport and general workers union, who provided powerful illustrations of the personal impact of death at work. ken was abroad, but joanne mccartney, gla chair of the health and public services committee came. she said that the authority wanted the 2012 olympics to be used to promote workplace safety, with contractors being obliged to have proper safety committees and co-operate with the unions. mp jeremy corbyn also spoke well, although it was perhaps surprising that no other politicians came to address the meeting.
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banstead is a 'village' on the southern fringe of london, and very much a part of london's well-heeled outer suburbia. it's a place with a 'half-timbered' 1930s high street and lots of local shops and locally based activities.

for the past 21 years a group of "local working mums" have organised a may fayre to raise money for charity (this year it was again chase, the children's hospice in guildford, surrey. the fayre is now the first event of a banstead arts festival which continues for several weeks. it takes place in the orchard of the parish church in the high street, and there is a parade to the fair from the united reform church a few hundred yards away.

the procession included large numbers of children from the local schools, including a number of musicians and singers who later performed at the fayre. more music came from the open top of a bus, with a singer from the pop opera group 'boheme', the team from croydon old palace clog, and a young military band of cadets from ts jaguar in high wycombe.

other groups present included a large group of children from westcroft judo club in carshalton, a group of young irish dancers, the london allstar majorettes from roehampton, and four more senior representatives from the banstead neville bowling club.

but the stars of the event were the banstead village may fayre group, who organise the event. as well as the queen herself, there were a whole retinue of attendants with floral head-dresses, a floral arch, the may queen banner and baskets of posies, the crown carried on a black cushion, and several page boys. the new queen also had a group of may queen friends, and some other carnival supporters.

after a short word from the vicar, the fayre was formally opened by the mayor of banstead and reigate, mrs frances dixon. then last year's may queen crowned the new may queen (her younger sister) who made a speech of thanks and presented bouquets to the may queen mum and the mayor. a peal of bells from the church told us the fayre was well and truly opened (although the various stalls in the orchard had already been doing good business for a couple of hours or more.) unfortunately other delights called me and i couldn't stay to see and hear the performances that continued throughout the afternoon.

as i travelled back through the bleaker suburbs of south london, it seemed like a journey back to the real world and the present day. banstead seemed civilised, polite, the kind of england we had in the past, that major and others eulogised. nothing wrong with that, but just so alien to the streets a few miles away. in the pub, it was standing room only in front of the large screens as chelsea clinched the premiership, trouncing man united. "they'll be back from stanford bridge in an hour and it'll go on until midnight" said the guy at the urinal next to me. probably not in banstead i thought to myself as i left for home to avoid the fans.
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Fools Paradise Parade Against London Exclusion Zone

London Eye to Parliament Square, 1 April 2006
Fools Paradise Parade, London © 2006, Peter Marshall
Marching with the band across Westminster Bridge

Fools Paradise Parade, London © 2006, Peter Marshall
By Big Ben in Westminster, 1 April, 2006
Fools Paradise Parade, London © 2006, Peter Marshall
Attacking the pinata in Parliament Square, Westminster, London
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Naming the Dead: 2 Years After Fallujah

Parliament Square, London 2 April, 2006
Naming the Dead - 2 Years After Fallujah © 2006, Peter Marshall
People took turns to read a page of the names and descriptions of those who were killed.
Naming the Dead - 2 Years After Fallujah © 2006, Peter Marshall
The march up Whitehall to Downing Street to mark the second anniversary of Fallujah.
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Anniversary of Death of Pope Jean Paul II

London, April 2, 2006

Polish Catholics, London © 2006, Peter Marshall
The march started with a short ceremony in Trafalgar Square and heavy rain
Polish Catholics, London © 2006, Peter Marshall Some of the 2000 Polish catholics on the march

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No Borders: Harmondsworth Detention Centre

Harmondsworth, London, April 8, 2006
No Borders. © 2006, Peter Marshall 'Stop Starvation of Asylum Families and Children', Stop Racism', Stop Deportation' ....

No Borders. © 2006, Peter Marshall
Prisoners were able to speak to the demonstration over mobile phones.
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Sikhs celebrate Vaisakhi in Southall

Southall, Sunday 9 April, 2006

Five Khalsa with ceremonial swords

Vaisakhi in Southall © 2006, Peter Marshall
 

Packed streets in Southall

The procession passes the older Gurdwara (where it finishes after a tour through Southall) and Glassy Junction
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Protest at Communications House, London

Justice for Asylum seekers. Monday 10 April, 2006Communications House - Asylum protest © 2006, Peter Marshall
Protestors draw attention to a number of problems in the treatment of asylum seekers outside Communications House in Old Street, London.
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New Flats Along the Thames

Vauxhall to Battersea, Monday 10 April, 2006
Vauxhall to Battersea © 2006, Peter Marshall
The familiar form of Battersea Power Station (without its roof) with Chelsea Bridge Wharf development at right

Battersea Bridge and Montevetro flats.
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Kingston

13 april, 2006
Kingston © 2006, Peter Marshall
Cambridge Estate
Kingston © 2006, Peter MarshallArtwork on display.
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Around Staines

14-15 april, 2006
Staines garden © 2006, Peter Marshall
Front garden in Staines
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London Loop: Kingston to Hatton Cross

16 april, 2006
Bushey Park ©2006, Peter MarshallBushy Park
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Celebrating St George

Whitehall and Covent Garden, Sat 22 April, 2006
Remembrance at the Cenotaph © 2006, Peter Marshall
Before the remembrance ceremony at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London 
Remembrance at the Cenotaph © 2006, Peter MarshalThe Last Post, Whitehall, London 22 April 2006
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Recognise the Armenian Genocide

Marble Arch, London Sat 22 April, 2006
Recognise the Armenian Genocide © 2006, Peter Marshall
British Armenians demand the UK government act

 

Wapping

London Arts Cafe, Sat 22 April, 2006
Wapping © 2006, Peter Marshall
Tower Bridge from Wapping at low tide
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International Workers Memorial Day

London, April 28, 2006
Workers Memorial Day © 2006, Peter Marshall
'Asbestos kills' was one of the placards. Marchers outside a building site in Southwark call for support.

Workers Memorial Day © 2006, Peter Marshall
Tony O'Brien of the Construction Safety Campaign speaking in the City Hall 'Scoop'. London, 28 April, 2006.
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Banstead May Fayre

Banstead, Surrey. April 29, 2006
Banstead May Fayre © 2006, Peter Marshall May Queen Friends
Banstead May Fayre © 2006, Peter Marshall
Waiting for the May Queen to be crowned
Banstead May Fayre © 2006, Peter Marshall
Banstead May Fayre
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