london diary

march 2007

 

my london diary

March 3-14, 2007

March 17-31 is on another page

although health workers and other trade unionists had called for a national demonstration in london, the union bosses declined to organise one, perhaps not wanting to embarass an already beleagured labour government. what took place instead was a whole series of local demonstrations - including at least 7 in the greater london area - across the whole country.

the overall effect was perhaps to make it more impressive, and certainly it seemed to get more coverage in the media that might otherwise have been expected, although there were few reporters and no tv crews at the three marches i photographed (for some reaosn they preferred sheffield.)

largely well-intentioned attempts to improve the health service have failed to deliver as they should, with many services being cut. part of this has been caused by a dogmatic insistence on making use of private finance with results that range from fiasco to to farce, inevitably accompanied by long-term financial loss.

a second disastrous dogma has led to bringing in private enterprise to do the simple work at artificially inflated prices (they even get paid for work they are not doing) which has the secondary result of making the nhs services appear more expensive, as they are left to deal with the trickier cases.

further blows to our national health service have been through the predictably disastrous it projects; as well as going millions over budget, these have largely failed to deliver. add the proliferation of management and expensive consultants, along with crazed assumptions in negotiating doctors' pay leading to an unbelievably generous offer, and it it hardly surprising that the whole system is in financial chaos.

the government clearly lacks a real committment to the kind of national health service many of us grew up with, run for the benefit of the people rather than to make money for healthcare corporations. the health service certainly needed a shake-up to reduce bureacracy and eliminate wasteful practices, but instead new layers of both have and are being added.

i started off in camberwell, and had time for a short walk before the speeches and march began. it wasn't a huge event, but there was strong support from those in the service, from patients and from pensioners, as well as local mp kate hooey. from camberwell green the march went down to the maudsley where a letter was handed in and i got on a bus and left for bethnal green and hackney.
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going up the cambridge heath road in the centre of bethnal green, i saw the march from the royal london hospital in whitechapel to hackney in the distance. unfortunately the bus was held up in the traffic behind it, taking almost five minutes to reach the next stop before the driver would open the doors and let me off. some things were a lot easier with the routemasters.
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this was a smaller march than that from camberwell, and after a few minutes i felt i'd photographed all i could, so i ran ahead and caught a bus for the centre of hackney, arriving there just a couple of minutes before the hackney march, which had gone by homerton hospital, had returned to the town hall. i photographed them arriving and then the rally that ensued.

the hackney march was a little larger, perhaps around two hundred, and there were quite a few speakers, including local councillors and representatives from the various organisations that had helped to organise the march.

a big cheer went up as the march from whitechapel arrived, swelling the numbers in the square at the town hall.

among the better known speakers taking part where goerge galloway, whose speech lived up to his usual high standards of wit and common sense. lindsay german, a hackney resident well known for her work for 'stop the war' also spoke with feeling on the issues of health and the nhs. several of the other speakers were old enough to have known the problems before the health service was set up.
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as the meeting began to wind down, i caught a bus to bethnal green and then the tube to tottenham court road. just to the north of soho square i got to the hare krishna temple just as the gaura purnima procession was arriving back from its tour around the area.
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from there i went to the photographers' gallery to have a good look at this year's photography prize contestants. i hope the prize goes to one of the two photographers on the shortlist, philippe chance or anders petersen. walking through soho and westminster i took a few
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sunday i went back to hackney wick, where the london delivery authority for the olympics had arranged to meet with the plot holders from manor gardens allotments. but hearing that the media were likely to be around, the lda had pulled out, leaving the plot holders to hold their meeting on their own - which they did, without the other supporters or the media present.

the situation is a mess, and the lda appear unable to make any suitable provision for plot-holders, or to accept the idea of a green heart to the olympics with the allotments in place. they don't actually seem to have any real use for the site - possibly a footpath may run through it, but i think feel that its presence would sit oddly with the mass corporate sponsorship they rely on. one of their ideas is to put a giant scoreboard advertising coca-cola it its place.
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after the meeting had finished, we went to the allotments, and i was able to take pictures of a few plot holders at work, clearing their plots. a few are still planting in the hope that they will be able to continue there.

films were being screened in the community hut, and i watched one about the fight to keep urban gardens in new york; although some were lost, the fight let to others being protected.

only 4 weeks remain until the date set for the site to be vacated. the lda have failed to come up with a replacement. it is just possible they may change their mind at the last minute, or at least delay the closure. but unless the manor gardens plot holders come up with a credible legal challenge the chances seem poor.

manor gardens raises many questions about the kind of democracy we live in and the kind of future we want. if it goes it will be a powerful message that regeneration will be at the expense of the local community and at the expense of the environment. if were are to have a future it needs to be considerably more green than our present, and places like manor gardens are the models on which we need to grow and develop.

the question really isn't a matter of deciding between a green or a brown future. increasingly i'm convinced there isn't a future unless we go green. more than that, we also need to move rapidly from a top-down society to a bottom up one, where people have more control over their lives rather than being controlled.

manor gardens is a site that is more important than the few acres of land and the small community who grow there. it is a part of our battle for survival.
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as i walked back to the station and the north london line i took a few pictures of hackney wick.
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if you are a water molecule starting in the river lea at leagrave on the outskirts of luton, your route to its mouth on the thames can be rather convoluted – even assuming you don't get diverted on the way for drinking by londoners. below hertford the river runs in concert with the lee navigation, part river, part canal, and examining a map you would soon be confused.

since work by the lee conservancy board and the west ham corporation started in 1931 and officially opened in 1935 the major flow of water in the area in the southern area has been along the flood relief channel (built in the 1970s following the 1947 floods) and the river lea to hackney wick, and then along the waterworks river, into the three mills wall river and down the newly built prescott channel onward to bow creek and finally the thames. all of these streams have been fully tidal since the prescott sluice was removed in the late 1950s (at the same time as most of the channelsea river was filled in), as are the vestigial sections of the channelsea river and abbey creek to the south of stratford. so in your molecular progress, you might well spend some days being flushed north by tidal inflow from the thames and then flowing south as the tide falls.

flushed with you, at least on around 50 stormy days a year, might be some considerable sewage overflow from abbey mills into abbey creek, lending its sweet smell to the banks of these streams in the olympic area. largely to avoid the delicate athletes (and spectators) being thus nasally assaulted a new lock and sluice is to be built on the prescott channel. it remains to be seen whether the promises that the back rivers will actually carry the suggested 170,000 lorry loads in and out of the olympic site, but it would certainly seem to be a useful development for the area longer term, opening up more of these waterways for leisure and possible commercial use. currently there is a navigable loop on the bow back rivers from the lea navigation, using st thomas's creek, city mill river and the old river lea, although this may well be restricted for the olympics.

the footpaths crossing the prescott channel bridge will be closed mid-march for around 18 months to allow the lock to be rebuilt, so i thought it a good time to take some pictures before the work begins.

also in some of the pictures are a number of the sites which have been the subject of compulsory purchase to put the power lines between Hackney and East Ham underground for the olympics. there are two lines, one going just north of the greenway and curving down south through the Channelsea River.
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last october i photographed a march asking newham council to keep queen's market in upton park. although it is an exceedingly ugly ensemble, not helped by poor maintainence and an utterly depressing choice of colours, it is still a great local resource. the market is perhaps the most ethically diverse in london, and many rely on it as a great source of cheap fresh foods and other goods. as well as the market stalls there are many small shops around the side of the market.

you can now sign an online petition at the government web site urging the prime minister to "to ensure that strategic street markets such as queen's market, upton park are given proper protection against the combined threat of negligent local authorities and predatory property developers. as part of this we seek an open and transparent consultation process." if you would like to retain markets such as this - and especially if you benefit from shopping in your local market, please sign up. it only takes a minute to do so.

we go down to our local market a couple of times most weeks. the fruit and veg is much cheaper than in the supermarket, and it is fresh and not wrapped in 7 layers of plastic. we'd hate to see it go, and can see why the people who shop at queen's market don't want their market replaced with yet another supermarket, and less small shops and stalls.

but it could do with doing up, perhaps replacing the roof, new stalls, a rethinking of some of the central space in the development which is a kind of wasteland where guys sit with cans to make it a more pleasant and family-friendly space. it could be a real centre for upton park, perhaps with more shops, cafes with outdoor seating and some kind of performance area and perhaps a playground. i'd get rid of the pub too, or at least give it a complete makeover.
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fifty-seven years ago, chinese troops marched into tibet and took over the country, suppressing its people. forty-eight years ago, on 10 march 1959, tibetan people in lhasa rose up against the chinese occupiers. their uprising was brutally crushed and thousands of tibetan men, women and children, many unconnected to the uprising were killed or disappeared.

ever since then, the dalai lama nad the tibetan government in exile have campaigned for justice for tibet and the tibetan people, advocating non-violence to acheive their aims.

any sign of tibetan nationalist activity in tibet is still rigidly crushed by the chinese. shouting 'free tibet' as everyone on the march did today would result in imprisonment, and many of those in prison are beaten and tortured.

marchers started opposite the chinese embassy in portland place, where a 24 hour sitting protest by falun dafa supporters started on 5 june 2002 and will continue "until the end of the persecution." the chinese have routinely arrested and cruelly tortured the followers of this apparently harmless religious practice for many years.

the march went down to oxford circus and along regent st and on to trafalgar square, before stopping in whitehall to deliver a letter to 10 downing st. i strolled ahead to parliament square to visit the protestors there - it was good to see barbara again after her court appearance earlier this week when the judge threw out the police injunction against her.

then i went with the marchers to the start of their rally in a street near westminster cathedral, where they were greeted by tibetan singing, and a great tibetan rap, as well as speeches. i had to leave before the end to go to trafalgar square.
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for many years i've been a supporter of actsa, although i think my membership may have lapsed recently (its hard to keep up with my post.) they were the organisers of a 'rally for dignity' which celebrated the role of women in the worldwide struggle for justice. held two days after international women's day (8 march) it focused particularly on the struggle for freedom in zimbabwe and on the efforts of the zimbabwe congress of trade unions.

zimbabwe is currently in a mess, and the cause of that mess is robert mugabe. it is a beautiful country with some wonderful people, but so sadly crippled by a cruel, corrupt and senseless dictator who has siezed land and persecuted any who dare oppose him. the economy is in ruins, and men, women and children suffer as he rewards and lines the pockets of his supporters.

one product of many in short supply is sanitary towels, and zctu organised the donation of these necessities by overseas friends, only to have the government demand duty on their import.
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arbaeen (or chelum) is the shiite festival marking the end of the 40 days of mourning of the martydom of the imam hussain that starts with ashura. this was the 26th annual london arbaeen procession, and it was the first to start in the western world, and the first annual muslim procession to take place in london.

around 3000 british shia muslims from varied ethnic backgrounds take part in the procession, including those from pakistan, india, iran, iraq, afghanistan, lebanon, kuwait, bahrain and elsewhere - including some english converts.

before the procession there were speeches and lengthy prayers. there were two large shabbihs, ornate models of the shrines of the imam hussain and hazrat abbas (hussain's half-brother, also martyed at karbala) in the procession.

i was surprised when i opened the free copy of the 'the shia newpsaper' (issn 1753-5565) that was handed out at the event to find that i appeared to be it's chief photographer, with three of my photographs from this site featured.
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i missed bianca and annie and the others, but i didn't miss them as there was plenty else going on. as i walked over westminster bridge there was the banner flying on the crane in front of the houses of parliament, and there were quite a few people stopping to look at it.

later, greenpeace activists got on their bikes and cycled across westminster bridge to parliament square, where they were stopped by police and threatened with arrest unless they left the roadway and moved onto the square. after a while they all did, many cycling away after a few minutes to cycle around london before joining the 'fish on a bicycle' critical mass that arrived back at the square a few hours later, and got the same 'off your bike' treatment from the police.

the square started to fill up rather more from around 5pm when a silent protest attended by a couple of hundred took place in the far corner of the square. by the time the speeches started at 6.15 there was a respectable crowd, perhaps around 500, but people were still arriving and with the addition of the cyclists there were perhaps closer to a thousand present.

a brief attempt by greenpeace to protest on the pavement in front of the houses of parliament took the police by surprise, but the group were soon escorted back across the road.

throughout the day there were plenty of signs of the personal vendetta between some met officers and the regular protestors in the square. two hapless officers appear to have been deployed just to stand in front of one fluorescent pink placard, and there were some incidents of minor harassment. the injunction thrown out by the judge at southwark court recently showed how the police are wasting our money in this respect.

apparently the latest approach to try and remove the protestors from the square comes from ken livingstone who is worried about the grass being damaged by the tents there. as i remarked when this was mentioned, "grass regenerates, dead children don't." perhaps we should start a 'brian for mayor' campaign.

several labour mps came out from the house to address the meeting, along with many activists. bruce kent started his speech by thanking brian haw for allowing the demo to use his back garden, and brian later came from his protest at the front of the square to address the meeting.

this time the government got its vote, but there will be later occasions to oppose trident, as well as the continuing actions at faslane which those at the demo were urged to take part in.
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march 2007 continues on a second page.

 

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Keep our NHS Public

March and Rally, Camberwell, London March 3, 2007
Keep our NUS Public © 2007, Peter Marshall
Save the Maudsley Emergency Clinic; stop NHS Privatisation
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Keep our NHS Public

Whitechapel to Hackney march, 3 March, 2007
Keep our NHS Public © 2007, Peter Marshall
The march from the London Hospital to Hackney passing through Bethnal Green.
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Keep our NHS Public

March and rally in Hackney. Hackney Town Hall, 3 March, 2007
Keep our NHS Public © 2007, Peter Marshall Keep the NHS working. Keep Nurses Working, Keep Patients Safe
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Hare Krishna Gaura Purnima Procession

Soho, London. 3 March, 2007
Hare Krishna, London © 2007, Peter Marshall
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Manor Gardens Allotments Meeting

Hackney Wick, Sunday 4 March, 2007
Manor Gardens Meeting © 2007, Peter Marshall
Plot holders outside the community centre before the meeting

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Manor Gardens Allotments

Hackney Wick, Sunday 4 March, 2007

Manor Gardens Allotments © 2007, Peter Marshall
These figs will be ripe in August if allowed to grow

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Hackney Wick

Hackney Wick, Sunday 4 March, 2007

Waterden Road in the rain
 
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Bow Back Rivers - Prescott Lock Site

Thursday 8 March, 2007
Prescott Lock site © 2007, Peter Marshall
The new sluices, lock and footbridge will be north of the current crossing.
Long Wall © 2007, Peter Marshall Long Wall path , Channelsea River and the mouth of the Prescott Channel.
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Plaistow and Upton Park

Thursday 8 March, 2007
Queen's Market, Upton Park © 2007, Peter Marshall
Queen's Market, Upton Park
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Falun Dafa Sitting Protest

Chinese Embassy, London. Saturday 10 March, 2007
Falun Dafa Protest Continues © 2007, Peter Marshall
London's second longest running protest, against torture of religious prisoners in China, continues opposite the Chinese Embassy. 

Free Tibet: 48th Anniversary of the Tibetan Rising

Westminster, Saturday 10 March, 2007
Free Tibet © 2007, Peter Marshall
Tibetans call for an end to Chinese oppression in Tibet.
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ACTSA: Rally for Dignity

Trafalgar Square, Westminster. Saturday 10 March
Rally for Dignity © 2007, Peter MarshallDemonstrators call for dignity for Zimbabwe's women and an end to rape and torture.
Rally for Dignity © 2007, Peter Marshall

Zimbabwean women wearing 'Movement for Democratic Change' t-shirts lay flowers on door of Zimbabwe House, London.
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Arbaeen (Chelum) Procession, London

Marble Arch, London. March 11, 2007

Arbaeen Procession, London © 2007, Peter Marshall
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No Trident Lobby & Rally

Parliament Square, London. March 14, 2007
No Trident © 2007, Peter Marshall
No Trident rally, Parliament Square
No Trident © 2007, Peter Marshall Brian Haw: Find Your Courage; Share Your Vision; Change Your World. (T-shirt from Dan Wilkins, The Nth Degree.)
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Westminster Night

London, 14 March, 2007
Westminster  © 2007, Peter Marshall
Taking photographs at night
Westminster  © 2007, Peter Marshall
County Hall and the London Eye
Westminster  © 2007, Peter Marshall
Boudica (Boadicea) and Big Ben.
 

march 2007 continues on a second page.

 

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