City of Ambition opens at Photofusion
Photofusion, Brixton, London. Thursday 31 July, 2008
Photographer Ferit Kuyas (centre) at his opening at Photofusion
I've written a little more about the show on >Re:PHOTO
but here are a few more pictures from the event.
River Thames, Southwark
Blackfriars Bridge, Southwark, London Tues 26 July, 2008
Downstream view from underneath Blackfriars Rail Bridge
at low tide
I was a little early for the London Bloggers Meetup, so I strolled slowly
along by the Thames and went down onto the foreshore by Blackfriars Bridge.
The tide was well out and I walked down to the water's edge to take the picture
of the bridges and Canary Wharf in the distance.
We were meeting in the pub next to the Blackfriars Road bridge, Doggetts
Coat and Badge, named after the traditional
race for London's watermen. We were on the third floor with some great
views across the river.
It was from the roof of the Albion Steam Flour Mills, next to the river on
the east side of Blackfriars Bridge that Robert Barker made his famous panorama
of London. He had first tried out the idea of a large cylindrical painting
to capture the view from the top of Calton Hill in Edniburgh in 1786, and
obtained a British patent on the idea in 1787. After the view of Edinburgh
had been shown there to acclaim he moved to London, making his first large
panorama there in 1791. So when I bought a panoramic camera 17 years ago,
this was one of the first places I came to photograph.
The Thames Path - Marlow to Henley
Saturday 26 July, 2008
and view towards River Thames on the Thames Path at Culham Court in Berkshire
I had a day off from photographing in London and went with my wife and son
to walk a part of the Thames Path from Marlow to Henley. We travelled to and
from the walk by rail, and had the choice of going via either Reading or Windsor
- either route took about the same time. But then we found it cost about twice
as much to travel via Reading. Is there anyone who can understand the crazy
fares on our trains?
There wasn't really much to photograph, and I was reduced to making the odd
picturesque snap for most of the day. The one above was taken from just below
the house at Culham Court which sold - along with and obscene amount of land
- to a Swiss banker for £35million recently. It's places like this -
and rather a lot of the other large houses we passed that make we think how
badly we need a revolution and radical land reform here. I'm certainly not
a fan of what Mugabe is doing in Zimbabwe, but he might well be better employed
Fortunately the regatta was over and Henley was almost back to normal, which
I find oppressive enough. Years ago I remember cycling there from Bracknell,
locking up my bike and spending an hour or two walking round the town, finding
nothing worth photographing. I seem to be getting a little less picky, but
it still isn't a place I feel comfortable in.
Hurley Village Fete
Hurley, Berks. Saturday 26 July, 2008
The fancy-dress parade ended in front of the church
I hadn't intended to go to the village fair at Hurley, in fact I hadn't intended
to go to Hurley and I don't think I'd heard of Hurley until a few minutes
before I walked down a footpath and found the fair about to start. We'd actually
turned off the Thames path just to take a look at the church and what a leaflet
described as a picturesque village. It really seemed a place incredibly cut-off
from the real worlds, though as with so much of the deepest home counties
I suspect it has more than it's share of arms dealers, dodgy financial traders
and silicon executives.
We stayed long enough to look around the church and some of the old buildings
and also for me to photograph the fancy dress parade which went up and back
a short section of is rather quaintly called the High St, with the chuch,
one general store, a large barn being used for the fair along with a very
wide grass strip at the side of the road and a few houses. (All this was once
part of a priory and further up the road is a pub which was built as the priory
gatehouse.) There are a few pictures from the village in the Thames Walk post
Binyam Mohamed Birthday Party
Downing St, Whitehall, London. Thursday 24 July 2008
The party calling for the return of Binyam from Guantanamo
gets under way in Whitehall
Binyam Mohamed was born in Ethiopia but was given refugee
status in Britain in 1994 and lived with some of his family in London. He
was on a visit to Afghanistan when US troops entered the country in 2002,
went across the border to Pakistan and was kidnapped and handed over to the
CIA. They took him to Morocco for 18 months of torture, then to Kabul for
more and he finally ended up at Guantánamo Bay in 2004.
The British government asked for his return last year, but the US refused
and now intends to try him by military tribunal. The evidence, produced at
torture sessions in Morocco, would not be allowed in any proper court, and
he has no chance of a fair trial on charges that carry the death penalty.
After his prolonged torture and abuse, Binyam's health - mental and physical
- is extremely poor and he is currently on hunger strike.
The London Guantánamo Campaign organised a 'Six Days
for Six Years' vigil outside the US Embassy which ended today with this
'birthday party' demonstration opposite Downing Street with around 70 people,
many with musical instruments and some wearing orange jump suits.
On one of the barriers there was the following message from Binyam's family:
July 21 2008
A family walk from Windsor.
Procession in Honour of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
St Peter's Italian Church, Clerkenwell, London. 20 July, 2008
Little Italy became Italian again, with loud Italian conversations outside
St Peter's Church and at the Sagra in crowded Warner St, where the wine flowed
and Italian food sold like hot cakes, though most were cold. As usual you
could buy Italian plant seeds, try the raffle for Fiat cars, buy various religous
objects or try your luck at the coconut shy. There was ice-cream, but that
I found a little disappointing. And outside the Eyre St Hill workshop of organ
builders Chiappa and Sons were a couple of street organs and a barrel organ.
The procession was perhaps better organised than in some previous years,
but as colourful and vibrant as ever, including Italian groups from around
the country as well as the various statues and floats.
The procession has been taking place annually (except during the wars) since
the 1880s, and was one of the first public Roman Catholic processions allowed
in the country. There is nothing else like it in London, perhaps the only
really joyous Christian celebration on the streets.
I Love Peckham
Peckham, London. Saturday 19 July, 2008
I do rather like Peckham, and it was a pleasant afternoon, part of a week
of various events, mainly art-related in the festival here. There was nothing
that really caught my imagination like the decorated sofas they had around
the area last year, but there was a remarkably energetic group of elderly
dancers led by a remarkable dancer who all performed to considerable applause.
It's a pity that there wasn't more happening in the top part of Rye Lane,
closed to traffic, but otherwise pretty empty. Perhaps the dancing got going
later, but again last year it seemed more popular. But there was a lot more
happening at other places and times that I didn't get to see.
Camberwell Green, London. Saturday 19 July, 2008
Performance artist Bobby Baker with 'Give Peas A Chance!'
Mental health problems are very common, but we usually brush them under the
carpet, keeping quiet about our own problems or those of our friends and relatives.
Creative Routes, an interdisciplinary arts organisation run by and for those
who have survived the mental health system and mental distress,organise the
annual Bonkersfest as "a showcase of mad creativity."
Perhaps I'm getting used to it, or just called in at the wrong time, but
there did seem to be rather less of this creativity on display than in previous
years. I really wasn't too sure about the "peas" either - they did
seem to me to be trivialising dissent, our most important democratic right,
and one that is currently under pressure. It isn't enough to be mildly amusing
to be worth calling performance art.
Next to the green, some enterprising women were making the most of the occasion
by organising a yard sale, and on the green is a memorial to a wartime tragedy.
Jesus Army Marches on London
Piccadilly, London. Saturday 19 July, 2008
Young members lead the Jesus army up Piccadilly
The Jesus Army describes itself as "an evangelical Christian
Church with a charismatic emphasis" while others have labelled it
as a sect or a cult. There are certainly ex-members who talk openly about
it, and particularly about leaving it as a traumatic experience, while others
simply feel that they could not personally give the level of committment it
requires of them.
I found their march through London a dispiriting event, too uniform in many
ways and I soon found it depressing to photograph. But as I told the woman
who came out of the crowd passing by to hug me, "Jesus loves you
too, sister" although I'm sure the guy I've read about in the gospels
would have had no truck with this organisation. London Transport might have
a problem with their logo too!
Battersea Power Station
Battersea, London. Saturday 19 July, 2008
The northern pair of those four famous chimneys
I think the last time I went around Battersea Power Station was in 1984,
shortly after its closure as a power station, when it still had a roof and
machinery inside. Almost 25 years later, after being been part demolished
and left to rot since 1989 it is in a sorry state. It was a building that
took a long time to build, first proposed around 1927, designed in 1930 by
Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and J Theo Halliday, the first half was completed
in 1939, but the final two chimneys were only completed in 1955.
Listed in 1980, its four chimneys has made it one of London's best known
landmarks. It would have been hard for a casual visitor to the exhibition
organised by developers Real Estate Opportunities (REO) to know that their
plans involve the demolition of these chimneys, despite an independent survey
in 2005 which showed they could be repaired. REO are promising to rebuild
them, but whether they can be held to these promises (and exactly what they
will be like if rebuilt) remains a matter for speculation.
REO's plans certainly don't convince the Battersea
Power Station Community Group and on their site you can find much more
information about the site and the proposals, including links to features
in the press, where, as they say, the "reception to the proposals
has so far ranged from sceptical to outright hostile."
There probably isn't much more chance of the REO scheme being built than
earlier ones (the thought 'pigs might fly' comes into everyone's
head thanks to the Pink Floyd's Animals album cover), though
they could get as far as removing the chimneys before being giving up, paving
the way for demolishing the power station. The site without it, with extra
riverside access and views, would be considerably more valuable to developers
perhaps allowing a considerable profit in selling the site on.
Local Government Workers Strike for more Pay
London, Wednesday 16 July, 2008
On the march in Holborn
Public sector employees have lost out over the years because ther pay settlements
have not kept up with inflation - when the government is short of money, they
have to go short.
The recent offer to local government workers has given the lowest paid more,
but for most the increase will be less than they have lost over the year due
Unite and Unison had called a march in the centre of London and It was a
decent-sized affair with perhaps around two thousand marchers, mainly from
Unison and Unite but there were also banners from the NUT and some GNB placards.
Tent City Against Wembley Academy
Bridge Road, Wembley, London. Wednesday 16 July, 2008
Hank Roberts on the roof at 'Tent City' protest
Teachers in the London Borough of Brent are among those who have been taking
to the tents in the occupation of Wembley Park Sports Ground, just a hammer
throw or two from the well-known stadium. They know that the government's
program to establish City Academies has failed to deliver the promised
results, and that putting one in the area will only damage the exisiting three
good schools in the area. Wembley doesn't need a new school - and if it did,
handing £30 million of public - our - money over to private enterprise
to run one simply crazy.
The area is also one of the more congested parts of London. More school places
will mean more school runs, especially from the southern areas of Brent where
there is a shortage of space. The sports ground is also used by local groups,
including a nursery school, sports groups (a football practice was taking
place while I was taking pictures) an three small businesses creating local
employment, all of which will find it hard to find alternative venues and
are likely to close.
It'salso hard to know why a political party that campaigned against the academy
in the elections which got it into power in Brent should perform a sudden
about-turn and not only decide it has to be done, but that even though the
site won't be ready for several years it has to start straight away in substandard
accommodation. It is a change of policy that has encouraged allegations of
illegality - and may be challenged in court.
So far, the courts have only become involved on the council's side, issuing
an order for the protesters to leave the site by 6pm on Tuesday - which they
ignored. When I visited them and talked with the local leader of the two main
teaching unions, they were busy putting tents up on the roof of the changing
room block to make it harder for them to be evicted. Several threats of physical
eviction have been made, and a small crowd has turned up to add their support
to the small number permanentely on site, but so far no real atttempt has
been made to remove the protesters, despite the issuing of injunctions to
one person and the "unknown occupiers" of a number of the tents
at the time empty.
River Thames, Staines to Windsor. Monday 14 July, 2008
Catching swans at Runnemede
Catching the train back from Hull I arrived home just in time to catch up
with the uppers as the last boats in the flotilla were leaving the Swan in
Staines (or Egham Hythe) after stopping for lunch. They had found a few broods
in the morning, but there weren't many on the stretch up to Windsor, and unfortunately
the larger group at Old Windsor were on the wrong side of the river for me,
away from the towpath.
The man who has ridden ahead on his bike and found the swans, enticing them
with bread and biscuits to a suitable spot - and was my guide to the event
- was unwell this year, or he might have enticed them to a more suitable spot
- and he always cycled along the towpath so most of the swans ended up there
Fortunately there were a pair with three cygnets at Runnemede, and they were
over on the side where the bread gets liberally thrown by visitors to the
park there, so I was able to take some pictures of them being surrounded,
caught and recorded, before cycling on to photograph the toast to the Queen
in Romsey lock when the uppers reached Windsor.
You can also see pictures from previous years on My London Diary:
- Shepperton-Staines, Jul
- Shepperton, Staines, Egham, Old Windsor, Jul
- Shepperton, Staines, Egham, Old Windsor,
- Chertsey, Staines, Egham, Jul
- Laleham to Windsor, Jul
more pictures from this
Yorkshire Interlude II
Hull, Sunday 13 July, 2008
Former Dry Dock in Hull's Old Town
Hull was where I had my first - and still my largest - one-person show, back
in 1983, when 'Still
Occupied - A view of Hull' with over 140 prints on the top floor of the
Ferens Art Gallery. Much of what I photographed in the 1970s and early 80s
has disappeared or changed radically in the 25 years since then - this site
was a working dry dock. I didn't have time to look around all of Hull, but
I did have a good wander around the pier and the new developments close to
Yorkshire Interlude I
Hornsea, East Yorkshire. Saturday 12 July, 2008
The North Sea at Hornsea
Not content with getting soaked in Eton, we went to Yorkshire to get soaked
again. Everyone else had been there a couple of days earlier for the Haltemprice
election, but we were just there to visit an old friend, and revisit some
of our favourite places up there, including Hornsea where we had previously
spent several short holidays. And our route back to Ian's house where we were
staying in Hull took us past both Beverley and Bethnal Green.
Eton, Berkshire. Monday 7 July, 2008
An English Summer day at Eton. We got very wet on our walk
Eton is a village on the River Thames with a rather large school which takes
up much of it. Most of the shops seem to cater either for the students or
their parents, as well as richer tourists who wander over the bridge from
Windsor. Though only a few miles outside London and a short bike ride from
the town where I live it is a different planet.
Pride London Parade
Baker St, London. Sat 5 July, 2008
The Unite bus in the Pride Parade
It's nearly 20 years since I first photographed Pride (you can really go
back in time and view the actual
web site I wrote in 1997 for my pictures that year - but I would no longer
recommend Netscape Navigator 4!) and some earlier work is still on
Shadows. You can also see the 40 or so pictures (as rather better scans)
from my 'Ten Years
of Pride', part of the 'Queer is Here' exhibition at the Museum
of London in 2006.)
Now I wonder each year if I will bother to photograph it next year. It's
still I think an important event, but really now an entertainment rather than
the kind of statement it used to be.
This year there seemed to be rather less of the parade than in previous years,
though much of it seemed just the same as last year, and the whole thing seems
to have rather got in a rut. Still, at least this year it was dry.
London G8 Actions
Japanese Embassy and Croydon, 4-5 July, 2008
Police and demonstrators at Electric House, Croydon
A small group of anarchists turned up to protest opposite the Japanese embassy
in Piccadilly at Friday lunchtime, displaying banners and handing out the
'London Fete Against the G8 Newspaper for Freedom of Movement, Freedom
to Protest and equal Rights for All!'
As usual they were closely watched by police and photographed by a FIT team.
Action by FitWatch with their banners meant that by the time I arrived
the FIT had fled to the opposite side of the road.
The newspaper's main article described the effects of globalisation in setting
up a "modern system of slavery" through complex systems
of immigration controls, and explained that this was why the London Fete against
the G8, called by 'No Borders' and other groups, would be in Croydon,
home to the UK Border Agency at Lunar House, a major asylum
reporting centre at Electric House as well as the Home Office
Immigration Research Statistics Service in Apollo House.
I arrived very late for the Fete on Saturday, as I had been photographing
the start of the Pride parade. Other photographers showed me pictures of the
police pushing demonstrators around earlier and said that they had taken some
of the banners.
The FIT had also been very much in evidence, from the start of the event
where cyclists met in Brixton for the ride down and in the shopping centre
where the Croydon Fete started, with the samba band entertaining shoppers.
But now the FitWatch team had little to do, though they continued to hold
their banner in front of the police (and occasionally the press.)
While I was there, although the police obstructed and impeded demonstrators
there were few real problems as they walked to Electric House, although one
photographer standing next to me was assaulted by police - pushed rather firmly
in the back without warning.
It was a relatively small demonstration, and the police insisted it walk
on the pavement. I was also prevented at one point from going onto an empty
road to take photographs of the event.
Finally the marchers left Electric House and went into the pedestrianised
(apart from the trams) George Street, where some wanted to go into a pub to
use the toilets. Immediately the police formed a cordon to protect the establishment,
pushing the protesters away with what seemed unnecessary force and a certain
glee in some cases.
It was in any case time to go home, and both demonstrators and police drifted
away, leaving the pub to the photographers.
60 Years of the NHS - Keep our NHS Public
Richmond House, Whitehall, London. Fri 4 July, 2008
The Grim Reaper and a Fat Cat outside the Ministry of Health
London Keep our NHS Public called for a demonstration on the eve
of the 60th birthday of the NHS outside the Department of Health offices at
Richmond House in Whitehall.
Around 50, including people from various local Keep our NHS Public groups
around London and Socialist and Green Parties came for a spirited demonstration
with banners, placards and songs, with a little theatre from the Grim Reaper
and a Fat Cat.
We need to return to the original principles of the NHS, of free public provision
run for the benefit of patients rather than to maximise profits for private
companies - PFI schemes have proved disastrous, leaving huge debts that have
caused a funding crisis leading to cuts in services. (PFI projects result
in NHS trusts paying over 6 times the actual construction costs, with payments
spread over 30-60 years.)
Health minister Lord Darzi's report on provision in London calls for closing
of half the Accident and Emergecy units, as well as a 6% cut in beds over
10 years - when population is expected to rise by 8%. 70% of GP surgeries
will close, with doctors relocated into Polyclinics, mainly run by private
At the end of the demonstration, a small deputation went to take a 'Birthday
Card' into the Department of Health for Lord Darzi. After some negotiation,
one person was allowed to leave it at reception.
Fair Pay for Local Government Workers
Westminster, London. Thursday 7 July, 2008
A signed portrait of Gerald Kaufmann
Gerald Kaufmann has the rare distinction of being the only person I have
ever voted for who has been elected an MP, although it was in 1970 that I
became a constituent of his when he won Manchester Ardwick and he does look
just a little different now.
Unison had two large boards on the grass opposite the Houses of Parliament
and were collecting signatures on them - as they had also done at Glastonbury
- in support of a fair deal for local authority workers. 2.45% - IT'S A SHAME
was the message across the top of the boards, as like most public sector workers
they are being offered a pay cut rather than a rise this year.
There were several TV crews and a few photographers taking pictures of nothing
much happening on the green while I was there - a pity they hadn't bothered
to make it to the DfT earlier.
Stop Heathrow Airport Expansion Flashmob - DfT
Marsham St, London. Thursday 3 July, 2008
Paper planes fly around the Department for Transport
I arrived at the Department for Transport (DfT) on the corner of
Marsham St and Horseferry Road at 10.55am and wondered if I had come to the
right place, as there were only two policeman and a man with a camera to be
seen. I walked down to check any other entrances of the DfT building and found
little more evidence that anything was about to happen.
By the time I returned to the corner there was a small crowd present, many
in bright red t-shirts with the message 'STOP AIRPORT EXPANSION',
although at perhaps 60 people present it was a little smaller than I'd hoped.
The event was billed to proceed in two stages, with t-shirts being revealed
at 11.03 and paper planes being thrown at 11.05, but it didn't quite work
like that. It was warmish and the rain had stopped, and people had arrived
in their red t-shirts and the time-keeping was down to a rather vague clock.
When a guy blew his whistle at 11.01.52 everyone started throwing their planes.
Fortunately I'd been watching him so I got a picture.
It proved rather difficult to photograph a disorganised throwing of paper
planes, though there are a few in mid-air in some of my pictures, and others
It was another demonstration that made clear the opposition to the expansion
of air transport and Heathrow in particular, reminding Ruth Kelly
(who as usual was nowhere to be seen - and has refused to meet with the residents'
protest groups) that although she can hide, she and the government can't escape
the consequences of her actions. DfT (and athe government) wont just look
DafT if she gets this wrong, it will look criminal.
Heathrow expansion would be a major disaster, a blow to the country's not
entirely justified green reputation, as well as a significant nail in the
planet's coffin. Air travel is just one of the nettles any government has
to grasp and deal with if we are to avoid ecological catastrophe. It is time
the nation stopped thinking of Heathrow as an airport and started to plan
the transition of the entire site into a major eco-burb for London.
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