my london diary index
 

July 2008

City of Ambition at Photofusion
River Thames, Southwark
Thames Path - Marlow to Henley
Hurley Village Fete
Binyam Mohamed Birthday Party
Our Lady of Mount Carmel
I Love Peckham
Bonkersfest
Jesus Army Marches on London
Battersea Power Station
Local Government Workers Strike
Tent City Against Wembley Academy
Swan Upping
Hull
Hornsea
Eton Walk
Pride London Parade
London G8 Actions
60 Years - Keep our NHS Public
Fair Pay for Local Government Workers
Stop Heathrow Airport Expansion Flashmob

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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.
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River Thames, Southwark

Blackfriars Bridge, Southwark, London Tues 26 July, 2008

Downstream view from underneath Blackfriars Rail Bridge at low tide
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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.
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The Thames Path - Marlow to Henley

Saturday 26 July, 2008
Meadow and view towards River Thames on the Thames Path at Culham Court in Berkshire
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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 here!

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.
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Hurley Village Fete

Hurley, Berks. Saturday 26 July, 2008

The fancy-dress parade ended in front of the church
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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 above.
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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
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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:

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Procession in Honour of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

St Peter's Italian Church, Clerkenwell, London. 20 July, 2008

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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.
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I Love Peckham

Peckham, London. Saturday 19 July, 2008

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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.
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Bonkersfest

Camberwell Green, London. Saturday 19 July, 2008

Performance artist Bobby Baker with 'Give Peas A Chance!'
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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.
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Jesus Army Marches on London

Piccadilly, London. Saturday 19 July, 2008

Young members lead the Jesus army up Piccadilly
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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!
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Battersea Power Station

Battersea, London. Saturday 19 July, 2008

The northern pair of those four famous chimneys
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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.
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Local Government Workers Strike for more Pay

London, Wednesday 16 July, 2008

On the march in Holborn
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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 to inflation.

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.
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Tent City Against Wembley Academy

Bridge Road, Wembley, London. Wednesday 16 July, 2008

Hank Roberts on the roof at 'Tent City' protest
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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.
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Swan Upping

River Thames, Staines to Windsor. Monday 14 July, 2008

Catching swans at Runnemede
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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 as well.

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:

more pictures from this year

 

Yorkshire Interlude II

Hull, Sunday 13 July, 2008

Former Dry Dock in Hull's Old Town
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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 the marina.
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Yorkshire Interlude I

Hornsea, East Yorkshire. Saturday 12 July, 2008

The North Sea at Hornsea
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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.
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Eton Walk

Eton, Berkshire. Monday 7 July, 2008

An English Summer day at Eton. We got very wet on our walk
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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.
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Pride London Parade

Baker St, London. Sat 5 July, 2008

The Unite bus in the Pride Parade
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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 Fixing 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.
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London G8 Actions

Japanese Embassy and Croydon, 4-5 July, 2008

Police and demonstrators at Electric House, Croydon

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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.
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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
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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 companies.

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.
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Fair Pay for Local Government Workers

Westminster, London. Thursday 7 July, 2008

A signed portrait of Gerald Kaufmann
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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.
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Stop Heathrow Airport Expansion Flashmob - DfT

Marsham St, London. Thursday 3 July, 2008

Paper planes fly around the Department for Transport
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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 hit me.

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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