london diary

june 2004

 

my london diary

The cannabis march had to be postponed at the start of may, when heavy rain caused one of London's lost rivers, the effra, to put in an appearance in brockwell park. numbers were down for the start of the march which ambled its way down from kennington park for the festival, but things picked up considerably on the way through brixton. in the festival things started to get distinctly mellow, with some great music, including one of the real trumpet legends of popular music and some well-known rap. lesson to kingston green fair were the poets and politicos - including jenny jones for the greens and a beatifically stoned howard marks - who got a good audience between the musical acts.
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i was sorry to have to leave before the end of what was a very pleasant event, showing that as a cultural drug, cannabis has many advantages over alcohol (though there was also plenty of that in evidence, and i had some of the nicest cider from hereford i've drunk in a while, that fully deserved its gold medal status.) perhaps the main forces against legalisation are now from the organisations profiting from the drug traffic and also the alchol business. a grow-it-yourself revolution could make big dents in many corporate profits. but it was off to kensington for a very pleasant evening with friends and a good italian meal (none of us had pizza!)

i've a great respect for the sikhs whose religion puts the values that society should value at its centre. they got a very raw deal when we carved up the indian subcontinent between hindus and muslims giving them independence, partitioning the largely sikh panjab leading to bloody ethnic cleansing and submission. the indian government has treated sikhs worse than under british rule, not even conceding recognition of panjabi as the official language of the panjab until 1966.

operation bluestar, starting at the end of may 1984, was the first large-scale military operation by 150,000 indian troops against the panjab. on 4 june, indira gandhi ordered the army to invade the golden temple in amritsar. it was a significant date, during the celebration of the 5th sikh guru, guru arjun dev, who built the temple and was the first sikh guru to be martyred, in 1606. reports in western papers at the time talked about large numbers of women and children being gunned down and the army preventing aid works from giving medical aid or even water to the injured and dying. reliable reports put the deaths from the incident at around 4000


repression continued in the panjab, but a new peak of violence was reached in november of the same year. Following the assassination of indira gandhi by her two sikh bodyguards, the government and police encouraged and orchestrated four days of mob violence which resulted in the massacre of many thousands of sikhs across india.


in the following years, india turned the panjab into a police state, with thousands of arrests and disappearances of sikhs. the police set up roughly fifty cremation grounds across the state; an inquiry into just three of these showed that at these sites alone, around a thousand sikhs had been disposed of at these. Thousands of other bodies were just dumped into rivers and canals. some of those investigating these events have themselves disappeared. few official inverstigations have been started and even these have made little or no progress.
many sikhs see the only way forward as an independent state of khalistan, and a declaration to this effect was made in 1986, with a countil of khalistan being set up the following year.

sikhs want truth and justice. they want the world to know about the 'sikh holocaust' at indian hands and they want those who perpetrated it brough to justice. it is hard to understand why such genocide in india has received relatively little attention worldwide.
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carshalton carnival is one of the livelier of such events still taking place in greater london. as well as the procession there is also a large fair in carshalton park. it is in many respects a very local event, with many local groups taking part. the weather stayed fine, several thousand people enjoyed themselves, and doubtless the event made money for the various charities supported.
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on my way back i stopped off in merton, to take a look at the open day at the ruins of the chapter house of merton priory. founded in 1114, it became one of the most important medeival abbeys in england, more important than westminster or canterbury. the earliest written english laws are the eleven 'statutes of merton' of 1236, written there because westminster was flooded. merton college, founded by walter de Merton, was one of three that started oxford university in the 1260s.
henry viii's marital problems led to the dismantling of the abbey in 1538, with much of its stones coming in handy to build a new pad for anne boleyn down the road at nonsuch palace in cheam. the site itself stayed pretty derelict, but was still known as merton abbey. excavations from 1914-20 established the floor plans of the site, which is a scheduled ancient monument.
in 1959 a garden was created on the site of the main altar of the church and 'given in perpetuity' to the people of merton. this now lies several feet below the surface of the car park of the 'savacentre'. most of the rest of the site of the huge church is also preserved below the tarmac, with a little still present beneath the edge of the supermarket. the ruins of the chapter house is in an enclosed area under the main dual carriageway of merantum way. most of the rest of the abbey buildings were to the south of this, and the site has recently been excavated before it is completely destroyed by new development.
part of the site was developed as a calico printing works in 1724, using water and power from the river wandle. the site has a large undershot waterwheel, around two hundred years old and know in use by a potter. arthur liberty used littler's print works here to print the fabrics for his regent stree store, taking over the site completely in 1904 and using parts of it until 1977. an even more famous name, william morris, signed a lease for a site by the river in the north of merton abbey in 1881, and morris & co produced decorated glass, printing fabrics and other goods there, closing in 1940; a plaque on the site gives some details.
the area also has a place in railway history, with the world's first public railway, the horse-drawn surrey iron railway beside the river wandle opening in 1804, taking goods down to the thames at wandsworth.
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sunday i started at greenwich, where i took at walk around the grounds of the former royal naval college, now more open to the public as greenwich university; certainly a fine and historic site. as there were no train services to greenwich beacuse of engineering work on the line i decided to walk along the river to north greenwich. some of the old riverside has gone, with a few new blocks of flats replacing wharfs, and many sites now either unused or relying entirely on road transport. the riverside path has been tidied up, fenced in and homogenised, but enough is left for it to remain exhilirating. you no longer need to look out for the overhead cranes spilling gravel or lorries maing their way across the route, or to pick your way carefully between the container carriers, and the only people in view on a sunday are the occasional walkers and more numerous cyclists out like me to enjoy the weather.

the tube took me to trafalgar square for the first 'bikefest' to be held there. i was flabbergasted to find the first notice i saw was one telling me that bikes were not allowed on the square. how can you have a bike festival and ban bikes? it was certainly a warning that this was not to be a serious bike event, and i longed for critical mass to sweep in and stick their fingers up at authority. perhaps next time?


it was a show without a centre, though one or two mildly interesting fringes.
good to see rinky-dink again, though more than disappointing that instead of hearing their music they were simply employed to back a rather turgid group and kept stationery in a corner of the terrace. why not have them wandering around the square dispensing their own melodious beat that kept us marching towards aldermaston in april? weapons of sound were interesting to look at, but the music lacked the promised funk.


team extreme were great on the half pipe. like all such displays it amazed me what they could do, but i end up feeling that this is not what cycling is about. i was glad of the safety barriers when one of the guys landed badly after a terrifying stunt and left his bike to skid across the surface and crash into the barrier in front of me. it looked and sounded bad but to all our relief he got up smiling and walked away.

then i met joe with his unicycle. he'd already been hassled by the 'heritage wardens' (ken's ss) for riding it in the square. he'd come with his mountain model and decided to give it a ride in the fountains. a couple of minutes fun and a little entertainment for those in the square was too much for the wardens to allow, and he was soon being told to get out. a pity, since those big steps down from the terrace to the square would have been great for a unicyclist and added a little much needed zest.
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meanwhile in leicester square we were still fighting ww2, with a latter-day vera lynn entertaining some. we fought for europe, and now are celebrating this on the same day as the results came out with so many rejecting it. in many ways war in the west end seemed to me a sad event, and there were no great signs those taking part were having a good time. relatively few had made much of an effort to dress the part, though there were three young ladies in the kind of clothes that very much made me think of my own mother and the other ladies of her generation when i was on parade in my perambulator. actually more the other ladies given my mother's fashion sense which i seem to have inherited. am i the only person to have been blackballed from a photography club on sartorial grounds?
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home of tennis and the wombles, wimbledon always strikes me as an alien implant in london by some civilisation with a time machine, a sense of humour and a very fat wallet. i dropped in to the village fair just to see it still existed.

half an hour later i was back in the real world. where companies make off with the pension funds leaving people who have paid in to schemes for years with no pensions. where other creditors come before pension holders when companies go bust.
where millions of lower paid workers now have no employment pension rights at all. where women have always been treated unfairly in many respects. where government has worsened conditions for civil servants, teachers and others. As TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber says "Those who used to have good pensions now have poor pensions. Those who used to have poor pensions, now have no pension."
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on the way home i went for a walk by the river in hammersmith, another area of london strongly associated with william morris. the funivall sculling club here was established in 1896 as the hammersmith sculling club for girls - the world's first women's rowing club - by dr frederick furnivall; it went unisex in 1901. furnival had earlier championed rowing for working men. he served as the model for the water rat in 'wind in the willows', as well as being involved with the preparation of the oxford english dictionary.
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sunday the streets of london were alive to the sound of hare krsna, hare krsna, krsna krsna, hare hare, hare rama, hare rama, rama rama, hare hare.... as several thousand supporters pulled three 40ft tall decorated wooden chariots from hyde park to trafalgar square to celebrate the indian festival of rathayatra - the carnival of chariots. an extension from hinduism, krishna consciousness isn't my thing, involving abstinence from alcohol, coffee, meat, onions, mushrooms and sex except for the purposes of procreation. the movement has come a long way from its roots in new york's lower east side in the flower-power years, but still seems a part of those times. all respect to the sincerity, honesty and friendliness of these people, and it was a great show, the biggest in london yet, but a few hours of being kind and good and aiming for perfection was enough to last me the year.
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most of the new riverside developments along the thames have been pretty dire. although the planning process has opened up stretches of riverside walk, it has also meant less and less of it is worth walking, marred by bland investment-maximising flats. possibly the latest at putney are better than many. i'd like to see a planning process that insisted on architectural excellence in key high-profile sites, with the developers compelled to go to public competition over the designs.

wandsworth bridge at least adds a little colour to the river, although its 1930s design seems rather utilitarian. there are still signs of the working river around.

i've tried to avoid the flags, most of which don't look like the traditional cross of st george to me. perhaps we can forget about them now?
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wimbledon can doubtless be blamed for the rain, and it fell relentlessly if not too heavily all saturday morning as we waited around in brixton for the precursor of the next example of sporting madness. however it was an occasion for a little fun, with music and some attractive samba dancers from quilombo do samba, some athletic capoeira (a latin american version of morris dancing?) from abada capoeira and a little carnival from south connections and angell town community group (and some drumming from Sandy Lamb) lifting the greyness.

eventually the caravan arrived, although it was actually a black taxi, carrying an olympic torch. i gave the photocall a miss so as to get in position to catch frank bruno ambling down the street with the torch. across the traffic lights and into brixton high street where he passed it to a rather attractive davina mccall, apparently a tv presenter (well, i don't have a tv, so i wouldn't know.)

it all seemed rather a sad non-event (thank goodness i missed the concert.) the whole olympic bit seems little more than a commercial event now, publicity for the sponsors. surely its time for a new olympic movement to pick up the old ideals again?

but in brixton the carnival was bright and colourful and fun for those taking part and watching.
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sunday i went out for a little exercise on my bike, over the m25 where they are making more lanes to attract traffic and into thorpe village, now largely an outpost of the usa, with many of its grandest old buildings being a part of an american school. then i took a good look at the sky and covered the 5 or so miles home in record time, arriving home just catching the first few drops of a torrential storm.
thorpe pictures

monday i was in london for a meeting, but went up a few hours early to take a walk. at the end of the newly developed 'more london' is a display of some of the finest photojournalism of our time by tom stoddart, in the show i-witness, marking 40 years of work by the disasters emergency commitee.

i walked on across tower bridge and through the tarted up st katherine's dock - one of london's great missed opportunities - up to cable street, then past the old music hall to wellclose square and swedenbourg gardens. here stood ulrica eleonora, the first swedish church in london, 1728-1911, named after the swedish queen who abdicated in 1720, and i stopped to eat my lunch in the park close to the moment erected there in 1960.

from there i wandered a little around whitechapel and bethnal green before travelling to the city and my meeting.
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Cannabis march and festival

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Marchers for the legalisation of cannabis included some in costumes and on stilts.
Brixton, London, June 5, 2004
Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Three people enjoying themselves at the Cannabis festival, Brockwell Park, London, June 5. 2004
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Sikhs protest against Indian genocide

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Sikhs demonstrate for an enquiry to hunt down those responsible for the 1984 genocide.
Hyde Park, London, 6 June, 2004
Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Sikhs carried coffins to recall those massacred by the Indian army at Amritsar in 1984.
Hyde Park, London, 6 June, 2004
Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Sikhs demonstrate twenty years after the Amritsar massacre. Hyde Park, London, June 6, 2004
Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Sikh women and young people were prominent in the demonstration along with the men.
Park Lane, London, June 6, 2004
Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
The badges read 'Truth & Justice Campaign' SIKH HOLOCAUST 1984.
Piccadilly, London, 2004
Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004

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Carshalton Carnival

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
C arnival queen and princesses, Carshalton Carnival, Carshalton, Surrey, June 12, 2004
Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Carnival float, Carshalton Carnival, Carshalton, Surrey, June 12, 2004
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Merton Abbey

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Chapter House, Merton Abbey, a scheduled ancient monument. Merton, London, June 12, 2004
Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Site of Merton Priory, Merton, London, June 12, 2004      more pictures

Greenwich

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Former Royal Naval College, Greenwich, now a university. Greenwich, London, June 13, 2004
Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Greenwich riverside path looking across to Canary Wharf, Greenwich, London, June 13, 2004
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Bikefest

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Bikefest - Joe has an unofficial ride in the fountains at Trafalgar Square, London, June 13, 2004
Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Extreme cycling - high above the halfpipe in Trafalgar Square, Bikefest, London, June 13, 2004
Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Rinky-Dink are much more my style. Bikefest, Trafalgar Square, London, June 13, 2004
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Sixty years on

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
We'll meet again? Maybe not. Its that war again in Leicester Square, London, June 13, 2004
Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
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Wimbledon Village Fair

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Show jumping at Wimbledon Village Fair, London, 19 June 2004


Pay Up For Pensions

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
It is a disgrace that workers lose the money put in funds to cover their pensions when companies fold or are taken over. One of the many injustices in our current pension system.
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Hammersmith

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
River Thames at Hammersmith - Furnival Sculling Club
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Rathayatra - the Festival of Chariots

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Celebrating - at the start of the procession in Hyde Park, London.
Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
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Riverside London

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Building site beside Wandsworth Bridge, London, June 25, 2004.     more pictures
Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004

Olympic Torch passes through Brixton

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Dancing along Brixton High St after the Olympic torch, London June 26, 2004    more pictures
Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
These girls were pleased to have been given tickets for the evening's concert in the Mall.

M25 and Thorpe

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
M25 motorway widening at Egham, Surrey intended to create a 12 lane traffic jam around London.
Pictures of Thorpe

More London, Wapping, Whitechapel and the City

Picture  Peter Marshall, 2004
Tom Stoddard's i-Witness exhibition with the Tower of London, Tower Bridge and City Hall, London, June 28. more pictures
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