london diary

august 2004


my london diary

the first soho pride held last year was a great success, and this year's event followed the same pattern. street closures, restuarant tables in the roadway, djs and loud sounds, people out to eat, drink, dance and generally have a good time.

even in mid-afternoon, the streets were beginning to get really packed, especially outside the more popular gay bars and around the club djs.

really it was one big party, and a party that catered for almost all tastes except in music, which was uniformly relentless club beats. perhaps a pity that the jazz on the streets events had beat a retreat to carnaby street (surely forty years behind us with flower power.)

after a while i began to feel my age, and escaped to the underground and home for a quiet and leisurely alfresco dinner with a few glasses of white wine.
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august 6 was the 59th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on hiroshima, the first act of the cold war. (it was also the day the tate gallery decided to demonstrate it didn't understand opera, sending singers to serenade the traffic at vauxhall cross, and linda told me to go and photograph it, so i did. pretty boring. i also went to take a look at the river, which was supposedly greatly damaged by a hefty load of sewage during our recent cloudburst, the system not being able to cope with the very high flow. at vauxhall on friday it looked and smelt pretty normal)

back in august 1945japan was already ready to surrender and the allies (or at least the usa) knew this. they wanted to show russia that they had a weapon that could be used should russia step out of line. hiroshima and nagasaki were annihilated as a gesture to stalin (uncle jo as some newspapers liked to refer to him then.)

since then we have had a continuous campaign of lies and deceptions over nuclear weapons. it continues to this day with the ridiculous pretense that we have an independent nuclear weapon, and we are being softened up for the arrival of 'mini-nukes', smaller but even more dangerous nuclear weapons.

the anniversary was commemorated at tavistock square by hampstead and london region campaign for nuclear disarmament. those present included the former labour leader michael foot and tony benn, as well as the oldest member of the labour party as well as an american visitor from US Labor agains the war.

tavistock square has a number of interesting memorials, including a fine statue of gandhi, and a cherry tree planted in memeory of the victims past and present of the atomic bombs dropped on hiroshima and nagasaki on august 6 and 9, 1945. the ceremony was a reminder that is anyone is still looking for weapons of mass destruction they are present in america; any "war on terror" should perhaps start against the country which used these weapons to devasting effect without any compunction in 1945.

the event was chaired by local MP jeremy corbyn, and speakers included ken savage of greater london pensioners association, sophie bolt, chair of london cnd, darren johnson, gla green party leader and tony benn. mordechai vanunu had been invited to come from jerusalem where he is under house arrest, but was prevented from coming by the israeli government. there were also songs from the workers' music associatin choir.
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saturday i spent wandering around london, mainly getting to things too early. i did manage to take a few pictures of a romanian group performing at bernie spain garden, before leaving for trafalgar square which had been taken over for the final event of a two week 'soul in the city' mission for young people.
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the fountains in the square were full of young people, mainly girls, waving in ecstacy to rather tame gospel music in a slickly managed event. as i was photographing a woman was praying out loud into my left ear, filling it with sycophantic nonsense, but otherwise there seemed to be little real fervour.

i went back to the romanians, where at least there was urquell pilsner on sale (its advertising says 'in the beginning there was darkness, then in 1842 we found the light.)
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sunday i went to the dogs, and the dogs were in dulwich for a 'fun dog show'. i'm not a dog lover, but it was a surprisingly good-natured event, with only a little snarling and barking, mainly by one of the entrants who lost it when her dog was not shortlisted by the judge. unfortunately i was over the other side of the ring for this. there were also some pierrots, don't ask why, but they were at least reasonably tuneful rubbish.
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the heat told on dogs and me, and i left before the end, heading yet again for trafalgar square and some very pleasant indian dancing, dandia in the square, with indian dance students showing us how to dance the traditional dandia raas or stick dancing. having two left feet as well as a hefty camera bag i didn't join in, but it was a pleasant spectacle, with some spectacularly decorated costumes, and even the stewards were human.
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ok, so hastings isn't london, but it is only a short day trip down to the coast, and many of the people down there with me to watch the carnival were from london. hastings old town carnival was a traditional english carnival, but now is more eclectic, but still with relatively little input from our more recently arrived ethnic groups. being hastings there were a few references to the events of 1066. there was a well-supported float for the hastings/sierra leone friendship group, but we also had king henry viii, noahs ark, pirates, a tropical island, fairy tales, chicago-style gangsters and more.

i'm not a great fan of majorettes, but there was certainly some virtuoso baton twirling on display, including one lady who needed a lorry to carry her prizes. judging from the pictures of previous years there was perhaps a little less zany invention this year than before, but it was a good-natured event, and the centre of the old town was crowded to watch it. rather than battle it out through the streets i adjourned to the kings head for a couple of pints, only to find the carnival was still making its way round as i made mine to the station.
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although we don't seem to have much in the way of english carnivals left in london, we now have the carnaval del pueblo billed as the largest latin-american festival in europe (though i suspect others share this claim.)

i photographed the procession getting ready to start around the elephant, then as it started down walworth road towards the festival in burgess park.
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like most of the rest of the country, london had a bit of rain, with the occasional torrential shower. but saturday turned out fine for the carnival parade in shoreditch, starting from the park and going round through hoxton market. apart from the shire horses from wandsworth brewery it was very much a community-based event, and had obviously generated a lot of interest and effort.

part of the shoreditch festival, its the first parade there for many years, and seemed to me to be a great success. some of the kids really loved being photographed, and i was pleased i was using digital and didn't have to worry about using up film.
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i left the parade as it left hoxton market, and ran for a bus to points south, going to bernie spain gardens where there was a south african festival. the music was great, but the wine was disappointing, really a waste of the chance to show what south africa has to offer, and too expensive for the very little glasses that were on offer. i had to go before some of the more interesting sounding groups made the stage, but there were some nice dancers, and the audience was starting to join in.
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back in staines we had shakespeare's least politically correct play, the taming of the shrew, playing in the open air at the lammas. it was a spirited performance, though the amplification put it rather too much at the same dynamic level. in the interval and after the play had finished a couple of dancers came round a waved torches. it was interesting for around 15 seconds but extremely tedious for the whole performance. better to close your eyes, because at least they did it to some decent music. then at last came the fireworks. a pity i forgot to take my tripod.
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sunday was disappointing. two demonstrations i'd been told about either didn't happen at all or were so late i'd given up and gone away by the time i did. there are quite a few things like this, people publicise events, then change their mind, or sometimes they simply get the day wrong in the annoucements. i wandered into speakers corner, to find the usual guys there, mainly religious nutters, but at least a couple with a sense of humour. my vote goes to the olive oil party; we are superior to the americans because we don't need viagra, we have olive oil, though i wasn't quite clear what you need to do with it.

then i went to trafalgar square, to see 'fast forward',but it seemed to be run by bbc radio london, and was bad news, too much agitated media-hype like silly kids tv programmes on saturday mornings. fast forward really was a washout, and failed to live up to the billing. shoreditch parade the previous day had shown what people and communities can do and the real excitement and involvement it can generate; this was more about a few people on the make, exploiting the arts establishment's guilt about race. there were some rather clever gymnasts performing in five hoops - 'olympic rings' - hung from a frame in front of the national gallery, but there are only so many things you can do with a hoop.

forward to da future was more interesting, with lots of kids in a dance performance, the result of a dance summer school. but the woman dancer going on about meeting a man who didn't turn up and texting on mobile phones was ultimate trivia; wasting her dance talent with inadequate material. i made for some real music at the second day of the south africa festival on the south bank.
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i like to make good use of my travelcards, so rainham, the last station out of fenchurch st in zone 6 is a good destination. i pointed the brompton first to purfleet, to take a look at the state of play on the high-speed rail link, and also a new development in the old chalkpits, then on towards the dartford bridge.

the bridge act obliges the operators to transport cycles and pedestrians across free of charge, and i cycled up the path towards it to claim this right, before changing my mind and deciding i didn't want to go to the other side. instead i took the new road through the west thurrock marshes industrial area and on to st clements church, now a nature sanctuary, in the middle of a detergent factory.

it's a quiet and pleasant place to eat sandwiches, though the smell of the perfuming agent is pervasive. there i planned a route largely along side roads, cycle paths and footpaths to upminster, taking in chafford hundred, south ockenden and belhus park and woods. it made a pleasant ride, though i had to make a few detours, and the b isn't too stable on slimy mud, so some paths made for interesting riding, with the added pleasures of bramble thorns and nettles.
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i'm still not sure what the river cultures festival was about, apart from a terrible pun (funquay beach party), other than publicity for some of the organisers. it took me to west india quay, next to canary wharf. while there i took a look at the museum in docklands. it would be a good place to spend a few hours on an indifferent day. if you are a londoner or visiting london and want to know something of how and why the city was formed and is like it is, don't miss it.

i was keen to get out and photograph the beach, its punch and judy show, the camel, moving beach huts, incredible spouting men and more. too tame to be really surreal.
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i don't know whose wallet it was in the hand i caught as it reached into my pocket in cambridge gardens, but it wasn't mine. it wasn't the time or place to argue much, so i let the youth wriggle away.

the 40th notting hill carnival was living up to its reputation, in this and also in the friendliness of most of the particpants. this was children's day, so i took my son, and will embarass him with a couple of pictures of him dancing. but mostly it was what we have come to expect, and a little dull weather and the odd shower didn't mar the celebrations.
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Soho Pride

August 1, 2004, Soho, LondonPicture © Peter Marshall, 2004

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Picture © Peter Marshall, 2004

Picture © Peter Marshall, 2004

Picture © Peter Marshall, 2004
Picture © Peter Marshall, 2004


Picture © Peter Marshall, 2004
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Hiroshima Day Ceremony

Tavistock Square, London, 6 August, 2004

Picture © Peter Marshall, 2004
Michael Foot (at left) and others at the Hiroshima Plaque in Tavistock Square, London

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Camden Lock

Camden, London, 7 August, 2004
Picture © Peter Marshall, 2004
Camden Lock, Camden, London, Aug 7, 2004
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South Bank

London, 7 Aug, 2004
Picture © Peter Marshall, 2004
Romanian Festival, Bernie Spain Gardens, Aug 7, 2004
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Soul in the City

Trafalgar Square, London, Aug 7, 2004

Picture © Peter Marshall, 2004

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Dulwich Fun Dog Show

Dulwich Park, London, Aug 8, 2004

Picture © Peter Marshall, 2004

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Dandia in the Square

Indian Dance, Trafalgar Square, Aug 8, 2004
Picture © Peter Marshall, 2004
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Hastings Old Town Carnival

Hastings, Aug 14, 2004

Picture © Peter Marshall, 2004
A Samba band livens up the proceedings     more pictures


Carnaval del Pueblo

Elephant and Castle, London, Aug 15, 2004

Picture © Peter Marshall, 2004
The carnival procession sets off down Walworth Rd towards Burgess Park.

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Shoreditch Parade

Shoreditch Parade, London, 21 Aug 2004

Picture © Peter Marshall, 2004
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Coin Street Festival: Viva South Africa

Bernie Spain Gardens, London, 21-22 Aug 2004

Picture © Peter Marshall, 2004
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fast forward

Trafalgar Square, London, 22 Aug 2004

Picture © Peter Marshall, 2004
'forward to da future'      more pictures


Thames Gateway

Rainham, Purfleet, West Thurrock to Upminster, Essex, 26 Aug 2004

Picture © Peter Marshall, 2004
Chafford Hundred, Grays, Essex     more pictures


River Cultures Festival

West India Quay, Hertsmere Road, London E14, 28 Aug 2004

Picture © Peter Marshall, 2004
Funquay Beach Party on West India Quay, Canary Wharf in background, London, 28 Aug, 2004      more pictures


Childrens' Day, Notting Hill Carnival

Notting Hill, London, 29 Aug 2004

Picture © Peter Marshall, 2004
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Notting Hill Carnival

Notting Hill, London, 30 Aug 2004

Picture © Peter Marshall, 2004
Kensal Rd,, 30 Aug 2004      more pictures