london diary

may 2005


my london diary

long live may day!

may day in london means a march from clerkenwell green, with some limited support from the labour movement, but a fine performance from the mlkp (marxist leninist communist party) from london's turkish community and some other immigrant communities. There were kurds, iranians and iraqis, nepalese and sri-lankans, along with a few representatives from trades councils around london and one or two trade unions including the gmb and natfhe, as well as some single issue protestors, and the strawberry theives socialist choir, who i found myself joining in with as i photographed, though i'm not sure my contribution was in the same key as theirs.

it was a joyful procession, even though it was still a protest. marx and lenin were there with us, reminding us that we still need to change the world (and so too were mao and even stalin, though i saw no trace of trotsky.)
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i'd hoped to cover euromayday event organised by the precarity movement, but the freezing of their sms account that morning meant my text message came to late for me to make it.

instead i went on to parliament square, where some of the peace candidates for the general election were taking advantage of the open mike. also, the space hijackers, who have previously organised the circle line parties, had sent a challenge to all 600 mps to play them in a game of cricket.

whether the mps had decided they were too busy with fighting an election, or perhaps felt their cricket skills were not up to it, none of them turned up. instead the space hijackers called for volunteers from the small crowd who had gathered to watch the game.

the police took a sensible approach, (rather different from their performance at the hackney supermarket event i was missing) and having secured the players agreement to play with a tennis ball rather than a hard cricket ball to avoid the likelihood of injuries, the few officers in attendance, having turned down the offer of a game, stood back and watched.

the event had a certain style and englishness that appealed to me. I'm remain unconvinced that anarchist cricket is a possibility, and the whole event was considerably too well organised, with several people who had obviously played the game rather seriously before, although some had a more suitable complete ignorance of the rules and rituals.
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i finished off the day on in southwark, photographing another of our archaic traditions, morris dancers including jack-in-the-green. the side had travelled down from watford and had begun dancing at 5 am, almost 12 hours before i met them. as they went off to the next pub, i took a roundabout walk back towards the station
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on the bank holiday monday i walked another length of the london loop with sam and linda, from petts wood to hayes, kent. although within london it was a very rural walk, though not entirely without interest.

next to the stream at crofton i found a plaque presumably claiming ownership for the isleworth blue school. long ago as a student i got a small grant from them which helped to top up the state funding, at least until my poor reports meant they stopped paying it.

for much of the walk, small planes on the flight path to biggin hill came low over our heads. this was the kind of noise level that planes made when heathrow was pushed through dishonestly as london's new airport. now the disturbance is many orders of magnitude greater, and it is well beyond time to start winding it down, and moving flights elsewhere.

trees are great in their place, but in many areas have been allowed to grow out of control with the loss of animals that used to graze them. commoners no longer take up their rights on most commons. perhaps it should be mandatory for them to have the odd goat! As it is, scrub is developing and many viewpoints are no longer so.

the wilberforce oak was blown down in the great storm a few years back, with only some small fragments left, and the view from the path is fast disappearing. the stone seat on which wilberforce sat to discuss the abolition of slavery with prime minster william pitt is still there, but behind a fence in the grounds of holwood house.

this part of the loop also has the source of the river ravensbourne, one of london's rivers, which flows into the thames at deptford creek. there are also some find old oaks left standing, though many that are just hollow shells.
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i cannot understand why companies are allowed to get away with stealing the pension funds that their workers and the company have contributed to. the law should have been changed long ago to prevent it happening, and to protect these funds when businesses fail.

i can see no problem in legislating to completely separate company pension funds from the finances of the company, vesting them in some kind of separate trust with a legally waterproof wall so pensions can't be stolen by the company and would not be a part of the assets taken by creditors should the business fold.

far too many workers have been shafted by their employers, left without pensions after years of service and payments into their pension funds, and to date little has been done to put things right.

asw, kalamazoo, dexion, felix schoeller, turner & newall, samuel jones, uef, henlys, prudential (ppmv), were among the companies whose former workers were on the march, which was organised by the trade union amicus.
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60 years ago, my view of the world was dark, wet and warm and i was almost certainly unaware of what was happening outside, and i think my mother's part in the ve day celebrations will have been fairly muted and sedentary, though i'm sure both she and my father (the first war had taken him to germany, but this one only got his as far as potters bar on his bike to inspect the bees) shared the feelings of the nation.

i wanted to avoid the large stage-managed media events. couldn't stand the thought of vera lynn and cliff richard, or the prince of wales. so i went to ilford to see how the people in redbridge were commemorating the occasion.

a couple of small groups playing mainly forties jazz tunes, some dancing, kids and oldies having fun, balloons, uniformed 'statues', free tea, a few veterans and a small but informative museum display made a pleasant afternoon in the high street.
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sunday afternoon i attended a more formal event in bromley, which seems to have more uniformed organisations than any other london borough, and the forces were out in force. marching behind the bagpipes came the veterans, most looking surprisingly well despite their age, and with medals to show for their service around the world. one showed me his russian medal for service in the baltic, others had been in the far east as well as africa and europe.

the parade to norman park was joined by more veterans and supporters in buses, as well as a number of vintage vehicles, civil and military. at the park, the mayor, the bishop and a team of other clergy joined up for a drumhead service in a large tented area, holding well over a thousand people.

a few of the veterans felt this was one church parade too many and like me made for the beer tent. perhaps like me they had also called in to the area of remembrance on the way. there was an impressive dignity about the veterans and the event seemed a moving tribute to them and their comrades who died.
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sunday morning i went to a very different parade, led by the superior brass band, a marching jazz band, and featuring many professors of the punch and judy world carrying their puppets. organised by alternative arts, those taking part represented the british puppet and model theatre guild, the college of punch and judy professors, the puppet centre trust, The union internationale de la marionette and the punch and judy fellowship.

the march stopped outside the covent garden facade of st paul's church, where a plaque records that samuel pepys watched the first performance of punch's puppet show near that spot in may 1662.

it then went on to a short session in the yard of the peabody estate in wild street, before returning to the church for a service, and then the may fayre with performances by more punch and judy professors than i thought existed.
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the 'merrie england and london may queen festival' was founded by a master at dulwich school, joseph deedy in 1913, making this year's festival the 93rd. the tradition of may queens is much older, coming from pre-christian times, the goddess of the spring, who the romans called flora. it was a traditional time for young women to come to the villages from the farms to find a husband, and the maypole is a symbol of virility.

deedy's folklorique version is rather different with an uplifting script, still read by the participants as a part of the festival, Some of the text are on the back of the signs carried by the attendants of the may queen of london, the 'joy bells of merrie england' representing 'music', 'company', 'beauty', 'light'...

the london may queen is also attended by 'the prince of merrie england' (also female) along with the fairy queen, bo-peep and robin hood. the event is also attended by a couple of dozen 'realm queens' each also with her attendants, a prince banner bearer, a crown bearer, pages, fairies and flower girls, from half a dozen to twenty or more, all dressed in the particular realm colours and with their own realm flowers. at its peak there were 120 realms with well over a thousand children taking part.

the various positions are decided by seniority in the organisation - children can join when they are three and continue until their sixteenth birthday. many of the mothers i talked too had been may queens or taken part in the ceremony in past years; one of the organisers was apparently a may queen in 1932.

as well as the hayes festival, there is another a week earlier in Beckenham, where most of the realm queens are crowned. the queens and realms also take part in other fetes and carnivals, take flowers to the elderly and attend flower services in churches in their areas. almost all the realms come from the surrounding areas in surburban kent and surrey (now in greater london.)

the children process from the common to hayes village, where there is a short ceremony, 'little sanctum' outside the village church. the procession then continues around hayes, returning to the common. this is rather a long walk for some of the younger children. back at the common there is a short ceremony using mr deedy's words read by the fairy queen, bo-peep, robin hood and others, before the london may queen is crowned by the prince of merrie england. the realm queens are then presented to the london may queen, and have their pictures taken as a group in front of the maypole.

the london may queen then goes around the field with her main attendants as flora, with baskets of flowers which she throws to the realm children. this is followed (after the rather lengthy raffle draw) by dancing round the maypole in a fairly energetic and undisciplined fashion.
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may 15 was international conscientous objectors' day, and the 'right to refuse to kill' group of people from the peace pledge union, conscience, the unitarian peace fellowship, christian cnd, the anglican pacifist fellowship, pax christi, the women's international league for peace and freedom and dances of universal peace had organised a ceremony at the commemorative stone in tavistock square. after a brief introduction by tony kempster of the anglican pacifist fellowship, sue gilmurray sang her song 'heroes' and then angela sinclair who was a conscientous objector in the second world war told her story and spoke about the right not to take part in war.

after a speaker from amnesty and another from conscience, the names of almost seventy conscientious objectors, many of who had died for their beliefs were read out. the organisers had given out white flowers labelled with their names, and as each name was read, the person holding their flower came and placed it on the stone. after a one minute silence the commemoration continued with another song and then dancing, but i had to leave at this point.
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the annual march to demand the legalisation of cannabis had to be postponed and moved to a central london location after lambeth council had refused to allow it to use brockwell park. probably for this reason, the numbers seemed well down on previous years.

the last year has seen both an increasing recognition of the value of cannabis in relieving pain for some conditions, and also in revealing the mental health problems it causes some users. despite these, the existing anti-drugs policies are more and more discredited, leading to increasing crime and addiction, and also greatly increasing the probability of cannabis users moving on to more dangerous and addictive drugs.

cannabis needs to be taken out of the hands of drug dealers, and into some form of legalised supply chain. this would cut out the drug dealers , allow better supervision of the product and create a total separation between cannabis and other more dangerous substances.

it would also allow the creation of a tax revenue, which could be spent on the rehabiliation of drug users.
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i went with the march to trafalgar square and stayed to listen to a couple of the speakers, but soon lost interest and got on the district line to go up to brick lane for the bengali new year festival. when i got there it was just too crowded; after walking around for a few minutes i gave up and came home.
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some of my work gets put into nice organised websites.

this isn't meant to be like that, but you can see some of the rest at

london pictures
londons industrial history

and you can read what I think about photography at


All pictures on this section of the site are © Peter Marshall 2005;
to buy prints or for permission to reproduce pictures or to comment on this site, or for any other questions,

contact me

your comments may be added to the site - or not.
Payment may be waived for acceptable non-profit uses.

some of my work gets put into nice organised websites.

this isn't meant to be like that, but you can see some of the rest at

london pictures
londons industrial history

and you can read what I think about photography at


All pictures on this section of the site are © Peter Marshall 2005;
to but prints or for permission to reproduce pictures or to comment on this site, or for any other questions,

contact me

your comments may be added to the site - or not.
Payment may be waived for acceptable non-profit uses.

Long Live May Day!

May Day march, Clerkenwell Green, London, May 1, 2005

MLKP members dancing at Clerkenwell Green - Long Live May Day!

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Space Hijackers Anarchist Cricket

Parliament Square, London, May 1, 2005

Space Hijackers team warm up before the game. Parliament Square, London, May 1, 2005

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Darren addresses the cricket field for the Green Party, Parliament Square, London, May 1, 2005.


Morris Dancers

Southwark, London, May 1, 2005

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London Loop

Petts Wood to Hayes, Kent. May 2, 2005
Seat where William Wilberforce told Pitt he was introducing a bill to end slavery, May 2, 2005
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Against Pension Theft

Amicus march, Westminster, May 7, 2005

Protestors pass the Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London, May 7, 2005
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VE Day Commemorated

Ilford, London, 7 May, 2005
Learning a dance from the 1940s, Ilford High St, Ilford, London, May 7, 2005


VE Day Parade

Bromley, London, May 8, 2005

British Legion standard bearers get ready for the march, Bromley, 8 May, 2005
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Punch & Judy March

Covent Garden, Westminster, London, 8 May, 2005

The Superior Brass Band led the procession to celebrage 343 years of Mr Punch, Covent Garden, 8 May, 2005

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Merrie England and London May Queen Festival

Hayes Common and Hayes Village, Kent, 14 May 2005

Little Sanctum at the village church in Hayes

Waiting for the procession to restart in Hayes village

Near to the end of the procession
The London May Queen as Flora, throwing flowers

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The Right to Refuse to Kill

International Conscientious Objectors Day,
Tavistock Sq, London, 15 May, 2005

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Cannabis Education March & Rally

Russell Square to Trafalgar Square, London, 15 May, 2005


Cannabis protestor - Respect Cannabis: The Law Does Not - Trafalgar Square, London
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Bengali New Year Festival (Baishaki Mela)

Brick Lane, London, 15 May 2005

Two children look after a stall on Brick Lane

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more may events

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