london diary

sep 2007


my london diary

september main stories


st barnabas bow community fete
kingston carnival
peckham rising opening
the great river race
malta day procession
brick lane
brockwell park urban green fair
lambeth peace month - interfaith peace picnic
caat march against arms fair
space hijackers auction tank at dsei
not a drop more
picket at lloyd's
protect darfur
river thames and the mayor's festival
foot and mouth
sikh wedding
autumn equinox at primrose hill
monumental street women
mourning the martydom of ali
cut the carbon march



st barnabas community fete in bow, otherwise known as bowstock, takes place on wennington green, a patch of ground that acquired intenational notoriety when the local council demanded the demolition of rachel whitbread's house which had been constructed on site there.

it's hard to see any good reason why they should have got rid of what would have been an important and continuing asset to the site. in its place for the fete was a climbing wall.

the most exciting event for me there was the dancing led by the somali community and in particular a great singer, but there were also other things to attract my attention, including bopp's space age chorus, the launderettas and team extreme. it was a lively event and one very much rooted in the local community.
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this year's kingston carnival was a much more exciting event than last year's but there was still a large rent-a-carnival aspect to it. kingston is an ethnically rich borough, and although there was plenty of home-grown talent on display, particularly in the performances by youth from the borough, the procession was still dominated by out of town talent. it's great to encourage diversity, but i think a borough carnival has a duty to promote its local expression rather more, even if it might mean - at least until it built up more - a rather less flashy display.

of course it was good to see a greater diversity among the 'foreign' talent that paraded past the rather dazed looking shoppers along kingston's pedestrian streets, including even some clog dancers from croydon, along with caribbean groups.

beeraahaar sweet combination, based in stamford hill enlivened the main parade, and the elaborate larger costumes from paddington arts arrived later to play their part.
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you can read more about the show 'peckham rising' and the opening at the sassoon gallery there in my >re:photo blog. another piece there explores 'my peckham'.

here are some more pictures from the opening there, taken by available light (although there wasn't a great deal of it.)
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the great river race isn't really a particularly great race, but there were well over 200 boats involved, and considerable competition. the event is a handicap, and also has multiple classes and boats start at different times - some over an hour before the fastest - but should all arrive at island gardens at around the same time. the boats include some of historical interest as well as those built entirely for speed.

its a long course, and can get a little rough further down in poor weather, but today was a fine day and everyone started from ham in good spirits - and a few already well-fortified. sting came along and fired a cannon as a starting signal and then the boats made their way in number order down to the real start a few hundred yards down river, a few at a time according to handicap.

media interest mainly centred on sting and a high-powered crew of young ladies, the sisterhood, attracting a great deal of sponsorship. they have already made an enormous amount for charity with a fast paddle across the channel, but today turned out to be the second fastest ladies crew, their dragonboat being beaten by an outrigger canoe. my personal favourites were a crew of welsh ladies who seemed to have a more relaxed approach to the occasion. there did seem to be a great many participants from the celtic fringes, as well as visitors from the continent.

after all the boats had left i took the train to vauxhall and saw the first few crews pass their, all still rowing well (the paddlers hadn't yet caught up.)
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september 8 is a holiday in malta, celebrated as the feast of our lady of victories (it is also the feast of the nativity of the blessed virgin mary), and was the day in 1565 when the knights of st john of malta defeated the turks. (by coincidence it is also the day in 1943 that the italian occupiers of the island surrendered to the allies.)

the maltese in london celebrate with a mass at westminster cathedral followed by fireworks and a procession carrying a statue of the baby mary (bambina) from there to the sacred heart chapel of ease in horseferry road.
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sunday none of the three events i visited really turned out to be what i expected. i started in brick lane where a music festival was on offer. it didn't really seem to have started when i was there and i couldn't be bothered to wait.
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then i went on to the urban green fair at brockwell park (a short journey on the train from blackfriars.) this was a bit more interesting but did seem to be rather too much people trying to sell things, and i had hoped for more music and performances.
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i met dave and bob at the green fair, and dave told me that there was an interfaith peace picnic just about to start in windrush square in brixton. so i jumped on a 37 bus for the few stops there.

all the different groups present offered generous amounts of free vegetarian food, and it pained me to have to refuse most of it. i'd not heard of the caribbean hindu cultural society before; based on brixton hill it is apparently the oldest hindu group in the country. the event was organised by the south london interfaith group, and also present were the archdeacon of lambeth, the imam and others from the stockwell green islamic centre along with some from local churches.

representatives from various groups gave short performances of different kinds (including a powerfully sung 'lord's prayer' by one of the more senior hindu men) and the whole event, as intended made "a visible public statement of respect and cooperation." all was very worthy and worthwhile, but there was perhaps little to photograph.
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one of the more scandalous events to take place in london is the dsei (defence systems & equipment international exhibition) arms fair, held every two years since 2001 at the excel centre on the side of the royal victoria dock in newham.

even if you are not a pacifist (and i'm not) it is a trade that has its sickening side, with arms sales to corrupt regimes who use them to kill, torture and deny human rights to their own people, as well as endless shady deals by arms dealers that end up with weapons traded there in the hands of criminals around the world - including some used on the streets of this country.

britain also has a thriving business in implements of torture, which have been exposed as on sale in earlier shows here. the show also features all the other kinds of nasty devices used by police forces around the world to keep corrupt governments in power.

of course our government claims to have an ethical policy so far as arms sales are concerned, but in reality it is more about making deals look clean on paper than really worrying about where the arms will end up and what they will be used for. dsei isn't just a uk show, it is the world's largest arms fair - the 2005 show had over 1200 exhibitors from 35 countries present.

the campaign against arms trade (caat) organised a peaceful protest against the fair with a march through newham from plaistow park to a rally outside custom house station, as close as they were allowed to get to the excel centre. around 150 people walked the 2 miles to the rally where they met around 50 others who had travelled directly to the rally, and later they were joined by a group of 'critical mass' cyclists.

unfortunately the police set up a long thin pen along the side of the road opposite the station, and would not allow speakers to use the small cycle-towed sound system. so the demonstrators were too spread out for many to hear the speeches, by local residents len aldis and bill perry, local councillor alan craig, green party mayoral candidate sian berry, caat's ian prichard and comedian mark thomas.

the dsei causes major disruption to the area, with millions spent on extra policing and a number of roads and paths being closed - including the very useful high-level bridge across the dock itself. but the very minor inconvenience of a slightly louder amplification for a few minutes was apparently out of the question. it was a decision that clearly indicated police priorities.

normally victoria dockside is open to the public, but this week the whole northern side was off limits as i found. i took a walk past the eastern end of the dock and then around to the dockside at brittania village to get a view of the excel centre and the military vessels moored alongside, including a swedish stealth corvette, with odd profiles and jagged camouflage designed to reduce its visibility and radar and other profiles.
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i was slowly making my way around the the tidal dock basin road which leads to the main vehicle entrance to excel. the space hijackers had announced they would be bringing a tank to the fair, and this seemed to be the likely route they would take.

police stopped their main tank almost as soon as it hit the road for some so-called 'road safety checks', but the space hijackers had number 2 in reserve. i think strictly a converted armoured personnel carrier, but still a very impressive vehicle. i was pleased to find my guess was right when it made its way down the road, led by someone on a bicycle.

no surprise, the police wouldn't let it into the arms fair, but it was allowed to park by the side of the entrance and a party and auction took place.

when people began to leave the arms fair, the protestors were able to make a very visible and audible protest as they drove slowly by. at one stage the police helped by blocking the traffic for a while so they could get a better view of the protest.

generally the police were unnecessarily restrictive, penning the protestors to one side of the road, and harassing press (that isn't a genuine press pass one said when i showed my nuj press card, threatening me with arrest unless i got back behind the line of police.)

the fit team did its usual best to stoke up the atmosphere with their intimidatory tactics - certainly something that gives photographers a bad name. it is hard to believe that those hundreds (probably by now thousands) of pictures they have of me - mainly with a camera obscuring my face - are of any great use in protection national security.

i'm not worried about being photographed - my appearance is pretty much public property since until recently a picture of me was viewed around a million times a month on the commercial site i used to write for.

i stayed until the tank had been auctioned, with some interesting bids but then had to leave to attend a meeting where my presence was vital. i was rather annoyed at having to walk an extra half mile or so to the station when police refused to let anyone use the direct route. there was really no reason or logic for this kind of minor harassment.
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brent has suffered more than most london boroughs from gun and knife crimes resulting in the deaths of far too many young men (and women) on its streets. the annual police march was started in 2004 by Patsy Hopwood, whose son, Kavian Francis-Hopwood was shot dead on the Stonebridge Estate in 2003, and is part of the'Not Another Drop' campaign organised by the Met and Brent Council.

Around 250 people including two large church groups set off on the march across the borough to south kilburn.
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cleaners at lloyd's of london - a bastion of welath and privelege in the city - are among the lowest paid workers in london and don't get sick pay or holidays. open house day provided a good audience for the london citizen workers association to publicise their appalling treatment.
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it is now just over 30 years since the battle of lewisham in which protestors humiliated the national front when they attempted a march through the area. having escorted the front home, the police then turned on the anti-racist protestors, using horses, batons, and, for the first time on the british mainland, riot shields.

at this incredible outbreak of police violence, the community came out onto the streets and the police lost control. lewisham now has a massive police fortress. on a walk around the area, a number of those present talked about the event and their own experiences on the day.
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several hundred marched from the sudanese embassy in st james
to westminster where a protest rally was held opposite downing street over the continuing failure of the international community to take effective action over darfur.

among the mainly african demonstrators were groups of jews, concerned that, as in the 1930s, too many are happy to turn a blind eye to what is going on.
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we were promised that sunday was the end of our short, late summer, and i took a walk along the south bank of the river thames from westminster to tower bridge, among the crowds who had turned up for the mayor's thames festival.

nothing much exciting seemed to be happening while i was there (it seemed mainly a commercial opportunity for the very large number of stalls along the riverbank), but i then didn't hang around for the procession and fireworks promised later.
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there are still a just few farmers in the area where i live, mainly with cows on the old common lands. the outbreak of foot and mouth first found at lyne and later at virginia water, along with culling has been a disaster for them. of course our local commons are now closed.
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on saturday i was a guest at the wedding of a sikh colleague of my wife in southall. it was at the same gurdwara, the leading gurdwara outside india, that i photographed in 2005.

i had decided that since i was a guest i wouldn't take all my photo gear, but i had taken a small fuji compact with me. i tried hard not to get in the way of the professional team who were photographing the event, with several nikons and a couple of video cameras, but the event was so interesting i couldn't resist taking rather a lot of pictures.

the wedding celebrations were spread over a couple of days, and we had been invited to other parts of the event, but could only make the ceremony in the gurdwara.

although proceedings were running an hour or two late, i still wasn't hungry for the wedding breakfast, though i did enjoy a samosa and a cup of char - not at all suitable for a diabetic.

as a part of the ceremony, the groom and his parents present an offering as well as a rumula, a silk covering for the guru granth sahib, the holy book of the sikhs which became the eleventh sikh guru in 1708.

as the culmination of the wedding ceremony, the four stanzas of a hymn describing the progression of love between a husband and wife are read; after each stanza the couple walk clockwise around the guru granth sahib.

during the ceremony a cermonial sacremental pudding, karah prashad, is distributed to all those present. it was rather sweet and also probably not good for a diabetic, but of course i ate it.

at the end of the ceremony, the parents come to congratulate the couple, followed by a long line of guests, who also present cash offerings into the laps of bride and groom.

finally we went down to the community kitchen for a meal, either sitting on the floor or standing at tables. this was a simple meal, similar to that i'd enjoyed on my previous visit to the gurdwara.
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the druid order has three public ceremonies each year, celebrating the spring equinox at tower hill, summer solstice at stonehenge and autumn equinox (alban elued) at primrose hill. i got there rather early, and found quite a few people enjoying the hill in their own way - including those who were running up it as well as others merely enjoying the panoramic view over london, as well as a group of half a dozen people in normal clothes practicising a simple ritual of peace to the four corners. at least this told me i was in the right place, and i soon spotted a larger group gathering in under the trees a short distance away.

the ceremony followed the same pattern as in the spring, with a few minor differences. i did have a small surprise, when i came across a rival druid, jay the taylor, the druid of wormwood scrubs, part of the loose association of druids, who had come to celebrate the event in the hawthorn grove (not a feature marked on my map) and seemed surprised to see the other druids.
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unfortunately i had to rush away before the ceremony finished to get to st pauls cathedral where i was meeting others to look at some london street women. this was highly interesting if a little less exciting than it might sound as those on the walk led by Anthony Burton were all of the monumental variety, metal or stone statues andd carvings.
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there was also some kind of big cycling event, with people coming up to cycle around streets that had been specially closed for the day. i can't see much point in that - the fun of cycling round london is going through the traffic - usually rather faster than the cars.

london already has a regular fun cycling event - starting at 6.30 on the last friday of each month from the national theatre. i hope some of those who came up for the hovis freewheel will come and join critical mass.
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foot and mouth disease has hit the area where i live. the government decision, many years ago to set up a lab handling such an infectious virus in a farming area on the edge of london was questionable in the first place, but to fail to maintain proper biosecurity through a lack of investment is surely criminal.

its the farmers of course who are hardest hit, though the rest of us will end up with higher food bills. otherwise the closing of footpaths and commons in the area is just a minor inconvenience.
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ali ibn abi talib is an important figure, revered by all muslims, who celebrate both his birthday and his martydom. he grew up in the household of muhammad, who became his guardian and when the prophet disclosed his divine revelation, the young ali was the first male to profess his belief.

later ali married muhammad's daughter fatimah. he became a great warrior and leader, but also one of the foremost islamic scholars. he was made caliph after the assassination of the previous caliph, but was himself killed by an assassin, struck on the head by a poisoned sword while praying in the mosque at Kufa, Iraq; he died a few days later on the 21st of Ramadan in 661CE.

shia muslims regard ali as second in importance only to muhammad. their commemoration at marble arch started with a long period of mourning, before a coffin was brought out and people crowded round to touch it.

then came a long session of beating of breasts, before a procession began down park lane, with much countinued mourning and beating of breasts, led by a tall banner about ali, then the men, followed by the bier and finally the women with some more banners.
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'cut the carbon' is a thousand mile march from bangor in northern ireland via belfast, edinburgh, newcastle on tyne, leeds, birmingham and cardiff to london, organised by christian aid. a core team of marchers, including people from around the world and 10 UK marchers have been joined by many others on parts of the route, which included a detour to the labour party conference in bournemouth where the marchers met pm gordon brown. the march finishes at st paul's cathedral in london on tuesday.

the marchers arrived at st mary's church in battersea on sunday just a few minutes before me, for a picnic with supporters, after which they were going to speak during evening services there and in putney and chelsea.

the church is a fine listed building with a superb riverside location (there was a very high tide which flooded a small area of the churchyard.) artists william blake and joseph mallord turner knew it well and their association with the church is marked by two modern stained glass windows. the church also has some rather good monuments on its walls - one a rather nice example of coade stone.

fortunately the weather was good, and the walkers received an enthusiastic welcome when they spoke to those present. it was good to see an international perspective on climate change, with walkers from Brazil, El Salvador, Kenya, India, Bangladesh, South Africa, Congo and elsewhere.
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St Barnabas Community Fete - Bowstock

Wennington Green, Bow, London. Saturday 1 September, 2007

Entertainment and involvement from the Somali community
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Kingston Carnival

Kingston on Thames, Sunday 2 September, 2007
The procession lines up for the start
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Peckham Rising - Opening

Sassoon Gallery, Peckham, London. Monday 3 September, 2007

This young man from Peckham was one of those who addressed the debate

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The Great River Race

Ham & Westminster, London. Saturday 8 September, 2007

Sting started the race by firing a cannon

Crews paddling up to the start at Ham
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Malta Day Procession

Westminster Cathedral. Saturday 8 September, 2007
The procession on Victoria Street
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Brick Lane

Brick Lane, Spitalfields. Sunday 9 September 2007

Not a lot was happening around lunchtime in Brick Lane, so I took a few snaps and went elsewhere.
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Brockwell Park Urban Green Fair

Herne Hill, London. Sunday 9 September, 2007

I''m not sure who would want a wooden mushroom, though some you could sit on.
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Interfaith Peace Picnic - Lambeth Peace Month

Windrush Square, Brixton. Sunday 9 September

Imam (centre) with assistant and Toaha Qureshi from Stockwell Green Islamic Centre
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CAAT March Against DSEi East London Arms Fair

Plaistow to ExCeL (Custom House) , London. Tues 11 Sept 2007

Over 150 people marched from Plaistow Park to Custom House.
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Space Hijackers Auction Tank at Arms Fair

ExCeL West Entrance, Victoria Dock, London. Tues 11 Sept, 2007

The 'tank' makes its way down Tidal Basin Road to the ExCeL entrance.

Police block the road
Partying by tidal basin before the auction
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Not Another Drop - March against Gun and Knife Crime

Brent, Saturday 15 September, 2007

White doves were released just before the start of the march

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Cleaners picket Lloyd's Building

City of London. Saturday 15 September, 2007
Cleaners from London Citizen Workers picket for a living wage.
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Remembering The Battle of Lewisham

New Cross to Lewisham, Saturday 15 Sept, 2007

Red Saunders talks about his experiences in Lewisham on 13 August, 1977
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Protect Darfur - International Day of Action

Westminster, London. Sunday 16 September, 2007

The march went past Trfafalgar Square on its way to Downing Street.
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River Thames and the Mayor's Thames Festival

Westminster, London. Sunday 16 September, 2007

The event provided a different view of the London Eye
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Foot & Mouth Disease

Staines, Middx, September 2007

Police tape at the entrance to Shortwood Common. Farmers like this man are hard hit.


All footpaths over farmland and commons in the area are closed.


A Sikh Wedding

Southall, Saturday 22 October, 2007

The couple walk around Sri Guru Granth Sahib, joined by the sash.

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Autumn Equinox - The Druid Order

Primrose Hill, London. September 23, 2007

Druids prepare for the ceremony
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Monumental Street Women - London Arts Cafe

St Pauls to Traflagar Square, London. September 23, 2007

Brittania under Queen Anne outside St Paul's Cathedral
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Mourning the Martrydom of Ali

Marble Arch, London. Sunday 30 September

Mourners remember Ali who was killed by an assassin in 661CE
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Cut The Carbon March: Christian Aid

St Mary's Battersea, London. September 30, 2007

The Churchyard has a view over the River Thames
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