london diary

october 2007


my london diary

october main stories

christian aid cut the carbon march - final mile
london burma march
slave trade abolition bicentenary walk
al qud's day march and protest
troops out of iraq march
no pulp mill - save tasmania's wild forests
the romance of bethnal green
communities against gun & knife crime
equiano's daughter
st john's waterloo
polish fotoartfestival
aung san suu kyi - 12 years
global human rights torch relay
sioe fail to attract support
against deaths in custody
kurds demand - stop turkey
for a euro-referendum
anti-abortion (pro-life) rally
lloyd george statue
peace train
crawl of the dead iv


around a thousand supporters turned up on a dull damp tuesday morning to accompany the christian aid 'cut the carbon' marchers on the final mile of a walk that started in bangor, northern ireland, then took them a thousand miles via edinburgh, newcastle on tyne, leeds, birmingham, cardiff, bournemouth (for a meeting with george brown at the labour party conference) and on to london (including a picnic at battersea last sunday.)

a few of the international marchers had to go home before the end, but most, together with those from the uk, made it to the end, and spoke at the rally in the city hall scoop before the march set off.

the route led over london bridge and then up past the stock exchange to st paul's churchyard, where there were more speeches, particularly from a muslim marcher, before a service in the cathedral. as photography isn't allowed at events inside st paul's (its one of the few places i've actually been thrown out of for trying to take pictures) i came home as people streamed inside. the marchers were due to meet with hilary benn afterwards to press the case for climate justice.

several from this country and abroad had made the point that britain lead the world in creating the problem when we began the industrial revolution and so should feel a great obligation to get things going to save the world from the disaster into which it is currently fast heading.

other demonstrators at st paul's made the point that raising animals was an important factor in the high carbon footprint; growing and eating crops can be far less wasteful and polluting. christian aid's development policies would be better directed to encouraging vegetarian and vegan production rather than the current reliance in some projects on raising animals for food.
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burma has been very much on our minds (and the media) in recent weeks, so it was little suprise to find considerable support for a demonstration supporting the burmese people and their right to demonstrate, and for the release of the imprisoned monks.

by the time the march had made its way from tate britain over lambeth bridge and back across westminster bridge to whitehall, there were perhaps 10,000 supporters, mainly wearing red headbands. a small group of monks were allowed to tie strips of cloth onto the gates of downing sttreet before the march continued to a rally in trafalgar square
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i left the burma march at this point to photograph a commemorative walk up whitehall from beside methodist central hall, one of the events in this year's black history month, marking the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade.

organised by yaa and carnival village, there were some interesting costumes, including at least one winner from notting hill, and a rather fine 'empire windrush'.

the walk led through parliament square and up into whitehall, where a wreath was placed at the cenotaph.
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al quds is the arab name for jerusalem, and in 1979 ayatollah khomeni suggested that the last friday in ramadan as al quds day, when muslims internationally should remember and demonstrate in solidarity with the palestinian people. although the call has been taken up by many muslims and some non-muslims around the world, it remains controversial becuase of its connection with the iranian regime, responsible for many violations of human rights.

many of those marching carried hezbollah flags. the march is organised by what calls itself the iranian human rights commision but is apparently funded by the iranian regime. although the web site lists many supporting organisations, few were visible on the march, although there were some speakers, for example from respect, at trafalgar square.

opponents of the march gathered at piccadilly circus to demonstrate against it and in support of the iranian people. about 60 were in a police pen close to eros as the march walked past, shouting slogans. police had to restrain some of the marchers who attempted to go across to confront them. some of the marchers seemed confused, as they were not supporters of the iranian regime.
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brian haw's t-shirt summed up the disaster: "iraq 2,000,000 dead 4,000,000 fled genocide theft torture cholera starvation" though there were a number of other crimes to mention, in particular the poisoning of so much the area for generations to come through the dumping there of so much of our nuclear waste in the form of 'depleted uranium' weapons.

i was surprised at the level of support for monday's demonstration, a day when many of the supporters of the campaign would have been at work, and i had expected hundreds rather than the three thousand or so who actually turned up. the government's clumsy ban on the event, using 1839 legislation passed against the chartists, drummed up support, and to such an extent that on the morning of the rally they had to climb down and allow the march and the lobby of parliament to proceed.

later in the day, the success of the demonstration even became rather an embarrassment for stop the war, who when i left around 4.30pm, two hours after the start of the march, were trying to help police in clearing the large crowd who were still blocking parliament street, parliament square and st margaret st, urging them to move along to college green. later in the day a small group of protestors took down the barriers on the grassed area of parliament square, piling them up.

but the real embarrassment was for gordon brown, forced to climb down and allow democratic protest. unfortunately he didn't do the decent and sensible thing (and surely now inescapably the logical thing in the interests of both iraq and britain) and announce a speedy withdrawal of troops to be replaced by a real programme of support for the iraqi people.

although doubtless pressure from the police at the highest level was obviously vital in the decision to allow the march to go ahead, there were clearly a few officers in charge on the ground who weren't happy. as we went down whitehall, they obstructed photographers trying to photograph the event quite unnecessarily - so obviously so that some of the officers actually carrying out the orders were apologising to me as they did so. and later in the day a few tempers flared and there were a few fairly random assaults on demonstrators. it did seem an unnecessarily provocative move to bring back inspector terry, apparently the man responsible for much of the harassment of brian haw and the officer in charge at the 'sack parliament' demo last year (photographer marc vallee who was injured is now taking legal action against the met, with the support of the nuj.)
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the cutting down of ancient 'old growth' forests is a major political issue in australia, and no more so than in tasmania. with national elections announced for australia on nov 24, logging could play an important part.

supported by liberal party (conservative) prime minister john howard and tasmanian premier paul lennon, a new pulp mill will speed the loss of the old forests, destroying valuable habitats and threatening extinction for unique species such as the tasmanian wedge tailed eagle.

cutting down the forest will also remove a valuable sink that removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (and of course produces oxygen), and the pulp processing in the new plant will emit 10 million tons of co2 a year, as well as discharging 64,000 tons of toxic effluent into the ocean each day.

ironically, part of the pressure for the cutting down of forests comes from the growing business of carbon offsetting. much of the land currently occupied by the forests will, after the exisiting forest is cleared, be replanted with trees that will be used to produce an income in carbon offset schemes.
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We had a fine day for our book-related walk around bethnal green and a good audience. Our meeting point was, for various reasons, the Museum of Childhood, which features in two of my sixteen pictures in the book ‘The Romance of Bethnal Green‘ (ISBN 9781901992748), Cathy Ross, 2007). One shows the sculpture which was in the space at the front of the museum for many years, and I was surprised to find it now inside, at the rear of the cafe area, its bronze given a white coating (perhaps so the ice-cream won’t show), and the other features some of the panels on the outside of the building about agriculture.

just down the road we stopped at st john's church, its frontage and tower still clearly the work of sir john soane, although the rest of the church was remodelled after a fire in the 1870s. jane prophet's 'heart' currently on show in the organ loft on the heart brought back too many memories of my own surgery for comfort, and i quickly left.

we went across the roman road and into the library where foster spragge is building a cylinder of thousands of used rail tickets. unfortunately she was at lunch when we were there, and the cylinder was protected by a roll of corrugated paper, though this perhaps improved the photograph.

down roman road we went into iap fine art to look at the work of maggi hambling and chris gollon, who has been commissioned to produce stations of the cross for st johns and also a work on henley for the 2012 olympics.

opposite the site of camerawork i talked a little about photography, the half moon photography workshop, and the work of jo spence and paul trevor, as well as the decline of camerwork magazine into the quagmire of theory.

around the corner the usk street estate is a real architectural gem by denys lasdun from 1952, looking more modern than many recent developments thanks to a recent refurbishment. work on the grade ii listed sulkin and trevelyan tower blocks cost £2.8m. these are buildings that perhaps deserve to be better known, certainly some of the more interesting of their era, and perhaps more radical than his later keeling house (1959) a mile or so away. i also find usk street rather more interesting than the cranbrook estate across the road, by
skinner bailey & lubetkin (1965) which proves that sticking bilious green rectangles on ugly blocks still leaves them as ugly blocks. at least it provided a refuge for elizabeth frink's blind beggar of bethnal green when vandalism forced his move from his intended home in the market square.

we took the bus back along bethnal green road to the top of brick lane and walked
up to admire arnold circus, before visiting nomoregrey in redchurch st to look at jock mcfadyen's work there - i particularly liked his images of the wide open spaces further east - such as dagenham, river road and showcase cinema, reminding me of my visits to these areas.

the day's huge disappointment came at rich mix. i first met paul trevor many years ago and have long admired his work. he is living evidence to the almost total lack of interest by major british galleries and museums to most british photography.

paul is a truly inspired photographer who has lived and worked in the east end for years, creating a fantastic stock of images from the area. it is hard to imagine why rich mix (or the curator responsible) chose to make his work almost imposssible to see, projecting it in a distorted form as hardly visible images on a bright wall. it seemed more an insult than an exhibition.
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communities against gun and knife crime in north london (cagk) had organised a march from clapton pond at the north of hackney up through tottenham. it was a much smaller event than that i went to last month in brent, perhaps because it appeared to have no official support from either of the two london boroughs concerned - hackney and haringey - or from the met police, although of course they did escort it.

other than cagk, the only other organisation visible in the march was hackney respect, although the march did start with a prayer by a black church sister.

i went along with the march for around a mile, and although there were quite a few waves and shouts of support, few if any joined the 80 or so marchers who were making their way north.

marches like this are surely useful in raising community awareness, and it is hard to see why there was so little support from either the public, local authorities or other local groups - including the other political parties, churches and other community groups. there was a photographer at the event taking pictures for the hackney gazette, and perhaps her report will help to gain publicity for the event - and encouage support.

the real challenge in cutting youth crime - and gun and knife crime is mainly youth crime - is getting people, and especially young people - real jobs that offer training and possibilities for advancement. at the moment there are too few jobs for young people, and many pay below a living wage, especially a living wage for london.

while crime offers the only way to money, prestige and apparent success, many will take that route.
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i left the march to go to abney park cemetery, firstly as a quiet and attractive place to eat my sandwiches, but also for another event in black history month.

arthur torrington obe, the secretary of the equiano society was to lead a conducted walk in the cemetery. olaudah equiano (1745-97)was an incredible figure who played an important part in the ending of the slave trade in 1807, although he died ten years earlier. probably born in nigeria, he was enslaved to a captain in the royal navy and then to a quaker merchant before managing to buy his freedom with money made from 4 years of trading.

he came to london and soon became an important part of the abolitionist movemement. His autobiography, The interesting narrative of the life of olaudah equiano, or gustavus vassa the african (1789) was a best-seller that made his fortune and advanced the movement greatly.

currently there is no record of where equiano was buried. he had married an english woman from the cambridgeshire village of soham, where they lived for some time and had two children. his wife and elder daughter died within a year or two of his death, but the younger daughter Joanna, coming up to two when he died, on coming of age inherited the considerable fortune of £950 from his estate.

she married a congregational minister, henry bromley, and in 2005 their joint grave (along with henry's second wife) was discovered in abney park cemetery, fallen down and covered by moss and undergrowth. Much of the inscription has vanished, though the names are still just about visible, and the stone has been restored and re-erected.
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st john's waterloo is another of the many churches - perhaps 600 - built using funds from the church building act 1818, supposedly given in thanks for the victory at waterloo, and in this case now appropriately suituated opposite the station.

it is a greek revival building of 1825, designed by francis bedford. its roof and interior were destroyed by a bomb in 1940, but it was restored to act as the christian centre of the festival of britain in 1951.
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even i can't pretend bielsko-biala is in london, but it is where i was for a few days in the middle of the month, attending the second fotoartfestival there and bringing the 'authors maraton' (aptly named) to an end with a presentation called 'on london streets' whose final climax? was a dozen or so pictures from this diary taken in 2006.

it was my second trip to poland - an exhibition of work from my 'london's industrial heritage' site was the british contribution (one of 25 nations represented) to the first fotoartfestival in bielsko-biala in 2005. as its a kind of twin town, i thought i'd post a couple of postcards of it here, one from each side of the river.

as before, this year's festival was a truly magical experience, getting to know a number of fine photographers - some extremely famous and others who deserve to be - and getting a real insight into their work. and although walter rosenblum, whose work was the highpoint of the exhibitions for me, died last year, it was a great privilege to visit his show with his wife, the noted photo-historian naomi nosenblum and daughter, award-winning filmmaker nina rosenblum and hear their comments on him and his work.

more in my fotoartfestival diary, which includes images from the city and the festival itself - and i hope soon to put a version of my presentation on-line.
fotoartfestival diary

wednesday 24 it was 12 years that aung san suu kyi had been under house arrest in burma, and to mark this there was a demonstration outside the chinese embassy in portland place in london at lunchtime. from there the roughly one hundred protesters walked down regent street to picadilly circus, then along picadilly and up into mayfair to the burmese embassy (myanmar embassy) in charles street for a second demonstration.
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thursday was a miserable day, with persistent drizzle or light rain, and trafalgar square was clogged up with some computer games fair, so that there was little space left for the global human rights torch relay on the north terrace. organised by the 'coalition to investigate the persecution of the falun gong this also highlighted other human rights abuses in china, as well as some in countires within the chinese sphere of influence, notably burma.

the relay had started in athens in august, with events in several european countries, and it is going on to australia and north and south america before ending in asia next europe.

the relay points out that the these human rights abuses are at odds with the ideals of the olympic movement and calls for the beijing games to be moved to one of the previous olympic venues unless there are dramatic improvements in human rights in china. among the speakers were a couple of lords and several ex-olympic competitors.

westminster council officials arrived after an hour or so and tried to stop the event, which, thanks to the games festival, was indeed blocking the pavement. they made the protestors form a narrow line against the back wall. then they and the police ruled out the use of the sound system, declaring it was a hazard in the wet conditions. Speakers had to make use of a battery operated megaphone.

despite this harassment, the protest continueed, with a 'greek goddess' bringing the flame to light the torches of figures representing england, scotland , wales and ireland, and perhaps a couple of hundred marched through the west end to the chinese embassy for a candle-lit protest.

here we meet with deliberate antagonism from the police. they are standing in a line around 2 metres into the road in front of the protest. The area between the police and the demonstration is completely clear, absolutely safe, and it is where we need to be to take pictures or film. much to our disgust, we are ordered out when we attempt to get on with our work.
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only too often i turn up to photograph advertised events and find that really nothing very much is happening. usually i'm disappointed, but with the march organised by sioe (stop the islamicisation of europe) i'm really rather pleased.

sioe appears to be two people. there are threes and fours from various other groups, including some from germany and others from france, making a total of just under 40. my count is 36, the police say 40, making it the only demo where they have ever made a higher figure than me. there are around a dozen still photographers, and just slightly less shooting video, so the media get pretty close to the number of demonstrators.

we'd expected a counter-demo, but it doesn't happen, though the police stop a couple who seem to be innocent passers-by and hassle them for being vaguely islamic in appearance at temple.

so i go to spend a little time in the national gallery before making my way to rich mix, where i'm pleased to see they have got the paul trevor show sorted out again, and i can spend 30 minutes looking at some of the best documentary work from the 1970s and 80s - including pictures of several anti-fascist marches i was at - before going to see brian griffin and roof unit foundations opening at [ space].
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then on saturday, everything was happening. i had to run around to start with to collect my unsold pictures from the city people show at the juggler in hoxton. fortunately i'd sold one of the four pictures, so that made them easier to carry, but it was a rush to be back in the centre of london and i had to more or less miss the demonstrators who wanted a referendum on the changes to the european union.

instead i started at trafalgar square, where the annual event remembering those who have died in custody was taking place, organised by the families and friends of those concerned.

its an occasion that always shocks me by the sheer number of people who have died in such disgraceful or suspicious circumstances, in police cells, in prisons and elsewhere. it's an event i sometimes find it hard to photograph, both emotionally and physically - thankfully autofocus works even when your eyes are filling with tears.
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while this demo is getting ready, a large crowd of kurds swarms into trafalgar square and holds a short rally, protesting against the turkish governments approval of incursions into northern iraq to attack the pkk there. both the kurds and the armenians have suffered greatly at the hands of the turks (who in turn have been rather screwed by the eu over cyprus

it's a typically exuberant performance, and one that i enjoy photographing, but rather a distraction from the family and friends event.
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there seems to be hiatus in this, so i catch a bus down whitehall. walking along to old palace yard i pass a few of the pro-referendum demonstrators, though some others have stayed to join in the anti-abortion protest.
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this is rather smaller than i'd expected, perhaps around 500 people, although it is the only event that makes the bbc news bulletins i hear when i get home later in the day. i listen a little to the speeches,
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but then go to parliament square to take a look at the new statue of lloyd george - which fails to impress me. of course he was long before my time - although i did have a landlady as a student in manchester who had worked as a secretary for him - but somehow i feel the statue trivialises him, looking rather like an enlarged version of a plastic figure you might find in a box of cornflakes rather than a statue.
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the peace train is beginning to form a protest in parliament square and i go along to talk to them and take a few pictures.

i rejoin the 'famiilies and friends' march making a considerable protest opposite downing street, where a delegation has permission to deliver a letter to the prime minister's residence at no 10.

for some reason the police decide not to allow those with press cards into the street in the normal way. i don't like going in - the security checks are a nuisance and being restricted to a pen on the other side of the street is normally hopeless, but i think its a matter of principle that access should not be unreasonably prevented. - as for this event, even if personally i don't want to take advantage of it.

by the time they emerge, the mood is getting rather angy. one young policeman is getting surrounded and insulted and is trying hard to ignore it. a few minutes later a motor-cyclist foolishly stays in the route of the march, and is soon surrounded by angry people. he has to be rescued by his colleagues.

there are police who are racist, who are thugs, who are bullies. too many who have got away with murder, often thanks to covering up or a lack of diligence in investigation by their colleagues. if it were not so, there would be no demonstration. but there are also officers who do their best to carry out a difficult and necessary job in a decent, reasonable and even-handed way - even though they may sometimes get disciplined for doing so. those who bear the brunt of considerable and understandable hate directed against the police at a demo lilke this are not necesarily the guilty.
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it's time for me to leave and make my way to the city, where this year the zombies are starting their walk at a pub on ludgate hill. i go into the pub and talk to some of them and take photographs, and am gratified to find that quite a few have seen my pictures from around oxford street last year.

by the time they emerge from the pub it is getting dark, and my flash by now is refusing to work at all. i have to make do either with available light (and there isn't a lot) or the pretty useless built in flash, but i still manage to get a few decent pictures, even though some are rather noisier than i'd like.

There are quite a few people around as we go over the millennium bridge, and more in front of tate modern, where zombies decide to play dead for a while. then we visit the famous crack in the turbine hall, coming out towards the founder's arms, where i made my goodbyes and turned for home.
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Christian Aid - Cut the Carbon March - The Final Mile

City Hall to St Paul's Cathedral, London. Tuesday 2 October

The final mile took marchers from a rally at City Hall to St Paul's Cathedral - the end of their 1000 mile walk.

Protesters at St Paul's Cathedral send a clear message to Hilary Benn and the government to Cut the Carbon.
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Global Day of Action for Burma

Westminster, London. 6 October, 2007

Monks at the front of the march as it passes the Houses of Parliament
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Yaa Asantewaa & Carnival Village - 200 Years On

Slave Trade Abolition Walk, Westminster, 6 October 2007

The 'Empire Windrush' brought migrant workers from the Caribbean to England in 1948
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Al Quds Day March and Counter-Demonstration

Westminster, London. October 7, 2007

One or two people on the march tried to push through the police and attack the counter demonstrators
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Bring All the Troops Home NOW

Stop the War/CND Rally & March, Westminster, Oct 8, 2007

The banned march, given permission on Monday morning, makes its way down Whitehall

Eventually reaching the Houses of Parliament, where protesters were allowed to lobby their MPs.
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No Pulp Mill - Save Tasmania's Wild Forests

Australian High Commission, Strand, London. October 13, 2007

Tasmanian premier Lennon and Australian PM Howard at Australia House.
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The Romance of Bethnal Green: London Arts Cafe Walk

Bethnal Green, London, October 13, 2007

Foster Spragge's cylinder of tickets in Bethnal Green Library

Sulkin House, Usk St Estate, Bethnal Green
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Communities Against Gun and Knife Crime

Clapton Pond, Hackney, London. 14 October, 2007

Families against Gun & Knife Crime march in north London
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Equiano Society - His Daughter's Grave

Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington, London. Sun 14 Oct, 2007

Arthur Torrington (centre) talks about Joanna Vasser and Olaudah Equiano.
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St John's, Waterloo - A Waterloo Church

Waterloo, London. 14 October, 2007

Greek detailing in wall and railings
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Postcards from Poland

Bielsko-Biala, 18-22 Oct 2007
Ksiaznica Beskidzka where Walter Rosenblum's work was on show.
A street corner in Biala.
fotoartfestival diary

Aung San Suu Kyi - 12 Years of House Arrest

Chinese Embassy/Burmese Embassy, London. October 24, 2007

Opposite the Chinese Embassy
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Global Human Rights Torch Relay

Trafalgar Square/Chinese Embassy, London Thur 25 Oct, 2007
The march prepares to start from Trafalgar Square
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SIOE fail to attract support - or opposition

Whitehall to Temple, Friday 26 Oct, 2007
The march starts - thirty-something people walking on the pavement.
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Protest Against Custody Deaths

Trafalgar Square & Whitehall, Saturday 27 Oct, 2007

Campaigners demand Justice for the many who have died in custody.
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Kurds Demand - Stop Turkey

Trafalgar Square, London. 27 October 2007

Our message is peace, our aim is democracy - but Kurds are unlikely to get either - or Kurdistan.
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Pro-referendum on Europe Rally

Old Palace Yard, Westminster. 27 October 2007

Campaigners were just leaving as I arrived
a couple more pictures


Anti-Abortion (Pro-Life) Rally

Old Palace Yard, Westminster. Saturday 27 October, 2007
'Women deserve better than abortion.'
more pictures

Lloyd George

Parliament Square, London. Saturday October 27, 2007

Lloyd George has joined Churchill and others in Parliament Square

another picture

Peace Train

Parliament Square, Westminster. Saturday October 27, 2007

Peace Train in Parliament Square
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Crawl of the Dead IV

City and Southwark, London. Saturday October 27, 2007

A rather lively zombie
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