london diary

november 2007


my london diary

November Main Stories

Support the NHS
Bash the Rich
Brent Diwali Parade
Remembrance Sunday in Staines
Paris - Night
Paris Walk
Paris Manif
Photographers in Paris
Second Paris Walk
Paris Party
Third Paris Walk
March for our Flag
Stratford - Olympic Edge
Hackney Transport Show
New Malden Xmas Lights
Carlos Presente Memorial
Boycott TOTAL for Burma
Pakistanis protest Commonwealth Suspension
Peace Strike and other pictures
Turks call for ban on PKK
Wimbledon Winter Wonderland
Hampton Hill Christmas Parade

Around the country, the NHS, despite increased funding, is under threat from various cuts and privatisation measures, with American companies who have proved themselves as unscrupulous being invited to come and take a cut of the health budget. As we approach the 60th anniversary of its founding next year, the Nye Bevan's great dream is in serious danger.

Around 7000 turned up to march and attend the rally organised by NHS Together, an alliance of 15 assocations involved in healthcare, including the BMA, GMB, the Royal Colleges of Nusring and Midwives, Unison, the TUC and Unite to celebrate the core values of the NHS and to oppose the introduction of competition, markets and profits.

Marchers from the Manchester Community Health Mental Health branch of Unison carried placards in support of Karen Reissman, a community psychiatric nurse and Unison branch chair. On the following Monday she was sacked for giving an interview criticising the health trust for its transfer of NHA work to the voluntary sector, for telling people why she was suspended, protesting her innocence and allowing the press to print information about her case. Unison have called for a branch strike starting on Thursday 8 Nov and are organising meetings and demonstrations in her support.
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'Bash the Rich' is probably still a popular slogan, but the anarchist demonstration in Notting Hill which marched to David Cameron's house on Saturday attracted only around a hundred supporters (I think quite a few more decided they would rather stay in the pub,) who were matched by a similar number of police, with the inevitable photographer to goad FitWatch into action. The police did allow the march to take place, if with a number of fits and starts, holding it for no apparent reason at various places, along Oxford Gardens until it reached the junction with Wallingford Avenue, apparently withing shouting distance of his home, although the Tory leader was sensibly miles away for the weekend.

There were a number of minor clashes between demonstrators and police, with three arrests being made, although I understand all were later released without charge. Some of the friction was caused by a little over-keen encouragement of the marchers to move when the police wanted them to move - and I too was pushed on numerous occasions. Some of the police were also treated to considerable abuse, but most retained their good humour - as did most of the marchers.

Earlier, some had taken a walk around the area following Tom Vague's truly fascinating 'Bash the Rich Class War Radical History Tour of Notting Hill.'
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Diwali is one of the main events in the Hindu calendar and thousands of people come to watch and take part in the parade and festivities in Brent. I arrived in time to watch some of the preparations and stayed for the start of the parade, but then went home to watch the fireworks rather than waiting to see those in Barham Park.
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This year, Remembrance Sunday was also the anniversary of the armistice in 1918, the eleventh day of the eleventh month. My father volunteered to join the army in the 'Great War', deciding that fighting the Germans might be an easier life than his 16 hour days supervising a machine shop full of women making munitions, and he ended up in France working to keep the Royal Flying Corps in the air. But like almost of those who took part in that war, he is now long dead.

Rather than photograph the national event with the crowds at the Cenotaph, I decided to photograph one of the many local events taking place around London (and of course elsewhere), choosing the parade and service in Staines where I live.
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OK, so Paris isn't London, but its where I went from London and only a couple of hours on Eurostar. Tuesday was the last day that trains were running from Waterloo, and I took advantage of it to make my way there for Paris Photo, although my hopes of a shorter journey time were dashed by someone throwing themselves onto the line at Brixton.

My service left 40 minutes late and managed to arrive in Paris having lost another 5 minutes on the route, despite most of our journey in England being on the high speed line. Since it took us around 20 minutes to make our way out of London and on to this, for the PR about the 20 minutes saving on the journey because of the move to St Pancras to be true, my train on the return journey will need to acheive roughly the speed of light as it goes through Ebbsfleet and Stratford.

But it was good to be in Paris, even though it was dark and wet and a transport strike was scheduled to start in 10 minutes. Rather than bother with the Metro, I walked the mile and a half or so to my hotel near the Palais Royal, booked in, dumped my case and went with David who had been waiting with me to the Punjab restuarant down the street. For Paris, it was good Indian food - if the wine was far too expensive for only a moderate bottle.

Later I walked with David to the Seine, saying goodnight as he crossed the river heading for the 15th, where his employers had put him up for the strike, then took a walk along the Quai Francois Mitterand, finding a shady wall by the river to mark the territory in the traditional Parisian manner.

The Louvre, not my favourite of buildings, looks better at night, and that pyramid even quite magical, and I wandered around and took a few pictures, then made my way across the Pont des Arts and along the Quai to cross back again by Pont Neuf and up through back streets past the Banque de France and back to my hotel.

Next morning I had nothing special to do. Although I was in Paris to see photographs, none of the shows I wanted to see opened until 1pm. Eating a leisurely breakfast I picked up the paper and found their was a 'manif' with the strikers meeting at Montparnasse at 2.30pm, and decided I'd take my Leica along for some pictures. Before then I had a walk around the 9th before returning to a salad bar near my hotel for a very tasty 'formule' with salmon salad, yoghurt with a sweet chestnut paste and orange juice, and making my way across the Pont ddu Carroussel and down through the 6th to Montparnasse.

Perhaps everthing seemed a little less organised than London demonstrations, and a big difference was the number of vehicles that appeared to be a part of it - in England such demonstrations are simply marches. The police tactics also seemed to be different, as there were none at all around where the march was massing, although there were plenty of them waiting around vans a few hundred metres along the road. And a number of those taking part in the 'manif' were wearing helmets and body padding in case of police attacks.

One difficulty was not being able to recognise the various union leaders. Rather than simply photographing them as usual I had to look for media scrums to identify who they were - and then get stuck in. At home I'm more often the guy who gets there first. But somehow it seemed easier to do here, perhaps because I was working with a smaller bag and the Leica.

And then I saw an angel. Really. All in white, big wings, and walking through the crowd of demonstrators, and quickly took a couple of pictures. Later I photographed him again and gave him my card. It turns out he is © L’Ange Blanc, and you can find out more about 'Angel White' and his 'human action, highly social and spiritual to convey a message of universal love' on his blog at where there are many more pictures. I hope to work with him later if he comes to London.

The demonstration looked as if it was just starting to move around 4pm when I had to head off towards the Carrousel du Louvre and Paris Photo.
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Then it was on to Paris Photo, held in the bowels of the earth under the Louvre. It's hard to contemplate a more depressing location, although relatively spacious outside the show. It would make a good location for some nasty shoot-em-up video game, sort of half-way between underground car park and shopping mall, a slightly cooler version of hell.

Inside the show, its far more cramped and claustrophobic, buut there really are a lot of photographs on display on the stalls of the 80 or so dealers and 20 publishers, as well as special shows - this year of Italian photography - and the BMW prize.

Frankly both the Italian stuff and the prize were disappointing, and much of the large colour images on many stands were prestigiously expensive head office decor with little interest. But inside the stands the walls were crammed with an incredible variety of photography, including some truly great work amid the dross, including many of the classic images of photography. And on many of the booths you could browse in more depth in boxes of images.

Its a great opportunity to see almost the whole history of photography in a few days, a collection with much more depth than even the richest of museums - although with some great gaps, as many photographers produced very few prints and their work seldom comes up for sale.

Several friends of mine had work on various stands, and they and many others were over there to see the show, meet people, go to the other exhibitions on in Paris, perhaps take some pictures and have a good time. I won't bore you with a list of those I met, but it would be a good list of the best in British photography as well as a number of those I know from other countries. There were also quite a few others who I know were there that I didn't manage to meet up with.

By around 6.30, the place was beginning to fill up with people coming for the opening at 7pm. Another of the problems of Paris Photo is that there is nowhere there to get anything decent to eat or drink, and half a dozen of us left for a considerably cheaper bar near the city hall, then on to a meal in a bistro, and finally to another bar, Stolly's in the Marais.
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Thursday I went tio Paris Photo for a while, then had lunch and walked down to Montparnasse by a different route to the the Helen Levitts show at the Fondation Cartier-Bresson. Then I had to walk back to the Ile St Louis and on to the Marais to visit the MEP.
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And finally on to a party near Bastille, which i left around 2.30 am to walk back to my hotel
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Friday I was up early and packed, and went down to a cafe, standing at the bar for a croissant and expresso coffee before taking a walk to the Canal St Martin and on to take a look at the rather interesting building of the PCF (French COmmunist Party.) Its rather odd, a kind of wavy box with a mouse in front. Then walked back for a final visit to Paris Photo. After a late lunch I collected my case and walked back to Gare du Nord, taking a route through a number of passages.

The journey home was uneventful, though it was annoying to come in at St Pancras, partly because there was nowhere decent to eat. I met Linda for a meal and ended up with an open sandwich which cost twice as much as it would in Paris and wasn't half as good. Then had to queue for a ticket and squash into crowded tubes to get to Waterloo.
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In February I wrote about a 'March for Our Flag' organised by football supporters, particularly Tottenham fans. The main group backing it - and the repeat march this month through Westminster - was the United British Alliance. There was a suggestion that, although a patriotic event it was at least trying to detach itself from the racism of the far right.

Although individuals may well be sincere in these attempts, it isn't so easy to shake off this impression. Some of the links on the web site are to people and groups who I would consider as having extreme views, and the discussion you can find on football forums and elsewhere seems clearly islamophobic.

Although there were even fewer supporters this time - well under 200 - there did seem to be a slightly calmer attitude and a slightly wider range of people attending, although still only one or two black faces.

Curiously enough, on the UBA web site galleries, all the marchers have their faces - or at least their eyes - blacked out. The only people not given this treatment are the police escorting the event.

As I've often said, the only way to protect our freedom is by being free. That includes standing up for what you believe - and being seen to do so. So I'm totally opposed to this kind of censorship of the news. Freedom of expression is a part of the British heritage of which I'm proud. As too are Morris Dancing, Association and Rugby football along with the many other things, including the way we have successfully integrated elements from other cultures and religions into our way of life over the years - and continue to do so.
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I was early for an artist's symposium related to the London Olympic site, so I took a walk down towards it from Stratford Station, hoping to go along the 'Greenway'. Unfortunately this section of it was closed until the end of the month, and the diversion was too long for the time I had available.

It was an interesting symposium, one of a number of Olympic-related events - including the show 'Roof Unit Foundations' currently at [space] gallery in Hackney (untiil 15 December 2007) in which I have 3 pictures.
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The singing bus conductor was the big hit of the opening of the new display on transport at Hackney Museum on Thursday, rather upstaging the mayor and other distinguished speakers. I was there because one of my snaps from this site appears - just a little larger than it is on screen - in one of the displays.

If you find yourself in Hackney with a little while to spare, its worth dropping into the museum (next to the Town Hall) to see the display, although I have to say I found Isaac Watts a bit of a bore and Mary Wollstonecraft unconvincing. Pity I didn't take a real camera though - the Fuji shows its limitations here.
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The West End isn't the only place with Christmas Lights on the streets, and on Friday Santa arrived in a sleigh and his helpers switched them on section by section as he was towed down the High Street, before kids scrummed for sweets from his sack.

Decorum was soon restored - this is Surrey after all - and an orderly queue established, including kids from all the various groups that make up the community there.
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Carlos Presente was only 16, but was already active in opposing facism in his native Spain. Along with other antifascists, he had stood on the street to defend one of Madrid's multiracial working class areas when Nazis held an demonstration against immigrants.

After the demonstration on 11 Nov, 2007, Carlos and a comrade were attacked and stabbed while waiting on an underground platform by one of the fascists who had been demonstrating. The hunting knife went through his heart and he bled to death.

The Anarchist Federation - IFA and Antifa Britain held a short memorial rally to honour Carlos. Fittingly it was at the memorial for those who fought against fascism in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s in London's Jubilee Gardens.
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The French oil company, TOTAL, is the fourth largest oil company in the world, and the largest supporter of the Burmese military regime. Although the media hardly noticed the country before the recent outrages against monks, it has long been one of the most brutal dicatorships around.

It holds over 1300 political prisoners, many subject to routine torture, makes widespread systematic use of forced labour and uses rape as a deliberate policy against women from some of its ethnic minorities.

It also has more child soldiers than any other country and spends roughly half the government budget on the military - and much of that budget derives from TOTAL.

Saturday saw demonstrations across the country against TOTAL garages, urging motorists not to support the repression in Burma by buying from TOTAL. There were at least 11 demonstrations in London, and I went to photograph at three of them, in Kilburn, at Kensal Green and at Baker Street. It wasn't surprising, given the widespread nature of the action that numbers at some garages were small. I left Baker St after an hour - half-way through the demonstration, and more people turned up after I'd gone.
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I don't know what fraction of Britain's Pakistani population supports President Musharraf. Polls earlier in the year in Pakistan showed that almost two thirds of the population thought he should stand down. Of course there are some here who owe their positions to him, and certainly others who support him.

So it was hardly surprising to find a couple of hundred protesters in Whitehall on Saturday afternoon opposite Downing Street following the decision on Friday by a committee of Commonwealth foreign ministers to suspend Pakistan because Musharraf had imposed emergency rule - and then sacked the judges who were about to rule his proposed next term as President unlawful.
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Cold weather is not kind to batteries, and the overnight frost killed those used for the amplification in Parliament Square, so although some supporters had turned up for the 'Peace Strike' the planned starting rally couldn't take place.
more pictures of this and other events around the area

Kurds have long suffered repression in Turkey, although some of the Turkish Government measures (such as the ban on their language) have been lifted and in general the situation may have improved in recent years. But it is hardly surprising that the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) got a great deal of support from parts of the Kurdish community both in Turkey, Syria and Iraq and also in Britain.

The PKK have staged several ambushes of the Turkish Army in recent months, leading to Turkish threats to cross the border into Iraq to attack their camps.

The PKK have been listed as a terrorist organisation by the USA, NATO and the EU, but there are entirely believable allegations that some PKK activities have been funded by the USA, with rather more support coming from Greece. Some organisations which receive UK Government funding are also alleged to contribute to their funds.

Perhaps around 5000 from Britain's Turkish community turned out for a lively march on Sunday through the centre of London, calling for the British government to be more active and vigilant in opposing the PKK. The demonstration included some Kurds and a number of banners stated that Turks and Kurds were brothers.

Among the other flags and banners were those with pictures of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey. Although he established Turkey as a secular state, and instituted many reforms that gave religious freedom and improved the status of women, he also brutally put down several Kurdish revolts. Bombing raids by the Turkish Air Force against the Kurds may well be the first use of bombs aimed at a civilian population.
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Traffic stopped for a while in Wimbledon's busy Broadway for a Christmas celebration, Wimbledon's Winter Wonderland, led by a group of drummers and juggles followed by the Mayor of Merton, John Dehany, the Mayoress and London Town Crier, Peter Moore.

But what really made the procession were three great groups of kids, two from local schools - Haslemere Primary in Mitcham and Morden Primary - and a large crowd from 'The Dons' - AFC Wimbledon, who now have around 25 teams at various levels for men, women, boys and girls game.
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Despite pouring rain it was still Christmas on Hampton Hill on Friday night and the parade went ahead if rather damper than usual. It was a night I could have done with an underwater camera, and the D200 suffered from the rain, despite my more or less constant wiping of body and lens.

To start with I worked holding an umbrella in one hand, camera in other, but it is just too clumsy, and eventually I put the umbrella away. I missed quite a few shots through being unable to focus when the focus-assist packed up (it was pretty dark on the street, and manual focussing was pretty impossible as well.) And some others were spolied by water on the lens.
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Support the NHS - NHS Together

Temple to Trafalgar Square, London. 3 November, 2007

Manchester health workers fight for reinstatement of colleague under threat for her union activities. She was sacked on the following Monday (5 Nov), and Unison is now fighting for her, with a branch strike from 8 Nov.
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Bash The Rich - Class War

Notting Hill, London. 3 November, 2007

Fitwatch get between the police FIT team photographer and the event
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Brent Diwali Parade

Alperton, London. November 3, 2007
Flame costumes for the festival of light
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Remembrance Sunday Parade & Service

Staines, Middlesex. Sunday 11 November, 2007

Wreaths were laid at the war memorial 

The colour party parades around the war memorial in Market Square at the end of the service.
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Paris Night

Paris, France. 13 Nov, 2007
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Paris 2e, 9e and 6e

Paris, France. 14 Nov 2007

Musee Grevin

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Paris Manif - Transport Workers on Strike

Montparnasse, 14 Nov, 2007

In the demonstration.  © L’Ange Blanc - see Image used with permission.

Near the front of the march

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Photographers in Paris for Paris Photo

Paris, 14 Nov, 2007

In a bar near Chatelet
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Another Paris Walk

15 Nov 2007
From Palais Royal via the Louvre to the Fondation Cartier-Bresson and back to Bastille
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Paris Party

15-16 Nov 2007

Some anonymous images

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Another Walk - and more from Photo Paris

Friday 16 Nov, 2007

The Paris Headquarters of the French Communist Party is a strange building
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March For Our Flag

Westminster, London. Saturday 17 Nov, 2007

The march goes past Westminster Abbey
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Stratford - Olympic Edge

Stratford, London. Saturday 17 Nov, 2007

This section of the Greenway was closed - and a diversion in place.
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Out and About in Hackney

Hackney Museum, 22 Nov 2007

The singing bus conductor performs on his No 38 bus
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New Malden Christmas Lights

New Malden, Kingston, Surrey. Friday 23 Nov, 2007

Santa gives out sweets in New Malden
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Antifa Remember Carlos Presente, murdered 11.11.2007

Jubilee Gardens, London. Saturday 24 Nov, 2007

A comrade speaks at the memorial rally
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TOTAL Day of Action - London

Kilburn, Kensal Green & Baker St, London. Sat 24 November, 2007

TOTAL disgrace. Free Burma. Protestors stage a 'die-in' at Baker St.
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Pakistanis Protest at Commonwealth Suspension

Downing St, Whitehall, London. Sat Nov 24, 2007

In full voice opposite Downing St
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Peace Strike and other happenings

Lambeth/Westminster. Saturday 24 November

Problems with the amplificatino didn't prevent the protest starting
more pictures from around the area

Turkish Community Marches for Ban on PKK

Westminster, London. 25 November, 2007

Marchers assembled opposite the Turkish embassy in Belgrave Square
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Wimbledon Winter Wonderland

Wimbledon, London. Thursday Nov 29, 2007

Christmas spirit in Wimbledon

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Hampton Hill Christmas Parade

Hampton Hill, Middlesex. Friday 30 Nov, 2007

Getting into the Christmas spirit despite the pouring rain
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