my london diary index

Feb 2010

Save the Whittington
Solidarity with BP's Colombian Workers
Defend the Gaza Protesters
Invasion of the Tea Ladies
No Papal Visit, No Vatican
Reclaim Love Valentine Party
Iran Opposition Rally in London
Canadian Tar Sands Oily-Olympics
Demo for Yarl's Wood Women
Cleaners Call 'Reinstate Alberto'
London Arbaeen Procession
Kew Bridge Eco Village - 8 Months On
Kew Gardens
Olympic Site Revisited
Three Mills
Bow and The Fatwalk


Stock photography by Peter+Marshall at Alamy

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All pictures Copyright © Peter Marshall 2010, all rights reserved.
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Save the Whittington

Highbury Corner to Archway, London. Saturday 27 Feb

People on the march to save A&E and Maternity at Whittington Hospital

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Several thousand people marched through north London on Saturday to a rally addressed by MPs, trade unionists, and health workers outside Whittington Hospital at Archway demanding the retention of accident and emergency services and the maternity unit at the hospital.

Almost 2000 gathered for the march on a rainy morning outside the court close to Highbury Corner and more joined them as they made their way the two miles up the Holloway Road to Whittington Hospital. I know that number is roughly correct because I stood and counted as they went past. The crowd at the rally was larger as some joined the event there, but far harder to count, and I didn't try; estimates were up to 5000, probably on the high side and my guess would be around 3000. The BBC web site is being deliberately misleading when it states that "hundreds of protesters" gathered for the march - as too often they seem to want to play down the size of demonstrations rather than reporting impartially.

Among the marchers were several local MPs for the area served by the hospital, including David Lammy, MP for Tottenham and Minister for Higher Education and Intellectual Property in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, who pledged his support for the hospital and all its services, revealing that he had been born there. Frank Dobson who was Secretary of State for Health from 1997 to 1999 also gave a powerful speech in support, as did Lynne Featherstone, Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood Green. MPs Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornberry were also at the event, as well as Terry Stacy, the leader of Isliongton Council.

The proposed cut in services are a part of the rationalisation programme initiated by Lord Darzi, which would see A&E services downgraded at the Whittington and Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield as well as at either Barnet or North Middlesex Hospitals. The removal of these services would lead to much longer journeys for patients through the congested streets of north London in emergencies but would save money. The government argues that by concentrating emergency services in a few highly-equipped hospitals with specialist facilities a better service can be provided.

The proposed cuts at the Whittington would almost certainly mark the start of a process of winding down the hospital leading to its total closure in a few years time. The good road and public transport connections that make it an ideal site for patients and visitors as well as for emergency cases also make it an exceptionally valuable site for property development, almost certainly one reason behind the proposed cuts.
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Solidarity with BP's Colombian Workers

BP, St James's Square, London. Friday 26 Feb 2010

The Latin American Workers' Association supported the picket

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Around 15 protesters demonstrated noisily opposite the BP Headquarters offices on Friday afternoon in an emergency picket called by the Colombia Solidarity Campaign in supprort of workers at the BP processing plant at Tauramena in Casanare, Colombia. Members of the national Oil Workers Union (USO) have only been able to organise in BP plants since last year and started a strike for higher wages on 22 Jan 2010.

On 15 Feb the workers were brutally attacked by ESMAD 'anti-mutiny' police using teargas and beatings and 3 workers were hospitalised. Last week BP tried to bring in scabs past the picket line at the central processing facilty but were blocked by strikers chaining themselves to the gates. Later that same day, BP came to an agreement with the strikers, but there were problems when the sub-contractor involved, SAR Energy, and the pipeline contractor Ocensa refused to recognise this fully.

Negotiations are now continuing, with five negotiating commissions being set up to deal with labout problems, social investment, goods and services, environment and human rights, to complete their work by April 16.

The USO has urged that the mobilisations continue to defend workers' rights while the commissions carry out their work. They want the Colombian governement to insist that the oil compnies respect the employment rights of workers and guarantee the right to trade union activities and social protest. They are asking for an official inquiry into the links between paramilitary actions - such as those by ESMAD - and oil exploitation, and have appealed for support from other unions nationally and internationally.

Most of those leaving the BP offices walked past the single demonstrator who was allowed to hand out leaflets on the pavement there, but one man who looked like a senior manager stopped to argue, keeping his taxi waiting for several minutes. He strongly voiced the opinion that BP had a record of which they could be proud. At the moment the evidence for Colombia seems to argue otherwise.
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Defend the Gaza Protesters

Isleworth Crown Court, Ridgeway Rd, London. Friday 26 Feb 2010

Outside the court in Isleworth
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Around 30 activists picketed Isleworth Crown Court this morning where further young men arrested following the London demonstrations against last year's Israeli war against Gaza were expected to receive lengthy prison sentences for relatively minor offences in what a Judge last week described as "a deterrent message." Isleworth, London, United Kingdom.

The picket was called at short notice by the Stop the War Coalition, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, British Muslim Initiative and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. They wanted to protest at the way that the police and judiciary are using these cases as a way to criminalise protest and to intimidate those who exercise their rights.

The demonstrations last January which involved many thousands of people and some of the most aggressive policing yet seen in the capital, including an incident in which police attacked a group of demonstrators in an underpass at Hyde Park, along with the use of controversial "kettling" of large groups of people who were held for a number of hours. Few arrests were made at the time, but later there were a number of dawn raids after police had spent some time examining the CCTV footage. These led to the arrest of around 90 young men, all Muslim and mainly of working class origin.

The judge made clear his views on the case at the plea hearings where he advised all the defendants to plead guilty on the basis that he had already viewed the evidence against them from police witnesses and Sky News.

A small group of demonstrators assembled outside the court in the London suburbs at 9.30 am on Friday and were allowed to demonstrate in the car park of the court, a few yards from the entrance. After some chanting, Chris Nineham of Stop the War briefly addressed the protest and told those there that the sentencing had been put back for a couple of hours and was now expected to take place later in the morning. He gave details of a public meeting to be held at the House of Commons next Tuesday evening to continue the action to defend the Gaza protesters.

Later reports said that 6 protesters were sentenced that day, five receiving sentences between 6 months and two years, while a 15 year old received an Intensive Surveillance and Supervision Programme (ISSP) sentence, a highly rigourous non-custodial sentence which involves a curfew and electronic tagging.

As in previous weeks, the sentences seemed out of proportion with the actual behaviour that had occurred in the demonstration.
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Invasion of the Tea Ladies

Westminster, London. Thursday 25 Feb, 2010
The Fair Trade tea ladies in Parliament Square
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Over 50 tea-ladies in blue and pink pinafores and head scarves came to Westminster this morning to urge everyone to switch to Fair Trade products, including tea, as a part of 'The Big Swap'. This was one of a whole series of events across the country in Fair Trade Fortnight, 22 Feb - 7 March and was organised by the Fairtrade Foundation. After demonstrating outside the Houses of Parliament they went up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square where they held a tea dance on the North Terrace.

London is now the world's largest Fair Trade city, and around two thirds of its 33 boroughs also have Fair Trade status, along with many workplaces, cafés, tourist attractions, schools and colleges - including 9 of London's universities - churches and other faith groups.

Fair trade means that the people who produce the goods in developing countries get a proper return for their labour and that they enjoy decent conditions of work. As well as providing fair and stable prices for the producers, the Fairtrade Foundation products also provide a social premium which is spent on community projects - such as building schools and providing health care and roads. The Fairtrade Foundation mainly certifies agricultural commodities such as sugar, tea, coffee, cotton and chocolate, licensing them to carry the Fairtrade Foundation symbol which guarantees they have been produced under agreed and audited labour and environmental standards. There are many other fairly traded goods - such as craft products, greetings cards and some fashion items and accessories for which Fairtrade certification is not appropriate.

The fair trade movement began around sixty years ago, mainly with charities and small activist groups importing handicrafts. In the 1960s there were just one or two outlets scattered around the country selling fairly traded instant coffee that required political dedication to drink; now we buy Fair Trade teas and coffee not just to support producers but because of its high quality. They are stocked by Sainsbury's, the Co-operative, Waitrose, ASDA, Morrisons, Somerfield, Spar, Tesco and other major retailers as well as many smaller stores. Last year Sainsbury's switched all its own-brand roast and ground coffee to Fairtrade, along with its Red Label tea.

Fairtrade bananas and other fruits and vegetables are also now widely available and products such as Divine chocolate have set new quality standards for widely available sweets and snacks. There are some fine and reasonably priced fairly traded wines and other drinks. Swapping to Fair Trade products can benefit consumers as well as the producers, although some retailers have been criticised for adding increased profit margins on these items.

Most cotton goods we wear - whether dirt-cheap on market stalls and mass-market retailers or at ridiculous expense from fashion boutiques are produced from cotton grown using near-slave labour and made up in sweat shops by people working long hours in dangerous and often unsanitary conditions. Now there is an alternative - Fairtrade certified cotton, and it is being used to make reasonably priced clothing, including various uniform items as well as fashion clothing and tea towels. And you can also get Fair Trade beauty products and soaps.

I joined the tea-ladies - who included a few men – outside the Houses of Parliament as they made their way around Parliament Square. Some carried teapots or tea trays, and there was a man with a large inflated plastic teacup with the message 'Swap Your Cuppa'. They sang some Fair Trade slogans and practised dancing, along with the occasional 'Mexican Wave’ that passed along the line.

From there the tea-ladies went up Whitehall and stopped at the Strand for a final briefing from the event organisers and a brief rest before making their way to the North Terrace of Trafalgar Square for their main dance, to music provided by a rather smart road sweeper and his barrow.
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No Papal Visit, No Vatican

Westminster Cathedral to Italian Embassy, London. 14 Feb 2010

Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence with 'the Pope' at Westminster Cathedral
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Around 200 people gathered outside the Roman Catholic Westminster Cathedral at Sunday lunchtime to protest against the state visit of Pope Benedict to the UK and the Vatican's crusade against women's and gay rights. Calling for a secular Europe with no religious laws or exemptions from the law they marched to a rally outside the Italian Embassy in Grosvenor Square.

A few of the worshippers leaving the cathedral reacted against the marchers and shouted comments, but most ignored it. Three men reciting prayers and singing hymns followed at the back of the march and continued their counter-protest in Grosvenor Square.

The demonstration, organised by Central London Humanists along with the British Humanist Association, the Rationalist Association, One Law for All, the National Secular Society and Outrage! included a figure dressed as the Pope and it was enlivened by three colourful Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, who handed out mini-placards and small packets containing a condom and a mint sweet.

Police had obviously felt there might be trouble and there were far more present than were needed to facilitate the march through some of the trickier traffic junctions in London. But apart from traffic control, this was an event that really needed no policing.

Speakers at the rally stated the case against a state visit by the Pope with clarity and strength. Although the Pope should be free to travel where he wished it was unfair to ask the taxpayer to meet the cost of a visit to this country by a religious leader, and he also represents a church which has opposed equal rights for women and LGBT people in countries around the world and has been complicit in fascism, racism and xenophobia. Pope Benedict was also attacked for his personal stand on these issues in the past, and for allegedly issuing a secret letter to all bishops ordering them to 'hush up' reports of sexual assaults by clergy on minors and deal with them internally rather than reporting them to the authorities. The point was also made that many Catholics did not share the illiberal views of the church authorities.

The protesters want the state to become neutral in matters of religion and belief and for an end to the special status of religion both nationally - for example in an end to state funding of faith schools and the established status of the Church of England - and also internationally, calling for an end to the special status of the Vatican in the UN.

I left the rally shortly before it ended, after a speech by Gay Rights activist Peter Tatchell who was given a very enthusiastic welcome by the crowd.
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Reclaim Love Valentine Party

Piccadilly Circus, London. Saturday 13 Feb 2010

The annual party takes place around the statue of Eros
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A crowd came to Eros in Piccadilly Circus the day before St Valentine's day to celebrate love, to reclaim it from commercialism and to try to harness its power to save the world. In London and 40 other places around the world, people joined hands at 3.30pm GMT to make the 'Historic Annual Earth Healing Circle.'

Reclaim Love was started by Irish poet and Love activist, Venus CuMara, to attempt to create a shift in the collective consciousness and move away from thinking based on fear to "a more fearless-generous-sharing-Love-centred way of thinking."

It's a philosophy expressed by the whole atmosphere of these events, with everything being free - including free 'Reclaim Love' t-shirts, but in particular by the 'Earth Healing Circle' in which everyone joins hands and repeats together an ancient Indian prayer for peace in their own language:


The first celebration was held only here around Eros but this year, when London had it's seventh annual Reclaim Love pavement party, there were also events elsewhere in England, in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Pakistan, India, Spain, Italy, Germany, Austria, Iceland, France, Brazil, Argentina, New Zealand, the USA, Canada and Australia - a total of 40 locations around the world, including surfers who were celebrating in the ocean off Perth, Australia.

The party started off with a high-energy set from a large collective of Rhythms of Resistance, whose drum beats really bounced off the buildings and video wall that surround the Circus and drew a crowd that packed the area, including many tourists who stopped to watch and some to dance. There were so many for the circle at 3.30pm that in many places around the area it was two or three deep.

Also meeting at Eros were a group of Michael Jackson fans calling for justice over his death, who joined in the celebrations and the circle.

Venus aims to keep building the 'Reclaim Love' movement, which has a web site and Facebook and MySpace groups. She feels that if the number of people taking part around the world gets up to 1.5 million it will really have a tangible effect - she hopes to reach this number worldwide by 2015.
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Iran Opposition Rally in London

Parliament Square, London. Saturday 13 Feb 2010

A cleric, helped by the militia, hangs an opposition demonstrator in street theatre
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Supporters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI) held a rally attended by several hundred people in Parliament Square on Saturday 13 Feb, 2010. The date, shortly after Iranian Revolution Day on Thursday was to express support for the protesters in Iran demanding regime change and to condemn Iranian human rights abuses and the brutal suppression of dissent.

Thursday was the 31st anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran and was marked by both a large pro-government rally and also a ferocious clampdown on opposition groups by riot police, undercover security agents and hard-line militiamen.

The Iranian opposition, or Green Movement, comprises a number of groups that want political change and reform in Iran and claim that the election last June of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was fraudulent, with the presidency actually being won by Mir Hossein Mousavi.

The NCRI is the main democratic opposition coalition and they were demonstration along with the PMOI today. Both are calling on the UK government to suspend ties with the Iranian government until human rights abuses end, and call for regime change in Iran.

The rally was addressed by a number of supporters of the opposition in Iran, including while I was there Labour MP for Thurrock Andrew Mackinlay and Labour Life Baron Lord Tarsem King of West Bromwich.

The PMOI, long one of the organisations at the forefront of domestic opposition to the Iranian regime, was put on the UK list of proscribed terrorist organisations in March 2001, not because of its activities but at the request of the Iranian mullahs who had made it a condition of their opening of a dialogue between Iran and the USA/UK a few years earlier. In 2007 an EU court decided it should not be proscribed, but the then Home Secretary appealed the decision - but lost, and the ban was only finally lifted after considerable pressure in January 2009. The PMOI made the news (including on Demotix) in July 2009 when at least 8 of its members who were refugees in Camp Ashraf in Iraq were killed and 36 detained, beaten and tortured by Iraqi security forces.

The NCRI, founded in France in 1981 is the main democratic opposition coalition of groups including the PMOI and four others, and is the parliament in exile of the Iranian resistance. In 1993 it elected Maryam Rajavi to be president of a transitional government that would oversee a peaceful transfer of power to the Iranian people after the overthrow of the Iranian regime, and in 1995 she announced a Charter of Fundamental Freedoms for Iran, which would uphold all international agreements on human rights such as "freedom of association, freedom of thought and expression, media, political parties, trade unions, councils, religions and denominations, freedom of profession, and prevention of any violation of individual and social rights and freedoms." The NCRI web site has her "Ten-Point Plan for Future Iran" which includes this commitment along with others including a republic based on popular vote, the abolition of the death penalty, gender equality, a modern legal system without cruel and degrading punishments, the recognition of private property, private investment and the market economy and a foreign policy of peaceful coexistence without nuclear weapons.

As well as many speeches, the rally also included some street theatre in which protesters were attacked by a bearded cleric and a militia man and dragged to a waiting hangman's nooses. There were also displays showing photographs of a few of the 120,000 martyrs of the Iranian resistance they claim to have been killed by the Iranian regime, along with graphic photographs of people being attacked while demonstrating in Iran.
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Canadian Tar Sands Oily-Olympics

Trafalgar Square, London. Saturday 13 Feb 2010

A tense start to the relay

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Protesters used the opening day of the Winter Olympics to draw attention to the race between oil companies to extract oil from the Canadian tar sands, which will have disastrous environmental consequences, staging their own Oily
Olympics, with teams representing BP, Shell and RBS, competing in a 'Race For the Tar Sands, complete with a medal ceremony next to Canada House in Trafalgar Square.

Trafalgar Square was officially hosting an event celebrating the 2010 Winter Olympics taking place now in Canada, and there was a giant screen showing ski jumping there, along with an ice-sculpture of the Olympic rings. But at one side of the square, next to Canada House, protesters put up banners and held a series of events - a tug-of-war, a curling event and a relay race for oil.

Medals were then presented on an improvised podium by a figure representing the Canadian Premier who is encouraging the exploitation of the the Canadian tar sands in Alberta, one of the single biggest industrial projects on earth and an environmental and social nightmare, which produces the dirtiest oil on the planet. Until recently even BP considered them to be too economically and environmentally unpleasant to be exploited, but a recent change in management and increased oil prices have changed all that and since 2007 they have now become a major player along with Canadian company Husky Energy.

The process that BP are backing in what is curiously named 'The Sunrise Project' is expected to produce 200,000 barrels of oil a day (and it isn't long since oil was 100$ a barrel) is called Steam-Assisted Gravity Drainage and produces from 3-5 times the carbon dioxide of traditional oil extraction.

As well as this huge carbon impact, according to the UK Tar Sands Network, extraction oil from the tar sands involves "mass deforestation, water pollution, risks to human health, a major threat to wildlife and the trampling of indigenous rights."

The events, particularly the relay between the three teams were at times surprisingly competitive, although it wasn't at all clear on what basis the medals were awarded. For those that care about such things, BP got bronze, RBS the silver and Shell struck gold. And none of us were quite sure why there were two penguins present.

Heritage wardens called the police who talked to the demonstrators but did not stop the event which lasted for around an hour; indeed some of the officers watching were clearly amused by it, and it was obviously not causing any obstruction or public order problem.
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London Demo Supports Yarl's Wood Women

Serco, Hand Court, Holborn, London. Friday 12 Feb 2010

A street band added some body to the call for an end to abuse in Yarl's Wood
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Around 50 people demonstrated today (Friday 12 Feb, 2010) outside the Holborn offices of SERCO in Hand Court in support of the women detained in Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre, run by SERCO, who are protesting at the inhumane treatment they receive there and whose hunger strike was broken up in a violent assault by SERCO officers on Tuesday.

The 84 women detained in Yarl's Wood began their hunger strike on Feb 5. They demanded that Britain should abide by the European rules governing conditions of detention for migrants and the length of time they are held, and should implement the alternatives to detention of foreign nationals stated in January by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

They also demand proper access to justice, with an end to the 'fast track' system that denies asylum seekers a fair chance to prepare their applications and have reliable legal representation, as well as an end to false allegations and misrepresentation by the UK Borders Agency.

They want an end to the detention of children, rape survivors and torture victims, as well as the mentally sick and pregnant women, along with the application of proper legal procedures and periodic judicial review of those who are detained.

The detainees also complain of ill-treatment, abuse and physical and mental torture by officers at the centre, as well as a lack of proper medical treatment and care, and complain the the food is often insufficient and inedible.

SERCO run these "immigration prisons" with one aim in mind, to make a profit, and the Borders Agency has failed to ensure that they meet even the fairly minimal standards they have set. The government seem to regard these centres as a carpet under which people they would like to be removed from the country can be swept, and the press by and large would seem to share their view, ignoring the many disturbing reports from them.

According to reports from Yarl's Wood, on the afternoon of Tuesday 9 Feb, SERCO officers violently suppressed the hunger strike, trapping many of the women concerned in a corridor for 8 hours without food, water or toilet facilities; some were locked outside in the snow for several hours without jumpers, shoes or socks. Many were subjected to racial abuse, and some violent physical assault - after which one was unable to stand, another had a finger almost severed and many collapsed from exhaustion. Those injured were denied medical attention - and in most cases have still not received it. Ambulances and police were denied access.

National media hardly noticed the events and where they did their reports were complacent and misleading; one BBC report consisted largely of quotes from a spokesman for the Borders Agency, including his ludicrously untrue assertion "All detainees are treated with dignity and respect, with access to legal advice and heath care facilities."

Several days later some papers are beginning to catch up with the information that has been on the Internet since Tuesday, and a report in today's The Guardian talks about the growing pressure for an inquiry into the allegations of squalid conditions and racism.

The demonstrators displayed banners and there were a few short speeches outside the Serco offices in Hand Court, as well the spirited playing of a street band with some very noisy drums. At the end of the court in High Holborn there were more banners and people were handing out leaflets to passers-by. Today's demonstration was the latest in a series of daily pickets outside Serco.
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Cleaners Call 'Reinstate Alberto'

UBS, Liverpool St, London. Friday 12 Feb 2010

Justice for UBS Cleaners - Reinstate Alberto now!
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Around a hundred people took part in a noisy demonstration outside the offices of UBS Capital in Liverpool St, London at Friday lunchtime in support of the office cleaners and their sacked shop steward, Alberto Durango.

The lavish offices of UBS (Union Bank of Switzerland) are at the southern end of the Broadgate estate and have a wide forecourt adjoining Liverpool Street which is open to the public. But the demonstrators were told by security staff at UBS that they could not demonstrate on the forecourt as it is private land, and I was told that the police would be called to remove me if I took any more photographs there. The entirely bogus reason given was that of "security."

After a few minutes, a number of police came and eventually the protesters were persuaded to move onto the pavement and the noisy protest continued for an hour, with speeches from a number of supporters including the sacked Unite shop-steward and leader of the Latin American Workers Association Alberto Durango.

The UBS is one of the world's leading financial firms and in the last 3 months of 2009 made profits of £772 million. On Feb 1 in a money-saving exercise they transferred their cleaners from Mitie to Lancaster Cleaning and Support Services.

Durango had formerly worked for Lancaster for 10 years, but when he became an active union organiser in a campaign for a living wage at Schroeders bank, they made allegations later shown to be false to get him arrested by the Home Office, who later released him without charge. Lancaster then made a further allegation that they later had to admit was false and sacked him.

Lancaster took over the RBS contract on Monday 1 Feb and suspended Durango the following day, sacking him on Thursday 4 Feb after what appears to be an unfair disciplinary hearing. They refused to recognise him as a Unite shop steward and gave as a reason for his sacking that in his previous employment with them he was sacked for "dishonesty", despite the fact that they had previously had to admit their allegations were false - a Tribunal case is still proceeding over his previous dismissal.

Lancaster had immediately changed the cleaner's hours to cut their already low wages by around £150 a month, in complete defiance of any protection they may have under employment law on the transfer of undertakings. The company appear determined to break the unionisation of cleaners that has led to many of London's cleaners now getting the London 'Living Wage' rather than the national minimum wage, which is well below that needed to live in London.

Support at the meeting came from a wide range of groups, and there were speakers from Unite and the RMT, which has been involved in the campaign on behalf of its own cleaners. Surprisingly, although Unite claims on its web site to be "a campaigning union, fighting for members in the workplace" I can find absolutely no mention of this clear case of attempted union-busting and discrimination there and it has so far failed to give official support.
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London Arbaeen Procession

Marble Arch. Sunday 7 Feb, 2010

Re-enacting the shackling and parading of Imam Husain's sister Zainab and her family
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More than five thousand Shia Muslims came to Marble Arch today, Sunday 7 Feb 2010, for the 29th annual Arbaeen procession in London, commemorating the sacrifice made by the grandson of Mohammed, Imam Husain, killed with his family and companions at Kerbala in 680AD. After prayers and speeches they paraded along Park Lane in a ceremony of mourning.

Imam Husain is seen by Shia Muslims as making a great stand against the oppression of a tyrant and representing the forces of good against evil. Husain and his small group of supporters were hugely outnumbered but chose to fight to the death for their beleifs rather than to compromise. Their stand is a symbol of freedom and dignity, and an aspiration to people and nations to strive for freedom, justice and equality.

As well as colourful banners, a number of people, particularly the women, carried placards. Many of these called for an end to various crimes against humanity and in particular for the various attacks on Shia - including the suicide bombing a few days previously against an Arbaeen procession in Iraq.

The Hussaini Islamic Trust UK has organised this annual Arbaeen procession (Chelum) since 1982, and it is the largest annual and oldest Arbaeen procession in Europe. It is held on the Sunday following the end of the 40 days of mourning the martyrdom of Husain.

The procession includes the three largest replicas of the shrines of Karbala; known as Shabbih, these gold and silver models are over 10 feet high and the largest in Europe. There were also a decorated and blood-stained white horse or Zuljana representing the horse of Imam Husain, a cradle remembering his 6 month old child Hazrat Ali Asghar who was also murdered and a coffin.

At the front of the procession were a group with children and adults re-enacting the shackling and parading of Husain's sister Zainab and her family who were marched and paraded through the towns on the long journey to Damascus.

The day started with traditional prayers and recitation which were followed by speeches in English, Arabic and Urdu before the procession set off. Groups among the men chanted and beat their chests as a token of mourning, and as the procession made its way down the road soon some were stripped to the waist and beating themselves vigourosly, producing red marks and some drawing blood.

The great majority of the women marched in a tightly packed separate group at the rear of the march, held back by a number of women stewards.
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Kew Bridge Eco Village - 8 Months On

Kew Bridge, London. Saturday 6 Feb, 2010

The developer's view and the outside of the communal space in the Eco Village
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I was only able to make a very brief visit to the Kew Bridge Eco Village, going strong after 8 months on site and considerably expanded since my visit in June, with around 30 permanent residents.

Work was going on while I was there both to clear a largish area along the east of the plot for a vegetable garden and also making posters for the Seedy Sunday seed swap they are holding on Feb 14th. If you've not visited the site it would be a good time to go and get yourself some seeds - between 11am and 3pm, though visitors are welcome every day except Monday for a site tour and a cup of tea. You can see the opening hours on one of the pictures.

It looks likely that the development of the site will be delayed for quite a time and they are busy getting ready for the growing season. The site owners renewed some of the fencing around the site earlier in the day I visited.
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Kew Gardens

Kew, London. Saturday 6 Feb, 2010

Not really my sort of place, but I was taken there on the first day of their 'Tropical Extravaganza' flower festival.
Pictures from Kew Gardens were taken on an amateur basis and are not available commercially.
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Too many flowers in this latest display there. I preferred the old gloomy Kew with real exhibits in the museums where you could look at millions of different kinds of wood. Now its all about making things popular and digestible for kids and those with a limited attention span.

But you should still go there and I hope my pictures will encourate visitors despite this. Kew Gardens does important work, particularly in preserving bio-diversity, and despite the entry fee (£13.50) now being 3240 times what I paid to go in as a young man I'd encourage people to visit and support it. Take sandwiches or a picnic and go for the day and it doesn't seem too expensive.
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Olympic Site Revisited

Stratford Marsh, London. Wednesday 3 Feb, 2010

View from the View Tube
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It's been rather a long time since I made one of my regular trips to the Greenway to look at the Olympic site, and to my surprise I found my last visit was in August last year. I've been busy with other things, and since they fenced off my favourite viewpoint it's been had to work up the enthusiasm to take that long slow bus journey on the 25 from the City. Today was rather different, as I was on the Brompton, and although I went on a rather lengthy route on the way there, stopping off at a few places to take pictures, going home was so much faster - and I overtook half a dozen number 25's along with other buses without really trying.

I went to the View Tube, now sitting on the Northern Outfall Sewer more or less next to the railway main line to Stratford. The path along the top of the sewer - the so-called Greenway - was looking rather less encumbered than before, with the large fence along its centre removed, but my two former main viewpoints are still not quite accessible.

Building has come on considerably on the Olympic site, and what had been mud was now looking pretty busy. The View Tube isn't a bad viewpoint, a little further from the stadium but closer to the City Mill River, it serves decent coffee, gives a little more elevation should you need it, and has toilets. Back in the pre-Olympic age there were of course plenty of bushes around but now it is much more open and public and full of visitors, so this is a very welcome facility.

As usual on recent visits, I made a few panoramics, shooting with reasonable care handheld and then stitching with PtGui when I got home.
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Three Mills

Bromley by Bow, London. Wednesday 3 Feb, 2010

No traffic at the Three Mills Lock on the Prescott Channel
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Opened last June, there still seems to be little or no traffic through the Prescott Channel, though of course the lock and its sluice gates are controlling the level and flow of water. When I was there the tide was low and so boats would have been unable to proceed through the lock in any case.

The two footpaths which go in each direction from the lock along the edge of the Channelsea River remain closed, which was annoying as I'd planned to ride along them. One of the local residents I talked to told me that they had been promised the closure of the path path to the east would be for six months and its re-opening was now long overdue.
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Bow and The Fatwalk - Bow Creek Trail

Bromley by Bow, London. Wednesday 3 Feb, 2010

The end of the walk unless you wade to the path visibleunder the pipe bridge across Bow Creek
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The Ministry of Silly Walks is alive and well and not only inventing silly names but also rather silly walks that end in the middle of nowhere. Parts of this walk have been built and open to the public for many years, other bits built and kept locked and fenced, but the bits that would join these up to provide a simple walk from Three Mills (or West Ham) to the Thames alongside Bow Creek (the lower tidal part of the River Lea system) just ain't there.

Fortunately by the time they are, the nincompoop who thought that 'The Fatwalk' was a good name for this route will probably have retired or died or moved to another job for which he (or she) is equally incapable and common sense will prevail as we walk or cycle along the Bow Creek Trail.

I was on the Brompton, so I didn't mind the 5/8 mile ride back to the start when I reached the end (and I'd known I would have to do it.) But it was still just a little galling to walk across the bridge at Twelve-Trees Crescent directly over the footpath leading up to Three Mills I wanted to take, and then to find myself on the busy Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach.

As well as taking photographs as normal, I was also trying to produce some panoramas. These don't fit too well on web pages (and I don't like those applets that let you wobble uncontrollably around in them) but I'll include some here.
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All pictures on this section of the site are Copyright © Peter Marshall 2010; to buy prints or for permission to reproduce pictures or to comment on this site, or for any other questions, contact me.

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