Hillingdon Marches Against Cuts
Uxbridge, LB Hillingdon. Thur 28 Feb 2013
On the march to the Civic Centre to lobby Hillingdon
Hillingdon Against Cuts organised a march to the Civic Centre in Uxbridge
to lobby the Council meeting, calling on them to stop the abolition of secure
council housing and other cuts.
Among the issues on the council's agenda tonight was the approval of the
budget, with a freeze in council tax at the current levels which is bound
to result in further cuts in services. Already Hillingdon has lost a number
of valuable services through budget cuts by the Conservative controlled council.
Around 50 people met up in Uxbridge High St, with banners from Hillingdon
Against the Cuts and Hillingdon Socialist Party and trade union flags from
Unite and the PCS. The march along the main street past the underground station
to the civic centre was led by ex-Hillingdon Councillor Wally Kennedy and
founder of Hillingdon against the Cuts (HAC) who also led the chanting of
slogans against the cuts, and let everyone around know what the protest was
Kennedy founded HAC together with local trade unionists in November 2010
to "fight back against the spending cuts that the ConDem coalition
is putting forward nationally, and the local cuts that Hillingdon council
is making to their budget." They fight "against cuts to
the Housing Budget, Housing Benefit, NHS cuts, cuts to education, including
Tution Fee increases and the abolition of EMA, as well as cuts to local schools."
They believe that "the bankers and the rich who had caused and benefited
from the failure of the banks should pay the price, not those on benefits
and low wages."
After the short march to the Civic Centre they formed up on the steps and
there were short speeches from Wally Kennedy and Michelle Braveboy of Unite
the Unions as the protesters waited for the councillors to arrive.
Vulture Funds - Claws off Argentina!
Elliot Associates, King St, London. Tue 26 Feb 2013
Vultures attack the Argentine flag outside the offices
of Elliot Associates
A noisy London 'Claws off Argentina' protest outside the offices of 'vulture
fund' Elliot Associates by Jubilee Debt Campaign on eve of New York appeal
called on them to stop their attack on Argentina and drop the $1.2billion
Protesters banged pots and pans outside their London office the day before
an appeal by Argentina against a New York court ruling that they must pay
the 'vulture' US Hedge Fund Elliot Associates over $1 billion.
Elliot Associates took no part in the original loans made to Argentina, which
started at the time of the brutal militiary junta in that country. Most of
those debt claims have since been ruled arbitrary and fraudulent, and in 2001
Argentina, then facing an acute economic crisis with massive unemployment,
homelessness and poverty, defaulted on some of its debt.
Hedge funds including NML Capital, a subsidiary of US Elliot Associates owned
by billionaire Mitt Romney-supporter Paul Singer bought up these debts at
a fraction of their cost and over the last ten years have pursued Argentina
for their full repayment. Most of the other debtors accepted an offer of new
bonds at lower value in exchange for the old bonds they held but NML instead
has carried out a policy of harassing Argentina through foreign courts for
the full amount. Last year they persuaded a court in Ghana to impound an Argentinian
navy ship, the Libertad, but this was released by an international tribunal
and returned to Argentina in January.
Last November a New York court ruled that Argentina was obliged to pay $1.3billion
to NML, several times the amount it paid for the bonds, in a ruling that would
also oblige US banks processing Argentine funds to comply. If the appeal against
the decision fails, Argentina will have to choose between paying up - against
Argentine law - or defaulting on all its debts once more.
The protest was organised by the Jubilee Debt Campaign UK, and was to show
its support for Argentina's right to refuse to pay vulture funds. They also
condemn the decisions of the New York court which overrules a state's right
to protect its people under international law and call for a debt audit in
Argentina to decide which of its debts are illegitimate. Among these are loans
made by the UK Export Credits Guarantee Department (now called UK Export Finance)
to the Argentine junta in the years before the Falklands War, with which they
bought destroyers and helicopters used in the invasion of the Falkland - clear
examples of what the Liberal Democrats describe as "reckless loans to
dictators known not to be committed to spending the funds on development”
and say should be cancelled.
The Jubilee Debt Campaign see the New York decision which gives special treatment
to these vulture funds that profit from speculation on countries in crisis
as a case that could have grave consequences for other countries in economic
difficulty, including Greece.
People brought pots and pans to bang as well as banners and placards to the
protest outside the offices just off St James's Square for a noisy protest
that lasted an hour and a half as people were leaving the building to go home.
Elliot Associates are only one of the tenants, occupying the fourth floor.
Several of the protesters had brought vulture face masks, and as well as
the Jubilee Debt campaign banner and placards in English and Spanish they
also had an Argentine flag. Many people stopped to take leaflets or ask about
the protest as they walked past the protest on their way home, and some showed
their suprise and disgust at the activities of vulture funds.
The protest ended with some brief speeches and a final very noisy five minutes
to warm themselves up a little.
South Yorkshire 23 Feb 2013
Reclaim Love Valentines Party
Piccadilly Circus, London. Sat 16 Feb 2013
Two women make heart signs with their hands
The 11th Reclaim Love free Valentine's Party - and the 10th organised
by Venus CuMara who started the whole thing in 2003 - took place around Eros
in Piccadilly Circus, aiming to spread peace and love around the world, and
to reclaim love from its commercial exploitation.
Unfortunately I arrived late at the party, and after its major feature when
several hundred people held hands in a large circle around Eros, chanting
together 'May All The Beings In All The Worlds Be Happy & At Peace',
but at least I was able to get the t-shirt when I arrived - they went rather
slower than usual this year as for the first time a donation was requested
The event was begun in 2003 by Venus CuMara and this was the tenth she had
organised (one was put on by some of her friends) and as she told me this
would be the last she would do I made sure to photograph her a few more times.
The idea behind the free party on the street was to celebrate love between
people as the most important force in the world, and to do so in a way that
counteracted the tremendous commercialisation of love in the annual media
shopping promotion frenzy that now surrounds St Valentine's Day. It was to
be a free event, people making and having fun, sharing love, taking place
in a public area in the centre of London's West End shops and under the vast
neon advertisements of Picadilly Circus. Venus also aimed to send a message
of peace and love out across the world - and the London event spawned similar
parties at the same time elsewhere across the world - by uniting us all in
circles of love at the same time around the world.
It was an event that took place freely, with all welcome to take part and
no permissions requested from the authorities - people came together and partied,
with Venus getting people to provide t-shirts and play music and others bringing
food to share and contributing to the general party atmosphere.
There are really very few such spontaneous events in London like this, and
this is unique in central London. I've photographed most of these events and
I hope that they will continue with others taking over the running in future
Fuel Poverty Rally & DAN Roadblock
DECC Whitehall, London. Sat 16 Feb 2013
Protesters blocking the road argue with police, and
refuse to leave the road until later
more pictures from the rally
and the road block.
A central London fuel bill rally outside the Department of Energy and
Climate Change as a part of national actions by Fuel Poverty Action was followed
by a direct action blocking Whitehall led by the Disabled Peoples Direct Action
The pavement outside the ministry on Whitehall was crowded for a rally organised
by Fuel Poverty Action and supported by Disabled People Against
Cuts, Greater London Pensioners’ Association, Redbridge Pensioners'
Forum, Southwark Pensioners' Action Group, Global Women's Strike
and others. It was a part of a nationwide day of action against fuel price
rises and the government's energy policies.
With cuts and rising prices one in four families now has to choose between
heating their homes adequately or eating properly. Many children now go to
school hungry and even the wealthiest suburban areas now need to have churches
and others setting up food banks for those unable to buy food.
Behind the problem are cuts in services and rising bills coupled with cutting
of benefits. The government's energy policy is largely dictated by the Big
Six energy companies, who continue to increase their profits while the consumers
of energy suffer, and the large quantities of carbon dioxed from power generation
from gas and coal increase global warming.
Fuel Poverty action state:
'While disabled and elderly people are forced into libraries and shopping
centres to keep warm and people with cancer freeze in their homes with the
heating off, the government is slashing crucial benefits and cutting grants
to make homes energy efficient.'
'The government is snugly in bed with the Big Six energy companies.
Dozens of Big Six energy company staff are being paid by the government
to set energy policy within the Department for Energy and Climate Change.
Together, they’re doing all they can to keep profiting from the Great
Fuel Robbery. We say: enough is enough.'
Among the protesters and speakers at the rally were a number of disabled
activists, some in wheelchairs, and at the conclusion of the hour long rally,
they wheeled out into the road, stopping traffic and blocking the southbound
The protest continued with a number of speeches, and after around 15 minutes,
police who had been busy diverting traffic along an alternative route, came
to talk with the protesters. There was some argument between the police and
protesters, and among the protesters themselves, some of whom felt they had
made their point and it was time to go and find a cup of tea. As I left after
around a half hour of the road block, the protesters were agreeing with police
that they would leave the road in around ten minutes.
This was an entirely peaceful direct action, and while I was there the police
behaved well. They did a fine job in releasing one pensioner who had handcuffed
himself to one of the wheelchairs and was unable to release himself, setting
him free without harming either wheelchair or protester, and dealt with the
protesters patiently and with a good humour.
Defend the Union Flag
Westminster, London. Sat 16 Feb 2013
The marchers carried Union flags and a few others and
two wreathes which were laid at the Cenotaph.
To show support for the Loyalist flag protesters in Northern Ireland
around a hundred 'patriots' from the 'South East Alliance' marched down Whitehall
carrying Union Flags to a rally with speakers from Britain First.
The Defend the Union Flag protest was called by the 'South-East Alliance'
to show their support for Loyalist Flag protesters in Belfast. In the publicity
for the event on the 'Britain First' web site they state:
"We would like to make it clear that this demo is PURELY about the
flag, we ask everyone who is attending to bring a Flag with them, we want
Whitehall to be a sea of Union flags."
"This is not about Politics, so please NO POLITICAL BANNERS OR FLAGS
AND NO COLOURS OF ANY ORGANISATIONS."
I found the group of around a hundred protesters outside a pub on Whitehall
and went with them when they formed up for the march in Whitehall Place. Almost
all of them were carrying Union flags, though there were a few Ulster and
Orange flags also on show.
Several people present from Northern Ireland were at the front of the march,
and two wreaths were carried, one from the Kent Somme Society commemorating
the Irishmen who died in the Battle of the Somme. The march made a colourful
and noisy protest in Whitehall before becoming silent as they approached the
Cenotaph, where they halted and the two wreaths were laid, followed by a two
They then marched on to Old Palace Yard in front of the Houses of Parliament
for a rally, with speeches from Paul Golding of Britain First, Paul Pitt of
the South East Alliance and Britain First's Northern Ireland organiser Jim
Dowson who has been involved in the protests there.
Many of those taking part were people that I recognised from earlier protests
I've covered by groups including the BNP, March for the Flag, EDL and Britain
First and a few came up and spoke to me by name. Others mistake me for another
photographer who has worked for a well-known anti-fascist publication and
are less friendly.
Although in general the protest was a organised peaceful and orderly one,
I heard later from a photographer who had been attacked by a group of the
marchers when one of them objected to being photographed. Several other photographers
took pictures and came to his assistance. I was photographing the head of
the march and didn't see this, but was there when the same group returned
and again briefly threatened photograpahers and people taking part in another
protest on Whitehall an hour or so later. Police who were following them quickly
intervened and moved them on.
The event still left me wondering why there were such continuing protests
in Northern Ireland where the Union flag continues to be flown on a similar
basis to its use on many municipal buildings in the rest of the United Kingdom
(and on all government buildings until regulations were altered here in 2007.)
There as here there are few restrictions on flying (or wearing) the Union
flag, and the Diamond Jubilee version of the flag that one or two carried
on the march was a reminder of how widespread its use is when people think
it appropriate. Despite the protests of the organisers the issue in Northern
Ireland is unquestionably a very political matter.
Alevi Protest Discrimination in Turkey & UK
Trafalgar Square, London. Sat 16 Feb 2013
woman in traditional costume holds a banner (Semah For Peace) in Trafalgar
Several thousand Alevi - Turkey's largest religious minority - from around
the UK gathered in Trafalgar Square to call for democracy and an end to attacks
and religious discrimination in Turkey and for better treatment of immigrants
in the UK.
Between ten and twenty million Alevi live mainly in Turkey and have a distinct
form of Muslim religion which is related to Shi'ism, which contrasts with
the official Turkish Sunni practice. They worship in their own languages rather
than Arabic; men and women worship together, and women are not required to
cover their hair, and important cultural traditions of poetry, music and dance
(Semah) at the centre of their worship. Alevis are generally humanistic in
outlook and many are on the political left. The religion cuts across ethnic
groups and most are ethnic Turks, but about a quarter of Turkey's Kurds are
The Alevi have been subject to persecution in Turkey for centuries, and often
attacked and at times killed. There cemeteries have no religious status and
applications to build cem (worship) houses are turned down. There is compulsory
religious classes in Turkish schools that are largely about the predominant
Sunni Islam; Christian and Jewish students are exempt, but Alevis are not
- and have taken this to Strasbourg arguing that this is in violation of Article
9 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The current conflict in Syria has worsened their situation with the Turkish
governments strong opposition to the Assad regime, which is based on the minority
Syrian Alawi sect, which is seen as similar to the Alevi. The gathering called
for democracy in Turkey and an end to discrimination and persecution, and
an end to the compulsory religious education.
Significant Alevi settlement in the UK dates from the 1980s, with groups
in a number of cities. On their website they say:
We Alevis, who have been predominantly living in UK since the 1980’s,
on the whole have been successful in our new lives in UK. In addition to
this positive picture, we still face ignorance from institutions such as
the health, education, police, social and political bodies.
Our main problems are; cultural, social, political, religious and educational;
they result in adaptation and integration problems which in turn lead to
suicides, gang culture, gambling, violence and drug abuse. These need to
investigated and looked in to more detail.
Considering the number of suicides, gang culture, drug base amongst
our youth, we cannot forgive the fact that not on government official took
these cases seriously and spoken to the victims’ families or make
necessary arrangements to form investigation groups to look into events
in more detail and find solutions to the problems.
They see their rally as giving voice to all immigrant cultures, not just
Alevis, and call upon them to 'Unite and Fight' to remind the UK government
of its responsibilities, to ask why the police cannot do more to stop the
sale of drugs and the activities of gangs. They want to remind universities
that they should be investigating the social factors of the current situation,
and that health institutions should also be making investigations. The also
want an equal education system which considers the needs of all different
They call for immigrants to come together to get political representation
so that their views would be taken into account and not ignored in the UK.
Stop Western Intervention in Syria & Mali
Downing St, London. Fri 15 Feb 2013
The Communist Party Great Britain - Marxist Leninist
- supports President Assad. I think he has to go.
On the 10th anniversary of the march by 2 million against the Iraq war,
Stop the War organised a small protest at Downing St calling for a stop to
Western intervention in Mali and Syria and against the possible attack on
The campaign against the Iraq war had the backing of the majority of the
British people, and groups around the country organised and demonstrated against
it coming together in the largest protest march ever seen in the UK (and with
many others around the world also marching.)
But Stop the War have failed to convince the public at large with their more
recent campaigns against intervention in Libya and now against the support
being given to the Free Syrians and the Mali government. Even among many left
groups opinions are split, with many calling for an end to the Assad regime.
Certainly few would want to show support for Assad or carry placards with
his face on them, as a couple of people from a small left group, the Communist
Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist) did at this event. Many others feel
Assad should go, but the important thing is what kind of regime should replace
Friday evening is not a good time for a protest, even though it was the actual
date of the 10th anniversary, but even so the numbers at this event were small.
Thames Path Greenwich Partly Open
North Greenwich - Greenwich, London. Fri 15 Feb 2013
The path still passes a surreal landscape, doubtless
soon to be redeveloped with more riverside flats
I had some time to spare between protests and it was a nice day, around 10
degrees warmer than we'd been having and sunny, so I decided to take a bus
to North Greenwich and walk along the Thames Path, having heard that parts
of it had re-opened. The weather changed a little and there were some dramatic
There is still a section of the walk that is closed, a giant building site
where Delta Wharf once was up to Drawdock Road, but on each side of this the
walk is open. although the council sign on the footpath leading from Tunnel
Avenue still indicates it is closed. At the river the path north is blocked,
but you can walk south to Greenwich.
At first the walk goes alongside a giant manmade landscape of sand and gravel,
like some alien planet - and behind the conical hills the Dome and the gas
holder, with occasional lighting towers and cranes add to the scene. Most
of this is behind tall fences, but fortunately these have gaps between the
posts allowing you to see and photograph. Years ago the path here went through
a working container dock, the Victoria Deep Water Terminal, with yellow lines
marking the route, though occasionally it was blocked by crane operations,
and we waited rather than have heavy containers overhead. There are a couple
of my pictures of this and others from the riverside path in the 1980s on
Industrial Heritage site.
Beyond there the riverside path seems rather empty, with many structures
having dissappeared, including the huge concrete silo I photographed. But
something new has appeared, 'guerilla knitting' on some of the trees and posts
along the path.
Fight to Save Lewisham Hospital Continues
Lewisham Hospital, London. Fri 15 Feb 2013
The rally was at the war memorial in front of the hospital
in the background of this picture
A lunchtime rally opposite Lewisham Hospital emphasized the fight by
the whole local community to save their hospital continues with both a legal
challenge and further mass demonstrations including a 'Born in Lewisham Hospital'
The whole local community as well as those with an interest in the future
of the NHS here and elsewhere were appalled by Jeremy Hunt's decision to accept
to the TSA proposals for closure, and to ignore the mass protests by local
residents. Not only are the proposals medically unsound and will lead to patient
deaths, but they also represent short-term thinking that will result in a
huge waste of public funds.
The whole problem over the funding of the hospitals stems from a similar
lack of any long-term thinking when a disastrous PFI (private finance initiative)
agreement was entered into to build a hospital a few miles away. When Lewisham
and this hospital was merged into the same group of hospitals a few years
ago, this crippling debt was inherited. Lewisham is a sucessful and financially
sound hospital which has received sensible public investment to provide up
to date services, and the services that will be cut there will have to be
set up agains and provided elsewhere by other hospitals. Closing Lewisham
will not only incur high costs, but will result in the waste of the previous
investment in its facilities.
Hunt deliberately set out to mislead by rebranding the proposal by Matthew
Kershaw of an urgent care centre in place of the A&E as a smaller A&E
and the claim that it would deal with 75% of those currently presenting at
Lewisham is simply a lie - only around 30% of cases are predictably minor
and the remaining 70% need a full A&E service for proper assessment and
The closure of the full maternity service and its replacement by a midwife
only usnit would mean that only around 10% of current numbers would be served,
and life-threating transfers would be necessary if complications rose in these.
The well-attended rally was chaired by Louise Irvine, the Chair of Save Lewisham
Hospital Campaign and speakers included Lewisham Mayor Sir Steve Bullock,
hospital staff, trades unionists from Unison, Unite, NUT, FBU, RMT, patients,
pensioners and other campaigners. Many motorists passing beeped their horns
in support and bus passengers waved.
Campaigning is continuing at full strength and another mass protest, 'Born
in Lewisham' will be held in a few weeks, with many locals who were born in
the hospital along with other supporters of the hospital celebrating the maternity
and children's services. Other activities - leafletting and collecting signatures
and various smaller protests will continue and a legal challenge is being
mounted by Lewisham Council. The Save the Lewisham Hospital campaign hops
to mount a separate by complementary legal challenge and is raising funds
for this as well as a new poster and leaflet campaign.
As several speakers mentioned, this is not just a campaign for Lewisham,
but one that is vital for the whole of the NHS. Behind the speakers was a
banner for the South-East London 'Save Our Local NHS Hospitals' campaign with
a quotation from Nye Bevan: 'The NHS will last as long as there are folk left
with the faith to fight for it.' They certainly have the faith in Lewisham.
Ash Wednesday - Ministry of Defence
Ministry of Defence, London. Wed 13 Feb 2013
Women hold up a banner calling on the MoD to Repent
Christian peace activists and friends held their annual Ash Wednesday
liturgy at the Ministry of Defence in London, calling for repentance and taking
symbolic actions including some who risked arrest by marking the buildings
Around a hundred people processed around the area by the Ministry of Defence,
which was surround on all sides by police. While most of those taking part
took part in prayer, song and symbolic actions - including writing the word
'REPENT' in water on the pavement in front of the Ministry, and then adding
ashes to it, a few activists used charcoal to mark the building and the Old
War Office opposite with crosses in charcoal. Police dragged them away and
took the charcoal before they could complete the word 'Repent'. Police questioned
those they had caught, but at least in one case then released them with a
Victimisation at London Met
London Metropolitan University, London. Wed 13 Feb 2013
Listening to the speeches on the Holloway Rd
Over 50 people protested outside London Met on Holloway Road against
the suspension of Max Watson, Unison branch chair and Jawad Botmeh, the elected
staff governor on false charges. The university have also threatened to derecognise
London Metropoltan university have suspended Unison Chair Max Watson and
Jawad Botmeh, a staff member at the Working Lives Research Institute (WLRI)
over what they describe as a 'serious matter of concern' relating to 'gross
misconduct'. Neither of them have been given clear reasons for this but it
is said to relate to Jawad's appointment to the University five years ago.
Jawad was convicted in 1996 for conspiracy to cause explosions in what is
considered by many including Amnesty International, Unison's National Delegate
Conference and by a number of MP's including local MP Jeremy Corbyn. He declared
his conviction on his application to work at the university.
The accusations against Watson include that of bullying and are thought to
have been made because he advised union members not to meet with Capita to
discuss the plans for privatisation of parts of the university. At the meeting
it was stated that those making the accusations knew them to be lies.
The action against the two men is also seen as an attack on the Working Lives
Research Institute for its emphasis on the working class, and on the whole
ethos of London Metropolitan which has prided itself in the past on giving
chances to many of the more deprived members of the community.
As well as various speakers from London Met, including Mark Campbell of the
UCU and Nick Clark of the WLRI, letters of support for the two men were read
from Jeremy Corbyn, Unison President Chris Tansley and others. The protest
had been called because formal disciplinary proceedings were being held at
that time against Jawad, despite the fact he was known to be on annual leave
an unable to attend. There was loud applause when Unison's Harry Lister emerged
from the meeting to announce that these had been suspended until next Monday
afternoon to allow him the chance to defend himself.
Prison Officers Protest Against Cuts
Old Palace Yard, London. Wed 13 Feb 2013
Prison officer with placard in front of POA banner
Hundreds of prison officers protested against prison closures, overcrowding
and privatisation outside the Houses of Parliament after briefing MPs on the
dangers of the prison closure programme.
Shaker Aamer - 11 Years in Guantanamo
Parliament Square, London. Wed 13 Feb 2013
Caroline Lucas MP came out to talk to the protesters and held the banner
A protest opposite Parliament marked 11 years since London resident Shaker
Aamer was flown to Guantánamo from Afghanistan. He is still being held
and tortured there daily despite having been cleared for release by the US
over 5 years ago.
Shaker Aamer, a charity worker, was captured and sold to the US who after
torturing him in Afghanistan illegally rendered him in a flight to Guantanamo
where he arrived on 14 Feb 2002. It was also the day when his youngest son
was born in London. He remains held at Guantanamo and is still being tortured
there, despite being cleared for release five years ago since there was no
case against him - he has never been charged or tried.
Although the UK Government has publicly said they have asked for his release,
they have done little to pursue that request, and there is a strong suspicion
that both UK and US governments want him to remain locked away because of
the evidence he would give about his torture and that of others which would
seriously incriminate both governments.
There were protesters holding banners across the whole long frontage of Parliament
Square facing the Houses of Parliament, with others around the edges of the
square handing out flyers. Many of those passing were surprised to find that
prisoners were still being held there after Obama's promise to close the camp
down, which he appears to have made little effort to keep.
Most of the protesters were from the Save Shaker Campaign and the London
Guantánamo Campaign. Aamer's name was one of those on a list of 55
cleared prisoners released by the US Justice Department in September, but
no steps have been made to allow him to return to his wife and four children
in Battersea. Although he is only 44, his health is rapidly failing in the
camp as a result of continued torture. He told one of his lawyers who visted
him in the camp that he was regularly mistreated: they "grab me harshly,
bend my arms and my head and slam me to the floor. They shackle me and put
me in the chair."
One of the visitors to the protest was Green MP Caroline Lucas,
who talked with protesters and held one of the banners until she had to rush
back to the Commons for Prime Minister's Questions. The protesters were still
standing there in the freezing cold when I left an hour and a half after the
protest had started.
Great Spitalfields Pancake Race
Dray Walk, Spitalfields, London. Tue 12 Feb 2013
Horses were very much in the news but they raced without
The Great Spitalfields Pancake Race takes place every year on Shrove
Tuesday at Dray Walk at the Old Truman Brewery just off Brick Lane, and is
supported by Cath Kidston, Old Truman Brewery, Alternative Arts and YELP.
Most of the teams are young people working in shops and businesses in the
area, who collect sponsorship or make donations for the Air Ambulance.
The races are hotly contested, at least by some of the groups, and the teams
that reached the final were all pretty fast movers with a nifty tossing technique.
Each of the 4 members of every team runs one leg along a course of around
50 metres marked out on Dray Walk, and is required to toss the pancake in
their pan in the middle of their run.
There was one small dispute over whether one of the teams had actually finished
with or without their pancake, but other than that things ran fairly smoothly,
much to the delight of a largish crowd including many taking photographs or
video of the event.
Most of the teams wore fancy dress - for which there was also a prize, and
some chose costumes which made competing in the race rather difficult. But
although the competition was pretty intense at times, most were in the event
simply to have some fun - and support a good cause.
At the end of the event there was a ceremony in which prizes were awarded
to the race winners and runners up, as well as for the team with the best
fancy dress. There was also a prize for the best behaved team, although I
wasn't sure how that was judged.
Poulters Pancake Race
City of London Guildhall, London. Tue 12 Feb 2013
Everyone was in fancy dress of one sort or another
The City of London's 'instant tradition' of Shrove Tuesday pancake races
took place in Guildhall Yard between teams representing the livery companies,
wearing guild robes, white gloves and hats.
The races, begun in 2004 by the Worshipful Company of Poulters are now an
annual event, with members of the ancient and more recent livery companies
dressing up to run a short course in the Guildhall Yard, tossing the pancake
at the centre of the outwards and return leg. With over a hundred livery companies
now in existence, there is great competition to take part in the event. The
event is a charity event, raising funds for the annual Lord Mayor's Appeal
and this year for the Lord Mayor's Gifford Wood Appeal which is establishing
a new wood near Waltham Abbey on the edge of Epping Forest.
Among the guilds contributing expertise to the event are the Gunmakers who
provide a small but very loud cannon to start each heat, Clockmakers who attend
to the timing, Fruiterers who provide lemons, Cutlers plastic forks, Glovers
white gloves to be worn by each runner, and the Poulters whose eggs are used
to make the pancakes.
It is a highly organised event, complete with clipboards, stop-watches and
judges, and with a series of rules about dress and behaviour, with points
being lost for various infringements.
The event is held in Guildhall Yard by permission of the Chief Commoner and
was opened by a brief speech from the Lady Mayoress Dr Clare Gifford (the
Lord Mayor being unable to attend) and a blessing by Canon Paul Thomas. She
then started the first race by firing the small cannon with an extra loud
As often in the City, despite the civility and formality - somewhat undermined
by the contestants for the fancy dress race - competition was extremely fierce
and the regulators had plenty of work to do keeping up with the infringements.
If only they had paid as much attention to what the banks were doing.
Friern Barnet Library Victory Celebration
Friern Barnet Library, London. Tue 5 Feb 2013
Lighting the candles on the celebration bookworm cake
Friern Barnet Library supporters celebrated victory in overturning Barnet
Council's closure decision in a ceremony in which the Occupy squatters who
had prevented its sale handed over the library keys to the local community
who will now run it.
The victory by local residents, squatters and activists from the Occupy
Movement against Barnet Council is not just a local matter, but one of national
(and possibly even international) importance. A great example of democracy
in action it shows how a combination of campaiging, lobbying, direct action
and making use of the law can win against bureacracy and greed.
Today residents and squatters came together to celebrate their victory after
Barnet had agreed to lease the building to a community company set up to run
it as a library, Friern Barnet Community Library (FBCL).
The library had for some years been deliberately neglected by Barnet Council,
run down to give them the excuse to close it. It's hard not to suspect that
this might be connected the with possibility of fat profits for whoever would
be sold the site to develop it with luxury flats; although the actual library
site is not huge, at each side there is an area of grass. Given its position,
it is a site that property developers would drool over.
Locals obviously valued and loved their library and set up the Save Friern
Barnet Library Group when they heard about the proposed closure. They were
an active group which publicised the issue, started petitions, lobbied councillors,
organised events and got the media involved - but the council was obdurate
and refused to listen to them, closing the library in April 2012.
Things changed in September. A new law came into force penalising the homeless
and squatters by making squatting in residential buildings illegal. One of
the main proposers of this legislation which penalises the homeless and largely
protects those holding empty properties as investments (those living in properties
were already protected by law) had been an MP for the area which includes
the library. On September 3, community activist squatters, including those
who had been part of Occupy London, reopened it on 3 September, as a campaign
to save the library (and a part of the National Libraries Campaign to save
other libraries around the country faced with closure) and also as a protest
against the new squatting laws.
Since then the library has been opened by residents and squatters for community
use - borrowing of books, various classes and other activities - six days
a week. And it was only the direct action in taking over the building that
eventually enabled the protesters to force Barnet Council to negotiate and
reach an agreement. Without them development would have gone ahead. Squatting
gave the protesters time to fight, and to use the law against the council.
As the library is not a residential building it was not covered by the law
against squatting, and the council had to go to court to try and evict the
squatters. At the possession hearings the squatters argued that their occupation
of the premises was a protest, and that the had the right to protest under
Articles 10 and 11 of the Human Rights Act. This gave the library supporters
the chance to talk about the real issues involved. Rather than grant a possession
order, the judge on December 18 decided that although the council's right
to possession was more important, Barnet Council must try to negotiate some
form of licence to keep the library open to preserve proportionality between
the rights of protesters and of the council.
Although initially there had been some residents who were not too happy with
having squatters in their Library, there reservations were soon broken down
when they saw what they were actually acheiving.
There was a real party atmosphere in the library today, and residents and
the activists obviously were celebrating together. We were called to order
by one of the new library trustees, local Rabbi Jeffrey Newman and there were
a few short speeches and at noon in a short ceremony the squatters handed
over the keys to the building to residents who are trustee of the newly formed
The Friern Barnet Community Library (Ltd).
After this, residents and activists joined hands to dance in a line around
the two green spaces on either side of the library, which they hope to register
like the library as community assets. A ribbon across the doorway of the library
was then cut by local Councillor Pauline Coakley Webb, and we went back inside
for more speeches and celebrations.
The speeches dealt with some of the issues raised by the library closures
and the fight against them - the vital importance of libraries, particularly
for the poor, unemployed and disadvantaged for whom they are a great educational
resource. While many less wealthy countries are still struggling to set up
libraries, what sense does it make to shut them down here? We need more libraries,
they are one of the great ways of making access to knowledge open to all of
our society instead of it being the privilege of the wealthy; it gives access
to the whole world of books and also now the Internet to those who cannot
otherwise afford or lack the skills to do so on their own. Although the library
is currently run by volunteers, they hope in future to be able to employ trained
Alex Benyehuda read a poem about the need for libraries, which included some
telling questions about whether you would snatch books away from people, particularly
children; Phoenix talked about the need to make empty properties available
for the homeless as well as the campaign to save libraries, the barrister
who had represented the protesters spoke, and the many candles on the impressive
'bookworm' cake were lit before the legal adviser to the campaign cut it and
then blew them all out. There were a lot of candles on the cake, I think one
for each day of the occupation by the Occupy squatting activists that saved
There was time for a few soft drinks and other snacks as well as the cake,
and to speak to many of the people before, just as I was leaving, there was
a second handing over of the keys staged for the benefit of a photographer
from the national press.
This was a fine celebration of a historic event, both for the local community
but also for others in the country who are fighting against closures and cuts,
and a great example of how different groups can fight together and win - and
in Barnet itself the fight will continue against the 'One Barnet' proposals
to outsource much of the council's activities to let private companies profit
from the council tax paid by the borough's residents.
Waltham Forest Milad-Un-Nabi Procession
Leyton & Walthamstow, London. Sun 3 Feb 2013
The procession assembled outside the Mosque on Lea Bridge Road
Several thousand Muslims marched around Walthamstow to mark Milad Un
Nabi, the anniversary of the birth (and the death) of the Prophed Muhammad
and to celebrate his message of peace.
The Milad-Un-Nabi procession was organised by the Waltham Forest Islamic
Association and started and finished at their Lea Bridge Road Mosque. Several
thousand Muslim men took part in the procession, led by a group of Islamic
dignitaries, their hands and arms linked and behind them a banner announcing
the celebration of the birth of the Prophet and that he brought 'A Message
of Peace For All Creation.'
There were other Islamic flags and banners carried in the procession, and
also on a couple of buses which carried those unable to walk in the procession.
At the back of the procession was a group of a hundred or so women and children.
As the procession went along Hoe St towards the centre of Walthamstow there
were several stalls giving out free food and hot and cold drinks to the marchers.
There was a small incident here when a police officer came over and made some
of these clear away as he felt they crowd around them was holding up the march.
It seemed a totally insensitive and unnecessary intervention towards a free
offering that is a part of the religious observance of the festival.
A little closer to the town centre the Mayor of Waltham Forest, Councillor
Richard Sweden, came to join the head of the procession. The borough has the
third or fourth largest Muslim population of London boroughs with 21.9% of
residents identifying themselves as Muslim in the 2011 census - over 56,000
An larger Sunni conference and procession in celebration of Milad-Un-Nabi
takes place in Walthamstow next Sunday, and this will be the 29th year of
what hopes to be the largest Milad-Un-Nabi Jaloos (procession) in the UK.
Cleaners Protest at Barbican
Barbican Arts Centre, City of London. Sat 2 Feb 2013
Cleaners call for a living wage and to be treated with dignity and respect
Cleaners held a noisy protest at the Barbican Centre asking to be paid
a living wage at the City of London Corporation's prestige arts centre, and
complained about unfair treatment and a union ban by cleaning contractor MITIE.
The protest was organised by the Industrial Workers of Great Britain (IWGB),
the independent general union which represents cleaners and which declared
an official dispute at the Barbican last November and has since held several
The City of London Corporation has declarted itself in favour of the Living
Wage (currently £8.55 ph in London) and says it pays all its workers
at or above this rate, but it outsources the cleaning to MITIE who pay them
a lower rate. MITIE is a large and highly profitable company, paying its CEO
over a million pounds a year. The cleaners get £6.90 an hour - under
£11,000 per year.
The IWGB allege that MITIE "has a terrible track record regarding
the treatment of its workers" and that "sadistic managers"
have forced some pregnant women workers "to carry out tasks that
would knowingly endanger the life of their unborn babies nearly causing a
MITIE responded to the union claims in a letter sent by Senior HR Manager
Kevin Watson-Griffin on 17 Oct 2012 which stated:
'IWGB representatives will not be permitted access to any MITIE site,
including the Tower of London, Barbican etc. to support the IWGB members
who are employed by MITIE. We appreciate that many sites, where our employees
undertake work for our clients, are open to public access, but no member
of IWGB should discuss union business with any MITIE employee during their
working hours or on premises within which they are employed.'
A spokesman for the City of London Corporation who are the owners of the
Barbican denied in a post of Facebook that there is any ban on the union at
Around 50 cleaners and supporters turned up for the late afternoon protest.
They protested outside the main entrance to the centre, leaving room for people
to enter and leave, and shouted a number of slogans including:
'MITIE, MITIE! - Shame on You'
'Hey Barbican, stop the lies! Let the workers organise!'
The question 'What do we want?' met with the loudly roared responses
of 'Justice!' and 'Living Wage' and there was a variety
of other slogans on similar themes, chanted in both English and Spanish, as
many of the cleaners in London are of Latin-American origin.
Several people spoke, including one of the leaders of the Barbican cleaners,
who as well as speaking about the low wages and poor working conditions, and
the feeling by cleaners that they are treated like dirt rather than given
the respect due to any person, told how his pregnant wife had been forced
to work with chemicals that were known to be dangerous for pregnant women,
risking a miscarriage, despite her complaints. MITIE had failed to discipline
the manager responsible in any way. Fortunately despite the exposure, his
wife had given birth to a healthy child.
There were a group of drummers and several people had loud air horns with
air pumps,as well as some with whistles, and this was a very noisy protest.
It was still continuing as I had to leave, and I could still hear the noise
they were making - though faintly - as I reached Moorgate station, almost
a quarter of a mile away despite the tall buildings lining the streets.
The IWGB intends to continue to hold protests at the Barbican and other
sites until cleaners are paid the living wage, treated with appropriate respect
and dignity and allowed union representation by MITIE.
Save Chase Farm Hospital
Enfield, London. Sat 2 Feb 2013
Protesters line up at the start of the march
The week after a massive march in South London against the closures at
Lewisham hospital, campaigners in North London held a march against the closure
of A&E and maternity services at Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield.
Plans to close the A&E and maternity departments were approved by Andrew
Lansley in September 2011 after a long fight - in the course of which he had
visited the hospital in 2007 along with David Cameron and Nick de Bois, then
leading the Hands Off Our Hospital campaign. In 2010 de Bois was elected as
local MP, replacing the previous Labour member in a campaign where saving
Chase Farm was a key local issue. Cameron had pledged to stop the closures,
and shortly after the coalition came to power Lansley again visited Chase
Farm and put them on hold calling for a GP-led consultation.
Local protests, now led by the North East London Council of Action, have
continued, with daily pickets outside the hospital where the units are due
to close this November. The march was also supported by the Save Chase Farm
campaign and the London Fire Brigade Union as well as Unison and there were
a couple of people with a banner from another North London hospital, the Whittington
Hospital at Archway, where vigorous local protest stopped closures of A&E
and maternity a few years ago, but where the management is again proposing
The Barnet and Chase Farm NHS Hospital Trust includes Barnet and North Middlesex
hospitals as well as Chase Farm recently announced plans for a £115million
investment, made up of £80million for refurbishment of the 1970s Tower
Block at the North Middlesex and £35million to expand A&E and maternity
services at Barnet. Extra services at Barnet are intended to replace those
being closed at Chase Farm, although campaigners from both Enfield and Barnet
argue that they will be inadequate.
Around two hundred marchers gathered at the war memorial on Chase Green with
banners, placards and flags and were entertained by some folk songs. Another
small local community group 'Love Your DoorStep' danced past with balloons
on their way into the town and promised to join the hospital marchers later.
A little after 2pm the marchers set off along Church St towards the town
centre. Many shoppers on the street stopped to applaud and wish them well,
and a few joined them. I left the march shortly after it turned north up Silver
Street to makes its way towards the hospital on The Ridgeway to the north-west
One of the slogans the marchers were chanting as they went through the centre
of Enfield was 'Occupy Now' and there were plans to try to occupy a part of
Chase Farm when the march reached there. Unfortunately I had promised to be
elsewhere and had to leave them before they reached the hospital. I later
heard that half a dozen protesters had occupied a part of the Tower Building
and were evicted around 10pm that evening.
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