Grow Heathrow's 5th Birthday
Grow Heathrow, Sipson, London. Sat 28 Feb 2015
People get ready to eat the cakes at the end of the
Grow Heathrow, a non-hierarchical free community in an occupied derelict
nursery just north of Heathrow Airport as a symbol of community resistance
to the economic, ecological and democratic crises celebrated 5 years with
open workshops and a party.
When I arrived lunch was being cooked and people were being given escorted
tours of the site. It was a couple of years since I had been there and there
were a few changes. When the site was first occupied, few beleived it would
last more than a few months, but the occupiers have managed to get the courts
to consider various legal arguments and to stay in possession, taking over
some adjoining derelict land as well as the original nursery site.
It is an impressive acheivement, although not always the tidiest of places
there is a great deal of careful and thoughtful organisation. The occupiers
have turned what was previously an eyesore and a dangerous site with considerable
fly-tipping into a well-ordered and largely self-sufficient settlement, and
one that offers various services to the surrounding community, many of whom
have become involved.
The session I'd particularly wanted to attend started with local MP John
McDonnell praising the work of Grow Heathrow during its five years on the
site in Sipson, and talking about their contribution to the battle of local
residents against the third runway - a battle which it looks as if it may
need to be taken up by direct action again.
Following him, Tristram Stuart, one of the pioneers of the radical food movement
with his 2009 book on food waste and the Feedback charity, spoke on how this
is now an international issue, and the importance of stopping the movement
being incorporated as corporate greenwash.
David Graeber, a professor of anthropology now at the LSE, took us through
some ideas about democracy and how we need to find new ways to eliminate unnecessary
control, with examples from the Spanish civil war and the current revolution
in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan), where the contstitution is based on the ideas
of the late Murray Bookchin.
Finally Ewa Jasiewicz, well known as an activist in many areas including
Palestine solidarity and fuel poverty, talked about her work as a union organiser
with hotel workers, one of the most exploited areas of the workforce.
It was a stimulating event, and led to some interesting discussion although
unfortunately it had started late and had to be cut short for the celebrations,
which included speeches from local resident Tracy, John McDonnell again, a
housing activist and also some news and a callout for Yorkley Court Community
Farm, as well as a song about the battle against the expansion of Heathrow,
before the judging of the cake contest. All the cakes were judged to be highly
edible and once the judging was completed they disappeared very fast.
People's Republic Of Aldgate Free Speech Fight
One Commercial St, London. Thur 26 Feb 2015
Doors protest becomes one for freedom of expression when a police officer
threatens arrest for banner
There were more police than normal for the protest outside the 'rich' door
of One Commercial St, and as soon as Class War unrolled their banners a police
officer , Sergeant C, came to tell them that the 'Party Leaders' banner was
offensive and they must remove it.
The protesters told the police that nobody had objected to it and so it was
not an offence to display it, and it remained on display. The officer, together
with a woman officer then began talking to people passing by and entering
and leaving through the rich door. Eventually, after around ten minutes, they
found two young men going into the rich door who were willing to be prompted
to agree that they found it offensive, and came back to the protesters.
The protesters defended their right to free speech, but the officer made
it clear that unless they put the banner away they would be arrested, and
the protesters rolled it up and continued the protest. The banner in question
is based on Class War's 2010 election posters of the political leaders. Police
raided the home of a photographer living a mile or so away in 2010 forcing
him to take down the posters from his window; he replaced them with the word
'wanker' replaced by 'onanist'. Later he received a letter from the police
apologising for the action and stating that he had the right to display the
original posters under the right to freedom of expression which is part of
the Human Rights Act. Police also paid compensation for the raid on his home.
The same officer also warned Ian Bone that he would be arrested if he continued
to use offensive language, in particular the 'f' word. Although Bone protested
that this was now commonly heard in almost all situations, his contributions
to the event after this were more muted than usual. Not so Martin Wright,
who gave proceeded to give a spirited discourse on the words he found offensive
such as 'poverty' and 'war' and various terms related to sex and bodily functions
which were not. The police took no action.
Class War brought out a couple of posters with the message 'You are now entering
The People's Republic of Aldgate' and they invited the police to leave, offering
them safe conduct out of the PRA. The police failed to take up the offer.
Later there was a moment of pure farce after an orange flare had been set
off, when Sergeant C and another officer tried to put it out in a puddle.
Unsurprisingly this had little effect. It was burning out fairly harmlessly
in the puddle on the pavement, the red smoke mainly blowing along the pavement
parallel to the road when the sergeant decided to pick it up and carry it
to a bin at the side of the traffic lights. Red smoke continued to pour out
of the bin, now being blown into the traffic, and some of the rubbish in the
bin appeared to catch fire, though fortunately it went out.
Padraic then stepped forward to re-enact the scene of the officers trying
to extinguish the flare in the puddle, and the protesters were soon in stitches,
along with the security man, and some of the police were unable to hide their
amusement too despite trying hard not to laugh (doubtless they will have got
a telling off later back at the station.)
Police prompted two rich residents to find the Class War 'Party Leaders'
banner offensive, and threatened arrest if they kept it on display. It was
rolled up and the protest continued with the area being declared 'The People's
Republic of Aldgate'.
Lambeth against £90m cuts
Lambeth Town Hall, Brixton, Lodnon. Wed 25 Feb 2015
TUSC candidate talks to the people outside Lambeth Town Hall before the start
of the council meeting
Around a hundred trade unionists, pensioners, library and other council staff,
social housing tenant and other residents held a lively rally outside Lambeth
Town Hall telling councillors arriving for a meeting to reject library closures
and other £90 millon cuts.
The cuts will have greater impact on children, old people and the disable
who always rely on local services more than the average person. Council employees
oppose the cuts not only because they fear for their own jobs, but because
they know those that keep in post will not be able to offer the public the
same quality of service that they do at present.
RMT protest Underground Job Cuts
Edgware Road (Bakerloo), London. Wed 25 Feb 2015
RMT members and supporters handed out fyers about the
increased danger staff losses present to passengers and staff
Around 20 RMT Members handed out flyers at the busy Edgware Road Bakerloo
Line station today against the proposed 50% cut in station staffing and closure
of the ticket office which they claim will endanger the safety of both passengers
They got a very positive reception form many of the public going in and out
of the station or walking past. Most seemed to realise that staff do far more
than sell tickets and offer service and protection to the travelling public.
Welfare Advocacy not a Crime
DWP, Westminster. Wed 25 Feb 2015.
Handing out leaflets about the right to provide advocacy
for claimants at job centres
In a national day of action, welfare activists protested at the Dept of Work
& Pensions over the arrest of welfare rights activist Tony Cox when he
tried to accompany a vulnerable claimant to her jobcentre interview to argue
for a fairer claimant agreement.
As well as several banners, one man was gagged in protest. By law claimants
are allowed to have and adviser present with them at the interview, but when
a claimant turned up with Cox, his interview was cancelled. Cox and the claimant
then left the job centre, but later in the day police arrived at his him and
arrested him, charging him with threatening behaviour.
Striking Firefighters block traffic
Westminster, London. Wed 25 Feb 2015
A police officer comes to talk with Matt Wrack (centre)
and other FBU leaders at the gates to Downing St
After a rally in Westminster Central Hall, several thousand striking firefighters
protested on the street outside Parliament before marching to Downing St.
Their protest brought all traffic in the area to a standstill until they marched
Outside Downing St, the noisy protest blocked Whitehall and the access into
Downing St. A senior officer come to talk with Matt Wrack and the other FBU
leaders there and was extrememly politie, taking Wrack's mobile number before
going away to see if anyone could be persuaded to come out from Downing St
to meet the protesters who had told him they would not move until someone
had come to talk to them about their pensions, and the promises they feel
have been broken over this.
They were still there when I had to leave to photograph another protest.
Around 45 minutes later I met them again. marching back from Downing St to
Methodist Central Hall were they were expected to disperse.
Free Shaker Aamer at Parliament
Parliament Square, London. Wed 25 Feb 2015
campaign holds weekly protests opposite Parliament to remind government of
the need for action
The Free Shaker Aamer campaign protested for 4 hours at Parliament calling
for the urgent release of London resident Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo, where
he has been held and regularly abused for 13 years without charge or trial.
The protest was longer than usual as an international event was taking place
at the nearby QEII centre and they wanted to remind delegates there of Shaker's
torture and imprisonment.
Bracknell, Berks. Mon 23 Feb 2015
of the forest were pretty wet and some of the paths were muddy
Just a short walk with some of my family in the Crown forest south of Bracknell
- not really a lot to see. Then we went to a pub in Virginia Water for a meal
and I didn't take any pictures of that. It wasn't anything special.
Take Back Our World - Global Justice Now
Shoreditch, London. Sat 21 Feb
Peter Kennard holds up one of his best-known photomontages
This was the launch of 'Global Justice Now', the renamed 'World
Development Movement' which I've belonged to since it began in the mists
of times and we ran a group in Manchester in the late 1960s.
A day conference at Rich Mix, close to the north end of Brick Lane had some
well-known contributors, though unfortunately it wasn't possible to go to
everything, as there were three sessions concurrently through the day. Among
those speaking at those I attended were Paul Mason, David Graeber
and Peter Kennard.
The final session in the early evening was a short walk away at Amnesty International.
I hadn't gone to the event to take photographs, but I had taken a camera -
the Fuji XT1 - and a couple of lenses, meaning to take a few pictures in the
lunch break. But sitting in or near the front row, the 35mm f1.4 was able
to give some reasonable images. There were several photographers moving around
and photographing in most of the sessions, but I was there to listen, and
just took a few pictures from where I was sitting. Which was rather too far
away for the very crowded final session.
Shoreditch & Brick Lane
Shoreditch, London. Sat 21 Feb 2015
'No More Hipsters' but the area has already been taken
A few pictures taken on my way to Rich Mix for the event there, and during
a short visit later in the day to Brick Lane, which has changed beyond recognition
since I photographed there around thirty years ago.
Poor Doors to Rich Gardens
Aldgate to Tower Bridge, London. Thu 19 Feb 2015
Ware block both roadways on Tower Bridge with banners, flaming torches and
Class War kept up protests over social apartheid in housing; from a 'poor
doors' protest with banners and flaming torches at One Commercial St they
marched to Tower Bridge, briefly blocking it before protesting against the
'rich gardens' at One Tower Bridge.
Police had asked Class War to pay for the march to be policed, but Class
War told them firmly that the fewer police there were the better. The protest
started as usual outside the rich door of One Commercial St. It was raining
lightly and at first there were not many protesters, and is seemed likely
the march might be called off. But a few more turned up and some were keen
to march, so off it set, complete with flaming torches which ensured they
would be seen in the dark.
There were a few minor arguments about the route to take, and the route took
us down some seriously dark side streets but eventually local knowledge won
out. Marching down the busy Highway without any police to control traffic
was just a little fraught, but the protesters kept together and spread across
the west-bound carriageway so no vehicles could pass, and ignored the hooting
of those stuck behind them.
In the middle of Tower Bridge they took over both carriageways, bringing
both the 'Lucy Parsons' and 'Party Leaders' banners beside each other. The
flaming torches that had burnt out were recharged again with paraffin and
a couple of orange flares set off.
On the south side, the protesters briefly took to the pavement before crossing
Tower Bridge Road to the entrance to One Tower Bridge, moving on after a brief
protest to finish at the entrance to the site on Queen Elizabeth St, where
there were a few more speeches and chants facing the security and police waiting
there. The developers have had to include some social housing at the rear
of the site, which has communal gardens, and have now announced that access
to these gardens will be restricted to the wealthy only.
End Isolation Torture for Kevan
HM Prison Service, London. Mon 16 Feb 2015
Campaigners hand out flyers outside the prison service offices in Petty France,
Kevan Thakrar was acquitted of attacking prison officers in 2010, and
has since been kept in isolation as retribution. Campaigners at HM Prison
Service demanded this end, and for an appeal of his wrongful conviction for
murder under 'joint enterprise'.
Court rulings against prison officers are unusual and in this case have been
responded to by the prison service vindictively. The evidence in court showed
Kevan had acted in self-defence after months of racial, physical and psychological
The ancient law of 'joint enterprise' has been resurrected in recent years
as a way to deal with gang crime, and there are many cases like Kevan's that
have resulted in youths who took no part in a crime being sent to jail for
lengthy terms - in his case for life with a minimum of 35 years in jail.
Kevan wasn't present when the murder for which he was convicted took place,
and was actually found guilty on the basis of false statements that were retracted
after the trial. Police threatened a witness who would have given Kevan an
alibi to stop him testifying, and then arrested and charged him with assisting
an offender, only dropping the charges after Kevan was found guilty.
One of those thought to taken part in the murder gave evidence against Kevan,
and was given a suspiciously low sentence for serious drug crimes, possibly
for his testimony, and there were other irregularities in his trials, two
of which were abandoned because of jury bias.
Before his trial, Kevan was attacked by prison officers and attended court
with serious injuries. Since being acquitted of attacking prison officers
he has been held under 'close supervision', which involved being locked in
his cell 23 hours a day.
Campaigners stood outside Clive House, the London HQ of HM Prison Service
across lunchtime handing out flyers about his case and talking with some of
those passing by or going in and out of the offices. The protesters included
members of Joint Enterprise: Not Guilty by Association (JENGbA),
a grass roots campaign which includes many relatives of those imprisoned under
'joint enterprise', members of FRFI (Figth Racism! Fight Imperialism!)
and of Payday Men's Network.
Deport Altaf Hussain
Downing St, London. Sun 15 Feb 2015
The PTI protesters want the UK to expel Altaf Hussain.
though many may feel he should be jailed here
Imran Khan's PTI party protested at Downing St for the UK government
to act against Altaf Hussain, founder of the rival MQM party, granted UK asylum
in 1992. The say his speeches incite violence in Pakistan and he is implicated
in various crimes both there and in London.
The PTI say Hussain and his party have an armed mafia wing in Karachi which
indulges in extortion, blackmail and murder. They allege the MQM were behind
the Baldia Town factory fire in which at least 258 workers died, the Karachi
Massacre of May 2007, as well as the murder of PTI leader Zahra Shahid
in her driveway in Karachi in 2013 and many other crimes. Hussain is under
investigation in the UK for money laundering and was alleged to be involved
in the murder of a leading MQM member also in exile, Dr Imran Farooq
in London in September 2010.
Hussain has also recently issued threats against journalists who report against
his party and made insulting remarks about the women and children activists
of the PTI who took part in a 126 day sit in following a 'Freedom march' against
what they sayis an illegitimate government.
George Galloway MP was going to speak at the rally, but after around an hour
I got fed up with waiting for him and went home. He did eventually turn up
some time after I had left.
Let Greece Breathe!
Trafalgar Square, London. Sun 15 Feb 2015
Greek woman waves a flag next to a Syriza poster of Alexis Tsipras at Let
Greece Breathe rally
A large crowd filled the space in front of the National Gallery for a rally
in support of Syriza and the newly elected government. Speakers praised the
Greek people's struggle against austerity and saw it as a model for the rest
Occupy Democracy return
Parliament Square, London. Sun 15 Feb 2015
The coffin 'UK Democracy R.I.P. Killed by Corporate
Billionaires' police arrested with Donnachadh McCarthy
Despite arrests by police under instructions from GLA private security
'wardens' after dark yesterday in which five people were arrested, Occupy
Democracy talks and workshops continued during daylight at Parliament Square.
In the morning I was there when George Barda talked and introduced the 'Love
Activists' who talked about the various activities and actions they hoped
to carry out in the next few months. Danny recommended and read from 'Forest
Gardening' by Robert Hart which he said had been a great influence
on his views.
Police and GLA Security watched as the presentations and discussions took
place on the paved area by Churchill's statue, but made no attempt to interfere.
They prefer to take action when fewer press are around and it is dark.
There was another presentation by the 50:50 Parliament campaigners,
with Frances Scott talking about the lack of representation of women
in Parliament at Occupy Democracy in Parliament Square. They want equal numbers
of men and women and argue this would lead to much better government.
Later in the afternoon I went back to Parliament Square where Occupy Democracy
was continuing, By the side of the speaker was the cardboard coffin which
was arrested together with Donnachadh McCarthy, slightly crushed
but still with its message 'UK Democracy R.I.P. Killed by Corporate Billionaires.'
Venus CuMara Reclaim Love 13 at Eros
Piccadilly Circus, London. Sat 14 Feb 2015
People in the Reclaim Love Meditation Circle in Piccadilly
Circys lift up their arms and chant the mantra
Hundreds enjoyed Venus CuMara's 13th Reclaim Love Valentine Party at
Eros in Piccadilly Circus with bands, dancing and a "Massive Healing
Reclaim Love Meditation Circle beaming Love and Happiness and our Vision for
world peace out into the cosmos".
As usual there was a great atmosphere as people came together to share in
love and party together in opposition the the huge commercialisation of Valentine's
Day and indeed of love itself. It is nothing to do with money, just about
Venus organised everyone into a large circle around the edge of the pavement
surrounding Eros, getting them to link hands and chant repeatedly together
"May All The Beings In All The Worlds Be Happy & At Peace".
After which the music and dancing continued, along with hugging and other
Valentine Day - 13 years for Shaker Aamer
Westminster, London. Sat 14 Feb 2015
A person in an Obama mask has a message for the President,
'Free Shaker - Yes YOU Can'
Protesters marched from Parliament Square to a rally opposite Downing
St calling for the urgent release of London resident Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo,
where he arrived has been held and regularly abused for 13 years without charge
He was taken to Guantanamo after being captured by Afghan militia while helping
to build a school for an Islamic charity and was sold to US forces for £5,000.
They held him in Bagram Air Base and tortured him together with MI5 officers.
In February he was illegally rendered to Guantanamo, arriving there on Feb
In Guantanamo he has been subjected to several hundred incidents of beating
and torture, including one notorious occasion in June 2006 where he was taken
to a special secret interrogation site; three men who were taken with him
for similar treatment that day died from asphyxiation, but he survived similar
At first the UK government refused to take action on his behalf as although
he has a British wife and family and permanent resident status here, he is
not a UK citizen, but since 2007 they have made various requests for him to
be freed. At the same time however, they have spent over a quarter of a million
pounds in legal fees to prevent his legal team gaining access to evidence
which might prove his innocence. Many feel that the UK and US intelligence
agencies have prevented his release as the evidence he would give about their
use of torture would be highly embarrassing.
The US having been unable to find any evidence they could use against him,
cleared him for release in 2007 and again in 2009, but only for release to
his native Saudi Arabia where his life would be in extreme danger. In Guantanamo,
his health is in danger and the pressure for his release has been stepped
up with a new campaign, We Stand With Shaker, which joined with the Free Shaker
Aamer Campaign, the London Guantánamo Campaign, Amnesty International
and others for this event.
I photographed at the Downing St rally, where the large inflatable figure
of Shaker from the We Stand With Shaker campaign was standing at the side
of the speakers, who included Joy Hurcombe of the Free Shaker Aamer Campaign,
writer Victoria Brittain, Lindsey German of Stop the War, veteran peace campaigner
Bruce Kent of CND, Katie Taylor from Reprieve, Yvonne Ridley, Aisha Maniar
from the London Guantánamo Campaign, Andy Worthington and Joanne MacInnes
of We Stand With Shaker. Unfortunately I had to leave before the end and missed
some other speakers.
'Bad Boy Borises' in Global Divestment Day
London City Hall. Sat 14 Feb 2015
One of the Boris bloc at the rally in front of City
Hall and Tower Bridge
Protesters, including a 'Boris bloc' in Boris Johnson wigs, were at City
Hall for Global Divestment Day, calling for the Mayor and London Assembly
to end their pension fund investments in climate wrecking fossil fuels and
lead a fossil-free London.
It was a nightmare vision as multiple Mayor Borises arrived, revelling in
dirty fuel in front of Tower Bridge and City Hall at the protest. They were
greeted by a choir singing some songs specially written for the occasion.
This was followed by speeches after which the protesters split into blocks,
each gathering around a 3 meter tall letter which they eventually lifted up
to spell out the message 'Divest London', calling for an end to investment
in fossil fuels which are causing catastrophic climate change. One letter
was held up by those representing faith groups, including a man and a woman
dressed as bishops. Many churches have divested, and campaigners are pressing
others including the Church of England to do so.
Poor Doors Truce Over – It's War!
One Commercial St, Aldgate, London. Thu 12 Feb 2015
A Mr Greedy placard and two fingers for Taylor McWilliams
Last November Class War halted the protests over separate doors for rich
and poor at One Commercial St after new owner Taylor McWilliams promised to
discuss the ending of separate entrances. But when talks to place last month,
broke down in minutes when it became clear that he was only prepared to make
cosmetic changes and not to end the segregated entrances.
The regular protests restarted today, though Class War had paid a brief visit
during the March for Homes on Jan 31. There was a new 'Mr Greedy property
developer bastard' placard too.
Building work is taking place in the side alley where the poor door is located,
and may possibly end with it a little more attractive. There is also new lighting
there, making it a little less risky for people coming home late at night,
though for the moment you have to make a lengthy detour around the block to
reach the poor door from the rear.
Muslim Lives Matter - BBC protest
Broadcasting House, London. Thu 12 Feb 2015
Protesters with #Muslim Lives Matter placards
opposite Broadcasting House
An emergency protest at the BBC condemned the killing of three young Muslims
in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA, and the failure to report adequately
on this hate attack which they see as arising from systemic racism and Islamophobia
in the media.
Aylesbury rubble to Southwark Council
Southwark Council Offices, London. Tue 10 Feb 2015
Southwark residents dump waste from council demolition
of Aylesbury Estate in doorway of council offices
Residents dumped demolition waste at Southwark Council in a protest over
the so-called regeneration of their Aylesbury Estate. Despite a poll that
showed a large majority of residents wanted to stay there and were opposed
to any demolition, the council is going ahead with a scheme to demolish the
Activists, supported by residents, occupied part of a block on the estate
just over a week ago. In response Southwark Council sent workers to smash
up an adjoining empty block to prevent further occupation and later went to
court to criminalise the protest occupation rather than rely on slower civil
Housing campaigners gathered outside the council offices in a protest over
the council's action and their housing policy which involves demolishing social
housing and building large numbers of flats to let at high market rents, or
for sale to overseas property investors. Although the new schemes will include
some 'affordable' housing, properties are likely to be at much higher rents
than the current social housing for less spacious properties, and many existing
tenants will not be eligible for rehousing. Those who have bought properties
will receive compensation at rates below the cost of properties in the area
and most will have no alternative but to move well away from central London.
When a bike arrived with a trailer full of black bags, the residents quickly
picked these up and walked to the council entrance. One managed to get inside
the foyer, and another in the area between the inner and outer doors, but
most tipped the building rubble from the council's wrecking work onto the
pavement just in front of the entrance.
Although police were lined up across the front of the offices, they seemed
bemused by what was happening, though the two officers closest to me quickly
grabbed a woman holding up a poster about the occupation, enabling me to take
photographs and others to empty their sacks.
The protest continued outside for some time, with some short speeches about
the action and occupation, and with flyers calling for the council to adopt
a policy for housing rather than for social cleansing to staff leaving the
offices at the end of their work, people passing by and those entering the
offices who included councillors arriving for a meeting.
Surround Harmondsworth 6
Heathrow Immigration Detention Centre, London. Sat 7 Feb 2015
say 'End Fast Track' and 'Shut Down All Detention Centres NOW'
Well over a hundred Movement for Justice protesters at Harmondsworth
called for an end to the detained fast track system (DFT) which has been declared
illegal by the courts and and end to the scapegoating of immigrants; seeking
asylum must not be treated as if it was a crime. They hope to get all immigration
prisons like this one at Heathrow closed down.
The two immigration prisons at Harmondsworth, previously know as Harmondsworth
and Colnbrook, separated from each other only by a private road leading
to a BT depot, were recently put under a unified management provided by MITIE
and renamed 'Heathrow Immigration Detention Centre'. But changing
the name and transferring them to a different private company hasn't in any
way improved how these centres operate, with detainees held inside them still
being reported to be deprived of many of the rights they are supposed to have,
This was the sixth in the most recent series of protests which started last
year in support of mass hunger strikes inside immigration prisons across the
country. The Movement for Justice point out their continuing protests and
legal actions are having an effect:
Britain’s racist system of immigration detention has been thrown
into crisis by the victories of the growing movement, led by the independent,
collective organising of asylum seekers and refugees acting on Movement
for Justice’s political perspective to win. In July 2014 the High
Court declared the operation of the Detained Fast Track (DFT) system unlawful.
By December the Court of Appeal had ruled it UNLAWFUL to keep asylum seekers
on DFT if they are appealing against a refusal of their claim.
As Tony Gard of the Movement for Justice made clear, there is a need to build
a movement not just to oppose this particular "black hole at the heart
of British justice" but to unite the poor, those on benefits and others
in demanding change.
Since MITIE took over the running of the prisons, the protesters have been
limited to a small area at the front of the site, out of sight of the detainees,
but the noisy protests, with chanting, whistling, blowing of horns and dancing
as well as speeches can be heard by many inside these jails, letting them
know they are not forgotten and that many outside still support them. Detainees
have mobile phones and were able to be rung by the protesters and to tell
them about what was happening to them inside the prison and the many problems
Among the protesters who spoke were a number who have themselves been held
in centres like this, as well as some living in the community still seeking
asylum, unable to work and relying on the support of friends and concerned
groups to stay alive, never knowing whether their next weekly or monthly reporting
visit will end up with arrest and forcible detention. People had come from
across the country to be at the protest and to try to get justice for those
who have come here from desperate circumstances in their home countries.
Burberry Cleaners Strike
Regent St, London. Fri 6 Feb 2015
IWGB official picket outside Burberry in Regent St
Striking IWGB workers and supporters protested outside Burberry on the
wide pavement in Regent St for the London Living Wage, pay for covering absences,
uniforms and proper equipment, as well as an end to bullying management by
Security & police watched the noisy and colourful protest and tried to
interfere but the protesters stood up for their right to protest.
Benefit Sanctions protest at Croydon Job Centre
Croydon Job Centre, Croydon, London. Fri 6 Feb 2015
Handing out flyers at the Jobcentre on Dingwall Rd, Croydon
Protesters handed out leaflets about the unfair use of sanctions, which
many staff there feel they are forced to make to keep their own jobs, often
having to cut off benefits for trivial reasons, forcing more and more people
to use food banks.
I arrived shortly after the protest began, as security staff from the job
centre were insisting that the protesters stayed on the pavement rather than
come onto the wide area of grass and driveways outside the job centre. The
protesters set up their stall on the table and handed out flyers to people
going past as well as to those entering or leaving the job centre.
Many of those who stopped to talk had stories about their own benefits having
been stopped, unfair 'fitness to work' tests or other benefit issues. Unfit
by design the system is also applied in an unfair manner. The protesters offered
some advice as to the rights of claimants and how to appeal unfair decisions.
After around half an hour a manager came out from the job centre to talk
to the protesters. He tried to defend the use of sanctions, saying that they
were effective in getting people back into work and insisted that - despite
much evidence to the contrary - they were applied fairly and according to
strict rules. He denied that there were any of the targets that various whistle
blowers have insisted exist to force employees to sanction more claimants.
Obviously he was concerned by the effect the protests were having on job centre
staff, as the protesters reminded them of the hardship and even suicides that
sanctions have led to.
The argument was conducted in a very civilised manner but showed the manager
was living in a world divorced from the realities where the great majority
of those forced into using foodbanks are there because of sanctions and delays
in the benefit system.
Croydon, with its tall buildings, always seems to be something of a wind
tunnel, and today there was a truly bitter wind sweeping down the open road
- more open than normal as the area opposite the job centre is now a large
building site for a luxury development of shops, offices and expensive flats.
As I walked away, too cold to stay longer, I passed a glass door to a tall
office block just along the road; fixed the glass said "Caution! Glass
awaiting Manifestation". With the way the screws are tightening on the
poor in our society it could just provoke one.
Getting By - Lisa's Book Launch
Young Foundation, London. Thu 5 Feb 2015
Ken Loach , Jasmine Stone and Lisa McKenzie, author
of 'Getting By' talk at the book launch
Lisa McKenzie's book 'Getting
By' is the result of her years of study from the inside of the working
class district of Nottingham where she lived and worked for 22 years, enabling
her to view the area from the inside and to gather, appreciate and understand
the feelings and motivations of those who live there in a way impossible for
others who have researched this and similar areas.
Earlier studies had of course given a great deal of information about the
lives of those in this and similar working class urban areas. The same location,
St Ann's on the edge of central Nottingham, had been studied by Ken Coates
and Richard Silburn in the late 1960s and published in their book
Poverty: The Forgotten Englishmen, published as a Penguin Special
Like many similar areas of other cities, St Ann's was then undergoing a huge
slum clearance project, but though providing more modern homes relieved some
of the worst problems of damp, dangerous and over-crowded housing, it left
many of the social problems and provided new challenges for those who lived
Similar things were happening in cities across the country, and I'd had some
experience of them in Manchester, where the Hulme and parts of Moss Side that
I'd walked through as a first year student were razed to the ground, and then
replaced, largely with anonymous blocks - many of which have now been redeveloped
A few years later, living on the edge of the area in similar working-class
Victorian housing I became involved in the area, both as a volunteer interviewer
for the social science department on a project on racial attitudes between
neighbours on the council estates (a follow-up in Manchester to the work of
Rex and Moore in Sparkbrook published in their 1967 Race, Community and
Conflict) and as a political activist in the Moss Side Housing Action
Group, which attempted to organise local opinion and encourage it to
participate in planning for the rebuilding of the area through 'Planning
for Real' exercises, as well as taking part in the local elections.
MSHAG was possibly the first UK group to carry out such participatory planning
exercises around 1968 (I think the idea came from Germany or Scandinavia)
which became more common some 10 years later. Shortly afterwards there were
kits available published by the University of Nottingham, perhaps based on
the work of the St Ann's Tenants' and Residents' Association from
Nottingham which was active at around the same time. MSHAG failed to change
the council's plans at the time, but did unofficially involve some of the
city's younger architects and planners and certainly influenced later redevelopment
in Manchester and elsewhere.
My first major photographic project in Hull in the 1970s, centered around
the mass redevelopments that were still happening there, repeating many of
the mistakes that we had agitated against in Moss Side. Eventually it presented
a wider view of a city in transition in the show and 27 years later the book
'Still Occupied - A view of Hull'.
The book launch took place very appropriately in the Young Foundation in
Bethnal Green, established by Michael Young as the Institute
for Community Studies in 1954 (it became the Young Foundation when it
merged with the Mutual Aid Centre in 2005, three years after Young's death.)
Young, together with Peter Willmott, published the seminal Family
and Kinship in East London in 1957.
At the opening were quite a large cross-section of political activists involved
in housing issues across London, some of whom spoke at the event, among them
Jasmine Stone of Focus E15, and others from New Era and West Hendon.
Also at the event was film director Ken Loach, whose Cathy Come
Home (written by Jeremy Sandford) on homelessness made a huge impact
in 1966 and in 2000 was voted the second best British TV programme ever made
(after Fawlty Towers!)
Lisa, now research fellow at the LSE, intends to stand against Iain Duncan
Smith in the May elections in his Chingford constituency as the candidate
for the Class War party. It promises to be an interesting campaign.
Aylesbury Estate Occupation
Aylesbury Estate, Southwark, London. Thu 5 Feb 2015
People gather outside the occupied block to go and leaflet
the estate about a public meeting
Protesters about the demolition of social housing and its replacement by
private developments with little or no social housing on the Aylesbury Estate
and elsewhere in London occupied an empty block, part of Chartridge in Westmoreland
Road after the March for Homes on Saturday.
I came to see them on Thursday, but was unable to climb up to the occupation
on the first floor as even without a large camera bag I would have found the
climb difficult. There is one open flat on the ground floor which I briefly
looked inside, but it was extremely dark and nothing of interest was happening
there, although another neighbourhood assembly was scheduled for a few hours
The occupiers have had a lot of support from residents almost all of whom
want to stay on the Aylesbury estate. After the area was given regeneration
status, a poll of the residents gave a large majority against the proposed
redevelopment. The flats were well designed, built to Parker Morris standards
of space and are mainly in good condition, though in need of some modernisation,
but Southwark council wants to replace this and other estates, making deals
with private developers, which will result in properties built to meaner standards
of space, fitting more properties into the same area. Although the plans include
some affordable housing, most schemes of this sort end up with much less than
anticipated, and in any case so-called affordable rents are much higher than
current rents and beyond the means of most current residents in the area.
Many of those who live on the estate are on short tenancies which do not
qualify them for rehousing and will have to find private rented accommodation
elsewhere, and those who have acquired their flats are offered compensation
at a fraction of the cost of any similar accommodation in the area and will
have to move much further from the centre of London.
Close to central London and with good transport links, areas like this are
prime sites for developers, but the developments that will result will have
little housing that ordinary Londoners can afford. The estate which was started
in 1963 is one of the largest public housing estates in Europe, with 2,700
I went out with some of the volunteers who had come to distribute flyers
for a public meeting in the flats across the estate. They split into pairs
and I went with those who were putting them in the letterboxes of the flats
on the top floor of what is I think the longest single block on the whole
estate, Wendover. Its flats number 1-471 and from the top floor there are
extensive views to the east, marred by the fact that the windows on the corridor
seem not to have been cleaned since the flats were built.
At one point we came across a notice on a door 'Danger - Do Not Use - Unsafe'
but it looked perfectly safe and we went through it, to find a broken window
through which were were able to get a clear view.
Around the Elephant
Elephant & Castle, London. Thu 5 Feb 2015
The Underground substation -a memorial to Michael Faraday-
in the Elephant and Castle roundabout at dusk
On the way to the Aylesbury Estate and after leaving it I walked through
the Elephant making some panoramas and a few other pictures. On the way there
was some winter sunshine, and as I returned the light was fading fast.
No Privatisation At National Gallery
Trafalgar Square and DCMS, Whitehall, London. Thu 5 Feb 2015
try to deliver their petition to the National Gallery, but no one from management
would come to take it
The National Gallery has told 400 of its 600 staff they are to be taken over
by a private company. These staff are responsible for the security of the
paintings and the public, provide information about the collection, organise
school bookings and look after the millions of visitors each year.
A private company CIS has already been brought in to “temporarily”
take over the services in a third of the gallery at the additional cost of
hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money.
It is also a scandal that the National Gallery is the only major museum or
gallery that does not pay the London Living Wage. Privatisation threatens
the pay and conditions of loyal and knowledgeable staff already living on
PCS members out on a five day strike against the privatisation were incensed
when management suspended one of the union's senior reps and member of the
negotiating team at the ACAS talks, Candy Udwin, accusing her of breaching
commercial confidentiality. They called it a "disproportionate act of
unfathomable bad faith" and demanded her re-instatement.
Nobody came to answer the door when they knocked to deliver their petition
with around 40,000 signatures against privatisation, so a group went inside
the Sainsbury Wing to deliver it. Security there tried to get them to leave,
promising they would try to get a member of the management team to come down
and receive it. After some discussion and arguments the PCS members left and
rejoined those outside to ask union members if they should leave it with the
Head of Security who had promised to personally hand it to management who
would not come down. This was agreed and the petition was handed over.
The strikers and their supporters then marched through Trafalgar Square and
Whitehall to the Dept of Culture, Media and Sport where the minister concerned
had agreed to receive a copy of the petition. Three people were allowed to
take it inside for a short meeting while the protest continued outside, with
Jeremy Corbyn MP joining it and speaking. Graham Eve, the PCS branch organiser
for the National Gallery then came out from the DCMS to give a report on what
had happened at the meeting and the protest then ended.
Close Guantanamo - 8 Years of protest
US Embassy, London. Thu 5 Feb 2015
Protesters get ready for the start of the monthly protest
at the Embassy
The London Guantánamo Campaign held its usual monthly protest at the
US Embassy in Grosvenor Square. These have now kept these up for 8 years,
calling for the closure of the prison and release of those still held, including
Londoner Shaker Aamer.
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