Belper - World Heritage Site
Derwent Valley, Derbyshire. Wed 30 & Thu 31 Dec 2015
The River Derwent and the Strutt Mills at Belper
The North Mill built in 1804 at Belper houses the Derwent Valley Visitor
Centre though on this occasion I only walked around the outside of the impressive
site, the west part of which is still in use to manufacture stockings. Much
of Belper was built by the Strutt's who , including the housing for their
workers in which I was staying in Long Row with one of my son's and his family.
Originally Unitarians, as they moved up the social ladder they also built
a Congregational and finally an Anglican church.
Jedediah Strutt was a partner of Richard Arkwright and built the
world's second water-powered cotton mill here around 1781, with the first
North Mill three years later. When this burnt down in 1803, his son William
Strutt replaced it by the current 'fireproof' North Mill. Its iron frame and
brick arches with brick and tile floors made it one of the most technically
advanced buildings of its age.
Samuel Slater worked in the mill from a young age and was apprenticed
to Strutt in 1782. Seven years later, having learn all the secrets of the
trade, in 1789 when he was 21 he took what he had learnt there to Pawtucket
in Rhode Island where he began the US textile industry, becoming known as
"The Father of the American Industrial Revolution" - or
in Belper as "Slater the Traitor".
The largest building on the current site, and Belper's most prominent landmark
is the Accrington red-brick East Mill with its distinctive tower, built by
the English Sewing Company in 1912. All of the older buildings on the west
side of the road - including the 1795 West Mill which made up around half
of the complex have been replaced by more modern structures. Water which flows
from close to the site of Strutt's original weir through the Riverside Gardens
is still used to run turbines which provide electrical power for the site,
and the Horseshoe Weir, built to provide power for the West Mill and dating
from around 1797 is still a prominent feature, apparently largely unchanged
since it's height was raised in the 1840s.
After walking around the mill site and the Riverside Gardens to the north
we went along the A6 Bridge St into the centre of Belper, then down to look
at the now empty Thorntons factory on Derwent Street and other former industrial
buildings. Returning to the A6 we walked down as far as another empty mill
building and then up towards the Market Square before going to St Peter's
Church (1864) and then back to Long Row making a brief detour to look at the
1778 Unitarian Church.
The town won the High Street of the Year award for a Market Town and is really
like stepping back into the past, with small shops, various local community
projects etc. It still has much of the character of the 1950s, and though
there is a Morrisons at the edge, it successfully fought off a Tesco.
It has a independent cinema, the Rex, numerous pubs including a Black and
White Swan, the Kings, Queens and Nags Heads, several decent restaurants and
more tea shops than you could ever need. Its population of 20,000 seems to
have produced more than its share of actors and writers, and seems to almost
entirely lack ethnic diversity.
The following morning we walked into Belper to buy sandwiches for our journey
at Fresh Basil and then went to another of the town's many tea rooms,
the Beaurepaire Patisserie, worth a visit both for the cakes and
the loo. We still had half an hour before our train when we left, and strolled
around the Memorial Gardens, which have come under heavy attack by knitters
with quilts and animals on trees, seats and lamp posts. We then walked on
up hill through the Market Square to the gardens of the small 13th-century
St John's Chapel, now a heritage centre (though I've yet to find it open)
and a little further on before returning by a different route to catch our
Cromford - World Heritage Site
Derwent Valley, Derbyshire. Tue 29 Dec 2015
Water falls powerfully down where a waterwheel once
powered the long demolished second mill
'The Valley that changed the world' is the proud claim on the Derwent
Valley Mills World Heritage site leaflet, and it was here in Cromford that
Richard Arkwright built the world's first successful water-powered cotton
spinning mill in 1771. Cotton spinning ended here in the 1840s due to problems
with the water supply and the buildings and site were put to other uses, from
1922 to 1979 as a colour works. It was saved by the Arkwright Society and
after local authorities had decided it should be demolished and is being slowly
and carefully being restored. It is now Grade 1 listed and an important part
of the World Heritage site.
The area is one with fine walks, and we had come to Cromford from Belper
for a walk along the hillside to the west, coming down to the wharf on the
Nightingale arm of the canal (now dry beyond the railway line) and then walking
back to Cromford Wharf alongside the canal. I would have enjoyed the walk
more if I hadn't slipped on a very muddy slope. Although the soft mud softened
the impact, it also soaked my lower regions and covered the seat of my trousers
with a surprisingly tenacious and thick deposit. The canal was supported by
Arkwright, opening shortly after his death and its main cargo was coal, lead
and iron ore as well as limestone from the quarries around the area. The Nightingale
arm (built by Florence's uncle) took lead ore to a smelter at lea, close to
the Leawood pumping station that raised water for the canal from the River
After lunch at the Wharf we walked across the road to Cromford Mill and spent
an hour or so looking around it before catching the train back to Belper.
Staines & Wraysbury Walk
Staines & Wraysbury. Sun 27 Dec 2015
most of the area between Staines and Wraysbury is covered
by old gravel pits
Last time we tried to do this walk we got lost and had to struggle through
dense woodland and boggy areas. This time we got lost again, mainly because
my companions insisted on walking in the opposite direction to where I said
we should go because it looked like a better path. It was a better path, but
took us to Wraysbury station rather than Hythe End, meaning we had an extra
2 miles to walk, mainly beside a busy road. Later we added another almost
half mile when we found the path on the weir across the Colne Brook was fenced
off and we had to turn back and take the road.
It was a gloomy day, with a bit of rain, but we decided to retry the walk.
I wanted to do it in reverse, which would have made it easy to follow but
was voted down by my companions. Later when they turned and walked alongside
the Colne Brook as the walk map showed I pointed out that we were going in
completely the wrong direction and were going upriver rather than down, but
again my advice was spurned. When they finally admitted I was right as we
came to Wraysbury Station it would have been quicker to turn round and walk
back to find the right path, but I didn't suggest that - who knows where we
might have ended up, so we took the long way around on the road.
The road from Wraysbury to Staines was rather busy, and although there is
a path or pavement, not a pleasant couple of miles. Coming up to Hythe End
we took the public footpath down Ferry Lane. There hasn't of course been a
ferry for many years - probably since the 1930s, but in any case we didn't
want to go across the Thames, but simply across the Colne Brook, one of three
major streams that carry the considerable flow from the Colne Valley into
the Thames. A few hundred yards down Ferry Lane runs next to the stream and
at a weir a footpath leads across it. But now that path is blocked by fencing,
and we had to retreat and take the route around by the road.
By now our walk had taken over an hour longer than anticipated and it was
really getting dark as we made our way across the Lammas Park (open until
6pm despite the 4.20pm sunset) and along the unlit riverside path into Staines.
Fortunately I had a torch in my pocket as it was hard to see the puddles and
muddy stretches in the dark.
Boxing Day Walk
Staines, Runnymede & Old Windsor. Sat 26 Dec 2015
River Thames at Staines and the Hythe
There are no trains in our area on Christmas Day or Boxing Day and for many
years when we have been at home for Christmas we have walked on one of the
two days to have a Christmas lunch at my sister's house - and on the other
of the two days they drive to us. This means we get two Christmas dinners
and also enjoy a healthy walk to get an appetite, around 5 miles if we take
a direct route mainly alongside the Thames, though this year we added a few
more by wandering around in the woods above Runnymede.
We started off in sunshine, though the forecast was for rain and there were
some interesting skies and lighting. We crossed Staines Bridge and I took
a picture of the river. By a strange anomaly I think I was still standing
in Staines, which crosses the river at this point, as when the border of the
civil parish was established it followed the old course of the Thames and
went along what was then a stream of the river which ran around an island
rejoining the rest of the river where there is now a small bridge at the centre
of the image. When the river is in flood, the dip towards the right of the
picture fills with water, and it goes back to an arch of the bridge. now on
The boundary is unclear on the latest OS maps, but can be seen clearly in
older versions, running just to the north of The Causeway, an ancient structure
now the A308, and turning north through where Halfords now stands to the main
river at Three Counties End, still marked.
Here Buckinghamshire, Surrey and Middlesex met. Now there are only two counties,
Surrey and Berkshire, though the latter since 1998 is now the Royal Borough
of Windsor and Maidenhead, while Surrey is both Spelthorne and Runnymede,
so there are still three administrations for some purposes. This small remnant
of Staines on the Surrey bank of the river is why when Spelthorne decided
to impose a ridiculous change of name on Staines they decided on Staines-upon-Thames
rather than Staines-on-Thames. Of course all of us who live in Staines still
call it Staines except for a few who are estate agents.
You can read more about the actual walk in Boxing
Day Walk on >Re:PHOTO.
End BP's British Museum Greenwash
British Museum, London. Sun 20 Dec 2015
In BP or Not BP?'s play BP executives ply leaving British
Museum director 'Neil MacGregor' with food and drink
In a protest against sponsorship of arts institution by one of the leading
global polluters BP to give itself an false positive image, 'actor-vists'
from 'BP or Not BP?' staged a performance of a play depicting 'BP executives'
giving a farewell party to departing Museum director 'Neil MacGregor' inside
the British Museum’s Great Court as visitors and security stood and
The group along with others concerned with climate change call for the museum
and other art institutions to stop accepting sponsorship from BP and others
whose activities are accelerating global warming. The museum protest came
only a week after activists were arrested in the Louvre during the Paris climate
talks for opposing sponsorship there by oil companies Total and Eni.
BP makes a relatively small contribution to the museums budget, a fraction
of a percent, for which they get an engraved message on the wall of the rotunda
in the Great Court and their logo prominently on the publicity for the museum's
major exhibitions, including Vikings, Ming, Indigenous Australia: Enduring
Civilisation, the Mexican Day of the Dead and Sunken Cities, the last two
perhaps particularly unfortunate as BP has been given the largest corporate
criminal fine in history of $18.7 billion for the underwater Deepwater Horizon
oil spill which caused huge pollution of the ocean around the coast of Mexico.
The current 5-year sponsorship deal between BP and the British Museum ends
shortly and the museum and its new director will soon have to decide whether
to renew its with the oil giant. While a good deal for BP, the amount concerned
is a relatively small contribution to the museum's budget, and thanks to the
activities of BP or Not BP and other climate activists results in a great
deal of bad publicity for the museum; hopefully they will look for less toxic
Around 20 performers made their way into the museum largely unnoticed, carrying
props and banners in bags, under coats and in pockets, and grouped in the
Great Court in front of the Rotunda, close to where the message of thanks
to BP is engraved in the wall. The performance began with all the cast having
a party and singing a song about departing director Neil MacGregor giving
BP "cheap branding and a social license to operate through all the
oil spills" to the tune of Robbie Williams’s ‘Angels’,
then leaving the stage to three 'BP executives' who were shortly
joined by the actor playing Neil MacGregor, who they thanked effusively
for his support, listing and commenting about some of their activities including
the various exhibitions.
His replies to their thanks included several revealing quotes from e-mails
written by him to BP staff obtained by the protesters under FOI requests.
The BP partygoers then plied MacGregor with rather oily-looking champagne
and a cake representing the world until he collapsed drunk and they went on
to discuss how they would "befriend and bribe" new director,
Hartwig Fischer, with parties, corporate entertainment "even
more lavish dinner parties! … Business meetings! … Opening nights!
… VIP Previews! … Exhibitions! … Screenings! … Drinks!"
before drinking a toast to Fischer and launching into another song to the
tune of Auld Lang Syne, with the chorus repeated with slight variations:
For all the OIL and lies, my dears,
For all the OIL and lies,
We gave a tiny sum of cash
Meanwhile the planet fries.
You can read the text of both songs, and the script of the play, although
the actual performance contained considerable improvised embellishment, on
or NOT BP? web site, along with several of my pictures. I was pleased
to be asked to photograph the event and supplied them with a large set of
the best images to the group; except in a couple of cases where there were
no suitable alternatives I have used other images on this site.
A security man had come up to the group as they started their performance
and was assured it would be short, after which the protesters would leave
quickly without any trouble. The museum seemed to take them at their word
and decide that it was best not to try to intervene or call the police which
would have caused a greater disturbance - and more publicity. At the end of
the show the protesters did pick up everything and wipe the floor clean before
they marched away, singing more songs about BP towards the exit, stopping
for a short protest in the museum foyer before moving to the portico outside,
where they gave another performance there of the play.
Don't Buy Tiffany 'Blood Diamonds'
Tiffany, Old Bond St, London. Sat 19 Dec 2015
sells diamonds from Steinmetz who sponsored the brigade which massacred 29
of one family in Gaza
Protesters picketed Tiffany whose partner and supplier is Israel's Steinmetz
Diamonds Group whose foundation funds the Israeli Army's Givati Brigade, accused
of war crimes including the massacre of 29 members of the Samouni family in
Gaza in 2009.
Protesters stood with banners and Palestinian flags outside the Tiffany shop
in Old Bond St, attracting considerable attention as they informed customers
entering and leaving the shop about the provenance of the diamonds that were
on sale inside. 'Blood on your hands' shouted one of them, and a lengthy speech
explained the role of Steinmetz, whose Foundation 'adopted' the Israel Army's
Givati brigade, "fostering close relationships with the commanders and
their soldiers", and "buying equipment " for them during Operation
Cast Lead, the attack on Gaza.
During this attack;
'on 4th January 2009 the Givati Brigade rounded up 100 members of the Samouni
family and ordered them into the house of Wa'el Samouni. The house was then
bombed, and rescue services were prevented from approaching for four days,
with ambulances being fired on. When rescue workers were finally allowed
access, they found buried beneath the rubble, traumatised children besides
the corpses of their parents and siblings. The Givati had massacred 29 family
members and in case anyone mistook their intent they left a message on one
of the remaining walls of the house, daubed in Hebrew it read "The
only good Arab is a dead Arab".'
The UN Human Rights Council has accused the Givati Brigade of war crimes
in Gaza, and one of the banners at the protest was a long letter from the
Samouni family. Tiffany's part-funded Steinmetz's Kiodu diamond mine in Sierra
Leone by $50 million and Steinmetz, through its Octea company, provides Tiffany's
with cut diamonds.
The protest was part of a campaign by Muslim education campaign Innovative
Minds and the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), both UK based organisations
who work together on various campaigns including the Palestinian Prisoners
Campaign and support a boycott on Israeli goods as a part of the campaign
for a free Palestine. The campaign includes both Muslim and Jewish supporters
among others and is always clear that its opposition to the actions of the
Israeli government is in no way anti-Semitic.
Solidarity with Sweets Way arrestees
Willesden Magistrate's Court, London. Fri 18 Dec 2015
Banners outside the court read '#Justice 4Sweet16'
Protesters outside Willesden Magistrate's Court supported the protesters
arrested for obstructing High Court bailiffs during the eviction of Sweets
Way estate in September. I left before the verdict was given and today's #Justice4Sweet16
defendants were given a conditional discharge.
When I arrived a group of around a dozen supporters were outside the court
and wondering where best to put their banners. They held them for some time
one on either side of the court entrance, but although the police appeared
fairly relaxed they would not allow them to be fixed on the railings.
After around an hour when more people had arrived to show their solidarity,
they decided to move the banners to the fencing around an empty office building
on the opposite side of the road, where they managed to secure them. Some
of them put up a third banner with the message 'guilty of caring' but were
quickly told to take it down until after the verdict.
Among those who came were a group from Brent who had brought some rewritten
anti-austerity Christmas Carols with them and some of those present joined
in singing these.
'One Voice for the Dolphins of Taiji'
Japanese Embassy, London. Fri 18 Dec 2015
woman blows a whistle holding a placard stating 23,000 dolphins are killed
in Japan each year
A protest outside the Embassy called for an end the the annual slaughter
of over 20,000 dolphins, porpoises and small whales in Taiji Cove in Japan,
where their blood turns the sea red.
This event was in support of Sea Shepherd, Bornfree, Earthrace, Dolphin Project
and all the other groups or organisations fighting to stop the brutal killing
at Taiji, where observers filming the fishermen killing the dolphins trapped
in the shallow water are often subject to attack by Japanese groups who see
the slaughter as a Japanese tradition.
Two other protests were taking place at the Japanese embassy in the short
time I was there. As on every Friday, a small group of Japanese and British
protesters were handing out leaflets in a protest against the continuing nuclear
tragedy at Fukushima, where radiation is still leaking, and I talked to a
couple of them before they left to protest outside the offices of TEPCO (Tokyo
Electric Power Co ), now moved to a less conspicuous building on Piccadilly.
I've photographed these regular Friday protests before (here
and didn't on this occasion take more pictures.
Due to start a couple of hours after I had to leave was a protest against
Japanese whaling, but already there was one man standing outside the embassy
with a placard, talking with the police there. The Taiji protesters were behind
barriers on the opposite side of the road for a lengthy protest, due to last
six hours, but I had to go after just over half an hour to cover a protest
Phulbari coal mine protest
Mayfair, London. Fri 18 Dec 2015
shout for GCM to abandon all plans to mine at Phulbari outside the AGM venue
Protesters gathered outside the AGM of London-based multinational Global
Coal Management Resources Plc to present them a notice of closure for the
opencast Phulbari mine which would displace more than 130,000 farming families
and many tribal people.
The giant mining company BHP was awarded a mining contract for the Phulbari
region of Bangladesh in 1994, but in 1998 sold it to Asia Energy, which in
2003 became the UK-registered Asia Energy, changing its name to Global Coal
Management in 2007 and later to GCM Resources plc. BHP apparently decided
to sell because although there is plenty of coal in Phulbari - of 572 million
tonnes - they felt that at 151 metres below the surface it was too deep for
The company made detailed plans for a huge open-pit mine in 2005, which were
met by the local community by huge protests, with many thousands taking part.
Paramilitary police opened fire on one of the protests in 2006 when protesters
stormed the mine offices, killing three and injuring several hundred, but
protests and strikes continued, and the Bangladeshi government withdrew the
contract. Despite this, plans to mine at Phulbari were still included in their
2010 Power System Master Plan, but were dropped in the 2015 PSMP (which rather
surprisingly was not mentioned in GCM's 2015 Annual report.)
Asia Energy's share price plummeted, dropping immediately to half its value
- Phulbari was their only real asset. Since then the company has made efforts
to regain permission to mine, and the US government have also tried to persuade
them to allow mining, but people in Phulbari and around the world have continued
to protest. But in August 2015, state minister for power, energy and mineral
resources Nasrul Hamid restated at an Energy seminar that plans to extract
coal by open pit mining at Phulbari and Barapukuri had been dropped, commenting
" We must consider high density of population and the agro-based economy
of the mining area." Instead they plan to import coal for new power plants
to come on stream by 2030. The leading political parties have stated their
opposition to any mining.
Later in 2015, the UK government issued a very critical statement regretting
GCM's failure to carry out a human risks impact assessment and to update its
plans for the mine and condemned it for breaching the international guideline
on ethical corporate behaviour. It also noted the Bangladeshi Government had
said that GCK has no valid contract with them (though GCM's 2015 annual report
says their legal advice is that it is enforceable) and they they have no intention
of allowing open cast coal extraction in the region which includes some of
the best agricultural land in the country.
Because of the depth of the coal, water would have to be pumped completely
out of the area, and GCM proposed to distribute it among the farmers. But
the water would be highly contaminated with arsenic. The company's plans to
remove and preserve topsoil in a block by block mining process have also been
Open cast mining at Phulbari would displace up to 220,000 people from their
land, destroying their homes and their livelihoods and also threaten a World
Heritage Site, the Sundarbans, one of the largest remaining mangrove forests.
It would also breach the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,
which states that developments can only take place on indigenous peoples’
land with their ‘free, prior and informed consent’, as it would
effect around 50,000 indigenous Santhal people.
The AGM apparently took place in the luxurious rooms of the Royal Aeronautical
Society, just off Piccadilly in Hamilton Place. The protest, on a Friday morning,
was only a small event, but included several of the leading activists from
the Phulbari Solidarity Group and Bangladesh National Committee, UK branch
along with other supporters. In the UK the protests have been supported by
various groups including Global Justice now and the Socialist Party.
The company's share price has continued to drop. At the start of 2011 they
were trading on the FTSE AIM market at just over 250p; the price on the day
of the AGM was 6.38p. I stayed at the protest for an hour before the AGM was
due to commence at 11.00 am and for half an hour afterwards, and saw no one
enter the building. The AGM report says everything was passed by a show of
hands but it would seem there were very few hands to show.
Christmas Rally For The NHS
Whitechapel, London. Thu 17 Dec 2015
A NHS campaigner holds a placard in front of Nye Bevan
on a banner at the rally
A rally outside old Royal London hospital opposite Whitechapel tube supported
the NHS against cuts and privatisation, and the attempt by health minister
Jeremy Hunt to impose an unfair contract on junior doctors, as well as the
plans to axe the NHS bursaries for nurses in training.
The contract changes that Hunt wants to impose are widely seen as a way to
cut costs and make the NHS more attractive to the private companies who are
increasingly gaining control of it in the government's plans for backdoor
privatisation. Removing the NHS bursaries for medical trainees also appears
to be a part of the same process.
Nurses spend half of their training actually working in NHS hospitals, carrying
out essential duties as a part of their studies, without which there would
be a severe staffing shortage. Although they get bursaries while training,
they are effectively a source of cheap labour.
There is currently a desperate shortage of nurses, with many hospitals being
unable to meet the targets set to ensure safety and most if not all relying
excessively on agency nurses. Cutting the NHS bursaries will mean many students
will no longer be able to afford to enroll on these courses; with many students
now forced to take part-time jobs to make ends meet, the requirement to work
in the NHS makes this impossible for nurses.
It is unlikely to make any economic sense as many nurses will never earn enough
to repay their student loans, expected to amount to over £50,000 for
their courses. And Jeremy Hunt surely lives in some parallel universe if he
really believes that cutting the bursaries will lead to more people going
to train as nurses.
East London, with some of the poorest areas of the country, has been one
of the areas of the country with the proudest record innovation in the NHS
and of fighting its future as a public service and against cuts in provision,
including that of community health advocacy services and surgeries.
Most of those present at the protest were doctors, medical staff and supporters
of various campaign groups including Tower Hamlets BMA, Keep Our NHS Public,
Unite, the Medical Practitioners Union, UNISON and Save our Surgeries, some
of whom made short speeches. Also present were three local councillors, one
of whom spoke and the organiser of the protests to keep the NHS bursaries
who invited us all to take part in a march being organised in January.
Lighter relief was provided by the singing of Christmas Carols, with new
words in support of the NHS, to the accompaniment of a four-person medical
band, and a group from the National Health Singers who sang to a recording
of their remarkable song about the NHS in support of the junior doctors, "Yours",
which is now available on iTunes.
Santas in London
London, Sat 12 Dec 2015
A santa with a reindeer head on his BMX handlebars cycles
across Westminster Bridge on a charity ride
Santas were out in force in London, including a large group on BMX bicycles
on a charity ride. Many, including some who had been roaming the streets most
of the day as a part of the annual Santacon, ended their route in Trafalgar
I hadn't meant to photograph the Santas, and didn't go looking for them,
but a giant posse on bikes came across Westminster Bridge while I was photographing
the climate protest there, and later, as I walked across Trafalgar Square
to catch a bus to Waterloo I found there were quite a few hanging around there.
Christmas Solidarity Vigil for Refugees
Downing St, London. Sat 12 Dec 2015
Protesters with candles opposite Downing St call for
UK to take more refugees, and let them in faster
As darkness fell, refugees, solidarity campaigners and Syrian activists at
a Downing St vigil demanded justice for refugees, opening of EU borders to
those fleeing war and terrorism and a much more generous response from the
This was a candlelit vigil, and at first there were considerable difficulties
as a strong and gusty wind kept blowing out the flames almost as soon as they
were lit. Someone brought plastic cups, and candles were pushed through the
bottoms of these so they provided windshields and the vigil continued.
Many of those taking part were Syrians, and there were several Free Syrian
flags held and waved, but there were refugees from elsewhere around the world
as well as some of the many British who are disgusted at the miserable response
of the Tory government. Even after considerable pushing from the British people
which forced David Cameron to increase the UK response, we are still only
agreeing to take 20,000 refugees by 2020, while Canada will take more - 25,000
- in a single year.
Climate Activists Red Line protest
Westminster Bridge, London. Sat 12 Dec 2015
carry the 'red line' across the bridge in front of the Houses of Parliament
Campaign against Climate Change protested against the inadequacy of the COP21
Paris deal, which sets the target temperature rise too high and has no way
to enforce the measures needed by carrying a 'red line' banner across Westminster
The campaigners met for a short rally in Old Palace Yard with John Stewart
and speakers including Green Party Mayoral Candidate Sian Berry, environmental
campaigner Pete Deane and environmental analyst Ken Montague and Anti-TTIP
campaigner Linda Kaucher, who reminded us how that treaty would enable the
giant corporations to prevent governments from carrying out effective green
After a woman read a short poem the group which was relatively small as so
many climate activists were in Paris marched behind the Campaign against Climate
Change banner and a trumpeter on to the pavement across Westminster Bridge.
There they began to unroll a 300m red length of cloth, carrying it above
their heads across the bridge as a 'red line'. For many countries, a maximum
global temperature rise of more than 1.5C will mean disaster, and the Paris
talks have not committed to this nor have they set up any real mechanism for
holding countries to the more limited commitments they have made.
The world needs to take urgent action to keep fossil fuels - including shale
oil, with fracking now shown to be as dirty as coal - in the ground, or at
least only to be extracted as chemical feedstock rather than fuel, and an
increased urgency in the transition to renewable energy. While a few years
ago that might have seemed expensive and not feasible, the economics of energy
generation have changed rapidly with green energy rapidly becoming the cheaper
source. But huge vested interests still lie behind the dirty fuel lobby.
The protesters also want action from the UK government to reverse its anti-Green
measures introduced since the last election, and to get behind green jobs,
energy use reduction measures and renewable energy - and abandon its plans
for carbon burning technologies and fracking in particular. Vital for the
future of the world, these changes would also aid the UK economy.
Free the Focus E15 Table
Stratford Broadway, London. Sat 12 Dec 2015
Focus E15 choir sing at the protest - and hold up
a poster calling for the council to hand their table back
After police and council harassed the Focus E15 street stall and used
force to illegally seize a table last week, activists from other groups came
to give support and defend the right to protest, several bringing tables.
Police & council kept away.
Focus E15 have held a street stall on the wide area of pavement
outside Wilko every Saturday for over 2 years, without causing any problems.
They draw attention to the failure of Newham Council to sensibly address the
acute housing problem in the borough, which has around 5,000 people living
in temporary accommodation and while 400 homes lie empty on the Carpenters
Estate close to the centre of Stratford, and oppose the council policy they
label 'social cleansing', attempting to force those needing housing out of
London and into private rented property in towns and cities across the country-
Hastings, Birmingham, Manchester etc - and even in Wales.
But last week, at around 1.20pm, in what was clearly a planned operation,
Newham Law Enforcement officer John Oddie assisted by several police officers,
confronted the campaigners and told them they were not allowed to protest
there, and that unless they immediately packed up their stall, sound system,
banners and other gear it would be seized. Focus E15 stood up for their right
to protest and refused to move, and tried to prevent police from taking their
table, but police threw it into the back of their van.
It appears that one of the laws that was quoted to the protesters for the
action was clearly inapplicable to this case, and that the council and police
action was this an illegal act. Which may be why the council later in the
week wrote a letter to the protesters asking them to reclaim the table. Focus
E15 asked them to return it to them on Stratford Broadway this Saturday -
but it didn't arrive.
There were plenty of tables of various sizes there for the protest today,
with several groups who came to show solidarity and defend the right to protest
bringing tables with them, as well as Focus E15 coming with another of their
own. Today's protest was one of the largest, with perhaps three or four times
as many present as on a typical week, with people from Welwyn Garden City,
South Essex Heckler, Basildon and Southend Housing Action, Clapton Ultras,
East London Radical Assembly, Anarchist Federation, Carpenters Estate, Aylesbury
Estate Southwark, Squatters & Homeless Autonomy and more coming to
The protest was a lively event, with speeches, singing and dancing as well
as handing out leaflets and talking with those passing by. If Newham council
isn't embarrassed about the theft of the table it should be, and by the considerable
and often humorous mileage that was made of it. If there is still a reputable
local paper for the area and not in the council's pocket, they will have had
a field day on 'tablegate', but I didn't see a reporter, though there
was a BBC local crew who filmed a few interviews.
But even with this number of people there was never any real danger of blocking
the large area of pavement. A police car did drive up as the protest was about
to finish, and parked in front of the protest, but the two officers got out
and walked to a shop 50 yards away, not engaging at all with Focus E15.
Ugandan President urged not to sign anti-gay bill
Nigerian High Commission, London. Wed 10 Dec 2015
in front of the Uganda High Commission in Trafalgar Square
African LGBTI organisation the 'Out and Proud Diamond Group' supported
by the Peter Tatchell Foundation held a rally at the Uganda High Commission
in Trafalgar Square urging President Museveni not to sign the anti-LGBTI NGO
bill 2015 as it violates justice and human rights.
Approaching a hundred members of the Out and Proud Diamond Group turned up
for the protest along with a few supporters from the Peter Tatchell formation.
They held posters calling on the President to ask the Ugandan parliament to
amend the bill so it no longer discriminated against gays and organisations
that support them in Uganda.
As well as posters and several banners, an number of those present carried
or wore Ugandan flags and chants and posters stressed their love of Uganda
but hatred for unjust laws such as this which deny human rights. Many of those
present signed a letter to the president imploring him to stand up for humanity
and justice and not sign the bill.
When they tried to deliver the letter they found that the doors to the High
Commission were locked. But an officer from the Met's Diplomatic Protection
Group who had turned up to the protest and told the protesters to keep the
doorway free and not to trespass on the steps (although the door was locked
and not in use) volunteered to go inside and ask if someone would take the
letter. A few minutes later he came out and told the protesters that someone
would come and do so.
No forced medical treatment for unemployed
Camberwell, London. Wed 10 Dec 2015
MHRN raise fingers to show their opinion of the Southwark
'hub' which providing forced back to work treatment
Mental Health Resistance Network supporters protested at the Thames Reach
Employment Academy where a planned launch of a Southwark 'Hub' which would
replace proper mental health treatment with forced 'therapy' under threat
of benefits removal to get sufferers back to work was due to take place.
The launch party for the 'hub' was cancelled after the the plans for the
protest became known, but the protesters went ahead in any case. A small group
met at Camberwell Green to guide protesters to to hub location for half an
hour and then walked down to the Thames Reach Employment Academy
where a few other protesters were already waiting.
The Increased Access Psychological Therapy, (IAPT) is backed by the government
largely because it is short-term therapy and thus relatively low cost, but
there are considerable doubts as to it appropriateness or efficacy for many
mental health patients. But it is the element of compulsion, with claimants
who have mental health issues being forced to undertake a medical treatment
by practitioners working in collaboration with job centres who can enforce
it by 'sanctions- - that is removal of benefits - that worries claimants.
They see it as medical treatment based not on assessed medical need but to
meet the targets for cutting welfare payments, and as a denial that mental
health problems are as disabling as physical disabilities.
Outside the Southwark hub location there was a lively protest, with chanting
of slogans, music, songs and speeches. A new MHRN banner with the message
'Working ISN'T Working' was brought out to stress that people with mental
illnesses need treatment rather than employment, which for many will actually
increase their problems.
I had to leave while the protest was only in its early stages to cover another
event, taking the opportunity as my bus passed the protest to take a few frames
from a higher viewpoint.
Class War rival Gilbert & George 'Banners'
Bermondsey St, London. Tue 9 Dec 2015
and Ian get out the posters outside the White Cube Gallery
Class War opened a new front against gentrification in South London,
displaying a ambulatory show of their posters briefly outside the Gilbert
& George show based on political slogans at the White Cube gallery and
at other premises in Bermondsey St.
Bermondsey, once a working class industrial area on the edge of London's
docks with many small workshops in yards off of Bermondsey St producing hats,
leather goods and a more recent arrival, the print trade, has changed dramatically.
Run down when I first photographed there in the 1980s (and produced an industrial
archaeology walk leaflet, West
Bermondsey - The leather area) it is now full of restaurants, galleries,
designer clothes and other businesses catering for London's new gentrification,
with offices, design studios and expensive flats now having replaced most
of the workshops.
Two supporters of Class War, Ian Bone and Simon Elmer unrolled posters and
walked across the wide empty yard in front of the gallery to stand where people
were going in and out to a book signing by Gilbert & George. A security
man came up after a couple of minutes to ask them what they were doing, and
were told that they had come because Gilbert & George had used some of
their work in the show which was based on protest placards and that they were
expected. He went inside to check and I took some more pictures.
A few minutes later a woman came out from the gallery to talk with the two
Class War protesters, and she agreed that they could stand there for a few
minutes so long as they caused no trouble and would then leave - as they intended.
But she wasn't happy with me taking pictures, so I went and sat on the wall
by the road waiting for the protest to finish. I'd already taken enough pictures.
When the two walked to the street we went along to Bermondsey Square at the
south end of the street, where there is a display area attached to the back
of a supermarket, a long narrow empty corridor facing the square. There had
been posters up inside, but these had fallen down and were lying on the floor
inside. Class War couldn't get inside, but spent a few minutes fixing posters
up with Blutak on the outside. Unfortunately it was very windy, and as soon
as they were fixed on they blew off. It would have made a very Chaplinesque
movie, but I was only taking stills, and managed a few pictures, mainly using
flash as almost all the available light was from the display area behind the
We then walked back up Bermondsey St, stopping to take more pictures from
the street outside the White Cube, and then at several estate agents and the
Fashion Museum before leaving.
Class War intend to mount a continuing campaign in the area around the White
Cube, with low key interventions like that I photographed tonight, at least
until the end of the Gilbert & George show. Perhaps their posters will
make some of those going to that exhibition wonder what the point of the works
on show inside the gallery is, though I think their only point is probably
that they are totally pointless other than as objects that can be sold for
large amounts of money. Class War posters I think are rather more interesting
despite often being given away.
Bloody Murder at Ripper 'museum'
Cable St, London. Sat 5 Dec 2012
A police officer smiles while another looks fixedly
away as Jane Nichol displays the bloody head
Class War re-enacted a murder outside the Jack the Ripper tourist attraction,
women hacking and decapitating a dummy wearing the mask of owner Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe
with a plastic scimitar and liberally spattering fake blood as others played
As well as the Class War Womens Death Brigade banner, the protesters
had also brought their Lucy Parsons banner "We must devastate
the avenues where the wealthy live". The Ripper, almost certainly
Oxford graduate Montague Druitt whose suicide brought an end to the
carnage, was a man who developed the skills and physique needed for his precise
and powerful assaults on working-class women on the playing fields and courts
of Winchester, and apparently wore the uniform of the upper classes, top hat,
cane and cloak.
His perverted crimes embodied attitudes to women and to the working class
that also derived from his public school education, twisted and taken to its
extremes. Their celebration in the 'museum' plays on similar fears and hatred
- and the experience offered here is one that only the seriously sick would
enjoy. You would indeed have to be sick to want to visit this voyeuristic
'tourist attraction', and would be extremely sick, inhuman, if you did not
come out of it with a feeling of intense shame and repulsion at your prurience.
There appear to be very few customers - during the hour or so today only two
turned up and went away when they were told by police that the door was locked.
Many of the leading supporters of Class War were at various other events
around the country, and only a relatively small core were available for today's
protest. They were joined as usual by others opposed to the 'musuem' including
Class War brought with them a 'guy' dressed in jacket and jeans, with a mask
of 'museum' owner and Ripper promoter Mark Palmer-Edgecumbe. Class War's Jane
Nicholl had borrowed a plastic scimitar or cutlass from her grandson, and
used it to attack the dummy in front of the shop with considerable vigour,
bursting several small bags of fake blood that were attached to it.
When this failed to make the guy look bloody enough, more fake blood was
poured on, and attacks by Jane and others wielding the plastic weapon continued,
and soon both dummy, pavement and this photographer's trousers were spattered
by rather nasty looking bloodstains. Their attacks were rather less precise
than those of the Ripper, and they were unable to match the real horror of
his murders, as the dummy had no heart or womb to cut out.
Police were not very co-operative, but made little attempt to interfere with
the protest, although early on they appeared to object to Jane Nicholl's language
- and she had been advised by Ian Bone to tone it down. It would have been
appropriate also for this and earlier protests to put a couple of cones in
the parking space directly outside the 'museum' (as I think they did for a
protest in which the Tower Hamlets mayor took part) and I was rather aggressively
warned by one officer that my cameras might be scratching the car that was
At the end of the protest police tried to get Class War to take the blood-stained
Palmer-Edgecumbe 'guy' away with them, but they refused to do so, saying they
were donating it to the 'museum' which was desperately short of genuine exhibits
like this. It looked as if they might make an arrest both as people were preparing
to leave and again outside the pub around the corner they followed Class War
to, but they thought better of it and walked away. When I left half an hour
later there were still police on guard outside the shop.
Thanks at least in part to Class War's publicity and vigorous protests over
around five months others have taken up the fight against the so-called museum,
and the fight to get a real museum celebrating the powerful history of the
women of London's East End. It's a rich heritage with powerful and colourful
figures in which the bloody murders by the Ripper are only an insignificant
and entirely negative episode. Perhaps it's now time for others to take up
a long-term if probably lower-key campaign here and continue it until this
bloody blot on our heritage is closed down.
Short Walk in Windsor
Windsor, Berks. Fri 4 Dec 2015
The Long Walk from Windsor Castle. We turned off at
the path visible a short way down on the right
Another short walk with aging family members, completing a walk around Windsor
we started last month, followed by lunch at a pub bang in the centre of the
town. Built in 1518, the Three Tuns used to be the local Guildhall before
they built the Guildhall, and despite being at the tourist epicentre is still
a decent pub, good beer, reasonably priced pub food, nothing fancy, and friendly
staff. Don't tell too many people. Actually Windsor isn't short of decent
pubs, though some places are rather pricey, particularly if you want to eat.
We started this walk last month, on a very different day, in mist and rain.
The route we took more or less followed the Queen's
Walkway, a local heritage trail produced by the Outdoor Trust to mark
63 years of the current monarch's reign and supposedly 6.3km long with 63
points of significance. We found most of the 63 plaques set into the pavement
to mark it. You can't get away from royalty in Windsor, with a bloody great
castle to remind you, large barracks and the changing of the guard, but the
walk is reasonably suitable for republicans with an interest in local history
Last month we began and ended at the Windsor Castle, where after having walked
around from point 12 to 39 we had lunch. Not with Elisabeth Windsor, but at
the pub near where the Long Walk crosses the road from Staines. This month
we started again at 40 and walked to 63 and then 1-11, with on both occasions,
a few detours. But this month it was a bright sunny winter's day. I've some
the pictures from the two parts together.
Save NHS Student Bursaries
Dept of Health, Whitehall, London. Wed 2 Dec 2015
A nurse in uniform holds a poster 'We Deserve Respect'
outside Richmond House
Healthcare students who work 50% of the time on placements during their courses
are appalled by George Osborne's scrapping of NHS student bursaries from 2017.
They protested saying it will land them with huge debts and deter recruitment
Because they have to spend time working on placements throughout their courses,
healthcare students are unable to take on part-time work as many other students
do. They are working for the health service when on their placements, and
this work is unpaid - except through the bursaries. It seems totally unfair
to ask them to take out student loans and work for the NHS for nothing as
Many of the jobs for which they are training are not particularly well-paid,
and a higher proportion of healthcare students would probably never fully
repay their loans, and the proposed scrapping of bursaries probably makes
little financial sense as well as imposing hardship on those involved.
Healthcare currently attracts large numbers of students who could not afford
to take these courses on loans, including a number of single mothers. Recruitment
to some of the courses is likely to drop drastically if bursaries are abolished.
We currently have a shortage of nurses and other medical staff, and removing
the bursaries would be catastrophic for the NHS, particularly as the government
is making it harder to recruit non-EU nurses through its racist immigration
Firefighters say cuts endanger London
City Hall, London. Wed 2 Dec 2015
Firefighters talk outside City Hall before the rally
Firefighters and supporters protested at City Hall against plans to get rid
of 13 fire engines and slash 184 firefighters in the London Fire Brigade.
Cuts and fire station closures have already increased response times, resulting
in people who might otherwise have been rescued dying in fires or jumping
to their death in attempts to escape.
George Galloway was among those who came along to support the fire fighters
protest, and he was pressed into speaking at the rally. There was also support
from George Binette, Camden Unison branch secretary and other trade unionists.
We were told of an alternative plan to make savings and avoid the loss of
the engines had been made by Assembly Member Andrew Dismore.
I left before the end of the rally and so missed several speakers. After
the rally the fire fighters were going in to lobby assembly members and sit
in the public gallery for the committee meeting discussing the cuts.
Don't Bomb Syria
Parliament Square, London. Tue 1 Dec 2015
After the rally, protesters marched to take letters
to the Conservative & Labour HQ offices
An emergency protest by Stop the War in Parliament Square told MPs not
to back David Cameron's motion to allow bombing of Syria, rejecting the case
he had put forward.
As on the previous Stop the War Syria protest there were no speeches by Syrians
or Kurds, and no real attempt to take their views into account. And while
the speakers all condemned the UK plans to bomb in Syria, there was no condemnation
of the Russian bombing of the Syrian opposition, perhaps a greater threat
to the Syrian people than Daesh, and certainly than the handful of UK planes.
Among those protesting in Parliament Square were a number of supporters of
President Assad, with the regime red, white and black flag with green stars,
but whatever the official 'Stop the War' line, many of those at the protest
were opposed to the Assad regime and Daesh as well as to bombing by the UK.
It's rather unfortunate that the only organisation promoting large-scale protests
against the bombing is Stop the War rather than one clearly supporting the
aspirations of the Syrian people for freedom.
Hours after I first published this, (though doubtless entirely by coincidence,
and almost certainly in response to a letter signed by Peter Tatchell and
17 other prominent people in yesterday's The Guardian) the Stop the War website
published an article 'For the avoidance of doubt' by John Rees, which
makes seven points, the first of which begins "The STWC has never supported
the Assad regime." Well, it's good to make that clear, because there
have been many protests by Stop the War which Assad supporters have attended
and appeared to be welcome, and by refusing to let Syrians opposed to the
regime speak at this and other protests STW have certainly given that impression.
The situation in Syria is complex, but some things are now becoming more
clear, with what might two years ago have been dismissed as conspiracy theories
now becoming fully-sourced mainstream views. It's now clear that while our
government has fulminated against ISIS/Daesh it has also been complicit in
support for them through its support of Saudi Arabia which provides support
for their Wahabi ideology and more materially, for Turkey which is deeply
involved in their oil exports, refining much of their output as well as providing
pipelines and ports, and Israel which is the major customer for the smuggled
Not only is UK bombing immoral, it is almost certainly going to be ineffectual
by design so far as inflicting real damage on the economic and military capability
of Daesh, though catastrophic in effect on the civilians that will be bombed
either deliberately or by accident.
After the rally the protesters then marched to the Conservative and Labour
Offices to deliver letters. They stopped first at the Tory HQ where a small
delegation went into the yard through the police guard to deliver a letter,
then marched on towards the Labour Party HQ. On the way a red smoke flare
lit up the street for a minute or so in the middle of the march.
The march halted briefly outside the Labour HQ for a letter to be delivered,
and then made its way back to Parliament Square without further incident along
Victoria St. At Parliament Square the official rally continued for a few minutes
with protesters behind the main banner shouting slogans across the road to
When the Stop the War protest finished, many of the protesters stayed on,
milling about the square, waving flags and chanting slogans. A couple of protesters
climbed with large posters onto the plinth of the Churchill statue for a few
minutes getting down when police approached. Others got into arguments with
police over the use of megaphones, not allowed in Parliament Square without
permission. It seemed likely that the situation would develop into minor acts
of civil disobedience, with some encouraging sit downs on the street, but
I'd had enough and decided to go home.
London, December 2015
John Ruskin St/Camberwell New Road
Images taken in various odd moments on my travels around London, collected
together for the month.
This month there are images from Vauxhall, Camberwell, the Elephant, Lambeth,
Boadicea, Stratford, the RAF Memorial, Piccadilly, Willesden Church End,
top of page
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