my london diary index
 

September 2009

Jobs, Education, Peace March & Rally
Gordon on the Gravy Train etc
ABoD Lord Carson Memorial March
Camp Ashraf Hunger Strike - Day 60
LGBT Solidarity at Serbian Embassy
Autumn Equinox: Druids at Primrose Hill
Urban Green Fair
Bermondsey Festival - Zandra Rhodes
Save Vestas Action Day
Miliband Faces Climate Critics
Al Quds Day March
Photographers Flash Mob at Canary Wharf
DLR and River Thames
Cuban 5 - Political Prisoners in US
Memorial for Victims of the Arms Trade
Climate Rush: Aylesbury Green Fayre
CAAT: Close UKTI DSO
Disarm DSEi
Celebration of Community Resistance
Climate Rush On the Run! Sipson
Climate Rush Procession Heathrow

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Jobs, Education, Peace Protest March & Rally

Labour Party Conference, Brighton. Sunday 27 Sept 2009

Three orange marine distress flares were set off opposite the Labour Party Conference
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Around two thousand marchers, including a large group who had come on a specially chartered train from London as well as many from further away, made their views clear to the Labour Party in a march and rally outside the centre where the Party was in conference at Brighton on Sunday. Called by trade unions and pressure groups - the UCU, NUJ, PCS, NUT, CWU and RMT, Right to Work, Stop the War and Unite Against Fascism - they demanded a change in direction over proposals to cut public expenditure.

The big news for the march was that the strike at Tower Hamlets College by members of the University and College Union to save jobs there had been successful. After almost a month on strike, an agreement to avoid 25 compulsory redundancies there was reached in talks at the arbitration service ACAS and announced the previous day. The proposed cuts would have reduced or closed services to some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in our society. The message from Tower Hamlets was clear "We Fought & We Won."

Also at the front of the march and in the marchers thoughts were workers from Vestas Blades, inexplicably abandoned by the government when the management decided to close this vital green industry down in the Isle of White and move production to the USA. The UK needs to take a great leap into wind power over the next few years - and could become a net exporter of electricity across Europe using newly developed low-loss DC transmission technology on a new super-grid. This clean green technology is already proven to work - while the government seems committed to gamble on the unlikely pipe-dream that the dirtiest of power-generation technologies - coal-fired power stations - can be tamed by 100% carbon capture and storage.

Although it was predictable that this march would be peaceful and without incident, and the organisers were cooperating fully, the police were taking no chances, with hundreds on duty and walking with the march. The bill for policing the conference at Brighton runs into millions and was one item of public expenditure that the marchers would have readily seen severely trimmed.

There were a few short speeches at the start of the march a few yards east of the entrance to Brighton's one remaining pier. Among those speaking was a woman from the campaign waged by cleaners and other low paid workers in London for a living wage, and another from Youth Fight For Jobs as well as a final speaker from Brighton and Hove District Trades Council welcoming us to Brighton. Then the marchers moved off along the seafront road, chanting noisily and with many union and other banners.

A short way behind the front of a march, a group mainly of students marched behind a banner proclaiming 'STUFF THE MARKET - TAX THE RICH' and they periodically halted to allow a gap to develop in front of them, working up their chanting to a crescendo before rushing forwards to fill it, scattering the photographers and videographers in front of them

Approaching the conference centre, the police had routed the marchers on to the promenade, putting a low hedge and a further row of barriers between the march and the conference. When this group halted, three orange flares were let off to the accompaniement of considerable shouting and waving of fists.

The march continued to the 'Peace Statue' a few hundred yards further on, and then went down to beach level, walking back along the lower promenade to an open area not far from the conference centre, although more or less out of sight, for the final rally.

Speakers were Sally Hunt (UCU), Martin Reed (NUT), Mark Flowers (former Vestas worker), Pete Murray (NUJ), Weyman Bennett (UAF), Caroline Lucas MEP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Richard McEwan (UCU Tower Hamlets College), Lindsey German (Stop the War), Tony Kearns (CWU), MIchael Bradley (Right to Work), John McDonnell MP and Mark Serotka (PCS).

The speakers all called for changes in government policy that would create jobs rather than unemployment, and most stressed the importance of green jobs. The government had poured billions into supporting the 'casino' activities of banks and paying for obscene bonuses, but had declined to support Vestas. Internationally governments have failed to take the decisions necessary to separate the essential banking functions from their risky speculations and to firmly regulate their activities.

It was important that workers fight to keep their jobs, and actions such as that in Tower Hamlets showed that it was possible to win these fights.

Several called attention to the rise of the BNP and the need to oppose this, regretting the decision of the BBC to feature the BNP leader on 'Question Time' and there was a call for a demonstration at the studios when this was taking place.

Several also referred to the wasteful spending on the Iraq invasion and the continuing war in Afghanistan, calling for an end to the wars, the abandonment of the Trident replacement and of ID cards.

Several unions are considering the possibility of supporting trade union candidates in elections - the RMT has already done so in the Euro elections - because of the abandonment by New Labour of its working class base. Those at the rally were urged to attend a meeting afterwards organised by Bright supporters of No2UE-Yes to democracy to explore the issues involved.
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Gordon on the Gravy Train etc

Labour Party Conference, Brighton. Sunday 27 Sept 2009

The 'Vote for a Change' campaign's Westminster Gravy Train - and David Cameron in a blue tie at the back
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Party conferences are at best rather boring beasts, and given the current state of the Labour Party and Labour Government, the event currently under way at Brighton is more desperate than most. Fortunately there are always a few things happening around the edges to brighten the day, and Sunday outside the conference hall was certainly a splendid day with a clear bright blue sky that contrasted with the mood inside Fortress Brighton, surrounded by armed police and anti-tank obstacles.

On the promenade opposite the conference centre itself was a reminder of a blot on our and the US government's conscience, the continued detentions in Guantanamo Bay. The orange clad figures stood holding letters spelling out the message 'BRING SHAKER HOME'.

Shaker Aamer is one of two former British residents still at Guantanamo. A 42 year old Saudi national, he has a British family who live in Battersea; the UK government made half-hearted requests for his return in 2007, but have failed to follow these up and he is still under detention. Ahmed Belbacha, an Algerian asylum seeker who lived in Bournemouth, has been free to leave Guantanamo for two and a half years, but has chosen to stay there rather than go back to Algeria, where his life would be at risk; our government has refused to allow him to return here.

Other protests on the sea front included a call to boycott Israeli goods and against Control Orders with their use of secret evidence and Kafkaesque violation of human rights.

Christian Aid's cyclists rode along the seafront with posters declaring that climate change could push 250 million sub-Saharan Africans into poverty by 2020 and asking Gordon to "Lead the way" at Copenhagen in December.

Delegates entering the conference pass a number of people handing out magazines and leaflets, some on serious and worthy issues and others more on the eccentric fringe. Given the current housing problems particularly for many families on lower incomes - which have provided a major area for the BNP to exploit with racist myths - a return to major investment in council housing to make some inroads into the massive waiting lists would seem an excellent idea, and one that would provide a much-needed economic stimulus. But however much we may approve of Abraham Lincoln's sentiments on sustainable smallholdings, the idea that 'Domicile Allotments' are a simple solution to climate change is frankly lunatic.

Rather more serious, but also considerably more amusing is the 'Westminster Gravy Train' offering free transport to conference delegates by the Vote for a Change campaign. Following on from the MPs allowance scandal, this calls for a break with the "voting system that has left parliament unaccountable and unrepresentative" and calls for a referendum on electoral reform.

The 'Gravy Train' - a Thomas the Tank Engine tribute - was crewed by masked figures including Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Hazel Blears, Alistair Darling and Jack Straw as it made its way along the seafront road past the conference centre and stopped for photographs in front of Brighton pier.
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ABoD Lord Carson Memorial March

Temple Place, London. Sat 26 Sept 2009

Flute bands play a large part in Orange marches. UVF Regimental Band
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Each year the City of London Campsie Branch of the Apprentice Boys of Derry holds a march in memory of Lord Carson and to lay wreaths at the Cenotaph in memory of the 36th Ulster Division, formed after a meeting between Lord Kitchener and Sir Edward Carson from men who already had some military training (with 30,000 German rifles brought illegally into the country) in the Ulster Volunteer Force. By the time they were demobilised in 1919, the division had suffered 32,000 casualties and gained nine Victoria crosses and many other awards for gallantry. Recognised as one of the most effective fighting units of the war, it was badly let down by the lack of organisation and ineffective tactics of the British Army.

I was brought up a Protestant, though most of my relatives thought my parents excessively liberal; we were Congregationalists while they worshipped at a Baptist church where the pastor was a friend of the Rev Paisley. At least one of my ancestors was said to have been imprisoned - like John Bunyan - in Bedford Goal for his stubborn adherence to the Protestant faith. My first girlfriend was Catholic and I would not have dared take her to see my relatives -but was saved the decision when her uncle, a Catholic bishop, discovered she was going out with a Protestant and immediately took her back to Malta. Since those days, even in Ulster, things have changed (though perhaps not in Malta.)

The presence of the London Somme Association and the Harbour Somme Association from Belfast, along with other reminders of the First World War brought back memories of my own father, who after running a machine shop full of women making munitions when he was underage for service, volunteered and served in the Royal Flying Corps (later the Royal Airforce.)

The march in London was a ceremonial event and very much a family event too, with many coming from Belfast, Glasgow, Airdrie, Liverpool, Bootle, Corby and elsewhere to take part in the event, in which wreaths were laid at the Cenotaph.

Unlike last year, everyone was friendly to me as I took pictures, and several mentioned having seen last year's pictures on this web site. Unfortunately other committments meant I had to leave the march, which had started late, before it reached the Cenotaph.

Lord Carson was born in Dublin and became Solicitor-General for Ireland and then for England around the start of the 20th century. An Irish patriot, he was opposed to Home Rule for Ireland and in 1911 he became the leader of the Ulster Unionists. The following year, his was the first signature on the Ulster Covenant in which men pledged to use "all means which may be found necessary" to defeat home rule for Ireland (women signed a shorter version without this promise.) Also in 1912, he was one of the founders of the Ulster Volunteers, a unionist militia which the following year became the Ulster Volunteer Force, and in 1914 received 30,000 rifles and ammunition, bought in Germany and brought to Ireland where the UVF took over Larne to prevent the authorities stopping the gun-running.

Carson remained the unionist leader until 1921, influencing Ulster to opt out from Home Rule. He declined to stand as Prime Minister of the newly formed Northern Ireland Parliament as he felt he had few connections in the north, and he resigned as party leader, retuning to work as a judge in London. He was then made a life peer.

Although Carson had became an Orangeman at 19, he was always critical of the culture of Orangeism. When the Northern Ireland parliament was set up in 1921 he warned Unionists not to alienate the Catholics with the words "from the outset let them see that the Catholic minority have nothing to fear from a Protestant majority." History would have unrolled very differently if those in Ulster had followed this wise advice.
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Camp Ashraf Hunger Strike - Day 60

US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, London. Fri 25 Sept 2009

The Bishop of Oxford talks to hunger strikers
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Camp Ashraf or Ashraf City is an Iranian refugee camp in Iraq established in 1986 as a home for members of the People's Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI), one of several sites given to this major Iranian opposition group by Sadam Hussein.

After the US invasion, US forces took control of the site and a few months later they seized all the weapons held by the PMOI. Those living in the camp were designated as protected people under the Geneva Conventions, protecting them against being deported, expelled or repatriated.

On 1 Jan 2009, the US handed control of the camp to the Iraqi government. The US retained a military presence there and gave promises to the camp residents that they would be treated humanely according to Iraqi law and that none would be deported to any country were they had a "well-founded fear of persecution."

Following demands from the Iranian regime that the Ashraf residents be extradited to Iran, Iraqi forces entered the camp on July 28-30 this year. According to reports the US forces at the camp simply stood and watched as a variety of weapons - including batons, axes, water cannon and live ammunition - were used to attack the 3500 unarmed Iranian refugees, who include a thousand women. Journalists were kept out of the camp, but according to Amnesty, film footage shows Iraqi military Humvees being used repeatedly to run down residents.

Eleven residents are reported to have been killed in these attacks, with around 500 wounded. 36 men were taken away and are still held without trial or charges being laid. They are reported to have been tortured, and most are now on hunger strike and in a critical state.

A camp was set up outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square London by families of the victims of Camp Ashraf. Twelve Iranians are on hunger strike there in sympathy with those deatined in Iraq, and today they were on the 60th day of this protest. Several have already been taken to hospital because of critical organ failures, but are continuing their protest.

Daily, hunger strikers from the camp at the US Embassy go to 10 Downing Street to urge our government to take action, but so far there has been no response from the British or US governments to their demands. The hunger strikers ask for the release of the 36 detainees and a withdrawal of Iraqi police from Camp Ashraf and for access to the camp for lawyers, journalists, doctors and relatives. They want temporary protection by US forces until an international force can take over, and the immediate stationing of an international monitoring team at the camp by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq.

The atrocities during the attack on Camp Ashraf and the continuing detention of the 36 (despite two legal decisions in Iraqi courts that they be released) have received little attention in the international press, while in the UK news media have chosen to ignore the protest outside the US embassy.

Organisations including the Law Society, Amnesty International and the Church of England have lent their support to the campaign. While I was visiting today, the Bishop of Oxford was visiting the camp in Grosvenor Square and he will report to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who earlier on 20 September issued a strong statement: "The continuing situtaion in Camp Ashraf together with the fact that 36 people taken from the camp in July have not been released, constitutes a humanitarinan and human rights issue of real magnitude and urgency." He also supported the demands for UN monitoring, calling for a response as a matter of urgency.

This is another issue that has received little coverage in the media. The interest in the UK protest taken by the Archbishop of Canterbury has however meant some interest from the religious media, and it has featured on the early morning BBC radio religious 'Sunday' program.
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LGBT Solidarity at Serbian Embassy

Belgrave Square, London. Friday 25 Sept 2009

Rainbow flag at the Serbian Embassy
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A peaceful protest took place at the Serbian Embassy in London on Friday 25 Sept to show international solidarity with the LGBTQ community in Belgrade following the cancellation of Beograd Pride, due to take place last Sunday, 20th September. As is quite often the case I was the only journalist to cover the event, and posted a short report with pictures on Indymedia and Demotix.

Around 40 people, including supporters of Outrage!, the NUS LGBT group and Queers Without Borders protested on the embassy steps, handing in a letter to the ambassador expressing their deep concern and urging the Serbian authorities to show determination in pursuing individuals and organizations who are associated with criminal acts against LGBT people or venues, to protect those who have given public support to Pride and LGBT people, to work with LGBT organisations to create a more positive attitude in particular to allow Pride 2010 to proceed normally in Belgrade.

The letter reminded them of the importance of protecting the human rights of its population, including the estimated 5% LGBT people, and of the importance of protecting the democratic rights of citizens in view of the country's aspiration to EU membership.

Belgrade's first gay parade in 2001 had to be abandoned after violent protests on the streets of Belgrade.

It took eight years until Serbia's LGBT community felt it was possible to hold a second parade. But mounting threats from nationalist ultra-right groups and football fan clubs - including offensive graffiti and posters threatening violence on almost every street in the city centre - led the authorities to decide that they were unable to protect the marchers - despite earlier promises to do so being repeated by President Boris Tadic the previous day.

The day before the march was due to take place, the organisers met with Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic who suggested that they move the march away from central Belgrade and when they declined to do so, the march was cancelled. The Serbian government were clearly embarrased by the coverage this got around the world and have promised that there will be a Pride march in Belgrade in 2010 - but then they promised it would happen this year.
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Autumn Equinox: Druids at Primrose Hill

Primrose Hill, London. Tuesday 22 Sept 2009

A dog with a stolen rubber chicken in its jaws runs across in front of the druid procession
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We don't know a great deal about the druids who were already ancient when the Romans came. Roman historians described them as wise but bloodthirsty, given to human sacrifice that stained the altars of Angelsey with blood, and although the evidence of conquerors is always untrustworthy what little archaeological evidence there is supports the cruelty (but not the wisdom.) Fortunately today the members of The Druid Order are peace loving. free-thinking and rather photogenic in their white robes, and their main aim is to develop themselves through being rather than through intellectual learning.

The Druid Order celebrated the Autumn Equinox (Alban Elued) with a ceremony on top of Primrose Hill in London at 1pm in their traditional robes.

After processing up the hill to form a circle, a long horn was sounded to the four corners of the world and then the sword was held aloft to each in and pulled loose with the call "Is it Peace?" and on receiving the reply "Peace", pushed back.

The lady, representing the Earth Goddess Ceridwen then requested permission to enter the circle with her two attendants, and it was granted. They brought a horn containing cider and a basket of fruit and flowers, the harvest of the earth to the chief druid. The cider was tasted, then carried around the circle with libations being poured onto the earth. He also received the basket of fruit and flowers and this too was emptied out as he walked around in the circle.

The names of companions of the ancient order no longer with us were read out, including that of the artist William Blake and other well-known historical figures. We all observed a minute or two of silence and their was a fairly long address. Near to the close of the event, the druids joined hands around the circle and renewed their druid vows. In a final act of the ceremony, four druids came to the centre of the circle and raised the hands in turn to proclaim peace.

Everyone present was thanked for coming and an invitation issued to those who want to find out more about the order to attend their regular public meetings.

The druids then left the circle in order through a gate made by two of their number and processed away down the hill, again forming a circle briefly before beginning to disrobe.

I walked back to the top of the hill to sit and admire the view - and to eat a delicious apple from the fruit they had scattered there.

The Druid Order was formed, along with a mythic history linking it back to earlier times, around a hundred years ago by George Watson MacGregor Reid. The 'history' links it back to a call by John Toland on Primrose Hill at the Autumn Equinox of 1716 for a meeting of Druids at the Apple Tree Tavern in Covent Garden a year and a day later. According to the Fifth Mount Haemus lecture by Dr Adam Stout in 2005, their first recorded appearance appears to have been at the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge in 1912, although Macgregor Reid may have been there in 1909. A photograph from 1912 shows him striding through the stones in Indian dress leasing his "Universalists." The following year he was back, describing himself as a High Priest and "the direct successor of the Chief Druids who have been" and dressed in a very similar manner to that still adopted by The Druid Order.

MacGregor Reid was, it appears, in many respects a remarkable character, involved in virtually every aspect of the counter culture of the late 19th and early 20th century. He was a trade union agitator, into oriental mysticism, labour party activism and of course druidism and the establishment of a universal church in Clapham.

Although he was not the earliest or the only latter-day druid to celebrate the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge, it was his repeated annual celebrations at or close to the site, often despite its owners or, after it became national property, the Ministry of Works, that established its current preeminence as a symbol of alternative culture.

At the top of the hill is a large circular memorial plaque to Iolo Morganwg (1747-1826), an important figure in the re-invention of a Druidic tradition and marking the site of the first meeting of the Gorsedd of the Bards of the Isle of Britain on Midsummer's day 1792. He invented descriptions of Druid ceremonies and added these, together with some of his poems, into the translations he made of medieval Welsh manuscripts. The memorial was unveiled earlier this year on Midsummer Day 2009, and the Welsh Gorsedd continues as a part of the national Eisteddfod. Morganwg also introduced the 'Awen' symbol with its three 'rays' still used by the Druid Order.
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Urban Green Fair

Brockwell Park, Brixton, London. Sunday 20 Sept 2009

Explaining the advantages of the Brixton Pound
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There was much of interest at the Urban Green Fair, but little that I really felt I wanted to photograph, but it was a pleasant afternoon. One of the oddities of this event is that it's very hard to get an alcoholic drink there, though I did manage to track down a cup of cider. The food too didn't look very appetizing, and I was glad I'd brought a sandwich. There was organic produce, bees, an apple press and bicycles, as well as rather a large zone offering massage of head, feet and elsewhere and other nutty fringe offerings of no interest to me.

The Brixton Pound - accepted by many of the small shops in Brixton - seemed a good way to encourage local business, including some green businesses, but not of much use if you don't live in Brixton (and I don't.)

Apart from the bikes, there seemed to be little about green technologies, though there were some greener computers on offer (low power consumption seemed to be the main feature) and one example of a wind turbine.

The highlight for me was the performance by Mark Thomas, and I took a front row seat to take pictures. I've met and photographed Mark at a number of demonstrations, and of course heard him on radio, but this was the first extended performance - almost an hour - by him I've actually been at in person. When I get time I'll certainly read his book "Belching Out the Devil: Global Adventures with Coca-Cola" which is both a serious piece of investigative reporting and hilarious.

Afterwards I went to visit the Community Garden in the park, which was also interesting. I'd tried to see it on my previous visit, but it had been closed.
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Bermondsey Street Festival - Zandra Rhodes Birthday

Bermondsey St, London. Saturday 19 Sept 2009
Andrew Logan, Donna Maria and Zandra Rhodes
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Old and new Bermondsey came together for a lively street festival on Saturday 19th Sept on Bermondsey Street, one of the oldest streets in the area.

Donna Maria's Maypole, dancers based in South London, entertained in the main arena in Tanner Street park, with her colorful recreation of an ancient English tradition.

At the end of their first session, Zandra Rhodes (b 1940) came to open the festival, and was presented with a birthday cake, pink and in the shape of the letter Z, which she cut. Both she and artist Andrew Logan joined in the maypole dancing with Donna Maria.

One of the key developments of the new Bermondsey is the Fashion and Textile Museum founded by fashion designer Rhodes and opened in 2003. She is the patron of the Bermondsey Street festival, now in its third year, and as well as opening it also had a stall on the street.

The events on Bermondsey Street culminated in an hour long fashion show which featured dresses by leading designers now located in the area, including dresses by Zandra Rhodes with jewelry by Andrew Logan.

Bermondsey used to be one of the more notorious areas of London, though massive redevelopment in the late nineteenth and first sixty years of the twentieth century replaced its slums by council flats and other social housing. Now it is filling up with expensive flats, designer dress shops and trendy cafes and is one of the more lively up and coming areas of the capital.

When I published an Industrial Archaeology walk around West Bermondsey in 1992 the idea of guided walks around the area was novel. Today, guided walks led by Blue Guides were on offer in the festival as well cycle tours led by Southwark cyclists and tours of the church.

The redevelopment of Bermondsey Square, completed in 2008 has changed that area completely, but does still include a large open space which was also in use for the festival, along with the church of St Mary Magdalen, parts of which are medieval.
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Save Vestas Action Day

DECC, Whitehall Place, London, Thursday 17 Sept 2009

Darren Johnson, Mark Flowers and John McDonnell at the rally
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Events around the country marked the Vestas 'Day of Action for Jobs and the Planet' on Thursday 17 Sept. The TUC conference in Liverpool passed a motion of support and in London a demonstration was held outside the Department of Energy and Climate Change in Whitehall Place.

Speakers at the rally, which was organised by the Campaign Against Climate Change, included John McDonnell, MP, Darren Johnson, Green Party spokesman on trade and industry and chair of the London Assembly, trade union organisers and Mark Flowers, one of the sacked Vestas workers.

The rally demanded that Vestas reinstate the sacked workers and give better redundancy packages to all of their staff, and that the government must take over the Vestas factory and create green jobs across the country.

Several speakers commented on the bitter disappointment felt at the TUC conference at Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Miliband's total failure to express any practical support for Vestas when he spoke to Congress yesterday. Although talking about the need for green jobs he continues to ignore the most obvious and direct way he could support this.

Earlier in the day PCS activists from the London branch had organised a lunchtime rally outside the DECC - and some also came to the later demonstration. In the evening there was a public meeting organised by the NUJ with speakers from the NUJ, NUT and UCU as well as a Vestas worker.

Outside London, there were also events taking place as a part of the Vestas day of action in Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Newport, IOW, Rotherham, Southampton, Warrington, Chatham and Cardiff.
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Miliband Faces Climate Critics

DECC, Whitehall Place, London, Monday 14 Sept 2009

Minister Ed Milband listens to a tough question on climate change and his government's response
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Minister Ed Miliband came out to meet Climate Chaos Coalition (CCC) protesters who had gathered outside his Department of Energy and Climate Change offices this evening to urge him to put a stop to the use of "climate-wrecking dirty coal power." He responded to some critical questioning about the government dragging its feet over renewable energy with claims that he was working hard on a similar agenda to the protesters and was very aware of the challenges we face over climate change.

Although many were unconvinced by some of his answers (and may suspect that government policy in this area is more driven by the Treasury and the Department for Transport than the DECC) everyone present was impressed by his willingness to come and spend almost fifteen minutes in the rain talking with the protesters and making a genuine attempt to answer the questions and criticisms.

He ended by thanking everyone for raising public awareness of the issues by taking action in the way we have, and also stressed the importance of groups such as the CCC keeping up the pressure in the run up to the UN climate summit in Copenhagen in December, where decisions taken will be crucial for the future of the planet.

Leaders of some of the organisations in the CCC had earlier met with the minister to impress on him the vital importance of abandoning coal for power generation unless and until 100% efficient carbon capture and storage can be proven to work. The public consultation on a new coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth closed last Wednesday, Ed Miliband has now to make his decision.

Other speakers at the vigil included Ashok Sinha, Director of the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition, while Christian Aid provided a fine campaigning choir in clerical garb which performed a number of well known tunes with new climate-friendly lyrics which others present joined in - and for once everyone was really singing from the same song sheet. The coalition involves virtually all of the major environmentally concerned groups in the UK, including Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the Campaign Against Climate Change, as well as faith groups, aid agencies and many others - a total of over 100 organisations with a total membership of more than 11 million.
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Al Quds Day March

Marble Arch to Waterloo Place, London .Sunday 13 Sept 2009

Marchers approaching Piccadilly Circus

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he annual Al Quds Day (Jerusalem Day) march in London has aroused increasing controversy over the years, and was met by several small counter-demonstrations from individuals along the route and several small groups of protesters at Piccadilly Circus. After a series of violent clashes at anti-Islamic demonstrations involving right-wing groups, most recently outside the Harrow mosque on Friday, police were prepared for trouble when these groups, including the English Defence League and March For England, called on their supporters to gather and protest against this march.

Other protesters included Iranian democrats, royalists and socialists, particularly incensed at the recent rigged election results in Iran and the demonstrations that followed, with Neda Agha-Soltan being killed and others who died in jail.

Although Al Quds Day was initiated by Ayatollah Khomeini when he became Supreme Leader of Iran in 1989 as a day on the last Friday of Ramadan (the London march is on the following Sunday) to oppose the Israeli occupation and control of Jerusalem, and several of more prominent groups leading the demonstration in the UK have links with Iran, the event has support from a wide range of organisations including the Muslim Council of Britain and the Respect Party.

Several thousand marchers left Marble Arch, led by Muslim clerics and two Neturei Karta anti-zionist Jewish leaders. Before the march there was an announcement that although as usual women would march in the centre, led and followed by the men, it was also made clear that those who wanted to march as families were welcome to do so, and many, particularly the younger marchers, took advantage of this.

Along the route people chanted the familiar slogans, which were printed for convenience on the small Palestinian flags many of the marchers carried, calling for an end to the occupation of Palestine and Israeli violence. Some carried pictures of the Israeli atrocities of the war in Gaza and there were calls for the end of the building of illegal settlements on occupied territory. One of the main messages was for people to support the boycott of Israeli goods, which appears to be having a real effect.

At Piccadilly Circus, the police had erected a large pen for the counter-demonstrators, which would have held at least twenty times the small number there, and it was ringed by several times as many police as protesters. Surprisingly photographers told me police simply watched and refused to take action when they were assaulted and pushed out from the pen by the hooligans there. Some of these also refused to be penned, and police followed several groups who left around the area. I saw four young men being stopped near Hyde Park corner and one was questioned and searched while he hid under his jacket before they all ran off away from the demonstration.

As the demonstration passed the waiting groups in Piccadilly Circus there was considerable shouting from both sides, but police kept the march to the opposite carriageway and together with march stewards, held back marchers eager to go and confront the opposition. Another row of police - in places a double row - kept the protesters behind their barrier and held photographers a short distance back. As well as shouting insults at the Muslims, they were also making threats, gestures and shouting at the photographers, and I was glad not to be too close although the police bodies made taking pictures difficult.

The police had also insisted that the march not continue to Trafalgar Square for the rally as in previous years. In view of the small number of counter-demonstrators, this was perhaps an unnecessary precaution, but the crowded venue in Waterloo Place did give the event a greater intimacy than it would otherwise have had. Among the speakers before I had to leave were Roland Rance, Taji Mustafa of Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain, Yvonne Ridley of the Respect Party and Neturei Karta Rabbi Ahron Cohen.
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Photographers Flash-Mob at Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf, London. Saturday 12 Sept 2009

Photographers at the Canary Wharf Flash mob
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I'm a Photographer not a Terrorist! was inspired by a poster campaign launched by the Metropolitan Police that suggested that anyone with a camera was a terrorist as well as the increasing legislation against photography and the harassment by police and others that photographers face when taking pictures on the street.

Hardly a week passes by without another story of a photographer being questioned and sometimes arrested when photographing shops, bus stations, footpaths, parks or other public places. In the face of clear advice from the Home Office (recently strengthened) that photography is legal in public places and that anti-terror laws should only be invoked where there is a clear and reasonable threat of terrorism, police, PCSOs, council officials and others continue to take action against photographers, often citing laws against terrorism.

The Canary Wharf estate is one of an increasing number of 'public' spaces in cities that is privately owned - including many shopping centres and some office areas. Photographers who try to take pictures here may be asked to leave and risk being abused and restrained by security guards, although tourists taking pictures are usually tolerated. At various times at Canary Wharf, security guards have stopped me or attempted to stop me when photographing a war memorial, demonstrations and a violent assault by security staff on a member of the public as well as when taking architectural and urban landscape images.

At 3pm on Saturday 12 Sept, around a hundred photographers descended on Canary Wharf in London for a flash-mob protest around the clocks in the square below Canary Wharf Tower. They produced cameras on the stroke of three and began photographing everything in site - mainly each other. Security men stood around watching the protest from a distance but took no action.
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DLR and River Thames

Limehouse & Isle of Dogs. Saturday 12 Sept 2009

On the Docklands Light Railway you can pretend to drive
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London's underground system was in more or less total collapse, with planned engineering works closing down over half of the lines and signaling and other problems messing up most of the rest. The few remaining services were hot and crowded. I needed to be sure to get to Canary Wharf for 3pm, but neither the DLR or Jubilee was running there from Westminster where I was.

I'd hoped to drop in at the rally at Aldgate to support the strike at the colleges in Tower Hamlets, but there was no Circle Line and District Line services were stopping at Tower Hill. Traffic was bad, and the chances of getting there on a bus, and then getting the bus on to Canary Wharf after a short stop seemed pretty low, so I gave up the attempt. Buses to Canary Wharf are always slow and timings unreliable so I took the DLR to Westferry. Probably I could have gone on by rail replacement bus, but it wasn't in sight and I just had time to walk, taking the more pleasant route along the Thames path, and stopping for a minute or two to take some pictures. I made it with around five minutes to spare.
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Cuban 5 - Political Prisoners in US

Angel, Islington, London. Saturday 12 Sept 2009

Break the Chains - Free The Cuban 5 - rally at the Angel

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Last Saturday was the 11th anniversary of the jailing of the Cuban 5, political prisoners in the US, and it was marked by events around the world urging their release. In London, Rock around the Blockade held a rally outside Angel Tube station in Islington across lunchtime, speaking and handing out leaflets in the busy street. The rally was supported by other groups including Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!

The Cuban 5 are five Cuban men who infiltrated CIA-backed expatriate Cuban terrorist groups based in Miami, Florida. They discovered that an extremist group 'Brothers to the Rescue' was practising its plans to bomb Cuba by dropping pipe bombs from airplanes, and the Cuban government passed on the evidence of this illegal activity to the US administration.

The US response was to arrest the five Cubans who had discovered the plot and to set up a trial in Miami where in 1998 three were sentenced to life imprisonment and the other two to 15 and 19 years in prison.

A US court in 2005 decided in 2005 that their trial had been unfair and ordered a retrial in a new location. The Attorney General had this decision overturned and the convictions were upheld in 2006 and 2008. Despite an unprecedented number of petitions from human rights organisations, jurists and others from around the world, the US Supreme Court refused to examine the case this June; Obama had urged them not to hear it. A retrial is to start shortly for three of the men, but under the same judge who found them guilty at the original unfair trial.

The whole prosecution is a part of the political war by the US against the socialist revolution in Cuba which started in 1959. Cuba is seen as a threat to their control and business interests in the whole of Central and South America and determined to isolate and destroy it. The infamous 'Monroe Doctrine' originated by President James Monroe in 1823 now means that Latin American countries are free to choose any government they like so long as it isn't too left-wing.

Apart from an abortive attempt at invasion - the Bay of Pigs, proposed by Nixon, planned by Eisenhower, approved by Kennedy and turned into a fiasco by the CIA, the main weapon used against Cuba for the past 50 years has been a US commercial, economic and financial blockade, repeatedly condemned by the United Nations, most recently by 185 votes to 3 with 2 abstentions.
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Memorial Procession for Victims of the Arms Trade

Victoria Dock, Custom House, London. Friday 11 September 2009

A wreath for victims of the arms trade was launched onto the dock opposite the DSEi arms fair

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In 2005, local residents formed 'East London Against the Arms Fair' (ELAAF) to oppose the government-sponsored Defence Systems & Equipment International (DSEi) held every two years at the ExCeL centre in Canning Town, East London. Organised by Clarion Events and the UK Trade & Investment's Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI) - a government department, this is one of the world's largest arms fairs, bringing together over a thousand arms companies from around their world and clients who include many from countries known for flagrant human rights abuses, as well as those actively involved in wars and civil wars.

The deals made at ExCeL will lead to many people in countries across the world suffering from repression, being injured and being killed. The money spent on arms also distorts the economies of many countries, with money that should be spent on development and meeting basic needs going to waste.

EELAF has held a number of peaceful musical protests against the arms fair at the Excel site before the fair as well as making representations to all those involved in the fair, including the owners of ExCeL, the state-owned Abu Dhabi Exhibition Company. They held a number of protests this week, beginning with a candle-lit vigil on the eve of the fair on Monday, and a day of action at ExCeL and outside the UKTI offices on Tuesday. As the fair was coming to an end on Friday afternoon, a small group of around ELAAF supporters led a Memorial Procession from close to the entrance of the DSEi arms fair around Victoria Dock to the south side. There they held a short ceremony of remembrance for the many killed by arms sold at previous fairs and those who would be killed by the arms sold at this week's event. A wreath was launched onto the water of the dock opposite the warships moored outside the arms fair and a minute of silence was followed by the singing of peace songs and the holding of hands.

Unlike at protests held at the arms fair two years ago, the police were polite and helpful, the officer in command coming to ask what the protesters intended to do and promising the assistance of the police in maintaining their right to make a peaceful protest. Although there was an obvious police presence around the DSEi, police kept well away from the demonstration. ELAAF is pledged to continue to hold regular meetings and protests until the arms fairs stop being held in East London.

 

Climate Rush: Aylesbury Green Fayre

Kingsbury, Aylesbury, Bucks. Wed 9 September 2009

Caroline Lucas and Tamsin Omond at Kingsbury before the Green Fayre started

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Aylesbury was the most northerly point of the Climate Rush tour of South West England. They were camping at Haddenham a few miles away, and came into Aylesbury to hold a Green Fayre in Kingsbury, a pedestrian area in the centre of Aylesbury with a few pubs and cafés as well as shops around its edges, and a water feature with a number of small fountains.

Wednesday was one of the best afternoons of the summer, warm and sunny, and although it wasn't crowded there were enough people around to make the event worthwhile. As well as the Climate Rushers themselves, there were two other attractions, with a chance to meet and listen to both Green Euro-MP Caroline Lucas and celebrity cookery writer and TV performer Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

At the start of the event, Tamsin Omond and some of the other Climate Rushers in the long white suffragette dresses and red sashes carried one of their banners (EQUITY: Emission Quotas Must Be Per Capita; The Rich Have No More Right To Pollute Than The Poor) around the nearby busy market area and nearby streets, Tamsin announcing in a surprisingly loud voice the chance to meet both the TV Cook and one of their Euro MPs.

Whether because of this or not, throughout the afternoon quite a few people stopped to talk to Hugh and tell him how much they enjoyed his programme. Others just edged towards him, stopping a few yards away phone in hand to take a picture.

There were a few short speeches and quite a few people came over to take leaflets and stopped to talk to the Rushers about climate change and what they could do. A few children came to do some drawing, and some people wrote notes about environmental issues to be sent to the local MP.

Aylesbury Museum rose to the occasion, bringing their own stall on which people could make paper bead necklaces, and more to my taste, bringing apples and the rare Aylesbury plums from trees in their gardens to give away. Other gardeners brought produce too, and we enjoyed eating them, including some raw petit pois, with raw Jerusalem artichoke a special treat.

It really was a very pleasant afternoon, and as things began to quieten down and I sat there drinking a pint of beer from the neighbouring pub, enjoying the company and the fine weather, it was easy to begin to think that all was well with the world. But of course it isn't, but this was a reminder that the planet we have really is worth saving. And if we all take action soon, possibly we still can.
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CAAT: Close UKTI DSO

Victoria St, London. Tuesday 8 September 2009


Dan Viesnik on his 100 hour Famine for Victims of the Arms Trade at UKTI with the CAAT protest
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CAAT (Campaign Against the Arms Trade) had demonstrated outside the DSEi arms fair at the ExCeL centre earlier while I had been following the autonomous Disarm DSEi march around the city, and in the afternoon came back to Victoria St to demonstrate outside the government offices of UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), whose Defence and Security Organisation provides financial, political and logistical support for the arms fair, channeling our taxes to help private companies to profit from making the arms used to kill people.

To highlight the death, injury and deprivation caused worldwide by the arms trade, Dan Viesnik was making a 100-hour famine at various government offices and other locations around the city, and was outside the UKTI while the CAAT demonstration was taking place.
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Disarm DSEi

City of London. Tuesday 8 September 2009

At the door of AXA Investments
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Disarm DSEi was a protest against the world's largest arms fair which opened that day at the ExCeL centre in East London, and it targeted the city offices of companies heavily involved in the arms trade. The protest stopped outside a number of their offices for short speeches about the company involvement and made a great deal of noise.

Disarm DSEi provided an excellently produced and well-researched 'infopack', 4 A4 pages with a map listing over 25 companies - including arms traders, law firms, institutional investors and banks with heavy involvement in the arms trade, from which I've used a few quotes below. They stressed that this protest had "no organisers" and that it belonged to all those taking part who would together decide on its course of action.

The event started outside the RBS in Aldgate ("the world's leading creditor to the arms industry ... over £44.6 billion in the last ten years including loans to producers of cluster bombs and depleted uranium munitions." It also financed the purchase of Clarion who run the DSEi arms fair. From there we went to Barclays "the largest investor in the global arms trade with £7.3 billion in shares."

The next stop was at Legal & General at the top of Coleman St, where people stuck notices on the doors of the building. They own "£795 million worth of shares in the UK arms trade" and around three times as much in the international arms industry.

Opposite each other in Gresham St were Schroders and Lloyds TSB, again with huge shares in the UK arms industry. Lloyds are "principal banker to BAE Systems and QinetiQ " and "have given £33.3 billion in loans over the last ten years, including loans to produces of of cluster bombs and depleted uranium munitions."

At the BT offices they made a rush of the door and managed to break through it and go into the atrium for a short while to continue the protest inside before leaving. Many of the staff and visitors in the building gathered at balconies surrounding the atrium to watch what was going on. Although there was a little damage as they pushed through the door and jumped over the security gates (I slowly followed them) there seemed to be little if any deliberate vandalism and no attempt to attack any of the people inside. "BT hold £59 million worth of shares in the international arms trade."

Later at AXA Investments ("£2,259 million worth of shares in the UK arms trade and &6,207 million investment in the international arms industry") they pushed hard against the door which was held by two security men, and smashed some of the glass with a reinforced banner, but seemed to give up when the door finally appeared about to burst open.

Outside the Stock Exchange ("where all the dirty dealing gets done") in Paternoster Square the march appeared to come to an end and the banners were put away. L left to cover another demonstration against the arms fair elsewhere.

Police made no attempt to stop the march and kept a fairly low profile throughout, although at times I saw a FIT team taking pictures - and of course in the city everyone is on hundreds if not thousands of CCTV cameras. The 'infopack' included the advice "MASK UP!! Don't submit to police surveillance" and many on the protest did so. It's something that photographers often find adds interest to pictures too. But even when wearing masks a few protesters still tried to stop photographers taking their pictures. Crazy if you want other people to know about your protest and what you are protesting about.
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Climate Rush: Celebration of Community Resistance

Sipson, London. 5 Sept 2009

Tamsin plays the villain BAA while Geraldine talks about the NoTRAG campaign
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Activists from around the country came to give short presentations on their campaigns, including those against Radley Lakes, Fos-y-Fran, Rossport, The IMF/World Bank, Vestas, a message from Cathy McCormack in Easterhouse, and finally Geraldine talked about the campaign against the third runway at Heathrow.
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Climate Rush on the Run

Hayes & Sipson, London. 5 Sept 2009
Climate Rushers get tea and biscuits in St Anselm's Church, Hayes, before the London Churches Environmental Network walk.
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The Climate Rush was organised to mark the 100th anniversary of the 'Suffragete Rush' of 13 Oct, 1908, when more than 40 women were arrested in as they attempted to enter The Houses of Parliament.

To mark this centenary, on the evening of Monday 13 Oct, 2008, women concerned with the lack of political action to tackle climate change organised and led a rally in Parliament Square, with the key suffragette slogan "Deeds Not Words" calling for "men and women alike" to stand together and support three key demands:

* No airport expansion.
* No new coal-fired power stations.
* The creation of policy in line with the most recent climate science and research.

My pictures of the rally and the rush on 13 October.

Since then the Climate Rushers have gone on to organise and take part in various other events, including Climate Rush at RBS, the Pedal Power Bike Rush, a mass bicycle ride around London to Westminster Bridge and a Palm Oil Gala in Grosvenor Square, as well as a number of other protests I haven't been at.

Currently the Climate Rush is "On the Run", on "a rollicking tour of South West England", staging events, supporting campaigns and "entertaining the towns, villages and hamlets" on their route. The tour includes "16 Climate Suffragettes, 3 horses and 2 glorious caravans", though not all of them were there for the first port of call at Sipson (and the caravans looked more like carts to me.)

They aim to promote awareness of the great possibilities offered by a low carbon future and to "inspire a nationwide campaign of civil disobedience against the climate criminals who are holding us back - a campaign as stylish, effective and unstoppable as the Suffragettes."

I missed much of the fun on Friday at Sipson, including a kids activity session and a tea party for local residents, and I'm told there was great musical evening. The Sipson Airplot is also just a few yards from a great local pub.

The first event on Saturday was only attended by a very small group of Climate Rushers who had made the short train journey to Hayes to join a service and walk by the London Churches Environmental Network. The rushers had to leave the walk after three-quarters of a mile to rush back to Sipson, getting in some walking practice for the tour on the two and quarter mile stroll to the Airplot.

Back on site there was lunch to be eaten and final preparations to be made for that afternoon's 'Celebration of Community Resistance' (see above.)

The Climate Rushers tour continues with events at Haddenham and Aylesbury (8-10 Sept), then Oxford (12-13th), Stroud (18-19th), Bristol (21st), Taunton (24th), Exeter (26-7th) before ending at Totnes on 30th Sept. See their web site for more details.
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Climate Rush Procession Heathrow

Sipson & Heathrow, London. 4 September 2009

Climate Rushers and local residents lead the 'NO THIRD RUNWAY' procession at the airport perimeter fence
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The Climate Rush have started on a one month tour of South West England and I was very pleased to be able to join them at their first stop at Sipson this morning. Slightly less pleased that my own trusty steed, a 13th birthday present from my oldest brother a few years ago, punctured a few hundred yards short of the Airplot site where they had been camping over night.

Greenpeace bought the Airplot site in the middle of the site for a third runway at Heathrow and invited everyone to join the plot as a beneficial owner, alongside the four legal owners, "Oscar winning actress Emma Thompson, comedian Alistair McGowan and prospective Tory parliamentary candidate Zac Goldsmith and Greenpeace UK." You can still sign up for your small piece of the site, and most if not all of us today had already done so. The hope is that it will make it harder for the legal notices to be served so for the development of the site to go ahead.

I first photographed the opposition to the further development of Heathrow in 2003, when local residents organised a march against the proposal for a third runway, and have attended and photographed a number of protests since.

I grew up under the main flight path in use for landing a couple of miles from touchdown. Although I was a plane spotter at an early age, all of us living there felt the disruption it caused in our lives, even back in the 1950s. My teachers often had to stop and wait in mid-sentence for a plane to go over. We could often smell the fuel, and see and feel the oily grime although I don't think the term "pollution" had then really entered normal vocabulary. At a deeper level, I still sometimes have nightmares about planes going over in flames (as they sometimes did) and crashes, although since Terminal 4 blocked one of the existing runways (Heathrow was built with six though only two are now used) thankfully planes no longer shake my present house as they come in low on landing or take off.

Although there are claims by the industry that planes are quieter now, noise is still a problem for us - as it is for perhaps a quarter of Londoners. Partly this is simply because there are many more planes, but also that many pilots cut costs by making steep turns on full power shortly after take-off and fly back over this area. Official noise measurements still seem to be made to fail to reflect reality although possibly less blatantly than in the past.

My sister lives under the flight path at least twice as far from the airport as me, but the noise there is often unbearable. Even very much further away, at Vauxhall, noise is still a problem, as you can see from the recent film by Jason N Parkinson.

Back in the 1950s we knew Heathrow was in the wrong place; it only gained permission for development by pretending it was needed for military use (a lie from the start.) Every further development there has always been obtained by underhand means. When T4 was built, they gained permission by promising they would never ask for a further terminal. At the enquiry for T5, they said they would never ask for a third runway. It was only a matter of months before the application came in. The plans for Terminal 6 (which of course they would never need) were published in 2005.

Heath Row had some of the best agricultural land in Britain, and the surrounding area was the site of some of the oldest settlements in the country long before the Romans came for that very reason. Most of its prehistoric sites have been lost, some under the airport, others under other developments or dug up for gravel. My grandfather had a market garden and an orchard not far away, and Cox's Orange Pippin, the finest of all dessert apples, was first recognised as a chance seedling and cultivated by Richard Cox a mile or so down the Bath Road. There are apple trees around the Airplot site of different varieties, both eating and cooking apples, and we also ate damsons from a nearby tree.

Sipson to the north of the airport was one of several Middlesex villages I used to cycle through as a kid, although development has been a little harder to it than some. Neighbouring Harmondsworth, also to be destroyed if the third runway goes ahead, has rather more of its original charm, with a village green with a pub and church and, a few yards away, one of the finest medieval tithe barns (2 pictures at bottom of this page.)

The procession left from the Sipson Airplot, led by local residents from NoTRAG, though most were at work today - more were expected later in the day and at the 'Celebration of Community Resistance' at Sipson tomorrow. Suffragettes (including a 'token' male) wearing 'Deeds Not Words ' and 'Climate Rush' red sashes carried three banners, Justice, Equity and Truth; Equity traveled on a horse-drawn cart along with a violinist.

The banners read:
JUSTICE: Rich Countries must recognise historic responsibility for climate change.
EQUITY: Emission quotas must be per capita; the rich have no more right to pollute than the poor.
TRUTH: Emission caps must be set in line with the latest climate science.

We went south down Sipson Road to the Bath Road, and across it onto the Heathrow site, turning to walk along the Northern Perimeter Road outside the perimeter fence. There we were joined by a police car, which stopped traffic for us. A few hundred yards along we were unsure of our route, and Tamsin Omond who was close to the front of the procession, rushed across to ask the police how we could return to the Bath Road.

Once we were off the airport site the police left us to find our own way, back up Sipson Way and Sipson Rd to the Airplot site. Altogether we had walked around two and a quarter miles, and the one of the three horses pulling the cart hadn't even raised a sweat. It was time for us - and the horses - to eat some of the apples. A couple of the suffragettes climbed a tree to pick some more, but they turned out to be cookers. The kettle had been hanging over the embers of a wood fire and a few more sticks soon brought it to the boil for tea.

I sat down to mend my puncture. Unfortunately I its a while since I checked the repair kit in my pannier, and having found two largish holes found I didn't have a large enough patch to cover the two of them and the rubber solution had dried up. It was time for me to walk the six miles home.
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More on the Climate Rush at Sipson on 2-5 September:
Celebration of Community Resistance
Climate Rush On the Run! Sipson


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All pictures on this section of the site are Copyright © Peter Marshall 2009; to buy prints or for permission to reproduce pictures or to comment on this site, or for any other questions, contact me.

 

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