We are the 99% – Occupy London Stock Exchange

‘We are the 99%’ is the refrain from Wall Street to London, from Oakland to Tel Aviv. A growing chorus of international resistance to the maintenance of the status quo following the impact of the financial crisis on individuals and societies across the developed world.

As the 99% suggests the frustration lies with growing income inequality and the fashion for austerity that is eroding the broad social benefits that in many ways are the key to the social compact that binds societies together.

In London the protest has seen a tent city arise in the churchyard of St Paul’s Cathedral, just opposite the London Stock Exchange. Since the occupation began on 15 October 2011 several high profile resignations have ensured from St Paul’s – reflecting conflicts and tensions within the church as it how it should respond to the protest at its doorstep.

St Paul’s appears to be a particularly appropriate site to challenge the status quo, as the edifice embodies the established Church of England, and by implication the State. The question posed ‘what would Jesus do’ – is perhaps at the heart of the church’s discomfort at its new neighbours.

Visit occupy london stock exchange to learn more about the campaign in London.

London series – Harringay Green Lanes food festival

The Green Lanes Food Festival celebrates the diverse mix of communities that live in and around Green Lanes. For a day a busy London street is closed to traffic and becomes a vast street market. On 18 September 2011 almost 20,000 people walked down Green Lanes – just one month after the London riots.

The Festival is organised by the Green Lanes Strategy Group, a combination of local Residents’ groups, Traders, Police, Council officers and Councillors. The first festival was staged in 2009 and is planned to occur every 2nd year. It is part of just one of the many activities being undertaken by the local community to re-generate the area around Green Lanes.

Green Lanes itself is an ancient London thoroughfare that was originally a cattle route from Hertfordshire to the Smithfield market just outside the city gates. Passing through several London boroughs, it combines a mix of Turkish, Greek, Cypriot and Jamaican residents. More recently Polish shops have joined the existing Turkish and Cypriot traders along the stretch of Green Lanes from Turnpike Lane to Finsbury Park.

You can find out more about the festival at http://www.harringayfoodfestival.com/

Kings Cross central

Continuing the theme of the London Street Photography festival I took the opportunity to join a guided walk by Alan Dein around the Kings Cross area. The walk, part of a programme of events planned as part of the festival, took us  behind Kings Cross and St Pancras stations – a vast re-development site.

Alan  provided some context by showing how over the next few years the post industrial landscape of the area around the stations of Kings Cross and St Pancras will become the home for a new university campus for 5,000 students, a creative hub and the creation of new housing on what has for decades been a no mans land of empty warehouses and the detritus of a different era.

Pancras Road N1

Pancras Road N1

We begin at the Eurostar terminal – walking north to the enclave of the Camley street gardens, an oasis in the midst of an industrial wasteland. From here we travel under the railway bridges that cut through the area to the old St Pancras churchyard, which once stretched across most of the area north of the Euston Road. As we leave the church gates we pass into Somers Town, a distinct community that has seen major re-development and ‘improvement’ over the years. I is also home to a variety of experiments in social housing including the St Pancras Home Improvement Society, established by Basil Jellicoe in the years following the 1st World War.

Somers Town N1

Somers Town N1

As we leave Somers Town by crossing the Euston Road we enter a distinctly different part of London – though we have only walked across the road…

London series – Kings Cross

Behind the glorious facade of St Pancras station and the newly renovated platforms that deliver us to exotic European destinations lies a post industrial landscape. The district north of St Pancras and KIngs Cross rail stations is an area in re-generation – one of the largest areas of re-development in central London. But also behind these modern facades lies one of the oldest christian sites in England, dating back to the 12th century – the old St Pancras churchyard.

I was fortunate during the recent London Street Photography Festival to join a guided walk by Alan Dein – the author of an oral history of the King Cross area. We strolled from the Eurostar terminal to the enclave for the Camley Street Gardens – and on to the old St Pancras Churchyard. Alan’s walk reminded us of the dislocation and upheaval that the development of the railways brought to the area in the 1830s – and perhaps a new phase of re-development will create new upheaval?

Walking out of the old churchyard we entered the district of Somers Town – a distinct community with it own identity – and an area marked by the social improvers who rebuilt the area in the decades following the first world war. Perhaps one of the most noted was Father Basil Jellicoe, who founded the St Pancras Home Improvement Society. Unlike many of his contemporaries Basil Jellicoe went on the road – selling his vision for social housing. Unusually among his contemporaries too he also recognised the pub as the centre of the community – which encouraged him to  establish a school for publicans – despite being a teetotal himself.

As our walk continued across the Euston Road, or the New Road as it was known in the 1830s, we crossed an invisible barrier from the slum clearance and social improvement to the private development on the south side. Such a London experience – poverty alongside prosperity.

The London Street Photography Festival

The occasion of the first London Street Photography Festival has acted as a bit of a catalyst to complete a couple of projects and I’ve also added a walk that arose out of workshop as part of the festival, which was coordinated by David Gibson and Jesse Marlow (also the winner of the International award at the festival). Both members of the street photographer’s collective iN-Public the workshop was a great opportunity to get a perspective on how they both see street photography. They offered a variety of ways that we can see street photography and the range of their own work – and that of a few other select photographers really gave the workshop participants a very broad understanding of street photography that was very liberating.

The project they gave us – the impossible letters, was a great way to direct our eyes. It was a reminder that once you start noticing something in your environment it often continues to appear to your eyes…

Jerrome street E1

Jerrome street E1

Adding the outcome from the workshop seemed an ideal time to add two new series, a new one from Dusseldorf, reflecting my experience of the Christmas market and an extended series on Highgate Wood – my local London park.

I’ve been visiting the Christmas market in Dusseldorf now for over 10 years. It has become part of my Christmas ritual to wander the altstadt to experience the idealised village world created in the heart of a Dusseldorf. But the real reason to go is to share in the communal experience of the Marktplatz where Dusseldorfers come together to close the year. The stalls selling socks, wooden toys, crystals and other gifts are just the backdrop and an excuse to gather in the public space.

Weihnachtsmarkt Düsseldorf

Weihnachtsmarkt Düsseldorf

Highgate Wood, my local park is part wildlife reserve, part Victorian park. A remnant of the ancient forest of Middlesex, to walk off its pathways is to imagine the vast forests that 500 years ago covered much of London, Hertfordshire and Essex. Today it’s an idealised little rural world just 6km from central London.

The impossible letters

The impossible letters – how can read the letters of the alphabet in everyday objects, in buildings, on the street? This was the project challenge for a group of photographers who participated in a workshop organised as part of the inaugural London Street Photography Festival.

After reviewing the work of the two course conveners – David Gibson and Jesse Marlow (also the winner of the festival’s international award), both members of iN-PUBLIC – and a selection of other street photographers, it was time to wander the streets around Spitalfields and Shoreditch.

This is my contribution to the task – followed by some loitering at the Ten Bells afterwards…

New Stolpersteine and London images

Cecileneallee 11 Dusseldorf; Franz Anselm Cohen-Altmann - UBS wealth management are now located in this building

Cecileneallee 11 Dusseldorf; Franz Anselm Cohen-Altmann – UBS wealth management are now located in this building

Le flaneur spent Christmas 2010 in Dusseldorf enjoying the snow but also exploring the pavements to discover new stolpersteine locations in the city. This most recent journey brings the total number of  individual addresses to 43. These new additions build on existing concentrations and introduce new locations to the catalogue. This most recent set of additions has also encouraged a revision of the existing structure of the series, reflecting the organic way the project has grown and evolved over the past two years.

One of the more revealing discoveries was walking north along the Rhine from the old town centre. On the Cecileneallee it seemed ironic to find that the building that once housed a victim of Nazi resettlement is now occupied by UBS wealth management – a company implicated in the use of slave labour during the war.

Highgate Wood London

Highgate Wood London

December 2010 also saw the completion of a new London series, a London journey. It follows a meandering pattern across London – from Highgate and Muswell Hill in the north, along the southbank of the Thames to the district of Bermondsey in the east and points between. Its a broad swathe of London history from the London Bishop’s estates in the north to the ancient districts on the edge of the City of London.

London Series – Clerkenwell and Smithfield – Crime, revolutions and executions

Crime, revolutions and executions seems an apt subtitle for Clerkenwell and Smithfield – a district that has housed prisons, acted as a site for public executions and has been the chosen residence of its fair share of revolutionaries over the centuries.

Clerkenwell (Clerks Well) and Smithfield (Smooth field) are two ancient districts on the boundaries of the City of London and over the centuries have seen multiple waves of development – from fashionable districts in the 17th century, through industrial revolution and post-war decline to come full circle to trendy districts in the 1990s. An example is the Clerkenwell house of detention – first a prison, later a school and now – luxury flats (though the prison cells remain in the basement).

Walking around the streets here you try to imagine the hemmed in feeling of the ‘Rookeries’ – the narrow streets and cheap houses that covered the modern day area from New Oxford street to Farrington Road. Many of the locations in the area feature in the writing of Dickens including; Saffron Hill, Bleeding Heart Yard and Clerkenwell Green, an odd name as it has not been ‘green’ for 300 years. This old village square of Clerkenwell has links with radical politics with the Bolshevik’s newspaper Iskra published here in the early years of the 20th century. The same building now houses the Marx Memorial Library. There is a local story that Lenin met the young Stalin in the Crown Tavern on the green in 1903.

Clerkenwell has a monastic tradition as well, acting as the home of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem – today only the southern gatehouse of their Priory exists but a link with the monastic order remains in the name of the district’s oldest pub – the Jerusalem Tavern, which has existed since the 14th century.
Smithfield, a popular site for the public execution of heretics and dissidents was until the 1850s open fields and the location of London’s meat market. Cattle were driven down to Smithfield via St John’s Street and slaughtered and sold on site. The area was also the location of two monasteries, Charterhouse – later an almshouse and St Bartholomew the Great.