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Touring Britain bit by bit with a pair of boots, a few bicycles, a lot of trains and a bag of lenses. I take pictures and then I write about them.

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Wed, 3 Aug 2011

Flashride for Blackfriars

Blackfriars Bridge

In 2000, London's previous mayor, Ken Livingstone, began the process of fixing forty years of mistakes that had been made in the pursuit of the impossible -- the comfortable accommodation of mass motor vehicle use in a dense city centre. He recognised that cities are supposed to be places for people and returned key locations like Trafalgar Square to use as more than mere traffic gyratories.

Boris! No more urban motorways

But the current mayor has not quite caught up with the modern age and still labours under the delusion that congestion and the problems of the motor vehicle can be solved with bigger and faster roads.


While claiming to be the cycling mayor he tells us that a splash of blue paint along the gutter and through the bus stops is enough to fix the conditions that prevent most people from ever using their bicycles.

Mark on telly
20 saves Streets for people!

And his officers at TfL push through these wider and faster roads in the name of, er, accommodating pedestrians (wider roads are good for pedestrians, right?). While ripping out the pedestrian crossings.


After ignoring the thousands of objections to the wider and faster road layout at Blackfriars, TfL announced last week that they were bring in the earth movers on Friday night. So with 48 hours notice we assembled a thousand cyclists for a go slow.

Streets for people! Mass

It might be too late for Blackfriars this time around, but we still have a mayor who is stuck in 1970s, determined to force ever more motor vehicles through the centre of the city, at the expense of the sensible majority who combine walking, cycling, and public transport, and the vibrant city activity that depends on attracting people. It's not the last he's heard from us.

20 saves

More at:

[Tag] Tags: blackfriars bridge, cycling, events, london, politics, protests, streetscapes, uk, urban

Sat, 16 Oct 2010

How to deliver a petition

Science Is Vital! Science Is Vital!

First, get 35,000 people to sign your petition, and find a friendly university stationary office who can print that many hundreds of pages. Hurry down Whitehall to hang around outside Downing Street while another petition goes in before you.

Science Is Vital!

Ensure that you have one Evan Harris to turn up unannounced with a Lord Willis, to efficiently direct and choreograph things.

Science Is Vital!

Pose and smile! L to R: Michelle Brook, Imran Khan (CaSE), Evan Harris, Jenny Rohn, Phil Willis, Richard Grant, Colin Blakemore, and Della Thomas.

Science Is Vital!

Get your petition out and wave it around for the camera.

Science Is Vital!

Panic when you realise you've got to reassemble it all again.

Science Is Vital! Science Is Vital!

Ring the bell, and pass it to the doorman, whose job description apparently includes posing for camera when petitions are delivered.

Science Is Vital! Science Is Vital!

Amswer some questions for the press agencies — I don't know whether any news outlet actually used any of their footage, but I imagine the agencies have cameras here all day to capture far more exciting things, like the arrival of Arnold Schwarzenegger earlier that morning

Science Is Vital! Science Is Vital! Science Is Vital!

And finally, play around taking pictures of eachother pretending to be the new prime-minister.

More photos in the Science is Vital flickr set.

[Tag] Tags: downing street, events, london, petitions, photo essays, photography, politics, traditions, uk

Tue, 12 Oct 2010

The Cheese Festival

Ice Cream

I love the Durham Township photoblog -- all the fabulous atmospheric shallow-focus photos of rural Pensylvania. Especially the ones of the traditional county fairs and farm shows. The kids with candyfloss, prize livestock on display, and old fashioned family entertainment.

Cheese Festival!

We have those in England, too: things like the Sturminster Newton Cheese Festival, a celebration of cheese and cider, annual except if it rains so hard that the river floods the car park field. A place to show off local artisan foods, crafts, and livestock.


Where you can test your strength, guess the number of sweets in the jar, watch a classic Punch and Judy show, or learn how to milk a lifesize plastic animatronic cow that's branded with the name of the local independent supermarket.

Punch & Judy!

Or just enjoy the late summer of the English Westcountry.

Cheese Festival!

[Tag] Tags: blackmore vale, british culture, dorset, events, festivals, fetes, photo essays, photography, rural, sturminster newton, traditions, uk, westcountry

Mon, 11 Oct 2010

Science Is Vital!

Science Is Vital!

Yesterday, a couple of thousand nerds got together outside the British Treasury to preemptively protest the cuts to publicly funded research that are expected to be announced in next week's "comprehensive spending review". The rally was part of the Science Is Vital! campaign organised by Jenny Rohn, The Campaign for Science & Engineering, and a bunch of others.

Super-strings not shoe strings Down with this sort of thing.

It was another fun day out, with fancy dress, singing and dancing, models of the planets, chemistry kits, and some fabulously nerdy puns on placards. Not the sort of protest that scientists are well known for.

Science Is Vital!
Science Is Vital!

The scientists had been shocked into leaving their labs by the across-the-board cuts that our young government likes to remind us at every opportunity are absolutely necessary to save the economy and civilisation in general. Lib-Dem business secretary Vince Cable, whose department and budget (for reasons not obvious) include responsibility for most of the country's public research funding, had previously accused British scientists of the crime of producing work that was not excellent (merely "significant"), and warned science that under his leadership it would have to produce "more for less".

Ben Petra Boynton

So in part, the protesters motives were (understandably) selfish. They had their (poorly paid) jobs and (difficult) careers to worry about. Science isn't an industry that's easy to mothball, even for just three years, and expect to be able to switch it back on exactly as it was before once the economy has recovered. Research is about projects that take years to complete. With research in Germany and China rapidly growing, and with those countries seeking the expertise of ready-trained foreign scientists, our scientists could just go to another country. And with the private-sector always in need of the skills that scientists have, they could instead go and seek better paid and easier jobs in another industry. They don't want to leave the country or leave science, but they will. And once they go, they can't come back.

Colin Blakemore

And in part the protesters were here to highlight science's achievements: why the voting public trust and value science -- the cures for cancer and the internets and the time machines. If I've counted correctly, 32 Britons have won the Nobel Prize for physiology or medicine -- between them their discoveries have saved countless millions of lives and immeasurably improved the quality of our lives. Everybody in the country knows or has known somebody suffering from a horrific disease -- a cancer or dementia -- and they won't look kindly on the man who cuts the hope of a cure.

Timandra Harkness Feed The World!

But mostly, the scientists were here to highlight the sheer absurdity of the idea that cutting research spending will help the national economy. When our best researchers are forced to go abroad to continue their work, they will take with them all of the knowledge that they would have shared with our students and businesses; they will take with them their patents and start-up companies; and they will take with them the overseas students that our universities increasingly rely on. The harm that this will do to our high-tech economy will be much deeper and much longer lasting than any beneficial effect from science's share of any spending cuts (leaving us yet more dependent on our erratic, inefficient and untrustworthy banking economy). This was a plea for evidence-based policy making to a government that has so far announced a whole lot of rash and irrational policy -- something that everybody in the country is going to want to join in with as the Tories get happy with the slashing over the coming months.

Pig Headed

More photos of the protest.

[Tag] Tags: budget cuts, events, london, politics, protests, science, uk, westminster

Mon, 20 Sep 2010

Protest The Pope!

Protest The Pope!

Yesterday, upwards of 10,000 people marched through the streets of London to protest the pope. The roads were closed from Hyde Park Corner to Whitehall, where speeches were given outside Downing Street. It was a carnival -- everybody dressed up, wrote witty placards, told jokes, and danced and sang. But we were there to make serious points -- points that not everybody who heard about the march got.

Suffer Little Children
Sage Advice

Many of those on the march are to some extent anti-religious, and the media gave a lot of attention to Richard Dawkins. Most were probably some variety of non-religious. But the march was not a march against the religious or even Roman Catholics: the religious who marched with us and the Roman Catholics who gave speeches were not out of place. Rather, the march was to highlight the many bad things that the Pope says and does. Really terrible, awful, immoral things. Amongst the most appalling things said by anybody in contemporary international politics.

Ben Goldacre

One of the most evil things that The Pope does was explained best by Ben Goldacre. The Catholic church, under the explicit instruction of The Pope, actively sabotages effective public health campaigns for controlling HIV infection. Bishops in sub-Saharan Africa and South America tell lies so absurd that they should be laughed out of public discourse: in Mozambique, where one in eight of the population is infected, the church has invented a vast conspiracy theory and teaches that infection is actively spread by condoms; in Colombia, where infection rates have not yet caught up with Africa and could be kept under control, bishops make ridiculous claims about condoms being full of holes that let HIV through -- a claim that was ably refuted by the hundreds of inflated condoms floating over the march (hint: viruses are thousands of times bigger than oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide molecules). This was not about a petty or academic disagreement. This is about a bizarre and arbitrary dogma that contributes to the deaths of millions of people every year, and the one man who could put a stop to it.

Spinning Pope

Another of the most evil things that The Pope does was explained by Johann Hari. As Cardinal Ratzinger, he was for 25 years in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and in this role encouraged and enabled the systematic protection of thousands of sex offenders, and the cover-up of their crimes. The Pope has not merely inherited an organisation that has a problem: he was and is the problem. He could have stopped these crimes; instead he allowed them to happen. Any other organisation under competent, responsible, ethical leadership upon learning that their staff are rapists report them to the authorities that can prevent them from raping again. And if they didn’t -- if the director of a company thought that transferring a sex-offender to a different office would make everything OK -- then we prosecute them for obstruction of justice. The Pope even now thinks that child abuse is something that the church should handle itself, and considers it “deplorable” that the Belgian Police or justice system should think that they have any role in the investigation or prosecution of sex-abusers.

General Disapproval

The Pope and the Vatican are homophobic, and spread homophobia in the Catholic Church and in politics around the world. In 1986, as Cardinal Ratzinger, he wrote the letter to bishops on the “pastoral care of homosexual people”, which is the document that many well meaning but dim Catholics use to justify to themselves their own role in homophobia. Ratzinger used the age-old tool of cults, ideologies, and dictators: he redefined his opponents as the troubled victims of mental disease and violators of a fictitious “natural law”, and his followers now cheerfully tell themselves that they are doing gays and lesbians a favour by denying them human rights. But the Pope’s homophobia is not merely a case of ruining the lives of gays unfortunate enough to be born into Catholic families, or restricting the careers of gay priests. The Vatican has repeatedly interfered in the politics of nations and international organisations in ways that can not possibly be reconciled with their claim to care for gay people, even as sick people. In 2008 they opposed a UN declaration for the decriminalisation of homosexuality which aimed to end the laws that in many countries still treat homosexuality as a crime punishable by death. In 2009 they interfered in Italian politics to oppose a bill that would recognise violence against gays as a hate crime, because, they said, it would give homosexuals “special rights”. The same is happening in Poland, South America, the EU, and everywhere that the Catholic Church pokes its way into politics. If the Pope really believes that homosexuality is a mental disorder, than it follows that he defends the practice of hanging the sick in Iran, stoning the sick in Saudi Arabia, and imprisoning the sick for life in many other countries; that he thinks attacking sick people in the street is just fine.

It's the frickin POPE!

These are not the only harmful teachings and actions of the Pope and the organisation that he directs. They are merely the three that strike me as the most outrageous. They are three policies that the Pope is directly responsible for or deeply involved in. They are policies that he had and has the power to change. But he doesn’t. He has the effrontery to say he feels “deep sorrow and shame” for child-abuse while refusing to address the policies that caused the scandal, refusing to acknowledge his own central role in it, refusing to cooperate with the police and authorities and organisations who are trying to put right whatever can still be put right.

The Pod Delusion
Pope Kiss My Ring

The Pope was invited to the UK on an official state visit, paid for by British taxpayers. He was supposedly here as our guest; not as head of a church but as a head of state and diplomat with whom we wish to cooperate and develop our relations. We spent £10-14 million on his visit at a time when infrastructure projects are being mothballed and councils are literally switching off the lights.

This is a Pope who plays an active role in the spread of untruths that will lead to many millions of needless deaths from a cruel disease, and the entrenchment of poverty in third-world Catholic countries. No head of state that does that should be welcomed as somebody with whom we can cooperate in delivering international aid and development. The Pope was and still is central in the decades long international criminal cover-up of sex-abuse and the protection of child-rapers. The director of an organisation that behaves this way should be subject to an international arrest warrant, not an invitation on an ell-expenses paid luxury visit and dinner with the primeminister. And the Pope is a homophobe, teaching homophobia and defending violence against gays and lesbians. Nobody should be allowed to preach that hatred to our politicians unchallenged.

To mistake these objections to the very specific bad things that the the Pope has done for a general knee-jerk or “militant” anti-theism would do a great disservice.

Protest The Pope!

There are more photos in the Protest The Pope flickr set.

[Tag] Tags: demonstrations, events, london, photo essays, protests, religion, the pope, uk, westminster, whitehall

Sun, 4 Jul 2010

Victory Flashmob


The terrorists photographers gathered at New Scotland Yard today for a victory flashmob. (Not a protest — those require a permission slip from the authorities these days.) They stood around outside (ironically, just in the shade, where it was difficult to get a nicely lit shot), talking and laughing, and intimidating the police with their threatening lenses. They were gloating.


Because on wednesday, the European Court of Human Rights refused the UK's application to appeal their finding in Gillan and Quinton v. UK, making binding the finding that anti-terrorism stop-and-search violates the right to respect for private life guaranteed by the Convention on Human Rights. A succession of home secretaries and police throughout the ranks have been complicit in systematic intimidation, invasion of privacy, and the hindrance of thousands of people going about their jobs and hobbies and daily life.


The government has been found guilty of great evil: a creepy authoritarian disregard for human rights and individual privacy. And now they have to stop being evil, and we can all move on. But lets not forget in all of this that they have also been guilty of great stupidity: the stubborn pursuit of absurd policies in the face of all evidence and reason. Five years ago on wednesday, real terrorists killed 56 people in this city. And in response to such a serious and real threat the government and police have been pursuing the ludicrous policy of harassing the likes of street photographers. That's stupid and evil.


(Pictures taken with the Sigma 10-20; edited with some difficulty in RawStudio and gIMP on my slow 2 yr old netbook, because I haven't gotten round to replacing the broken motherboard in the desktop.)

[Tag] Tags: bad policies, events, london, new scotland yard, photographer not a terrorist, photography, politics, protests, sigma1020, stop and search, uk, westminster

Mon, 3 May 2010

May Day

May Day is a day of traditions, a day of marching with banners and dancing around the May Pole, dressing up as trees and casting adrift flower boats. It's a day of looking silly and causing a disturbance. A day of village fêtes, called off when it rains.

Morris dancing

Morris dancing. The Wikipedia entry for morris dancing has a very major omission, and is a good example of the unfortunate systemic bias that necessarily plagues a collection of articles written only by those with a close interest in the subject of the article: the entry entirely overlooks the fact that morris dancing is the archetypal relic of England's embarrassing traditional "culture", synonymous in contemporary song and film with the uncool, collectively understood as shorthand for the depressingly detestable pastimes of weirdy beardy lonely old men.

That's not a comment on whether the stereotype is true, just an observation on the omission of an encyclopaedic cultural reference.

Morris dancing

The image problem of these bizarre cultural fossils is perhaps in part down to their perception as isolated provincial expressions of defiance against modernity, at times appearing as explicit as the Padstow Darkie Day tradition, where residents of the small Cornish town dance through the streets in black face singing minstrel songs — a tradition they staunchly defend against accusations that it's just a tad racist. Keeping alive our festival traditions keeps alive in some the perceived possibility of a long passed past, a reassuring fantasy of a golden age, where men were men, women were women, crop yields were in the capable hands of devastating local fugal plagues instead of the distant faceless bureaucrats of the European Union, and the politically correct nanny state didn't make laws against good clean fun like the fox hunt or splat the rat.

Splat the rat

And so it seems thoroughly appropriate that the same day as is allocated to keeping alive our national traditions should also be a traditional day of politics, of solidarity, and of progressive causes.

Splat the rat

Look at this filthy ugly rat getting whacked.

Folk against Fascism's village fête at the Southbank Centre mixed it all very nicely. The fête against hate (I don't know why they didn't call it that. Their marketing department needs to be sacked.) reclaimed great English cultural traditions from singing and dancing to hoopla and a good clean mystical fortune telling, turning them against those who claim to represent the English and claim ownership of English culture and identity. A celebration of the English united against the petty parochial hate of moronic flag-waving thugs.

Fortune telling

And best of all, it had the traditional May Day downpour, forcing everyone to pack it away inside, and keeping the bloody morris dancing to a minimum.

Fortune telling

[Tag] Tags: british culture, events, history, london, photo essays, politics, protests, traditions, uk

Sun, 28 Sep 2008

The Big Busk

Photographs from London's Big Busk are here.

The Big Busk

[Tag] Tags: events, festivals, london, music, south bank, uk

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