Looking back (in pictures)

Our relocation down to near Bristol will be happening this summer. It will entail some re-thinking of how we operate politically. That means finding a niche which suits us and not treading on anyone’s toes. It will also mean a bit of a re-think of how we get our message across in a way that engages people. I’ve been blogging and churning out papers and leaflets for more years than I care to remember! More recently, as you can see from the image above, we’ve been experimenting with stickers. We want a bit of a shift from being word based towards a greater use of graphics and images. I’m a photographer and have thought that there’s scope for bringing this into play when producing our propaganda. As an aside, we also want to be out and about engaging with people more and actually getting stuff done!

As I’m in a bit of a reflective mood, I decided to look back over the last decade or so to see if there were enough images in the archives that would illustrate various aspects of our activism. Well, it turns out there were:) What follows has been broken down into three sections. They are protest, the weirdness of the Covid lockdowns and last but by no means least, some of the local stuff we’ve had to deal with in Thurrock over the years.


The view from inside the kettle on a protest at the Tory Party conference in Birmingham in October 2010.

Pushing and shoving between cops and protesters at an anti-austerity protest in March 2011.

Burning an effigy of Boris Johnson (the then Mayor of London) at a No Poor Doors protest outside the One Commercial Street building in Aldgate in November 2014.

An impromptu anti gentrification protest temporarily blocking Tower Bridge in February 2015.

The above is just a snapshot of the many protests I went on during the 2010s. At the time, it seemed like a good idea to go on them. Looking back, I’m wondering exactly what they achieved (if anything) and asking – would more targeted and militant forms of direct action have made more of an impact? For what it’s worth, here’s my current thinking about going on protests: Going on protests… 15.6.22.

This was taken on the Carpenters Estate in Stratford at the end of a protest marking the anniversary of the founding of Focus E15. The Carpenters Estate was in the process of being decanted to make way for a proposed development of private housing. To this day, the council housing blocks on the estate have remained empty even though there is an acute housing crisis in Newham.

Protests are generally fairly good opportunities to shift papers and this one in January 2016 that started off in Kennington Park proved to be pretty fruitful.

As mentioned in the post linked to above, if I’m going on a protest these days, there has to be a reason for it. With the above two images, it was showing solidarity with Focus E15 who we had a lot of respect for (and still have) and also to hand out papers. Handing out papers means talking to and engaging with people. Occasionally, things can get a bit testy doing this but by and large, it’s an activity that achieves something and is generally, pretty enjoyable.

During 2021, I’d been on a number of the anti-lockdown/anti- vaccine passport protests to hand out papers specifically produced for them. As this was the last protest of that year in December, and there wasn’t the budget to produce a paper, I attended this one with the specific aim of shooting images for a photo essay.

This was the last major anti-vaccine passport protest back in January of this year that I attended. Realising this would be the case, I produced and handed out what will probably be the last paper aimed at this kind of protest. Although depending on how things develop, that could change...

This is the paper I was handing out on the protest back in January.

It won’t come as any surprise to many of you that I got a fair bit of stick from a number of now former comrades for attending these protests. Rather than re-hash the arguments I made defending my decision to attend, please read this piece which hopefully, explains everything: Dealing with reality… 2.2.22.

The lockdowns

I’ll admit that at the start of the Covid crisis in early March 2020, not knowing what it was really about and what the real risks were, we initially went along with the restrictions that were imposed upon us. However, after about a month with an increasing number of things not adding up and chafing under restrictions that were starting to cause some unhappiness, I started to ask questions, my scepticism grew and the rest is history!

Taped off, silent play areas is something I’ll never forget or forgive.

One of many signs spreading fear, making people afraid of each other and ultimately keeping us apart. Again, unforgivable. Those responsible have a lot to answer for.

We were far from alone in our scepticism!

As well as blogging about the impact of the lockdowns and as we went into 2021, attending a number of the anti-lockdown/anti-vaccine passport protests, we found ways of fighting back on our own doorstep…

Some of the anti-lockdown stuff was very literal. With these posters, we were trying to prompt people into thinking about how the Covid crisis was being leveraged to accelerate the process of implementing the fourth industrial revolution. These are some of our more recent musings on the issue: Some thoughts on resisting the Fourth Industrial Revolution 11.5.22.

As with the posters, we didn’t want anything too literal and again, we wanted to prompt people into thinking more deeply about what was being done to them and why.

Regarding the use of posters and stickers as a means of getting a message across, these are some of our thoughts about this tactic: Analogue methods of getting the word out 26.4.22.

Local issues

In a different political existence, I stood as a candidate in the local council elections for the Independent Working Class Association (IWCA) in the Stanford East and Corringham Town ward. I stood in 2007 and in what was possibly one of the bigger mistakes I’ve made as an activist, I stood again in 2008! After an exhausting and gruelling campaign in 2008, I made a solemn vow to my wife that I would never, ever stand as an election candidate again… As an aside, there is a photograph of me as the candidate but hopefully you’ll appreciate that for security reasons, I don’t want images of my fizzog on the internet!

This is just one of the seemingly endless streets we walked down delivering copies of the IWCA papers we produced for the ward and knocking on residents’ doors trying to persuade them to vote for me!

This neglected garage block is just one the issues residents wanted to discuss with me when I was out canvassing.

Then there’s this which is still ongoing…

This is what remains of the ticket hall at the railway station in Stanford-le-Hope. As part of the process of the ‘redevelopment’ of the station, it was demolished in February 2019 without properly worked out and costed plans in place for a new structure. Rumour has it that proper plans are now in place and that work will commence later on this summer…after we’ve moved away!

If you want a fuller account of this sorry saga, there’s this piece: The sorry saga of Stanford-le-Hope railway station continues… 9.2.22.

Last but by no means least, we have been on a few protests in Thurrock itself…

This was taken outside the Thameside Complex in Grays which contains a theatre, the central library and the local museum. The bean counters at Thurrock Council said there wasn’t enough money to keep the complex going and wanted to close it. The local residents though otherwise as you can see from this image of a protest which started at the council offices, went through the middle of Grays and ended up outside the Thameside Complex.

A brief conclusion

I’ve found it interesting going through and compiling this photo essay looking back at some aspects of my activism. Obviously, you’ll appreciate why it’s only a partial record and why certain parts of it have to be kept away from the public gaze!

Anyway, going forward, when it comes to producing propaganda, given that I’m a photographer, albeit an amateur one, it would make sense to incorporate more photography in our output. That’s because, as you’ll hopefully gather from the above, sometimes a photo with a caption can say a lot more that paragraph after paragraph of text:)

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