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Thursday, 31 March 2011

An alternative picture of the March for the Alternative, 26 March 2011

Last Saturday's TUC-led March for the Alternative in Central London was some 500,000-strong and overwhelmingly peaceful, civilised and calm, with lots of creativity and dark humour evident in banners and costumes, and a strong feeling of everyone united in a common cause. But sadly, and perhaps inevitably, most of the media coverage (both TV and printed-press) was effectively distracted and hijacked by the violence of a few hundred balaclava-wearing hardcores.

The following pictures tell the story of the March as I saw it. Please do share them with friends to spread the wider, truer picture, and feel free to post your comments and choice of favourites too.

Unfortunately the day was cold, grey-skied and drizzly, sandwiched between gloriously sunny days both before and after. But the mood was resolute and buoyed by a feeling of shared opposition and common humanity.

Grimly-humourous signs were a major feature,

as was the wide range of ages, backgrounds and expressions.

This picture reminded one country-dweller of their march for the Countryside Alliance, pointing up the broad-based opposition to the ConDem cuts.

“Never in the field of financial endeavour has so much been owed by so few to so many” 
– Mervyn King, Bank of England governor

Vuvulezas, drums, whistles, masks, costumes and catchy chants all lent a carnival atmosphere, despite the drizzle.

The presence of many small children highlighted the fact that 99.9% of the half-million marchers were determinedly non-violent.

A rainbow of vivid colours and smiles mixed in with grimmer expressions and starker black and white slogans. 

"One of the reasons I thought it was important to come here was to remind the government that they have no election mandate for what they are doing here," Simon Cross, 46, from Nottingham, to the Observer.

A piece of comic street theatre near Fortnum and Mason before the small flare-up there which received disproportionate media coverage.

Single mothers in particular, and women in general, will be amongst those hardest hit by the cuts.

A plain, straightforward shot but I included it to show the determined humourlessness and bafflement I saw on the faces of most of the police lining the route.

Sadly, this placard is probably only-too-true.

Not all the protesters were marching - some were simply cheering from the sidelines. 

As a photographer, the police-enforced veto against climbing up onto fences, barriers and walls (citing unspecified 'Health and Safety laws') is frustrating and infuriating. But they seemed to have waived this particular civil-liberty-restriction for the day.

As part of the cuts, the government plans to shed 17,000 armed forces personnel - one in 10 - by 2015. And they've placed Gurkhas at the forefront of the MoD's redundancy programme to reduce the number of Nepalese volunteers entitled to claim settlement rights in the UK once they retire.

"It's about people standing up for what's happening to other people they care about, not just friends and families but everyone. They are marching today because people feel part not of a big society but of a compassionate society." Billy Bragg, musician and rally speaker

'Again the impact of the cuts is much harder on the poor and those in the middle than it is on the rich. The poorest ten per cent suffer 15 times more than the richest.'

Texting rebels. The antics of a few hundred militant activists sadly dominated news coverage of the event. According to the Met, 201 arrests were made during the day, of which 145 were for 'aggravated trespass' by members of tax-avoidance protest group UK Uncut in Fortnum and Mason - despite a policewoman previously acknowledging on video that a breach of the peace had occurred outside the store, but not in. 

A wonderful, lived-in face!

'What is certain is that the cuts will reduce economic growth. The government is fond of scaring us with numbers. Here's our own scary number. The spending review will depress growth in the UK economy by £60 billion, according to official figures. That's £1,000 for everyone in the UK.'

There were over 30 individual speeches at the closing rally in Hyde Park, making intelligent, articulate, passionate and persuasive arguments against the cuts (which can be viewed at:,

lightened by a set from a Brazilian singer and dancers to add some carnival relief. 

Elsewhere in the Park, more immediately pressing concerns, such as getting police assistance with a mobile phone,
or being disgusted by the state of a heavily-used portaloo, offered light relief to passersby. 

Protests old and new. The scroll displays a classic anonymous poem about the 1760-1820 enclosure of English common land for private gain, which reads: 

The law locks up the man or woman 
Who steals the goose from off the common 
But leaves the greater villain loose 
Who steals the common from off the goose. 

The law demands that we atone 
When we take things we do not own 
But leaves the lords and ladies fine 
Who take things that are yours and mine. 

The poor and wretched don't escape 
If they conspire the law to break; 
This must be so but they endure 
Those who conspire to make the law. 

The law locks up the man or woman 
Who steals the goose from off the common 
And geese will still a common lack 
Till they go and steal it back.

A resigned modern troubadour.

Up in arms - the statue with his crown jewels 'Under Offer' and a Middle-Englander offering cheerful solidarity.

The placards carried by children seemed particularly poignant. One I didn't capture read 'Don't steal my future'. 

Packing up the street theatre and going home.

Hyde Park Corner's Wellington Arch between a crane rigged with CCTV and coaches quietly waiting to take marchers home for their tea. 

There are also some great photographs at:
mar/26/thousands-march-against-cuts-in-pictures - though a hugely disproportionate 15 of the 36 are dramatic shots of the pockets of West End violence unrelated to the main march. 

Friday, 18 March 2011

4-year-old Ruby's first modelling shoot

Ruby not only has the flame-hair, porcelain skin and cornflower-blue eyes of a classic beauty but is blessed with so much irrepressible character that she's long-since wrapped her 2 elder brothers round both little fingers.

Here's a selection from her first portfolio shoot, which we did on a Sunday morning in the kitchen of her home. She's since been accepted onto the books of 3 modelling agencies on the strength of it.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Manganiyars alight in Acton

I met some of the Manganiyars troupe in their village of Hamira in Rajasthan, where I was transported by their soulful music. Months later they came to London and got in touch, so I had a chance to photograph them giving a workshop to children from the East End. Here's a selection: