Brilliant, engrossing, and in places extremely moving on treating London primary school children to the great outdoors made by Lotte Davies and posted on Vimeo by Jack Sloan from Hanover Primary School.
Best quote comes from the boy explaining what he enjoyed the most: “chopping wood – like with an axe and saws – ‘cos you don’t really get to do much of that in London…”
Snapped at Victoria Station earlier today: a map of the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway in its pre-nationalisation glory days. Also (below) the grand war memorial entrance to Waterloo station – taken earlier this year.
And talking of wartime… This is London Can Take It – an American take on the Blitz Spirit – set to beats and music by the aptly named Public Service Broadcasting. The film of this name was filed by American correspondent Quentin Reynolds and shown to audiences in the USA in order to shore up support for Britain and its allies.
One major advantage of being over 60 is the wonderful Freedom Pass that offers older people – and those with disabilities – free travel the length and breadth of London. Those who reached 60 before April 2010 got them automatically – but the threshold is being incrementally increased so that eventually you’ll need to be 65 to qualify. This upper age was originally going to be reached in 2020, but last year’s government spending review plans to bring it forward to 2018.
Before getting my Freedom Pass I had a standard Oystercard with auto topup – itself a brilliantly hassle-free way of getting around the capital. Since I’m still in gainful fulltime employment, it was morally a tad dubious to take up this chance of free subsidised travel. So by way of a sop to my conscience, my old Oystercard has passed to an old friend in straitened circumstances whose travel around London I now pay for instead of my own.
After all, as that fine songwriter TV Smith (formerly of The Adverts) once put it – and as I well remember from signing on in the 70s – it’s expensive being poor.
The other extraordinary thing about Chris Hill-Scott’s photo (see Future Photography below) is Oxford Circus itself. In 2009, taking their cue from the “Shared Space” or “Naked Streets” philosophy pioneered in The Netherlands, London road planners removed all those stone ballustrades and metal railings you can see in his picture.
For as long as I can remember, those had herded together massed throngs of shoppers and office workers around the tube station, making every visit a stressful and wretched experience.
Rightly or wrongly, London Mayor Boris Johnson claimed full credit when he opened the new open layout in November 2009 – and two and a half years later I still marvel at the transformation. This crossroads at the heart of the West End now feels light, open and (above all) safe. Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians are now far more aware of each other, make eye contact far more often and – it seems – accidents are much reduced.
In January 2012 BBC Radio 4 broadcast a programme about the Shared Space concept, called Thinking Streets.
“A shared space scheme involves removing the distinction between streets and pavements. No barriers, few if any road markings, no pedestrian crossings, and little in the way of street signage. The result is that you enter a shared space very much at your own risk, which is the key to improving safety, traffic flow and quality of experience. The early roots of this concept lie in the work of the late Dutch traffic engineer, Hans Monderman.”Read more…
It’s easy to have so much fun in late middle age – snapping little pix with your phone and adding them to the billions already online – that you forget what truly great photography is. Idly wilfing on Google this morning I was suddenly suddenly confronted with the real thing. This photo of Oxford Circus in the snow comes from quiz.cc – the BMX photoblog of Chris Hill-Scott. Click the picture to see it full-size there.
A further search on his site for the tag ‘London’ brought up a wealth of wonderful images and stories – all shared with the world for free. You’ve got to love that side of the internet – though it’s crushing the old newspaper, publishing, music and broadcast industries as we’ve known them. When a photojournalist cheerfully publishes work of this quality unpaid, how will he (or any other future Arbus or Cartier-Bresson) earn a living in decades to come?
Incidentally HCB was notoriously camera-shy himself. My favourite story about him was confirmed in an obituary letter to The Guardian 8 years ago:
In the late 1970s, Henri Cartier-Bresson took to the streets of New York, wearing his usual inconspicuous trilby and obscuring his Leica with a big pocket handkerchief, pretending to be blowing his nose while taking photographs of passers-by on the sidewalk. A New Yorker festooned with his own Japanese zoom-lens cameras interrupted him, saying: “Who do ya think y’are … the poor man’s Cartier-Bresson ?”
Walking out with Child A for a pizza we saw a bright light beside the moon in the evening sky. It looked like a plane on its way over to Heathrow, except that it was stationary – a satellite perhaps. Learned later from Wife that the upper bright light was in fact Venus, while the normal star-sized thing further down in the sky is Jupiter – a fact confirmed by The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang.
A team of chuggers with collecting boxes emerging from the tube onto Oxford Street ready to take up their stations for yesterday evening’s rush hour.
Urban Dictionary‘s top definition of “chugger” is scathing: Paid “charity” street worker (read: student) who has been trained to believe they are improving peoples’ lives by conning Joe Public out of their money for this week’s Good Cause. Usually an agency worker – where the agency takes a hefty cut of the hourly rate the charity in question has paid for – while at the same time selling on details of those foolish enough to actually stop and sign up to said Good Cause. If you really want to support a charity, do it through their website, not a chugger.
Wikipedia is more balanced:
Paid street fundraisers are sometimes known as chuggers because usually fundraising is viewed as aggressive or invasive – a portmanteau of “charity” and “mugger”. It became popular after negative articles appeared in several British newspapers*. However, those in the charity sector see street fundraising as an invaluable method of raising brand awareness, and recruiting younger donors under the age of 35 who are “like gold-dust for a charity because they will give over a longer lifetime.”
*the term first appeared in print in the free London newspaper Metro in its SAY WHAT [New Words Around Town] column by Keith Barker-Main on 26 June 2002.
On Sunday Child K woke us up with morning tea on a a beautifully laid-out tray with a bunch of tulips for Mothers Day. Looking through the photos on my phone a couple of days later, found she’d used it to photograph the tray before bringing it upstairs for her mum. Nice work, that girl!
Centre Point is another iconic London landmark and was the subject of a long-running property scandal in the the mid-1960s.
According to Wikipedia London County Council bent its own rules to allow a developer called Harry Hyams to build this unusually tall office block (32 floors) in the heart of the West End. In return Hyams agreed to provide a new road junction underneath it, which the council itself couldn’t afford to build.
With property prices rising Hyams made so much profit from it simply standing empty that he had no need to let it out as office space – and for many years the vacant building towered over the skyline as a symbol of capitalist greed. Perhaps it’s appropriate that when he did finally allow the building to be used in 1980, it became the headquarters of the Confederation Of British Industry.
For almost 20 years the building formerly known as The Post Office Tower was the tallest building not only in London but in the entire UK. It was officially opened by Prime Minister Harold Wilson in 1965 and symbolised an era when our country briefly believed its future really would be forged in “the white heat of the technological revolution”. It was also famous for its revolving restaurant, and I was surprised to learn from Wikipedia this was run by the holiday camp tycoon Billy Butlin:
“The Post Office Tower was opened to the public on 16 May 1966 by Tony Benn and Billy Butlin. As well as the communications equipment there was a rotating restaurant on the 34th floor: the “Top of the Tower” operated by Butlins. It made one revolution every 22 minutes. A Provisional IRA bomb exploded in the roof of the men’s toilets on 31 October 1971. The restaurant was closed to the public for security reasons in 1980 and public access to the building ceased in 1981.”