Parks, Water and Dreams: A Journey from Surrey Quays to Central London, a set on Flickr.
On July 19, 2012, I had been invited to The Arts Catalyst, on Clerkenwell Road, in London EC1, to speak at an event marking the sixth anniversary of the arrest of Talha Ahsan, a British citizen and a Londoner, who has been held without charge or trial ever since, while fighting extradition to the US — an unjust situation that I have also written about here and here. Please also see this photo of me wearing an “Extradite Me, I’m British” T-shirt, to highlight the problems with the US-UK Extradition Treaty.
As I have become obsessed with cycling lately, both to keep fit and to chronicle the whole of London by bike (an ongoing project that I began three months ago) and, just as importantly, to feed my eyes and my brain and to allow my mind to roam free after six years of being cooped up writing about Guantánamo, I decided to cycle to the event. This journey took me primarily through Rotherhithe, the peninsula and area of the Borough of Southwark that was formerly made up almost entirely of docks — the Surrey Commercial Docks — until the demise of London’s docks over 40 years ago. As part of the regeneration of the former Docklands areas under Margaret Thatcher, Butler’s Wharf and Shad Thames near Tower Bridge, and Limehouse, Wapping and the Isle of Dogs were all regenerated, as were the docks of Rotherhithe.
Rotherhithe fascinates me, as the regeneration project — Surrey Quays — has elements that are wonderfully successful — like Russia Dock Woodland — and others that are not, like the sprawl of Surrey Quays shopping centre and its gigantic car parks, a mall experience that, like all mall experiences, should never have been imported from the US when, even 30 years ago, massive over-reliance on cars was already recognised by anyone sentient enough not to be taken in by the car and petroleum lobbies as a disastrously myopic idea.
So here, after brief journeys through Rotherhithe previously, and with more to follow, are more photos of my meanderings through the modern visions and liminal history that makes up Rotherhithe, where a ribbon of wealth along the riverside is not as excessive as in, say, the Isle of Dogs, and where history — a history of life connected with the docks, the river and water — never seems too far away.
After my talk, I took a tour of the City of London at night — a contrast to the generally more balanced feel of Rotherhithe — and I hope to post photos of that visit soon. For now, however, I hope you enjoy this journey through a part of London that many people know little or nothing about, but which has life and history in abundance — and, in Russia Dock Woodland, some visionary planning to create new green spaces.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed — and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
Thanks to everyone who travelled with me through Rotherhithe. Lovely place – more photos to follow soon.
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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