The photos in this set — the 48th in my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike — were taken in Bankside, on September 7, 2012, after I returned from the journey around Soho that I recorded here and here.
On the south bank of the River Thames, in the London Borough of Southwark, the area known as Bankside is located between Blackfriars Bridge on the west and London Bridge on the east. Its name was first recorded in 1554, and it was, at that time, and through the Elizabethan period, a place outside of the laws governing the City, where plays were performed, and bear baiting and other bloody sports involving animals took place.
The Globe, associated with William Shakespeare and rebuilt in the 1990s as “Shakespeare’s Globe,” through the vision of the actor Sam Wanamaker, was originally built in 1597 by the actors’ company the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, of which Shakespeare was a member, although it burned down in July 1611 during a production of “Henry VIII.” It was rebuilt, reopening in June 1617, although the dull, fun-hating Puritans closed it in 1642 and it was demolished in 1644. Nearby are the remains of The Rose Theatre, which predated The Globe, as it opened for business in 1587.
Although Bankside was traditionally ignored by London’s main players north of the river, it came to prominence with the opening of “Shakespeare’s Globe” in 1997, and then, most spectacularly, with the opening of Tate Modern, in the former Bankside Power Station, in 2000. It then became a “Business Improvement District,” of the type that is currently being resisted by the inhabitants of Fitzrovia, as this involves the creation of “an independent, business-owned and led company, which seeks to improve a given location for commercial activity.” The Bankside BID involves 460 companies with involvement in Southwark, although as with so much of modern life, the regeneration of Bankside does not benefit local people, but involves the creation of modern office blocks (with corporate retail establishments on the ground floor), and overpriced housing.
The latest example of the latter, featured in this set, is Neo Bankside, three exposed glass towers beside Tate Modern, where apartments cost between £1 million and £5 million, and the problems with the development of Bankside can be seen from a news article by Knight Frank, the estate agent for Neo Bankside, who state:
In October 2007 Knight Frank confirmed that London’s South Bank was fast maturing as a luxury residential market location, and for the first time we included this area in the geographical definition of ‘prime central London’. Now, five years on, our decision to place the South Bank in the same basket as Mayfair, Belgravia, Notting Hill and Kensington appears more and more prescient. We defined this market as London’s first contemporary urban quarter, extending from County Hall and Westminster Bridge, and running east in a narrow zone towards Tower Bridge, encompassing Shad Thames and Butlers Wharf.
In this set, I have captured some of these developments, as well as glimpsing one of the last untouched corners of Bankside, some old buildings on Rose Alley, near the original Rose Theatre, which, sadly, are scheduled for demolition as part of yet another development of overpriced apartments with retail outlets on the ground floor.
I hope you enjoy this journey through Bankside, as its engulfment in glass and steel towers continues, although “enjoy” may be the wrong word, if, like me, you are not automatically swayed and seduced by blindingly large amounts of corporate money, or the propaganda that what is new is almost always better than the old. The next photo set features the rest of my journey, through Borough Market to London Bridge station, where development is also taking place on a colossal scale.
For more information on “Better Bankside,” the company behind the “Business Improvement District,” see their jargon-heavy, corporate-packed website here. Also see this tourist guide to Bankside, including a map, which was produced by “Better Bankside.” Also see the “Visit Bankside” website, and the London SE1 community website.
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.
On Facebook, Jennah Solace wrote:
You took those pics on my birthday Actually, there are some real beauties in there: Rose Alley, I know I have lost, The Olympics down the toilet and The roses of Rose Alley, soon to be destroyed. — I know I have lost too, lol! I gave up a while back and I’m much happier as a result! Beautiful work, Andy. I think you’re actually improving. (Not that there was much improvement needed, but you know what I mean.)
Oh, happy birthday! Hope you had a great day!
I knew you’d like the photos you mentioned. I have realised that you share my penchant for poignant, desolate places.
As for my abilities as a photographer, I know I arrived in some ways fully formed, as I was taking up something I’ve been doing on and off for 30 years, but I feel very immersed in it, given that I cycle and take photos every day. I need to get some photos posted from my recent explorations!
When I posted the photo, “I know I have lost,” I wrote:
This is probably my favourite photo from my latest set of photos of London – a poignant message on an old building, about to be destroyed by soulless developers, in the wonderful dappled light of early September. It saddens me to realise that I am recording places that will soon cease to exist, as secure glass and steel mini-fortresses – and always, always more shops – rise up instead. When will it all come crashing down?
Lydie Meunier wrote:
We have a lot of those in Detroit :/
Yes, the march of capital, and its various speculative property scams, seems to be everywhere in the West. Sometimes I can get too focused on what’s playing out in London, and forget about that. Perhaps we need more transnational consciousness-raising about how developers, bankers, corporations and architects are manufacturing or maintaining property bubbles that are increasingly taking more and more out of the pockets of workers to service mortgage debts or pay extortionate rents. Today my wife met friends with a small child and another on the way who are having to move to somewhere bigger and will be pushing themselves to the limit of what they can afford in order to buy somewhere very small (renting would cost the same or more). They both work, of course, but not in any of the criminal enterprises that pass themselves off as legitimate professions, in which people are paid way above the average income. And in fact, in London, the horrific thing is that a couple, both working, on the average income (around £55,000 a year, or $80,000) cannot generally afford to buy a house at all.
Anna Giddings wrote:
Walked passed the empty space that was the Middlesex hospital a while back. I had the same feeling
Oh, the developers there are a complete nightmare, Anna. I photographed the huge hole in the ground a few months ago, and wrote about their plans: http://www.flickr.com/photos/andyworthington/7986784035/
Sue Glenton wrote:
The roses are very beautiful and sad. Love this group, but Italy is the best. Off to Brindisi next week!
Have fun, Sue. I’d photograph Italy all the time if I lived there! Actually, I do still have some more photos from my summer holiday in Italy …
wot any of you think your gonna stop any of this..MONEY TALKS AND BULLSHIT WALKS if you have the money in this snivling little weasle of a country you know the one were 50 years of government both left and right have sold of everything that cant be nailed down and done nothing but let its own people down esp the white working class then you wouldnt be supprised at wots now going on like i say just take a walk around west london the locals are now an endangered species and a rare sight its now full of bio rubbish middle and upperclass chinless wonders and sinnister crimminal bankers..of with there heads start with the royals a public hanging for all of them ,lol,lol
Revolutionary upheaval would change it, Damo. Not that it’s on the horizon, of course, but in the end we are still many and they are still few.
Anna Giddings wrote, in response to 7, above:
Many thanks for that Andy. The listed building still being there is ratner sweet!
Well, fortunately, Anna, there are still statutory bodies capable of enforcing the importance of heritage. The chapel looks stunning! http://www.ukurbex.com/index.php?/topic/289-middlesex-hospital-chapel-and-roof-0108/
Toia Tutta Jung wrote:
Your pictures are amazing, Andy. Love this one, there´s a whole story in it..
Thanks, Toia. Your support is very much appreciated. And yes, this particular photo could be the starting point for all manner of stories …
Writer, campaigner, investigative journalist and commentator. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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