Archive for October, 2012

The Colours and Characters of Soho: Photos of Berwick Street and Around

So High SohoWardour MewsFriends at FishSister RayEuro AccessoriesThe green wall
Buy me!Sounds of the UniverseAgent ProvocateurThe EnduranceFlat WhiteRonnie's Flowers
Tutti fruttiFriday prayersA place to chatBerwick Street's new lookWindow art at Gosh!Tintin at Gosh!
Berwick Street Market

Soho: Berwick Street and Around, a set on Flickr.

I can’t imagine London without Soho, which, as the jazz and blues singer George Melly explained, was the only interesting place in the whole country in the 1950s. I first visited Soho in 1976, as a teenager, on a trip to London with my mum. We were staying, somehow, in a big hotel on the edge of Soho by Piccadilly Circus, and when I wasn’t going up and down in the lifts, pretending to be working there, I wandered off in search of Marvel comics, somehow discovering Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed, an extraordinary shop in a basement on St. Anne’s Court, off Wardour Street, which was apparently the biggest science fiction bookshop and comic store in Europe at the time, where I obviously thought I had stumbled onto the closest thing to heaven, and spent as much time as possible browsing and stocking up on favourite comics — a list that, at the time, included Steve Gerber‘s the Defenders and Howard the Duck, the X-Men, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and Daredevil.

Dark They Were closed in 1981, sadly, but by then Forbidden Planet, originally based in Denmark Street, took over, by which time I had also visited London on a few occasions in a completely unsupervised manner, once staying with friends of a friend’s parents in a flat in a mews in Mayfair, of all places, when we spent an entire long weekend in the arthouse cinemas that proliferated in Soho at the time, and, if the tunes in my head are anything to go by, also listening to Motown Chartbusters Volume 3. We watched 17 films in five days, if my memory doesn’t deceive me — Easy Rider, Gimme Shelter, probably some Antonioni … Read the rest of this entry »

“Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo”: Amnesty Screening in Lewes with Andy Worthington, Omar Deghayes, Caroline Lucas and Norman Baker, October 21, 2012

On Sunday October 21, 2012, almost three years since it first premiered in London, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” the documentary film I co-directed with Polly Nash, is being screened by Lewes Amnesty International Group, in a high-profile event that involves a panel discussion after the screening with myself, former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Deghayes, Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, and Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes. The event is at All Saints Community Centre, on Friars Walk in Lewes, and begins at 7 pm. Entry is free.

Although this was planned many months ago, the timing is particularly apt, because  it was recently confirmed publicly, for the first time ever, that Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, whose story features in the film, was cleared for release from the prison three years ago by President Obama’s interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force, which consisted of officials and lawyers from the relevant government departments and the intelligence agencies.

Anecdotally, it has been known since 2007 that Shaker was cleared for release — at the time under President  Bush — and also that he was cleared under Obama, but such is the secrecy imposed on Guantánamo, and on lawyers for the prisoners, that his legal team were not allowed to speak about it until a month ago, when, unexpectedly, the US Justice Department, for the first time, released the names of 55 prisoners cleared for release, as part of a court case — a list that featured Shaker. Read the rest of this entry »

Beautiful Dereliction: Photos of the Thames Shoreline by Convoys Wharf, Deptford

From the Thames by Convoys Wharf, a view of Canary WharfArtistic ruins by Convoys WharfThe river wall by Convoys WharfBricks on the shore by Convoys WharfThe pier in the rainPillars and pipes by Convoys Wharf
Chalk pebblesThe road to the riverThe pier by Convoys WharfAragon Tower from the shoreline by Convoys WharfUnderneath the pierThe river wall by Convoys Wharf
A forest of pillarsSand, wall and skyWheelMetalWoodBone
The ladder and the wallThe silent forest of timber and concreteThe river wall looking eastSky, wall and sandOnce a treePillars

Beautiful Dereliction: The Thames Shoreline by Convoys Wharf, Deptford, a set on Flickr.

Regular readers might recall that, three weeks ago, I posted a set of photos of Deptford, the lively, historically important and frequently maligned area of south east London, between Greenwich and Rotherhithe along the River Thames, and also reaching inland up the River Ravensbourne (which is known, as it nears the Thames, as Deptford Creek). The set was entitled, “Deptford: A Life By The River Thames,” and in it I had the opportunity to discuss Convoys Wharf, a vast, derelict riverside site (40 acres, or 16 hectares) of huge historic importance, which, for the last ten years, has seen developers queuing up to turn it into some kind of inappropriate high-rise housing development for bankers and international investors, intended to include over 3,500 new homes for 9,000 people with the money required to buy into a project that is estimated to cost a billion pounds.

In that set, I also included a handful of photos from the shoreline in front of Convoys Wharf, where there is a listed pier, incorporated in the plans for the site, but only to be tarted up as though it were new , and — as has already been proposed — to serve as the location for a ferry to Canary Wharf, where many of those who would live in Convoys Wharf would, presumably, be working. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington Asks Supporters to Sign UK Petition Calling for the Release of Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo

Sign the petition for Shaker Aamer! (UK only — an international petition is here)

Last week, I recorded a brief video message of support for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, urging everyone who cares about Shaker’s plight to sign the petition to the British government calling for his immediate return to the UK. As the petition states, “The Foreign Secretary and the Foreign Office must undertake urgent new initiatives to achieve the immediate transfer of Shaker Aamer to the UK from continuing indefinite detention in Guantánamo Bay.”

Due to concerted efforts by Shaker’s many supporters, the petition has secured thousands of signatures in the last week, and I hope that this video helps, as, I hope, my exclusive report last week, “A Demand for ‘Freedom and Justice’ from Shaker Aamer in Guantánamo,” was also useful. 100,000 signatures are needed by April 2013, for his case to be eligible for Parliamentary debate.

The message is below, and please feel free to circulate it as widely as possible: Read the rest of this entry »

Kick This Government Out! March for “A Future That Works” in London on October 20

For everyone sickened and enraged by the lies, distortions, malevolence and idiocy emanating from the Tory-led government, Saturday’s march and rally in central London, “A Future That Works,” is an important opportunity for us to show our anger and our indignation at how our country is being wrecked, and our people punished, for other people’s crimes — the near-fatal crashing of the global economy in 2008, through bankers’ greed on a mind-boggling scale, aided and abetted by the politicians with their mania for deregulation, and the alleged economist experts who almost all failed to notice what was going on.

The resultant bailouts for the banks, and the job losses and the subsequent drop in tax revenues played a key role in triggering the subsequent and ongoing recession  — unless you’re one of David Cameron’s Tories, in which case it created an opportunity to use the crisis as an excuse for remaking the country as a savage dystopia for all but the rich and super-rich, who continue to enjoy their ill-gotten gains as much as they did before the bankers crashed the world four years ago.

We are suffering from a collision of bankrupt ideologies, the first being the false notion that savage austerity cuts will somehow stimulate the economy, when all the evidence from history — and I mean all of it — shows that all austerity creates is an economic death spiral, as the so-called experts of the IMF are finally beginning to realise. Just last week, as Paul Mason explained for the BBC, IMF boss Christine Lagarde “called for a slowdown in the austerity measures being implemented across the world, including in Greece” after Chief Economist Olivier Blanchard “admitted the Fund’s calculations of the impact of austerity had been seriously wrong.” Read the rest of this entry »

Photos of Limehouse, Shadwell and Wapping: Art, History and the Summer Sun

Canary Wharf from Narrow StreetImitation cottagesCanary Wharf from ShadwellSunbathing in ShadwellShadwell BasinGlamis Road Bridge
The Prospect of WhitbyThe Wapping ProjectThe best windowSummer gardenRound the backCybermen?
The front door of the Wapping ProjectSt. Patrick's, WappingIconic WappingNew Crane WharfCanary Wharf: Silent SundayThe Space, Isle of Dogs
Inside The Space

Limehouse, Shadwell and Wapping: Art, History and the Summer Sun, a set on Flickr.

This is the 44th set of photos in my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, and is the second set recording a journey I made, one sunny Sunday in July, with my wife and son from our home in south east London, through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, up the western shore of the Isle of Dogs, which is infested with high-rise housing developments, and on to Limehouse, Shadwell and Wapping. Here the great wharves that dealt with the imports of Britain’s global trade during the heyday of Empire, and of the London docks, were converted into apartments during the Docklands development programme in the 1980s and 1990s. The first set of photos is here.

Money doesn’t scream, the way it does in Canary Wharf, in the narrow strips of former wharves in Limehouse, Shadwell and Wapping, although obviously most of the wharf living is aimed squarely at the rich, and elements of this are obvious — the matt grey Aston Martin that, for instance, almost ran me over at one point, driven by some young idiot who obviously believed the words of Formula 1 driver Sebastian Vettel: “Matte cars are cool, they come across as a bit aggressive.” Read the rest of this entry »

America’s Extradition Problem

Not content with having the largest domestic prison population in the world, both in numbers and as a percentage of the total population, the US also imports prisoners from other countries, at vast expense.

Last week, five men were extradited to the US from the UK to face charges relating to their alleged involvement with terrorism. The men’s extradition was supposed to have been made into a straightforward matter by the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who, in 2003, approved the US-UK Extradition Treaty, which purportedly allows prisoners to be extradited without the need for any evidence to be provided.

However, there have been sustained legal challenges to the treaty, with the result that, of the five men extradited last week, two British nationals, Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan, had been held without charge or trial in the UK for eight and six years respectively, and two foreign nationals, Adel Abdel Bary and Khaled al-Fawwaz, had been held without charge or trial since 1998, as their lawyers tried to prevent their extradition. The fifth man, Abu Hamza al-Masri, was the only one to have been imprisoned in the UK after a trial. Convicted in 2006, he was given a seven-year sentence. Read the rest of this entry »

Sunny Sunday: Photos of the Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf

HMS OceanConvoys Wharf from the Isle of DogsThe twin cranesDog binLooking west to RotherhitheNew Atlas Wharf
Jefferson, Franklin, EdisonThe Deptford towersRiverside SouthOne Canada Square from Westferry CircusRiver panoramaCanary Wharf beach
Dunbar Wharf at low tideMy favourite buildingsModern life is rubbishOn the waterfront

Sunny Sunday: The Isle of Dogs and Canary Wharf, a set on Flickr.

In my quest to catch up on posting some of the photos that I didn’t manage to post before my family holiday in Italy in August, this set and another to follow record a glorious Sunday in July when, with my family, I cycled from our home in Brockley, in south east London, down to Greenwich, through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel and along the western shore of the Isle of Dogs to Limehouse, and then on to Wapping, where our objective was to visit the Wapping Project, an art gallery and restaurant housed in Wapping Hydraulic Power Station, which was built in 1890 and closed in 1977.

This is the 43rd set of photos in my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, which is progressing extremely well, despite my inability to post the results to keep up with my photographic journeys, as I have 160 sets still to post, with more on the way on an almost daily basis. Come rain or shine, I am out on my bike, having discovered, after my illness last year, when I gave up smoking after 29 years, that being healthy, and relentlessly exploring this fascinating and sometimes infuriating city I live in, by bike, is the perfect antidote to years of imperilling my health by smoking like a madman and working obsessively on Guantánamo. Not that I’ve given up on Guantánamo, of course, as I still write regularly about the ongoing horrors of indefinite detention for the men still held there, and, just this week, published an exclusive article based on notes from a lawyer’s meeting with Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, which Shaker wanted to be made available to me. Read the rest of this entry »

Call Time on This Wretched Government and Its Assault on the Disabled

Please, please, please sign and promote the petition, initiated by Pat Onions and other disabled activists, calling for the British government to “stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families.” The petition needs to reach 100,000 signatures by November 1 to be eligible for Parliamentary debate.

One month ago, the Paralympic Games came to an end, and there were hopes that, after two weeks in which disabled people had been the focus of the media and the British people, and had performed spectacularly well, the time might be ripe for those fortunate enough not to be physically or mentally disabled to realise that they were being lied to by their government, and that the Tories’ wretched assault on disabled people as cheats and scroungers was both cruel and deeply unfair.

In a cynical attempt to cut expenditure on welfare, the government has embarked upon a particularly horrific assault on the mentally and/or physically disabled through the Work Capability Assessment (WCA), administered by the French-based multinational company Atos Healthcare, and designed to find disabled people fit for work, even when, as in a heartbreakingly large number of cases, they are not.

In addition, hundreds of thousands of disabled people will lose between £20 and £131.50 a week when the ­Disability Living Allowance (DLA) that is a crucial part of their support is ­”replaced with the more restrictive ­Personal ­Independence Payments as part of a £2.2billion cost-cutting plan,” as the Sunday Mirror explained last month. As the Mirror also explained, “The DLA currently goes to around 3.2 million people at a cost of £12.6 billion a year. Analysts estimate up to 500,000 disabled people will have their allowance entirely withdrawn over the next four years as ­eligibility criteria is tightened.” Read the rest of this entry »

EXCLUSIVE: A Demand for “Freedom and Justice” from Shaker Aamer in Guantánamo

This article, published simultaneously here and on the “Close Guantánamo” website, contains information from a visit to Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, by Ramzi Kassem, one of his lawyers, and was made available exclusively to Andy Worthington at Shaker’s request.

Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the US “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has a message to the world, which has been made available exclusively to me, at his request. He wants people to know that the treatment of the prisoners is “completely arbitrary,” and there are “no laws, rules or SOPs [Standard Operating Procedures] in Cuba.” Subjected to violence every day, he continues to demand “freedom and justice.”

In information from a visit on May 14 this year by Ramzi Kassem, one of his lawyers, Shaker, who has spent much of his time in Guantánamo in isolation, explained how, from December 2011 to April 2012, he was held in the maximum security cells of Camp V, where those regarded as troublesome have been held since the block was built in 2004, but was then returned to isolation in a block known as Five Echo.

The existence of Five Echo — where the cells are only half the size of those in Camp V — was first revealed by the US military in December 2011, when David Remes, another of Shaker’s lawyers, explained to the Associated Press that his client had been held there and that it was “a throwback to the bad old days at Guantánamo.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. 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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