Consumer Overkill: Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square, a set on Flickr.
On September 10, 2012, the BBC World Service gave me an excuse to photograph the West End of London, in all its garish consumer glory, after I had taken part in a news programme, discussing the potential handover of the US prison at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan to Afghan control — a topic I know something about as a result of the research and writing I have undertaken for the last seven years as a world expert on the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Afterwards, as I recorded in a previous photo set, Shops, Flags and the BBC: Regent Street in September, I cycled from the BBC’s newly redeveloped headquarters in Broadcasting House, down Regent Street, which, at the time, was still flying the flags of the world for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, taking in the shops, the shoppers, the building sites and the mad interchange with Oxford Street at Oxford Circus, and ending up, as this set shows, in Piccadilly Circus, from where I followed the tourist hordes down Coventry Street, across the top of Haymarket, and into Leicester Square, where the big cinema chains hold their premieres, where the fast food and the tourist paraphernalia are plentiful, and where the small park at the heart of Leicester Square received an extensive redesign in time for the Olympic Games.
This isn’t my favourite part of London by any means, although it is certainly lively, even though some of the supposed attractions — the fatuous M&M’s World, for example, and the Hippodrome, the former club turned into a casino — strike me as basically having nothing to recommend them whatsoever.
At the end of my journey, I emerged, slightly asphyxiated, onto Charing Cross Road, which was unnervingly empty, until I realised that, to mark the very end of London’s Olympic Summer, which had officially ended the day before with the closing ceremony of the Paralympic Games, there was a victory parade of Britain’s numerous medal-winning athletes in open-topped buses, travelling from the City to Buckingham Palace, which had drawn tens of thousands of supporters, who were crushed into the Strand as thought the rest of the city was toxic.
Catching a glimpse of the parade was a surreal end to my brief diversion into the world of hyper-materialism, sport and celebrity. I hope you’ve enjoyed these two photo sets. I do have a few more sets of the West End to publish at some point, but next, as an antidote, I’ll probably delve into some other more remote parts of this great metropolis. This particular photo set was the 78th in my ongoing project to photograph it all — almost entirely by bike — which began last year and will, I anticipate, continue for several years, and I already have over 7,000 unpublished photos from across London — albeit, admittedly, with a particular focus on the south east, where I live.
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.
oxford street is the land of the dead were the dead eyed zombies shuffle from shops selling tat to more shops selling tat,lol,lol but changing the subject andy i read that repelant torie rag the evening standard yesterday tues 14 becouse the headline grabbed me [well it was free i mean you woudnt buy the evening standard,lol]london houseing crisis by the standards political editor now get this andy,,,,,BOTH RICH AND POOR ARE BEING AFFECTED BY LONDONS HOUSEING CRISIS…lol youl notice how they put rich first it then droned on about the houseing shortage and had a couple of interviews with some white middle class smugs jamie and phobie,lol who proceeded to say we found our 4 bedroom basement flat [with garden]opposite clappham common to small we wanted more space for our only child dougnut,lolso we sold it for £600.000 and have realy stretched ourselves buying a converted barn for £850.000 just outside london and we love our new country …lifestyle…said jamie who has his own it company in londons trendy shorditch and phobie who has her own nursery and teaches spoiled little bastards french…you coudnt make it up you realy coudnt ..thousands are going to end up on the streets from april and they want us to feel sorry or empathy for thease middle class cunts the world has gone mad were liveing in upside downy land,lol,lol [sob]
sorry andy i forgot to add its cunts greedy grasping cunts like jamie and phobie that are causeing the houseing crisis
i find it amazing that we live in this supposidly first world country wer eveybody hates each other so badly and ther is still this backwards class mentality the vile evening standard peddles exactly this kind of diviition causeing resentment and hatered within society ..nowere ..nowere in the piece did they mention how the poor and those on benifits were are being affected and are going to be affected by the houseing crisis it just sucked up to the rich comfortable and powerfull ,like a rag for toadys buy toadys,lol showing pictures of the dimwit geldoff girls and minor members of the aristocracy attending the oppening of a fuckin door,lol a truly creepy naff wankers paper,lol sorry andy i had to get it of my chest,lol dxxx
oh i should have said attending the opening of a door and bagging all the freebee bags of tat,lol,lol im on one today andy ,lol class war,lol,lol
Great to hear from you, Damo, and yes, you’re on a roll.
You know, what shines through all this is the self-serving greed of a country of atomised individuals addicted to materialism. No community, no solidarity, no thought that what you have might not be as important as who you are, and how you are. No belief in he future, just grab, grab, grab. Me, me, me. More, more, more.
Until this starts corroding, we’re screwed.
lol i was on a roll yesterday but im.i,m fine now ive taken the ludes and im now calm,lol,lol maybe ill see you in hammersmith on sat at the protest it is on sat ..isnt it?
Yes, it starts at noon, in Lyric Square, King Street. I might be able to make it actually. If I do, and you see someone wandering around with a bike and a green coat, taking photos, it’ll be me!
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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