Celebrating 900 Days of My Photo-Journalism Project, ‘The State of London’

28.10.19

The most recent photos posted on the Facebook page for Andy Worthington’s photo-journalism project, ‘The State of London.’

Check out all the photos to date here!

Please feel free to support ‘The State of London’ with a donation. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

Yesterday marked 900 days since I began posting a photo a day on Facebook — with accompanying essays — taken from the daily photographic journeys by bike around London’s 120 postcodes that I started five years before — on May 11, 2012, an ongoing photo-journalistic project that I call ‘The State of London.’ For anyone obsessed with stats, I think this means that I’ve been out in all weathers photographing the capital for 2,726 days; or seven years, five months and 16 days. 

Before I create the inadvertent illusion that I’m the Bear Grylls of urban cycling, I should point out that, nine days out of ten, I haven’t strayed far beyond the radius of postcodes emanating from my home, in Brockley, London SE4; that is to say, Deptford (SE8), Greenwich (SE10), Lewisham (SE13), New Cross (SE14), Peckham and Nunhead (SE15), Rotherhithe and South Bermondsey (SE16), and the whole of the sprawling SE1 postcode.

However, I have been to each of the 120 postcodes that make up the ‘London postal area’ at least once (a milestone I reached in September 2014), and I have also got to know, extremely well, almost the whole of south east London, most of east London (which I generally access via the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, the Regent’s Canal and the Limehouse Cut), much of south west London, the whole of the City and the West End, and the central components of the N, NW and W postcodes, and I feel that I now “know” the city — and, intellectually, “own” it — in a way that was unimaginable to me seven years ago, and that its streets and its shape and much of its history is now embedded in me like an organic GPS system.

As I’ve cycled around for the last seven years, I’ve seen huge changes — primarily via the epidemic of tall tower blocks approved by Boris Johnson during his eight dreadful years as London’s Mayor — although there is no sign of the contagion being controlled under his replacement, Sadiq Khan.

Most of London’s 32 boroughs now have inappropriate collections of tall residential towers, while overweening skyscrapers continue to rise up in the City and Canary Wharf. In addition, Kings Cross has been re-developed with what the architectural critic Oliver Wainwright has called “dictator chic and pie-in-the-sky penthouses”, poor Stratford became a developers’ free-for-all after it was chosen to host the 2012 Olympics, and some areas, like Nine Elms in Vauxhall, stretching all the way to the bleak reimagining of Battersea Power Station, and now Greenwich peninsula, are facing wholesale reinvention as soulless futuristic cities.

Another particular concern of mine is the cynical destruction of council estates for new housing developments, a policy that began under Tony Blair, and that has aggressively continued under the Tories, as cash-strapped councils — victims of the Tories’ mania for austerity policies designed to wither the state — have been entering into unholy alliances with private developers, or with housing associations that have, fundamentally, also been encouraged to become private developers, with their traditional social housing role relegated to a secondary position.

From Hackney and Poplar to West Hendon, in Southwark, Lambeth, Lewisham and Greenwich, and at the giant Thamesmead estate on the south eastern edge of the capital, I have been chronicling the sad demise of social housing as the visionary force for social good that it was from the 1860s, when the first housing associations began, to 1979, when Margaret Thatcher first took office, and set about selling off council homes, and prohibiting councils from building any new homes or replacements for those that were sold.

Not all is desolation and greed, however. I also have an eye out for lovely surviving buildings (like Charles Holden’s great tube stations of the 20s and 30s, for example), for lively areas off the beaten path, hidden corners, secret places and remnants of glorious dereliction, as well as London’s wealth of parks and commons (many of the latter only saved through inspiring protest movements in the late 19th century), its wonderful trees, its cemeteries, the perennially magnificent River Thames, and the capital’s canals and tributary rivers, as well as more transient joys— the sun, the rain, the changing seasons. And I also devote some time to following significant protest movements when they arise, like the occupations undertaken in the last year by Extinction Rebellion

I’m also inching closer towards expanding ‘The State of London’ beyond social media — getting a website up and running, publishing a book, and getting some exhibitions organised in some of my favourite parts of the city. If you can help with any of this, do please get in touch, but in the meantime, thanks for your interest in this project. As one of the page’s followers, Julian Grand, recently stated, “This work is a powerful testament to the quiet violence of spatial and social transformation … I find a lot of resonance in your images and accounts of people and places under pressure. It is hard to find hope amid all the breathtaking and destructive banality of greed, but there are little glimmers of resilience, imagination, grace in this story too. Many thanks and keep on truckin!”

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here, or here for the US, or you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.55), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from seven years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, and the trees were cut down on February 27, 2019, the resistance continues.

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, The Complete Guantánamo Files, the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

5 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Yesterday marked 900 days since I first began posting a photo a day on ‘The State of London’ Facebook page, on the fifth anniversary of when I first began cycling around London on a daily basis, taking photos in all 120 of the capital’s postcodes.

    Thanks to everyone taking an interest in this project. To mark 900 days, I’ve put down some thoughts about ‘The State of London’, and what I’ve been watching and experiencing over the last seven and a half years, and I also make a promise to get to work soon on a book and some exhibitions for 2020!

  2. Anna says...

    Congratulations 🙂 and I’ll be looking forward to a book !
    Talking about canals, I just read a book by Kamila Shamsie (as a result of her German Nelly Sachs prize being retracted because she supports BDS…, a snub she shares with Angela Davis), the only one recently available off the shelf in Amsterdam : Home Fire. In it she mentions a canal on top of a fly-over somewhere in London’s outskirts. Is it included in your pictures? There also is one like that in the Netherlands, if lucky you can see a sailing boat crossing your path above your head when travelling on a motorway I think south of Amsterdam (which I hardly ever do, so I’ve seen it only twice).

    Otherwise, my umptiest political condolences. Another general election which will engulf everyone’s and all attention instead of finalising the bloody deal and putting it before the public in a second referendum, which argiuably seen from some 1500 km distance by a concerned outsider, would be so much more logical. After three years a new people’s vote, with proper arguments and an existing deal (whose main points could be summarised), so that people could now make a much better informed choice. If then Leave would win again, so be it, ‘the voice of the people’ would have spoken. A general election will just sap everyone’s energy and in fact will either be a one-subject election, as Brexit will remain the main dish. But on that narrow basis, it would produce a government you will be stuck with for the next four (?) years… Or, if voters will take into account other subjects, the Brexit issue will be diluted and then what, after the election results are known? Does this mean that Briturn will be off the table once and for all?
    At any rate, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for blundering Boris to lose his gamble, as his predecessor May did.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Great to hear from you, Anna, and thanks for the interest in a book.
    I have visited the aqueduct you mention, although I haven’t posted a photo of it. It’s out near Wembley. I’m probably overdue another visit out when we get a bright day that isn’t too cold.
    As for our electoral woes, I’m trying not to even think about it right now, as it’s so depressing. Voting overkill – and all solving nothing, except, Johnson hopes, legitimising his dismal premiership. If there’s any justice, we’ll get a hung parliament, but what we really need is a proper proportional representation system, so that all these party-obsessed MPs have to wake up and work out how to run the country together in the interest of the people.
    I still can’t see a way out of the Brexit mess. Just as a sizeable minority of people will always vote Tory in our broken first-past-the-post system, so a sizeable minority of the country have become ever more fixated with the Brexit illusion since the referendum, and are now beyond the reach of all reason. They neither known nor care that leaving the EU will cripple our economy, and they continue to be bolstered by our corrupt tabloid/right-wing media, primarily via the Mail, the Sun and the Telegraph. How on earth do we get out of this disaster?

  4. Anna says...

    With so many useless and even dangerous inventions, I would appreciate a way of letting us hibernate at will, the way bears and many other mammals do.
    Sleep through this ordeal and other depressing episodes and just put the alarm clock in time for voting or the first sunny spring day.
    I suppose this will only be a great time for owners of cristal balls, Tarot cards, tea leaves and wax drippings readers. None of which we belong to, so for now, just hang in there…

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, I’m also starting to appreciate the wisdom of hibernating creatures, Anna!
    However, hanging on in there isn’t so tricky. After all, life largely consists of struggle, but struggle isn’t necessarily miserable, as so many people think.

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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 (The State of London).
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