Celebrating 1,600 Days of My Photo-Journalism Project ‘The State of London’

29.9.21

The most recent photos published as part of Andy Worthington’s ongoing photo-journalism project ‘The State of London.’

Please click on the ‘Donate’ button below to make a donation to support my photo-journalism project ‘The State of London’.





 

Sunday marked 1,600 days since I first began posting a daily photo of London — with an accompanying essay — on my Facebook page ‘The State of London’, drawn from the daily bike rides I’d been making for the previous five years through the 120 postcodes of the London Postal District (those beginning with WC, EC, E N, NW, SE, SW and W), which covers 241 square miles.

I’m immensely grateful to the nearly 4,800 followers ‘The State of London’ has gathered on Facebook over the last four years, and the nearly 1,100 on Twitter, and if you can make a donation to support the project, it will be very gratefully received, as I have no institutional backing, and am reliant on you, my readers, to enable me to carry on cycling and taking photos, and researching and writing the essays that accompany every photo.

Please click on the ‘Donate’ button above if you can make a donation via PayPal. The page is set to dollars, because I also use it to support my work on ongoing work campaigning to get the prison at Guantánamo Bay closed, which I began 15 years ago, but for donations in pounds, all you really need to know is the conversion rate, which is currently about 3:4, so a donation of £15, for example, would be $20.

London has changed significantly since I first set out to record ‘The State of London’ over nine years ago, in the run-up to the 2012 Olympic Games. The flag-waving jingoism that involved, and the hike in property prices that also accompanied it, have cast a shadow on the capital — and on the country — ever since. The nationalist fervour of 2012 partly led to the Brexit vote in 2016, while the boost to land and property values has seen the skyline of London remade as towers of unaffordable housing — some built on the sites of former council estates, cynically destroyed for profit — have continued to rise up as though, economically, we are in some sort of a boom, and not a slow economic death spiral.

Two other factors have contributed to the disconnect between reality and illusion in the nine years since I began this project — and in the four years since I first began to post daily photos of my experiences: the realities of climate change have assumed increasing significance, as reflected in the emergence of Extinction Rebellion, whose protests I’ve been covering since they first occupied a number of bridges in October 2018, and, of course, a pandemic arrived, in the form of Covid-19.

In a completely unprecedented manner, the arrival of Covid-19 involved governments around the world — including the UK — launching lockdowns that, initially, saw the streets of the capital (and particularly the West End and the City) apocalyptically empty, as global tourism collapsed, the roads emptied, and the over-priced and over-crowded rail and Tube network of commuter journeys also collapsed, with people working from home, while their offices stood empty — and, in particular, those of the banks and financial services companies that had also been changing the skyline by moving into vast new office blocks erected during this tumultuous decade in which the forces of global capital, bailed out after the global crash they caused in 2008, turned to land and property as the next battleground in their war on the people.

Those of you who have been following ‘The State of London’ for the last 18 months will know that, from the start of the first lockdown, I began diligently chronicling the ghost city in photos — in particular in an unbroken 120-day run from March to July 2020, and again in winter, when a particularly harsh second lockdown followed — and while we are now back to some sort of “normal”, it is clear that life has been irrevocably changed.

It’s not easy to see on the surface, but, sadly, Covid has led to the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, and now the full impact of Brexit is also conspiring to raise prices, to bankrupt British companies, who have found it almost impossible to export to the EU, and to empty supermarket shelves and petrol stations — in large part because of the unavailability of European lorry drivers. Astonishingly, at least 700,000 EU workers left London when the first lockdown began, as the hospitality and entertainment industries collapsed, and, although these sectors are now in recovery, the workers haven’t returned, and nor are they likely to, and British people themselves are often either unwilling or unable to take their place.

Furthermore, office workers have not returned to their offices on a full-time basis — and many, perhaps, never will — and although tourists have returned to the West End, very few are foreign tourists, who spent the most, and it is not yet clear whether the landlords of the West End and the City will accept that there needs to be a permanent reduction in their exorbitant pre-pandemic rents and leases if many businesses are to survive. And behind it all, of course, as Extinction Rebellion made clear in their recent fortnight of protests, lies the spectre of catastrophic climate change, which we need to act on with the utmost urgency, but seem unable to do so.

While environmental collapse, air pollution, and, I would say, the general unaffordability of housing remain the most pressing concerns for Londoners, ‘The State of London’ has never been all about doom and gloom. It also celebrates the seasons, the sun, the River Thames and its tributaries, and the capital’s hills and canals and parks and woods. Increasingly, I have also been delving into its history, not only via its listed buildings, but also through researching its changing patterns of land use and ownership, and its still-admirable, though diminished, provision of social housing, and I look forward to continuing this journey for many years to come, and to having you with me on the way.

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer (of an ongoing photo-journalism project, ‘The State of London’), 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 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).

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of the 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.

One Response

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, marking 1,600 days since I began posting a photo a day, with an accompanying essay, on my Facebook page ‘The State of London.’ The photos are drawn from my daily bike rides though London’s 120 postcodes, which I began in 2012, although throughout the Covid lockdowns I embarked on daily trips to the largely deserted West End and the City, which I posted every day — for 120 days straight, for example, from March to July 2020. I discuss the topics covered, and the strange place we currently find ourselves in — with some sort of partial recovery underway, but with London still half-empty, and with climate change now making its presence felt more than ever.

    I also extend my thanks to the nearly 6,000 people following the project on social media, and ask you, if you appreciate my efforts, to make a donation to support ‘The State of London’ if you can, as I have no institutional backing, and am reliant on your support to enable me to keep the project going.

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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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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