Below are the last two videos from an event before Christmas at Deptford Cinema, a community cinema in south east London, when I talked about Guantánamo, and my band The Four Fathers played a set of political songs. I spoke about my ten years of research, writing and campaigning about Guantánamo, including the We Stand With Shaker campaign that I launched in November 2014 with the activist Joanne MacInnes to secure the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who was finally freed on October 30 after nearly 14 years in US custody.
Following my talk, The Four Fathers played eight songs — “Song for Shaker Aamer,” the song I wrote that was featured in the campaign video for We Stand With Shaker, updated to reflect Shaker’s release, my roots reggae anthem “Fighting Injustice,” band member Richard Clare’s song “She’s Back” (about Pussy Riot), a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War,” and four other songs of mine, “Tory Bullshit Blues” and “81 Million Dollars,” about the US torture program ($81m being the amount that was paid, by the Bush administration, to two contractors, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, who set up and ran the program), and the new songs “Riot” and “London.”
You can buy our album “Love and War” here, as an eight-track download, or on CD with two extra tracks (including “Masters of War”) — or you can buy tracks individually from just 60p ($0.93) each, although you’re welcome to pay more to support us. Read the rest of this entry »
On December 18, I gave a talk about Guantánamo, my research into the men held there, the lawlessness and cruelty of the prison, and my writing and campaigning for nearly ten years to educate people about the prison and, ultimately, to get it closed, at an event held at the Deptford Cinema, a community cinema in south east London that I wholeheartedly recommend. I spoke not just about my research and my writing, but also the Close Guantánamo campaign I launched nearly four years ago with the US attorney Tom Wilner (who represented the Guantánamo prisoners in their habeas corpus cases before the US Supreme Court), and We Stand With Shaker, the campaign I launched last November with the activist Joanne MacInnes to secure the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who was finally freed on October 30 after nearly 14 years in US custody.
With what I hope is an innovative approach to combining politics, education and entertainment, my talk was followed by a set of political songs by my band The Four Fathers, and I’m delighted that a friend, Andrew — who became involved in We Stand With Shaker via his involvement in CAAB (the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases), for whom I was a speaker at their annual July 4 protest at the NSA’s Menwith Hill spy base in Yorkshire in 2013 — recorded my talk and most of our set, which he has made available via YouTube.
The video of my talk is here, which I posted before Christmas, and on Christmas Day I posted the video of The Four Fathers playing “Song for Shaker Aamer,” the song I wrote that was featured in the campaign video for We Stand With Shaker, updated to reflect Shaker’s release. Read the rest of this entry »
One week ago, on December 18, I gave a talk about my writing about Guantánamo and my campaigning to get the prison closed, including the We Stand With Shaker campaign, at Deptford Cinema in south east London, followed by a set by my band The Four Fathers, playing our repertoire of political songs.
In a previous article, I made available a video of my talk, filmed by a friend and campaigner, Andrew, who, I’m delighted to say, also filmed us playing an updated “Song for Shaker Aamer,” used in the campaign video for We Stand With Shaker, which was launched last November by myself and activist Joanne MacInnes to push for the release of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, particularly by encouraging celebrities and MPs to stand with a giant inflatable figure of Shaker — a campaign that, I’m glad to note, met with considerable support.
After Shaker’s release on October 30, I amended the lyrics to reflect that he is now a free man. This was the version we played at Deptford Cinema, and, for Christmas — when, I believe, everyone, whatever their religion or belief system, should be encouraged to think about those less fortunate than ourselves, and to help those suffering injustice — I’m pleased to be making it available below via YouTube. The song is about Shaker Aamer, but it also deals with the fundamentally unjust nature of the system of imprisonment without charge or trial at Guantánamo, where 107 men remain. If you find this unacceptable, and want to do something about it, please feel free to join the Close Guantánamo campaign that I set up nearly four years ago with the US attorney Tom Wilner, who has represented Guantánamo prisoners, and advocated on their behalf in their Supreme Court cases in 2004 and 2008. Read the rest of this entry »
If you’re in London — or nearby — and interested in hearing me talk about Guantánamo and the campaign to free Shaker Aamer, and/or to see my band The Four Fathers play our mix of politically-infused rock and roots reggae, then I’d be delighted to see you at any of the events taking place in the coming weeks in south east London.
First up, on Saturday December 12, is a free 20-minute set at Brockley Christmas Market, on Coulgate Street, next to Brockley station, in London SE4. This is a free gig, as part of an afternoon of music to accompany the market’s plentiful stalls selling great food and drink, and arts and crafts for Christmas. We’re playing at 2pm, and amongst the other acts playing is my son Tyler, who will be beatboxing at 3.30pm.
Two events are taking place on the following Friday, December 18. First up, at 5.30pm, is a free half-hour set at the Honor Oak Christmas Experience, a Christmas event on the Honor Oak Estate, at 50 Turnham Road, London SE4 2JD.
We then rush down the road to Deptford to set up for an event at the Deptford Cinema, a great community cinema at 39 Deptford Broadway, London SE8 4PQ. There’s a bar, and the doors open at 7pm, when there will be some mingling followed, at 8pm, by me delivering a talk, “Shaker Aamer, Guantánamo, Torture and the Struggle for Human Rights,” followed by a Q&A session. The Facebook page for the event is here, and if you can come, please sign up. It costs £5/£3.50 concs. Read the rest of this entry »
I was rather pleased that I was out of the country when Boris Johnson, London’s Mayor, announced on March 31 that he was approving plans for the development of Convoys Wharf in Deptford, because, in a city overrun with soulless riverside developments, designed almost exclusively for wealthy foreign investors and unaffordable for ordinary Londoners, it is a particularly depressing example, and one that, for me, is close to home, as I live just up the road from Deptford.
The 40-acre riverside site has been vacant since 2000, when it was closed by its last owner, News International, which used it as a dock for importing newsprint, and, since 2002, developers — initially NI itself, and, since 2005, the Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa, which bought the site off NI — have been trying to gain approval for a Dubai-style high-rise residential development on the site, consisting of 3,500 homes, featuring one 48-storey tower, and two 38-storey towers, far higher than anything else on the shoreline for miles around.
Normally, Chinese businessmen with £1bn to spend on luxury housing on London’s riverfront don’t have to wait for years to have their plans accepted, but the problem with Convoys Wharf is that it was and is a place of great historic importance — the site of the first of King Henry VIII’s Royal Dockyards, which was first developed in 1513 to provide ships for England’s rapidly expanding Royal Navy. Read the rest of this entry »
Please sign the petition on Change.org, asking London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson, not to approve a £1bn plan to turn Henry VIII’s former Royal Dockyard at Convoys Wharf in Deptford into a luxury, high-rise housing development that would be more at home in Dubai.
All over London, housing developments that are unaffordable for the majority of Londoners continue to rise up, and equally unaffordable new projects continue to be approved. Councils are either cash-strapped and desperate, or they are seduced by developers’ promises that their developments will be of benefit to the community at large, even though the entry level for luxury developments is a household income of £72,000, way above the £53,000 that even a couple on the average UK income (£26,500) can afford. When you consider that the median income in the UK is £14,000 (the one that 50 percent of people earn more than, and 50 percent earn less than), it’s easy to see how the entire situation is out of control and is doing nothing for local people, or the majority of hard-working Londoners.
Down the road from where I live in south east London is Deptford, a vibrant but not affluent part of the London Borough of Lewisham, with a huge maritime history. Where Deptford meets the River Thames is the largest potential development site in the borough, Convoys Wharf, a 16.6 hectare (40-acre) site, which most recently was News International’s paper importing plant for printing Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers. Murdoch’s operation closed in 2000, and, since 2002, developers have been trying to gain approval for a massive luxury housing development on the site, featuring 3,500 homes — 3,000 of which will be sold “off-plan” to foreign investors — and including three towers rising to 40 storeys in height. Moreover, just 15 percent of the homes will be what is laughingly described these days as “affordable” (at 80 percent of market rents, these rents are actually unaffordable for most people), and just 4 percent will be for social rent (i.e. genuinely affordable) — that’s just 140 properties out of the total of 3,500. Read the rest of this entry »
While Tyrants Sleep: Canary Wharf at Night, a set on Flickr.
On November 14, 2012, as I explained in my previous photo set, “Curious Insomnia: A Journey through Deptford and Millwall to Canary Wharf at Night,” I decided, at 1am, to cycle from my home in Brockley, in south east London, down through Deptford and Greenwich, and through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel to the Isle of Dogs, where I cycled through Millwall, via the former docks and South Quay Plaza (and the DLR station) to Canary Wharf, the multi-towered financial centre and underground shopping complex that has been sucking the lifeblood out of the rest of London since it overcame its early wobbles under Margaret Thatcher and John Major, and became a magnet for dodgy unregulated bankers and obsessive materialists during the reign of Tony Blair.
It is, in fact, a place which, as Owen Hatherley explained in an excellent article for the Guardian last year (which I also drew on here), is responsible for “the most spectacular expression of London’s transformation into a city with levels of inequality that previous generations liked to think they’d fought a war to eliminate.” Read the rest of this entry »
At 1 am on November 14, 2012, I decided to take a late night bike ride to Canary Wharf, the modern mutant offspring of the City of London. The City is an ancient lawless zone, but it is now rivalled by the lawlessness of the Docklands project initiated under Margaret Thatcher, which expanded hugely under Tony Blair.
Canary Wharf, which I first photographed here, fascinates and repels me. Its towers, with their horribly ostentatious show of wealth, and their disdain for even vaguely concealing how much money can be made through devious behaviour that ought to be illegal — and in many cases is — are visible from almost everywhere, and are particularly dominant from all over south east London, where I live. However, while the buildings are, in some ways, architecturally impressive, that is not all that calls out across the miles when One Canada Square and its phallic companions are glimpsed from afar. The wealth they display is also meant to intimidate and/or dazzle those mere mortals — the majority of us, in other words — who earn in a lifetime what well-paid bankers take home in a year.
I’ll be analysing Canary Wharf further in the article following this one, which features the photos I took in the heart of Canary Wharf. In contrast, this set features the start of my journey, through Deptford and Greenwich, including Deptford High Street, which stands in total contrast to the wealth and rarefied shopping malls of Canary Wharf (which I photographed here). I then cycled through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, and took photos in Millwall, and also of Millwall Inner Dock, South Quay DLR station and the mainly residential developments around them, including the Pan Peninsula towers, luxury high-rises that deliberately scorn the ordinary humans below, with their promotional material celebrating those who “inhabit a private universe.”
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, 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.
Deptford and Rotherhithe on New Year’s Day, a set on Flickr.
On New Year’s Day, from 11.30pm until 1am on the morning of January 2, I decided to take a bike ride around my neighbourhood, in part because I’m almost permanently enthusiastic about cycling and taking photos at night, but even more particularly because I’d taken a late night bike ride down to Greenwich in the early hours of New Year’s Eve that had been so enjoyable that I could hardly wait to do it again.
So just before midnight on January 1, after tidying the house following our annual family Hogmanay party, I set off down the hill from Brockley in south east london, where I live, thinking that I might visit the River Thames in Greenwich (a favourite destination), although after reaching Deptford — one of my favourite haunts — I surprised myself by not travelling to the river, but heading north along Evelyn Street towards Surrey Quays in Rotherhithe, in the London Borough of Southwark. Surrey Quays was created as part of the huge Docklands redevelopment in the 1980s, which forever changed the face of Rotherhithe. This is an area of London that was once full of docks, and although it is a great shame that south London lost almost all its docks and canals in this period, there are places in the Surrey Quays redevelopment area that were wonderfully successful — Russia Dock Woodland, in particular — which feature fleetingly in this set. I also have other photos from summer that show more of the area, which I hope to publish soon.
This is the 71st set in my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, which I began in May last year. I’ll be away from London’s streets for ten days now, as tomorrow I’m flying to the US for events in New York City and Washington D.C. to mark the 11th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo, and to call on President Obama to fulfil his promise to close the prison, which he made when he first took office four years ago.
For a change, if you’re interested, have a look at the photos I took in January last year — in New York, in Washington D.C., and in San Francisco and Chicago — and, although the occasion of my visit is a thoroughly depressing affair, I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to talk about the importance of closing Guantánamo, and I’m also looking forward to being reunited with old friends, and taking photos.
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.
Christmas in London, 2012, a set on Flickr.
Best wishes for the holiday season to those following my work, or to anyone who has just stumbled across it. This is a selection of Christmas-themed photos that I’ve taken over the last month during my journeys around London, as part of my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, which I began in May this year.
This is the 69th set of my London photos, and it was fun to go through all the photos I’ve been accumulating from my almost daily journeys, large and small, over the last month, picking out those with a Christmas theme — from locations in north London, in central London and the City, on the Isle of Dogs and at various places in south east London, where I live — including my home in Brockley, and also Blackheath, Camberwell, Deptford, Greenwich, Honor Oak, Lewisham and Rotherhithe. Read the rest of this entry »
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.
Email Andy Worthington
Please support Andy Worthington, independent journalist: