Celebrating 400 Days of My Photo Project ‘The State of London’

A composite image of the latest photos from Andy Worthington's photo project 'The State of London'.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, photographer, commentator and activist. Check out all the photos to date here.

 

Back in March 2011, my life changed when I was hospitalised after a blood clot had turned two of my toes black. Doctors at St. Thomas’s Hospital, opposite the Houses of Parliament, saved my toes — a mercy for which I am eternally grateful to the NHS — but after I recovered, my life changed again when I began cycling across London on a daily basis — and taking photos everywhere I went — in May 2012.

When I got ill, I had managed to give up smoking, which would otherwise have killed me, but I then started piling on the pounds instead, on a steady diet of biscuits and cakes, and so getting back on my bike on a daily basis seemed like the perfect way to get fit.

I’d been a cyclist since I was about four years old, but like many useful habits, it had become sidelined as I smoked too much, and also as a result of my obsessive sedentary lifestyle as a writer, researcher and commentator and activist on Guantánamo, which had consumed my life since 2006.

Getting out onto London’s streets was transformative not only because it got me fit, but also because it gave me a huge new exciting project — getting to know the city I’ve lived in since 1985, but much of which was unknown to me beyond key haunts and places I’d lived in over the years. I soon came up with a name for my photo-journalism project — ‘The State of London’ — but although I posted some photos on Flickr in 2012-13, and got a skeletal website established, I couldn’t find the time to get it up and running. 

Instead, I built up a huge archive of photos that no one saw, as I visited every single one of London’s 120 postcodes (those with the prefixes SE, SW, W, NW, N, E EC and WC), as well as some of the outer boroughs, until, last May, on the fifth anniversary of when ‘The State of London’ started, I set up a Facebook page, and began posting a photo a day — plus accompanying text — drawn from the  archive, so that the photo I chose might be from 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 or even that day. Some months later, I added a Twitter account, and posting a photo a day is now a key part of my work.

Last Thursday marked 400 days since I began posting photos on Facebook, but I couldn’t mark it at the time because I was too busy with two other projects —  marking, on Thursday and Saturday, the first anniversary of the terrible and entirely preventable Grenfell Tower fire, which has regularly featured in ‘The State of London’ over the last year, and, on Friday, marking the 6,000th day of Guantánamo’s existence. So here, five days late, is my commemoration of this latest milestone for my project — and an opportunity for me to try and reach out to people who might be interested in it. After over a year of posting photos, I’m reassured from the feedback I receive that people like it, and I’d now like to do more with it — to have some exhibition, for example, and, ideally, to publish a book. If you can help, please do get in touch!

I hope one day to get the website up and running (and would be interested in any help curating it), but I still can’t find the time to do so, because of all the other work I do — on Guantanamo, on social housing, and on my music with my band The Four Fathers — and because I still insist on going out every day on my bike and taking more photos!

I feel incredibly privileged to be able to do, because I’m a freelance writer, supported by my readers, and a few benefactors, and can work in the mornings and evenings, but I’ve also become a passionate advocate for the outdoors life. I go out on my bike every day, whatever the weather, which is a very visceral way of getting to appreciate the climate and the changing seasons, but it has also taught me that we aren’t meant to be indoors all the time, and that we should all be outside much more. 

Cycling every day has also sharpened my dismay at how the city is so dominated by traffic — cars and lorries — which are not only horrific polluters, but also contribute immensely to the selfish and atomised culture that is, so sadly, such a big part of contemporary life.

If you haven’t yet discovered ‘The State of London’, I hope you have time to check it out now — and to ‘like’ it and share it if you do. It is, of course, in large part a political project, in which I cast a consistent eye on, for example, the shameful building of high-rise tower blocks for foreign investors in almost every part of the city, and the cynical destruction of council estates to build more unaffordable housing for those profiting from a seemingly endless housing bubble maintained by politicians and the banks, but it also has aesthetic qualities of its own, as well as reflecting seasonal change, changes in the weather, and geographical elements of the city that consistently fascinate me — the River Thames, of curse, running through the city like a pulse, other rivers and canals, hills, trees, and whatever hidden corners of the city I manage to stumble upon on my often random and erratic journeys (I never have a map, or, generally, much of a plan). 

Cycling remains the best way of being both relentlessly inquisitive and quietly anarchic in the city. It’s much quicker than walking, and you can dip in and out of anywhere swiftly — and, I’m sure, regularly evade surveillance, especially, if, as I do, you travel without a mobile phone to tell the authorities where you are at all times.

Perhaps one day you might like to come and join me …

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), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from six 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 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.

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.

Photos: Grenfell 1st Anniversary – The Silent Walk and the Solidarity March

Photos from Flickr by Andy Worthington of the Grenfell Silent Walk and the Grenfell Solidarity March on June 14 and June 16, 2018.Please check out my photo sets on Flickr – of the Silent Walk in Kensington on June 14, 2018 and of the Solidarity March in central London on June 16, 2018.

Please also feel free to support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

It’s just over a year since the defining event in the UK last year — the Grenfell Tower fire, an entirely preventable disaster in west London, in which 72 people died when an inferno engulfed a 24-storey tower block in North Kensington in west London, and I’m pleased to be posting photos from two recent Grenfell-related events as my contribution to trying to make sure that there is no let-up in the pressure for justice and accountability following the first anniversary of the disaster last June. 

The first photo set is of the Silent Walk for Grenfell on the actual anniversary. Silent Walks have taken place on the 14th of every month since the fire, in the vicinity of the tower, and on the anniversary, on Thursday June 14, thousands of people turned up, from across London as well as from other places in the UK, to show solidarity with the survivors and the local community. The Silent Walks are extremely moving experiences, and the 1st anniversary walk was, of course, no exception.

The second photo set is from the Grenfell Solidarity March in central London, starting and ending outside 10 Downing Street, and including a visit to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on Marsham Street, organised by the survivors’ group Justice4Grenfell and the Fire Brigades Union. Read the rest of this entry »

Grenfell One Year On: How Can We Feel Safe in a Country That Regards Everyone in Social Housing as Inferior?

The Silent Walk for Grenfell, December 14, 2017 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Exactly one year, ago, an inferno engulfed Grenfell Tower, a 24-storey tower block in north Kensington, in west London, with such speed and ferocity that 71 people died, and a 72nd person died this January as a result of injuries sustained that night.

It was a disaster that should never have happened, and the fact that it did cuts to the heart of how Britain operates in the 21st century.

The tower block was built of essentially incombustible concrete, and the process known as compartmentalisation was meant to ensure that any fire that broke out would be contained within the flat in which it broke out, with every other flat supposed to be able to resist the spread of fire for an hour, giving the fire services time to arrive on the scene.

In fact, fire leapt up the tower like nothing anyone had seen before, clearly indicating that every safety measure that was supposed to prevent an inferno had drastically failed. At the heart of the disaster were measures taken that had fatally corrupted the structural integrity of the tower. In order to make the tower appear more attractive, new cladding had been applied to it, but the cladding was flammable, and had created the inferno that took so many lives. Read the rest of this entry »

2,000 Views of The Four Fathers’ Video ‘Grenfell’, Remembering Those Who Died and Calling for Those Responsible to be Held Accountable

The Silent Walk for Grenfell, December 14, 2017 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

Today is 350 days since the defining UK-based horror story of 2017 — the fire that engulfed Grenfell Tower in north Kensington, in west London, on June 14, 2017, killing 71 people, and leading to the death of a 72nd person this January. You can find profiles of all 72 victims here.

Last summer, I wrote a song about the fire for my band The Four Fathers, lamenting those whose lives were so “needlessly lost”, and calling for those responsible — “those who only count the profit not the human cost” — to be held accountable. We first played it live, at a benefit gig for a housing campaign in Tottenham, in September, recorded it with a German TV crew at the end of October, and released the video in December, and we have continued to play it live across the capital and elsewhere, making a small contribution to the effort to refuse to allow those responsible for the disaster to move on without a serious change in the culture that allowed it to happen. 

That culture — cost-cutting in the search for profits, rather than ensuring the safety of tenants and leaseholders — came from central government, from Kensington and Chelsea Council, from the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, which had taken over the management of all the borough’s social housing, and from the various contractors involved in the lethal refurbishment of the tower, when its structural integrity was fatally undermined. 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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