Curious Insomnia: Photos of a Journey through Deptford and Millwall to Canary Wharf at Night

Budul TelecomDeeplexDeptford High Street at nightDeptford stationCanary Wharf coloursA tree by the Thames in Greenwich
Railway arches, MillwallIsle of Dogs supermarketMillwall Dock at nightMillwall Dock and Canary Wharf at nightMore to enjoySouth Quay
South Quay reflectionsSouth Quay station

Curious Insomnia: A Journey through Deptford and Millwall to Canary Wharf at Night, a set on Flickr.

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.”

For now, I hope you enjoy this photo set, the 84th in my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, which I began last May. The photos from the heart of Canary Wharf will follow soon.

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.

The Power of Greed: Photos of Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf viewed from Mudchute ParkKelson House and the Dome from Mudchute ParkThe John M. Rishworth, a 1915 bargeGlengall BridgeThe view across Millwall Inner DockThe black slabs
You can't lose if you don't playDistortionClouds on Harbour Exchange TowerMade of cloudsWatching the bankersWater water everywhere
West India DocksSky of windowsCredit crunchThe Dome from South Quay PlazaEntering Canary WharfBeneath the towers
Centaur by Igor MitorajCentaur - close-upCanary Wharf towersJubilee Park, looking eastJubilee Park, looking westThe heart of Canary Wharf

The Power of Greed: Photos of Canary Wharf, a set on Flickr.

I have long had a horror of the unfettered greed signified by the creation, in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain, of Canary Wharf, even though, initially, this “enterprise zone,” dropped onto Millwall and Poplar, on the Isle of Dogs, like a hostile takeover, seemed destined to fail. When the docks closed in 1980 — and were moved to Tilbury — Thatcher’s government established the London Docklands Development Corporation in 1981 and made the Isle of Dogs an enterprise Zone status the year after. In 1988, Olympia and York, a Canadian company, began the construction work that resulted in the opening of the first buildings, including One Canada Square, the pyramid-topped tower that remains the most iconic building on site.

Ironically, the orgy of financial liberalisation that led to the creation of Canary Wharf had already crashed by the time it opened. Olympia and York went bankrupt in 1992, and it was not until 1995 that a new consortium bought Canary Wharf, soon after becoming the Canary Wharf Group.

In a further demonstration of irony, it was not until New Labour assumed office in 1997 that the newly-revived Canary Wharf really took off, as the author and journalist Owen Hatherley explained in an excellent article for the Guardian in May, entitled, “The myth that Canary Wharf did east London any good.” Read the rest of this entry »

My Photos on Flickr: London At Night – Canary Wharf, Millwall, Greenwich and Deptford

One Canada Square at nightThe view from Canary Wharf at nightCanary Wharf at nightMillwall at nightThe Shard at nightCanary Wharf over the river
The Cutty Sark at nightDeptford Creek at nightEmpty developmentThe ghostly ruinThe Royal George, Tanner's Hill

London At Night – Canary Wharf, Millwall, Greenwich and Deptford, a set on Flickr.

The latest set of photos uploaded to my recently established Flickr account is my fifth set of photos of London, part of an ongoing and recently established project in which I plan to cycle around the whole of London, photographing whatever takes my interest, to record London as it is at this critical juncture in its history — with the country in the grip of a profound recession, and a government responding, suicidally, with savage austerity, all the while making sure that the rich and the super-rich can continue to make obscene and disproportionate amounts of money, untouched by the suffering inflicted on everyone else.

These journeys are also an important project for me personally — a welcome opportunity to stay fit, but, more importantly, a kind of poetic odyssey, grand in the sense of trying to get a personal overview of the whole of this huge city that has been my home for over half my life, much of which I have never visited before, but also much more intimate, in that it allows me, through wandering on a bike, often with no fixed route, to be able to be easily distracted or to be drawn to whatever attracts my attention.

What attracts me, as I have been discovering, is the decaying and the idiosyncratic, the gulf — apparently ever-widening — between the rich and the poor, and how that manifests itself in the built environment, and the nature — the river, the weather, the trees and parks, the seasonal outbursts of organic growth — that stand in contrast to many of the efforts to control the shape and form of the city, and to leave the kind of legacy that, history shows, will sooner or later be swept away. Read the rest of this entry »

My Photos on Flickr: The Isle of Dogs and Regent’s Canal, July 2012

Canary Wharf from Millwall ParkStormy sky over Millwall DockBoats in Millwall DockInner Millwall DockThe Anchor & HopeThe Riverbus is closed
The City PrideSt. Anne's, LimehouseNewell Street, LimehouseTrade & Care777 Commercial RoadChimney by Regent's Canal
Johnson's Lock, Regent's CanalMile End Lock, Regent's CanalReflections on the Regent's CanalSunset from Bethnal Green RoadRoofs, Bethnal Green

The Isle of Dogs and Regent’s Canal, July 2012, a set on Flickr.

In the latest set of photos uploaded to my recently established Flickr account, I’ve posted photos that I took on the American Day of Independence, July 4, 2012, when I spoke at a screening of “Extradition,” a film about Talha Ahsan and Babar Ahmad, two British citizens facing extradition to the US on the basis of the grossly unfair and unjust US-UK Extradition Treaty. The screening was at no.w.here, a not-for-profit artist-run organization based in Tower Hamlets, which “combines film production alongside critical dialogue about contemporary image making,” and it was an excellent evening, even though the subject matter, and the urgency of the men’s plight, cast a sense of anguish over the entire event.

As part of my new and ongoing project to cycle everywhere in London, and to photograph my journeys, capturing aspects of the built environment, of nature, and of money and power, set against decay, poverty and the odd, untouched backwater (see here, here and here for the previous sets of my London journeys), I was delighted to travel to the east end of Bethnal Green Road, near Cambridge Heath Road, which, it slightly shames me to admit, I had never visited before, although I am familiar with the western end of the road — at the northern end of Brick Lane.

What I found was a vibrant, ethnically mixed neighbourhood, with independent businesses in tall terraced Victorian buildings, although I soon learned, from immediately striking up a conversation with Brad Butler, one of the founders of no.w.here (along with Karen Mirza) that the forces of gentrification have designs on the street, as they do on so much of London — right here and right now — despite the recession that is afflicting all but the rich and the super-rich. As ever, it alarms me profoundly that this appears to be, essentially, the first engineered recession in history, as the rich are excluded from the effects of the government-engineered austerity that otherwise stalks the land, driving the working poor, the young, the old, the ill, the unemployed and the disabled into unprecedented poverty, while protecting those with money from any kind of suffering, even though those in the City who drove the artificial and illegal wealth creation that caused the financial crash in 2008, and those who made money out of it, are the ones who should paying the most. 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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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