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.
Greenwich on the Last Day of the Year, a set on Flickr.
Some of my regular readers will have realised that, although I like cycling and photographing London in all weather, and that I am thoroughly enjoying experiencing the seasons first-hand, I am particularly fascinated by the city at night. I have always been a night owl, and at university, more years ago than I care to remember, I would, in winter, stay up all night, cycling around and taking photographs until dawn, and then returning to my room to sleep.
I don’t stay up all night anymore, but recalling those days reminds me of how, although some things in life change fundamentally, others don’t. My love of cycling, which began when I was a small child, has never left me, and nor, it seems, has my love of the night, and of taking photographs at night. Read the rest of this entry »
Memories of Summer: The Thames Festival on London’s South Bank, a set on Flickr.
Sunday September 9, 2012 was the final day of the weekend-long Thames Festival, established in 1997, and run by the Thames Festival Trust, which regularly attracts tens of thousands of visitors, and did so again this year, even though it was the last day of the Paralympic Games, and had been a summer so saturated with cultural events that it was possible to have thought beforehand that cultural saturation might well have set in.
Instead, the banks of the River Thames were packed, and nowhere more so than along the action-packed shoreline that stretches from Butlers Wharf in the east to Westminster Bridge in the west, via Tower Bridge, City Hall, Shakespeare’s Globe, Tate Modern and the Millennium Bridge, Gabriels Wharf, the South Bank Centre, the London Eye, and the cluster of largely unappealing corporate attractions in the former County Hall. Read the rest of this entry »
Blue Skies and Golden Light: The River Thames in September, a set on Flickr.
After my recent five-part series of photo sets from south east London — my home turf — in November, I promised to publish some photos from September, from the huge archive of photos I’ve been building up over the last five months, as part of my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, and also to publish photos from further afield in London.
In the first of five previously unpublished sets from September (and the 66th set overall in my London photo project) the photos here are from a journey I made by bike on September 6, a gloriously sunny day, when I took my son Tyler and his friend Louis to the South Bank and back, travelling there via Greenwich Foot Tunnel and the Isle of Dogs, and returning via Bermondsey and Rotherhithe, a great circular tour of the River Thames to the east of central London, which involves two of my very favourite journeys in the whole of London. Read the rest of this entry »
South East London At Night: Tunnels, the River and the Surrey Canal, a set on Flickr.
As part of my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike — and specifically as the last part of five photo sets recording various autumnal journeys around my home in Brockley, in south east London — the photos collected here record a journey I made on the evening of November 12, 2012, for around two hours, from 9 to 11 pm. This is the 65th photo set in my project, and see here, here, here and here for the previous four sets.
Beginning at my home in Brockley, I cycled down the hill through Lewisham and the edge of Deptford to Greenwich, and then down to the River Thames at Cutty Sark Gardens, along the Deptford shoreline, past Deptford Green, and on to the derelict site of Convoys Wharf, where there are horrible plans to build a £1 billion mini-city for the rich. I then travelled inland to Evelyn Street, the main road that runs to Surrey Quays. Read the rest of this entry »
Greenwich Early and Late, a set on Flickr.
As part of my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, this, the 63rd set I’ve posted, contains photos taken in Greenwich, in south east London, in the early morning and after dark, on two recent trips — the first after an epic journey from Limehouse Basin up the Limehouse Cut and the Lea Navigation to the Olympic Park at Stratford and beyond (which I hope to post soon), and the second in the early morning of the following day, after a good friend helped me liberate my bike from where I had left it overnight, when my key snapped off in the lock.
Celebrated in and of its own right, as a maritime centre and a former royal residence — as well as a venue for this year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games — Greenwich is the most significant tourist destination in suburban south east London, with its many attractions — the Cutty Sark, the Royal Park, the Observatory and the Royal Naval College, for example, as well as other attractions like St. Alfege Church and Greenwich Market, a covered market for artists, craftspeople, food vendors and antique sellers, which plays a major role in ensuring that Greenwich is not plagued by a surfeit of the same bland corporate chain stores that have taken over almost ever major population centre in the country. That status, however, is in doubt as the owners are determined to “regenerate” the market, which will only allow corporate raiders to take over and destroy Greenwich’s character. Read the rest of this entry »
When Night Falls: Lewisham, Greenwich and Deptford, a set on Flickr.
This photo set — the 62nd in my ongoing project to photograph London by bike — follows on from the previous set, in which, just a few weeks ago, I recorded a particularly warm and vivid sunset from Hilly Fields, the hill-top park near my home in Brockley, in south east London. After the sun had finally dipped below the horizon for good, I made my way down the hill for a quick circuit of the other areas close to me that are a source of enduring fascination for me — Lewisham, the centre of the borough, and Greenwich and Deptford, both of which meet the River Thames at their northern edge.
With the sky darkening, this was a fascinating journey — through some of Lewisham’s back streets and industrial sites that took on an eerie beauty at night, and then down to Greenwich, where I took photos of some of that famous borough’s celebrated pubs and other sights — including St. Alfege’s Church and the Cuttty Sark by the river — before moving on to Deptford along the path beside the Thames, and a return journey via Deptford High Street, the least corporate high street in London, which was still buzzing with independent life despite the late hour. Read the rest of this entry »
The River Thames: The Solace of the Shore and the Fire of Sunset, a set on Flickr.
This is the 54th photo set in my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, capturing the second half of a journey I made with my son Tyler from Waterloo, back to our home in Brockley, in south east London, on Sunday October 14, 2012.
The first set is here, and it is also part of a series designed to capture glimpses of London in autumn (or fall, as my American friends describe it), which I began with photos of Halloween and of the turning leaves in Hilly Fields, my local park. Read the rest of this entry »
Beside the River Thames: Clink Street to Butlers Wharf, a set on Flickr.
As part of my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, and my recent promise to publish a series of photos showing London in autumn, I’m following up on photos of Halloween and of the turning leaves in Hilly Fields, my local park in Brockley, south east London, with two sets of photos recording a bike ride I took with my son Tyler on Sunday October 14, 2012, along the river from Waterloo to Brockley.
This first set of photos — the 53rd photo set in my project — begins at Clink Street, near London Bridge, and records our journey to Bermondsey, just to the east of Tower Bridge and Butlers Wharf, via The Golden Hinde, Southwark Cathedral, Tooley Street and the More London complex, Shad Thames, the Design Museum and the community of barges and boats by Reeds Wharf. Read the rest of this entry »
The photos in this set — the 48th in my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike — were taken in Bankside, on September 7, 2012, after I returned from the journey around Soho that I recorded here and here.
On the south bank of the River Thames, in the London Borough of Southwark, the area known as Bankside is located between Blackfriars Bridge on the west and London Bridge on the east. Its name was first recorded in 1554, and it was, at that time, and through the Elizabethan period, a place outside of the laws governing the City, where plays were performed, and bear baiting and other bloody sports involving animals took place. Read the rest of this entry »
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