A Fundraiser Marking the 10th Anniversary of My Photo-Journalism Project ‘The State of London’


The most recent photos from Andy Worthington’s ongoing photo-journalism project ‘The State of London‘, which marks its 10th anniversary on May 11, 2022.

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


Ten years ago today, on May 11, 2012, I set out on my bike, with a little Canon camera that my wife had bought me for Christmas, to record the ever-changing landscape of London in photographs, intending to visit and take photos in all 120 postcodes of the London Postal District (those beginning with WC, EC, E N, NW, SE, SW and W), which covers 241 square miles. It took me two and a half years to visit every postcode at least once, and rather longer to find the camera that particularly suited the requirements of the project. In February 2019, after a number of upgrades, I ended up with the camera I still have, a Canon PowerShot G7X Mk. II, and if I have one regret about this project, it’s that I didn’t buy it sooner.

Back in May 2012, I had no idea where this journey would take me, but ten years later it has become a running commentary on the best and the worst of this sprawling, infuriating and sometimes inspiring city that has been my home for the last 37 years.

Exactly five years after I first embarked on this photographic project, on May 11, 2017, I set up the Facebook page ‘The State of London’ to post a photo a day, with an accompanying essay, from these journeys, where I have now posted nearly 1,800 photos and essays, and where, I’m delighted to report, the project now has over 5,000 likes and over 5,400 followers. I also post the daily photos on Twitter, where the page has over 1,250 followers.

A previously unpublished photo of a Royal Navy ship moored in the River Thames off Greenwich, and the Swiftstone tug, which graced Greenwich’s shore for many years, taken on May 11, 2012, the first day I began taking photos for the photo-journalism project that eventually became ‘The State of London’ (Photo: Andy Worthington).

As I celebrate ten years of the photographic journeys that constitute ‘The State of London’, I’d like to ask you, if you can, to make a donation to support the project, which is entirely reader-funded, with no institutional backing whatsoever. I’m hoping to raise £1,000 to support ‘The State of London’ over the next three months, which works out at just over £10 a day — a tiny amount for all the work that goes into creating the daily posts: the bike journeys, choosing the photos, researching and writing about them, sharing them on social media, and responding to comments.

If you can help out at all, please click on the “Donate” button above to make a payment via PayPal. Any amount will be gratefully received — whether it’s £5, £10, £20 or more!

You can also make a recurring payment on a monthly basis by ticking the box marked, “Make this a monthly donation,” and filling in the amount you wish to donate every month. If you are able to do so, a regular, monthly donation would be very much appreciated.

The donation page is set to dollars, because my PayPal page also covers donations to support my ongoing work to secure the closure of US prison at Guantánamo Bay, and many of those supporters are based in the US, but PayPal will convert any amount you wish to pay from any other currency — and you don’t have to have a PayPal account to make a donation.

Readers can pay via PayPal from anywhere in the world, but if you’re in the UK and want to help without using PayPal, you can send a cheque, or cash (to 164A Tressillian Road, London SE4 1XY), or you can make a donation directly into my bank account. Please contact me if this option is of interest.

Reflections on ten years of ‘The State of London’

Looking back on ten years of this project, I’m reflecting today on how much has changed — much of it, sadly, impoverishing our lives — and how much has, mercifully, stayed dependable.

Ten years ago, the capital was gearing up to host the 2012 Olympic Games, and bikes were banned on all trains. That meant that I had to cycle everywhere, which helped me to navigate the city and to get to know it in ways that I wouldn’t necessarily have done if I’d been able to just hop on a train with my bike.

In terms of the bigger picture, however, hosting the Olympics always brings problems: an artificial increase in the economic desirability of the host city, increased authoritarianism, social cleansing and jingoism.

After the global crash of 2008, predatory investors turned their attention to land and property, and London was particularly vulnerable. Under Tony Blair, the Labour Party had already embarked on plans to allow post-war council estates to be demolished, and to be rebuilt as new developments that reduced the amount of social housing, replacing them with homes for private sale, allegedly to increase social diversity.

As I began ‘The State of London’, this malign project was already underway, particularly spearheaded in Labour-controlled Southwark, where the 1970s Heygate Estate, deserted apart from the presence of a few obstinate leaseholders, was being quite spectacularly reclaimed by nature. In the early years of ‘The State of London’, I also got to know other estates that had been cynically marked for destruction — Woodberry Down, attractively located by a reservoir in Hackney, for example, and the West Hendon Estate, similarly located by a reservoir in Brent.

A previously unpublished photo of the Heygate Estate being reclaimed by nature (and by some housing activists), October 3, 2012 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

In addition, when London got a council back in 2000, after 14 years without one because Margaret Thatcher hated the GLC, it was required to regularly publish an over-arching plan for the capital, the ‘London Plan’, which, under Ken Livingstone, involved the establishment of ‘Opportunity Areas’ on former industrial land, where developers would be largely allowed free rein to build what they wanted, in the hope that some of their spending power would trickle down to those in need.

It was a forlorn hope. When the Tories came to power in 2010, with Boris Johnson already risibly installed as London’s Mayor, the ‘Opportunity Areas’ took off massively — most noticeably in the vast ‘Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersea’ (VBEC) ‘Opportunity Area’, a dystopia of mismatched towers that shows most startlingly what happens when greedy developers are allowed to build what they want with no over-arching plan, but also at dozens of other sites across the capital, many receiving almost no scrutiny whatsoever.

Typically, the ‘Opportunity Areas’ focus on private sales, unaffordable for most Londoners, with a patchwork of other dubious options — “affordable” rents that are unaffordable, and the nightmare mortgage/rent hybrid that is shared ownership, implemented for those with less money, generally with the collusion of vast housing associations that have largely mutated into private developers themselves.

Stratford, a defining ‘Opportunity Area’ because of the Olympics, and administered by a largely unaccountable quango, the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) is perhaps the most dispiriting of all these reimaginings of the capital, a mix of housing, offices and shopping malls that has taken over Stratford itself like a high-rise virus.

As well as being unnecessary and inappropriate for Londoners’ needs, the unprecedented scale of construction in London over the last ten years also has a huge environmental cost, although it took until 2018 for this to even make it onto the political radar, when the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a devastating report about the need for severe global emissions cuts by 2030, and environmental campaigners began to highlight the need for urgent change.

In London, the environmental activists Extinction Rebellion succeeded in bringing the climate crisis to the forefront of people’s attention, just in time for a pandemic that should have shown us all how we could live a much lower-impact lifestyle than we were doing before it began.

During the UK’s Covid lockdowns I relentlessly photographed the emptiness of the capital — particularly the West End and the City — but few of the lessons were properly taken on board as restrictions eased. Traffic, and pollution, are now back to pre-Covid levels, indiscriminate shopping and consumption is back in full swing (as though none of our activities actually have an environmental angle), and, perhaps most crucially, the banks are still up to their dirty business, financing fossil fuel extraction, and the construction industry, and the politicians who facilitate it, have done nothing to address the horrendous levels of pollution involved in their industry, despite all involved queuing up, pre-Covid, to declare climate emergencies (when they were fashionable), and, in the case of the architectural community, to pledge to prioritise refurbishment over demolition.

Fortunately, as I briefly mentioned at the start of this brief appraisal of the last ten years, some things have remained dependable. Many extraordinary buildings still stand, the Thames and its tributaries still flow, the seasons still turn, the parks created by enlightened Victorians and the commons saved from enclosure still provide green lungs for the city’s inhabitants, and it is us — the people — who remain the pulse that animates the capital.

As the Covid lockdowns showed us, London without people was only illuminating for a short time; what is needed now, however, is for us to urgently locate and install visionary leaders to make London a genuinely green and progressive city. Without a drastic and urgent change, there is, sadly, no chance that ‘The State of London’ will survive the next ten years without me ending up chronicling the disastrous effects on this largely low-lying city of what can only honestly be described as the already-unfolding reality of catastrophic climate change.

Andy Worthington
May 11, 2022

* * * * *

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 you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.50).

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 struggle for housing justice — and against environmental destruction — 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, a fundraiser marking ten years of my photo-journalism project ‘The State of London’, which also marks five years since I began posting a photo a day from the project, plus accompanying essays, here on Facebook. This is an entirely reader-funded project, so any help you can provide will be very gratefully received.

    I also include my reflections on how ‘The State of London’ began, what I have discovered over the last ten years, and what it means to me, as I look back on the project’s origins in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics, my coverage of estate demolitions and ‘Opportunity Areas’, of the Covid lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, and of everything that still makes London such a great if unfuriating city, ending with a plea for greater engagement with urgent issues involving climate change (particularly to do with traffic, air pollution, and the toxic construction industry) if there is to be a future in which I can continue taking photographs on bike trips throughout the capital’s 120 postcodes.

    Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to travel with me on this journey!

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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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