3,000 Days of My Photo-Journalism Project ‘The State of London’

Some of the most recent photos from ‘The State of London’ on Facebook, where I post a photo a day from eight years of photos taken on bike rides around the capital.

Check out all ‘The State of London’ photos here!

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My photo-journalism project ’The State of London’ has just reached a noteworthy milestone — 3,000 days since I first consciously went out on my bike, on May 11, 2012, to cycle around London taking photos to chronicle the fabric of London and the many changes wrought upon it, beginning with the upheaval that attended the capital’s role as the host city of the 2012 Olympic Games. I began posting a photo a day on Facebook on the fifth anniversary of that first trip, on May 11, 2017, and have been posting a photo a day for the 1,176 days since.

In the eight years since, I have taken many tens of thousands of photos, covering all 120 of London’s postcodes in the 241 square miles of the London postal district (those beginning EC, WC, W, NW, N, E, SE and SW), with a particular focus on central London — the City (EC1 to EC4) and the West End (WC1, WC2 and W1), and the immediate surrounding postcodes (SE1, SW1, NW1, N1 and E1) — and with other clusters of repeated activity in the whole of south east London, where I live, in east London, most readily accessed via the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, and in parts of south west London — particularly, it seems, Brixton, Vauxhall and Battersea and Chelsea — and west London; especially Paddington, Notting Hill and Ladbroke Grove.

These 3,000 days have not only been a way of keeping physically fit; they have also played a major role in ensuring some sort of mental equilibrium amidst the general chaos of the state of the world — even if some aspects of ‘The State of London’ have added to my sense of rage rather than placating it; in particular, the colossal and colossally expensive construction projects that have transformed the city to an alarming degree over the last eight years.

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The Four Fathers Release New Existential Song ‘The Wheel of Life’, As Bandcamp Waives Its Revenue Share to Help Musicians

The cover of ‘The Wheel of Life’ by The Four Fathers, designed by drummer Bren Horstead.

My band The Four Fathers have just released the last of three songs we recorded before the coronavirus hit, with the multi-talented musician and producer Charlie Hart, whose illustrious career involves playing with Ian Dury in Kilburn and the High Roads, many years with Ronnie Lane, after he left the Faces, in Slim Chance, and several occasions spent working with the wonderful Congolese singer Samba Mapangala.

The release is ‘The Wheel of Life’, a meditation on aging, and on the importance of living in the moment, which I hope has some resonance right now, as we all try to cope with the impact of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, which brought our thoughtlessly excessive lifestyles to an abrupt halt three months ago, but which has also precipitated a forthcoming recession of possibly terrifying proportions, as well as silencing all forms of culture that involves live interaction at close quarters.

Live music is just one the casualties of this strange new world, and while we try to work out how to resume entertaining one another in a live context, creative people are suffering. In an attempt to help, Bandcamp, the US online music service, which we use in preference to streaming companies, has been waiving its fees on specific days throughout the coronavirus lockdowns, starting on March 20, when music fans spent “$4.3 million on music and merch — 15x the amount of a normal Friday — helping artists cover rents, mortgages, groceries, medications, and so much more”, and followed by May 1, when fans paid artists $7.1 million, and June 5, when fans paid artists $4.8 million.

Today (until midnight PMT) is the fourth occasion in which Bandcamp is stepping in to help artists, and if you’d like to help The Four Fathers at all, we’d be delighted.

Below is ‘The Wheel of Life’, which we recorded with Charlie Hart in a session in December, and mixed in February:

You may also be interested in the other songs we recorded in that session. Here’s ‘This Time We Win’, an eco-anthem on which Charlie plays Wurlitzer piano:

And here’s ‘Affordable’, our punky rock’n’roll assault on the iniquities of the housing development industry, whose most misused word is “affordable”, for properties that aren’t actually “affordable” at all: 

And please also be aware that our first two albums, ‘Love And War’ and ‘How Much Is A Life Worth?’ are also available (on CD as well as to download), and that the first two songs were recorded with Charlie and released in 2018 and 2019 are also available: ‘Grenfell’, and our anti-Brexit anthem ‘I Want My Country Back (From The People Who Wanted Their Country Back).’

We’re hoping that, before the end of the year, we’ll be able to record more new songs with Charlie for our third album.

Thanks for taking an interest!

* * * * *

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 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, or you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.55), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from eight 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 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 resistance 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.

COVID-19 and the Economic Meltdown: Was Global Tourism the Only Thing Keeping Us Afloat?

Grounded planes in Alabama, March 25, 2020 (Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters).

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Three months since the arrival of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 prompted an unprecedented lockdown on human interaction and on huge swathes of our economy, the primary objective — preventing our hospitals and morgues from being overwhelmed — has been achieved. The cost — economically, and, in some cases, psychologically — has been enormous, but the road ahead, as those in charge attempt to revive a functioning economy, looks like it will be even more arduous.

No congratulations should be extended to Boris Johnson and his government for the achievements of the lockdown. Johnson dithered for far too long at the beginning of the crisis, and the deaths of tens of thousands of people are, as a result, his responsibility, although not his responsibility alone, as the last few months have also shown us that, sadly, this empty windbag of a Prime Minister is largely manipulated by his senior adviser, the sneering eugenicist Dominic Cummings.

Both men were initially prepared to allow the virus to spread unchecked throughout the entire population, with people required to “take it on the chin”, as they let it “move through the population”, as Johnson explained in a now notorious TV appearance. It was only when medical experts pointed out the potential death toll of the “herd immunity” scenario that the lockdown began, following similar conclusions that were, in most other countries, reached rather earlier in the virus’s spread.

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Coronavirus and the Meltdown of the Construction Industry: Bloated, Socially Oppressive and Environmentally Ruinous

Part of the massive development site at Nine Elms in Vauxhall, photographed on April 16, 2020 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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Just for a while there, it was bliss. The roads were almost entirely empty, the air was clean, birds could be heard singing in central London, and, most crucially, the din of huge construction sites was almost entirely silenced. Construction sites not only generate vast amounts of noise and pollution; they also choke the roads with hundreds of lorries carrying material to them, or carrying away the rubble from buildings that, in general, should have been retrofitted rather than destroyed.

This is because the environmental cost of destroying buildings is immense, and we are supposed to have woken up to the environmental implications of our activities over the last few years, because, in 2018, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned us that we only had 12 years to avoid catastrophic climate change unless we started arranging to cut our carbon emissions to zero, and, in response, the activism of Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion helped to persuade central governments and local governments to piously declare “climate emergencies”, and to promise to change their behaviour.

Little has been seen in terms of major changes since these “climate emergencies” were declared last year — until, that is, the coronavirus hit. Since then, global pollution levels have dropped significantly — 17% on average worldwide, by early April, compared with 2019 levels, with a 31% decline recorded in the UK.

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Landlords: The Front Line of Coronavirus Greed

End rent now: a protestor in Los Angeles.

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As the coronavirus continues to cripple the economy, it is clear to anyone paying attention — a situation not encouraged by either our political leaders or the mainstream media — that its disastrous effects are extremely unevenly distributed.

While some people are working from home on 100% pay, others — the essential workers of the NHS, pharmacists, those in the food industry, postal workers and other delivery people, public transport workers, and many others — have continued to work, often at severe risk to their health, because of the government’s inability to provide proper PPE or a coherent testing system. Other workers, meanwhile, have been furloughed on 80% of pay (up to £2,500 a month), while another huge group of former workers have been summarily laid off, and have been required to apply for Universal Credit, a humiliating process that also involves the requirement to try to survive on less than £100 a week.

While those on Universal Credit receive support in paying their rent, and one of the government’s first moves, when the lockdown began, was to secure mortgage holidays for homeowners, no such support exists elsewhere in the economy for those who are renting. This is a disaster both for businesses and for those living in properties owned by landlords and not receiving housing benefit, as there has been no suggestion from the government, at any time over the last seven weeks, that landlords should share everyone else’s pain.

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Celebrating Eight Years of My Photo-Journalism Project, ‘The State of London’

Andy Worthington’s most recent photos of London under lockdown, as part of his photo-journalism project ‘The State of London.’

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Check out all the photos here!

Exactly eight years ago, on May 11, 2012, I set out on my bike, from my home in Brockley, in the London Borough of Lewisham, in south east London, to begin a project of photographing the whole of London — the 120 postcodes that make up what is known as the London postal district or the London postal area (those beginning WC, EC, E, SE, SW, W, NW and W). These postcodes cover 241 square miles, although I’ve also made some forays into the outlying areas that make up Greater London’s larger total of 607 square miles.

I’ve been a cyclist since about the age of four, and I’d started taking photographs when I was teenager, but my cycling had become sporadic, and I hadn’t had a camera for several years until my wife bought me a little Canon — an Ixus 115 HS — for Christmas 2011. That had renewed my interest in photography, and tying that in with cycling seemed like a good idea because I’d been hospitalised in March 2011 after I developed a rare blood disease that manifested itself in two of my toes turning black, and after I’d had my toes saved by wonderful NHS doctors, I’d started piling on the pounds sitting at a computer all day long, continuing the relentless Guantánamo work I’d been undertaking for the previous five years, which, perhaps, had contributed to me getting ill in the first place.

As I started the project, I had no idea really what I was letting myself in for — how massive London is, for example, so that even visiting all 120 of its postcodes would take me over two years, or how completely I would become enthralled by the capital that has been my home since 1985, but that was unknown to me beyond familiar haunts (the West End, obviously, parts of the City, and areas like Notting Hill and Ladbroke Grove, which I’ve always been drawn to), and places I’d lived (primarily, Brixton, Hammersmith, briefly, Forest Hill, Peckham and, for the last 20 years, Brockley).

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The Coronavirus Lockdown, Hidden Suffering, and Delusions of a Rosy Future

London under the coronavirus lockdown, March 30, 2020 (Photo by Andy Worthington from his photo-journalism project The State of London).

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Nearly a month since the coronavirus lockdown began in the UK, it seems clear that the intentions behind shutting most retail outlets and workplaces, and encouraging everyone to stay at home as much as possible — to keep the death toll to manageable levels, preventing the NHS and the burial industry from being overwhelmed — are working, although no one should be under any illusions that Boris Johnson’s government has managed the crisis well. Nearly 13,000 people have died so far in hospitals in the UK, a figure that seriously underestimates the true death toll, because it cynically ignores those dying in care homes.

However, frontline NHS staff are also dying, and this is because they are still deprived of necessary personal protective equipment (PPE), which is an absolute and unmitigated disgrace, showing how far our current elected officials are from the wartime spirit of the plucky British that they are so intent on selling to the public to cover up their failings.

If they really were who they claim to be, they would have pulled out all the stops to get factories manufacturing PPE in as short a time as possible, but they’re not who they claim to be: they’re incompetent disciples of a neo-liberal project that is interested only in elected officials handing out contracts — and all profit-making ability — to private companies, and that is determined to destroy the state provision of services, something that the Tories have been gleefully doing, not least to the NHS, since they first returned to power almost ten long and dreadful years ago.

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Health Not Wealth: The World-Changing Lessons of the Coronavirus

A composite image of a doctor and the City of London, photographed by Andy Worthington during the coronavirus lockdown, on April 2, 2020.

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Yesterday marked 100 days since the coronavirus (COVID-19, or SARS-CoV-2) was first reported by the Chinese authorities, and, as now seems to be becoming clear, this highly infectious disease, which, in just three months, has reached almost every country on earth, and has so far killed nearly 100,000 people, is changing our lives — and our world — forever.

To put it simply, we have discovered that health is more important than wealth, and in a world dominated by the profit motive of capitalism, this is a profound lesson to learn, and one with consequences that will affect every aspect of our lives from now on.

Just a few weeks ago, we still raised up, and were obsessed by, the pin-ups of the celebrity world, one of capitalism’s many fronts for its almost complete domination of our lives, with its vacuous models, pop stars, footballers and film stars — all obscenely overpaid, and all dutifully obeying the requirement that, for fame and money, they had to allow themselves to be put on pedestals, to dazzle us into subservience.

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Imagining a Post-Coronavirus World: Ending Ravenous Capitalism and Our Consumer-Driven Promiscuity

A tug leading Royal Caribbean’s insanely-misnamed ‘Harmony of the Seas’ into Southampton Harbour. Cruise ships are environmentally ruinous, helped spread the coronavirus, and needs to be high on the list of enterprises that mustn’t be bailed out after the coronavirus crisis ends, if we are to secure a better world (Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA/AP).

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It’s too early to begin creating a post-coronavirus world when we’re still in the throes of the crisis, but we can beginning thinking about it, and planning for it; otherwise, the dark forces that led us to this point — helped by many of our least helpful habits — will only return with a vengeance once the worst of the crisis is over.

When we think about the post-coronavirus world, there are, I presume, two camps: those who want everything to go back to how it was before, and those who don’t. The latter camp, for now, contains many more people than it has within living memory — those who recognize that running the world solely for the unfettered profits of the few has been a disaster.

This group includes many environmentalists — those who, in the last year and a half, helped to amplify the messages of Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion to try to alert everyone else to an uncomfortable but vitally necessary truth: that we are facing an unprecedented man-made environmental crisis, which threatens humanity’s very existence.

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The Four Fathers Release New Song ‘Affordable’, Marking the Anniversary of the Destruction of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden’s Trees

The cover of the Four Fathers’ new online single, ‘Affordable’, released on March 3, 2020.

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Last Thursday, February 27, marked a sad anniversary for environmental activists and housing campaigners, as it was the first anniversary of the destruction of the 74 mature and semi-mature trees that made up the magical tree cover of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, in south east London, which provided an autonomous green space in a built-up urban area, and also mitigated the worst effects of pollution generated by traffic on nearby Deptford Church Street, where particulate levels have been measured at six times the safety levels recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Unfortunately, the struggle to save the trees, which had been ongoing since 2012, largely took place before environmental activism went mainstream, via the actions of Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion, although this was not just an environmental issue. The destruction of the garden was also part of a proposal by Lewisham Council and housing developers to build a new housing development on the site, one that desperate, dissembling councillors sought to sell to the public as providing much-needed new social homes, when the reality, as with almost all current housing developments, is that a significant number of the new homes are for private sale, existing council housing is to be destroyed, and its replacement will be homes that are described as “affordable”, when they are no such thing.

Instead, the allegedly “affordable” component of the development is a mixture of properties at ‘London Affordable Rent’, which, in Lewisham, is 63% higher for a two-bedroom flat than traditional social rents, and ‘shared ownership’, a notorious scam, whereby, in exchange for a hefty upfront payment, occupants are made to believe that they own a share of the property (typically 25%), whereas, in reality, they are only assured tenants unless they find a way to own the property outright, and, along the way, have to pay rent on the share of the property that they don’t, even nominally, own, and are also often subjected to massive — and unregulated — service charges.

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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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The Guantánamo Files

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The Battle of the Beanfield

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion book cover

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

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Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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