Monday 5 November 2012

Occupy The Night

On Saturday I went to the Bishopsgate Institute to listen to the documentary photographer Ed Thompson talk about photographing the Occupy London protest outside St Paul's Cathedral, an event that was part of the Photomonth East London International Photography Festival.

I love the idea of turning images into a multimedia presentation, something that Ed generously shared some suggestions about after his talk. I plan to put something together about Newham Monitoring Project's Community Legal Observer project during this summer's Olympics. Meanwhile, here is Ed's great presentation, with spoken word poetry by an occupier called J.J.

Sunday 4 November 2012

Wanstead Flats: I Hate To Say This But I Told You So

I haven't posted for a while as I've been busily preparing for admission to hospital for a serious operation this week. But if you check out my last post, you'll hardly be surprised by this news. Today, Newham council announced that the firework display on Wanstead Flats had been cancelled. A council statement says:
Newham Council is sorry to announce that Sunday evening’s free display of fireworks and music has been cancelled because of adverse weather conditions.

Heavy overnight rain has made conditions at the site in Wanstead Flats very soggy underfoot. With the forecast of more rain during the day, the council has taken the decision to cancel at the earliest opportunity to prevent people travelling to the display.

We apologise for the late notice but hope people will understand the reason. While it is disappointing, safety has to be our main concern. We are optimistic that we may be able to rearrange the display on another date. Full details will be available on the council’s website at 
If you look at the photos I posted on 25 October, you may get a sense of why on it is "very soggy underfoot" - the site hasn't been allowed to recover after the Metropolitan Police used it for its Olympics operations base over the summer and is unlikely to recover for months.

Common sense suggested that the decision to hold the Newham firework display on this ravaged part of Wanstead Flats - coupled with the reasonable possibility of rain in November - was always a ludicrous risk. Cancellation of the fireworks will have left lots of local people feeling disappointed this evening and many (including friends of mine) would only have found out when they turned up and were told the event was not going ahead..

The only conciliation is that perhaps now the City of London Corporation will leave Wanstead Flats alone so that can restore itself to the state that existed before the Met turned up and wrecked it. I imagine Newham council's inevitable request for a refund of costs for use of the site this evening should focus minds at the Corporation, but once again there are serious questions about its stewardship of the Flats.

With similar concerns about the failed reinstatement of Porter’s Field Meadow on Leyton Marsh, we're beginning to see that Olympic legacy talked up so often before the Games. If you worry about the care and protection of open spaces for east London residents, it's a far from positive one. It's time that the Corporation and other local authorities charged with looking after these sites recognise this aspect of the Olympic experiment was a failure - and decisions like the one that led to the damage to Wanstead Flats must never happen again.

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