Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Poll tax riots - 20 years after violence shook London

By Andrew McFarlane and Alexis Akwagyiram
BBC News
Twenty years ago a protest against what had been dubbed the poll tax erupted in violence and led to rioting that could be heard in nearby Downing Street. Some of those who were there remember the day's events.
The rioting in central London on 31 March, 1990, was not the first demonstration against the so-called poll tax to end in violence. In the weeks beforehand a number of protests around the country had culminated in violent skirmishes.
But the riot that turned London's Trafalgar Square, a top tourism spot, into a battleground between police and protesters came to be seen by many as the fatal blow for the government's community charge.
A central policy of the Conservative Party's winning 1987 general election manifesto, the charge, which replaced the old rates system, was levied on individuals rather than properties. It was supposed to increase accountability. But its introduction met with fierce resistance among some sections of the public.
In the London poll tax riots, up to 3,000 demonstrators turned on police, attacking them with bricks, bottles and scaffolding poles, and 340 were arrested. Of 113 people injured, 45 were police.
By the end of the year, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had been forced to step down. She was replaced by John Major who scrapped the charge in favour of the council tax that continues today.
Insp Tanner was in charge of the 20-strong team of mounted officers whose charge across Trafalgar Square under a hail of missiles became one of the most replayed incidents of the riot.
The officer, now retired, recalls following a mass of demonstrators into the square:
"There was an angry noise. You could sense the tension. A building was on fire and officers on the ground were trying to sort out scuffles, linking arms and looking frightened.
"It was not a good situation."
The order came to clear the Northumberland Avenue side of the square to allow fire crews access to the burning building.
"We weren't cantering all-out, we were trying to push the crowd away," says the 54-year-old, now a web manager from Ashford, Kent.
However, one horse turned sideways and knocked over a demonstrator. TV footage showed her being picked up by fellow protesters and reports suggested she was shocked but not badly harmed.
"We tried to trace her afterwards but never managed," says Mr Tanner.
As the officers advanced, they were pelted with bricks. One injured Mr Tanner's hand, another tore a chunk from the flank of his horse, Keswick.
"I couldn't shake hands for about six months," he recalls, adding that other officers suffered psychologically afterwards.
For six hours after the crowds had dispersed from Trafalgar Square, mounted police "chased incidents" around central London.
"We were exhausted by the end. None of us had ever seen or experienced anything like it," he adds.
For Chris Bambery, 54, the riot was the product of a decade of "cumulative anger" that had built up against Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government.
"There was an immense sense of 'them and us' in the Thatcher years and we felt it was payback time," he says.
  • Flat-rate tax per adult, replaced old rates system

  • Proposed by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who saw it as a more accountable tax

  • Introduced in Scotland in 1988-9, England and Wales a year later

  • 38 million were to pay the poll tax against 14 million who paid rates

  • Controversial and opposed by some 'Thatcherites' like Nigel Lawson

  • Admin costs shot up and there was widespread non-payment

  • Tax was abandoned when John Major replaced Thatcher in 1990

  • "There was a deep sense of injustice about the poll tax at the end of a decade in which there had been a celebration of wealth."
    Mr Bambery says the government's use of police against striking miners and during inner-city riots had angered many.
    At the start of the march, in Kennington Park, there was a "buzz in the air" and a sense of elation. But that turned to anger when police split the march at Trafalgar Square.
    "Riot police turned up at the top of Whitehall and launched into the square. The crowd charged and they ran, dropping their shields," he says. "For four or five hours there was constant fighting and a building site was set on fire."
    Police eventually forced rioters into the West End, where people turned their anger on gentlemen's clubs and car dealerships which to them symbolised the ruling elite.
    "I haven't seen anything on that scale before or since," says Mr Bambery.
    David Waddington walked through the door of his constituency home in Lancashire on 31 March, 1990, to be greeted by the phone ringing.
    That moment, the telephone in the car rang and we learned that trouble had broken out in Strangeways Prison in Manchester
    Lord Waddington
    After being told of the violence in London, the home secretary headed straight back to survey the damage.
    "We knew there was going to be a big demonstration but we certainly had no inkling the demonstrators were going to be infiltrated by people out to cause mayhem. We weren't anticipating any great trouble," he says. "There were broken windows all over the place and a mess in the streets. One of the most awful things was the use of scaffolding poles against police.
    "The day afterwards, near Trafalgar Square, a little band of very unpleasant customers was still roaming around. They made as if to attack the car and the police insisted I get back in and we hurried away.
    "That moment, the telephone in the car rang and we learned that trouble had broken out in Strangeways Prison in Manchester. I thought, 'well, I seem to have a lot of trouble on my hands'."
    However, the sight of prisoners "capering around" on the roof, having taken control of the jail, stayed with him much longer than the poll tax trouble, the peer adds.
    In a Commons debate after the riot, David Waddington criticised some Labour MPs who he felt had "lent encouragement" to some of the rioters by backing non-payment.
    Now, he says the poll tax riots seem less significant after violence at last year's G20 summit left a man dead.
    Trade union representative Lizzie Woods was 16 when she led a delegation of 20 school pupils from south-east England to the march.
    "We felt that every part of our lives as working class kids was under attack," she recalls. "The government miscalculated because they thought poor people didn't have a voice.
    "There were thousands of ordinary people on the march - families, pensioners, black and white people and mothers with pushchairs. I've never seen so many people who didn't deem themselves political on a march. The mood was really upbeat and jubilant and the police were happily chatting to people."
    However, the mood changed to "complete chaos in the blink of an eye".
    "It was terrifying. I saw people on scaffolding throwing bits of wood at people," she says. "Objects were being thrown around and there were police horses. We got split up for about an hour and were very frightened."
    Like many others, she believes the march was infiltrated by those bent on violence.
    "It descended into a riot but we won. Poll tax didn't get through."
    Roy Hanney, who lived in south London, attended the march as a "family outing" with friends, his sister and three-year-old nephew.
    "We were making our voices heard. We felt the poll tax was unfair," says Mr Hanney, 49, who now lives in Portsmouth.
    After reaching Trafalgar Square, he parted company with his friends to head to Soho. On returning to the square an hour later, expecting to hear speeches, he found "all hell had broken loose".
    "The police had started driving vans into the crowds. I saw a cavalry charge come up from Whitehall past that building into the crowd and there was a woman who was trampled by these horses. A whole load of people came running out to help her.
    "Sights like that just served to further inflame the crowd and make them feel like they were under attack. The police were charging around like lunatics.
    "I climbed up onto scaffolding to get off the streets."
    After climbing down about an hour later, two police officers ran into a crowd, pushing Mr Hanney to the ground and manhandled him into a van.
    He was arrested but a jury stopped his trial, convinced he was innocent. He eventually received £30,000 in compensation.
    Standing in shirt sleeves as the sun shone over Hammersmith Bridge, PC Anthony Cooper was "having a lovely time" controlling the genteel crowds watching the varsity boat race.
    But instead of returning to their west London base, his 23-strong team was diverted to Trafalgar Square where "all hell had broken loose".
    "I'll never forget the extent of the damage," says the 67-year-old, now retired to Somerset.
    "We walked up Regent Street from Trafalgar Square and every bank or shop window was smashed, every car had a dustbin thrown through the back windscreen. It was a terrible atmosphere. People had just used the poll tax as an excuse to rampage and wreck things."
    PC Steve Wooding, from Essex, watched events unfold on screens at Scotland Yard's Gold Control room, from where he directed officers to trouble spots.
    "We had anticipated trouble and you had the usual 'rent-a-mob' who had nothing to do with the demonstration but were there to cause trouble. It all kicked off when some wanted to get into Downing Street."
    "Placards were being ripped up and lumps of wood were flying through the air. We deployed horses to try to split the crowd. We had inspectors asking for urgent assistance, saying their men were being stoned from both sides," he says.
    "It was frustrating because you could see how frightening it was but you felt like you couldn't do anything about it.
    Mr Wooding admits some police were too "heavy-handed" but believes officers did well to control their emotions in the face of such aggression.

    I remember walking through Trafalgar Square that Saturday evening after the demonstrators had gone. I was 20 years of age and working in a hi-fi shop in South Kensington, and was trying to reach Charing Cross station for my journey home. I'd been watching the violence unfold on the TV screens in the store, so wasn't surprised later when the Tube driver said we wouldn't be stopping at Embankment. So I hopped off at Westminster and walked up Whitehall. Off its side streets I saw the last remnants of coaches being boarded by those who had demonstrated peacefully, for their journey home to whichever part of the country they had come from.
    Entering Trafalgar Square was a surreal sight, like walking through the set of a disaster movie. There was loads of debris lying around, the smouldering remains of the Portakabins that had been set on fire and a burnt-out car. There was a minimum police presence at this point, and the whole eerie experience gave me a small taste of what might happen if there was ever a mass breakdown of in law and order in London. It stills sends a shiver up my spine to this day. Elliot Willson, Sidcup, Kent
    I was living in Holborn to the east of Trafalgar Square at that time. It was a Saturday and I was due to visit my parents which usually meant driving through Trafalgar Square en route. The Strand had been cordoned off to traffic by police but I knew the side roads so found myself as the only car driving westwards down the Strand towards Trafalgar Square. As I got nearer the square I could see smoke coming from it, so thought better and did a U-turn on The Strand. While negotiating another route I got a good look at the "protestors" (rioters) - the usual suspects intent on having a riot who would have evaded most taxes anyway. Charles Riley, Aylesbury, UK
    I stumbled on the protests by accident after spending a pleasant morning in Covent Garden with friends. It seemed like a good idea to hang around and listen to some of the speeches. It appears luck was on our side as we left via the strand just as the police horses charged the protest. It is my recollection that this ignited the trouble as many indignant innocent people were ruthlessly baton charged in police tactics honed during the miners' strikes. Brutality breeds brutality and the police were misguided in their actions and at fault in too may ways to mention. We escaped by diving into a door way and waiting for the horses to pass before scuttling off down the Strand. There was no way out for those who were left. It must have been like shooting fish in a barrel. Dave, York, UK
    I remember the chaos of that Saturday afternoon, while working, the police had closed the underground, people were going crazy, they burnt the Renault car dealership include cars near Leicester square. We managed to get to a Regent St branch of shop I worked in, someone threw a bin through the window, people were basically helping themselves. Safraz Khan, Kent
    I was there to demonstrate peacefully. The march had a friendly carnival atmosphere right up until we got to Trafalgar Square. In Trafalgar square the police boxed everyone in, there was nowhere to go, and the police started getting heavy handed. After years of mass unemployment and a divisive right wing government that seemed only to care about the rich, there was a lot of resentment. People had had enough and fought back. Saying it was "rent-a-mob" shows a lack of any understanding of the situation. Mike, Leeds

    KGS: Sowing Seeds for Success

    South London Press: The magnificent seven

    South London Press: Keep the noise down at night, police urged

    Tuesday, 30 March 2010

    Garden Museum: New exhibition Thursday 1 April – Sunday 12 September Christopher Lloyd: A Life at Great Dixter

    New exhibition
    Thursday 1 April – Sunday 12 September
    Christopher Lloyd: A Life at Great Dixter
    The first major retrospective about the life and work of Christopher Lloyd, our new exhibition will present a unique perspective on the life and work of one of the great characters of 20th century gardening. Bringing together personal objects from his home at Great Dixter, recollections and stories from Christopher’s friends and colleagues, examples of his writing and stunning images of his garden to piece together a picture of the man behind the iconic garden.
    FREE with Museum Admission
    (£6 Adults / £5 Concs / FREE Students, Under 16s & Carers of Disabled Visitors)

    Thursday 1 April, 6.30 – 8.30pm
    Fergus Garrett & Anna Pavord – Reflections on Christopher Lloyd
    Fergus Garrett, Head Gardener & Chief Executive at Great Dixter, and garden writer Anna Pavord will talk about their experiences of influential gardener Christopher Lloyd.
    Tickets £20 / £15 Museum Friends
    Book in advance on 020 7410 8865 ext*822

    Thursday 8 April, 6.30 – 8.30pm
    Reputations – How are Gardeners Remembered?
    The Garden Museum teams up with the Garden History Society for a debate about the posthumous reputations of gardeners. In comparison to artists and architects the reputations of gardeners and garden designers seem to have a short and uncertain ‘half-life’. Penelope Hobhouse, Dominic Cole, and Christopher Woodward, will explore this and discuss the notion of heroes and heroines in the world of gardening.
    Tickets £15 / £10 Museum Friends & Garden History Society Members
    Book in advance on 020 7410 8865 ext*822
    Saturday 10 April, 10.30am – 5pm
    Dianthus Day
    To celebrate its 60th anniversary the British National Carnation Society will fill the Garden Museum with stunning floral displays. Come along for a day of lectures, floral art and nursery stalls where you can learn about and buy various carnations and pinks.
    FREE with Museum Admission
    (£6 Adults / £5 Concs / £3 BNCS members / FREE Students, Under 16s & Carers of Disabled Visitors)
    Tuesday 13 April, 6.30 – 8.30pm
    Christopher Lloyd: Friend & Host
    Garden designer & writer Mary Keen and novelist Frank Ronan will reflect on Christopher Lloyd as a host, opera-lover, cook, traveller and friend.
    Tickets £20 / £15 Museum Friends
    Book in advance on 020 7410 8856 ext*822
    Wednesday 21 April, 10.30am – 5pm
    Auricula Day
    Designed by the Dowager Marchioness of Salisbury, the Garden Museum’s Auricula Theatre will once again take centre stage, dressed with a range of exquisite show auriculas. Specialist nursery Pops Plants will be selling plants and offering advice on their care and cultivation. Lady Salisbury will also give a talks on the history of auriculas.
    FREE with Museum Admission
    (£6 Adults / £5 Concs / FREE Students, Under 16s & Carers of Disabled Visitors)
    Thursday 22 April, 6.30pm – 8.30pm
    Christopher Lloyd: His Life at Great Dixter
    Garden writer and journalist Stephen Anderton will give a talk to launch his new biography of Christopher Lloyd. Stephen knew “Christo” for over 20 years and has had unprecedented
    access to his home at Great Dixter while researching the book.
    Tickets £20 / £15 Museum Friends
    Book in advance on 020 7410 8865 ext*822

    Spring Plants & Gardens Fair
    The Garden Museum will be transformed into a plants-man’s paradise with up to 20 specialist nurseries selling a wide range of fascinating and unusual plants. This is the London plant event to start off your gardening year.
    Sunday 25 April 10.30am—5pm, included in Museum admission

    Garden Museum, Lambeth Palace Road, London SE1 7LB

    Saturday, 27 March 2010

    Regeneration forges ahead south of the river

    Times Online Logo 222 x 25
    March 26, 2010

    Regeneration forges ahead south of the river

    Vauxhall, Battersea and Nine Elms are on the brink of a mighty makeover. But will it live up to the hype

    aerial shot of new battersea power station development
    A computer-generated image for the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station
    The “Battersea Vauxhall Nine Elms Opportunity Area” is more interesting than it sounds. It includes Battersea Power Station, the new US Embassy, a cluster of skyscrapers, a possible new footbridge over the Thames, even a Tube extension. These are the kind of things that make Londoners very excited and deeply cynical. The plans have been hyped for so long thay they’ve assumed mythic status.
    The background
    The site is 450 acres of industrial riverbank between Lambeth and Chelsea bridges. A recent planning framework proposed a bag of goodies: 25,000 jobs, 16,000 homes, fancy skyscrapers and a Tube station for Battersea.
    The American Embassy
    The US State Department bought the site in 2008, planning consent was granted in October, work will start in 2013 and finish in 2017. Wandsworth Council is already using the term “embassy quarter”.
    Battersea Power Station
    It was never going to be easy. Rob Tincknell, managing director of Treasury Holdings, the owner of the site (bought for £400 million in 2006), said this week that he wanted to sell a stake in the £5.5 billion development. All hopes are pinned on Wandsworth Council approving a second planning application, submitted in October. It includes 3,700 homes, but not the “eco-tower” vetoed by the Mayor last year. A decision is expected in August.
    The Tube
    The future of the power station also depends on the extension of the Northern Line from Kennington to two new stations — Nine Elms and Battersea.
    TfL has said that this would probably be possible in principle, but that the developer would have to pay.
    New homes
    Foster and Partners is drawing up plans for part of the 57-acre New Covent Garden Market site. Flats, shops and cafés are planned for Nine Elms Lane, Thessaly Road and Wandsworth Road. All will be linked by a “linear park” connecting Vauxhall with the power station. The planning application will be submitted this year.
    Several are planned in Vauxhall, but are proving wobbly. Work is yet to start on Vauxhall Tower (180m, 223 flats) at St George’s Wharf, despite being approved in 2005. Vauxhall Sky Gardens (120m, 178 flats), approved in 2008, has gone quiet. Market Towers, a 1970s block, was to become four blocks of flats, but it was sold last year and the new owners, Green Property, say “we are keeping our powder dry”. No decision has yet been made on Make Architects’ Bondway tower (149m, 376 flats), though plans were submitted in May 2009. Everyone is likely to leap off the fence if the Tube and the power station get the go-ahead this summer.
    One unlikely new development bordering the Nine Elms area is delighted to be soaking up some of the “embassy quarter” glamour.
    No one familiar with the former South Bank University building on Wandsworth Road would have connected the word glamour with the old lump of 1960s concrete. Yet the developer, Mount Anvil, has done an impressive job in a dingy corner of Stockwell. Crisp white render now covers the grey concrete and a concierge resides in an elegant lobby.
    There are excellent views from the upper floors of the seven-storey, 172-unit complex. Some overlook Battersea Power Station, with a charming foreground of little Victorian terraces. Though it will be a building site for the next ten years, and some views over the river may be obscured, it will always be a fascinating cityscape.
    Prices start at £205,000 for a 506sq ft studio, rising to £525,000 for a 1,022sq ft two-bedroom flat. The better the view, the higher the price. Only five of the 38 flats in the first phase remain unsold and the second phase of 69 flats is selling at a rate of about four a week.
    “We did wonder about success here, but it has exceeded our expectations,” says Killian Hurley, chief executive of Mount Anvil, which bought the site at the height of the market in July 2007. Almost all the homes, he said, had sold for within 2 to 3 per cent of the asking price.
    Hurley attributes this to luck, the planned Tube link and the US Embassy, the impact of which he believes will be “the same as the Olympics”.
    Lucy Alexander Details: 0845 1800004, 

    Friday, 26 March 2010

    Good Friday: Handel's Messiah

    Inspirational music in a beautiful setting.  Handel's Messiah on Good Friday.  All welcome.

    Thursday, 25 March 2010

    Karen Gillan is 'sexiest sidekick Doctor Who's ever had' - 3am & Mirror Online

    Karen Gillan is 'sexiest sidekick Doctor Who's ever had' - 3am & Mirror Online
    She's the flame-haired temptress who’ll be helping Doctor Who with his sonic screwdriver...  Karen, originally from Inverness, was working as a barmaid in Kennington, South London, until she successfully auditioned for Doctor Who last year.  ...

    Happy slap killer out after 4 years | The Sun |News

    Happy slap killer out after 4 years | The Sun |News

    O'Mahoney, the daughter of two heroin addicts of Kennington, South London, booted his head like a football and gloated: "Pose for the camera."

    The Battle of Trafalgar Square: The poll tax riots revisited

    March 25, 2010

    The Battle of Trafalgar Square: The poll tax riots revisited

    London's poll tax riot, 20 years ago next week, has come to symbolise the end of Thatcherism. But how was it for those involved? David Graham revisits the scene

    Soldiers! Your labours, your privations, your sufferings and your valour will not be forgotten by a grateful country." The inscription on the plinth below a statue of Sir Henry Havelock, Major General of the British Army during the 1857 campaign in India, is as potent as it is appropriate.
    The monument stands guard at the south-eastern corner of Trafalgar Square, casting a steely eye over the junction between The Strand and Northumberland Avenue. It's an unusually tranquil pocket of central London today, as tourists roam around the rare open space, and the fountains drown out the rumbling of the London traffic. And yet it was here, 20 years ago on the final day of this month, that flames sent smoke billowing into the blue skies above the capital as protests against the Poll Tax escalated into some of worst rioting post-war Britain has seen.
    Tube stations were closed and much of the capital had to be cordened off as cars and police vans were set alight, shops looted and police and firefighters were pelted. Perhaps the most enduring image from the day is the shocking sight of a woman being trampled by a charging police horse. According to David Maynell, the then deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, trouble sprang from only 3,000 or so protesters out of a total estimated at up to 200,000, but the fall-out was far-reaching: £400,000 worth of damage, 400 arrests, 113 injured and, arguably, the downfall of Margaret Thatcher, who resigned leight months later.
    The Poll Tax was a flagship policy of the Thatcher government. It had been implemented in Scotland a year earlier and its deployment south of the border was looming, slated for the start of the new tax year the following month. The tax would see the abolition of rates based on the value of a property, replaced by a fixed charge per adult resident and set by each local government. In practice, critics pointed out, that meant a millionaire living alone in a mansion would pay less than the average family, but Thatcher, defending the tax earlier that month in the Commons, argued that it was "a very much fairer system than domestic rates which preceded it", where, "a single person in one house would pay the same rates as four or five people in the next door house."
    Few agreed with her. Particularly the All Britain Anti-Poll Tax Federation (the Fed), a national body of anti-Poll Tax unions set up by Militant Tendency, forerunners of today's Socialist Party, who organised a mass protest march to take to the streets of London and Glasgow simultaneously.
    Saturday, 31 March 1990 was an unusually warm spring day, and by 11am a crowd had begun to gather for the initial rally in Kennington Park, south London, ahead of a march to Trafalgar Square. Steve Glennon,the Fed's chief steward, says it felt different to the average demonstration. "People who had never been on a demo before in their lives came out. That was how far-reaching an issue it was. There was a sea of people and a real carnival atmosphere - people with kids had come out with the little ones in pushchairs."
    Drummers, bands and jugglers lent a colourful air, but didn't dilute the focus. "I remember an electric atmosphere," says Chris Bambery, then 34 and protesting with the Socialist Workers' Party. "It was really positive and everyone was keen to make a stand," including, he recalls, the miners. "They saw it as another chance to have a go after everythingThatcher had already put them through. I remember a real feeling that things are changing here - we had been taking it on the chin repeatedly but enough was enough."
    Thatcher's popularity had been sliding. According to a March 1990 Mori poll for the Sunday Times, support for her among the electorate stood at just 15 per cent.
    While the overall atmosphere was positive, problems began to emerge. At the last minute, police changed the agreed drop-off points for more than 800 coaches, sending stewards to the wrong places. At 1.30pm, the crowd set off on the two-and-a-half-mile journey to Trafalgar Square, where speakers including George Galloway and Tony Benn were to address them. The 70,000-capacity Square filled up in no time; police had closed off much of the immediate area, at the organisers' request, creating space for 190,000 people in total. Three weeks earlier, organisers had requested that the march be diverted to Hyde Park to accommodate the crowd. The request was denied.
    Jane Spencer, from north London, was 22 at the time, and went along with several friends. "It was just such an evil tax," she says. "It played entirely into the hands of the wealthy and a lot of poorer people couldn't afford to pay it." (As part of the protest, an estimated 17 million people in England also refused to pay when the tax did take effect in April. When the tax was abolished under John Major's leadership of the Conservative party, in 1993, councils were £2bn in arrears as a result.)
    Ms Spencer adds: "There was nothing like being around such a strong group; we felt protected and untouchable - we could really change something. It felt like we were going to overthrow the State."
    At around 4pm, Steve Glennon got a report from a stewards at Downing Street that a sit-down protest in nearby Whitehall had become "a bit of a ruck" between police and protesters. This was to be the turning-point.
    As protesters refused to be moved, the police began making arrests - only to be pelted with missiles. The ripple of violence spread quickly to Charing Cross Road, Pall Mall, Regent Street and Covent Garden. "Next thing I knew," says Chris Bambery, who was in the Square, "there were police charging up Whitehall. At that point we didn't know what was happening at Downing Street. The crowd just responded and ran at them, and the riot cops ran away. That really stands out for me, the moment I saw the cops turn and run. That's when I knew this was different to any other demonstration I had been to."
    Carmela Ozzi, then 29, from west London, was protesting with her then-partner and his brother and remembers vividly the feeling of unease that spread through the crowd. "The tensions had started before we got to Trafalgar Square; then things got really bad really quickly once we were there." She was caught in the thick of the action when the police returned to charge the baying crowd. "It was very scary. We were near a van that was driven into the crowd, and with the horses we were being pushed back and back into a corner. I remember thinking, 'Somebody is going to get hurt here today'. I felt we were penned in like caged animals." The trio got caught up in a charge; a scuffle ensued and she says she and her partner were arrested, trying to protect his brother. "That day was a defining moment for me, and dreadfully painful; I knew I would never look at the police the same again."
    Tommy Sheridan, who was chairman of the Fed, was preparing to address the crowd in Trafalgar Square when the violence erupted. "I was standing next to George Galloway and his daughter, listening to Tony Benn speak, when it all kicked off. George was very worried for his daughter's safety because there were bits of wood and debris being hurled at the police."
    Meanwhile, protesters had set fire to builders' Portacabins at a building site on the corner of The Strand and Northumberland Avenue, lacing the air with the acrid smell of burning rubber.
    Meanwhile, according to Steve Glennon, a police commander was standing on the empty plinth in front of the National Gallery co-ordinating charges. Glennon pleaded with him to call off his men in an attempt to quell the growing panic.
    "We had agreed with the police that if Whitehall became blocked we would go through north Embankment and Northumberland Avenue, which we did," explains Glennon. "But then there was a phalanx of riot police right across the top of Northumberland Avenue stopping people getting out and causing a pressure point." Unable to escape, he says, fleeing protestors began to panic. "You had this great mix of people, right down to small kids," adds Glennon, "and yet they were all getting repeatedly charged by police horses."
    Ken Smith, then the press officer for Socialist Party newspaper Militant, arrived at the Square mid-riot. "I heard it before seeing it," he says. "At first it didn't register that the noise was connected with the demonstration. I remember a lot of sirens. It was bewildering how something so positive had ended up in confrontation. The approach by the police had been a big contributing factor."
    The Metropolitan Police's David Meynell, thowever, told the BBC at the time that a peaceful march had been "completely overshadowed" by the actions of a minority who had "launched a ferocious and sustained attack on the police".
    As the crowd began to disperse, mostly back to their coaches south of the Thames, small groups of activists marauded through the affluent areas surrounding Trafalgar Square, overturning cars before setting them alight and smashing-up and looting shops. Calm was not restored until 3am.
    Now, watching huddles of tourists snapping each other in front of Nelson's Column, it's hard to imagine the mayhem of 20 years ago. And despite the protest's enduring association with violence, Chris Bambery sees it as a victory. "We felt we had dealt a big blow to Thatcher," he says. "When she's talked about on TV there are two images that are always used, the one of her being driven away in tears and the shots of Trafalgar Square. It was one of the defining moments of her tenure. My feelings were like everyone else's - we were no longer on the receiving end. We were taking a stand. It was a moment for people power in this country."
    Some names have been changed

    ‘Happy slap’ killer freed after 4 years

    ‘Happy slap’ killer freed after 4 years

    Terry Kirby
    A member of a gang who beat a man to death on the South Bank and filmed it on her phone has been freed after four years in jail.
    Chelsea O'Mahoney, 20, of Kennington, was 14 when David Morley, 37, died in the 2004 “happy-slap” attack. She was given eight years for manslaughter and grievous bodily harm.

    Early closure of Tube ticket offices slammed

    Early closure of Tube ticket offices slammed
    Thursday, 25 March 2010
    Under the proposals, the ticket offices at Kennington would close 
eight hours earlier
    Under the proposals, the ticket offices at Kennington would close eight hours earlier
    PROPOSALS that would see Tube ticket offices shut early, others close altogether and staff laid off have come under fire.
    Documents leaked to the South London Press detail Transport for London (TfL) plans to shut ticket offices on most Underground lines up to three hours earlier than they do now.
    At Kennington and Lambeth North stations, on the Northern and Bakerloo lines respectively, the ticket offices would close eight hours earlier than they do currently.
    The across-the-board cuts would see other ticket offices including Brixton on the Victoria line and Canada Water on the Jubilee line close more than an hour earlier at night.
    At Waterloo, half of the ticket offices would be axed in the plans, while all the Clapham Tube stations’ offices would close by 8pm.
    Val Shawcross, London Assembly member for Lambeth and Southwark, claims the closures are an attempt by London Mayor Boris Johnson to axe jobs.
    She said: “The Mayor is proposing to cut up to 450 jobs from ticket offices and his claim it won’t impact on passengers just doesn’t add up.
    “I don’t see how these plans can fail to inconvenience passengers. People value the presence of staff in ticket offices.
    “It’s reassuring to know where to find a member of staff in the event of an emergency or if you need information.
    “I believe people will feel less comfortable about using Tube stations, particularly late at night.”
    A TfL spokeswoman claimed the authority was committed to making no “compulsory” redundancies.
    She said: “We have assured staff and customers that all of our stations will continue to be staffed at all times while trains are operating, and that all stations with a ticket office will continue to have one.
    “The changes we’re proposing to ticket office opening hours are in line with customer demand.
    “Where reductions in posts are necessary, we’ll first seek to avoid filling vacancies and redeploy staff.”
    Mr Johnson's transport advisor Kulveer Ranger said: "Every station with a ticket office will continue to have one.
    "All stations will be staffed at all times when trains are running and stations will feel safer by moving some staff out of the office and amongst the public.
    "This combined with the highest ever levels of police on the network and more CCTV means stations are and will continue to be safe for all that use them."
    What do you think? Have your say by filling in the comment form below.

    For the full story, you can get a full online edition at

    Kids Ballroom Dance Program


    We are a Kennington, London based Ballroom Dance school and we will be holding an event in March that may be of interest to some of your groups.
    Our studio hosts many weekly classes, activities and events for the local community. We have a children's ballroom dance program beginning in the spring. Prior to this we will be holding an Open Day on Saturday March 27th from 3:00 - 4:30 pm. This event is completely free, there will be introductory dance classes for kids, also one for kids and parents together, there will also be demonstrations. I have attached a flyer with timetable and classes.
    Please feel free to contact us if you need more information.
    Kind regards,
    Melina Hamilton
    020 7735 2278
    07951 742346



    25 – 27 March 7.30pm, 27 March 3pm
    Tickets £6 and £4

    Supported by
    Rotary Club of Kennington
    In aid of Trinity Hospice

    Lambeth Mission,
    Lambeth Road, SE1

    Please pass this message on to any organisation or friends you have, particularly in North Lambeth

    Oval Farmers Market

    The Oval Partnership would like to thank you again for your continued interest and support, which has enabled us to make exciting progress since the beginning of this year.   You may remember that our goal is to improve the Oval public realm by means of individual projects, and that our current chosen project is the Oval Farmer’s Market and the grounds of St Marks.

    We have raised sufficient funding to commission a design for the grounds of the church and the improvement of the market.  After a rigorous selection process we have now (unanimously) appointed the landscape architects who will deliver the consultation and design for this project.

    The consultants we have appointed are called Landscape Perspective, and they have teamed up, for this project, with advisors specialising in cultural heritage and listed structures:  This means that both the landscape and long term improvements for the market and St Marks will be considered alongside the need to preserve and enhance the historical nature of the site.  Landscape Perspectives offers broad experience, excellence in design and a good understanding that this project is a part of the larger public realm strategy for the Oval.

    We will be holding consultation events during the summer.  They will be held on Saturdays during market hours to enable as many local residents as possible to give their comments.

    Ghislaine Stewart

    Licensing Application: The Tommyfield (formerly The White Hart), 185 Kennington Lane, SE11 4EZ

    Dear Neighbours

    A number of people have contacted us with concern about this late night licensing application.

    Best wishes
    Cathy Preece
    KA Administrative Assistant

    Dear Neighbours,

    The White Hart Pub on Kennington Cross is changing its name to the Tommyfield and has applied to be open until 1am on a Friday and Saturday night.

    Please visit the website below if you would like to find out how you can comment on the application.
    All the best


    Cllr Stephen Morgan
    Labour & Co-operative Councillor for Princes Ward
    c/o Lambeth Town Hall
    Brixton Hill
    London SW2 1RW

    Tel: 020 7820 6664
    Mob: 07985 735 849
    Surgery: 10am to 11am on the 1st & 3rd Saturday of every month at the Durning Library, 167 Kennington Lane, London SE11 4HF.

    Saturday, 20 March 2010

    John Prescott and the curse he visits upon restaurants


    John Prescott and the curse he visits upon restaurants

    John Prescott is welcomed at restaurants up and down the country – he has been known to chomp his way through entire menus – but his patronage would appear to come with a curse.

    John Prescott and the curse he visits upon restaurants
    John Prescott Photo: PA
    After his beloved Mr Chu's China Palace in Hull was fined for hygiene offences, the Kennington Tandoori, the former deputy prime minister's favourite curry house in south London, has been ordered to pay £20,000 by the UK Border Agency for employing four illegal immigrants.
    Both establishments hold fond memories for Prescott. He has admitted on some nights to eating his way through Mr Chu's entire menu. In 2004, he treated Zha Peixin, then the Chinese ambassador to Britain, to a slap up meal at the restaurant.
    Four years later, however, its owners were fined £4,000 by magistrates after pleading guilty to 10 food hygiene offences, including poor cooling practices and cross-contamination of food.
    At both establishments, it is Prescott's custom to sit at corner tables with a napkin tucked into his collar and his back to the other diners so they can't see how much he consumes.
    Gordon Brown calls on Andrew Motion
    Andrew Motion took a call from Gordon Brown the other day. The Prime Minister asked the former poet laureate if he could think of a piece of poetry that was apposite to his predicament.
    "I gave him a line from Keats about being a battered rock we can hang on to in a stormy sea," Motion tells Vogue.
    If he had called me, I would have plumped for Auden's Stop the Clocks ("Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come").

    London village: Elephant & Castle

    Times Online Logo 222 x 25
    March 18, 2010

    London village: Elephant & Castle

    The area has suffered myriad setbacks, but there’s more to SE17 than concrete council estates and roundabouts

    Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre in SE London due for major 
redevelopment, 28th February 2007.
    Elephant & Castle has been in a perpetual state of regeneration since the 1960s, when town planners hit on the idea of encasing everything in concrete and forcing the population to scurry along dark tunnels beneath roundabouts.
    Everyone agrees that something must be done, but no one currently has the money to do it. Southwark Council is desperate to house the 15,000 people on its waiting list. A £1.5 billion masterplan, involving the demolition of the shopping centre, has been stagnating for a few years but in December the council announced a new development deal and will publish further plans soon.
    In the meantime, the Heygate estate will be demolished and subways filled in. New parks, shops and homes (mostly in tower blocks) will follow — eventually.
    So where is it exactly?
    SE1 and SE17, around and to the south of the roundabout, between The Borough, Bermondsey, Walworth and Kennington.
    What are house prices like?
    “As low as £145,000 for an ex-council flat,” says Jack Gundry, of Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward. “The top end would be £500,000 for a four-bedroom family house on Liverpool Grove.”
    Any architectural gems?
    The Victorian library on Walworth Road and the new Strata tower.
    What about decent shops?
    If you want to pawn your watch, place a bet or eat a kebab, Walworth Road is a paradise. Shop the socialist way at the vegan food co-op on Crampton Street.
    Any good schools?
    The best primary is St John’s Walworth. David Cameron launched his education manifesto in January at Walworth Academy, on Shorncliffe Road.
    What about transport links?
    Northern and Bakerloo Tube lines; 36 bus routes; trains to Blackfriars take 3min.
    And the politics?
    Simon Hughes has been the Lib Dem MP for North Southwark and Bermondsey since 1983.
    How’s the nightlife?
    Sparse, but the Beehive on Carter Street is “good for grub and a pint”, one local says. Clubs include the Ministry of Sound and the kitsch South London Pacific.
    Not renowned for culture, is it?
    Proximity to art colleges including Camberwell College of Arts, London College of Communication and Goldsmiths College ensures an edgy scene. The artistic community at Pullens Yard is seriously hip. The Nolias Gallery on the Old Kent Road does “cool stuff for people with cool haircuts”, one resident says. The Royal Court Theatre is currently staging plays in the shopping centre and the Coronet Theatre hosts gigs.
    Any good restaurants or bars?
    The Dragon Castle on Walworth Road is highly rated. Locals recommend Mamuska!, a new Polish restaurant: “super nice, cheap and cool food”. The Electric Elephant café is a little piece of Hoxton on Crampton Street.

    Nurse jailed for downloading child porn


    Nurse jailed for downloading child porn

    A nurse was jailed for 11 months today after downloading a series of indecent photographs of children.
    Mark Eagleton, who was based at Guys and St Thomas' Hospital in London, pleaded guilty to 10 counts of making indecent images of children when he appeared at London's Southwark Crown Court last month.
    Three of the images downloaded on to his laptop on or before October 7 2008 were of the highest level of indecency, the court heard.
    Recorder Arthur Stevenson QC jailed Eagleton, 42, for 11 months today.
    Australian Eagleton, of Stable Way, Kennington, south London, admitted downloading the images while in the United States.
    He has since resigned from his job.

    Invitation to Roots and Shoots AGM 23 March

    Dear Friend,
    We would like to invite you to the Roots and Shoots ‘ Annual General  Meeting  to be held in the Hall at Roots and Shoots on the evening of Tuesday  23rd March at 6.30 for 7pm start until approximately 8.30 pm.
    Our Patron Kate Hoey will be in attendance to address the meeting and will hand out trainees’ certificates. We will also be showing our new promotional film on how our young people achieve called ‘Sowing the Seeds of Success’ (funded by ‘Awards for All’ Lottery funding).
    Refreshments will be served afterwards in the Hall.
    Looking forward to seeing you at the meeting,
    Best wishes,

    Linda Phillips

    Friday, 19 March 2010


    SUNDAY 21ST MARCH – Science Day at Roots and Shoots
    Doctor Bike – Ola -  will be on site form 11 till 4.
    Come and have your bike safety checked.
    Basic repairs undertaken – punctures and lubrications
    Information about the new National Cycle Training Standards.
    Donations Welcome!
    Many thanks
    Elsa Cole
    Administration Coordinator
    Roots and Shoots
    Walnut Tree Walk
    London SE11 6DN

    Tel:  020 7587 1131
    Fax: 020 7735 0602

    Lives Remembered: Gillie Johnson

    March 19, 2010

    Lives Remembered: Gillie Johnson

    Gillie Johnson, who died on 17 January aged 61 from pancreatic cancer, was a mentor, advisor, and friend to hundreds of people in the voluntary sector. A love of music, a commitment to social justice, and an expansive and varied community of friends and neighbours were central to Gillie's childhood in Wimbledon - she was born on 3 April 1948 - and remained central for the rest of her life.
    She taught music in Spain in the 1970s, supported the Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp, led the youth project Bridges in Hatfield, worked with Stonham Housing Association, helped set up the ex-offenders' organisation Revolving Doors, was co-founder of the community green space Waterloo Green Trust, and worked independently as a consultant and fairy godmother to charitable organisations and the people who drove them.
    In her flat in Kennington, with its strings of tiny white lights and lemongrass scented air, its political postcards jostling for position with pictures of her family and friends, Gillie welcomed scores of people whose journeys she helped map with guidelines of justness and fairness. And God help you if she ever caught you neglecting those guidelines. Her outrage could be nuclear, her laughter so joyous and roaring it sometimes made heads turn in restaurants.
    Many of us remember trudging to her flat in misery, going up the stairs in search of help, and leaving ready to take on the world. People who would never have met otherwise came together in gatherings at Gillie's flat, got to talking at theatre excursions Gillie organised, or were put in touch through introductions Gillie made, because, as many pointed out, she always saw a person in front of her, not a jail lag or a tramp in the street or a managing director of some big corporation.
    When Gillie's unofficially adopted daughter, Ali, gave birth to a girl, Gillie was there and it was, she said, the best day of her life. Winding down late at night, listening to jazz, ice clinking in her glass of wine ("pink or white"), her bulging Filofax by her side, Gillie kept answering the phone and the conversations kept going. In a second life, she once said, she'd want to be a professional jazz musician - Miles Davis or Dexter Gordon.
    Gillie is survived by her mother Kathleen Newis, her sister Margie Staker, her unofficially adopted daughter Ali Wood, and the many organisations and friends thriving because of what she gave them.
    By Simon Keyes and Linda Mannheim