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Pomp and protest


A lot of my photojournalism work is in central London – more particularly in the Westminster area. I have always loved the variety, spectacle and diversity of daily activity in this small area. I can think only of New York in having so much activity in such a small area.

The diary of a month

During a short period I photographed

  • The State opening of Parliament

  • A colourful, musical and loud demonstration in support of recognition of Somaliland

  • The end of a cabinet meeting in Downing Street with Government Minister hurrying back to their departments

  • HM The Queen's Birthday parade

  • The “Fishing for leave” armada on the Thames, including pictures of the late Jo Cox and her family the day before she was so tragically murdered.

The mixture of high pomp and circumstance of HM The Queen and members of the royal family both at the state opening of parliament and my favourite event; The Queen’s Birthday parade: in

contrast there was a protest a friendly, well-meaning group of people campaigning on Somaliland.

One of the most unusual, and, in retrospect sad, events, was the “Fishing for Leave” campaign. Nigel Farage led a fleet of about thirty fishing boats up the Thames, via Tower Bridge, with a contingent going on to Westminster. In hot pursuit were the remain campaigners; mostly in small inflatables and ribs. However, they had one large craft with non-other than Sir Bob Geldoff leading the singing and insults. It was a spectacle. Boats darted in and out, small inflatables taunting some of the large fishing boats. In the middle of this was the late MP, Jo Cox and her family.

It says a great deal about British democracy that all these events were carried out relatively peacefully, and for the most part with good humour.

The Metropolitan Police Service

As I wrote this blog one thing struck me. That was the highly professional, courteous and long suffering members of the Metropolitan Police Service. I make a point of talking to the police officers, mainly so they know I am a news photographer but also to express some appreciation and respect for their work. At the Queen’s Birthday parade, they maintain a discrete but highly efficient presence.

One of the days that I was in Westminster I took a decision to go in to Downing Street to photograph the Prime Minster leaving for Prime Minister’s Question Time. I make a habit of putting my coins, keys etc in to a plastic bag to make going through the search point in Downing Street easier for the officers on duty. However, on this occasion I had not. So, I stood to one side of Downing Street to empty my pockets. Moments later two police officers, very politely, asked what I was doing. I explained and they apologised for bothering me. I then apologised to them, it was a somewhat stupid thing for me to do near the entrance to Downing Street and they certainly had no need to apologise for doing their job. I then got another apology from the officer on the gate at Downing Street, who I see quite often. He said he sent the officers over as he did not recognise me from the back view. Where else in the world would police officers apologise for doing their job .

It was also most noticeable that during the “Fishing for Leave” protest the Metropolitan police marine unit had to deal with a unusual, unsafe and potentially dangerous situation - as well as keeping the protesters away from the Houses of Parliament. As far as I could see they carried out their role, allowed the exercise of democracy and democratic protest with good humour and professionalism.

Why I love photojournalism and London

Most of the above activities took place within a square mile around Westminster. Variety, excitement demonstrations and high state occasions. I think this represents a news photographers dream!

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