Weekend roundup for 6 August
Featuring strange clay, head cheese and a three-metre phallus
There is a lot going on this week, even by London’s standards. As well as the usual transport malarkey there’s privacy arguments, stripping police officers, concrete erections, sentient vending machines and pigeon kebabs.
We’ve done our best to get through it all, but we have saved some bits back for Monday’s edition, which is going to be a follow up to January’s ‘Things to look forward to’ issue.
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📼 Okay, let’s try and break down the ULEZ surveillance argument into one (or two) succinct bullet points… First we have to go back to 2014 when Mayor Johnson granted the Met access to over 1,000 numberplate recognition cameras. In May of this year, Sadiq expanded those powers to cover the whole of inner London. That decision stated that the data given to the Met would include “corroborating contextual still visual imagery,” and that there would be “the opportunity to develop the coverage in the future… as TfL’s schemes develop”. Now jump forward to 2023, when the ULEZ scheme has been widened to the whole of Greater London, and you can start to see where the problems arise.
The Open Rights Group and Sian Berry are leading the legal challenge against the mayor, claiming that the lack of public consultation makes the decision illegal and pointing out that current ANPR cameras can show the colour and make of vehicles, and potentially images of the faces of drivers and pedestrians. There is a crowdfunding campaign running to raise £30,000 to pay for the challenge.
All this happened in the same week that the British Transport Police said that they wanted to start tracking Oyster and bank card activity to spot “anomalous behaviour” like “somebody who’s travelling the Underground for six hours”. Because anyone who does that is “possibly a pickpocket, possibly a predatory sex offender.”
🚇 The RMT strike on 19 August has been confirmed, and as well as 10,000 Tube staff, 400 Overground staff will also be walking out. This completes the ‘strike sandwich’ happening that week, with 24-hour walkouts by Network Rail and 14 train operators happening on the Thursday and the Saturday.
👛 On Wednesday lunchtime TfL was due to make a decision on whether or not it was going to accept the government’s “multi-billion-pound bailout” or not. But then nothing happened. A City Hall spokesperson was quoted as saying that there were “significant issues” (yeah, no shit) and talks with the Department for Transport were “ongoing”. Meanwhile TfL was accusing the unions of “undermining” the negotiations with their strike announcement and Grant Shapps was calling for driverless trains again.
🚎 And we’re not done yet… Bus drivers working for Arriva are currently being balloted for strike action in a dispute over pay. The ballot closes on August 26, which means we could see strikes in September.
🛤️ Just to rub salt in the wound, a study this week showed that Londoners have the longest commute in the country at 74 minutes, “almost twice the worldwide average of 40 minutes.”
🚂 In more wholesome Tube news, a red 1938 Art Deco style train will be running on the Metropolitan line during the first week of September. The train has “red moquette seating, grab handles, and distinctive Art Deco light fittings”. Just don’t try and smoke while you’re on there.
🚨 Met officers have been warned that they “face disciplinary action” if they participate in the Porn Idol stripping competition at Heaven. Apparently the warning was sent out “after a matter was reported to the Met’s Licensing officers”.
🏠 A couple of studies came out this week throwing light on the different ways London has been altered by the pandemic. First up, Hamptons say that there has been “an exodus” of Londoners since the pandemic, with 40,540 properties purchased by Londoners outside of the capital in the first half of 2022. That’s a 19% rise on pre-pandemic levels.
💻 Meanwhile Kings College London looked at the working from home trend and found that it’s not a hatred of the office that’s keeping people at home, it’s the commute (see above). Their study also claims that three out of five people “would react negatively if their employer tried to force them to come in more regularly, while there is very little support for paying people less for WFH.” The full report is here.
⛽ Guerrilla anti-Shell adverts have been spotted on bus stops across South London. So far the anti-ads which carry slogans like “Shell: burning your future” and “Climate breakdown: we cause it”, have been spotted in Dalston, Lewisham, New Cross, Peckham, Hackney, and Herne Hill. We’re not sure who’s responsible yet, but our brief investigation into unofficial London posters did lead us to this tweet:
🇷🇺 A 61-year-old ally of Vladimir Putin’s, nicknamed ‘Putin’s Chef’ has had his defamation case against an investigative journalist thrown out of the courts because his lawyers no longer wanted to represent him. According to Bloomberg this is part of a trend of London lawyers deciding that it’s now too risky to be defending oligarchs.
🤳 The head of Instagram is temporarily moving to London, presumably to get as far away from Kim Kardashian as possible, but also because London developers are cheaper than San Francisco developers. The bad news is Nick Clegg is coming with him.
Art and culture bits
🍆 The best arts story of the week is definitely the one coming out of Imperial College London, where the students are fighting to stop the installation of new Antony Gormley statue, because it has a giant concrete cock (according to the Guardian the row is ‘an attack on geometry’).
📺 If you have access to Talking Pictures TV then you need to set your VHS recorder set for 1:30pm on Tuesday, as they’re showing the extraordinary 1967 documentary The London Nobody Knows, in which James Mason (yes, that James Mason) takes a tour of some of the city’s more obscure corners. It’s a strange but brilliant time capsule (that was based on this equally brilliant book).
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