Local businesses near Olympic Park sue LOCOG

Firms locating around the Olympics Park are planning legal actions against LOCOG.

One of the local businesses displaced by the Olympics

A group of 40 businesses located near the Olympic Park are filing lawsuits against the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG), on the grounds that the companies do not receive sufficient compensation when their businesses are devastated by the road closures or other relevant measures.

These companies fall outside the LOCOG’s compulsory purchase zone, ranging from transport business, cafes, garages to retailers, have committed a small amount of money to take legal action against LOCOG over the alleged lack of compensation plan and a perceived failure to provide relocation packages for the worst affected. Lawyers from John Halford and Paul Ridge will advise the group for a moot action against LOCOG.

LOCOG claimed Olympics has the capacity to transform one of the most underdeveloped areas of the country for generations to come. But businesses warned that having fewer customers is the only Olympic legacy they have.

Michael Spinks, manager of Essex Flour & Grain, complained the road closures would disrupt the revenue. He told the BBC: “Locog behaves like the playground bully. They don’t seem to care about the welfare of their neighbours. We are expected to fall in line and if we survive we survive, and if we don’t it is all for the greater good of the Olympics.”

Graham Phelps, manager of Phelps Transport said: “In rush hour we won’t be able to work at all. Where our drivers might usually leave at midday to get to a job in Birmingham they’re going to have to leave at 5am during the Olympics just to get there on time. We could lose between 50 and 60 per cent of our turnover.”

Traffic disruption dissuades customers purchasing from stores, as the manager of Pennywise Furniture wholesalers Kevin Farley voiced his concerns: “If there’s going to be police checkpoints, that will create a massive bottle-neck. I can see half of our customers staying away.”

The government’s plan to ‘regenerate’ the area will result in relocation, such moves may also pull away some loyal customers. From a community blog “Newham 2012“, a local pub owner faces an uncertain future due to radical changes within the community, he told the blogger that it was packed two years ago, but now there were only 3 other people in the pub.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said a study of nearly 1,700 small firms indicated that only 7% of them believe the 2012 Olympics will be of benefit to them. And 25% said they thought the events would have a negative impact.

In fact, LOCOG did expect some economic damages during the Olympics, the committee issued “Preparing your business for the Games” report, alerting entrepreneurs and businessmen prepare in advance to line up strategies minimizing potential loss. In the report, it has listed potential impacts on business and some coping strategies are also included. The impacts include:

  • takes longer journey for staff
  • internet services may be slower
  • mobile networks may be slowed down
  • travel disruption
  • road disruption due to Olympic Route Network (ORN)
  • disruptions to road network will affect deliveries across London

In this case, the bill for hosting London Olympics keeps rising, the economic impact is now going beyond what the Prime Minister David Cameron defended earlier for £9.3 billion. At this point, we can say the perceived “Olympics Effect” has almost vanished (the term refers to the fact that the West End predicts more than £17million being spent in major shopping districts or other economic benefits driven by tourism), some companies forecast the Olympics will flush in large amounts of income, pushing cafes and shops to rebrand themselves as “Olympic” in East London.


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The face of Terrorism is most definitely brown

Walking through Covent Garden today, I found myself nearly knocked over by a speeding police car down a small street with no sirens or lights on. I thought it strange they were in such a hurry but had no warning system. As I reached the Tesco’s in Covent Garden, I saw 6 heavily armed police officers surrounding a man. I walked past and saw a small, middle aged, Indian man. He was holding a white charity bucket in one hand. Two officers were standing behind him telling him not to move and to spread his legs; they were going to search him. Another 2 officers were taking all his belongings out of his small beige rucksack and reading every piece of paper and asking him about their contents. At the same time one other officer was asking him who he was, what his name was and why he was behaving suspiciously. Someone else was going through his wallet. It seems in London these days to be Asian, and carrying a rucksack makes you instantly suspicious.

The man spoke broken English and he did not seem to quite understand what was going on. He kept saying he was collecting for charity and you could see from his body language and the way he was looking at them he was stunned and very scared. These men were tall, heavily built, all Caucasian, talking loudly, moving him around physically, going through his things and saying he had been reported for suspicious behaviour. Someone they said had seen him collecting for charity outside Covent Garden station and had called the police saying they had seen a terrorist.

You could feel the adrenalin rising in these men as they went through his bag and flashes of the fear mongering and its terrible outcome with Jean Charles went through my mind. This man had been stopped and searched purely because of the colour of his skin. If a Caucasian man or woman had been standing outside Covent Garden station with a charity bucket and a rucksack would someone have rung the police saying there is a possible terror attack? Do people go around calling the police every time they see a Big Issue seller? Or one of those chuggers? They look more threatening half the time than this small framed middle aged man. But then Jean Charles had no padded jacket on, did not jump over any barriers. He was not even carrying the dreaded rucksack. He was simply the wrong colour. The colour of a terrorist.

They spotted me watching and I felt myself get worked up. I wanted to cause a scene. To let people know what was going on here. I said Racists out loud. They heard me and none of the armed men could look me in the eye. An Asian bobby who had turned up, couldn’t stop eyeballing me. I stared right back. Police tactics work in so many ways to provoke, intimidate.

After reading all his personal papers, and telling him they thought he could be a terrorist; they had to admit they found nothing. To stop anyone seeing what they were doing they formed a ring around him. They could see me watching, so they blocked my view. The biggest of them was laughing and asking where he should go next. To the next brown man I suggested. He ignored me. People walked by but because they had ringed him in no one could see what was happening. It was clear now he was not carrying a bomb- so now they formed a tighter ring round him- to hide what? The fact they had been searching a man based on the colour of his skin perhaps?

After half an hour the armed police left. 2 plain clothes were left taking his details and the Asian bobby kept eye balling me. I had nothing to hide. I eyeballed him back. Eventually they left and the man was left crouching in the street putting his things away. I went up to him and put my hand on his shoulder. Asked him was he okay. I did not want to scare him. I told him I had seen what had happened . He seemed wary and said yes he was fine. I said I would have been scared, I was scared because of how many men there were. And his eyes started to fill with tears and he said yes he was scared but he was okay. He asked me my name and where I was from. He said he did not understand why he had been stopped. I told him it was because he was carrying a rucksack. He did not understand what that word meant. And because he was brown. He understood that with a resigned acceptance . Just as I was asking him if he needed anything the Asian bobby turned up again. They had been sat in the police car watching me.
He looked down at where I was crouched with the man and asked me if I was okay. I said yes thank you fine. He would not move. He looked at my brown paper bag from the Tea Shop in Neal Street. There was a terracotta tea pot in there and some Jasmine tea. I told him I did not have a bomb and would he like to arrest me because I was brown too. He said nothing. I said I am having a private conversation please would you go away. He said I saw you say “racists” and I wanted to explain we are not and I am Asian. Good for you I said. You stopped this man because of the colour of his skin. He started to say no and started to get quite pushy. Provocative I would call it. I was not going to be riled. I told him I was exercising my human right to have a private conversation, he was disturbing this, he had no legal right to stop me speaking to someone and to go away. He would not go away. He said he wanted to explain to me why they had stopped his man. Perhaps he thought me press. Perhaps he thought this would go further. I turned my back on the bobby and finished my conversation with the man.

I wandered dazed and upset into Tesco’s to get away from the meddling Bobby, who would not even let me extend some generosity to the man they had just harassed. Aimlessly moving through chiller cabinets and food aisles, I went to leave and there he was, resilient, by the entrance with his white charity bucket in Tesco’s. He was not making any noise. Just silently standing there with his bucket collecting for charity. We spoke some more. He seemed stunned but he thanked me for being kind to him. I asked him for an interview and he said sure. I hope to share his story with you in his own words here of the experience. He told me he was from Bangladesh and was collecting for the poor and sick back home.

This incident is a sharp reminder of where we are with the terror laws that were rushed through. Take this incident and change a few variables. The man has a beard and Muslim dress. The man is younger, resents being stopped, resists the Police. The man has no papers to prove who he is. The man doesn’t speak English. The man has a Koran on him and literature that is anti war. The man has people who want to teach him a lesson, has annoyed his neighbour, who report on him-and you are one step closer to cases like Baber Ahmad. To extraordinary rendition, to Shaker Aamer still languishing in GTMO.

Wrong place, wrong time, and most definitely the wrong colour.


Cuts demonstration – London october 2010

Footage of the anti-cuts protest in London, October 20th, before the drastic cuts were confirmed.

Many students were marching against the government planned education cuts.

The cuts will  particularly affect the humanities as well as precipitating entire programs and grant facilities to be totally shut down. Current prospective students could see their university fees triple.

The student movements against the cuts culminated with the march last Wednesday 10th November that gathered more than 50,000 people coming from all over the country.

More actions should be announced to take place later during the month. Spectacle will be covering the ongoing actions.

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Final result: Fifa Won. South Africa Sweet FA

Mnikelo talking

The 2010 World Cup has generated $3.3bn in revenue for Fifa but for grassroots football in South Africa only 27 artificial pitches. Final result Fifa won. South Africa Sweet FA.

Click here to watch the video to hear what Abahlali baseMjondolo, the South African shackdwellers’ movement, have to say about the negative effects of the 2010 World Cup on South Africans.

Benefit Busters: Blaming the poor…..again

Channel 4’s new show ‘Benefit Busters’ seems to be a PR gem for a government overseeing the biggest economic crisis in the past 30 years. Once again the numerous reasons why unemployment is soaring and more and more people are finding themselves in the ranks of the long-term unemployed is ignored in favour of the old-iddium- ‘people are lazy’. The concept is simple, an outside team come into the local job centre and teach all the unemployed the reason they have no job is their negative attitude.

It would be funny, if it wasn’t so mind-numbingly unoriginal and tragic.  That Channel 4 has managed to find a character that bares a striking  resemblance to ‘league of gentlemen restart officer Pauline’ in the form of Hayley, is a small triumph but the truth is that a this is a bad tabloid headline come to life and its harmful. ‘No jobs, rubbish! a pep talk from Hayley and suddenly your dreams come true, Poundland has an opening. In agony after a terrible accident, don’t worry if your benefits are cut and your on the breadline you will soon forget about your troubles’. Not only does it patronise those millions of people looking for work in an ever squeezed market, it attacks the weakest in society, the sick and disabled who have the least chance of finding employment.

This is best illustrated by the episode where Kieron, a young man on disability allowance, has his benefits cut after he was found to be ‘faking’ a serious back injury by one of the pep talk team. Now call me cynical but I always thought you needed extensive medical training and a few years working with patients before you could decide whether someone was ill or not, a bad neck tie and lipstick just doesn’t seem like enough.

With virtually no questions asked of A4E,  the private company involved in Benefit Busters or how much value for money we the tax payer are getting for this scheme, as opposed as to the old system, this is more like a  informercial for A4E than a documentary. Given that it is claimed A4E receive up-to £I94 per client per week and they have a limited amount of success, even in the program several clients failed to stay in work, more stringent questions should have been asked about the methods of this company.

Is it right that Emma Harrison, the companies founder, has become a millionaire through other peoples unemployment? If you make money from people being out of work can you be trusted to find them a job? Is Hayley the person to rummage through peoples deep-seated psychological problems?

I just wonder what Channel 4 will sink to next- ‘The poor and disabled, how  they bring it on themselves’.

For a further critique of Benefit Busters visit The Metro

To read criticism of Benefit Busters by a local charity visit  Fife Today

For further information on our Poverty and the Media Project and to view our workshops please visit our Project Page.

‘How the other half live’ fails to tackle real issues

From the makers of ‘Secret Millionaire’, ‘How the other half live’ is Channel 4’s new program dealing with poverty in the UK. Each week a rich family looks at the life of a poor family and at the end of the program gives a certain amount of money or ‘sponsorship’ to that family.

The makers of  ‘How the other half live‘ may have had the best intentions in the world with this program, asking the viewer to explore the gap between rich and poor, highlighting the poverty that exists in UK and encouraging people to be as generous with those who need help in this country as they are with those abroad, but it is still, as Keith Watson put it in the Metro  ‘patronising‘ and astonishingly contrived.

Instead of looking at the general picture of poverty in this country it focuses on a handful of ‘lucky’ people who are to become the benefactors of a handful of wealthy patrons. This view makes each episode an almost Dickensian style story of the hopeless poor being rescued by the good-hearted rich.

Having a nice easy solution at the end of each program, where a single familie’s problems are solved by a cheque book, actually masks the real issue of the thousands of other families who continue to live in poverty. It also fosters the idea that poverty is a personal issue to be solved by wealthy individuals rather than a societal issue to be dealt with by all.

What do you think?

Are these programs helping or hindering those in poverty?

What is wrong with rich people adopting poor families?

To find out about Spectacle’s Poverty and the media project please visit our Project Page

Overwhelming support for Omar Deghayes account of torture

In the last few days an overwhelming amount of evidence has come to light about the complicity of British intelligence officers, and  the British government, in the torture of terror suspects.

Reporting in The Guardian, Ian Cobain has gathered a dossier of case studies and reports that support the account given to Spectacle by Omar Deghayes, a former Guantanamo detainee.

Omar Deghayes told Spectacle that he was visited numerous times by British intelligence officers while being tortured in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In a striking parallel to a case mentioned by Ian Cobain, Omar was first visited by an officer called ‘Andrew’.

From The Guardian:

‘Jamil Rahman, a British citizen from south Wales, was detained in his wife’s family’s village in northern Bangladesh in December 2005 and says he was tortured by Bangladeshi intelligence agents before being questioned by two MI5 officers who called themselves Liam and Andrew.’

The first thing Omar said to ‘Andrew’ was he was a British citizen, he then asked why the British were colluding with his maltreatment. Later on when Omar was moved to Bagram in Afghanistan, he says his torturers were given false information by British intelligence officers to further intimidate him. Furthermore  the British  interrogated him themselves in an area of the prison where they could have clearly seen prisoners being maltreated.

This claim has  now been supported by Pakistani intelligence officials who told New York based Human Rights Watch that not only were British Intelligence agents aware of torture but they were ‘grateful’ for it.

Surely it is time to stop referring to ‘claims’ of torture and admit that British officers directly used torture to gather ‘information’ from ‘terror’ suspects. Regardless whether or not they physically carried out the torture themselves this is still a crime against humanity.

To watch an edit of Omar’s torture testimony please visit Spectacle’s Guantanamo Project Page

To watch other footage from Spectacle’s Guantanamo project please visit our Archive

Being seen and getting heard: Joseph Rowntree Report

Joseph Rowntree has published a report examining  how people with direct experience of poverty in the UK can have a more effective voice in the media. Presentation of their views and experiences through media channels and help to shape and develop public opinion and build support for action to combat poverty.

Key points raised in report:

  • Poverty is generally under-reported in the media. If more people with experience of the everyday realities of poverty were given a voice in the media, this would enhance public understanding of poverty in the UK.
  • When journalists write stories about poverty they usually want case studies – people who can talk about their experience of living on a low income. This provides an important opportunity for people living in poverty to tell their stories.
  • The internet provides new opportunities for self-expression. People can send emails, develop websites, write blogs and upload sound, stills and video clips.
  • An online audience could be developed by setting up a web portal to provide a reliable resource of material from people with experience of poverty. This would also be a focus for debate. A demonstration project with a specific community could test the potential of internet media to develop awareness of poverty issues.

To download a full copy of this report please visit our Poverty and the Media Resources and Download Page

To watch clips from Spectacle’s Poverty and the media project please visit our Project Page

Alternatively footage can also be found in our Archive

URBZ MASHUP workshops hit 6 cities

Like the Urban Typhoon workshops in Tokyo (2006) and Mumbai (2008) , the URBZ MASHUP workshops, too will provide an opportunity to explore a city, connect with local residents, artists, architects, designers and musicians. This workshop aims at unleashing the global imagination and celebrating locality by producing photos, videos, interviews, drawings, renderings, writing (fiction & non-fiction), installations, performances in and about specific streets and places. The output of the workshops will be exhibited physically and virtually at the end of the workshop.

The URBZ MASHUP is a seven day event comprising 5 days of workshop and 2 days of seminar + exhibition. It will be held in the following cities:

Tokyo: July 1-5, 2009
Istanbul: August 2-9, 2009
Mumbai: Nov. 22-29, 2009
Rio: February 7-13, 2010
New York: April, 2010
Amsterdam: June, 2010

For information please visit www.urbz.net/mashup

Please visit our Links page for information on Urbanism

British intelligence told not to ‘intervene’ to prevent torture

The Guardian has reported that a policy was issued after the September 11 attacks asking MI5 to ignore torture. Though MI5 officers were not allowed to ‘condone’ or be seen to ‘engage’ in torture they were told not  to intervene if they were aware of suspects being tortured.

The Guardian claims officers were told they were not under any obligation to prevent detainees from being mistreated by other security forces.

“Given that they are not within our ­custody or control, the law does not require you to intervene to prevent this,” the policy said.

This supports the claims of former Guantanamo detainees Omar Deghayes and Binyam Mohamed that British intelligence officers were aware of their interrogation and torture.

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/jun/18/tony-blair-secret-torture-policy

To view a clip of Omar Deghayes interview please visit our Guantanamo Project Page.