Category Archives: Photographs

Warsaw: lest we forget…

Images on the garden perimeter at the Warsaw Uprising Museum

Images on the garden perimeter at the Warsaw Uprising Museum

Participating in the 12th TIME Economic Forum in Warsaw, especially on a day when the Government prohibited the holding of such large-scale events (because of Covid-19), provided an opportunity to visit and reflect on some of the city’s history, and indeed the history of Poland more generally.  It was a stark reminder of human inhumanity.  It was also, though, an opportunity to appreciate the efforts made in Europe since 1945, and especially through the creation of the European Union, to try to ensure that such almost unbelievable horrors do not happen again in our continent.  We should surely do more not to promote them in other parts of the world.

Katyn

I began by reflecting on the implications of the Katyn Massacre in 1940 when some 22,000 Polish officers and members of the intelligentsia were massacred by the Soviet People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) at the instigation of Lavrentiy Beria and with Stalin’s approval.  Although Katyn is some 850 kms to the east of Warsaw, I still find it hard to believe that so many countries were complicit in the Soviet denial of this atrocity, even if this was in the broader interests of retaining Soviet support in the war against Nazi Germany.  The elimination of so many leading military and academic figures (including half the Polish officer corps as well as 20 university professors, 300 physicians; several hundred lawyers, engineers, and teachers; and more than 100 writers and journalists) makes the Polish intellectual resurgence in the second half of the 20th century all the more remarkable.  It is hard to think that I first hosted a Polish academic colleague in the UK (Prof Wiesław Maik from the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń) 36 years ago and only 44 years after the massacre.  Then, and in my subsequent meetings with academic colleagues from Poland, I have always been impressed by their rigour and commitment.

The Warsaw Ghetto

Not much remains of the Ghetto in the vibrant modern city of Warsaw with its new high-rise business centre.  But hidden away, almost invisible, tiny traces can be found.  I am grateful to a friend for pointing out where I could find an old gate to the Ghetto at the intersection of Grzybowska and Żelazna streets.

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The wall surrounding the Warsaw Ghetto began to be constructed in April 1940, and consisted initially of some 307 hectares, but was gradually reduced in size, making life inside ever more miserable.  It is very hard today to envisage the horrors that the Jews living inside had to face.  It was from here that they were deported by the Nazis to concentration camps, with some 254,000 Ghetto residents being sent to Treblinka in the summer of 1942.  By the time it was demolished in May 1943 following the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, it is estimated that at least 300,000 Jewish inhabitants had been killed, with some 92,000 dying of hunger and related diseases.

The Warsaw Uprising

Nearby the remnants of the Ghetto wall is the museum of the 63 day Warsaw Uprising in August-October 1944 (sadly closed when I tried to visit).  This was the largest uprising by any European resistance group during the 1939-45 war, and was timed to coincide with the retreat of the German army in the face of the Soviet advance.  However, the Soviet Army did not continue its progress, which gave the German army time to regroup, crush the Uprising, and subsequently largely destroy the city of Warsaw.  Despite some support from British and US forces, the uprising was doomed to failure without the continued advance of the Soviet forces.   It has been estimated that 16,000 Polish resistance fighters were killed, with around 6,000 more being badly wounded; somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 civilians are also estimated to have been killed, mainly in mass executions.  On a sunny day, at the edge of the modern business centre of Warsaw, it is hard to imagine the horrors and violence of what happened.

The destruction and rebirth of the old city of Warsaw

Following the Uprising, the Germans implemented what had been a long-intended plan to destroy the city as part of its Germanization of Central Europe.  They had even drawn up designs (by Hubert Gross) to create a “New German City of Warsaw” as early as 1939.  However, although they must have known in 1944 that they would soon be defeated, and there was then little to be gained from destroying the city, they nevertheless proceeded to raze it to the ground in vengeance for the Uprising.  Between September 1944 and January 1945, some 85-90% of all the buildings in Warsaw were destroyed.  The scale of devastation is only too visible from the many photographs taken following Hitler’s defeat, and can be seen on various plaques in the city following its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.

With amazing energy, the Polish people set about rebuilding the old city between the late-1940s and the 1970s, and as the imahges below attest it is hard today to believe that everything we see now is less than 80 years old.

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Seeing the modern city of Warsaw, alongside its ancient heart once again beating strongly, I find it incredibly difficult to comprehend the horrors and violence experienced by the Polish people, especially during the 1939-45 war.  I have always been impressed by the diligence, generosity and energy of the friends I have made from Poland, and those of us in Britain should all be grateful to them for their contribution to our economy in recent years. Being here makes me realise once again the tremendous strides we have made in Europe during my lifetime – one of the longest periods of prolonged peace in the continent’s history.  This owes much to the work of those who sought to rebuild the continent after 1945, and to the activities of the various European institutions that they constructed, not least the European Union.  It makes me even more sad that so many people in Britain chose to follow those of our so-called leaders who for their own selfish interests and political ambitions sought to separate us from the EU in the forlorn hope that Britain might once again be “Great” (alone).  We must never forget the enormous sacrifices made by so many people that we might live in peace.  I for one am grateful to have had this opportunity to be reminded once again of the sacrifices made by the Polish people, and am privileged to have had the chance to express my own thanks by participating in the TIME Economic Forum, which captured so well the economic vibrancy and energy that characterise Poland in the 21st century. Dziękuję…

Dance during the TIME gala dinner

Dance during the TIME gala dinner

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Filed under Germany, Inequality, Photographs, Poland, Politics

The Douro and Vila Nova de Gaia in late February: remembering friends

It was wonderful to be back in northern Portugal last week after many years of absence.  The sights, smells, and tastes resurfaced numerous poignant memories.   There have certainly been huge changes, not least the vast network of motorways, and generally increased affluence.  Many of these have been for the better.  However, much also remains the same, and it was wonderful to visit old haunts – even finding one or two places scarcely changed.  It is now only a two-hour drive from Porto up to Pinhão at the heart of the best grape growing areas for port wine, and so on a bright sunny morning we headed up there, swiftly crossing the Minho, climbing up into the Serra do Alvão, and then dropping down from Vila Real towards the Douro river.  I hope that the images below catch something of the very special character of this part of the Douro Valley – and the grapes that are cultivated there.

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Vila Nova de Gaia, opposite Porto near the mouth of the Douro, has traditionally formed the second integral part of the port trade, providing space for the lodges where the wines are matured.  The blue skies turned to clouds, mist and rain the next day, but this did not detract from the pleasure of revisting lodges (where port is matured) that I had first explored some 40 years ago.  The narrow streets winding down the hill through the lodges to the river below hadn’t changed, but the corporate structure of the “trade” certainly has, with once proudly independent family firms now being integrated into a small handful of larger companies.

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The ghosts of close friends, many no longer with us, haunt these familiar locations.  They were so hospitable to generations of geography students (and staff!) from Durham University and Royal Holloway, University of London, with whom they shared their experiences of the port trade – as well as their wonderful wines both in the Douro and down at Vila Nova de Gaia.  Thanks are especially due to Bruce Guimaraens and John Burnett – from whom I learnt so much – and are sadly no longer with us.  But walking back past Quinta da Foz and the Cálem lodges also reminds me of many great times with Maria da Assunção Street Cálem learning from her about the business of port from a Portuguese perspective – and being challenged about the role of academics undertaking research in other countries.

Port is one of the world’s great wines, but remains sadly unfashionable today.  It is time for more of us to continue to sing its praises – from the freshness of dry white port, or the nuttiness and subtlety of a fine 20 year old tawny, to the unique character of great vintage ports!

port

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Setting sun over Brandenburg

A recent visit to an old friend living near Müncheberg in the Land of Brandenburg on a glorious late autumn day provided a wonderful opportunity to experience the special landscape and wide open skyscape of this part of Germany.  The quickly fading light rendered the leafless silver birch trees a rich red colour, contrasting beautifully with the green sown fields alongside.  The sun setting behind a hemispherical tree in the distance also provided a wonderful silhouette against the vast sky beyond.  The pictures below hopefully capture something of this fascinating part of Germany, with its contrasts between wide open fields and dense areas of woodland.

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I couldn’t resist adding one image from earlier in the day: a field filled with a vast flock of migratory geese!

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Barbarians 31 – Fiji 33, Killik Cup 2019

It was great to watch such a free-flowing and open game of rugby at Twickenham yesterday (16th November 2019).  The referee Tom Foley rarely had to stop the game, and when he did both teams chose to kick for touch and further possession when they were awarded penalties, which added to the entertainment.    Having been behind 17-33, the Barbarians fought back to within two points at the end, making it a very exciting finish.  The handling was impressive, and despite the cold the crowd of 51,213 left invigorated by a most enjoyable afternoon!  I hope that the pictures below capture something of the entertainment and excitement.

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For match reports see:

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Marching for a “People’s Vote”, 19th October 2019

Panorama

Today is the first day that Parliament has sat on a Saturday since 1982, and only the fourth time it has done so since the end of World War II.   The gathering had been called to discuss Prime Minister Johnson’s new Brexit deal with the EU.  It was also the day chosen for the latest People’s Vote march.  It is estimated that around a million people joined the march which wound its way from Hyde Park Corner to Parliament Square,

Central London was brought to a complete standstill, but despite the much larger police presence than previously, it was generally good humoured and festive.  Marchers came from all corners of the UK and beyond; they were young and old; men and women; people from all different background, religions and colours; in wheelchairs and on their feet…  They carried a wide array of amusing, clever, and sometimes challenging posters and banners.  The atmosphere was full of trepidation; Parliament was set to accept the deal.  The day started brightly.  England had thrashed Australia at the Rugby Union World Cup in Japan, and the sun was shining brightly over London.  As the afternoon progressed, though, the clouds began rolling in. After hours of discussions, Members of Parliament (MPs) were voting on the so-called Letwin Amendment, which would withhold approval of the deal, until it had been fully discussed by Parliament and the legislation passed to enact it.  This would have the effect of triggering the “Benn Act” which would force the Prime Minister to request a further postponement of Brexit until 31 January.  The rain started in Parliament Square, and the big screen revealed the tellers coming back into Parliament.  Everyone held their breath, hoping that the ayes would have it.  And so it was, by 220 votes to 206, a majority of 16.  The square erupted in cheers.  Prime Minister Johnson’s rotten deal, widely seen as being worse for the UK than that brokered by his predecessor May, had been delayed, if only for a while.

I hope that the pictures below capture something of the diversity and passion of those marching for a people’s vote, most of whom wish to remain in the EU.  It was a wonderful example of democracy still being alive and well in the UK.

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I have often been a critic of many of our MPs, and their failure to serve our citizens, but the quality of speeches by MPs and others from the platform today was of very high quality: passionate, committed, eloquent, accurate, and above all advocating the democratic principles that lie at the heart of our country.  It was a very special, indeed an inspirational, day.

See also my reflections on the People’s March on 20th October 2018.

[In most instance where I photographed an individual close up so that they are easily recognisable, I specifically asked if I could share the picture on social media and permission was readily granted.  It was impossible, though, to ask everyone in crowd scenes.  Where possible, I tried to take photos primarily of people’s backs, but again this was not always feasible.  Should anyone wish me to remove an image please let me know and I will do so.  I do hope that none of these images cause anyone concern]

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Filed under Brexit, Photographs, Politics

Nairobi National Park

After several weeks “on the road”, a free morning in Nairobi provided a wonderful opportunity to spend some hours with friends visiting Nairobi National Park.  It is many years since I was last there, and people have said that building encroachment as well as the new railway and roads are increasingly affecting the lives of the wildlife.  However, following two days with rain and an early start, we were very fortunate to have a sunny morning during which we saw a wealth of animals and birds.  I very much hope that the images below capture some of the beauty and richness of Kenya’s wildlife.

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VQueueistors should, though, be warned that passports/identity cards are needed to enter, and that payment (currently US$43 per foreign visitor) is required by card rather than cash.  It was amusing to reflect that the introduction of digital payment means has led to lengthy queues; although it may have reduced fraud, it has certainly lengthened the time it takes visitors to enter the park!

Many thanks to Pauline who collected us from the hotel, and our driver John who did a great job in locating the animals!

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Tram 37A

“Tram 37A” would make a great title for a novel!  Travelling every day on this tram in Budapest provided a fascinating insight into life across a transect of the city that not many visitors glimpse.  From the hustle and bustle of Népszinház u., past the decaying Fiumei úti nemzeti sírkert (Kerepesi cemetery), across railways lines and road junctions, to the railway station at Kőbánya felső.  The images below provide just a quick overview of the everyday life of Tram 37A!  Perhaps the novel will come later…

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Reflections on Buenos Aires

The invitation to give a Keynote Address at the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions’ (IFLA) excellent President’s meeting last month, provided me with a wonderful opportunity to spend a little bit of time exploring the fascinating city of Buenos Aires.  I had never been there before, and I left with many contradictory memories in my mind.  I hope that the pictures and reflections below capture something of these.

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My lasting memory, is of the diversity yet uniformity of the city.  Laid out on its grid plan from the 19th century, blocks are dominated mostly by 6-10 storey grey buildings, in various states of dilapidation, with a wide range of different commercial uses on the ground floor.  There seemed to be little attempt at commercial zoning; shoe shops were next to ones selling fruit and vegetables on one side and mobile phones on the other.

It is hard for people living in Europe or North America to appreciate that in the early 20th century Argentina was among the 10 richest countries in the world in terms of per capita income; it was richer than either France or Germany, and had outgrown Canada and Australia in population, total income, and per capita income.  This huge wealth is still visible in the moumental buildings spread widely apart across the city: the theatres, mansions, and buildings of state.  Yet its subsequent economic decline and political turmoil also remains all too visible.

The city’s large size, and the dispersed character of its monuments, made me feel that it had little obvious centre.  Yes, people point to the Obelisco at the crossing between Av. 9 de Julho and Av. Corrientes as its centre; others emphasise the importance of the Plaza de Mayo and the Av. de Mayo leading west towards the Congreso de la Nación Argentina from the Casa Rosada.  However, for me it still lacks a central throbbing heart.  New growth and development is scattered apparently haphazardly through the city, in parts of Palermo or to the east by the old harbour.

It is also amazingly ethnically and culturally diverse; hugely European, yet little like Europe.  Somehow there remains the sense of an indigenous undercurrent from before the Spanish conquests of the 16th century, but this has been almost completely obliterated by the waves of European settlements; mainly Spanish, Italians, and Germans.  By the early 20th centry it is estimated that just under a third of the population had been born overseas.  This European identity of the 19th and early 20th centuries remains very visible in the built landscape and in the culture of the city.  The grand opera house, the Teatro Colon, is reputed to be one of the five best concert venues in the world in terms of acoustics.  Nearby are other theatres, such as the impressive Teatro Nacional Cervantes; the Teatro Gran Splendid to the north-west opened in 1919, and a century later the bookshop that now fills its balconies has been described by National Geographic as the most beautiful in the world.

This European culture is embedded in its music; it helped me understand why the cultural evening generously laid on for us included, surprisingly for me, classical ballet and music, alongside the challenging songs of Nacha Guevara, and the stunning beauty and passion of the tango.

And the wealth of a growing middle class is increasingly visible in the plush shopping malls of the Galerias Pacifico or in the old railway arches of Distrito Arcos in Palermo; gated communities nearby enable the rich to watch out over the city, in which poor beggars sleep on the streets underneath any shelter they can find.

I have never been anywhere in the world where there have been so many people calling out “Cambio”, “Cambio”, wanting to change your money on the streets; scarcely surprising when it is so difficult to change it legally elsewhere, and the cashpoint machines charge almost 20% for transactions!

Many people like the old cemetery at Recoleta; I found it depressing, and an omnipresent reminder of the faded past of the city.  But the white brightness of the adjacent Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Pilar next door was a reminder of the vital present, and the neighbouring Centro Cultural Recoleta a vibrant, colour-filled explosion of life.  The lively market nearby provided me with the opportunity to purchase a much-wanted multi-coloured gaucho belt.

Thanks to all those in Buenos Aires, for this wonderful opportunity; and I haven’t even started on the huge steaks and the delicious Malbec wines…

 

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Filed under capitalism, Conferences, Dance, Inequality, Latin America, Photographs, Politics

Participating in IFLA’s President’s Meeting and Ministerial Forum, Buenos Aires, 22-23 May 2019

Ministers Forum

Ministers and Secretaries of Culture Forum

It was a real privilege to have been invited to participate in the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) Forum of Ministers and Secretaries of Culture of Latin America and the Caribbean on 22nd May, and to give a keynote address at its 2019 President’s meeting which was on the theme of Motors of change: libraries and sustainable development on 23rd May, both in Buenos Aires.  These meetings provided a valuable opportunity for those actively involved in the role of libraries in contributing to the development of Latin American and Caribbean countries to share ideas and experiences, and agree on ways through which their work can be further enhanced.

The Forum of Ministers and Secretaries of Culture was held in the very impressive Congress of the Argentine Nation, and provided an excellent opportunity for senior

President

IFLA President and Secretary General

government officials from across the region to share presentations and discuss the theme of Libraries, Access to Information and the Sustainable Development Goals.  Welcoming participants, IFLA President Glòria Pérez-Salmerón reminded them of the theme of her presidency – Motors of Change – and underlined the difference that libraries can make, for so many people, in so many ways.  IFLA Secretary-General Gerald Leitner stressed to the ministers of the power they had in their hands, and made the case for ensuring that they – and libraries – are included fully in national development plans.  A key outcome of the meeting was the signing of the Buenos Aires Declaration which affirmed participating governments’ commitment to the UN 2030 Agenda, and to the power of libraries and access to information to achieve it.  The meeting also saw the launch of the second edition of the Development and Access to Information Report produced by IFLA and the Technology and Social Change Group (TASCHA) at the University of Washington, focusing especially on SDG4 (education), SDG8 (decent work and economic growth), SDG10 (inequalities), SDG13 (climate chage) and SDG16 (peace, justice and strong institutions), and edited by Stephen Wyber and Maria Garrido.

In the evening, there was a Cultural Gala in the Public Hall of the Library of the National Congress, which consisted of three main elements:

  • Nacha

    Nacha Guevara

    A dance performance in two parts by the Arte Ballet Compañía: the Don Quijote suite, and Tiempos de Tango, with ideation, choreography and direction by María Fernanda Blanco.

  • Music played by the Chamber Orchestra of the Honorable Argentine Chamber of Deputies with a repertoire dedicated to the Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla, featuruing especially the saxophone soloist Jorge Retamoza.
  • A wonderful closing sequence of songs by the famous Argentine artist Nacha Guevara.

The 2019 President’s Meeting on 23rd May built on the themes of the Development and Access to Information Report, and began with a session of welcoming speeches by IFLA President Glòria Pérez-Salmerón, IFLA Secretary-General Gerald Leitner, Alejandro Lorenzo César Santa (General Coordinating Director, Library of the National Congress), and Rene Mauricio Valdes (United Nations Resident Coordinator, Argentina).  This was followed by my keynote  on Libraries and Sustainable Development: challenges of inequality in a digital world (.pdf of slide deck), which:

  • Screenshot 2019-05-25 at 21.00.54Challenged those who believe that the SDGs will deliver on their aspirations;
  • Highlighted the role of digital technologies in leading to increasing inequalities;
  • Explored issues around power, knowledge and content;
  • Advocated for the important role that libraries can serve as open places and communal resource centres; and
  • Concluded by encouraging participants to have the will to make a difference.

In the afternoon, there were three sets of discussions and presentations by the authors of the Development and Access to Information Report and others on the following themes:

  • A Library Response to Global Challenges: What Can Libraries Contribute to International Efforts to Tackle the Issues that Affect the Planet?
  • Driving Development at a Local Level: Libraries Making a Difference to People’s Lives
  • Improving Decision-Making and Accountability: Libraries as Pillars of Democracy and Good Governance
Tango 1

Our great tango teachers!

These two days of lively and interesting discussion provided a wealth of ideas for all those participating from governments and libraries to implement on return to their own countries.  It was also a very valuable opportunity to build a network of people working at the interface between libaries and international development, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean.  Very many thanks are due to the hard work and hospitality of colleagues from IFLA and our Argentian hosts.  One of my lasting memories will definitely be learning to dance the tango – for which many thanks to our brilliant teachers!

 

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Filed under Conferences, Dance, ICT4D, Latin America, My Lectures, Photographs, research, SDGs, United Nations, Universities

The Champagne stained glass window in Reims cathedral

Over many years I have gathered together a wide range of imagery about grape growing and wine making, but although I have visited Reims cathedral on several occasions, I have never before had a camera with the right lens to take close up pictures of the famous stained glass window representing wine growing in the Champagne region.    Last weekend was different, and a leisurely afternoon provided the opportunity to share the imagery below.

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The window in the south transept was completed in 1954 following the removal of earlier glass in the 18th century, and damage to the cathedral in the 1914-18 war.  Funding came from  the Champagne Houses, winegrowers, overseas agents and others who wanted to help restore the cathedral.  The imagery shows many of the stages in making Champagne, but does so in the style of medieval glass.  It provides a fascinating insight into Champagne production as it was in the middle of the 20th century.

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