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Today’s been yet another day that’s seen me ensconced in the office at home trying to sort out the archives and get together a complete picture library of a clients entire train fleet. To say it’s time consuming is rather an understatement as they’ve rather a large portfolio! Still, it’s given me chance to search through the archive and spot potential gaps that will need filling in the future.

I’ve not been missing much by being stuck indoors as the weather here in the Pennines has hardly been conducive to photography. We’ve been suffering from the tail end of the gales that have been a feature of Northern and Scottish weather these past few days, but at least they’ve kept the rain away – even if the clouds have been the colour of thunder! As I normally escape to sunnier climes this time of year I’m starting to miss the warmth and sunshine. I don’t mind the odd dull day, but this is getting monotonous.

I’m hoping to make a bid for freedom for at least a few hours tomorrow as I need to get some shots that will fill a hole in the library. The railways are changing at an accelerated rate at the moment. What was current just six months ago is rapidly becoming dated and that process is likely to quicken through the year. Who knows what the railways will look like by this time next year with so many franchises in financial difficulties, despite (or even because of) the introduction of new trains.

Whilst I’ve been slogging through the archives I’ve also been keeping one eye on the debacle of the anti HS2 protest camp at Harvil Rd. It’s all over bar the moaning now as despite the histrionics and squeals of outrage about ‘illegal evictions’ from the tiny band there, it’s obvious it’s all ended with a whimper, which has set me thinking.

I’m no stranger to these events myself, having attended various demonstrations and protests since the late 1970s right up to the present day and the rallies against the Brexitshambles. I’ve a large archive of pictures on social issues that have never seen the light of day, from miners demonstrations with the likes of Arthur Scargill, the infamous poll tax riot in London in 1990 to the Iraq war demonstrations of 2003. I’ve been ‘kettled’ with demonstrators in central London and dodged missiles in Trafalgar Sq, as well as experienced curfews and general strikes in Kathmandu and India and protests for reform in Indonesia. Oh, and that’s without mentioning the ‘free festival’ circuit in the UK back in the 70s-80s, all of which make Harvil Rd look so ridiculous and so pathetic.

Which brings me back to my point. What a shambles that protest camp was. Compared to the protests about road building in the 70s-90s it was nothing more than a joke. They had 2 years to dig in and prepare for an eviction and at least put up some sort of a struggle. Instead, they gave up meek as lambs as it was clear they were woefully unprepared. It was more playing at being ‘eco-warriors’ rather than being serious about it. They spent more time swanning off to poorly attended PR stunts than actually organise a credible camp. Their reliance on and belief in social media was also part of their undoing. During the eviction Keir was busy filming it all to stick on Facebook and constantly appealing for all those armchair activists who were watching (which in truth was sod all) to ride to their rescue like the cavalry. They never turned up. Why? Because much of social media is little more than voyeurism. I’ve documented many StopHs2 events over the years and there’s one common denominator, how few bodies there are at them! It’s something they’ve never understood. Keyboard warriors and Twitter trolls and bots never turn up – because most of them don’t exist in the real world.

When I’ve had chance to do some research and scan some old pictures I’ll write a blog devoted to examining the difference between environmental protests 40 year ago and today. There’s a rich irony. 40 years ago the internet didn’t exist. The best protestors had was Xeroxed newsletters and telephone trees, yet they managed to organise on a far more impressive scale and attract national attention at some real stand-offs with the authorities. At Harvil Rd they were too busy thinking their endless tedious videos on their cosy Facebook groups or on Twitter, Instagram and suchlike actually meant something. They played to an audience of imaginary friends and basked in the fact they had so many hits or likes, as if all those voyeurs were actually contributing anything worthwhile. If they’d spent half the time they had on social media onanism they might have actually achieved something, but that’s always been a weakness of the anti HS2 campaign. Some of them genuinely think that MPs are going to be swayed by a few anonymous Twitter trolls spouting inane rubbish.

I can imagine someone getting a really interesting thesis out of this…

Anyway, enough of this for now. Hopefully tomorrow will see me back on the rails for the first time in 2020. If it does, expect a rolling blog documenting my travels and travails…