A Swindon Photographers Experience of Election 2015

First off I want to say that this is not a political article and does not reflect where I stand and which way I voted, it is more about my experience as a freelance photographer in Swindon for the last couple of weeks leading up to Election Day. It has culminated in some 4 images in the Guardian, Sunday Times, The Sun and in a number of political blogs, and that is all of what I know about there could be others. With the exception of one image of the P.M. all were of Labour personalities.

It started off by my understanding of the fact that both Swindon South and North were marginal seats and that the major parties were going to send their ‘Big Guns’ down to help and support the campaign.
I had to sort of bully my way in to get on invite lists. I was not comfortable with this as it is not my style and it could have gone the wrong way and I could have ended up being excluded from everything. Fortunately persistence paid off and I got on the press lists.
Interestingly the Conservative campaign was being run from a central office whereas the Labour campaign was run from a local South West Office. I wanted to point this out as it turned out there was only one Conservative event whilst there was several Labour.

The Conservative Party decided to launch their party manifesto in Swindon. Which I attended and photographed. Security was very tight as not only David Cameron was there but most of the Cabinet and other MP’s from the South West. It was really interesting to say the least.
Apart from meeting Robert Buckland whilst out campaigning and at the poling station that was it for the Conservatives.

Labour were much better as once I was on the list then I got invited to everything that was going on in (mainly) South Swindon.
I ended up photographing Dan Jarvis, Tristram Hunt, Caroline Flint, Andy Burnham and Ed Miliband.
Anne Snelgrove was great, once she knew who I was and trusted me she made sure that at any shoots the ‘Big Gun’ posed for me and in some cases introduced me to them.

The Green party, Tony Hillier local campaign manager, I met by accident not by planning and so got invited to a couple of activities but very low key. Interestingly whilst I was sat in a local Cafe having coffee before meeting a Green Party activist who was going to cycle around The Magic Roundabout with a placard, I saw Talis Kimberly-Fairbourn the Green Party Candidate sat in the Cafe knitting and drinking coffee. This was the day before the election. (Shouldn’t she have been campaigning)?

I saw nothing of the Lib Dems or UKIP at all.

I really got to respect Anne Snelgrove,(Labour) and Robert Buckland,(Conservative). Not only were they very accommodating to me and my requests they both seemed very genuine, caring, hard working and committed to their respective causes and parties. Should I have been surprised, I don’t know but my experience was that they were really nice people and not ‘hard nosed politicians’ which the media can sometime have us believe. I would like to say a big thank you to both Anne and Robert.

Just one more little story which I am not sure how to take. Did I understand it correctly? Is this really what went on? Whilst photographing mainly Asian Labour supporters in a mainly Asian part of Swindon I found myself outside the Poling station, The Asian Liberal Democrat candidate was asked if he had voted for Labour (jokingly) and he answered yes, when asked further was he joking he said no. Begs the question, did he understand what he was being asked? Asian vote, family or politics, real understanding?? I am not sure.

Well, that is it for this Election 2015 and my experience of it. I can only look forward to the Referendum and photographing the campaign for it.

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South Swindon Hustings Election 2015

Like the previous night it was a nightmare photographing at the Hustings last night.

Last night it was the turn of the candidates for The South Swindon Seat. It was another interesting evening. There was a certain amount of heckling from the audience but it was all well behaved, no seats ripped up and thrown this time.

The candidate for South Swindon are Anne Snelgrove for Labour. Robert Buckland for Conservative. Damon Hooton Lib Dem, John Short UKIP and Talis Kimberley-Fairbourn for the Green Party.

North Swindon Hustings Election 2015

Last night was the Hustings for Election 2015 for the North Swindon Candidates. It was interesting and fairly well attended by the public. Photographically it was a bit of a nightmare. The lighting was really really difficult. I didn’t want to use flash so d700 was set to 6400 and hoped for the best. Lots of hot spots etc. Managed a few usable shots.
The candidate are, Justin Tomlinson for Conservative, Mark Dempsey Labour, Poppy Hebden-Leeder Green, Janet Elland Lib Dems and James Faulkner UKIP.

Tonight is the South Swindon, which will be more interesting as I live in South Swindon but I am sure the lighting will still be a nightmare !!!!!

Hilary Benn on the Campaign Trail in Swindon

Friday morning I attended a short photo shoot of Hilary Benn Labour MP and Shadow Minister for Local Government and Communities. He was visiting Lotmead Farm just outside of Swindon, as part of the Labour Campaign Trail. It was fun, not only was he very jolly and nice to talk to as was Anne Snelgrove the Labour Candidate for Swindon South I had a good long chat with some of the other photographers there.

Talking to and meeting other journalists is always enjoyable and enlightening.

So just a few shots of Hilary Benn.

Ed Miliband in Swindon a Photojournalist’s View

Part of the reason why I like being a photojournalist is the press scrum. It is fun and funny. Pushing and shoving some of the time. Other times we all let each other take prime spot and change around.
Yesterday I was photographing Ed Miliband who was visiting Los Gatos in Old Town Swindon as part of the Election trail and to show support for Anne Snelgrove the local Labour candidate for Swindon South. Los Gatos was just heaving with customers and Labour supporters before the media got in there. It was heavily controlled by the Police and Labour party officials and so we had to be in before he arrived. Not only that, all the media had to be behind the bar!!!!! So we were all pretty much going to get the same shots. I was too late in grabbing a chair to stand on and at first all I got was the backs of all the rest of the media. (See photo). After that I just moved around a bit trying to get something different. I don’t think I managed to achieve it. I did manage to get Ed Miliband being interviewed by the Swindon Advertiser journalist. Only because the Labour official in charge thought I was with them so I didn’t tell him otherwise πŸ™‚

My point in all of this is that news photojournalism is all just a matter of luck, being at the right place at the right time. Pushing and shoving and standing your ground at times. Being really nice and accommodating at others.

Fun though, either way.

Swindon Holocaust Memorial Service

Today saw the Swindon Holocaust Memorial Service take place. It was fitting that it was a grey overcast day (excellent for photography) for the short service held at the Cenotaph in Swindon. It was quite well attended by the general public and some of the local dignitaries including Councillor Teresa Page Mayor of Swindon, Angus MacPherson Police and Crime Commissioner for Swindon and Wiltshire was tucked away amongst the public and also Derique Montaut Labour Councillor, there were of course many more if you knew where to look.

It was a quite short service but it was good to see that Swindon held it again this year especially as it is 70 years today.

BBC Question Time in Swindon

Was lucky to be allowed in to take photos during the warm up session of BBC Question Time which was being held in Swindon. I think the pictures speak for themselves. Panelist joining David Dimbleby are, Philip Hammond,Charles Kennedy,Liz Kendall,Jeanette Winterson and Roger Scruton.

Swindon demonstrates against government use of ATOS

There was a small demo outside of the Swindon Job Centre on the morning of the 19th Feb, against the government’s use of ATOS, the company commissioned to vet benefits applications of sick and disabled people signed off by their DR’s It was part of a nationwide protest.

Workers Memorial Day Service at Bristol Cathedral

Yesterday 28th April was Workers Memorial Day, where people who have either died or been injured in work related accidents or circumstances are remembered. The South West commemorated the day by holding a service at Bristol Cathedral followed by the laying of wreaths at the Workers Memorial. This was quite an important service as it was the first time that the service/meeting has been held inside a Cathedral and Bristol were rightly proud to allow this to happen. There were also some important speakers at the service. Amongst those who spoke were Michelle Stanistreet the General Secretary of the National Union of Journalists and Dave Smith the head of the Blacklist Support Group, both very important and high profile figures. Dave Smith is heading up the fight against the illegal practice of Blacklisting. And if you are not sure what is going on there, then I suggest it is worth checking it out. It is something that could affect us all and is very quickly becoming a major major issue. Other speakers included Cannon Tim Higgins, Nigel Cotley of South West TUC, Julia Verne of the Public Service Health Observatory, Farzana Saker from Bristol Multi Faith Forum, Sam Maher from Labour behind the Label and Sally Challoner from BBC Points West.
So in my language it was all about being able to go to work in a safe environment and not one where you go to work in the morning and end the day in a body bag or in hospital. Isnt that a worthy cause???

The NHS the GWH and Me

Another small post from me again without a photo but hey thats ok.

I just wanted to say something about the NHS and the GWH (Great Western Hospital). I am sat here in my study thinking about what was on the news this morning all about how there is not enough front line staff (ie nurses) and that it is causing massive problems. Well I guess it must be true as they would not put it on the news, would they!!!!! but I would just like to say it wasnt my experience.

Firstly forget the fact that I was 6 months late in having my operation as that was an administrative problem of which I have still yet to get to the bottom of. Last thursday I went into the Great Western Hospital in Swindon to have my Gallbladder removed. I couldnt have got better service if I had have gone private. Right from the moment I walked in to the moment I left I found that what ever I needed was provided, there were the right amount of nurses, Dr’s,Consultants, anesthetist, cleaners, porters, and so on. I cannot fault the staff at all. I cant say it was a pleasant experience as I felt quite ill for a while after but it was a pleasant experience if you know what I mean. It wsnt exactly a one to one ratio but all I ever had to do was raise a hand or groan and there was somebody there to attend to my needs. And everything was done with a good heart, I only saw one grumpy nurse who refused to smile, all others were happy and friendly and seemed to enjoy their job. Now I have been on enough protests (photographing) to know that they are treated badly, poorly paid and so on but certainly my experience of last week was they did not let it affect their work.
However I do understand all the underlying issues that the NHS faces and that is for another time, I just wanted to say that I had a good experience with the NHS and the GWH. And if there are any Dr’s, nurses etc reading this, a big thank you from me.