When the Conservative Government finally abolished the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) which had shared County Hall with the Greater London Council (GLC) Mrs Thatcher could finally look out of the House of Commons and not be reminded of the opposition that her party had faced from across the river. I was sent to shoot a picture of one of the last people still working at ILEA who had done an interview for the Times Educational Supplement about his work wrapping up the affairs of London’s last unitary body (until the Labour government reestablished a London Mayor’s office in May 2000).
I went equipped with a notional headline of “will the last person to leave County Hall please turn out the lights” and I was very pleased when it turned out that the desk where he was working was in a windowless room in the basement of the beautiful if tatty building. I was even more pleased when I had processed my film and had a look at my pictures.
Right back in the early days of Insight Photographers, the small agency that we ran from an office in the rather un-trendy (how times change) Hoxton area of London, we used to shoot a lot of stories for Time Out magazine. Some weeks they would have five or six pages of real news and they used to commission some nice work too. One of my favourites from that era was this picture of a man who was part of a group of residents and squatters trying to stop the Department of Transport from bulldozing their houses to build a new piece of road in the Archway/Highgate area intended to speed up the journey up the A1 from Holloway (bear with me if the geography of north London bores you). When I arrived on a hot day from the a brisk walk up from the underground station the bailiffs had gone.
I found this chap looking rather pleased with himself and asked what had gone on. He just smiled and said “we’ve seen them off”. I asked him if it was OK if I shot his portrait and he agreed. After that, I got my notebook out and asked him his name. He thought about it for a few seconds and then said “call me Jack… Archway Jack”. Of course I asked if that was his real name but he smiled and walked off trying to whistle a tune.
The News Editor somehow tracked him down, got some good quotes from him and the story probably got more space than a simple eviction piece would have. A definite case of “just because the story you were expecting didn’t work out, it doesn’t mean you haven’t got a good story anyway”. All of the Time Out news reporters and editors that I recall went on to do great things. I guess that it was a mix of choosing the right people and being a great place to hone those journalism skills. Quite a few of the freelance photographers that they used did OK too.
This was shot on Kodak Tri-X film using a Nikon FM2 camera and a 24mm f2 Nikkor lens