Stop the Oxford Animal Lab: Part Two

City of Animal Abuse: SPEAK vs Pro-Test

Please have a look at part one of this article for the full context.

Oxford: City of Animal Abuse

The second SPEAK protest against the building of Oxford University’s animal testing lab that I documented was on 28th January 2006.

A much smaller gathering of people assembled in Cornmarket Street to highlight their feelings that funding given to Oxford University by Vodaphone could help to fund the animal lab.

Speak Protest

SPEAK had other events planned across the city that day, but despite the relatvely small numbers of protesters this time, the police presence remained strong and they filmed and photographed everything that happened at close proximity.

Speak Protest

Speak Protest

Ultimately the event passed off peacefully other than some shouting and arguing with passers by.

Speak Protest

Speak Protest

In February the stakes in SPEAK‘s campaign against the building of the new Oxford Animal Lab were raised. On the same day as the Vodaphone demonstration, 16 year old Laurie Pycroft had been shopping in Oxford when he witnessed another SPEAK protest and decided to stage one of his own in support of the lab with a couple of friends. They made some impromptu banners and began chanting, “Build the lab!”

SPEAK Protest: Pro-Test

Nothing much came of his stand that day, but he decided to go home and write about his experience on his blog. His account was seen by hundreds of people and he decided to make website called Pro-Test in support of animal testing, soon he was getting 300 hits an hour and within weeks a movement had been formed and Pro-Test were planning to march in opposition to SPEAK in Oxford city centre.

SPEAK Protest: Pro-Test

Despite tensions running high, on the day there were no arrests and no violence. The police presence was high as ever and the press reported that Pro-Test outnumbered SPEAK considerably. Both sides however claimed the moral victory.

SPEAK Protest: Pro-Test

SPEAK Protest: Pro-Test

SPEAK Protest: Pro-Test

SPEAK Protest: Pro-Test

As noted in his trial where he claimed he was constantly watched, filmed and followed by police, the intense scrutiny of SPEAK figurehead Mel Broughton was blatent and the police trailed and filmed him sometimes just inches from his face.

SPEAK Protest: Pro-Test

It wasn’t until October 2006 I documented my next SPEAK protest in Oxford. It was well attended and peaceful.

SPEAK Protest: Oxford March

SPEAK Protest: Oxford March

SPEAK Protest: Oxford March

SPEAK Protest: Oxford March

Ultimately the lab was completed and Laurie Pycroft went on to study Physiology and Neurosurgey at Oxford and even went on to work at the lab, but the SPEAK campaign against animal testing continued.

SPEAK Protest: Oxford March

The last time I saw Mel Broughton protesting the Oxford Animal Lab as part of the SPEAK campaign was at the Martyr’s Memorial in July 2007.

Oxford: City of Animal Abuse

By December 2007 Broughton was remanded in custody facing charges of conspiracy to blackmail and the possession of incendiary devices. He faced a series of retrials before being sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2010 for conspiracy to commit arson.

Broughton was released in 2013 after serving 5 years, 1 month and 15 days of his sentence.

Pro-Test was wound down in 2011 following the completion of the lab.

SPEAK continue their campaining in Oxford on a regular basis to this day.

This atricle and more is also available on my Substack.

Stop the Oxford Animal Lab: Part One

SPEAK: The Voice for the Animals

Speak Rally

Walking into Oxford city centre in January 2006 I began to notice a heavy police presence, roads had been closed and traffic diverted. Unsure what was going on I continued into town and soon realised that there was a demonstration organised by the animal rights group SPEAK about to begin. Intrigued by the situation, I had my camera in my bag and so decided to press on and see what was happening.

SPEAK was formed out of the Stop Primate Experimentation at Cambridge (SPEAC) campaign that had helped to put a stop to what would have been the largest primate testing centre in Europe in 2004. Once activists learned of a newly proposed animal lab at Oxford they began their campaign anew.

Speak Rally

The figurehead of SPEAK was Mel Broughton, a long time activist who has been involved in animal rights since he was 15. His activities have lead to him being jailed several times.

In 1999 he was sentenced to four years for conspiracy to cause an explosion likely to endanger life. In 2007 he was charged with conspiracy to blackmail and possession of incendiary devices following a fire at Queen’s College, Oxford. This ultimately resulted in a sentence of ten years.

Evidence was submitted during Broughton’s trial of a recording in which Oxford police discussed a “dirty war” against him, and how they were going to “get him.” Broughton told the court that he was constantly watched, filmed and followed by police and their actions made him completely paranoid.

The atmsophere at SPEAK demonstrations was always notably tense and on this occaision Broughton gave a rallying speech to a highly charged crowd:

The time has come for fighting, not talking. If we need to, we have got to tear that place down with our bare hands. “

Speak Rally

The police were not playing it softly, softly and trouble broke out as they attempted block the protester’s way. Five people were arrested after fences were pushed down and missiles thrown. Some officers appeared to have removed their identifying numbers from their shoulders.

Speak Rally

Never-the-less the SPEAK protesters were a broad coalition of people, from young and old to the conventional and less so, they were all quite happy for me to wander around in the middle of their protest with my camera taking pictures.

Speak Rally

Speak Rally

This was the first of several SPEAK protests I attended in 2006 that ultimately set me on the path of documenting protests for many years to come. Have a look at my ipernity album for more images of the day.

This atricle and more is also available on my Substack.

Analogue Photography #1

Years ago I stockpiled quite a few rolls of the Agfa 35mm film you could get in the poundshop. I recently picked up an old Zenit E and using the trusty old sunny 16 rule decided to give analogue photography a proper go for the first time in years.

I was quite pleased with the results and seem to have aquired the analogue bug.

Below are a few examples of my endevours. Have a look at my ipernity page for more fun with Zenits, Prakitcas and others…



Cemetary Wall



The Galactic Liberation Squad

Many years ago, more years than I care to think about, at the height of the UK small press comics boom of the 1990s, I self published one issue of a fanzine called Algol. Back then I had plans for doing more, but for one reason or another it wasn’t to be and so the continuing adventures of the Galactic Liberation Squad never got off the ground. Fortunately I had the foresight of presenting the final episode as the first and so there is an element of closure at least.

I wrote the script and the artwork was done by a young artist by the name of Paul M. I never met Paul, but was very pleased with his interpretion of my characters. I hope he went on to many better scripts than mine.

So, finally after more than two decades, from the pages of Algol, I represent the first and only outing of the The Galactic Liberation Squad.


gls 01gls 02gls 03gls 04gls 05gls 06

All content and photographs are Copyright © 2019  Michael-K and Paul-M
All Rights Reserved.

The Highest Level of Special

The 45th President’s state visit to the United Kingdom may have been controversial to many but it was convenient to some. Mixed in with the usual bizarre behaviour and the inevitable pomp and circumstance, the true agenda was never far from the surface.

Together Against Trump (UK State Visit)

Trump’s visit has conicided with a time of unique chaos and uncertainty in the UK. The Tory Party (and therefore the government) is still tearing itself apart, essentially leaderless and directionless. Parliament is fragmented, unable to find a way through the minefield that Brexit has become, new political parties rise and fall before our eyes, but at the very centre of every discussion, every debate and every argument lies one thing that Donald Trump likes to portray as his own. The art of the deal.

Together Against Trump (UK State Visit)

For a nation with an uncertain future, still on the brink of crashing out of the EU without a deal these are dangerous times and the delagation from America didn’t hold back in making their position clear, everything (and they meant everything) will be on the table.

Together Against Trump (UK State Visit)

The US-UK ‘special relationship’ has had some notable lows over the decades and some would dispute it’s even a relationship at all, so despite the backpedaling, many remain concerned about the obvious power imbalance in this situation. All the rhetoric about barmy Brussels bureaucrats aside, many British people have concerns about the impact of an American model on British society. American attitudes to food standards, animal welfare, climate change, gun control, women’s rights, human rights, race, religion, and of course health (to name a few) differ in many ways.

Together Against Trump (UK State Visit)

Concerns that the NHS is under threat have been exacerbated by recent events. Often seen as symbolic of what is great about Britain, the health service has long been eyed up by its openents as a potential gold mine and the austerity driven Conservative administrations of Cameron and May have frequently alluded to this. Few have summed it up better than John Major, one of their own, when he said in 2016 that “the NHS is about as safe with them as a pet hamster would be with a hungry python.

Together Against Trump (UK State Visit)

The future of the UK could be potentially very different from way that most people expected it look post Brexit. The proponents of the no deal scenario tell us the future is bright and there are many great deals to be had in this brave new world and Donald Trump seems to agree

All content and photographs are Copyright © 2019  Michael-K.
All Rights Reserved.

70 Days: How Did We Get Here?

The nature of politics and protest in the UK has changed beyond all recognition in recent years.

The sweeping austerity measures presided over by David Cameron altered the face of the country and some might argue reinvigorated the left. Protests against the state of the nation became more commonplace and Cameron’s entitled background became a favourite target of his critics. As divisive as his time in office may have been, Cameron’s legacy is an even more deeply divided nation.

David Cameron (Allegedly)

In 2016 David Cameron lost the EU Referendum. A few hours later he resigned as PM, a few months later he stood down as an MP. It has since been revealed that Cameron refused to allow the Civil Service to plan for Brexit. The political and social turmoil he left in his wake will take years to resolve and it seems the future looks uncertain to all sides of the debate.

No More Excuses

London has seen some of the largest political demonstrations in decades on its streets in the last couple of years. The surprise election and popularity of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party has enlivened the protest movement, but this seems to be only a part of the picture.

London Remains

Globally other groups, movements and ideologies are on the rise, but in the UK the homegrown Windrush Scandal and Theresa May’s previously stated aim to create a “hostile environment for illegal immigrants” has takenit’s toll on British society. The far right seems to be ascendent and Tommy Robinson is openly working with UKIP following his most recent prison spell.

Don't Let the Racists Divide Us

The summer of 2017 was particularly chaotic. Following her leadership victory, Theresa May called a suprise general election losing her majority and forcing her to make a controversial deal with the DUP. Less than a week later the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower killed 72 men, women and children highlighting the cracks in British society running through the faultlines of race and class for all to see.


There were demonstrations on the streets almost every weekend. The tragedy of Grenfell brought the community together but the role of government and industry was seen by many as wanton. On a visit to a relief centre the Prime Minister had to be protected from angry residents who shouted “coward,” “murderer” and “shame on you,” as she was ushered quickly into her waiting car.

Cosiderate Constructors Secure Everyone's Safety

The following summer Donald Trump visited the UK for the first time as president. He was met with protest wherever he went, a 20ft tall balloon depicting him as a baby wearing a nappy and carrying a mobile phone hung over Parliament Square and thousands marched against him.

Trump Stinks

The carnival atmosphere came with a serious message. People across the UK remain deeply concerned about the Trump administration and wanted the message to heard around the world.

Yes We Care

Despite this, many people still feel vulnerable. Race, immigration, poverty, cuts to benefits and public services continue to be amongst the most important issues of the day. consensus politics is distant memory.

We Need Nationalism

With just 70 days to go Theresa May is barely hanging on to her job, the Tory Party is riven, the government in crisis and the country on the brink of crashing out of the EU with no deal. Few people seem to have a clear idea of where we are headed and many will be asking if any of this was actually worth it or if we have made a terrible mistake.

Is it Worth it?

All content and photographs are Copyright © 2019  Michael-K.
All Rights Reserved.

Beacon Hill and it’s Environs.

Beacon Hill

Beacon Hill near Kimble, Buckinghamshire has long been a place of interest for me. On the edge of the Chequers estate, skirted by the ancient Ridgeway, it is surrounded by sites and monuments from the more recent past, as well as those that predate history.

Chequers has been a Prime Ministerial retreat since 1921, but the house has a long history. Lady Mary Grey (sister of Lady Jane Grey) spent two years under house arrest here at the the behest of Elizabeth I. Later the house fell into the hands of Oliver Cromwell’s grandson, John Russell. The house is said to contain a large collection of Cromwellian memorabilia, but what this might consist of I do not know.

From the top of Beacon Hill Chequers is not visible, but in the opposite direction it offers views across the Vale of Aylesbury and deep into Oxfordshire. Observed from different angles and locations it takes on radically different shapes and sizes, some are quite striking and can be seen from various locations across the vale.

Viewed up close from the nearby village of Ellesborough (as above) it appears as a gentle rolling mound, but viewed across the fields from the Lower Icknield Way (as below) it looks like a miniature Table Mountain, flat topped and imposing with almost symmetrical sloping escarpments.

Beacon Hill

This whole area of the Chilterns must have had special significance to the ancients as it is littered with Iron Age, Bronze Age and Neolithic remains. It’s proximity to the start of the Ridgeway at nearby Ivinghoe Beacon is surely no coincidence to this. In fact Beacon Hill itself has a number of it’s own points of interest, unfortunately there seems to be a lot of confusion about which is which, but I have done my best to try and make sense of it.

A bowl barrow on the brow of Beacon Hill gazes across the vale. An excavation of the barrow in 1855-6 unearthed fragments of a ceramic urn, charcoal, bone and a horse’s tooth. To my mind who ever was buried in this commanding place must have been pretty special, not everyone gets a spot like this to spend eternity.

Beacon Hill Bowl Barrow

Earthworks can be seen around the hill, many of them cross dykes and the wider area contains many more barrows, hill forts (notably Pulpit Hill) and the Whiteleaf Cross, which may (or may not) have prehistoric origins.

Cross Dyke

At the foot of the hill a large flat area of land is said to be the site of Cymbeline’s Castle. Shakespeare’s Cymbeline was inspired by the ancient king Cunobeline, described by Suetonius as Britannorum Rex, King of the Britons. The name Kimble is said to have derived from Cunobeline but the association is probably apocryphal. There once was a motte-and-bailey castle on the site and evidence of an Iron Age presence has been unearthed.

Cymbaline's Castle

In real life Cunobeline and his kin played a significant role in the Roman invasion of Britain. As king of the Catuvellauni, his tribe led the resistance to Julius Caesar’s first expedition to Britain in 54 BC, but Cunobeline himself appears to have been something of a collaborator and evidence suggests he had strong links to Rome. These were eventually the undoing of his people. Shortly before his death he exiled his son Adminius who took refuge with the Emperor Caligula. Caligula is said to have seen this as an act of  submission to Rome and used it as pretext for his aborted invasion.

Following the death of Cunobeline, another of his sons, Caratacus overthrew the neighboring King Verica of the Atrebates, a client of the Roman Empire. This time it was Claudius who was inspired to invade Britain and of course managed to achieve his ambitions.

Caratacus was vehemently anti-Rome and led a ten year guerrilla campaign against the occupiers. He was ultimately captured, but spared from execution by Claudius following an eloquent speech to the Senate. He seems to have lived out his days in Rome, exiled from his people and marvelling at the achievements of the Empire. “And can you, then, who have got such possessions and so many of them, covet our poor tents?” Cassius Dio quotes him as saying.

The more things change.

I like to think of him and his people up on Beacon Hill two thousand years ago, but who ever lived there they undoubtedly knew of his exploits and his struggle against Rome.

Beacon Hill

All content and photographs are Copyright © 2018  Michael-K.
All Rights Reserved.

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