Thursday, 6 June 2013
Curse of Canterbury strikes again - Whitefriars jobsworth
Take a look at the picture above. You may think it's a group of people on a public street. But you'd be wrong. It's a group of young buskers being removed from Whitefriars 'premises' in Canterbury by one of the most hilariously pompous jobsworths I've ever seen in my life.
A guy standing next to me when I took this snap said 'Ooh, he'll be after you now! It's ridiculous but that's how it is here.' Not sure if he was an employee of Whitefriars or one of the shops but he was right. Moments later Mr Jobsworth came over and told me I couldn't take pictures. I said surely this was a public street. No, said he, it's private property and photography is banned without prior permission.
This I found very odd as I have snapped numerous times there and seen others do the same without any bother whatsoever.
I pointed out that there was nothing to suggest that area is private property, nor any warning that certain activities that would be lawful in a public place were prohibited there. Such as snapping and busking. How is anyone supposed to know?
It's not up for discussion, he said, and then asked me if I wanted to seek permission to take pictures there. Given that he'd just moved the buskers on and it was them I'd been about to take a picture of when he appeared, I said no. He replied 'Well in that case, can I ask you to leave the premises?'
This was the first time premises were mentioned. I was standing in what certainly once was a public street, before Canterbury sold its soul to the devil and turned in to the monster it is now, a place obsessed only with gathering as much tourist footfall - and their money - as possible.
So I said, reasonably I thought, what premises? Where does private property end and the public right of way begin?
He repeated that it wasn't up for discussion (even though I was asking a perfectly sensible question - how could I possibly leave when I didn't know where their property ended?). He then got on his radio and said something along the lines of 'I have a lone IC1 male who is taking photographs and has become extremely argumentative and refused to leave the premises. Please keep the cameras tight on us!' And then wandered off, still babbling drivel into his radio.
I really don't know how I kept a straight face. Where do they find these people? Clearly he would desperately love to be a real policeman and have a bit of power. Sadly, he's just some rather pathetic halfwit in an ill fitting uniform talking a complete load of bloody nonsense and trying to make it seem that a big drama was unfolding, when in fact one snapper - a regular in Canterbury for years - was mildly annoyed and trying to ascertain why there wasn't any mention of Whitefriars being private and snapping, busking and other such admittedly heinous crimes being banned there. And why this idiot wouldn't tell me where the public footpath began so I could 'leave the premises' as requested.
I never ever have any bother whatsoever anywhere else. Brighton, London, Folkestone, the Medway towns, Hastings - I'm regularly out and about around the south east. I've snapped in and near some of the most security sensitive parts of the UK with no hassle at all. And yet in Canterbury, there's always some moron round the corner looking to give you grief, particularly if you're a photographer. What is it with the place?
Why have I never been stopped from snapping before? Why have the numerous street entertainers I've seen performing 'on the premises' of Whitefriars not been moved on, to my knowledge? Do Whitefriars operate a policy of random discrimination?
One thing I do know is that I will never set foot on Whitefriars property again, once I work out exactly where that starts and ends. I will also warn everyone I know that it's not a public place, despite giving a very good impression of that, and a policy of overt discrimination against photographers now appears to be in force. Though I'm guessing they don't interfere with the tourists spending plenty in the shops if they take a few snaps...