In Pictures

In pictures: From Blair to Brexit on College Green

College Green on the day of the 2005 general election Image copyright Steve Forrest
Image caption College Green on the day of the 2005 general election

Over several years, photographer Steve Forrest has documented the hustle and bustle of College Green, an area of grass outside the Houses of Parliament that regularly plays host to television interviews with politicians. From Blair to Brexit, he recalls how life on the green has changed over the years.

When I moved to London in the late 1990s, I used to wander over to College Green, across the road from the Houses of Parliament, and photograph the comings and going of the UK's leading politicians and broadcasters as they met for live interviews.

These wanderings turned into a photographic project looking at the relationship between the press and politicians during the Blair-Brown era.

During general elections, hung parliaments and leadership bids, emotions often ran high on College Green, with the public often getting involved.

There were the occasional small demonstrations and the inevitable heckler but generally they were good natured and rarely warranted police intervention.

I felt quite proud of our democratic traditions.

Here was a place in the heart of the capital where the media, politicians and the demos still mixed - a "Westminster bubble" maybe, but a penetrable one at that.

The press would set up tents in scenes reminiscent of medieval encampments - journalists, politicians and camera crews engaged with the art of verbal jousting from dawn to dusk.

Once the public and bewildered tourists were thrown into the mix, this area became live political theatre and I, for one, loved being in the thick of it.

Alastair Campbell being interviewed by CNN Image copyright Steve Forrest
Image caption Alastair Campbell, Prime Minister Tony Blair's former press secretary, interviewed by CNN on the day of Mr Blair's resignation, in 2007
People and camera equipment in the Sky News tent Image copyright Steve Forrest
Image caption The Sky News tent on the day that Gordon Brown succeeded Mr Blair as prime minister, in 2007
Conservative MP Dr Liam Fox talking to the BBC Image copyright Steve Forrest
Image caption Conservative MP Liam Fox talking to BBC News in 2007
Charles Kennedy, former leader of the Liberal Democrats Image copyright Steve Forrest
Image caption Charles Kennedy, former leader of the Liberal Democrats
A US journalist and film crew Image copyright Steve Forrest
Image caption A US journalist reports on Gordon Brown's succession as prime minister
Lord Kinnock being interviewed Image copyright Steve Forrest
Image caption Lord Kinnock, a former leader of Labour, being interviewed five days after the 2010 general election resulted in a Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Over time, some broadcasters began building higher structures above the public - tents became platforms that then became buildings.

Tony Benn walking down steps after being interviewed Image copyright Steve Forrest
Image caption Labour MP Tony Benn leaves after an interview in 2010
Caroline Lucas, Britain's first Green MP, being interviewed by Sky News Image copyright Steve Forrest
Image caption Caroline Lucas, the UK's first Green MP, being interviewed by Sky News, in 2010
Lord Prescott, a former Deputy Leader of The Labour Party, being interviewed by the BBC while a crowd listens on Image copyright Steve Forrest
Image caption Former Deputy Prime Minister Lord Prescott being interviewed by BBC News following the 2010 general election

I initially ended the project in 2010 before taking it up again after the 2016 EU referendum.

By then, College Green seemed an altogether different place.

As the Brexit negotiations dragged on, I sensed a very different atmosphere building.

Fewer politicians were seen on the green and those that were were quickly whisked upstairs behind black curtains for their interviews.

It also seemed that the public were now excluded from College Green altogether.

An area of inclusion had turned into an area of exclusion and the green felt like a place under siege.

Flags fought for space around the perimeter, together with increasingly vocal support for the differing positions on Brexit.

To me, the "Westminster bubble" seemed alive and well but more impenetrable to those left outside of it.

A man next to a sign and gate at College Green Image copyright Steve Forrest
Image caption A man looks at media tents on the green, following the 2016 referendum in which the UK voted to leave the EU
International TV news crews on College Green with flags in the background Image copyright Steve Forrest
Image caption International TV news crews report from College Green following a tense parliamentary session on the prime minister's Brexit deal
Cables Image copyright Steve Forrest
Image caption Cables connecting the outside broadcasts to the world line the ground.
Film crews on College Green at night Image copyright Steve Forrest
Image caption Film crews report from the green after Prime Minister Theresa May survived a vote of no confidence in the House of Commons, during Brexit talks in 2019

Words and photography by Steve Forrest

Related Topics

More on this story