My news beat covering the Corona Virus over the past few months has meant I’ve spent numerous days walking through the eerily quiet streets of Melbourne. In the last month or so, teams of Hi-Visibility vest clad cleaning teams would be dispatched throughout the city and into the suburbs. It was obvious to me that many of them didn’t seem like the sort of people you would generally associate with such work, it was evident that this was a new form of employment and in all likelihood the only form available for most. Curious to this, I felt compelled to learn more about who these people were, there was more to this story than just an increase in the number of cleaners on the street.
Under an initiative funded by the Victorian Government titled ‘working for Victoria’ councils were giving funds to employ via their contractors displaced workers to conduct a sanitisation blitz.
On assignment for Getty Images, I spent a few days with the Covid-19 cleansing teams in the City of Port Phillip in Melbourne inner city south-east, to learn about the makeup of these unsung heroes of the Pandemic in Melbourne. Who are they, where do they come from, how are they in these roles and why have they chosen to do it?
Some have come from all over the world, among them are recent Law graduates, Architects, International Students and displaced local workers from the tourism and hospitality sectors. Most of have fallen through the cracks of being eligible for financial assistance during Covid-19, there are also some who have chosen not to get financial assistance and just want to get back to work.
For 5 days a week, they navigate their way through the street of Melbourne walking over 15 kilometres a day cleaning and sanitising railings, playgrounds, bins, lamp posts bicycle racks and every other council amenity we may not even notice. All done enthusiastically and with a sense of duty to the community.
The big multinational swallowing up the local watering hole is a common story all over the modern world, on February 29 in 2016, it was Sri Lanka’s turn. 141 years after its opening, the iconic Castle Hotel and Bar in Colombo, served last drinks.
The colonial building is believed to be over 200 years old and started its life as a printing press. When interviewed by Groundviews.org Hotel manager H.D. Mervyn Wickremesinghe believed the building became the castle hotel in 1875 which catered to international guests. In recent decades, the Castle has become the community bar to the local working-class in the area of Slave Island.
Of all the bars and pubs in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo there are few that match the character, history and working class realities of the emerging Sri Lanka than this iconic venue.
The colonial grand façade, imposing a Y-Shaped staircase at its foyer entrance, gives insight to the Castle Hotel’s ‘hey day’ which would have catered to foreign guests and troops during the World Wars.
Since then, the upkeep of the hotel has been in a decline and its character and charm representative of its predominantly working-class clientele. Loyal customers from snake charmers, tuk tuk drivers, low level office clerks and ironically, even the labourers working on the site that would eventually see the end of the bar, would be found having a drink at the Castle on most nights.
The future of the hotel has been uncertain after Indian multinational conglomerate ‘The Tata Group’ purchased the highly valuable land to develop modern offices and apartment complexes. There were talks the hotel would remain in its current form, however, it was always going to be a matter of time before the last drinks would be served.
Beers were cheap, arrack plentiful and short bites, spicy. The resident stray cat would hunt around for scraps on the floor. Like any good pub, stories were shared, grievances voiced and opinions were made known in the presence of complete strangers. Drunks, alcoholics and general louts would be ushered out with some decorum and respect, when they had one too many.
It recent years, this humble venue gained a reputation online as a ‘dodgy pub’ – though in my experience, you are more likely to find dodgier clientele and shady customers (for lack of better words) in the bars and clubs of Colombo’s 5-star hotels.
The Castle didn’t pretend to be something it wasn’t and it was, by far, more representative of Sri Lanka than the Westernised hotels down the road. Its guests were treated with respect and without the judgement they may experience outside.
As modern Sri Lanka rides the economic wave of a post-war economy, the consequence of gentrification emerges.
At the Castle hotel, what you saw was what you got, it was real and it was gritty, but it was honest.
Im currently in Bangkok covering the ongoing political situation, yesterday was one of the rare days that i didn’t have anything to cover so i used the chance to document a Muay Thai fight.
I wasn’t too keen on shooting the actual fights rather the atmosphere, the touts & the bookies. Spectators, mainly local men pack themselves into this tiny room, it’s akin to a stock exchange with bookies making hand gestures signalling odds, collecting & handing out cash with the ensuing angry punter demanding he got given incorrect odds. Fighters are blessed and a brutal battle in the ring proceeds. As enthralling as the action is inside the ring it’s equally so on the perimeter.
This particular fight took place at the Ch7 tv studio, however don’t think you will be entering a fancy studio cause it isn’t, it’s basically a bare concrete building with some metal stands surrounding the ring. How to get there?
Take the BTS to Mo Chit, walk on the opposite side of queen Sirikit park walk towards Ratchadaphisek Road & turn right at soi Ruam siri mit. It’s about 150meters down the road. It’s not the easiest place to get to but just ask a local for ‘chang 7’ or ‘shadow box’ and they should put you in the right direction