[THIS WEEK] James Pallister reveals the identity of Guardian’s secret security blogger at G4S
Poor old G4S. Last year the ‘leading international security solutions group’ spectacularly cocked up the Olympic Games security provision. Shortly before the games they realised they wouldn’t be able to fulfill all the demands of the £236 million contract. The army was called in to mop up. Questions were asked in parliament. The company’s CEO David Taylor-Smith and MD Ian Horseman Sewell resigned. A particularly graphic example of the mug’s game that seems routine to privatisation: the state pays private companies handsomely to take on its risk, then steps in to foot the bill when the company messes up.
One of the employees G4S did manage to provide was Henrietta Williams. Like many others, she attended the interviews and training days and learnt basic self-defence ready to man the X-ray machines at the entrances; keeping an eye out for bombs or illicit materials.
Unlike many recruits – later called back for a ‘retake’ which they all passed – she succeeded in her X-ray test first time round and managed to locate the explosives, battery, trigger, switch, wiring and timer trigger of the ‘bomb’ within 20 seconds.
What Williams didn’t tell G4S was that she is a photographer whose long-standing interest is in security systems. Her previous subjects have included the ‘ring of steel’ surrounding the City of London. Nor did she tell them that she was acting as an undercover security guard for The Guardian, and writing a blog about her experience. Williams’ photographs are on display at the Bishopsgate Institute as part of the This is Not a Gateway Festival last weekend.
Happily for Williams, G4S incompetence extended to forgetting to send her a contract, so she didn’t have to call on the Guardian’s legal team to get her out of any awkwardness. The Guardian paid her a fee. She returned a cheque to G4S, returning the pay she had received for the work. They have yet to cash it.
Henrietta William’s photographs are on display at the Bishopsgate Institute, part of the This is Not a Gateway Festival, until 27 January.