Walk of Revelations – Gallions Point, Albert Island & North Woolwich

After my summer walk around the Royal Docks and subsequent video, a local resident got in touch to say they could show me around Gallions Point and Albert Island. We met one sultry midweek morning by Gallions Reach DLR Station to begin the circuit around ‘the island’.

A slogan on one of the developments reads, ‘London is Moving East’, as if this wasn’t part of London and were terra nullius waiting to be claimed. We see the Gallions Point Marina about to be evicted and demolished to make way for the new Albert Island development by the GLA. The planes from City Airport continuously fly overhead and the building of the new runway will increase the number of flights. We also walk through Royal Albert Wharf and see the Riverside development. Two beautiful hidden beaches were visited with incredible views across the Thames. Finally we see the remains of the Royal Pavilion (or Royal Victoria) Pleasure Gardens and the majestic old North Woolwich Station.

Many thanks to my local guide.

The Resonance Radio Orchestra (2009)

Last night reading The Wire magazine in the pub, I recognised a face (and some names) in a fascinating article about London Improvisers Orchestra. The face (and beard) was that of Ivor Kallin, who I realised had been part of the Resonance Radio Orchestra I’d filmed at the opening night of Bob and Roberta Smith’s Factory Outlet show at Beaconsfield Gallery, Vauxhall in November 2009. This was one of the early shoots for my documentary about Bob, Make Your Own Damn Art – the world of Bob and Roberta Smith – that I continued working on for 3 years in total.

So this morning I excavated a hard-drive from my archives and sought out the footage from that night and hastily threw together this edit, raw from the camera. Again I recognised faces in the audience of people I would meet again over the course of making the documentary and beyond. Although it was a film about art, the original music by Bob and Roberta Smith, The Ken Ardley Playboys (also filmed the same night), and The Apathy Band, played a large role in the finished film. Very little of the Resonance Radio Orchestra footage was used in the end so it’s great to have an occasion to share it now.

The Resonance Radio Orchestra in this clip are: Fari Bradley, Ivor Kallin, Simon King, Chris Weaver, Ben Polehill.

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More info about the essential Resonance 104.4fm here

London Improvisers Orchestra is celebrating its 20th anniversary at Cafe Oto main and Project spaces with free workshops (1, 2, 3 December, 2-4PM), open rehearsals (2, 3 December 5-7.30PM) and two concerts (2, 3 December 8.30PM).

 

 

Boudicca’s Obelisk in the Epping Forest Uplands

The mythology linking Boudicca to Epping Forest is a strong one – stemming from the 18th Century belief that Ambresbury Banks was Boudicca’s Camp during the time of her rebellion against the Romans. It is also believed that she died somewhere in the uplands north of the Forest, either through eating poison berries or bleeding out into the waters of the Cobbins Brook. The mythology found its way into the landscaping of Warlies Park in 1737 with the building of two obelisks in honour of the Queen of the Iceni – one commanding views of the Lea Valley high on a hill, the other built in brick at the edge of a field near the Cobbins Brook. I passed both obelisks on this beautiful walk that took me from Epping, around the grounds of Copped Hall through Warlies Park (once the home of the Buxtons of Leytonstone) and finishing on the outskirts of Waltham Abbey with a route 66 bus back through the nightime forest to the tube station at Loughton.

 

Video Notes / Videography Notes

Jonas Mekas

from Jonas Mekas – In Focus – The Artist’s Studio by MOCA

I’ve just launched a new blog of occasional writing on video culture, videography and film-making called Video Notes (the url is videographynotes because video notes was already taken). The first post explores how Jonas Mekas, ‘the godfather of the avant-garde’, could be seen as the original vlogger, and the parallels between the 1960’s experimental film scene in New York and contemporary online video culture. To be honest, I didn’t set out to write that post at all – I just wanted to explore the idea of diary films, but that is where the reading took me.

Mekas was one of the founders of the Film-makers’ Co-operative in New York in 1962. After writing the post I embarked on a crazed rummage through my notes and cuttings trying to find the brochure for the Tate retrospective screenings of the work of the London Film-makers’ Co-op entitled ‘Shoot Shoot Shoot’ from 2002 (Shoot Shoot Shoot: The First Decade of the London Film-Makers’ Co-operative and British Avant Garde Film 1966-76). I didn’t find it but had fun looking. But it did lead me to find this brilliant collection of films from the London Film-makers’ Co-op free to view on the BFI player.

I’d had an awareness and interest in Jonas Mekas from my time working at the National Film Theatre (this was my film school). But it was when I was trying to work out what to do with the 4 hours of footage from the walks I did for my book This Other London that artist Bob and Roberta Smith suggested looking at Mekas’ work for inspiration. Although I wasn’t able to make anything from that footage (here’s one of the failed edits) – it did lead me down the path of studying YouTube vlogs more closely which then, via a meandering route, led to my ongoing series of Walking Vlogs that has been running for 3 and-a-half years now.

Jonas Mekas – A Walk (1990)

I shot a new ‘walking vlog’ yesterday – attempting to follow the footsteps of the characters from Patrick Keiller’s seminal film London – on their first walk, from Vauxhall to Strawberry Hill. I shot this in the style I make all my walking videos, on the hoof, talking to camera as I walk, grabbing quick hand-held cutaways as I go, placing the experience of the walk ahead of the necessities of film-making – a style that Iain Sinclair described as ‘grunge Keiller’ (back in 2005). Stylistically this is about as far away from Keiller’s studied locked off 35mm cinematography and beautifully crafted and delivered commentary as you can get. But it’s a style that works for me. Keiller had screened his early short films of London at the London Film-makers’ Co-op (Stonebridge Park and Norwood) – a further link between these worlds. It’s a pleasant surprise that this urge to write about online video making and culture (partly instigated by the brilliant Shane Dwason series on Jake Paul) has led me in this direction – back to some of my original film-making influences at the confluence of my interest in and study of London.

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(there’s a further thread that takes in the films of John Smith, and the Paul Kelly/St Etienne Keiller-inspired films of London but I think that would be over-egging the pudding and I’ve already explored that in other posts – for example an article I wrote in 2006 for UEL’s Journal of East London Studies – Waves of Disappearance: cinematic topographies of the North Eastern frontier )

 

Swanscombe Marshes – Thames landscape under threat

A walk around Swanscombe Marshes and Botany Marshes on the Thames Estuary in Kent, near Dartford, starting and finishing from Ebbsfleet International Station. There are plans to build a theme park on Swanscombe Marshes so this beautiful landscape may not be there much longer.

Find out more about development plans for Swanscombe Marshes on the Save Swanscombe Marshes blog.

Walk along the River Roding and back to Leytonstone

National Trust Long Walks

Headed out for a short walk mid-Sunday afternoon and found this book in a charity shop in Wanstead – it immediately became apparent that I’d have to carry this heavy tome as some form of atonement for not embarking on a longer schlep earlier in the day.

Eastern Avenue

My only aim was to head for the River Roding where it passes under the Eastern Avenue in Wanstead. It was unseasonably warm and I wanted to bask in the last two hours of sun.

River Roding Wanstead

My mind meandered in tune to the waters of the Roding, over bridges and past the pumping station. I remember startling a grass-snake along here a few years ago one hot summer morning.

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I only recently discovered D. W. Gillingham’s wonderful Unto the Fields, by chance on a walk from Chigwell to Loughton. It was a glorious discovery, an entire book published in 1953 on the Roding Valley. A celebration from another era of a landscape I’ve come to love. The exploration of the territory in the book begins in November:

“Now I have chosen this November morning to introduce you to the fields because November is the beginning of Nature’s year, like the farmer’s at Michaelmas… The fieldfares especially were numerous today; their chattering could be heard everywhere, for the migration down the Roding valley was at its height. A few redwings had come to the valley before them.”

Roding Valley pylon

Gillingham delights in the fog and frost of November mornings. As the russet rays of sunshine pitch onto the banks of the Roding I feel the heat and remove my scarf. The pylons, our protectors, glow orange.

A1400 Woodford Avenue

Passing beneath the titanic piers supporting the North Circular I feel the energy drain from my legs, my thighs become sore and heavy. I consider jumping on a bus at Charlie Brown’s Roundabout up to South Woodford station and heading home for tea. But I resolve to hike along the A1400 Woodford Avenue to Gants Hill instead. The National Trust Book of Long Walks needs to be at least partially appeased.

Clayhall sunset

The pylon sky sunset glows as I continue along the Woodford Avenue and brings new life to my tired legs. The view of a Toby Carvery across the road also inspires me to pursue the walk – my sons and I had been discussing the prevalence of Toby Carveries in the area before I headed out for reasons I can’t recall. I sent them both the photo below.

Toby Carvery Gants Hill

At this stage I start to see the Beehive Harvester around every bend of the road and tell myself that I should settle down there and read the National Trust Book of Long Walks and make some notes of things that had passed through my mind on the walk – minor meditations that will be gone by the time I reach home. But before it appears I’m tempted to follow Redbridge Lane East to the roundabout by Redbridge Tube Station where I’m momentarily seduced by the Beefeater Red House. I vow to return, for now I have promised the book of Long Walks that I’ll complete the circuit by walking home.

Redbridge A12

There’s something epic and romantic about the A12 – the Eastern Highway out through Essex to Suffolk – carved across a landscape of broad skies. It’s America. It makes me imagine far off places well beyond Lowestoft.

Redbridge Lane West

Along Redbridge Lane West, lamp-posts illuminating leaves. Across George Green to pick up the old Roman marching route back through Leytonstone to home.

 

Harringay Green Lanes to Chancery Lane via Caledonian Road

Tollington Park N4

Tollington Park N4

An unplanned walk – effectively locked out of the house and inadequately dressed. I jump the Overground to Harringay Green Lanes and buy a jumper from TK Maxx. Choosing a notebook and pen to record the day’s walk a man walked into the shop and just said, “Why is life so shit”, then paid and left without another word. Somebody was having a worse day than me.

I notice that the jumper I bought hurriedly is called a ‘Rodgers Zip Jumper’ – nice coincidence even with the alternative spelling of my surname.

There was no entrance into Wray Crescent Open Space sadly. A man sat loitering in a car by the gates with the engine running. Another man just stood on the other side of the fence beside a metal post.

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As I see earthworks everywhere I’m intrigued by Newington Barrow Way just off Hornsey Road – I’m taking the meaning of Barrow as a burial mound rather than the wheeled variety.

The clouds look ominous and on Seven Sisters Road the Heavens open in quite dramatic style and I’m forced to seek shelter in Le Croissant D’Or cafe till it eases up about half and hour later. I contemplate buying an Italian silk scarf calling me from a shop window and still regret not taking the plunge, instead I push on to Holloway Road.

I decide to walk the length of Caledonian Road, ‘The Cally’, one of London’s great thoroughfares. A stocky bald guy walks past muttering to himself.

I find a 1956 edition of Ian Fleming’s Live and Let Die in good condition with the original dustwrapper for 50p. A quick check on Abebooks tells me they go for upwards for £12. I leave it on the shelf for someone else to find.

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Muriel Street, N1

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Priory Heights

I get a fantastic warm feeling as I pass the Rainbow Club where we took the boys to playgroup when they were babies. Now it’s an Escape Room game so they may well return to play there as teenagers. The same glow accompanies me up Wynford Road that I associate with the first steps around the block the kids took as toddlers. Priory Heights casts a benign protective shadow.

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Keystone Crescent N1

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Housmans Bookshop

I spend too long in Housmans radical bookshop and eventually walk away with a copy of Rudolph Rocker’s The London Years for a fiver and four back issues of the New Left Review for a quid.

Round the wreckage of Kings Cross and down Grays Inn Road, into Cromer Street, Argyle Walk and Marchmont Street – the wanders of my Islington years. My purchases at Housmans mean I have to resist the gravitational pull of Judd Books and head on through the Brunswick Centre.

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Through Queens Square with nice memories of studying Experimental Sound Art at the Mary Ward Centre and making recordings of the lamp-posts and park railings.

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Grays Inn Gardens

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Sandland Street

On the far side of Red Lion Square I stop to admire the Geoffrey Fletcher gaslights in Sandland Street before passing through Grays Inn to Chancery Lane Station and back home to Leytonstone.