Damon Albarn unveils his Blue Plaque in Leytonstone

This morning Blur crooner and Gorillaz cartoon frontman, Damon Albarn returned to the house in Fillebrook Road, Leytonstone where he lived till he was 10 to unveil a Blue Plaque.

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Albarn referenced Leytonstone in his recent album, Everyday Robots, most notably with the track Hollow Ponds.

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He also returned to the area to perform surprise gigs at Leytonstone Library and the The Red Lion.

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The Albarn Family – Damon’s Dad, Keith Albarn was a notable artist in the 1960′s and 70′s.

 

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Damon reminisced about seeing herds of cows wandering along Fillebrook Road on their way to graze on Wanstead Flats.

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He offered to support the Save the Heathcote campaign, his Dad having frequented the pub in his Leytonstone years.

Damon Albarn blue plaque Leytonstone

 

London – City of the God of Light?

In his illuminating book, Ancient Paths, Graham Robb slips in this intriguing alternative source for the name of London while cycling along a ‘Druidic pathway’ in France unraveling the secrets of the Celtic world.

“The northernmost point of the meridian, five hundred kilometres from Chateaumeillant, lies at a place disconcertingly named  Loon Plage. The ‘beach’ is a desolate zone of wind-bent poplars and container trucks queuing for the cross-Channel ferry. In the late Iron Age, when sea levels were higher than they are today, Loon was an island called Lugdunum, which means ‘fortress of Lugh’, the Celtic god of light.

Lugdunum shared its name with several other important Celtic towns: Laon, Leiden, Loudun, Lyon and perhaps London.”

London not as old King Ludd’s hill, or the Llyn din from Welsh meaning ‘lake fort’, or the Londinium of the Romans, but the City of the God of Light. On those days when London lies snugly beneath a duvet of grey cloud I must say it’s hard to imagine but it deserves to be added to the list – who knows, maybe the Druids had a sense of humour.

Passageways to the People’s Palace

Harringay Ladder

I find myself at Harringay Green Lanes on a wet Wednesday morning. In such a situation the best option is to slide along the Harringay Ladder down Harringay Passage. With my finger I trace the outline of the date stamped onto the base of the metal bollards – it reads 1884. The slabs are slippery. There is something about the brick confines of the passage that frees the mind. Although I keep returning to thoughts of second breakfast and memories of living up here in 1991-2.

Every 100 yards or so the passage is interrupted by one of the streets that forms the struts of the ladder – Duckett Road, Mattison, Pemberton, Seymour, Fairfax, Falkland, Hampden – a mixed bag of references to local land-owners, military and naval figures, dignitaries of the Hornsey district. It has even been suggested that the names were chosen by the local Masonic lodge

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Loud shriek of seagulls whirling round the gasometers on Mary Neuner Road.

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Wildfowl line up along the New River by the Hornsey Water Treatment Works. A peculiar Brave New World housing development in the shadow of the Northern Heights. New River Village is built on former Thames Water land and boasts that it’s “a prime example of a brownfield site which called for an innovative and creative design solution to release its full potential and deliver a quality environment with tangible community benefits.” I wander along its deserted central … well I’ll flatter it with the word ‘boulevard’. It’s eerily quiet considering there are 622 residential units, just a solitary Eastern European window cleaner who doesn’t know much about it other than that it’s a ‘new village’.

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Stand at the foot of the hill and Alexandra Palace looms above – Temple of the Radio Age. Something about it makes me think of George Orwell, perhaps it’s those images of him sitting at a BBC microphone. It’s also his descriptions in Coming Up For Air of the birth of a new world in the 1920s and 30s – the modern age of artificial food, plastic, and totalitarianism. This merges and is augmented by the sequences from Adam Kossoff’s film, The Anarchist Rabbi, showing how it was used as an internment camp during the First World War. A place built for pleasure, ‘The People’s Palace’, became a place of detention and imprisonment – there is something unnerving about that.

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The BBC radio towers have narratives to reveal and I want to hear what they have to say but I’m 60-odd years too late. Something in the weatherworn brickwork, the arches supported by columns facing the city speaks of an internment camp and you can imagine it used for the same purpose under a British Fascist dictatorship that Orwell feared. This would have been Big Brother’s palace. The knowledge that apparently this is a lively dogging spot lightens the vibe a touch.

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You can see where the renovation brutally ends near the rear of the building. A lady stops to talk and tells me that there is still some damage from the great fire of 1980. She was here when there was another fire, at the wedding show in the 1990s and all the bridalwear models were so panicked they ran out into the January cold near naked in just their pants. Imagining a crowd of topless models charging across the highest point in Haringey is a suitable counterbalance to the gloomy resonances of grizzly German detainees.

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Today is the Knitting and Needlework show. Kossoff used shots of the Palm Court when telling the story of Rudolf Rocker’s imprisonment here. The gentle clamour of the elderly ladies here for the a celebration of home crafts buts up against misery that the men must’ve felt locked up away from their families.

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I continue on to Muswell Hill and mooch around the shops, shelter from the rain in the beautiful 1931 library then schlepp down Cranley Gardens forever famous for the gruesome crimes of Denis Nilsen. Regretting not queuing for an overpriced coffee and Danish at Ally Pally for second breakfast, I stop at the Royal Palace Cafe on Park Road for what many people would call an early lunch of sausage baguette and cappuccino. The rain finally stops.

Focus E15 go to Bow County Court and win

Some images from the court hearing of the Focus E15 Mums who were occupying a house on the Carpenters Estate in Stratford in protest over social housing in Newham – and their statement following the verdict below.

Focus E15 Mums protest

Focus E15 Mums protest

Statement from the Focus E15 Mums:

“We are overwhelmed and grateful for the support and solidarity from both the local and the wider community. Also thank you to Anthony Gold, ITN solicitors and our barrister Lyndsey Johnson. We have decided to leave 80-86 Doran Walk on our own terms by 7th October, as planned. Newham have agreed to this, with no other conditions and have dropped their Interim Possession Order. We have celebrated a year of the E15 campaign, during which we have tried to engage with Newham Council on a number of occasions and they have refused to listen. As a result, our political occupation was the only option to escalate our demands for social housing, not social cleansing. We have reached our goal of highlighting the issue of decent homes left empty on the state and we have built lasing link with the residents and the community. This has be broadcast to millions of people. Ultimately this occupation was never about staying indefinitely, but about our demands to Newham Council. These demands remain and they include: – Repopulating the Carpenter’s Estate with secure council tenancies now – An immediate end to decanting and evictions of existing residents – No demolition of the estate – The management of Carpenters estate by residents and for residents, with no third party or private management involvement We will continue fighting to save council housing and to ensure decent housing for all. This is the beginning of the end of the housing crisis.”

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Here is the day brilliantly covered by Russell Brand in his Trews youtube series (I pop up at Carpenters highlighting the recent thwarted attempt by UCL to take over the site and the imminent arrival of the Smithsonian and V&A to the Olympic Zone)

Fieldpath walk from Theydon Bois to Epping

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The other weekend I needed to head into the forest in these glorious last days of summer.

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I’d walked from Theydon Bois to Epping via Amesbury Banks through the forest earlier in the year but the sight of the fields as the tube pulled into Theydon Bois station were too tempting to resist.

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We walked over cracked earth towards the distant uplands.

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We picnicked at the crest of the hill in this field facing the early evening sun – the rustic delights of the countryside so close to the rumbling tarmac of East London

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As much as I love wandering the city streets there is a sense of freedom and abandonment that only comes from walking over open fields.

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Through the long tunnel beneath the M25.

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The path on the other side of the M25 broke off in various directions – this Hollow Way looked as though no-one had passed beneath its boughs for a while

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Epping rises of the far slopes

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A last taste of freedom before heading up the steep hill to Epping tube station

 

Disappearance in the Olympic Zone

Greenway Hackney

Hopped onto the eastern end of the Greenway in Hackney Wick yesterday morning – the bronze letters beckoned me onwards like the opening titles of Star Wars (remember how we all sat in the old single screen cinema and read that scrolling text).

I jumped onto a granite block to take in a view westwards that had been obscured by mounds of rubble when I passed along this way in the summer of 2013.

You can hear in the video how my mental map has been utterly fried and I omit the fact that Bow sits somewhere on this vista. The erasure is so complete that I didn’t even remember the view from the 2013 walk and how the Bryant and May factory with its famous Match Girls strike seemed much closer.

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Even poring over various maps from 1936 to the present I can’t reliably find what was here before, the only features being a couple of nameless blocks. This is presumably the site of the new Pudding Mill development, taking its name from the lost tributary of the River Lea.

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I had to go back to this map of West Ham in the early 18th Century to get a sense of place – the concrete canvas seems to be on the former Bow Marsh.

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It’s not all about deleting the past in the Olympic Park as a replica sculpture of Newtons Cottage on Carpenter’s Road Lock is being built and will open to the public on 1st October.

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I processed all this with a tinker on the Street Piano by the View Tube on the Greenway.