Building and Dwelling – Ethics for the City

Building and Dwelling - Ethics for the City Richard Sennett

Afterwork return to Angel Waterstones following a lunchtime scout that threw Richard Sennett’s Building and Dwelling – Ethics for the City into my path. I laid down the cash mainly for the 8 pages on urban walking but also for its handsome cover (unflatteringly lit in the Highbury Corner Wetherspoons), and as a momento of U.N commissioned film for which I shot the London sequences, that featured Richard Sennett, and was based around a thesis he had developed with Ricky Burdett and Saskia Sassen. The screening of ‘The Quito Papers – towards the Open City’ at the LSE in 2017, followed by a panel discussion, was a fascinating evening.

Building and Dwelling - Ethics for the City Richard Sennett

The stimulations of walking have appeared quite differently to a more prosaic figure – the planner who seeks to organize movement.Richard Sennett

Tales from Tin Pan Alley at Leytonstone Pop-Up Cinema

Tin Pan Alley A1 LS Poster

We had a full house at Leytonstone Pop-Up Cinema last Wednesday for Henry Scott-Irvine’s brilliant documentary, Tales from Tin Pan Alley.

Tales from Tin Pan Alley

Henry Scott-Irvine introducing Tales from Tin Pan Alley

I first met Henry in the alley behind the 12 Bar Club on Denmark St while it was being occupied by musicians and protestors following its closure. I made a couple of videos about the campaigns to save live music venues in Soho and Denmark Street, some of the footage appears in Henry’s film. Tales from Tin Pan Alley, is far more than a protest film. It’s a documentary that tells the stories of the street of music from its Georgian heritage (with Dan Cruickshank) to its brief period as London’s ‘Little Tokyo’, to the place that gave us the pop charts. It’s an incredible story, brilliantly told in this absorbing and essential documentary.

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In the Q&A afterwards, Henry passionately told the audience about the campaign to save Denmark Street’s music heritage. We were also joined by Jimmy Winston, one of the founder members of the Small Faces (formed in East Ham) who told me about coming to Leytonstone as a youth to look at the guitars in Friedman’s Guitar Shop on Leytonstone High Road. It was a memorable evening.

The true ‘unsung heroes’ of Tin Pan Alley are the musicians, the songwriters, the music publishers, the technicians and the people from behind-the-scenes who have come out of the woodwork, out of history and out of retirement to approach us. Individuals that would be very hard to find in any other circumstance have come forward from across the globe, saying, ‘We want to be in this special documentary film!’

We have them here now. This is their story – a contemporary urban Canterbury Tale – a vital testament from over 30 musicians, broadcasters and historians.

In 2018 Tin Pan Alley’s 110 year old music legacy is currently in peril due to ensuing gentrification, leading to upcoming penthouse flats, hotels, restaurants and a shopping mall.

The legacy of those who worked in the street is our testament to Denmark Street’s unique place in international cultural history.

The struggle for those remaining, continues …”

Spring in Epping Forest

Leyton Flats, Leytonstone

Sometimes, in the absence of a better plan for a walk, you should alllow yourself to be guided by your feet. That’s what I did last Sunday, leaving home at 2pm, directionless.

Blackthorn, Leytonstone

My trotters led me up Leytonstone High Road to the Green Man Roundabout – gateway to the forest. The gorse (I think) was burning brilliant yellow in full bloom, the white blackthorn flowers waved at the early Spring picnicers nearby on Leyton Flats.

metal post near Birch Well

Metal Post Birch Well

I followed the path that runs behind Snaresbrook Crown Court, the borderlands of Leytonstone and Waltham Forest. Next to the Birch Well I spotted a metal post beside a low standing stone, the embossed text no longer legible. My best guess is that they are boundary markers, perhaps of the old Borough or the Parish.

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Birdsong rang out across Gilbert’s Slade in celebration of the arrival of Spring, and I sat on a pile of logs to savour the scene. This is a tract of land that is forever boggy and swampy, noted by Buxton in his Epping Forest book of the 1880’s and still very much the case. He laments the lack of beech trees here, where hornbeam, holly and oak dominate.

Highams Park Lake

The wildfowl were lively on the waters of Highams Park and I rested again, one of my favourite spots on this Forest walk. This is a route described and mapped by Buxton and one I’ve followed frequently over the years, memories of those previous walks and the churnings of my mind annotated into the footpaths, re-read and added to with each passing.

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From Epping Forest by Edward North Buxton

Although the end point of the walk would be determined by the sunset, the Royal Forest pub beside Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge always looms large in my mind around this point. Would I be able to get past it – or would all paths lead to the pub?

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I picked up the course of the gentle River Ching and followed it along the lower reaches of the forest, downhill from Woodford. London is blessed with these meandering tributaries that often get overlooked in favour of the grand rivers of the city or the celebrated ‘lost rivers’ of London, buried but not forgotten. The Ching is a modest water course, going about its business flowing from the forest to the Lea.

Welcome to Waltham Forest Chingford

On Rangers Road, Chingford I pass a second Waltham Forest boundary marker of the day – on the other side this time is not Redbridge but the County of Essex. Today has not only been a forest wander but a borderland walk.

Royal Forest Chingford

Somehow I contrived to arrive on Chingford Plain as the sun started to set shortly after 6pm meaning the only logical thing was to progress to the bar at the Royal Forest Brewer’s Fayre where I processed the walk over a couple of pints and toasted the arrival of Spring in Epping Forest.

 

 

Through Old West Ham to Cody Dock & River Lea

A few years ago some friends, Stuart and Rayna (who made the brilliant A13 road movie), asked if I’d ever been to Cody Dock. I’d not only never been there but I’d never even heard of it. So a couple of weeks ago at the end of February, I plotted out a route from Stratford Broadway down through Old West Ham to Cody Dock.

My path took me past the site of Stratford Langthorne Abbey, and from Cody Dock I doubled back along the Lea Valley Path to Bow Locks.

The video features some wonderful music by Emily A. Sprague from the YouTube Audio Library

Walking the London Loop – Moor Park to Uxbridge

I’m resting after walking Section 11 of the London Loop from Uxbridge to Hayes, so now seems the perfect time to revisit my walk along sections 13 and 12 of the London Loop from Moor Park to Uxbridge taking in Batchworth Heath, Bishops Wood, Park Wood and the Grand Union Canal. This picks up from my previous London Loop walk in July 2018.

Filmed on 20th January 2019

Iain Sinclair – Living with Buildings

“I use my own ways of digressing and picking up on other stories that you don’t expect to find by walking and wandering over the ground that’s been described by other people.” – Iain Sinclair

July 2018 and I found myself back out walking with Iain Sinclair, this time retracing one of the walks in his latest book, Living with Buildings and walking with ghosts. We met by Canada Water Station and Iain explained how the book was associated with the Wellcome Collection exhibition of the same name, but was its own beast driven by Iain’s narrative.

John Evelyn's Mulberry Tree, Sayes Court

John Evelyn’s Mulberry Tree, Sayes Court

We proceeded past the old Evening Standard printing works, now slated for development, through Greenland Dock bound for the Pepys Estate – once the home of film-maker Andrew Kötting and featured in the book. After paying homage we moved on to the next key location in this particular chapter of Living with Buildings – John Evelyn’s Mulberry tree at Sayes Court Park.

Iain Sinclair Living with Buildings

Walking with Iain is always a magical experience, layers of London history and lore kicked up and chewed over with every step along the way.  The book, in some ways, is Iain Sinclair’s most traditionally psychogeographical work, exploring the very tangible relationship between the built environment and  human health and psyche.

I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to further discuss the book and Iain’s work in general at the brilliant Wanstead Tap when Living with Buildings was published in October – as you can see in the video below.