The first radio show

john-and-nick-fringe

Home from the school run, put the coffee pot on and press play on the CD player without looking to see what’s loaded. The intro track starts from a CD I burnt of Andrew Bird’s 2005 live session for a French radio station. I’d used this tune as the intro music to the Resonance fm radio show I produced and co-presented with Nick Papadimitriou, Ventures and Adventures in Topography.  I’m instantly transported back to the studio at Resonance fm feeling the excitement of preparing to go live on air. Then I realise that the first broadcast was on 4th November 2009, the anniversary approaching. The first walk to record the field recordings that constituted half the programme would have been around the same time. A damp cold day out looking for Monks Park somewhere near the North Circular in north west London as described in Gordon S. Maxwell’s The Fringe of London, the book that had given us the title of the radio show and had bonded Nick and I in the first place 4 years previously. Our walking buddy Peter Knapp was there taking photos and we ended up on an even greater quest to find IKEA meatballs on the Wembley Trading Estate (the meatballs had all gone by the time we got there).

monks_park31

photo by Peter Knapp

I loved making that radio show. The evenings spent editing the field recordings for Wednesday’s live broadcast, researching the next walk, recording my wife doing a reading from each featured book, Sunday afternoon walking with Nick somewhere on the ‘fringe of London’, and the pub after the show with the Resonance regulars.

John Rogers Nick Papadimitriou

photo by Peter Knapp

The show came to a natural end in March 2011, Nick head down writing Scarp, me deep into making a documentary about Bob and Roberta Smith (it was filming Bob at Resonance in 2009 that had led to the show coming about in the first place).  I then went straight into writing This Other London, and despite a couple of attempts to revive the show it just never happened. We got as far as a field trip to the Cross Ness Sewage Treatment Works in 2014 but those recordings are on a hard-drive somewhere unedited. I must get round to doing that some time.

 

 

A complete archive of Ventures and Adventures in Topography can be found here

Weald Iron Age Fort and Stukeley’s Druid Temple

When searching for William Stukeley’s ‘Druid Temple’ on Navestock Common, I’d noticed Weald Country Park both on the map and the horizon. The map also showed a ‘settlement’ marked on the edge of the park, which a quick Google search identified as an Iron Age Camp or Fort.

“Three years after the excavation, a detailed contour survey of the earthwork and its immediate environs was undertaken as part of a separate project aimed at assessing the archaeological potential of the Essex Country Parks.  The two trenches excavated sectioned the univallate defences in the north-west and south-west quadrants. Both the excavations and the contour survey date the beginning of the construction of the hillfort to the Late Iron Age. Dating is provided by small amounts of Late Iron Age pottery in the rampart make-up. One trench had a well-defined linear cut interpreted as a slot for a revetment at the rear of the rampart. Within the area enclosed by ditch and rampart were a number of post holes also dated to the late iron Age; they may represent internal structures.”

Source: Essex County Council

It was a site that demanded further examination.

weald park hillfort camp SouthWeald-4.00_08_43_01.Still003

After marvelling at the surviving earthworks and pretending to be a member of the Trinovantes tribe running up and down the rampants and ditches, I decided to push on through Weald Park to another of the possible locations of Stukeley’s ‘Druid Temple’.

“The central mound had been heavily quarried with a circle of trees interpreted as denoting the original edge of the mound. Havis suggests this represents a small motte and bailey or two adjoining baileys to the central motte. It is not clear whether this is the temple refered to by Stukely or if that is located at the western end of Mores wood.”

Essex County Council

You’ll have to watch the video above to see if my quest across two walks was ultimately successful.

Turing Street, London E20

Turing Street E20

On a recent wander through the Olympic Park in Stratford, I noticed this new street off Westfield Avenue – Turing Street, London E20 – in the International Quarter.

I don’t know if Turing has any links to the area. According to his Wikipedia page he was born in Maida Vale and went to school in St. Leonards-on-Sea. But it’s great to see the father of modern computing and AI being honoured. It’s the least that can be done given the way he was treated during his lifetime.

Origins

‘Everything has its origins in the place we are born’

– Dario Fo

I was asked again recently, at an informal talk, how I had got involved in what I ‘do’ – meaning really walking, writing, making films and videos. I think the first time I was asked this question in a public setting was by Gareth Evans at a screening of The London Perambulator in Greenwich (my film about Nick Papadimitriou), and I think prompted by the appearance of the comedian Russell Brand in that film alongside Iain Sinclair and Will Self, which many people find incongruous but is perfectly logical to me. But to answer Gareth’s question I spoke about the great Italian satirist and playwright Dario Fo and how he was an important inspiration for me early in my creative journey. This took Gareth by surprise and to be honest I hadn’t thought much about how to properly articulate it.

So when I was asked the question again in a more relaxed setting, I once more started with Dario Fo which again prompted raised eyebrows. Now, I should be preparing for tonight’s talk with Iain Sinclair at the Wanstead Tap but I really feel the need to share this and clear my mind a litte – even if I don’t get much further, and whenever I attempt this explanation – man it really goes on. But simply:  my interest in politics (my undergraduate degree) and comedy (Young Ones, Blackadder, Ripping Yarns etc.) led me to Fo. Added to that my childhood love of history and mythology and it was all there in the work of Dario Fo. The final ingredient that tied it up with walking was reading how Fo drew heavily on the culture and topography of his region of Italy.

I grew up walking, everywhere, but what stayed with me particularly was walking with my Dad in the hills around Wooburn Green in Bucks, where I grew up. The old man is still a great story-teller and I loved listening to his tales of the characters he knew around the villages, scrapes with game-keepers, ferreting when he was a boy – all that stuff. The landscape for me was a place rich with narrative. Later, inspired by Fo, I went looking for older stories from that same landscape and found tales of heretics and martyrs, Mummers, and minstrels and I wanted to mix it all together somehow with things from my own time. Some of that resulted in the Remapping High Wycombe project. And there’s a fairly straight line from there to here.

The other element to all of this is how digital media played a role in providing a platform to articulate some this. I’d started out in small fringe theatres and moved online, starting blogging, initially as an extension of the work I’d been doing in live venues but then realising that I really preferred to document the world around me than to try and be sardonic or satirical or polemical. Of course sometimes, when asked, I progress to talk about how I ended up working with Russell Brand and why he’s in London Perambulator (he introduced me to Nick in 2005 realising we had a lot in common – they met through drug recovery programmes – this is in the film).

Of course when you say this out loud it can be a bit confusing, it’s probably a bit confusing written down.

Ok, I’m glad I shared that with you. I nearly lost the lot when the wifi went down just now so it must be fated that I actually post this. Now to prep for tonight’s talk with Iain Sinclair at the Wanstead Tap.

Search for the Druid Temple on Navestock Common

Prompted by a comment on a previous YouTube video I headed out the other week in search of the remains of the “alate temple of the druids” identified by William Stukeley on Navestock Common in the early 18th Century.

The walk started at Harold Wood, then passed over Central Park Harold Hill and then across the beautiful Dagnam Park. From here I progressed to Noak Hill and up to Navestock Common – or what remains of it.

Here are some of the notes I found relating to Stukeley’s ‘Druid temple':

“Another ancient earthwork, of which hardly any traces remain, was situated on Navestock Common, by the road from Ditchleys (in South Weald) to Princesgate, near the parish and hundred boundary. It was visited on several occasions in the 18th century by William Stukeley (1687-1765) who described it as an ‘alate temple’.”
https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/essex/vol4/pp139-143#highlight-first

 

“In 1725 William Stukely came across a feature on Navestock Common which he described as a system of mounds and earthworks. He gave the site the name “alate temple of the druids” as part of the earthworks, according to Stukely, took the form of a wing (`ala’ is Latin for wing). E A Rudge reports seeing earthworks in Mason’s Plantation but their size and shape could not be deciphered as they were so overgrown. <1> OS plan card shows a copy of Stukely’s plan. <2> A member of the public (Mr Channon) had reported the flattening of mounds on the Mores Plantation. A site visit to confirm this was made by Havis and Medlycott (4/4/1992) who found that the brambles previously reported had been removed (1986 to 1991) revealing a series of earthwork banks surrounding a central circular mound. The central mound had been heavily quarried with a circle of trees interpreted as denoting the original edge of the mound. Havis suggests this represents a small motte and bailey or two adjoining baileys to the central motte. It is not clear whether this is the temple refered to by Stukely or if that is located at the western end of Mores wood. <4>”
http://unlockingessex.essexcc.gov.uk/uep/custom_pages/monument_detail.asp?content_page_id=89&monument_id=2289&content_parents=48,61,63

 

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Watch the continuation of this quest here

John Rogers presents The East London Writers Club

Shake the High Road Leytonstone

Really looking forward to this event I’m hosting at the Luna Lounge on Saturday as part of Shake the High Road – a day of music in Leytonstone. ‘John Rogers presents The East London Writers Club’ (a club that doesn’t actually exist) features three fantastic authors that I’m chuffed are appearing – Will Ashon (Strange Labyrinth, Chamber Music), Travis Elborough (The Bus We Loved, Long Player Goodbye & many others), and Neil Fraser (Over the Border, Long Shadows and High Hopes – the life and times of Matt Johnson & The The). Should be a fantastic day – Steve Davis (yep, the snooker legend) is even DJing later in the evening.

 

The Possibility of Life’s Survival on the Planet by Patrick Keiller

Patrick Keiller book

I found this copy of Patrick Keiller’s The Possibility of Life’s Survival on the Planet next to a nice edition of The Illustrated Pepys in a charity shop on Saturday – a placement that surely can’t have been accidental. Needless to say I bought them both.

The opening page reads:

“In August 2010, I completed a film that begins with a series of captions: ‘A few years ago, while dismantling a derelict caravan in the corner of a field, a recycling worker found a box containing 19 film cans and a notebook./ Researchers have arranged some of this material as a film, narrated by their institution’s co-founder, with the title / Robinson in Ruins. / The wandering it describes began on 22 January 2008.”

The film cans belonged to Robinson – Keiller’s unseen character in his first two feature length films, London and Robinson in Space. The film mentioned above was Robinson in Ruins, which I have mentioned on this blog before.

The Possibility of Life’s Survival on the Planet was published to accompany an exhibition at the Tate that followed on from the film and allowed Patrick Keiller to ‘arrange the material in other ways’, that included items from the Tate collection. The resulting installation was called The Robinson Institute.

Keiller’s films are multi-layered, dense with research that deserves repeated viewings to fully digest. They are not only essay films but essays equally suited to book form as well as the screen. Robinson in Space for example draws heavily on the government’s Port Statistics. London follows multiple literary references. And likewise, Robinson in Ruins was part of an academic research project called The Future of the Landscape and the Moving Image, which was “prompted by ‘a perceived discrepancy between, on the one hand the critical and cultural attention devoted to experience of mobility and displacement and, on the other, a tendency to fall back on formulations of dwelling derived from a more settled, agricultural past.”

Having watched Robinson in Ruins a number of times, I can say this book is a brilliant addition to the Keiller canon, to sit alongside his 2014 book of essays, The View from the Train. We wait now in anticipation of his next film.