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.

A walk around the London Olympic Park, Stratford (2018)

This was an unintentional although overdue video. I’d caught the 339 bus to Stratford Station with the intention of getting a train to Harold Wood and going in search of Stukeley’s earthworks on Navestock Common. But alighting the bus on Montfichet Road, I was drawn in by the view of the evolving skyline around Stratford – something that has become a bit of an obsession over the last 8 years or so, as regular readers of this blog will have noticed. So once I’d switched my camera on and turned into Westfield Avenue and then through the newly completed sections of the International Quarter, I was hooked.

Here are links to some of the news articles and videos referenced in the video and also some further reading:

Videos

The Quito Papers: Towards an Open City

Is the London Olympic Park a bit Crap (Sept 2015)

Post -Olympic London – Welcome to Ikea Town

London Olympic Park playlist

 

Links to screenshots

Olympicopolis halves towers’ height and leaves V&A looking for extra space
https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/olympicopolis-halves-towers-height-and-leaves-va-looking-for-extra-space/10024263.article

Latest vision revealed for Olympicopolis arts quarter in east London
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jul/27/latest-vision-olympic-park-olympicopolis-arts-quarter-east-london

Olympicopolis architects on their £1.3 billion vision for E20
https://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/london-life/olympicopolis-architects-on-their-13-billion-vision-for-e20-a3198041.html

Olympicopolis mark II: reworked plans for east London cultural hub revealed
https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/olympicopolis-mark-ii-reworked-plans-for-east-london-cultural-hub-revealed/10031732.article

Olympic Village sold to Qatari developers for £557m in deal that costs taxpayer £225m
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2025367/Olympic-Village-sold-Qatari-developers-557m-deal-costs-taxpayer-225m.html

Qataris strike Olympic gold: Sheikhs who snapped up cheap flats in the Athletes Village set to rake in £1billion profit
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2586458/Qataris-strike-Olympic-gold-Sheikhs-snapped-cheap-flats-Athletes-Village-set-rake-1billion-profit.html

“So which narrative is correct? The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is managed as a private site by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), a mayoral development corporation established in 2012”
https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/jul/27/london-olympic-park-success-five-years-depends

“When the athletes’ village was sold off in 2011 around half, or nearly 1,500 apartments, was sold to QDD, a joint venture between Qatari Diar, a property arm of Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, and British property developer Delancey, to be sold or rented on the private market.
The remaining apartments were sold to Triathlon Homes, a joint venture between a developer and two non-profit housing providers, to become the “affordable” housing quota, funded by nearly 50 million pounds from the government’s Homes and Communities Agency.”
https://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/article/29/07/2017/Five-years-after-London-Olympics,-Games%E2%80%99-legacy-is-off-track-for-locals

 

Other references

City Mill River originally called St. Thomas’ Creek
http://thelostbyway.com/2017/02/pudding-mill-lane-sugar-house-lane-ikea-city.html#comments

Pudding Mill River – the lost river that runs under the Stadium
http://www.londonslostrivers.com/pudding-mill-river.html

Iain Sinclair at the Wanstead Tap
http://www.thewansteadtap.com/buy-tickets/

Walk along (and off) Watling Street from Cricklewood to Oxford Circus

Cricklewood

After visiting a friend I decided to go for stroll in a sudden outbreak of September sun. Considering the options – my friend’s suggestion of walking to Horsenden Hill, or my vague pang to retrace old routes to Stonebridge Park in the name of nostalgia – I didn’t fancy the long tube ride home at the end. Eventually, my feet decided for me, as they often do, and drew me south along the A5, the old Watling Street, one of the most ancient roads in Britain.

Shoot-Up Hill

There’s an air of chaos on parts of this oldest of thoroughfares, things going down left-right-and-centre. ‘It’s crazy’, says the Scottish guy in the queue at Co-op check-out as I wait to pay for my discounted falafel wrap. One bloke seems to object to me admiring the architecture – or was he offering further information? It was hard to tell in that vibe.

Hillman CricklewoodAt various times I considered deviating from the route as I passed Brondesbury and Kilburn High Road stations but something kept me plodding on, like a well-drilled Roman Centurion returning to Londinium from a stint in the provinces.

Folkies Kilburn

State Cinema Kilburn

The glorious George Coles (of Leyton) designed Gaumont State Cinema played a big part in calling me along the road. It’s tower rising like a beacon above the Victorian/Edwardian shopping parade, apparently inspired by the Empire State Building.

Abbey Road tourists IMG_3022

My discipline waned when I realised that the famous Abbey Road ran parallel to Watling Street. Surely the Beatles were tapping into the psychogeographical resonances of the area when they went all mad and mystical. Abbey Road originally linked the 12th Century Kilburn Priory, sat on the banks of the Westbourne, with an area of woodland owned by the Priory of St. John in Clerkenwell, now simply called St. John’s Wood. The tourists queuing up to have their photograph taken on the zebra crossing were oblivious to all of this and were merely imitating the iconic Beatles Abbey Road album cover.

Chiltern Street

I avoid Lord’s Cricket Ground and pass down Baker Street with a nod to Chiltern Court before turning into Chiltern Street. Paul Weller poses for a photo with a couple of builders. The beginnings of sunset dance on the russet brickwork.

The seductive contours of Marylebone Lane encourage me to follow the flow of the submerged River Tyburn, a meander through smart-set hang-outs and catwalk pavements till I arrive within the gravitational vortex of Oxford Circus where I am sucked beneath the ground into the tube and projected back blissfully East.

 

The Shard at Portobello Film Festival

Portobello Film Festival 2018

Last night over to the Portobello Film Festival for the screening of In the Shadow of the Shard. Ladbroke Grove is unavoidably WEST London, hits straight you away the moment you leave the station. You expect to see Paul Simonon strolling down the street. London Calling bounces out of the pillars of the Hammersmith & City Line viaduct. The vibe is very particular, I feel a million miles away from the EAST. From here forests are to be found in Bavaria rather than Chingford.

I wait 20-minutes for grilled chicken at a joint near the station which seemed to be a hang-out for people on their way home and moped delivery drivers. I scoff the lot down in 6-minutes flat, it was tasty but not worth the wait. Then it’s off to the screening at Westway – my film coming at the end of a 4-hour programme titled, The Revolution Will Be Televised. I catch the final half-hour of Rupert Russell’s Freedom for the Wolf which looks well worth watching all the way through.

Portobello Film Festival 2018

After introducing the film I settled on a sofa and watched till the end – unusual at this stage of a film’s life when I would have seen it around twenty times before, the majority of them forensically checking for errors and corrections. But I enjoyed seeing it in this setting – away from the previous on-site events in Tenants Halls around Bermondsey and Rotherhithe. I wondered what the West London audience were making of it.

After hanging around for a bit chatting to audience members I took a night-time stroll down Ladbroke Grove past Performance terraces and into Portobello Road. Posh young things loitered chattering on street corners, the last diners huddled over tables at the rear of boutique restaurants. On the last stretch into Notting Hill I tried to imagine the grand houses in their fifties-sixties guise as the lodgings for arrivals from the Caribbean and Australian wanderers. It seems so distant, purely a scene in a period drama.

Old Swan Notting Hill

I’m not ready to head underground to re-emerge in a different reality back in Leytonstone so find a seat by the window of the Old Swan at the top of Kensington Church Street. There’s hardly anyone in the pub, although the few people seem intent on broadcasting their conversations to the world. It’s hard to concentrate on my book so I scribble in my notebook instead. Pint sunk I’m ready for the Tube and that transition through worlds across the city.

Picturing Forgotten London at the London Metropolitan Archives

Islington Spa engraving

Met the brilliant Dave Binns the other week for a look at the Picturing Forgotten London exhibition at the London Metropolitan Archives. The mood was perfectly set by the walk up through the winding backstreets of Clerkenwell to the LMA by Spa Green Fields. After signing in at reception, then being directed to deposit our bags in a locker, we were free to go up to the exhibition with the instruction that all notes were to be made solely with a pencil and that our notebooks should be carried in a large transparent plastic bag (which was provided).

The exhibition starts on the staircase to the gallery – an ante-room to the main archive. The first image to grab my attention was an aerial photograph of Caledonian Market on Copenhagen Fields taken in 1930, a site I’ve been interested in for a number of years. It captures the full extent of the market grounds, some of which is now preserved as parkland along with the majestic clocktower.

In the gallery I was drawn to the glass display case dedicated to artist and writer Geoffrey Fletcher, presented as if containing holy relics. There was a photo of Fletcher sat on the ground sketching the Roman Temple of Mithras (recently relocated) along with a fine hardback edition of London Overlooked and a penguin paperback of The London Nobody Knows. A banner printed with a large photo of the Skylon at the 1951 Festival of Britain hangs nearby.

A collection of images show ‘The Devil’s Acre’, an area of poor housing just to the south of Westminster Abbey that was described by Charles Dickens in his magazine Household Words. A section on Housing includes an engraving from 1775 of The Norman Baynard’s Castle on a corner by the confluence of the Fleet and the Thames near a photo of a prefab on the back of a truck in 1962, and wooden cottages in East India Dock Road in 1860.

Layers upon layers of London are hanging on the walls at the Metropolitan Archives, whole other worlds within worlds. The exhibition runs until 31st October 2018 and is highly recommended.

Walking the London Loop – Elstree to Moor Park

I’ll be honest, in the past when I crossed paths with the London Loop signs on a walk I was slightly disdainful. ‘What’s the point’, I thought, of following this orbital trail around the edge of London when the capital is so rich with places to walk and explore. You didn’t need a pre-ordained, officially endorsed path to point the way. You could wander randomly anywhere in London and it would throw up a route as rich as any promoted by Transport for London, and I still believe that to be true. But now having walked 5 sections (well 4.5 really) of the London Loop I’ve been forced to revise my opinion of this 150-mile path.

London Loop 15-14 v.2.00_01_58_02.Still003

 

I did my first section – from Enfield to Cockfosters (Section 17) back in January when I needed to hit the road but lacked the energy or imagination to work out my own walk. The London Loop guided me through a territory largely unkown to me. A couple of weeks later I found myself heading back to Cockfosters to pick up the trail through to Elstree & Borehamwood (Section 16), although on this occasion I branched off on my own path for a large portion of the way to take in areas I wanted to explore that were off the London Loop.

At that point I thought I was done with the London Loop and it wasn’t until the beginning of July that I returned to Elstree to continue the path through to Hatch End (Section 15) carrying on to Moor Park (Section 14). It was a glorious walk across meadows and woodland, the inevitable golf courses, past lakes, and over hilltops offering incredible expansive views. It opens your eyes to the extent and beauty of London’s open spaces and farmland encircling the city – spaces that were often fought over to be saved for the people of the London and the surrounding suburbs, precious resources not to be taken for granted.

London Loop Section 14

Will, I return to continue my counter-clockwise walk on the London Loop? I’m still not sure. I did leave home to walk Section 13 to Uxbridge two weeks ago but instead meandered from Ruislip to Denham and beyond into Bucks. But this time when I passed the London Loop signs on the towpath of the Grand Union Canal, instead of a dismissive glance I gave them a nod and a smile and a thanks for the magnificient walks.