The other summer I spent the afternoon filming the stone carving workshop at Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington led by Nigel Mantel. Then Nigel gave me a brief tour of the cemetery including the ruined chapel and the grave of Constable William Tyler, a policemen shot near Tottenham Marshes during what’s known as the Tottenham Outrage in 1909 (the grave of 10 year-old Ralph Joscelyne, who was also shot during the incident, was overgrown and inaccessible).
It’s 5 years ago nearly to the day that The London Perambulator premiered at The Whitechapel Gallery in the East End Film Festival. This is the ‘Edgelands’ panel discussion that followed with Will Self, Iain Sinclair and me – hosted by Andrea Phillips from Goldsmiths.
The London Perambulator is screening at the Holloway Arts Festival on 6th June followed by Q&A with Nick Papadimitriou and me – details here
I’m becoming slightly obsessed with East Village, the name given to the London 2012 Athlete’s Village. It’s fascinating to watch a new neighbourhood slowly creak into life. And it’s right on my doorstep – a small provincial settlement dropped onto the marshes. There are few things as mundane as waiting at a bus stop on a wet Wednesday evening – but these are the experiences that form the bedrock of the narrative of a place, a world away from the glitz and hype of the multi-billion pound Olympic Games when celebrated gold medalists strutted these same streets. They’ve moved on to become a face on the front of a box of cereals and now people with less accessible histories and mythologies and moving onto the same ground, stubbing their toes on a loose paving slab, munching on fried chicken, dropping their dummies out of a pram.
I recorded this video on a walk in Epping Forest last November – ruminating of the idea of urban druidry. I’d just bought Living Druidry by Emma Restall Orr – I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a Druidry correspondence course for years, initially tickled that such a thing was even possible but then increasingly drawn into the idea of connecting with some form of environment based faith system (you can put that down to impending middle age if you like). But every time I dip my toe in the pagan pond it always turns up ethereal folk swanning around in Wiltshire or somewhere similarly scenic and Arthurian.
Well for me there is nothing more Arthurian than Epping Forest – one of the candidates for the real King Arthur was knocking around these parts, Ambrosius Aurelianus, who re-fortified Ambresbury Banks up near Theydon Bois. But getting away from supposed previous Golden Ages why can’t druidry be just as relevant to a dirty old city like London as to the chalk downlands and sweeping green hills.
In my mind though, when I entertain the idea the Urban Druid it looks as if it would be to druidry what Tony Hancock’s artist was to the art world in The Rebel.
Passing through East Village in the Olympic Park today I was overjoyed to find two new roads (re) open – Honour Lea Avenue and Olympic Park Avenue, apparently opened to the public yesterday, 7th March.
I seem to be developing am ongoing relationship with East Village and the wider Olympic Park (to a slightly lesser degree) which started when I sent a frustrated tweet to the East Village admin people about the naming. This led to me being invited to a tour of the site last July by the charming PR team and somebody from the construction firm.
I think my blossoming obsession perhaps comes from my interest in researching and exploring London suburbs of the past, so to witness a new neighbourhood come into being in front of your eyes is a unique opportunity. The horror I feel at times might be what people felt when they saw the first streets laid out in the fields of Perivale and Sudbury Hill. I’m now trying (really) hard to dispassionately document but it’s a struggle at times.
I wonder where all this is heading.
Finally rode the 339 all the way down the whole route from the lay-by on Grove Green Road Leytonstone to its terminus at Shadwell Station. This is one of London’s newest bus routes (if not the newest) and only a few months old already a classic, riding the byways to the Highway.
Truth be told I was nearly put off by the 51 minute travel time, I reckon I could walk it in just over double that – but it was my dedication to the topographical tradition that compelled me to stick with it.
Some people might think it odd for a father of two to make a video recording the ‘highlights’ of a bus journey through east London, but I see this as being like the early films of the 1900’s – the phantom rides shot from the front of trains and trams trundling down high streets – although I had to shoot this one out of the side window. Imagine watching it in 100 years when most of this will be under water.
Wandered through the empty void of East Village – starting to wonder whether at this stage it would be a brilliant place to live despite having the vibe of the set of a zombie movie.