The Disappearance of Beaumont Estate


John Heron sent me these great pictures of the ongoing demolition of Beaumont Estate. John lives on the continent and I live about half-a-mile away from the estate, but I tend to content myself with the view from my bathroom window.
With the Iain Sinclair edited ‘London, City of Disappearances’ fresh on the shelves, people are busy flagging up the disappearing treasures of the metropolis. Among some of the endangered sites mentioned in Time Out recently were the Butterfly House (where there is a screening this Saturday of films on the theme of the book, including John Smith’s ‘Blight’ about the disappearance of half of Colville Road E11), The Stables Market in Camden, and Hackney Wick allotments (which may be moved to Marsh Lane Playing Fields meaning the disappearance of over a 1000 years of common land rights). Nowhere did I see a mention of Beaumont Estate.

Thanks for the pictures John.

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Ken Loach in Leytonstone

Probably the greatest living English film-maker is shooting his latest film in the backyard of one of the greatest dead English film-makers. Ken Loach has been spotted around the backs of buildings on Leytonstone High Road shooting his latest film “These Times”. There was a snippet in Time Out recently:
As he turns 70 – the Times disparagingly referred to him last week as a ‘pensioner from Nuneaton’ – Loach is about to embark on one of his most ambitious films yet: ‘These Times’ (again written by Laverty) will be a contemporary story set just outside London. It’s not an easy project. Loach’s search for authenticity, often casting non-professional actors, is no mean feat in a city of 7 million. But the director is clearly excited: ‘Everything that’s going on in the world is represented somehow in London.'”
It’s apt that in order to make the definitive film about London, Loach sets it on the city’s fringe. When seeking to gain a perspective on the nature of a landscape artists have often ventured out to the Edgelands, as Iain Sinclair proved so brilliantly with London Orbital, Andrew Kotting with his fantastic film ‘Gallivant’ and Jonathan Raban in his book ‘Coasting’.

After writing this post I stumbled upon Loach’s crew parked up in Harrington Road. They were naturally a bit cagey and didn’t give much away apart from saying that the film isn’t specifically set in Leytonstone but ‘East London’ generally. They pointed out where the filming was taking place, above a shop about 3 doors up along the High Road from the junction with Harrington Road. Some of Loach’s ‘non-professional’ actors were lurking nervously outside on the cold street having a fag and rubbing their hands together.

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Panjandrum

Panjandrum
Is there nothing that Nick Papadimitriou doesn’t know about London? Under the guise of his troublesome alter-ego he left a comment on this blog about a curious device known as the Panjandrum. It was developed to explode mines on the Normandy beaches during D-Day. It was constructed in secret right here in Leytonstone (by Messrs. Commercial Structures ltd.) and transported to Westward Ho! to be tested. A journey I make myself a couple of times a year as my parents live just down the road from there. Another case of geographical synchronicity (another note on my autopobiography). Thanks Nick.

Wandered into the 491 Gallery today as they were setting up a new exhibition. They were quite happy to show me round as they hung pictures, adjusted projectors, installed installations. One_Artisland kicks off tomorrow and runs till Monday. Make the most of the 491 whilst it’s still there, London Underground want the building back and the word is that they’ve got less than a year before eviction.

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Saturday afternoon perambulation

From Cathall Road there is a near perfect view cleared by the M11 Link Road. At an height level with the steeple of St. John’s you can scan across the speculative skyline from Canary Wharf to St. Mary Axe (it’s an alignment that the London Psychogeographical Society could conjure something from: St John = Baphomet/Isis, pyramids, obelisks). Late afternoon full moon. Across the top of St. Pat’s tombstones Lea Valley pylons against a red sunset. On Water Lane there’s ‘The Brothers Fish Bar est. 1966’ chips and cheer wrapped in greasy paper, in my imagination opened to commemorate West Ham winning the World Cup. I wander into the porch of Ithaca House on Romford Road – The Working Men’s Hall and Club Rooms 1865. A lady tells me that it’s now all martial arts, body mind and spirit etc. She was unaware of its age or original purpose. Old Labour replaced by the New Age Brigade. In her work-out gear she views me with suspicion through the door, me a working man, son of a gardener, grandson of a miner. A quick google shows it to have been bought for £1 by the Independent Newham Users Forum.
Wind up in the gentrified King Eddie. My cheese and onion crisps arrive as Double Gloucester and Red Onion Kettle Chips. The saloon bar where we sat on the floor in 1989 has distressed wooden tables, floorboards, smoochy tunes and a Heston Blumenthal inspired menu.


Moleskine and The Family Friend

Two treats from Italy this week. Yesterday a package arrived from Milan from Modo e Modo containing a new Moleskine in replacement for my current notebook with the pages falling out in great chunks. I followed the guidelines on the excellent moleskinerie site, sent in a description of the problem along with photos. Monday I received an apologetic email from Modo e Modo followed by a new notebook yesterday. Very impressed.

Monday I caught Paulo Sorrentino’s new film ‘The Family Friend’ (L’amico di famiglia) in the London Film Festival. Visually very arresting, set in a town of De Chirico arches, fascist state architecture, a landscape made famous by Fellini. There is a scene, a beauty contest, which seems to directly reference the public celebration depicted in ‘Amarcord’. I’ve been in such places, descibed them in an unpublished travelogue. It’s the other side of Il Bel Paese. The foggy flatlands of the Po Delta. A land of small (abusivo) apartments built outside the walls the historic town centres, along streets with broken pavements and the incessant sound of farting Piagio Bravos and cholic kids. A very long way from the sun-drenched olive groves of Chiantishire. Sorrentino’s central character is the kind of person that feeds upon the unhappiness that festers in such places. A grotesque little man of apparently without a heart who refers to himself as Geremio ‘Heart of Gold’, a moneylender, a Shylock, a Fagin. He preys on the poor and the vulnerable and is ultimately undone by hitherto unknown feelings, for woman he has abused, not unlike Zampano (Anthony Quinn’s character) in ‘La Strada’.

Metaphors are laid on metaphors – women playing volleyball in slowmo, a naked girl sleeping in the park, the choosing of ‘le bomboniere’, the gold foil wrapped chocolates that Geremio eats. After an hour totally immersed in this world I found myself strangely unsatisfied at the end despite the retribution meted out to the heatless Geremio. The final chapter seemed to hurry to its conclusion, too keen to provide a simple resolution. It was close to being a great film, it’s a brave adventurous effort that may struggle to find an audience outside the cinephillia of the LFF.

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The Soapbox Cabaret

Received an intriguing email the other day. Somebody wanted to know about my political-satirical musical agit-prop revue ‘The Soapbox Cabaret’ for ‘a book’ they were researching. Instantly flattered I hastily replied that I would gladly open up the Soapbox archives and had only recently discovered a recording of our last performance, at The Greys, Brighton in September 2000.

I sat back and wondered what the book could possibly be about. Obviously a Labour Party related project, maybe looking at the various forms of anti-Blairite dissent that have emerged during the New Labour dictatorship. Or maybe somebody attached to the Glasgow University archive of political song. Whatever is was it would obviously be some obscure political, probably academic, publication. The writer had even managed to mix me up with the other lefty John Rogers who works for Unison. They knew their fringe Labour politics alright. They’d been a regular at conference in the late 1990’s. Maybe they’d caught the show at the Hackney Empire Studio, or the Riverside Studios, read my articles in Labour Left Briefing or The Morning Star. Recognition at last. I could explain the progression from a theatrical show based on briefing papers and political speeches performed in a political environment to my work that uses the landscape as a performance space were the script is a series if mythical-historical markers. Planning applications and urban design statements the new source material. Dario Fo the common inspiration (“Everything has its origins in the place we are born”) – folklore, place, heresy, buffoonery. I’m toying with a embarking on a thesis around this idea.

As I related this to my colleague at work in an excited manner I saw a possible chink in the story. I realised that a member of our dedicated cast has gone on to an impressive level of achievement and fame he’s also no stranger to the pages of other Red Tops (i.e. not the Socialist Worker or Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!).

I googled the writer’s name still half expecting to find her attached to an erstwhile academic institution. I felt slightly sick as the list of stories of a quite unacademic nature filled the screen filed for the Daily Mirror.

I sent back an email asking if she could tell me a little more about the book. It was just possible that her research of my famous friend had brought my show to her attention and had spurred her on to engage in a piece of serious writing, leave her tabloid past behind her and write the definitive guide to political comedy; ‘From The Buffonati to The Soapbox Cabaret’: the minstrels of Berne to the Labour Party Conference Fringe Revue.

Her reply was prompt. It was a biography of my famous friend. An unauthorised biography at that, it’s already available for pre-order from Amazon, so it was too late to persuade that my idea for the grand book of comic dissent was a more worthwhile project. Oh well.

Ten minutes later the right-on political comic Jeremy Hardy walked into my place of work. “So Jeremy, did you think of trying comedy to defeat the Israeli army, you see I’ve got this idea for a book……”

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