Cornelius Cardew’s Great Learning in Leytonstone Woolies

This was an incredible event that I feel privileged to have attended. The avant-garde-cum-Moaist-folk-revivalist composer Cornelius Cardew lived and died in this neck of the woods and at last year’s Leytonstone Festival there was a fitting tribute to this geographical association as members of his Scratch Orchestra re-united for a performance at the old Green Man pub.
But this event took the Cardew link to another level I felt (with Luke Fowler’s brilliant Cardew film so recently installed in the Serpentine Gallery) – being as it was a 10 hour long participatory performance that took in several local locations including the Green Man Roundabout. I coaxed my 6-year old along to part of the performance in St.John’s Church where he sat in awed (or shocked/ bemused) silence for 15 minutes as James Bull skillfully played a metre of plastic ducting and led a series of synchronicised sniggers. There was also some artful clarinet and tuneful singing throughout.
The Woolies paragraphs (see below for Cardew’s score that was used) took on a rather more ethereal vibe in this vast cream empty consumer tomb – the sounds all vocal and measured pacings marking the aisles where I have variously purchased Power Rangers, a teapot, gel ink pens (pack of 5) and a pear tree.
The Leytonstone Avant-Garde is alive and well it seems – in Woolies at 9pm on a Saturday.


Waves of Disappearance: cinematic topographies of the North Eastern frontier

Writing about the Leytonstone Centre for Contemporary Art reminded me of the essay I wrote at the end of 2006 about the films of Leytonstone and the Lower Lea Valley for UEL’s journal of East London Studies. This was when I first became more aware of the significant community of artists that lived in the area before the M11 Link road was built. As artist Cornelia Parker said of the mid-80s:
“Leytonstone at that time was a great place to be. A thriving community of artists lived in dilapidated houses that were due to be demolished for the promised M11 Link Road…..The cheap rents and abundance of space created a fertile breeding ground for ideas. Cross-pollinations and collaborations abounded, ground-breaking works given birth to – creativity thrived under the threat of imminent eviction.”

As the possibility of an arts centre being established in the old Woolworths building is being discussed it’s timely to remember this E11 avant-garde, the Leytonstone Left Bank.

You can read the rest of the article here


Leytonstone Centre of Contemporary Art

When I first moved to Leytonstone I was intrigued by a poster on the stairs leading down from the Eastbound platform at the tube station for an exhibition at the Leytonstone Centre of Contemporary Art. The LCCA turned out to be a purpose built shed in the back garden of 49 Rhodesia Road E11 the work of artist Bob and Roberta Smith. For the show Hearing Voices, Seeing Things the gallery (shed) was relocated to the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park.

Later venturing round to 49 Rhodesia Road I was confronted by a turn-of-the-century terrace much like the one I live in not far away with no visable sign of a Centre of Contemporary Art. Suspecting it to be an art prank by a self proclaimed “jester of the art world” I dare not knock on the door and enquire of its whereabouts.

Bob & Roberta Smith appears to be a genuinely original and intriguing artist. In an interview Bob described the project as “a little model of the art world”. Bob (he’s one person so I’ll drop the & Roberta bit for now) also produced a series of his trademark hand painted signs to promote the cause of local shops in a work cryptically titled ‘Shop Local’.

The LCCA does seem to have made a genuine impression upon the art world, proudly appearing on the CVs of many an artist. How many took place in E11 or in the re-located shed I’m not sure but one exhibition, Fight, from September 2002 promised “A crazy day out in Leytonstone” and mentions another gallery space in the area The Leyton Wall Modern at 3 Brisbane Road E10.

I’m not sure whether Bob and Roberta Smith is still living at the house, maybe the forthcoming Leytonstone Arts Trail will give me the plausible cover to buck up the courage to find out.

Here is a bit of further reading and viewing:
Nice vid of Bob working
Link to ICA show
Interview with Bob and Roberta Smith at the LCCA