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.
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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.
Made this recording in my garden at sunset yesterday with my laptop and snowball mic
Download fugueur – East London Garden Ambient