At one entrance to Leytonstone tube station the Socialist Workers have a stall with their papers on and a lady is giving out fliers for a meeting organised by Respect starring Gorgeous George Galloway MP (I thought the SWP didn’t believe in bourgeois democracy). Titled “British Politics after Blair”, it’s taking place at the al Badr Hall on Lea Bridge Road on Friday 9th.
Through the underpass at the other entrance a member of the Labour Party is giving out leaflets (no stall note) entitled “Labour, the Leadership and the War”. This meeting boasts 3 MPs (Labour have an unshakeable belief in bourgeois democracy) and takes place at the Welsh Church on Leytonstone High Road.
The leaflet, and the man giving them out boast that “all three MPs are anti-war”. You know our democracy is a bad state when our elected representatives try to impress us with the fact that they voted against an illegal war against a sovereign state that has cost the lives of over 600,000 people.
What else can I read about the politics of the nation from this encounter? Both groups seem to gravitate to religious buildings. Respect/SWP to an Islamic venue adjoined to a mosque, in order to show that they are no Islamophobes and can communicate with the ‘Arab Street’ (they never believed in gender politics anyway).
Labour are drawn back to their Celtic roots, still more comfortable with Methodism than Marx.
Whatever happened to Working Men’s Clubs?
I’ve written an article on the topographical films of Leytonstone (and the Lower Lea Valley) for UEL’s ‘Rising East’ journal of East London Studies, which you can read here.
In the course of the research I came across a couple of other filmic E11 references: a Bollywood film called ‘I….Proud to be an Indian’ (2004) set in a late-seventies Leytonstone terrorised by Nazi skinheads. And a 1963 film directed by Joan Littlewood, ‘Sparrows Can’t Sing’. There was also a sitcom in 1999 ‘Small Potatoes’ starring Tommy Tiernan, “Ed Hewitt runs the shambolic Screen Dreams video shop in Leytonstone, east London. He has a media-studies degree but is underachieving, consoling himself with the thought that video rental is part of the media business. His working day is enlivened (and/or complicated) by visits from three friends – sex-obsessed Rick, who works in his family’s chemists shop; aspiring photographer Juliet; and the vague Benett, currently working as shoe-hire boy at a bowling-alley.” Apparently it was another failed stab at producing a British ‘Seinfeld’ (a colleague, who also lives in Leytonstone, tells me that it was actually quite good).
I’ll be developing another project with Cathy, in Maidstone, for Architecture week in July. We’ll be posting stuff here as we go along. There’s already a link to the Wycombe work in the figure of Benjamin Disraeli, who failed to get elected as MP for Wycombe 3 times before taking the Maidstone seat.
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.
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.
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.