Fun Fair in the Olympic Park

Olympic Park Fun Fair

Photo 06-04-2017, 20 09 23

Photo 06-04-2017, 20 09 50

‘Roll Up Roll Up for all the fun of the fair in the Olympic Park’, nobody said. A pound each just to enter. Barely a soul around, like one of those ghost theme parks somewhere out in the American midwest, or a scene in a zombie movie. Loitering too long at one of the amusements meant being descended upon by eager, underemployed staff. My son didn’t really fancy much apart from the mini-Zorbs bobbing in a paddling pool in the corner that I managed to persuade him away from. Three arrows for £3.50 to win a wan-looking soft toy. £3 for a bag of pink candyfloss that was mostly air, my son wanted a fresh one on a stick, ‘the lady who does that ent ere’, the girl behind the counter said eyes glued to her phone. The burgers were solid black like discs of coal, the sausages resembled greasy truncheons. The dodgems sat idling remembering better times. The Ghost Ride was in good company this evening. The deserted Fun Fair should become a permanent fixture in the Olympic Park, an Olympic Legacy.

We left with the bag of pink sugar vapour and made our way to East Village in search of food that wouldn’t kill us. The illuminated apartments seemed to be far outnumbered by those in darkness, whether this indicates a large number of vacant flats or the late working hours of the inhabitants I wouldn’t want to say.

There was some sign of life at street level along Victory Parade, even a posse of teenage boys ambling along and a smattering of people in the bars and restaurants. I’m told militant vegans were out in force protesting at the cheese and wine fayre at the weekend, noisily picketing the Gelateria until the police were called. That’s an event that needs adding to the social history of the site.

It’s nearly 4 years since I was given a tour of East Village before the first residents moved in, a tour that focused almost entirely on the impressive environmental sensitivity of the landscaping missing out any mention of the 51% stake owned by the Qatari government purchased at a £275 million loss to the British taxpayer – an interesting idea when looking at skyrocketing property prices in London and an ever-worsening housing crisis.

I tried to point out to my son some of the things I remembered from the tour, but he was distracted by his hunger with his heart set on pizza. I was about to tell him we might have to settle for fish and chips when he spotted what turned out to be really good pizzeria that allowed us to park my son’s bike inside and served a favourite pizza from my Modena years.

I’m determined not to give up on East Village and the Olympic Park, to not let the cynicism ringing in my ears even louder than my tinnitus completely cloud my view. Nor do I want to be seduced into a SOMA daze of compliance by good pizza and swan pedalos. The deserted fun fair and the good pizza seemed to provide a decent balance on this occasion.

The incredible shrinking park

The London Olympic Park certainly is ‘No Ordinary Park’ as dubbed in the marketing tag line – it just keeps getting smaller and smaller while sprouting bigger and more impressive cranes. Where once there were international sporting events there are now world class cement mixers, spectators have been replaced by phalanxes of builders in hard hats and fluro vests.  The true London Olympic Legacy appears to be a never ending building scheme.

Twilight wander through the Olympic Park

I still don’t understand the Westfield-Olympic Park retail gulag – just can’t process what it is. This sign and the plans for the new ‘east village london E20′ is making my cognitive dissonance even worse – should I be excited by the emergence of a whole new area of London rising out of the marshes just down the road? But why do feel a combination of fear, horror and anger.

I got drawn along the inspiring and imaginatively named Westfield Avenue towards the expansion of this miniature Singapore.

The new mega-ghetto is this high-rise block of student apartments. Clearly the student rental market is a more lucrative investment than when I moved to a terraced house just off the Romford Road in Stratford at the end of the 80’s when landlords were actively discouraging student tenants.

The cynical suspicion that ‘east village E20′ is being set up as a privately-controlled outpost of transient, well-off, passive consumers with MBAs rather than ASBOs is offset by this glorious view north across the top of the Velodrome to a dark smudge of distant hills.

Although there is a steady trickle of traffic, the fact the footpath is fenced off starts to make me feel as if the way isn’t formally open to pedestrians. This makes me even more determined to push on towards Hackney Marshes.

Soon there are not even bollards to separate me from the 4x4s who seem to be enjoying the smoothness of the newly laid tarmac a bit too much for comfort. A voice with a strong African accent calls out, ‘Excuse you can’t walk here’. It is a female security guard in her hut. ‘You need to go back the other way – I am worried for your welfare’. I take her careful advice. Beyond the hut there was not even a kerb to tightrope walk along, and the light was all but gone.

The park looks far from finished, and I shared a joke with the security guard that the the summer opening may take place in November but that they’ll call it ‘late summer’ somehow, like calling the new suburb ‘east village’. Whatever they call it, and whatever they build – the once mighty River Lea couldn’t care less, it’s just waiting for a chance to reclaim the marshes.

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The Leyton Olympics

I couldn’t let my pre-Olympic skepticism allow me to ignore the fact that it is taking place right on my doorstep. I’ve been moaning about it for the last 6 years but now it’s here felt an obligation to see what was going on.

I’ve watched the Stadium and Velodrome mushroom at the end of the Asda Car Park – and via the Asda Car Park is the best route into the Olympic Park if you want to avoid the crush at Stratford. Since I moved to the area I’ve walked along the Eastway noting the gradual change.

So I bought a ticket for the Women’s Basketball.

At the end of Ruckholt Road there’s a gate at Eton Manor with a new bridge leading over into the park. This bridge and cinder track to the basketball arena crushed what was left of the Eton Manor Boys Club – a 19th Century philanthropic enterprise for the boys of Hackney Wick.

still from a video I shot in 2007 – watch the video here

Where there were a series of rugby pitches is now a coach park. Tucked away in the corner was a small blue hut serving as a box office – there was not a soul around. It seems people don’t fancy entering the Olympics from Leyton.

The wild flowers are the real stars of London 2012
This reminded me of a scene from I Am Cuba

I’d rather the Lower Lea Valley had been left alone to be overgrown with budliea, Japanese Balsam and Giant Hogweed. However, the landscaped banks of wild flowers are beautiful, and paradoxically possibly more in tune with the ‘natural’ habitat.

I was telling my wife how I preferred it the way it was and she pointed out that hardly anybody came down here when it was a post-industrial wilderness. I tried to make the point that that was the beauty of it but I suppose psychogeographers are a fairly narrow demographic.

The River Lea running through the park though is haunted by the absence of Iain Sinclair and Andrew Kotting in their swan pedalo. The end of their odyssey from Hastings to Hackney was truncated by barriers prohibiting passage along the Olympic Waterways.

I don’t get the giant crayons poking out of the Lea

Two of Britain’s great topographers pedaling past the stadium in a giant swan would have been the perfect opening ceremony.

Have a look at this clip from the Culture Show in 2005 with Bob Stanley wandering around the Lower Lea Valley as it was then.

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Save Marsh Lane Fields – video

I’ve cut together some footage of the demonstration on Marsh Lane Fields in December. The video hopefully explains the issues, but in short the Olympic Destruction/Development Agency are planning re-locate the Manor Gardens Allotments in Hackney to one corner of Marsh Lane Fields.

The issues/objections are:
– the re-location of the allotments onto land that was used as a tip after the war will involve the removal of vast amounts of earth which will cause enormous disruption to this tranquil corner of Leyton (think of the diggers, trucks etc.). It’ll turn this quiet lane into a rat-run.

– it will involve the enclosure of Lammas Land that has been open, common grazing land since it was drained by Alfred the Great in the C9th. This is both a disaster locally but also on a larger scale it represents yet more common land being enclosed.

It’s instructive to note the two historical precedents of the 19th Century when the authorities intervened, both here on the Leyton Lammas Lands and in nearby Epping Forest, to fend of the advances of land grabbers and keep this vital open space in common ownership. But both these landmark rulings were triggered by the actions of a few.

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Save Marsh Lane Fields

There is a spirited campaign to save Marsh Lane Fields which is under threat of development by the LDA for the dreaded 2012 Olympics.
I received this message the other day on the excellent Games Monitor email list:

“the (planning) application has been readvertised in WF Guardian of 30/11,with closing date for objections (etc) of 20th December. Presumablysomething has changed….. NLLDC are attempting to find out what; if anyone knows, please advise.-
NLLDC will be putting in a formal objection asap with more details to follow – and probably questions asking for more info on the proposals.- we hope lots of other people will put in objections too.
Further, we hope there will be other people and/or groups with interest in ML fields who will be willing to get together to coordinate the planning law type objections –
LDA (or EDAW on their behalf seem to be insistently refering to the areaas “ML playing fields”, despite the fact the area is “Open SPace” and has not been marked out with football pitches for several years (and even then was never supplied with goalposts etc). This is clearly another weaselwords attempt to give a misleading impression of the area – given that”playing fields” have a lower level of protection under planning law than”open space”.
Incidentally, does anyone know exactly how long it was since the area they want to steal was marked with footy pitch white lines??- detailed onjections under planning law are being drawn up with help of expert advice (!) and we are likely to call a get-together of parties interested in coordinating objections very soon. Please get in touch on Monday, or by email, asap if that is you/your group.- There will also be work in leafletting local area – how many don’t know there is a threat? – lobbying, press/publicity for what is going on , etc.
All help welcomed!- we even have a theme song! – ayone with musical talents who’d like to join us singing this, either on fields or outside meetings, etc??”
Here’s the details of the planning application for anyone wishing to place an objection. I’ll certainly be adding my voice to the campaign to save what is one of the most special parts of London.
Anyone wanting to get involved should email: marshlane@umbilical.demon.co.uk
These applications have been received by the Council. You may view any of the applications at our reception at Chingford Municipal Offices, 16 The Ridgeway, London E4 6PS between 9 am and 5pm Monday to Friday. A Duty Planning Officer will be available between 10.00am and 4.00pm to explain the plans to you and answer general enquiries. Outside of these times staff may not be available without an appointment. Any comments you wish to make about any of the applications should be submitted within 21 days of the above “End Date”. Please write to the above address quoting the application number. Please note that all files, including correspondence, will be open to the public when a decision has been made. Due to the number of letters received regarding planning applications, it will not be possible to acknowledge your letter. We will inform you of the final decision.
http://www.walthamforest.gov.uk/plan-apps12nov06.pdf
End Date 16 November 2006
Application number 2006/1627
Development Description
Provision of an allotment site on the lower plateau at the Western end of Marsh Lane playing fields and to the South
of Marsh Lane. Development to comprise:
a) 81 individual plots, communal plot and ancillary sheds/buildings, storage and drop off area.
b) Associated earth works raising the level of the land with perimeter planting and fencing to a height of 2meters.
c) Associated environmental improvements outside the curtilage of the allotment site comprising improvements to cycle
and footways and landscaping.
Full planning
Development Address
Marsh Lane Playing Fields
Marsh Lane
Leyton
London
E11 3PA
Applicant Address
The London Development Agency, One Churchill Place, Canary Wharf, London E14 5LN
Agent Details
Matt Sharp The Johnson Building, 77 Hatton Gardens, EC1N 8JS
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