I noticed this grand megalithic monument when walking along Prize Walk in East Village, Stratford the other day. A single standing stone more majestic than any of the architecture of the Olympic Village or the Stadium and Velodrome. What is required now is a study to see if it aligns with the Solstice sunrise on 21st June.
I’m becoming slightly obsessed with East Village, the name given to the London 2012 Athlete’s Village. It’s fascinating to watch a new neighbourhood slowly creak into life. And it’s right on my doorstep – a small provincial settlement dropped onto the marshes. There are few things as mundane as waiting at a bus stop on a wet Wednesday evening – but these are the experiences that form the bedrock of the narrative of a place, a world away from the glitz and hype of the multi-billion pound Olympic Games when celebrated gold medalists strutted these same streets. They’ve moved on to become a face on the front of a box of cereals and now people with less accessible histories and mythologies and moving onto the same ground, stubbing their toes on a loose paving slab, munching on fried chicken, dropping their dummies out of a pram.
Passing through East Village in the Olympic Park today I was overjoyed to find two new roads (re) open – Honour Lea Avenue and Olympic Park Avenue, apparently opened to the public yesterday, 7th March.
I seem to be developing am ongoing relationship with East Village and the wider Olympic Park (to a slightly lesser degree) which started when I sent a frustrated tweet to the East Village admin people about the naming. This led to me being invited to a tour of the site last July by the charming PR team and somebody from the construction firm.
I think my blossoming obsession perhaps comes from my interest in researching and exploring London suburbs of the past, so to witness a new neighbourhood come into being in front of your eyes is a unique opportunity. The horror I feel at times might be what people felt when they saw the first streets laid out in the fields of Perivale and Sudbury Hill. I’m now trying (really) hard to dispassionately document but it’s a struggle at times.
I wonder where all this is heading.
Wandered through the empty void of East Village – starting to wonder whether at this stage it would be a brilliant place to live despite having the vibe of the set of a zombie movie.
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.