Stratford of course.
(note the security guard on the right – he never took his eyes off me – clearly been told to look out for psychogeographers)
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.
Been meaning to do this walk for a while – heading south in a straight line from Leytonstone across Stratford and Abbey Marshes bound for the Plaistow Levels beside the river Thames.
“Local history is the cradle of true patriotism, and local patriotism is the best stimulant to efficiency and progress”
Fifty Years A Borough 1886-1936 – The Story of West Ham by Donald McDougall, 1936
“There seems to be no doubt that the name comes from the Saxon, indicating the Street by the ford, or Stratford”.
“It is quite likely that the area was a centre of communal life of the (pre-Roman) period and that it saw Druid ceremonial at its best”
East Ham and West Ham were simply known as Hamme at the time of Edward the Confessor.
Alfred the Great is said to be responsible for the creation of some of the watercourses around Stratford such as the Channelsea River which he created to drain water from the Danish ships moored in the River Lea.
|Channelsea River 2|
“These streams had for many years been deteriorating, silting up, and at times giving off very offensive smells.”
|the marsh monster|
“But before there were small clustered villages, and before the unassailable fortress stood sentinel on the bank of the river, what people lived in the forests and marshy lands? What did they do in the struggle to live?
The first great work of these unrecorded hands was to build a wall of earth all along the north bank of the river so tha a great belt of swampy land was made fertile and flourished into meadows and pastures.”
The Story of Tower Hamlets, 1967
West Ham Abbey “stood on the banks of the Channelsea River, one of the waterways created by Alfred the Great, in a very low-lying area now almost entirely covered by factories, warehouse and gasometers.”
Fifty Years a Borough
Yesterday evening I got a call from artist Bob and Roberta Smith asking if I fancied exploring the new Westfield Stratford City that had just opened that day down the road from Leytonstone. I quickly grabbed my minidisc recorder and a mic and off we went.
Bob then played out the entire disc live and unedited on his Resonance fm show, Make Your Own Damn Music. This is a sample of the broadcast.
Yesterday took a late afternoon wander down to Stratford under sludge grey skies
Turn off Cathall Road into Hollydown Way taking in the view across St. Patrick’s Cemetery towards the cranes of Stratford. Iain Sinclair made this journey in reverse in Lights Out For the Territory describing St. Pat’s as “that slumberland development with its forest of white statues”. The eastern gates are padlocked as they were when Sinclair passed by, so I continue.
The Olympic development looms large now from Draper’s Fields playing grounds, scene of midweek 5-a-side heroics
Wilson’s Bar hanging on for dear life – the antithesis of the supposed Olympic dream of the developers
I still can’t get my head around the idea that the Olympic Village is going to be down on Angel Lane Stratford. Will we find pole-vaulters popping over the road for a pint in the Railway Tavern.
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.