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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Make Your Own Damn Film #5

Tomorrow sees the ‘world premiere’ in of my documentary Make Your Own Damn Art – the world of Bob and Roberta Smith in the East End Film Festival. It’s 3 years almost to the day that I started filming – first at the Portman Gallery in Bethnal Green then damn the next morning as Bob created his mobile brownfield site to sit on the forecourt at the Royal Festival Hall.

The prospect of the post-screening Q&A has forced to me think again why I made the film in the first place. In truth, the possibly unexpected answer can be found on this blog – it came from my fascination with Leytonstone and wanting to learn about the place I had just moved to.

I’d seen a poster for the Leytonstone Centre of Contemporary Art and wanted to learn more about it and the artist who created it. The film in a way is the result of that curiosity. So although it’s about a unique voice in British art and the importance of art in society it is also as much about localism for me personally.
I wonder how that will go down at the Q&A tomorrow.

In the afternoon tomorrow I’ve got the huge honour of hosting the discussion and Q&A with Andrew Kotting and Iain Sinclair following the screening of their film Swandown.

I’ve been following this project – a psychogeographer’s dream ticket – ever since I first heard it mooted in 2007. So tonight I’ll be skimming back through my Iain Sinclair archive and re-watching Andrew Kotting’s short films in preparation – what a hardship.

Swandown

My sister Cathy Rogers took this photo of Andrew Kotting and Iain Sinclair enjoying a well-earned pint beside the river Medway as they make their way along a series of inland waterways from Hastings to Angel Islington in a Swan shaped Pedalo. The project is called Swandown and had already began to garner a mythic status before they plonked their vessell in the water in late September – two of our great topographers on an epic crazed quest – I’m just waiting for Joblard to emerge from the Medway mist.

There’s more info, pictures and video on the Swandown website http://swandown.info/

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