The Last London – in conversation with Iain Sinclair

Last week at the Wanstead Tap I had the great pleasure to talk to Iain Sinclair about his new book The Last London.

He read a passage about a walk along the Barking to Gospel Oak branch of the London Overground, a walk that I accompanied him on for a short section through Leytonstone, on the morning of Donald Trump’s US election victory.

“My theories at the time of Lud Heat, deriving from E.O Gordon, Alfred Watkins, John Michell, Nigel Pennick, were about lines of force connecting the churches, making patterns, and provoking crimes, rituals visitations, within an unregistered sphere of influence. What I now understood, in steady rain, on this morning of political madness, tracking an inoperative railway to a place nobody wants to go, is that the walks we are compelled to make are the only story. Walks are autobiography with author.”

Iain Sinclair the Last London

photo by Keith kandrphoto.com

Iain Sinclair’s work has had such a profound influence on London writing over the last 30 years at least, an influence that has stretched into film and visual arts. He synthesised a way of understanding the city and helped codify a new form psychogeography, distinct from its intellectual French roots. He expanded on the background to his hugely influential book Lud Heat:

“There was a period when you were able to absorb so many eccentric influences from all over and it goes back for me to a kind of collision for me between cinema and poetry which were my twin obsessives when I was very young and coming to London to be in film school and beginning to do long rambles and wanders and generally just to find one cinema to the next, whatever it was, and later as a gardener realising that the structure of these churches were enormously powerful and were in some ways, if you looked from the top of Greenwich Hill, connected. London was an irrational city but with rational plans put on top of it at various times generally doomed to fail in their own way but to become part of the story of the city.

I got very intrigued by that and from those kind of interests emerged a hybrid form of writing that was live day-to-day reportage of what I was doing as a gardener in an exciting part of London that I was only beginning to discover. And secondly then having the time to research the churches and their history in places like the Bancroft Road Library, which is sort of more or less gone now, which is a huge resource of local history and the librarians were so knowledgeable, they’d open up dusty boxes and show you all this stuff. It all fused together into a kind of writing that combined wild speculations, satires to do with the awful way the workers were treated down there and the idea that these jobs would disappear and that the landscape itself would disappear because we were treading on the ghosts of the future Docklands, ghosts come from both sides you know, ghosts of the things you find in the past, the ‘scarlet tracings’, but there were also ghosts of the future and they met in that landscape.”

Listen to the full audio of the conversation above.

Iain Sinclair and John Rogers

photo by Keith kandrphoto.com

 

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London beers #2: Partizan Pale, Clarkshaws, and Pressure Drop

Three more cracking Capital ales from The Wanstead Tap

pressure drop strictly roots

How could I resist the invitation to try a bottle of Pressure Drop Brewery’s Strictly Roots Dandelion and Burdock Porter brewed in collaboration with the legendary wild man of the marshes John the Poacher, when plonked on the bar of the Tap by Dan. I’d picked up a copy of John’s book in Leyton Library and stupidly only skimmed it in the Leyton Tech but it appeared to be full of stories of catching rabbits on Hackney Marshes. I’m making the assumption that he foraged the Dandelion and Burdock on the marshes for Hackney based Pressure Drop. Like one of John’s gamey marsh rabbits Strictly Roots can best be described as an acquired taste (I grew up on wild rabbit for the record) with strong hints of alluvial deposits from the river Lea and an intense muddy aftertaste kicking in after a liquoricey opening salvo. Best consumed sat on the banks of the Lea with a copy of Marshland by Gareth Rees.

Clarkshaws Strange Brew

There seemed little strange about this  ebullient bottle of sparkling amber ale from Clarkshaws after the Strictly Roots. Cooked up in East Dulwich, Strange Brew No.1 went down beautifully in the evening sun. I was drawn to this beer amongst the 100 on offer at the Tap by the modesty of its label amongst a veritable gallery of vivid branding lining the shelves. Surely this indicated that the beer would speak for itself. To be honest I was also sucked in by the individual bottle numbering (this one was Batch No. 1, Bottle No.54) giving it the feel of a limited edition. Not only did the beer speak for itself it sat there on the table reciting poetry before breaking into arias and sea shanties. Apparently it’s vegetarian as well.

Partizan Pale Ale

Partizan Brewing from Bermondsey have a distinctly different attitude to beer labeling on their seductive range of ales that even include a Saison Iced Tea. This zesty, citrus-tinged Pale Ale had my taste buds dancing round my gullet in the kind of kooky oompah-band hanky-waving gyrations that the figures on the bottle look like they are about to burst into. It then made me want to get up and do a few laps of the table to Half Man Half Biscuit’s All I Want For Christmas is a Dukla Prague Away Kit. Sign of a good beer.

 

These are dozens more are all available from The Wanstead Tap or direct from the breweries.