Brent 2020 – Kensal Rise Library

Kensal Rise

 

Brent 2020 Brent Biennial: John Rogers, Kensal Rise Library

I’ve been producing a project for Brent 2020, London Borough of Culture based at Kensal Rise Library.

I’ll create a social mapping project through a series of walks, talks, workshops and public events to produce a subjective and surprising audio-visual portrait of the area surrounding Kensal Rise Library, investigating people’s lived experiences, memories and subjective psychogeography of the area.

Members of the public will be invited to join a number of led walks and to contribute their own walks in the area to add into the project.

I’m keen to hear from anyone who’d like to contribute to the project or who’s interested in attending the events and walks – please email:
krl2020project@gmail.com

Events

Due to the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak, I’m afraid we have had to cancel the planned talk by Willesden Local History Society on 31st March.

Please check back for updates on forthcoming events.

You can find more information about the project here

Kensal Rise

John Rogers

Kensal Rise map

map design by Joe Hales

September 2020 update: Images from the project

John Rogers Brent Biennial

Brent Biennial Walks

At the end of 2020 I was commissioned to create three walks linking together artworks in the Brent Biennial. The maps and my notes to accompany the walks are downloadable at the bottom of this post (*the links to the Brent Biennial website no longer work).

The first (map above) started at Kingsbury by Dawn Mellor’s George Michael mural then passed over Barn Hill (Uxendon Hill) with its majestic view over Wembley Stadium with all the echoes of the area’s past wafting across that storied hill. The walk pays homage to the Wealdstone Brook on the way to visiting Carl Gabriel’s sculptures outside Preston Road Community Library. We wander through old Wembley, its farm and park and the ghosts of the Empire Exhibition and Watkins’ Folly before ending the walk at Dan Mitchell’s artwork at Wembley Library.

The second walk starts at the GPO Research Station on Dollis Hill, then takes in For Now’s artwork at Willesden Jewish Cemetery and ends at my own sound piece in the streets of Kensal Rise produced in collaboration with the brilliant Kensal Rise Community Library.

And the final walk links together the artworks along Kilburn High Road.

Download the Maps and Notes below

Kensal Rise Has A Story – Brent Biennial Zoom talk

Last month I did a Zoom talk with the wonderful Kensal Rise Library about the project we’ve been working on for Brent 2020 London Borough of Culture as part of the inaugral Brent Biennial.

I started work on Kensal Rise Has A Story in January 2020 with research in the Brent Archives based in Willesden Green Library, looking at the old Ordnance Survey Maps of the area noting the phases of change that came with the railways. I also looked at resonant news stories from the past and the maps and listings published in the Borough of Willesden Guides of the 1920’s and 30’s.

After scoping out the area on foot, I met with Willesden Local History Society and embarked on walks with some of their members and also recorded some sit down interviews, using old OS maps and archive images to navigate the conversation.

I then interviewed members of the broader community, some who took me on walks, some I interviewed in their homes, others in gardens and allotments, even at work. During lockdown I conducted two of the interviews remotely.

Margaret and Stephanie from Kensal Rise Library provided memorable contributions with their recollections of the campaigns to save this essential hub of the community. They also delved into the deeper history of the area and the connections with All Souls College, Oxford which stretch back to the Middle Ages.

It’s been such a fantastic experience to be able to record the voices of Kensal Rise and embed them in the streets.

Brent Biennial runs until the end of January 2021.

Here’s a playlist of the audio recordings on the sound trail:

And here’s an interview I did with Art Review about the project.

John Rogers Kensal Rise

photo by Roy Mehta (c)

Walking the Counters Creek – lost rivers of London

Lost river walk that links two of the magnificent seven

The Counters Creek has haunted me for a few years, just as the lost rivers of London collectively haunt London. It was there as a presence when I’d documented the protests to save the communities and buildings in Earls Court in 2015 & 2016. It reverberated beneath the tombstones of Brompton Cemetery when I filmed Andrew Kötting dressed as Straw Bear drifting through the portico. And one possible source of the Counters Creek was a marker on my psychogeographic sound trail around Kensal Rise for Brent 2020 London Borough of Culture. So I was well overdue a walk along its course.

Source of the Counters Creek - Kensal Rise has a Story plaque - John Rogers Brent 2020
One possible source of the Counters Creek on the Brondesbury Ridge
Kensal Green Cemetery Chapel - Counters Creek Walk
Kensal Green Cemetery Chapel – near the source of the Counters Creek

The recognised source of the Counters Creek is not up on the Brondesbury Ridge at the junction of All Souls Avenue and Chamberlayne Road, although it seems highly likely that springs from this high ground feed into the river. Both Nicholas Barton in his classic Lost Rivers of London, and Tom Bolton in London’s Lost Rivers – a Walkers Guide, place the source in Kensal Green Cemetery hidden beneath a large stone slab. From here it crosses the Grand Union Canal and flows across Little Wormwood Scrubs, beneath the Westway and down through Notting Dale, the edge of Holland Park to Olympia (where I stopped for a pint and accidentally realised the pub was close to the Countess’ Bridge that gave the river its contemporary name), Earls Court, Brompton Cemetery, Fulham Road, Kings Road, Lots Road, before making a glorious confluence with the Thames in its above ground guise as Chelsea Creek.

Counters Creek Walk
Interestingly, Nicholas Barton only dedicates one paragraph to the Counters Creek
Grand Union Canal - Counters Creek Walk
I was guided along the course of the Counters Creek by Tom Bolton’s brilliant London’s Lost Rivers – a walker’s guide published by Strange Attractor Press

It truly is one of the great lost river walks – not as celebrated as the Fleet, Tyburn, Westbourne, or Effra – but certainly worthy of a song as Paul Whitehouse had improvised from the deck of a Thames Clipper as we filmed a chat about the Thames and passed the confluence. It’s a shame that song never made the final cut of Episode 2 of Our Troubled Rivers. But the song of the Counters Creek can still be felt rising through its culvert beneath the streets of west London.

John Rogers and Paul Whitehouse
John Rogers and Paul Whitehouse during the filming of Paul Whitehouse Our Troubled Rivers

Kensal Rise Has A Story – video

At the beginning of 2020 I was commissioned to create a project by Brent 2020 London Borough of Culture in collaboration with Kensal Rise Community Library. The resulting project, Kensal Rise Has A Story, launched in September 2020 as part of the inaugural Brent Biennial. This is how I described the project in an interview with Art Review:
“It’s a geographic sound map or trail of Kensal Rise. The form the project takes has partly been informed by the COVID-19 restrictions. I had planned this beautiful archive inside the library and some of the sound works were going to be burnt onto vinyl which could be listened to within a listening booth. We’ve not got those, but its ok, those were outcomes, they weren’t really the work itself which is a portrait of the community in their own words. By ‘community’ I mean the community of the library. Where it becomes geographic is that the emphasis is on the subjective responses to the environment and the changes within that environment rather than looking for some objective, dry, historical overview of the area, or even contemporary commentary on the area.
The ethos of the Kensal Rise Library is at the heart of the project. About 60 percent of the contributors are connected to the library, as users or in some other way. You can’t listen to any of the clips without feeling the presence of the library.”
You can read the rest of the interview here

It gave me enormous pleasure putting this video together with snippets of footage captured on some of the walks with local residents and some of the 51 audio clips that made up the audio trail.

You can listen to the full list of audio clips here

Massive thanks to everyone who contributed interviews, Brent 2020, Kensal Rise Community Library, curator Henry Coleman, designer Joe Hales, Willesden Local History Society, Winkball (James, Tom, Gideon), and Brent Borough Archives.

Kensal Rise Has A Story – psychogeographic sound trail

Kensal Rise map

My project for Brent 2020 London Borough of Culture in collaboration with the wonderful Kensal Rise Library went live in September. Kensal Rise Has A Story tells the story the streets around Kensal Rise Library through the voices of local people and is part of the inaugral Brent Biennal.

 

I explained the project in an interview with Art Review

“It’s a geographic sound map or trail of Kensal Rise. The form the project takes has partly been informed by the COVID-19 restrictions. I had planned this beautiful archive inside the library and some of the sound works were going to be burnt onto vinyl which could be listened to within a listening booth. We’ve not got those, but its ok, those were outcomes, they weren’t really the work itself which is a portrait of the community in their own words. By ‘community’ I mean the community of the library. Where it becomes geographic is that the emphasis is on the subjective responses to the environment and the changes within that environment rather than looking for some objective, dry, historical overview of the area, or even contemporary commentary on the area.

The ethos of the Kensal Rise Library is at the heart of the project. About 60 percent of the contributors are connected to the library, as users or in some other way. You can’t listen to any of the clips without feeling the presence of the library.”

You can read the rest of the interview here

Kensal Rise sound trail

photo by Thierry Bal

You can explore the trail by following the map found outside Kensal Rise Library and scanning the QR Codes with the camera on a smart phone (or listening to the playlist above).

 

Kensal Rise map

photo by Thierry Bal

 

Kensal Rise

photo by Thierry Bal

YouTuber, Sean James Cameron made this great video of a walk around the trail

Longer form versions of the interviews and additional research materials will be added to the project blog here.

John Rogers Brent Biennial

John Rogers Brent Biennial

 

John Rogers Brent Biennial

Map at Kensal Rise Library

John Rogers Brent Biennial

John Rogers Brent Biennial

You can watch a Zoom talk I gave about the project for Kensal Rise Library here

A walk from Kensal Rise to Primrose Hill

A walk through the streets of northwest London starting at Wrentham Avenue in Kensal Rise and ending at Primrose Hill

In this video I also introduce my project in collaboration with Kensal Rise Library for Brent 2020 London Borough of Culture in the Brent Biennal

If you scroll back through the archives of this blog (stretching through the ether to 2004) you’ll see that much of my ‘study’ of London came from random spontaneous drifts through the city being guided by my feet and finding whatever I found. This is still my primary method of mapping out the city even though much of my ‘work’ is produced from more focused expeditions. This walk was partly a return to the practice of drift or dérive, where I dispensed with my everyday concerns and allowed myself to be “drawn by the attractions of the terrain” (Guy Debord). However I was unable to completely dispense with the reality of the 34 degree heat of the afternoon.

Heading out of Kensal Rise via Wrentham Avenue, I was keen to pay a visit to Tiverton Green, a location that several people I’d interviewed in the area had mentioned. It’s said that on a clear day you can see the North Downs.  I then followed Brondesbury Park to Salusbury Road, Queens Park , then turned along Lonsdale Road to Brondesbury Road.

Kensal Rise

where the River Westbourne crosses West End Lane

We cross Kilburn High Road which forms part of the Roman Road of Watling Street, believed to be a much older trackway. In West End Lane I could sense the contours of a river valley and discovered once at home that the buried ‘lost’ river of the Westbourne or the Kilburn (Kilbourne) that rises in Hampstead, flows beneath Watling Street near this point on its way to make its confluence with the Thames at Chelsea. “In the lush meadows of Westbourne, near the highway to Harrow, the citizen of London could once see dragonflies and loosestrife, or, lying face down in the buttercups, tickle a brace of trout against the coming Friday” (Alan Ivimey, Wonderful London).

Kensal Rise walk

Passing Abbey Road and Priory Road, with its resonances of Kilburn Priory, we work our way to Finchley Road and Swiss Cottage before turning off Adelaide Road down Harley Road to Primrose Hill. This venerated spot was once the meeting place of Bards and Druids (the modern version) and is one of the protected views of London. For all of those more celebrated resonances, it was a white stone on the side of Barrow Hill that drew me in. Did it mark the possible burial site of fallen warriors in some epic battle of the distant past, or was it more prosaically a boundary marker?