Pub Chat – talking walking at Filly Brook, Leytonstone

Episode 3 of Pub Chat finds me having a pint at the brilliant Filly Brook, Leytonstone. This is obviously my favourite ‘pub’ name in the world (Filly Brook isn’t strictly a pub, more of a tap room) being named after Leytonstone’s lost river that gurgles beneath the street just yards away. In fact, Weston’s map of the Philley Brook / Filly Brook from this very blog is framed on the wall inside. The beer’s great as well. On this occasion I was supping a collaboration between Filly Brook and Pretty Decent Beer Co., Connections Pale Ale, in celebration of the month-long cultural festival hosted by Filly Brook with £1 from every pint being donated to charity.

Filly Brook Leytonstone

John Smith and the Leytonstone Road Protests in NLR

M11 Link Road, Leytonstone

There’s an excellent blog on the New Left Review website by David Anderson about the films of Leytonstone artist John Smith and the M11 Link Road protests of the early 90s.

“The Link Road protest nevertheless attracted a broad church of supporters, engaging them in a project that, as the Aufheben group put it, aimed not just to stop ‘this one road’ but to create ‘a climate of autonomy, disobedience and resistance’. This included not only local residents and veterans of other road protests, but also a substantial number of artists living in and around Claremont Road. Their presence contributed to a year-long ‘festival’. Throughout 1994, the street was blocked to cars and turned into a public outdoor living room, just as protesters were busy burrowing underneath the houses’ actual living rooms, constructing a fortress that would be difficult for police and bailiffs to dismantle …

The result was, according to McCreery, a space with ‘no formal social organization’ in which ‘every moment of every day amounted to a political act’. Even if he doubts how much ‘radical French theory’ the protesters were actually reading, their activities ‘probably amounted to the most complete expression of situationist techniques ever seen in Britain’.”

Leytonstone Pop-Up Cinema returns at Good Shepherd Studios

Good Shepherd Studios Leytonstone Pop-Up Cinema
photo by Jake Green

Great night on Wednesday as Leytonstone Pop-Up Cinema returned with a screening of What Have You Done Today Mervyn Day? at the wonderful Good Shepherd Studios. Paul Kelly’s brilliant film was in the first programme that I put together for a film night at the Leytonstone Festival in 2007 at the Heathcote Arms alongside shorts by Ian Bourn and John Smith. This led to the launch of Leytonstone Film Club in 2008 (name changed to Leytonstone Pop-Up Cinema). Wednesday’s screening was the first of a regular programme of films at Good Shepherd Studios.

What Have You Done Today Mervyn Day? Leytonstone Pop-Up Cinema, Good Shepherd Studios
photo by Jake Green

It was a reminder of just how important a film Mervyn Day actually is. Shot in the Lower Lea Valley around Stratford, Bow, Hackney Wick and Canning Town in the summer of 2005, and set on the day the successful bid for the London Olympics was made, it captures a crucial moment in time in the history of London. I attended a screening at the Barbican when we first moved to Leytonstone in 2006 and wrote about the landscape of the film when I went in search of locations.

Paul Kelly and John Rogers, Leytonstone Pop-Up Cinema, Good Shepherd Studios 12th April 2023. Photo by Jake Green
photo by Jake Green
photo by Timothy Fox

In the Q&A with Director Paul Kelly, we discussed his collaboration with the pop band St Etienne on this and other films and how they came to make a film about a part of London where few people outside the area ventured. I also asked Paul what the narrative of the film would have been had the Olympic bid been unsuccessful. That’s an interesting alternative history of London.

Paul Kelly and John Rogers - photo by Jake Green. Good Shepherd Studios Leytonstone 12th April 2023
Paul Kelly and John Rogers – photo by Jake Green

After a break of a few months, it was great to be back with Leytonstone Pop-Up Cinema. Thanks so much to Jake Green for giving us a new home at Good Shepherd and it was wonderful to see Stow Film Lounge running the projection. Also thanks to Jake for these fantastic photos.

What this space for the date of our next screening in May.

The Philley Brook / Fillebrook is lost no more

The Philley Brook / Fillebrook - Leytonstone's lost river
The Philley Brook / Fillebrook

It was great to get a really clear view of Leytonstone’s lost river, the Philley Brook (Fillebrook) down beside Auckland Road allotments at the weekend. I’d only previously caught glimpses of dark water through the weeds obscuring the culvert. But now with the undergrowth cleared away the river can be clearly seen flowing above ground. To my knowledge this is the only point where the Philley Brook can be seen, although it can be heard in a number of locations running beneath the streets of Leytonstone and Leyton (I didn’t really hear it in the upper Walthamstow reaches).

The Philley Brook / Fillebrook - Leytonstone's lost river which is prone to cause flooding in Leyton, Leytonstone and Waltamstow
The Philley Brook
The Philley Brook beside Auckland Road allotments Leyton
The Philley Brook goes back underground

Moments before this glorious sighting I’d bumped into Claire while filming a Q&A video for my YouTube channel. I mentioned that I felt I hadn’t resolved the question of where the Philley Brook (Fillebrook) made its confluence with the River Lea or if it merged with the Dagenham Brook first somewhere beneath the Eurostar railway sidings. Being a water professional, Claire recommended taking a look at the Environment Agency Long Term Flood Risk maps. And my word, what a revelation. The course of the buried rivers of the area is marked out in dark blue. Thank you Claire!

Flood Risk map Leyton
Flood Risk map Leyton - Philley Brook / Fillebrook

A New Wetlands for Leytonstone

Wanstead Flats wetlands

Taking a sunset stroll on Wanstead Flats this evening I stumbled upon this marvellous new Wetlands on the rough ground beside Harrow Road Playing Fields.

Wanstead Flats map

“© OpenStreetMap contributors” using data available under the Open Database Licence

It’s evident that the channels around the pond have been recently dug to form a network of ditches – a Leytonstone Wetlands, with the tall rushes rising around the edge of the waterscape, birds fleeting between the reeds and bushes. Previously the pond was lost in amongst the brambles, overgrown and hard to reach, choked by the undergrowth. This has now been cut back, opening out this new landscape.

Old map of Leytonstone

1863 Map of Leytonstone Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

The pond can clearly be seen on this 1863 Map of Essex (published 1873) with what could be a channel or ditch leading to Harrow Lane (now Road). So this is a wonderful restoration of the historic landscape of the area. Wood House and Wood Cottage are also interesting features on this map.

R.I.P Luna Lounge Leytonstone – home of live music

Luna Lounge

It was so sad to hear of the closure of the Luna Lounge, Leytonstone last week. Luna was a beacon in the community – lighting up Church Lane with live music. A bohemian dive bar and a Sunday afternoon chill out, a late night blues club and a folk club evoking the heyday of Greenwich Village. And that was just four days of the week – the Luna provided live music seven days a week at time when London’s live music venues were biting the dust like French soldiers at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356.  Suja created something magical at the Luna Lounge that will live long in the memory.

There were so many incredible nights at the Luna Lounge. One highlight for me that demonstrated what Luna gave us was after a great gig at What’s Cookin in the ex-Services Club by two touring Americana acts from the U.S, the musicians decamped to Luna to do a second jam session into the small hours of a Wednesday morning. Where else would you find that, not just in Leytonstone, but in London.

Luna Lounge

Car Free Day at Luna Lounge

But the true judge for me of what Suja and the Luna Lounge gave the Leytonstone Community were not the rocking nights at the bar as part of the throng, but the evenings wandering on the other side of Church Lane looking across at the scene inside the Luna Lounge, the music wafting across the street, an event you could experience by proxy on the way to the shops.

Suja was always a great host, ever ready to help the community, keen to be of service. He ran a tight ship, trouble-makers were rare but dealt with calmly and effectively. It was noticeable the diversity of the people who felt safe to enjoy a night out at the Luna. And they came from far and wide. When telling people I lived in Leytonstone, you’d often hear people reply that they knew the area solely because of Luna Lounge. Musician travelled from all over to play at the Lounge. It became legendary.

Luna Lounge

East London Writers Club at Luna Lounge

So why has it closed. There are conflicting reports. I spoke to Suja not long after the Police had visited with the Borough licencing officers to check whether Covid regulations were being properly followed. He was still visibly shaken. He’s built that venue up from scratch to make it what it is, poured his heart and soul to turn a dream into a reality and give such joy to so many. It seems particularly harsh and overly bureaucratic to haul him in front of a licencing review conducted in such challenging circumstances. You like to think common sense and a degree of humanity could have prevailed. But it seems not.

Waltham Forest has lost an alarming number of pubs and venues over the last decade. It can ill afford to lose another, especially such a gem as the Luna Lounge. The music has stopped in Church Lane, and it’s hard to imagine that it will return when the virus subsides. And the licencing authorities will be to blame for the loss this valuable community asset. Long Live the Luna Lounge! And best of luck to Suja and the Luna crew whatever they do next.


The Luna Lounge appears to be back open again and hosting fantastic live music. Can’t wait to get back in there.

Black Lives Matter in Leytonstone

Video of the community Black Lives Matter peaceful protest in Leytonstone on Saturday 13th June at Linear Park on Grove Green Road.

The event was organised by Grove Green Ward Labour Party. A powerful speech was given by Grove Green Councillor Anna Mbachu. As a healthcare worker, Anna spoke movingly of how she has witnessed first-hand the devastating impact of Covid-19 on the BAME community. Tom Taylor from the local Labour Party, and organiser of the protest, spoke of the long heritage of anti-racism in East London going back to the Battle of Cable Street through to the Rock Against Racism Festival in Victoria Park in 1978. Hussain from the Waltham Forest Council of Mosques urged people to network within the community with like-minded people. Passing cars and buses beeped their horns in support, cyclists rang their bells. The names of black people who have lost their lives in racist attacks, after interactions with the police, from Covid-19, the Windrush Scandal, and in the Grenfell Tower Fire were read out whilst the protestors took the knee and observed a minute’s silence.

Social distancing was very well observed throughout with positions marked out on the pavement 3 metres apart and plenty of stewards were on hand to make sure the event passed safely. It was great to see so many families in attendance, including my youngest son who helped make this video.