Walking from Stratford to Islington via Hackney with Andrew & Eden Kötting

Andrew and Eden Kötting’s exhibition at New Art Projects, Hackney – Excuse me, can you help me please? I’m terribly worried, offered the perfect rationale for a joint stroll. The moment I saw the show announced I knew it would be the focus point in a walk. Being joined by Andrew and Eden themselves turned this into a kind of dream walk.

We met at the old Stratford Centre, outside Burger King and beneath the shoal of metallic fish installed to mask the old Stratford from the Olympic hoards. Passing through Westfield to the Waterworks River, Andrew called down to the people riding the swan pedaloes and reminsced about the journey he made from Hastings to Stratford with Iain Sinclair on just such a craft named Edith for his film Swandown. That was just before the London Olympics when passage along the Park’s waterways was prohibited. Andrew’s onward journey to the Islington tunnel followed the route our walk would take – along the Hertford Union Canal and then the Regent’s Canal.

swan pedalo on the Waterworks River, Stratford
Andrew Kötting and Eden Kötting in Victoria Park Hackney, July 2022
Victoria Park, Hackney

The show at New Art Projects, is a dive into the world that Andrew and Eden have created in their Hastings studio. Walls of collages and large paintings, 3D heads made from Eden’s drawings, a screening room presenting the film Diseased and Disorderly. I then donned a VR headset which transported me Andrew’s Pyrenean farmhouse, a ‘memory hovel ‘ (as opposed to Tony Judt’s Memory Chalet), where you are led through a series of rooms and ultimately out onto a pyrenean mountain top. It was an incredible experience.

Leaving the gallery space and Andrew and Eden I took a stroll down Broadway Market, the first time in a number of years since it became seen as the epicentre of gentrified Hackney. F. Cooke’s Pie and Mash shop was shuttered up, closed for good, a new addition to the Dead Pie Shop Trail. Dropping back onto the Regent’s Canal I drifted towards Islington, taking a small detour to pay homage to Alfred Hitchcock at Gainsborough Studios, before ending the walk at the mouth of the Islington Tunnel.

F.Cooke Pie and Mash Shop Broadway Market, Hackney
Broadway Market
City Road Basin, Islington on the Regent's Canal
City Road Basin

Excuse me, can you help me please? I’m terribly worried – runs at New Art Projects, 6D Sheep Lane
London E8 4QS, until 31st July

A Gallivant round St Leonards-on-Sea with Andrew Kötting

After watching Andrew Kötting’s debut feature, Gallivant at the Sydney Film Festival in 1997 I went straight out and bought a Canon Super 8 camera to make a film on my travels through India back home to England. There’s a direct line between that screening in the Pitt Street Cinema and my weekly YouTube videos today. So this trip to St Leonards to take a stroll round the Regency seaside town with Andrew Kötting had particular resonance. In fact it had too much significance to fully dwell upon.

A journey to an English coastal resort in winter is either an extreme display of confidence or a brash two fingers to Fate. I like to think I was doing both and Fate decided to answer back with howling winds, torrential sideways rain and plummeting temperatures. So we hid in the Goat Ledge Cafe to take refuge and feast on Goat Ledge Sunrise rolls filled with smoked haddock, chilli jam, fried egg, and chard mayo. We attempted to push on along the esplanade but the rain hammered down even harder and the wind clipped our ears, so we retreated to Andrew’s home to talk about Gallivant.

Andrew Kötting outside a Fish and Chip shop in St Leonards-on-Sea

The four-month road trip around the entire coastline of Britain with his Grandmother Gladys and young daughter Eden, was a visionary odyssey, capturing the eccentricity as well as the beauty of this mystical isle. It was the perfect re-introduction to end my three-year travels abroad. The psychogeographical revival was well underway in Britain when the film was released in 1996 with Patrick Keiller’s film London and the writings of Iain Sinclair. Gallivant expanded this scope beyond the capital to cover the entire island. So when Iain Sinclair’s review of Gallivant in Sight and Sound brought the two together on the streets of St Leonards, where Iain also sometimes resides, it was feared that the psychogeographical reverberances would crack the country apart – or at least swallow a kebab shop in Hackney. Instead we’ve witnessed a steady stream of collaborations that have seen Andrew dressed as a straw bear walking from Epping Forest to Northamptonshire, a nautical journey in a swan-shaped pedalo, a 24-hour walk around the London Overground, a quest to reincorporate the ghost of King Harold, and a pilgrimage to deliver a whalebone box to the Outer Hebrides.

The colonnade at Bexhill-on-Sea

We conceded defeat to the elements and Andrew took me for a drive along St Leonard’s Regency seafront, stopping to pay homage to the statue of Edith Swanneck before driving onwards to Bexhill-on-Sea. Gallivant opens on the beach at Bexhill in front of the majestic modernist dream of the De La Warr Pavilion. This year was the 25th anniversary of the film’s release and Andrew reminiscing about childhood visits here with Gladys seemed the perfect end to the day. Maybe Fate had been on our side after all.

The Noise of Memory – walking with Iain Sinclair and Andrew Kötting

Walking with Iain Sinclair and Andrew Kötting from Rotherhithe to Queens Road Peckham

IS: Why did you put your fingers in your ears at this point?

AK: Just the noise, the noise

IS: Noise of my voice?

AK: The noise of memory. The noise of memory can become slightly overwhelming sometimes

The above exchange between the great London writer Iain Sinclair and visionary film-maker Andrew Kötting took place as we approached Canada Water Station on the London Overground walk we were filming for my documentary of Iain Sinclair’s book of the same name. Iain had just read the passage from the book aloud, on the hoof, describing this stage of the walk when he and Andrew had made the original circuit. These were Kötting’s memory grounds. From what he describes as the ‘Tarkovskian zone’ of the mid-1970s docks around Greenland Dock and Norway Dock, to his years living on the Pepys Estate. Editing the footage for the feature documentary, premiered at the Rio Cinema in Dalston 2016, my focus was on the journey of the book. So much of the material from this day in July 2015 had been unused. In fact most had remained unwatched since the initial rough cuts.

Iain Sinclair Andrew Kötting

It was a big day for me. Both Iain and Andrew had been enormous influences on my work. It was after watching Kötting’s Gallivant at the Sydney Film Festival in 1997 that I went out and bought a Super 8 camera with the intent on making filmed travelogues. Iain Sinclair’s writings are a constant source of inspiration. He’s been laying down traces across the city for over 50 years that London perambulators find themselves following, whether knowingly or not. Both of them are continiously setting new standards with each work they produce. So it was a special experience to revisit the rushes from this shoot and cut a full length version.

Iain Sinclair Andrew Kötting

There was the whole scene in the Cafe Gallery in Southwark Park, an important nodal point in Andrew Kötting’s artworld. Tales of scrap metal (and Bakerlite) trading days around South London, book dealing and Camden Market selling, the foot donated to Sinclair’s father and delivered at dinner time. They survery the ever changing skyline from Bridgehouse Meadows. And there are multiple readings in-situ by Iain Sinclair from London Overground.

What is still left to be shared at some point is the extended conversation the pair have in Andrew’s favourite cafe, La Cigale on Lower Road Surrey Quays. That’s a fascinating exchange – but I’ll save that for another day.


Eden’s Dreaming – The Whalebone Box

Whalebone Box

The Whalebone Box by Andrew Kötting

The dark cave of the box room where I write and make videos was the perfect lockdown hideaway to watch Andrew Kötting’s hypnotic odyssey The Whalebone Box. It’s a further collaboration with Psychogeographer in Chief Iain Sinclair, a dream ticket that began with Offshore in 2007 and continued through By Our Selves, Swandown, and Edith Walks (and you could add Iain’s book London Overground which I then filmed with Kötting playing a major role).

The star of this film though is the film-maker’s daughter Eden Kötting, now an established artist in her own right, who first beguiled us as a child in her father’s debut feature Gallivant (1996). Eden is the sage, the spirit guide for the journey that lies ahead, to return a whalebone box carved by artist Steve Dilworth on the Isle of Harris thirty years before, lined with lead and filled with calm water and placed in the care of Iain Sinclair. The Whalebone Box spent the intervening years on the London magus’ desk whispering to him as he produced a string of highly influential works predicting the future shape of London. Eden wonders if returning the ‘animal battery’ to its source will stop the flow of words.

The Whalebone Box
The film unfolds as Eden’s dream in a forest, gun on lap, hunting. The box drifts through the pine trees like the Rendlesham Forest UFO. Later whales swim between the twisted trunks of a gnarly copse. Eden casts Sinclair as ‘The Man’ (in black) ‘he wants to tell things … (he has) knowledge about this moment’.
Writer Philip Hoare relates how whales have the heaviest bones as they are full of oil. And the box has been lined with lead, filled with water and sealed with beeswax. The aim of the quest is to return the whalebone box to the beach where the whale washed up, to test whether the calm water sealed inside possesses healing powers and return health to the body of the sick. The box must first traverse the landscape, mountain tops and forests, the Fells, a tower to be charged with ‘insane energy’. The poet MacGillivray enchants a mermaid voice into the whalebone box in a church through haunting song. Kötting trails Sinclair to the ruined Cathar castle at Montségur, ‘the plug of the entire mythological system’. Philip Hoare tells us that whales can breach dimensions. Eden hears witches in the trees. At the Callanish Stones Sinclair says that this is where ‘the person dissolves in the place … we’re in this long dialogue with our ancestors’.

The Whalebone Box

The magic extends to the form of the film with its multi-layered soundtrack of present tense non-synced voice, sounds from the archives, whale-song, music conjured from peculiar instruments. The images merge between archive film, animation, and iPhone movie clips but in Kötting’s hands, ‘This isn’t a phone, it’s a 16mm camera’.
The whalebone box makes its eventual return to the beach where it washed up, accompanied on its final leg by the voices of Jonathan Meades and Peter Whitehead. Eden stands by the sea at night, in silhouette, it’s cold and she wants to go home. Is the journey complete? I’ve a feeling that this is another chapter in an on-going saga that will take us who knows where next.


Watch The Whalebone Box on Mubi until the end of April 2020

Iain Sinclair & Edith Walks at Leytonstone Pop-Up Cinema

Iain Sinclair Leytonstone

I had to photograph Iain Sinclair in front of Leytonstone’s Olympic Fish Bar in Church Lane. The great London writer had come to introduce his film collaboration with Andrew Kötting, Edith Walks at Leytonstone Pop-Up Cinema in Leytonstone Library. Iain had been a prominent critic of the London 2012 Olympics, resulting in Hackney Council temporarily banning him in 2008 from speaking in its libraries.

Iain Sinclair Leytonstone

Iain Sinclair introducing Edith Walks

Iain Sinclair Leytonstone

Iain Sinclair introducing Edith Walks at Leytonstone Pop-Up Cinema

When introducing Iain Sinclair, I mentioned how in the boom years of the psychogeography revival at the turn of the millenium, the idea of a Sinclair – Kötting collaboration was considered the psychogeographer’s ‘dream ticket’. Then while I was working at the National Film Theatre that dream ticket quite incredibly manifested itself with the film Offshore Gallivant, which screened at the NFT in 2006. Iain gave a humorous account of the making of the film as the crew spent the entire trip throwing up over the side of the boat meaning little footage was actually shot, however somehow Kötting still managed to make a film.

Iain related this to the making of Edith Walks, one of a number of subsequent collaborations between the pair, documenting a pilgrimage in the wake of King Harold’s wife Edith Swanneck from Waltham Abbey to the battlefield at Hastings. The nature of a 100-mile walk meant footage was not easy to capture throughout. Some of the scenes I shot at Waltham Abbey and on the towpath to Enfield Lock made their way into the final cut. A fair percentage of the film was shot on iphones using a Super8 app. The result was something magical and entrancing that the audience received warmly and sparked a fascinating discussion after the screening.

Edith Walks by Andrew Kötting

Iain Sinclair in Edith Walks directed by Andrew Kötting

Edith Walks Kötting

Claudia Barton as Edith Swan Neck

Leytonstone Pop-Up Cinema is the first Wednesday of the month at Leytonstone Library

Deptford Jack in the Green May Day Celebrations Greenwich

The streets of Deptford and Greenwich were yesterday taken over by The Jack in the Green May Day celebrations, led by Fowlers Troop and the Deptford Jack. A great cacophony of instruments filled the air peppered with shrieks and yells as the Jack processed along the banks of the Thames to the Cutty Sark where Morris Dancers pranced around the Jack and a Mummers Play was performed. A bright pink Oss gambolled through crowd. Two hurdy-gurdy players duelled in front of watching tourists.

I asked great film-maker Andrew Kötting, who’d been inside the Jack along the riverside, what it’s all about, “fecundity, awareness, what was, what isn’t, and what yet might be”, he said.
Deptford Jack in the Green
The Jack in the Green is a framework adorned with laurel leaves and flowers (dressed the night before in the Dog and Bell in Deptford), that is paraded through the streets accompanied by musicians, Morris dancers and Mummers. It’s said to date from the 17th Century as an evolution of traditional May Day celebrations, a time of cavorting and revelry with deep pagan roots.

Deptford Jack in the Green

I’m told the Jack went ‘rogue’ in Greenwich Park, as Jack in the Green is compelled to do on May Day. It doesn’t surprise me, the atmosphere was alive with the spirit of Spring.

Unearthings: On and Off Watling Street with Iain Sinclair and Andrew Kötting

Just under a year after the premiere of our film, London Overground, Iain Sinclair mentioned joining him out on the road again with my camera. This time he was walking a section of  Watling Street, the Roman road said to have much older origins, in the company of the great film-maker Andrew Kötting, from Canterbury to London. I joined them one morning along Shooters Hill Road in South London where they were accompanied by artist Anne Caron-Delion. This first walk followed the road to Westminster (another branch goes across London Bridge to the City) – passing over Blackheath, through Deptford (the ‘deep ford’), New Cross, Peckham, Elephant and Castle, along the way.

Enroute Iain had mentioned a second passage that related to Watling Street but branching off from Shooters Hill to take in the Shrewsbury burial mound and follow cult author Steve Moore’s ‘psychic circuit’ down to Woolwich. This brings Alan Moore into the story and led to a second walk. Steve Moore had been Alan Moore’s mentor, teaching him both the arts of magick and comic book writing. Alan had celebrated Steve’s territory of Shooters Hill in an essay published in London, City of Disappearances, entitled Unearthing. This seemed like the perfect title to appropriate as the title for the film.

The film that I made from the two walks ‘on and off’ Watling Street with Iain Sinclair was premiered at an event at Kino-Teatr in St Leonards-on-Sea last October, where Andrew Kötting also premiered his film of the whole walk, A WALK BACK TO THE LAST LONDON BY WAY OF WATLING STREET.

The event was called, Lights Out for the Last London: Down Watling Street with Iain Sinclair, Andrew Kotting and John Rogers.

“To pull away from its gravity, he sets off on a Watling Street pilgrimage with long term collaborators (and filmmakers) Andrew Kötting and John Rogers.
Their adventures, told through differing and contradictory memories, become a live performance, a conversation, a film of record.
The collision at Kino-Teatr in St Leonards is a unique coming together for the three walkers. Anything could happen.”

Kino-Teatr John Rogers Iain Sinclair Andrew Kotting

The video above captures the discussion with Iain Sinclair and Andrew Kötting after the screenings.