Leytonstone artist community in the 1980’s

Great description of Leytonstone in the 1980’s from City Racing – the life and times of an artist run gallery written by Matt Hale, John Burgess, Paul Noble, Keith Coventry, and Peter Owen, which I exchanged with Matt one night in The Heathcote for a copy of This Other London. It sets the scene for the infamous M11 Link Road protests that ran from the late 1980’s to 1994.


It was the blighted, front and back gardened, Victorian houses that had become home and workplace to another large East End artist community. The DoT leased the properties they owned to various short-life housing organisations, one of which was ACME. ACME’s rents were super cheap. Houses became live/work spaces. Rooms were knocked together to make bigger studios. Leytonstone was like a weird suburb full of Sunday painters, but where every day was Sunday”


The ‘Remembering the M11’ event is tonight at The Wanstead Tap

Charlie Brown’s Roundabout (1972)

Here’s some great amateur footage from the Metropolitan Screen Archives of early work on the M11 Link Road at South Woodford.
Although this was shot in 1972 the road didn’t open till 1999 – after a protracted, colourful and determined protest fought in Leytonstone. I’ve been writing about this recently so won’t blow all my good work just yet.

I walked past Charlie Brown’s Roundabout a couple of years ago on my way out to the old Claybury Mental Hospital. It was a mash-up of fly-overs and warehouse retail units – handy for a cheap cup of tea and a pasty but hell on the lungs.

Left me wondering – what did Charlie Brown do to deserve such a thing?


Waste of Space at the 491 Gallery

The 491 Gallery in Leytonstone is far from being a waste of space in its current incarnation as a squatted artist run space offering workshops and organising exhibitions.
Ownership of the building has passed from London Transport to a private developer who plans to knock the place down and build a block of flats (with wonderful views of the M11 Link Road). The residents of the 491 have been given notice to vacate the premises on 13th January, so today’s exhibition marked one of the last opportunities to drop by.

The fire-pit was blazing in the ad-hoc landscaped garden with its furniture and sculptures made from recycled junk. I bought a beautiful hand-made bird-box for £6 at the Jumblegeddon on the ground flair.
Upstairs was a fascinating photographic exhibition/installation exploring ‘the use and misuse of space in the modern world, peering into hidden worlds and darkened corners to reveal the secret stories of forgotten buildings and of the people who try to bring life back to them’ (as their hand-out tells us).

Of course Leytonstone has form in this area with the squatted houses that became the focus of the protests against the building of the Link Road in the heyday of ‘Leytonstonia’.

The photographs range from nicely interior designed houses in Spain inhabited by musicians to the old Courage Brewery in Bristol where a forest of weeds have filled the void. The photos of rooms in houses are linked via coloured woolen threads creating a new para-space within the gallery.

The exhibition runs till Saturday 22nd December – go along not just to have a look at this great installation but also catch a glimpse of Leytonstone’s last occupied space before it’s gone.