Creative Mornings and Bethnal Green

Creative Mornings event today at 0830 in the Bethnal Green’s Museum of Childhood was ace. I was actually a person from the community and was engaged. On the previous Monday internet tickets went like hot cakes within the first 30 minutes for the free creatives’ meet-up session in a beautiful prestigious venue. Breakfast was laid on superbly and consisted of every flavour of tea to be found in Waitrose together with stacked platesful of warm chocolate croissants. The space was laid out in a relaxed café style. It was all up my street.

The inside hall of the Museum is no longer a massive rectangle of mosaics but an hive of activity; counter stalls and the café.

Jon Daniel is approachable and entertaining. He went through the joys of growing up as a lone black child by Richmond Park, holidays with a loving family and outlined how encouragement from his immigrant parents made him curious about everything. He collected magazines and figurines and immersed himself in the embryonic black media back in the day. His exhibition, “Afro Supa hero” is neat.

I was rather early arriving at Bethnal Green tube station so took myself in the cold and damp to see the progress of “Stairway To Heaven” in the green park next door. This is a memorial and tribute to the hundreds of Bethnal Green residents who were crushed to death and suffocated in what was the underground shelter at Bethnal Green in 1943. I read every plaque and cried. I saw the first snowdrops and then above the dismal buildings around the station came out a rainbow.

Made my way at ten o’clock to Butler’s Wharf south of the river to the Design Museum for the last day of Paul Smith’s extrovert exhibition. The exhibition has now been extended into March. My tickets were half price with a free glass of wine via Amazon Deals. The muffins were priced at £2.50 each. Well, ain’t that disgusting? Not like Paul made them. The display on the wall as seen on the Design Museum’s web-site is jam-packed like his cleaner tipped open his room and out fell every bit of work he ever did. Hoarder paradise. There’s some actual clothes to see and a replica of the artist’s studio showing how creativity shines through disorder.

Home to more haggis.

Museum of Childhood. Bethnal Green

I’ve always known about the museum, being a Londoner like. A couple of years ago I went to see a special photography exhibition then thought I’d explore. There was a primary school on a visit in the hall where the photography exhibition was pasted onto the pillars so that was distracting for me. I went up the expanse of floor and stairs to view the encased exhibits of toys from back in the day. I was not one iota impressed. I felt the whole building was unwelcoming.good life Maybe I was used to toys being strewn over the carpets indoors and stored in white toy cupboards or maybe I felt I was in terribly middle-class land. (I wasn’t aware of the incoming of hipsters to Bethnal Green by that time.) I felt I was wasting my time and wondered later what all the fuss was about.

It’s an huge posh building by Bethnal Green station. Interesting fact about the huge building: “The Museum opened in 1872, when a prefabricated iron structure originally intended for South Kensington was moved to Bethnal Green. Originally, the museum housed collections from the Great Exhibition of 1851, and the art collection of Sir Richard Wallace (now The Wallace Collection).” It’s amazing that enemy bombs never got it during WW2.

 Almost opposite and up the road a bit is Paradise Row, a line of decrepit once glorious tenements. I once complained to my grandma that Bethnal Green was all robbers and prostitutes, She answered “It’s always been like that!” so of course that put me off going anywhere near Bethnal Green and looking for a toy museum. I imagined it would be scruffy. That was years ago. And I never had the fare money.005

Tomorrow I’m going there again for a free Creative Mornings event all about networking and feeling included in a group of London creative types. I am excited as Jon Daniel will tell us about his experience as a black guy making it from the seventies and his passion for superheroes and sheroes. I’ll enjoy the Afro something hero exhibition as it looks classy and it’s free. I will check how I feel. Tonight I’ll lay out my arty farty earrings SAM_1321and set my alarm to begin my journey at 7 am. All go. I am staying positive because I need to suppress some niggly suspicions about someone else’s party. Jump!

Haggis, hags and FGM

Today I tossed mushrooms, courgettes and slices of ginger into a pan with a tablespoon of olive oil and a teaspoon of Soy sauce. To those yummies I added a slice or two of Hall’s haggis. I love haggis.

In a couple of hours I shall ignore the rain and get along to the local community mosque to taste some Ile de Reunion fare made by Sara who runs the tea club for women. She trundles her trolley transporting casserole dishes full of cooked beans and spices along Leyton streets come hell or high water. Hers is a labour of love for the mosque. Some women I know bake cakes and fry chicken legs for the church. It’s a tradition.

I would like to imagine that after dinner there I would open up a debate about FGM. Sara’s tea club is open to all women but actually the regular attendees are grandmas swathed in black cloaks and hijabs. I’ll be lucky to get past pleasantries because that’s all the conversation is always. I fear that it will be men who do the majority of debating about female circumcision whether in Parliament or in mosque. Women may lose a great opportunity to come together and eradicate the nastiness. Nothing’s happened in the last 44 years or so since “Spare Rib” and other daring magazines and voices gave us graphic details about what goes on on our doorsteps.

My friend whilst living in the tropics in the early 1970s had to be on the alert all the time in case her mother-in-law snatched her daughter and baptised her before cutting her. Yikes. In my own neighbourhood, I don’t even know whether old women in hijabs and others in stockinged feet wear bras under their dress let alone dare to ask if they’re missing clits. Imagine. I remember my mother wearing all-body corsets. It was a tale that if a woman didn’t hook on that salmon pink constrictor then their backs would give way. I used to giggle when my auntie would say after a shopping chore “Ooh! Can’t wait to undo mi corsets”. Rise up women and see what you’re doing to your bodies and those of the next generation.

.Alice petch

There was a debate on the telly a decade ago when some Ghanaian women nodded in agreement to FGM saying that it was for belonging and identity and as for being a woman in the tribe it was the one thing that gave them self-esteem. Is that why we’re not moving forward on never mind the debate but the prevention? As for the cut being performed in London and UK, well the law is being flouted. From the person who pays the ‘midwife’s air fare to the man who gives out his front parlour for the women’s business we shall say they are criminals.

Back-street abortion was rife. It is always preventable. In the UK it must surely be done and dusted by now. What is done to girls and women for all manner of reasons to do with subjugation is widespread. FGM, child-marriage, breast-ironing, house-maiding, forced virginity tests, forced abortions can be stopped. It seems FGM becomes hot topic around International Women’s Day. Even then Zumba, Tai Chi, Reiki, knitting, massage and pampering cloud what’s really needed in terms of recognising one’s worth as a woman in case your mother never told you. The point is to find out who’s controlling the nasty stuff and who’s making a profit from it. If the force were there then women could be the people to stop the abusive and criminal acts if they are not the ones dictating them. Who tells a poor mother in India to get her baby daughter’s leg injected with bleach? Do you know that crime? A poor parent will deform her child so that the girl becomes a life-long street beggar.

neech in RAGWORKS 2012While we’re on female treachery (the Ile de Reunion curry can wait) there’s the early twentieth century UK practice of mothers of the bride having their daughter’s teeth knocked out at the dentist’s or aka dentist so that she’d never be a dental liability to her future husband. Not as bad as FGM though.


When I first learnt about FGM in books about African women it was called clitoridectomy in a decade when the clitoris was as unknown as package holidays. Good we just say FGM now. Just the language change makes for better chat about the whole caboodle.

Well must go munch with the ‘sisters’ then get around to doing the home-kit bowel cancer test. Life eh!


The Pamper Shop. Scents and aesthetics. February workshops.

Floristry – 5 week courseIMAG00648

27 February 2014  in Arts, entertainment, and theatre and Libraries and Talks and courses
Date27 February 2014


Location Lea Bridge Library, Lea Bridge Road, Leyton, London, E10 7HU AdmissionFree

Learn simple floristry techniques and leave with a finished arrangement to beautify your home.

Who is this course for?

This course will be suitable for those who wish to develop more skills in floristry or even progress to a longer floristry course to achieve City and Guilds Level 1

Classes will run every Thursday from 1pm-3pm
Starting date: 27 February 2014

Last session: 27 March 2014

What will you need for the class?
Flowers will be provided in the first week for everyone registered for a place, so if you are no longer able to attend, please cancel your place to avoid any waste.032

You may be required to bring along a small, cost effective bunch of flowers to further classes. Your tutor will advise.

How to book

Go to to reserve your place.
If you have any enquiries, please visit your nearest library, or phone 020 8496 3000


NEW HERBAL MEDICINE WORKSHOPS at Lea Bridge Library, Leyton! DSC_0520

With Rasheeqa Ahmad (Hedge Herbs) & Charm Elakil (Wholistic Medicine) and a sprinkling of other local herbalists. These workshop sessions at Lea Bridge Library follow on from our successful series last autumn in association with The Mill’s inspiring project there. The workshops are aimed at residents in Lea Bridge Ward, and are open in particular to families, parents & carers in the area. The charge is minimal to reflect the project’s aim of creating community activity groups for those on low incomes. When: Fridays from 7th February for 5 weeks: 10am-12noon Where: Lea Bridge Library Community Space, 382 Lea Bridge Road, Leyton, London E10 7HU What: An exploration of whole connected health with plants, people, medicine-making & herbalists Who: Lea Bridge Ward residents in particular but all are welcome How much: £3 per week to cover materials We would prefer that you book in advance for the whole series, but if you are unable to commit we can have you at individual sessions! If you’d like any more info get in touch with Rasheeqa on 07784 506 494.


The Pamper Shop week beginning Jan 26th 2014


Sun 26th Jan free on Sky TV  1-2pm The Fitness Channel Chairobics. You’ll need a dining/kitchen chair and wear trainers or shoes. And have a bottle of water to hand. Good fun at 2 levels with David Hogg. weekly

Wed 29th Jan £2-£6 (best time to go!) Elite salon at Waltham Forest College for a beautiful haircut and blow dry. Men and women. Students supervised at all times. Results great!

                              £6.60 per year for Borough OAPs £5 approx. per session otherwise.9.30-10.30 am.Over 50s swim Leyton Leisure Centre E10 plus sauna! Every Wednesday

                             free 12-2pm Well Street Surgery Hackney. Cook healthily and share. Every Wednesday. Some book, some don’t.
Fri 31 Jan– Friday, 11 April 2014 £1.50 11.30am – 12.30pm Chair based Tai Chi
Traditional Tai chi exercises for people of all ages who can’t stand for long periods. Relieve stress, improve fitness in a warm and friendly environment! 236 Bus stops near the door. Age group: All ages. Regent Pensioners Club, 33 Brougham Road, Bus 236 stops near the door, E8 4PD. Disabled access: yes. Contact: Annette Coombs. Email: Telephone: 020 7249 6361waiting
Sat 1 Feb         free    10-4pm “Revamp, Refresh, Revive” North Chingford Library
The Green
E4 7EN London
United Kingdom
Chingford day of well-being. Book via Eventbrite for sessions. Come along for massage and stalls.

2013-07-28 08.29.38

Post script to last blog.

And then it happened . I was at “UnLondon” in St Mary’s Old Church, Church Street, Stoke Newington watching archive films of London and Stevenage, checking out a bookstall flavoured by books about the history
of London, Jewish London history and London social history (Thank goodness there wasn’t any ‘hard sell’) and hardly struck speechless by a display of photographed scenes from London pre 1950 which was pretty inaccessible being rammed against a church pillar. All white history, let’s be blunt.

“UnLondon” hosted by The Unfortunates musical band was a sold-out free event advertised in Time Out no less and in the trendy end of Stokey. The atmosphere was actually great and I wasn’t the oldest punter there for a change. The church is tiny and olde worlde like inside except for the modern toilets. I was on a waiting list via Eventbrite to gain admittance but I know these things…the ticketing ritual is a measure only so that organisers know what kind of numbers to cater for. You see in another bulletin it said “drop in”.

Glad I went.

A question: Is local history only white history?

Now this had been a burning question in my brain since forever but particularly pre Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012 when funding was thrown at bodies setting up community engagement projects staffed by interns and business types. History walks and multi-cultural kitchen set-ups, African story-telling and taster sessions in architecture and film-making came to the free fore and people never arrived in their droves despite the previews and reviews that everything was amazing.

The answer is “No”.
Days are gone when anyone except those who want it should put the case for Black, African-Caribbean, and Asian local history. Borough support is on-going for ethnically biased community centres and the 1986 generation who secured those premises or benefit from those is older now and knows what it wants out of communities and how much it intends to put in. It appears that attendance at local history meetings is not considered.
Many projects were targeted at African-Caribbean clients during and before London 2012 but the doors could not be shut on other clients because that would have been an unwanted apartheid in communities trying to attain cohesiveness.

It’s always the funders i.e. the banks who want criteria met and people categorized so that an Asian Well-Women’s group may look exclusive on paper but in reality it’s the satisfaction of bums on seats to which the  community leaders aspire. Sometimes principles are prejudices such that nowadays if a building is secular it’s okay to have a God/Allah calling session because a part of the ailing community is recognised and therefore served. We learn to waive any notions of principles about secular and non-secular entities and being precious about them.
I have been to many projects where I’ve been the only attendee. It’s not embarrassing because the leader and I always expect that scenario. Still I’ll fill out a feedback sheet because that leaves open an opportunity for others to get what I got.
To get local history that isn’t the history of white English people you have to find people who care a toss. It can’t all be slavery and Black History Month. And those women who worked hours in local factories when they were raising children and running homes for men need skills to share their experiences and know that anyone else is interested in their stories.

Local history will be of interest to older people as a memory trigger or as confirmation that their ancestors did have a place on earth. Oral history is now big business and a great favourite in terms of justifying bids for Heritage Lottery money. It hardly makes for a confident visible generation though. You gives your bit and goes on your way. What’s said remains in Cyberspace, of little use to any other generation.
Personally I think the best way to get at the history of everyone is to go to the groups representing our rich and problematic diversity in a culture in flux and extract interest that way. Going into the community shouldn’t just mean hiring a room in a pub or a smart venue in the evening unless the venue is specific to the task such as the recent launderette reminiscence workshops which took place in an actual launderette. Novel eh? Success for each person in terms of self-worth was never guaranteed. Boxes were ticked though and funders and sponsors congratulated themselves.
I have seen opportunity after opportunity thrown out to people who could represent their own ethnic communities and never was the challenge taken. You can have a twenty something Jewish university graduate flicking through papers prompting more than one word answers to questions put to Bangladeshi women about their personal immigration and settlement stories in a group as though every woman wearing a similarly patterned shalwar kameez wants to share stuff with each other and strangers but how patronising is that?
In an area of an historically high population of African Caribbean residents I have never seen any person from that population at local and otherwise Black History Walks.
Local history has an air of academia about it. It’s a brave non university graduate who can deliver a speech to the learned and it’s got to be delivered with passion. And to sit in a group isn’t always easy either.
“Not me!” says the woman with a French accent and a whole load of local interest. She pulls her scarf over her breasts.
“Not me!” says the Ghanaian father “It’s not for the likes of us”.
“No you’d have to ask my husband!” says the woman carrying a pot of food to her son’s house.

“Never been to Vestry House Museum. Never been to the Village” says the old West Indian former nurse living in Leyton for forty years.
“Do we get a cup of tea? Is there a coach outing? asks a Mosque prayer leader.
“I’ve got a diary, written in Arabic. Any good?” asks my neighbour.
“What do you want to know?” asks the world.


Always loved Leyton. Wasn’t born here. Who was? I loved it because it was very multi-cultural and we were all in the mood to learn about each other. Even the warring mothers who were angry that their offspring, apprentice Ukippers, had to stay off school for Guru Nanak and who’s he when he’s at home and we should have a day off for St George’s Day, turned on their worn heels, refused to move away to the white fields of Chingford, and began community stuff in their ailing libraries. Powerful grans them.

Leyton was united in its awareness of other nationalities and cultures and its youth quickly began mixing up, producing the beautiful mixed race generation which is visible and usual in the parish. We all used the word ‘Halal’, watched mosques fill and churches empty, applauded the rise of Somalian, Eritrean, Bangla, Caribbean and Irish community centres, watched our languages, learnt PC and continued living together.reminisecnce quiltRAGWORKS Leyton Quilt

Leyton residents were united in their financial poverty too. There was no embarrassment as more pound shops opened and no-one objected to increased numbers of big -name supermarkets, the transformation of a bus garage into a KFC, and the proliferation of betting shops. Leyton people were used to change or were too busy making ends meet to worry about the world. The people are that nice that when the local GP had a breakdown he ran along the streets praising and loving “you working class mothers”. Child-minders smiled, pulled in black and white toddlers nearer to their Swan prams and got on.
I have seen people from Walthamstow wince in mental pain as they walked the streets of downtown (no other part is there?) Leyton and clearly they wondered if people really lived there. One person actually said to me “What? You walk down this street by yourself?” What can we do but laugh?
Leyton was called ” mattress city” by a community leader four years ago because the town has a transient community hopping onto or out altogether from the housing ladder. The temporary residents move on and all their wordly goods are left bare and inviting for the scavengers who march along the streets mainly on Monday mornings with their supermarket trollies, keen eyes, and fingerless gloves. It is like that but that’s because there are front gardens!!! Why, you can fit a whole house load into some of the front yards. There are alleyways too so they need a sprinkling of abandoned MFI.

Businesses disregard aesthetics and leave out their cartons and oil drums on road corners under the full glare of streetlights. Fly-tipping is illegal and we live in a generous borough which sends out lorries to clear street bulk rubbish because “Them foreigners don’t know how to put out their rubbish.” Rubbish. In Upper Walthamstow and lower Village you never see household rubbish unless the whole house aka cottage is being gutted: Because there are no garden spaces to deposit the mattresses and bedside cabinets, emblems of Leyton.
There are some fabulous awesome shops and cafés (?) There is forty years old and strong Paga Café on Lea Bridge Road near the Hackney boundary. There’s Doreen’s, an allegedly trannie shop in Bakers Arms with Grandma fashions in lemon and size 9 ladies’ shoes allegedly. There’s Tesco which jiggled its way to its current location as it grew and grew in little ole Bakers Arms. Of course Bakers Arms, currently a mess, is having a mysterious make-over. We don’t need to know why there are now massive pavements outside non-descript retailers and money shops. Mark you, reader, the circus will come to town. On a pristine pavement it will set up and then in will come Awesomestowers.

There isn’t a soda bakery or a vintage outlet or a pop-up theatre event nor a community kitchen. The people are round and fat, full of chips and hen and smoothies and pie. The Costa-cup carriers don’t live in Leyton: They’re passing through. The local private nurseries have not stepped up their objectives for healthy eating in the playrooms for Cheyenne and Shardonnay.

Leyton High Road not to be confused with The High Street (in E17) is grotty and not seen for the trees really. A fox can’t smell his own hole so they say or someone did. The road is a chaos of grey shutters, deliberately abandoned blue corner shop bags full of fags and empties, garages, gaps, car-cleaners, badly-lit areas, interesting names for newer shops, flying black cloaks, and flung-out mattresses. The Post office collection point is, despite being listed, maybe, part of that disgrace. During the London Olympics and Paralympics I was the one who took down the tattered and filthy England flag from the building  pole . That act is similar to Awesomestowers filling kerb edges with Latin-named plants. You can never fault a resident for wanting to improve the appearance of their front garden.

Cultivate Waltham Forest. To eat healthy you must work donkey.

In 2006 I took an allotment in Chingford. What a dump it was. Considering the land was/is owned by LB Waltham Forest, surely they had a duty as landlord to keep it in good nick. It was a massive uncultivated plot full of elephant-high brambles, and rubbish such as wheels and iron bits obviously thrown in by other allotment holders as they tilled their neat patches. Next to it was/is a bee hive inside the thickest blackberry bushes you’ve ever seen with ripe blackberries no-one would dare gather. That enterprise was managed by the allotment manager’s brother

.Digital StillCamera

Despite the shortage of allotments in the borough and believe me, I had to do the running around myself to find one and that was miles away, most allotment owners actually owned more than two plots each on the same grounds! Allotments were gold dust.

Recently I overheard hipsters say how they rent half an allotment. Make no mistake though you need muscle for even a quarter of a plot …all year round. You get a manager breathing down your neck waiting for you to default, report you to WF Green Spaces, then evict you so he can give the plot to his family allegedly.
So in 2006 I lost three stone in weight carrying water, heaving away junk, and sweating under the unshaded relentless World Cup year sun. All trees were ground-hoggers and cut down. I know! In hallowed Waltham Forest! There was one tree on my plot which served as shelter in the torrential rain and shelter for the horse-radish. I’d hide my tools under a corner of weeds which would not budge. They were always moved but at least not stolen. If my bladder were full, tough. The only toilet was locked and up to today I await the requested key. Obviously only menarchial women harvest under the moon. I was nagged and nagged to get rid of that tree.

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I’m glad I had the experience. I made sure my sister got that plot. Others made sure their families were allotment-holders so what suits the Chingford Whites suits me. She was targeted and threatened with the closure of her tenancy because while she was on maternity leave she “neglected” her site. She never knew how the powers were over-charging her for years but knows they never apologized. They picked on the wrong woman for a squabble. She used her mouth and answered back holding on to her hollyhocks! Sure the management stinks allegedly but the ground workers collude as they join ranks and keep something to themselves for themselves. Selfish land-grabbers.
Meanwhile seven years on I lament the loss of dried mud on supermarket potatoes never mind cry at the price charged for washed anaemic spuds. I used to farm and tried to munch my way through over stocks of veg. The indoor drawers would be full of tomatoes in newspaper; every neighbour’s house like mine would stink of sulphuric boiled cabbage. Onions hanging on rafters would bang your head whenever you entered sheds. I built greenhouses from scratch with another person helping. We recycled abandoned wood frame windows from renovated old croft houses. All this before the revolution. To eat healthy you must work donkey.
I am looking forward to the Cultivate Waltham Forest conference at the end of March this year. It’s the first of its kind and is a natural result from the initiatives inspired by the dynamic new population arriving in Walthamstow. Beetroot is the new black y’all!Coldfall Wood. Cold January 2014

You can see it all now: potato prints, mushroom collages, smoothie pop-ups.. again, odes to onions. All good but hoping Leyton people get a look in. In Leyton it seems that any space, back garden or otherwise, is taken up by concrete for the car, low-maintenance blown-leaf clearance, or a bed for a mattress. And farming the land doesn’t necessarily carry social prestige in any community. Minds have to be fertilised to view what’s on our doorsteps if we want change in our health and community living. The Cultivate conference will aim to do that surely besides it being a ra ra forum for self-congratulation over green projects.

issue 4. Up Your Street

issue 4. 2014

Wed 29th  Jan   £3   1-4pm at Chingford Assembly Hall E4.   Tea dance ChingfordIMAG00602

Thurs 30th Jan free 11-1pm Newham informal carers meet-up with stalls and advice.

Large hall at St Johns Church, Stratford Broadway E15 1NG. Gayna fairy


Sat 1st Feb         free Health and fitness day at Chingford Assembly Hall.

Sun 2nd Feb     free afternoon of reminiscence and creative writing  at 4.30-5.30pm               Book at

 at the All You Read Is Love pop up shop: Unit 3 on Central Parade, Hoe Street, E17 4RT. The workshop is called Coffee & Cake .