1st Feb 2015


Like many other Moslems and non-Moslems I am not obliged to wear an hijab. Today I donned one and it took me less than a minute to hide my hair. I felt nothing special. It was just like putting on a new bra or a scarf around my neck.  I thought about all the pashminas I could convert to hijabs. There was the slight weight that made me lower my head automatically which was neither here nor there and of course the slight restriction in sideways head turns. The hijab isn’t a religious uniform. According to young women on the World Hijab Day Facebook pages their hijabs make them feel free to be themselves and to show their inner beauty.

Sounds like a Silvikren advert.silvikrin

Women thought corsets were here to stay: thought their backs would collapse if they abandoned them. Housewives felt wrong not wearing them. They never wanted to feel immodest. Men expected their mothers and wives to wear them. It was men owning the  corset companies of course, making the rules, convincing women about what they needed, indeed should have to wear be seen as a respectable. It was enough to worry about flesh let alone the reasons behind everything. “We just wore them.”

corset 1940


(not my photos)






Cos I’m happy

Very happy that having put it out there that Up Your Street Community Group is arranging a trip to the V&A for the Black British Experience photographic exhibition that people are coming in. It’s a social event too; we take our flasks and sarnis and share our aluminium foiled parcels before we do that long trek along the tunnel back to the tube station which  always reminds me of Westray ferries and sheep being loaded past the barriers. I’m assured that South Ken is always like that.. Very happy too that my brain twerked and I was moved to invite a local expert on black history  to start conversations with us just like Pat Williams did when she guided us through the Nehru Rooms at aforementioned V&A.

Love a photographic exhibition me. At my suggestion, some social and community engagement outfits are also going up South Ken and then of course there’s the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton.

Cumberbatch was in the celeb headlines for saying “coloured” instead of “black”. In my mix it’s not the white people who say “coloured”. Senior Trinidadians will say “we people, we coloured people” and them up’ll pipe a Chinese guy going on about the coloureds. I used to beg my mum not to say “darkies” in 1990! She just said “But we always said that”. Crafty woman. She was trying to start a discussion with her big pink tongue in her cheek. I lived on a Scottish island where all the people said “darkey”. They’d say, ” The darkey’s coming. Lock your back doors”. What I imagined, eh? Off the boat came the travelling salesman Mr Ahmed Ali. He was shocked to hear my London accent. Oh days! That was only ten years ago less. On an island where still the shopkeeper clothes the new Tampax box in a brown bag and shuffles the bag surreptitiously across the counter. I know!

Not much call for periods up there. International Women’s Day got the next boat out.


Black British Experience. V and A for free.

Staying Power: Photographs of Black British Experience 1950s-1990s

Promotional image for Staying Power: Photographs of Black British Experience 1950s-1990sM
Mon 16 February 2015 – Sun 24 May 2015
  • Where:
    Gallery 38a

DISPLAY: This display showcases a variety of photographic responses to black British experience from the 1950s to the 1990s. All of the photographs are from the V&A Collection and were acquired as part of the project Staying Power: Photographs of Black British Experience 1950s-1990s, a collaboration with Black Cultural Archives funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The aim is to increase the number of black British photographers and images of black Britain in the V&A. The photographs collected, together with oral histories gathered by Black Cultural Archives, will raise awareness of the contribution of black Britons to British culture, society, and the art of photography.

Up Your Street, Issue 5

                                                            Up Your Street Issue 5

Sat 31st Jan     free 2-4pm  Mudchute Park & Farm
Address Pier Street, E14
Tel 020 7515 5901 An afternoon of crafting and socialising.
                         Bring your own stuff to do e.g knitting.
Mon 2nd Feb     free 11.30am Sign up for a free sewing course at Caramel Rock in Canning Town.
Wed 4th Feb     free (tbc) 7-8.30pm St Paul’s Church Amhurst Rd Hackney. Singing: pop-up chorus.
                         £3     noon-3pm fantastic POSH Club at St Paul’s. Book in advance 02077374043
                         £3  11 am Empire Walthamstow. e17 . Tea and a film every week. Today “What we did on Our Holiday”.
Thurs 5th Feb   free 6.30pm  Iniva (Art Gallery),1 Rivington Place EC2 The  Mauritian artist, Shiraz Bayjoo talks about his work. Book at Eventbrite
                         free  6pm Private View at Rich Mix E1 “Intergalactic Desh” Three artists and their interactive work all about what those/we from a Bangladeshi stance might save when the world ends. Workshops follow later in the month.

                   free Launch of Hackney City Farm exhibition at Hackney Museum

Fri 6th Feb  free 7-9pm William Morris Gallery Yinka Shonibare exhibition.Private view.

Sat 7th Feb       free 10-1pm British Museum educational trip with Iroko Theatre.
                         free 2-5pm   Family day at Chandos East Hub E15. RAGWORKS, Up Your Street, G’s Toys
                                will feature.
Sun 8th Feb     free 10.00am – 3.30pm. Practical conservation tasks on the second Sunday of every month in Alexandra Palace’s wonderful conservation area. A return to bramble control and some woodland management await us this month. At vehicle barrier at the junction of Bedford Road and Alexandra Palace Way, South Terrace N22 7AX
For your diary
Sat  14th Feb    free  7.30-9pm Epicentre West Street E11  Talk and supper- sharing with News From Nowhere club. No need to book. 
The Bethnal Green Tube Shelter Disaster   Speaker: Joy Puritz.

Elvis, Penguins, Russians in violins and POSH Club

posh 1       posh 2

Was overwhelmed today with the brilliant POSH Club in Hackney, for seniors. full of class and what’s right in terms of welcoming seniors, mollycoddling them, pouring out the tea  and entertaining them. Without a doubt it is the best community engagement project for kilometres. I like prompt and courteous action, being visible, and value for money . It is all there.

We had to dress posh so as I hobbled to the bus in the last spike of winter sun at three o’clock with a sore blister marking my new dance shoes I was a tad sad because Elvis never made a fuss of me. Probably because I’m his size and his generation went for little uns as partners. That impersonating Elvis we enjoyed today is the greatest of all the fakes. The ladies just adored him and Danny from Hackney Wick gyrated his hips in time to Pelvis’.

As soon as we were in the door, the table attendants swooped on us and took our coats to the hangers. We were served tea and coffee immediately at the tea table in the glory of china tea plates and silver cutlery. All our eyes were bigger than our bellies: We managed to wolf down the freshest sandwiches ever and shared the refilled cake stands of  Battenberg, scones, Bakewell tarts and madeira. Good old-fashioned madeira. We had free rafflles and a Russian Kilburn violinist,  a tap-dancing penguin and champagne.posh 3

Duckie of London runs the POSH Club extremely well and generously. You have to book and you have to pay  three quid. It’s Lottery-funded and warm-heartedly run.

POSH Club, consider yourself applauded well by Up Your Street.posh 4

Language formed.

Am halfway through “A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing”. Now the first page is enough to think you’ve bought a typo-laden rejected printer’s copy. Not so, for I am used to “Ulysses”, TS Eliot, Shakespeare, Courttia Newland, texting language and other written works in the making. So I blinked to clean my glasses as you do and carried on. Totes maze would have been accepted in 2012 when language and London changed for a while, when the Queen swung through the Stratford air, when art became anything.

I rested for a couple of hours to check some tickets at Eventbrite, some tickets for a show about loving the earth. It  was then time to check out some reviews of the book. I’d read the last pages as I do for all my literature. Some laugh. It’s like this. I’m in it for the structure and the language, the twists and the finale. Stories are astonishing to the extent that I am not going to know them all because some I just can’t bear to know. I know many to the extent that familiarity breeds a little frustration. The story of the half-formed thing is bad enough and has familiar characters such as the “holy Joes” and the chastising battering mother. However it unfolds through language that’s in a mind and not mine so unwittingly I move through the tale, concentrating on who is talking and when, bouncing on weird syntax and safe because I’m in that structure rather than in the mix with some unsavoury characters.

I’d released the book from the edge of my laptop and the line of my bust and was thinking whilst watching the “Broadchurch” trailer and remembering Joy at Words Of Colour and how strict she is regarding the use of language and clichés about all the new words and all the phrases invented by advert-makers and ourselves using old words for new meanings I’ve used comfortably post Olympics . Paralympics itself was a word to use out of respect even though its four syllables threw people and its meaning was upset by PC. Some of the words and phrases have been around a long time usually in Cyberspace or Dalston.

There’s      ” immersive theatre, barista, upcycling, lappie, tablet,  girl can, trending, cloud, streaming, Hijabi, Londonist, craftivist, You’re so money, hipster, artisan-bread, mindfulness, well-being, sustainable, interns, urbanist, food bank, ultra-local, pop-up, gone down, hub, surbunites, outage, Olympicopolis, Smithsonian, engaged,

And then totes amaze on the D&D registry, a playwright used “Hijabi” and an administrator is abandoning the concept of “immersive theatre”.

No condition is permanent.


No seriously. What is the point of women-only classes to knit or crochet your own cushion covers or throws? (More flippin’ washing for women to do.)

Another such community engagement project plea came into my inbox for me to promote. The sessions aren’t even free.

I get that handiwork is a way for women to get creative. That mantra is pumped into me every time I raise my eyebrows. I know that funders fund projects to engage imaginary communities so that we don’t get depressed by austerity and real-life.


Older women won’t be attracted because they wore their own knits for years and smothered toilet rolls in cheeky crochet hand mades. They might go to save on their own heating bills but only if the project’s free. Younger women? Maybe those self-named “creatives” looking to spend their trust funds in opening up Dalston boutiques disguised as  community tea metre square cafés. The market is already swamped with bespoke throws and cushion covers. Mind you Leyton, that up and coming parish, has yet to be baptized with all that’s on trend.


An octogenarian was being asked to join a weekly craft group amidst gushings and oozings from women with disposable incomes. She kept quiet at the craft tea table as she continued to create a splendiferous crochet shawl. Outside on the quaintly re-cobbled market street full of dimly-lit latte houses and sun-dried odourless tomato filled paninis in bars she huffed “Why would I pay a fiver to sit around with those women to do something I can do already?”  Ah, the engagement process had failed: she’d missed the point about female camaraderie, the coming together of crafters, the well-being and enhancement produced by the drug of innocent repetition and time honoured patterning and after all, what’s a fiver?

Well-being through needle-work and knitting is the subject tomorrow at Toynbee Hall. I know because a fabulous crafting women told me so.

Now, February 1st looms large and I wondered how a knitted hijab might look. The point is not to attract men’s eyes to my head. Those knitted swimming costumes back in the day must have been torture for lusty eyes.

“What women want” , eh?

Back to my reading book. “A Girl is A Half-Formed Thing”.