I attended at an east end art centre the first of three meetings about recording the stories of abandoned pubs in the Royal Docks area of east London with a view to the pubs as being hives of left-wing Socialist fervour. I don’t believe any of it. As far as I know the pubs were hotspots for National Fronters, Sun readers and racists. I do want to be educated and to learn that my own urban myths are wrong.
There has been loads of stuff written with love and dedication about the rotting pubs and still blogs and web-sites are updating all the time. The story is usually about a cosy inclusive nasty place that shut down to become an expensive bar or something else. In December 2014 one dump of a derelict pub garden was the place of a violent rape so that sticks in my mind obviously.
It’s supposed to be a project attached to art. Remember art is defined differently according to Heritage Lottery criteria and who wants the money. Art is creative. I see nothing creative in surfing sites about already fully-documented pubs and there is no time to find those loveable old east end characters, more often than not male, who frequented the pubs. I mean surely dockers.
So that’s ongoing and going nowhere.
Centerprise was an hotspot indeed in the seventies in Hackney. I knew it as a radical bookshop full of green, red, black and gold. Still it was a bookshop and to buy books you needed money. Libraries had loads of books in those days and Stamford Hill Library had an excellent record selection that reflected the multi-cultural area around it at the time. Years later and it’s time to do the heritage project about Radical ole Centerprise. The enterprise doing that one is calling out for volunteers aka interns to do lots of unpaid work. I mean ‘lots’. Bring your CV if you like too. The governors did their stewardship at Eastside Community Heritage where funnily enough many Up Your Streeters recently graduated as oral history novices. Still waiting for the certificates from last year. (How long can it take to put felt-tip to posh paper?)
There’s always a hope that like minds at projects will thrash out words and memories, common values and a re-affirmation of one’s place on this earth. For me I just want to meet Mrs Flo. Flo was ‘a Rottweiler with lipstick’ as her husband described her, a candidate on “The Chase” and a challenge to the great Chaser Anne Hegerty. To the question ” Tito was president of which country ? a)Yugoslavia, b)Croatia, c) Romania. Flo, comfortably, not knowing the answer replied “Some foreign country” She is salt of the earth, the woman that keeps house and hearth going, puts plaster on every ill and knows that her lot is good and be”er than her old mum’s. She’ll dress her grand-daughters in pink, have no interest in those at the Mosque and never push in in a queue. I don’t want to be her. I want to know how she keeps going and be near her. Ann said that when she worked at Hackney Social Services all the women were like Flo. That was long ago, before Centerprise and when pubs ruled the high streets.